Victorian Popular Fictions 3.1 6 Sheldon

“An Adventuress I Would Be:”

Originality  in  Miss Cayley’s Adventures   in  The Strand Magazine


Mercedes Sheldon

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When read straight through as a novel, Miss Cayley’s Adventures (1898-99) appears to reside singularly within the detective genre; this reading limits our understanding of the ways in which Grant Allen challenges the anxieties regarding gender held by the contemporary, conservative readership of The Strand Magazine (1891-1950). Allen integrates multiple popular genres into the short story serial, including the detective stories which frame the narrative, as well as cycling romance, mountaineering, typist, and travel stories. Gordon Browne’s illustrations underscore Allen’s manoeuvres, visually inviting the reader to trust the protagonist and by extension to accept her “artless adventures.” I contend that, when read within its original, illustrated periodical context, Miss Cayley’s Adventures does not present the magazine’s readership with a New Woman detective but rather with a female adventurer, an adventuress. The letterpress and illustrations rely on and subvert the negative connotation of the word, using it as a critical means to interrogate the New Woman trope and to show the middle classes an original way to view womanhood.


Key Words

New Woman; Grant Allen; Strand Magazine; popular genre; illustration

Date of Acceptance: 5 July 2021

Date of Publication: 8 July 2021

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation

Sheldon, Mercedes. 2021. “‘An Adventuress I Would Be’: Originality in Miss Cayley’s Adventures in The Strand Magazine.” Victorian Popular Fictions,  3.1 (Spring):  98-122.

ISSN: 2632-4253


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