George Manville Fenn


George Manville Fenn (1831-1900) was a novelist and contributor to Once a Week and Chamber’s Journal. He edited Cassell’s Magazine in 1870 and then bought Once a Week in 1873 editing it until it closed in 1879. He may have known Collins, who sent him a ticket to The Woman in White in 1871, but if so not well. This extract from his longer piece ‘The Art of Mystery in Fiction’ is the only mention of Collins.

Mystery is a strong card in the novelist's hand. By few has it been played with a skill like that of Wilkie Collins, who, with little characterization or sentiment, without creating individuals of fiction whom we remember, or whose sayings we quote, could hold the attention of the novel-reading world with his Woman in White, or set them eagerly agog to find the whereabouts of the mysterious diamond taken from its Eastern sanctuary. For ingenuity of construction, blind leads, bafflings, and sustained interest The Moonstone stands high in the catalogue of the mysteries of fiction; and the reader was penetrating to a degree who fastened upon Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite the theft, the point being most graphically and tragically revealed in the scene in the East End where he lay a corpse.

It is not great, perhaps, this art of mystery in fiction, partaking as it does of the nature of a puzzle or conundrum; still it is ingenious though stagy, with its designing and fitting, and surely to be commended as an art worthy of a meed of praise.

From ‘The Art of Mystery in Fiction’ by George Manville Fenn, The North American Review Vol. CLVI issue 437 April, 1893 pp. 434-435

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