Serialised fiction in the Bolton Weekly JournalJezebel's Daughter (1880) by Wilkie Collins

“[I]t is only natural that art and literature should, in an age which has turned to be one of events, attempt a kindred depth of effect and shock of incident . . . Sir Walter [Scott] himself never deprived his readers of their lawful rest to a greater extent with one novel than Mr Wilkie Collins has succeeded in doing with his ‘Woman in White’.” 

– Margaret Oliphant, ‘Sensation Novels’,  Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, May 1862 (p. 565).

William Wilkie Collins was one of the most popular writers of the nineteenth century. He is best known for The Woman in White which is said to have initiated the sensation novel in 1860 and later in the decade, The Moonstone (1868): one of the first detective novels. He has also been linked to the Bolton Weekly Journal through the serialisation of his other stories such as Jezebel’s Daughter (1879-1880). 

Jezebel’s Daughter was originally named “The Red Vial” as it was first a play and was later renamed Jezebel’s Daughter in 1879 when it was rewritten and serialised as a novel. The play was ridiculed when it was performed at the Olympic Theatre in 1859, perceived as an intense drama and consequently greeted with laughter.  It was also criticised for its bad dialogue and its characterisation. However 20 years later it became a success. It is believed that the novel reframes the Gothic motif but in a modern setting.  An article in the Examiner declared that:

“Collins has experimented in a drama without one break in the chain of crime and terror, and the audience therefore makes breaks for itself at very inconvenient places” (Examiner, October 16, 1858).

However, the novel was well known for the way it handled the treatment of those who are lunatic and who are mentally unwellalong with portraying female characters who are powerful and successful, both in business and philanthropy.

Controversially, there were some who had a different opinion, offering a more negative review of the novel. This can be seen in an 1880 review in the Examiner:

“We confess to having to put it down with a sigh of relief at having reached the end of such a conglomeration of horrors, and with an inward feeling shame at having wasted two good working hours in reading such unmitigated trash” (March 27, 1880).

Having said that, they couldn’t deny that they found the novel captivating and amusing at times.  

Playbill for The Red Vial, 1858.


Anon. (1858) [Playbill for The Red Vial] [Online image]. Available at: [Accessed 27 March 2021].

Anon. (1858) The Theatrical and Musical Examiner. Examiner. [Online] 16 October, p. 661. Available at: [Accessed 27 March 2021]

Anon. (1880) Fiction [Jezebel’s Daughters]. Examiner. [Online] 27 March, (3765), p. 411. Available at: [Accessed 23 March 2021]. 

Anon. (1880) Jezebel’s Daughter. Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art. [Online] 27 March, 49(1273), pp.385-386. Available at: [Accessed 24 March 2021]. 

Anon. (1880) Novels of the Week. The Athenaeum. [Online] 20 March, (2734), pp.372-373. Available at: [Accessed 25 March 2021]. 

Oliphant, M. (1862) Sensation Novels. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. [Online] May 1862, 91(559), pp.564-584. Available at: [Accessed 30 March 2021].

Taylor,  Jenny Bourne. (2006) The Cambridge Companion to Wilkie Collins. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.