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Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890-1915Rereading the fin de siècle$
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Victoria Margree, Daniel Orrells, and Minna Vuohelainen

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526124340

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526124340.001.0001

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Decadent aesthetics and Richard Marsh’s The Mystery of Philip Bennion’s Death

Decadent aesthetics and Richard Marsh’s The Mystery of Philip Bennion’s Death

Chapter:
(p.190) 10 Decadent aesthetics and Richard Marsh’s The Mystery of Philip Bennion’s Death
Source:
Richard Marsh, popular fiction and literary culture, 1890-1915
Author(s):

Daniel Orrells

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781526124340.003.0010

Richard Marsh’s fiction made a significant contribution to the arguments that circulated during the 1890s about aesthetics and the commodification of culture. The plots of sensational popular novels and the sights and sounds of the music hall were all deemed unworthy, addiction-inducing forces by cultural commentators at the time. This chapter focuses on The Mystery of Philip Bennion’s Death (1892/1897), a murder-mystery novel in which a work of art – a poisoned Renaissance cabinet – apparently kills its owner, a collector of curios: the dangers of art could hardly be more pressing. Marsh’s novel looks back on a century of writers who have associated fine art with crime, from De Quincey’s provocation that murder could be a fine art to Pater’s and Wilde’s interest in the aesthetics of transgression and the entertaining nature of murder. This chapter explores how Marsh's writing was at the heart of 1890s debates about collecting, aestheticism and decadence.

Keywords:   Crime, Addiction, Commodification, Curios, Collecting, Art, Aesthetics, Aestheticism, Decadence

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