E. Bulwer Lytton Ernest Maltravers ______
W. H. Ainsworth Crichton ______
Charles Dickens Oliver Twist serialised
W. M.Thackeray Yellowplush Papers serialised
Captain Frederick Maryat Snarleyyow; or, The Dog Fiendserialised


E. Bulwer Lytton Alice, Leila; or, The Siege of Granada ______
E. Bulwer Lytton Calderon the Courtier ______
Charles DickensNicholas Nickleby serialised


W. H. Ainsworth Jack Sheppard serialised
Captain Frederick MaryatThe Phantom Ship serialised


W. H. Ainsworth The Tower of London serialised
Captain Frederick MaryatPoor Jack serialised
W. M.Thackeray Catherineserialised
W. M.Thackeray A Shabby Genteel Storyserialised
W. M.Thackeray The Bedford Row Conspiracy serialised


E. Bulwer Lytton Night and Morning ______
W. H. Ainsworth Guy Fawkes serialised
W. H. AinsworthOld Saint Paul serialised
Charles Dickens Barnaby Rudge serialised
Charles Dickens The Old Curiosity Shop serialised
Captain Frederick Maryat Joseph Rushmore serialised
Harriet MartineauThe Settlers at Home ______
Harriet MartineauFeats on the Fjord ______
Harriet MartineauThe Crofton Boys ______
W. M.Thackeray The History of Samuel Titmarsh serialised


E. Bulwer Lytton Zanoni ______
W. H. Ainsworth The Miser's Daughter serialised


W. H. Ainsworth Windsor Castle serialised
Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol ______
E. Bulwer Lytton The Last of the Barons ______
W. M.Thackeray Fitz-Boodle's Confessionsserialised


W. H. Ainsworth Saint James's serialised
Charles Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit serialised
Charles Dickens The Chimes ______
Benjamin Disraeli Coningsby ______
W. M.Thackeray Barry Lyndon serialised


Charles Dickens The Cricket on the Hearth ______
Benjamin Disraeli Sybil ______
Benjamin DisraeliTancred ______
W. H. Ainsworth Auriol; or, The Elixir of Life serialised


E.Bulwer Lytton Lucretia; or, The Children of the Night ______
Charles Dickens The Battle of Life ______
Captain Frederick Maryat The Privateer Man serialised
W. M.Thackeray Rebecca and Rowena serialised
W. M.Thackeray Mrs. Perkins' Ball ______


Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre ______
Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights ______
Captain Frederick Maryat Children of the New Forest ______


E. Bulwer Lytton Harold ______
W. H. Ainsworth James the Second serialised
Charles Dickens The Haunted Man ______
W. M.Thackeray Vanity Fair serialised
Elizabeth Gaskell Mary Barton ______
Charles Kingsley Yeast serialised
Charles Kingsley The Saint's Tragedy ______


E. Bulwer Lyttonh The Caxtons: A Family Picture serialised
W. H. Ainsworth The Lancashire Witches serialised
Charles Dickens Dombey and Son serialised
Charlotte Brontë Shirley ______


Charles Dickens David Copperfield serialised
Charles Kingsley Cheap Clothes and Nasty ______
Charles KingsleyAlton Locke, Tailor and Poet ______
W. M.Thackeray Pendennis serialised


Wilkie Collins Mr. Wray's Cash-Box; or, the Mask and the Mystery ______
Charles Kingsley Yeast: A Problem ______
Eliza Lynn [Linton] Realities ______


Wilkie Collins Basil: A Story of Modern Life ______
Charles Kingsley Phaeton; or Loose Thoughts for Loose Thinkers ______


Charles Dickens Bleak House serialised
W. M.Thackeray Henry Esmond serialised
Elizabeth Gaskell Ruth ______
Charles Reade Peg Wuffington ______
Charles Kingsley Hypatia; or The Old Face in the Mirror serialised
W. H. Ainsworth The Star Chamberserialised
E. Bulwer Lytton My Novel, by Pisistratus Caxton; or, Varieties in English Life serialised


W. H. Ainsworth The Flitch of Bacon serialised
Wilkie Collins Hide and Seek; or, The Mystery of Mary Grice ______
Charles Dickens Hard Times serialised


Charles Kingsley Westward Ho! ______
Charles Kingsley Glaucus; or, The Wonders of the Shore ______
Charles Kingsley Brave Words for Brave Soldiers and Sailors ______
Elizabeth Gaskell North and South serialised
George Meredith The Shaving of Shagpat ______
W. M.Thackeray The Newcomes serialised
W. M.ThackerayThe Rose and the Ring ______
Anthony TrollopeThe Warden ______


Charles Dickens Little Dorrit serialised
Charles Reade It Is Never Too Late to Mend ______
Wilkie Collins A Rogue's Life serialised


W. H. Ainsworth The Spendthrift serialised
Anthony Trollope Barchester Towers ______
Wilkie Collins The Dead Secret serialised
Charles Kingsley Two Years Ago ______
George Meredith Farina: A Legend of Cologne ______
Charles Reade Double Marriage; or, White Lies serialised
Thomas Hughes Tom Brown's School Days ______


W. H. Ainsworth Mervyn Clitheroe serialised
W. M.ThackerayThe Virginians serialised
Anthony Trollope Dr. Thorne
Elizabeth Gaskell My Lady Ludlow serialised
R. M. Ballantyne The Coral Island, A Tale of the Pacific Ocean ______


W. H. Ainsworth The Combat of the Thirty ______
Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities serialised
George Eliot Adam Bede ______
George Meredith The Ordeal of Richard Feverel ______
Charles Reade The Cloister and the Hearth serialised
W. M.Thackeray The Virginians serialised
E. Bulwer Lyttonh What Will He Do with It? by Pisistratus Caxton serialised


Wilkie Collins The Woman in White serialised
George Eliot The Mill on the Floss ______
George Meredith Evan Harrington serialised
W. M.Thackeray Lovel the Widower serialised
Charles Kingsley Hereward the Wake serialised
W. H. Ainsworth Ovingderan Grange: A Tale of the South Downs serialised


George Eliot Silas Marner ______
Anthony Trollope Framley Parsonage serialised
Mrs. Henry Wood East Lynne ______
Charles Dickens Great Expectations serialised
W. H. Ainsworth The Constable of the Tower serialised

Bestsellers before Victoria ascended to the throne

Although they are not listed, some important novels by such American authors as Stowe, Hawthorne, Melville, Fennimore Cooper, and Washington Irving sold well in England during the nineteenth century, as did novels from the French, in particular, Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo (1844).

Moreover, many Victorian writers of note were publishing before the accession of Victoria to the throne: Dickens's The Pickwick Papers (1836), Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), Maryat's Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836), and Ainsworth's Rookwood (1834) being leading examples of pre-Victorian works that continued to sell well for much of the century.

Why stop at 1861?

The serial publication of fiction began to change in the late 1850s with the appearance of such illustrated weeklies as Once a Week (1859) and The Cornhill (1860), which over the next decade ousted the old-style, cheap, non-illustrated literary magazines such as Bentley's, Ainsworth's, and All the Year Round. Furthermore, a new kind of fiction, the Sensation Novel (derisively called "The Bigamy Novel" by its detractors) developed in the 1860s as an offshoot of the less realistic Gothic Novel.

The part-publication of Dickens was almost entirely subsumed by these new literary magazines, although America's Atlantic Monthly and Britain's Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine continued to publish high-quality fiction without accompanying illustrations. In this respect, Great Expectations was very much a throw-back, appearing first in a cheap, pulp-paper weekly rather than in a new commodity text such as Good Words (founded in 1860). Cruikshank, Phiz, and their tribe retired, replaced by a host of young, realistic illustrators such as George Du Maurier, Robert Barnes, Arthur Hopkins, and C. S. Reinhart, gifted commercial artists who worked mostly for the new, illustrated magazines of the 1860s. Finally, children's literature, which had in its infancy produced only a few best-selling classics, such as Mary Sherwood's The Fairchild Family (1818) Catherine Sinclair's Holiday House (1839), was about to enter the Golden Age, with Lewis Carroll and Edith Nesbit and a host of other writers whose works aimed primarily at a child and juvenile market would continue to be best-sellers well into the twentieth century.

Victorian Best-Sellers, 1862-1901

Selected References

Altick, Richard D. Victorian People and Ideas. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973.

Booth, Michael R.; Southern, Richard; Davies, Roberston; Frederick and Lise-Lone Marker. The Revels History of Drama in English, Vol. 6 1750-1880. London: Methuen, 1975.

Carpenter, Humphrey, and Prichard, Mari. The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Jackson, Arlene M. Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1981.

Mitchell, Sally (ed.). Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1988.

Patten, Robert L. Charles Dickens and His Publishers. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978.

Terry, Reginald C. Victorian Popular Fiction 1860-1880. London: Macmillan, 1983.

Tillotson, Kathleen. Novels of the Eighteen-Fortie. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.

Vann, J. Don. Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985.

Victorian Web Literary Genres Victorian Ecomomics

Last modified 4 March 2008