The penny dreadful was a 19th-century publishing phenomenon. Judith Flanders explains what made these cheap, sensational, highly illustrated stories so popular with the Victorian public.
In the 1830s, increasing literacy and improving technology saw a boom in cheap fiction for the working classes. ‘Penny bloods’ was the original name for the booklets that, in the 1860s, were renamed penny dreadfuls and told stories of adventure, initially of pirates and highwaymen, later concentrating on crime and detection. Issued weekly, each ‘number’, or episode, was eight (occasionally 16) pages, with a black-and-white illustration on the top half of the front page. Double columns of text filled the rest, breaking off at the bottom of the final page, even if it was the middle of a sentence.

The success of highwaymen and gothic tales

The bloods were astonishingly successful, creating a vast new readership. Between 1830 and 1850 there were up to 100 publishers of penny-fiction, as well as the many magazines which now wholeheartedly embraced the genre. At first the bloods copied popular cheap fiction’s love of late 18th-century gothic tales, the more sensational the better, ‘a world,’ said one writer, ‘of dormant peerages, of murderous baronets, and ladies of title addicted to the study of toxicology [the study of poison], of gipsies and brigand-chiefs, men with masks and women with daggers, of stolen children, withered hags, heartless gamesters, nefarious roués, foreign princesses’.

This is the information  I have found on the  original PENNY DREADFULS”. The exotic horror stories of the 1800’s meant to be what we deem as thrillers today. They are remarkable works of fiction that today have been sensationalized into something that is no longer exotic. Printed in the weekly paper it was a story I imagined they looked forward to every week. I can only imagine the sales went through the roof after these stories started.

I had never even heard of such a thing as a “PENNY DREADFUL” until the show started on  SHOWTIME. a couple of seasons ago. Filled with the ever present  Dracula that is painted as the soulless nightmare he was originally meant to be as well as Werewolves, Frankenstein and his monster, Witches, and who knows what else. All set in the 1800’s London were all of this originally started. Imagine a time where mankind is fighting not only the plague, jack the ripper, but these other monsters as well. All living in the same city. Yes, the movies and tv shows have now sensationalized such creatures now rendering them nothing but a fairytale. Yet this show has that edge to it that originally was meant to frighten you.

The creator of this show intrigued me. he said he named the show “PENNY DREADFUL” because in a way he is like the creators of the original “PENNY DREADFULS” . Like those creators that every week would bring you a new piece to the current horror story you were currently reading, so he is too. Each week I salivate at the thought of what the next episode will bring. What new horror awaits me on the big screen. I am a little frightened but also a trickle of excitement courses through me. The last season ended on July 5th 2015 and I have been on pins and needles ever since. It ended with so many things left unresolved and as we all know it is the mark of a good writer to keep the audience enthralled.

I love this show, in fact, it is one of the few in a very long time that I have been unable to predict the outcome. I have watched and read so many things over the years that finding one to shock me is astounding. This show is amazing and if you haven’t checked it out you are missing something special. Going from 1800’s newspapers to Showtime in the 2000’s is a testament to our ever changing world. However, I am so glad they are keeping with the old ways as much as they can on the show. I feel as if I am there sometimes in long ago London looking over my shoulder in the dark. I suspect that was the intent of these writer’s and if so Bravo! Catch up on Demand now the new season comes on May 1st 2016. Tune in each week to the new and improved “Penny Dreadful”. 

<a href=””>Newspaper</a&gt;


One thought on “PENNY DREADFUL

  1. Pingback: NaPoWriMo – Day 11 – “Bittersweet Memories Feeding The Senses” by David Ellis | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s