Some of you may be watching the programme ‘Penny Dreadful’ currently in its second series on Sky Atlantic but how many of you know where the name ‘Penny Dreadful’ actually comes from?
The ‘Penny Dreadful’ was a publishing phenomenon in the 19th Century as these cheap, sensational, highly illustrated stories became incredibly popular with the Victorian public. Increasing literacy and improving technology saw a boom in cheap fiction for the working classes. ‘Penny Blood’ was the original name for the booklets that in the 1860’s were renamed Penny Dreadful.
The original stories told daring tales of adventure, initially with pirates and highwaymen, later concentrating on crime and detection. The ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ were issued weekly with each ‘number’ or episode being eight (occasionally 16) pages long – with black and white illustration on the top half of each page.
The ’bloods’ were incredibly successful creating a vast new readership. Between 1830 and 1850 there were up to 100 publishers of penny fiction as well as many magazines that embraced the genre. At first the ‘bloods’ copied popular cheap fictions love of late 18th Century gothic tales – the more sensational the better – a world of murderous lords, ladies addicted to the study of poison, gipsies and brigand chiefs….men with masks and women with daggers, stolen children, withered hags, heartless gamblers and foreign princesses….
The first ever Penny Dreadful was issued in 1836 titles the ‘Lives of the Most Notorious Highwayman’ – ‘Gentleman Jack’ was published for over four years without too much worry for accuracy or continuity (…one character was killed …twice)…
The genre is about to be re-born through Japanese Knotweed Solutions who are launching their own Penny Dreadful – issue 1 – titled… ‘Japanese Knotweed – The Feast of Blood’.
We will be issuing a Penny Dreadful for each Invasive Non Native Species in an effort to raise the profile of INNS and to bring a little culture into the lives of the readership. Issue 2 (available later this year) will be based around …’The Tall Tale of Giant Hogweed’.
Please note the tales are scary and are not meant to be read by children, the faint hearted, home owners or anybody living close to a railway line or river….
To sign up to receive your copy – please e mail Suzanne.firstname.lastname@example.org – and confirm that you are over 18 …