The International Circulation and Impact of Invasion Fiction

Case Study of William Le Queux's The Invasion of 1910 – ‘Not an ordinary “pot-boiler”’

in Critical Survey
Ailise Bulfin University College Dublin, Ireland

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A key text of the pre-First World War invasion fiction genre, William Le Queux's The Invasion of 1910 (1906) is often assumed to have sold in vast quantities and provoked major controversy. This article investigates the circulation and social impact of this divisive, polemical work before and during the war to provide a more accurate account of its reception. Using Marie Corelli's proven bestseller The Sorrows of Satan (1895) as a comparator, the article shows sales of The Invasion of 1910 were similar to other bestselling novels, though not comparable to Corelli's phenomenal sales. Le Queux's text, however, punched above the weight of the typical bestseller in terms of its social influence, receiving parliamentary censure, extensive newspaper coverage, wide satire and polarised reader responses. Overall, this analysis provides insight into the workings of the popular fiction industry and the nature and extent of invasion fears in the early twentieth century.

Contributor Notes

Dr Ailise Bulfin is a literary and cultural scholar whose research ranges from nineteenth-century to contemporary literature and explores the dark side of the human imagination, with a particular focus on representations of invasion, war, catastrophe and trauma. She has published a number of critical essays on topics such as gothic fiction, xenophobia, invasion scares, natural catastrophe and climate change, and her monograph, entitled Gothic Invasions: Imperialism, War and Fin-de-Siècle Popular Fiction, was published in April 2018. She currently lectures in Victorian and Modern Literature in the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin.

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