Victorian Popular Fictions 2: 1 article 6 Esser

Doppelgängers and Impostors:

Flashman’s Neo-Victorian Adventures in Zenda

Helena Esser


Neo-Victorian fiction has come to be understood as postmodern metafiction which re-evaluates the legacies of the nineteenth century, but scholarship tends to discuss the popular in neo-Victorianism mostly where steampunk is concerned. While this anachronistic subgenre may illustrate our relationship with the Victorian age on a wide scale, other, earlier popular fictions have paved the way in crucial ways and have much to offer. This article considers how George MacDonald Fraser’s satirical novel Royal Flash (1970) actively engages with and re-works Anthony Hope’s classic Victorian popular novel ThePrisoner of Zenda (1894) through an engaging parody of Victorian ideals of chivalrous masculinity and the adventure genre. As a neo-Victorian doppelgänger, cad and coward Harry Flashman insightfully caricatures historical events and texts alike, actualising history as textual and therefore open to re-interpretation. Through its humorous metatextual play with ideals and identities, the novel re-contextualises the Victorian era for new readerships and illustrates how a popular neo-Victorian mode may enhance and enrich our understanding of our relationship with the Victorian past.

Key Words

neo-Victorian; steampunk; The Prisoner of Zenda; Flashman Papers; popular fiction; masculinity; chivalry; parody

Date of Acceptance: 9 July 2020

Date of Publication: 13 July 2020

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation

Esser, Helena D. 2020. “Doppelgängers and Impostors: Flashman’s Neo-Victorian Adventures in Zenda.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 2.1: 83-97. DOI:

Return to Contents page of VPFJ 2.1

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.