The Dead Alive
  • Publication Date: December 2, 2019
  • ISBN: 9781554814336 / 1554814332
  • 120 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Dead Alive

  • Publication Date: December 2, 2019
  • ISBN: 9781554814336 / 1554814332
  • 120 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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


  • William Wilkie Collins
  • The Dead Alive in Context
  • A Note on the Text

The Dead Alive

In Context

  • The Boorn Murder Trial
    • from Leonard Sargent, The Trial, Confessions and Conviction of Jesse and Stephen Boorn, for the Murder of Russell Colvin, and the Return of the Man Supposed to Have Been Murdered (1873)
    • from Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Seventieth Session, “Report of the Select Committee on the Abolishment of Capital Punishment” (5 March 1847)
    • from Lemuel Haynes, “The Prisoner Released. A Sermon delivered at Manchester, Vermont, Lord’s Day, Jan. 9th, 1820, on the remarkable interposition of Divine Providence in the deliverance of Stephen and Jesse Boorn, who had been under sentence of death for the supposed murder of Russell Colvin.” In Sketches of the Life and Character of Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A.M., by Timothy Mather Cooley (1837)
  • On the American Character
    • from Alexis de Tocqueville, “Of the Principal Source of Belief among Democratic Nations,” Democracy in America, vol. 2, trans. Henry Reeve (1841)
    • from Charles Dickens, American Notes (1842)
  • American Reviews
    • from “The Dead Alive” (Review), Cincinnati Daily Enquirer (4 January 1874)
    • from “New Publications” (Review of The Dead Alive), Christian Watchman (5 February 1874)
    • from “Literariana” (Review of The Dead Alive), The Daily Graphic (18 February 1874)
    • from “New Publications” (Review of The Dead Alive), The Christian Register (21 February 1874)
    • from “Novels of the Week” (Review of The Frozen Deep, and Other Stories), The Athenaeum (21 November 1874)
  • Advertising, Illustrations
    • from The Commercial Advertiser (3 January 1874)
    • Illustrations from the Shepard and Gill Edition of The Dead Alive (1874)


Anna Clark, formerly a professor at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, now teaches at The Bishop’s School in San Diego.