Wednesday, January 13, 2016

first post of the year -- The Dead Letter and the Figure Eight, by Metta Fuller Victor (aka Seeley Register)

Duke University Press, 2003
388 pp


Two very obscure American novels are to be found here together in one volume: The Dead Letter (1866) and The Figure Eight (1869).  What's culturally and historically significant about this volume is that The Dead Letter is actually, according to Catherine Ross Nickerson in her work The Web of Iniquity: Early Detective Fiction by American Women, "the first American detective novel." (29).  Both books are also, as she notes,
"documents of a moment in cultural history when the young professional seemed to hold the promise of mediating between the cloudy-minded nostalgia of the landed class and the unprincipled greed of the merchant and capitalist classes."  (31)
While there's definitely a LOT going on between the lines and a lot going on here that is discussion worthy,  these books are also fun reads for anyone interested in American literature of this period that won't likely be found on any general American Lit course syllabus.  For someone like myself who loves these old books and who tries to read between the lines as to the cultural climate (especially in terms of women and the relationships between the main characters and other ethnic groups) , the politics, and the historical significance of the time in which they were written, it is a goldmine.   On the other hand, they're definitely not for everyone, but if for no other reason, the fact that Metta Fuller Victor made an appearance before Anna Katherine Green (who I've always believed was the first American detective novelist) makes her extremely readworthy. 

 I've posted about these two books at my crime page; more about the author herself can be found at my newest project, Forgotten Females Found.   

(from LibraryThing

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