Victorian Popular Fictions 3.2 8 Laurella

Knighthoods and Empty Benches:

Wilkie  Collins’s  Armadale (1866)  and  the  Late-Victorian  Culture Industry


Robert Laurella

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 In locating Wilkie Collins’s novel Armadale (1866) in the context of its two subsequent dramatic versions, this article considers how the Victorian culture industry contended with an aggressively expanding market economy. It positions Collins’s work amid an ongoing Victorian debate that was especially prevalent in literary and dramatic periodicals concerning the bifurcated development of English drama and novels. Highlighting how Collins flexibly adapted his writing for the stage in the face of legal, commercial, and artistic pressures strengthens emerging links between the ostensibly discrete fields of novelistic and theatrical writing. The adaptation of novels for the stage is one of the primary areas where developing intellectual property law collided with cultural production, opening up, for writers such as Collins, new avenues to write, produce, and entertain. This article aims to expand on recent studies of the evolving nature of copyright law in the nineteenth century by considering the forms of cultural production that context facilitated. Considering the legal context of these adaptations in concert with, however, and not as ancillary to or separate from, their social and political valences highlights the modes of production that arose despite – or perhaps as a result of – the opaque nature of Victorian intellectual property laws. Wilkie Collins the successful dramatist, as opposed to Wilkie Collins the novelist writing for the stage, emerged in his own right partly due to the copyright contests that initially encouraged him to adapt his novels in the first place.



nineteenth-century theatre; Wilkie Collins; adaptation; copyright; intellectual property; Armadale

Date of Acceptance: 8 December 2021

Date of Publication: 17 December 2021

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Laurella, Robert. 2021. “Knighthoods and Empty Benches: Wilkie Collins’s Armadale (1866) and the Late-Victorian Culture Industry.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 3.2: 135-152.  ISSN: 2632-4253 (online)  DOI:

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