In this 1874 novella by Wilkie Collins, the celebrated British writer of sensation fiction tells the tale of two brothers sentenced to be executed for having committed a murder that never occurred, and of the energetic Naomi Colebrook’s efforts to ferret out the truth and save the two innocents. As editor Anna Clark observes, Collins’s work is both a compelling legal sensation thriller and an important transatlantic commentary on American life. Along with the text itself and an illuminating introduction, Clark provides a range of background materials—including documents from the real-life murder trial that inspired the novella—in order to set the work in its historical context.
“This is a timely re-examination of Wilkie Collins’s The Dead Alive. Anna Clark has situated Collins’s novella within its nineteenth-century context in terms of the Boorn murder trial, which inspired its plot, and other contemporary materials, including reviews and illustrations. The introduction provides a clear overview of Collins’s work, as well as of the text under consideration, which makes this volume useful for both scholars and students. This is a welcome and exciting addition to Broadview’s indispensable Victorian literature series.” — Joanne Ella Parsons, Falmouth University
“Wilkie Collins’s The Dead Alive is an incredibly teachable novella, and Anna Clark’s introduction helpfully situates it within a range of historical contexts. This little-known text—advertised as Collins’s ‘first American story’ and based on an actual 1819 Vermont trial—is distinct within Collins’s oeuvre. The bold Naomi Colebrook prefigures Collins’s detective-heroine Valeria Woodville in The Law and the Lady but is also depicted as a uniquely American heroine. The contextual material that Clark provides, including reviews and reports of the real-life trial, position The Dead Alive as a significant experiment in transatlantic, legal, and sensational writing.” — Tara MacDonald, University of Idaho