Penny dreadful, Ela the Outcast


Ela the Outcast is an example of a highly successful penny dreadful. The 18th edition (the earliest in the British Library) boasted a weekly sale of 30,000 copies. Publication extended to 104 numbers over two years, the melodramatic plot prolonged by devices such as interpolated stories and the late introduction of new subplots. Scenes from contemporary melodramas influenced the relatively good quality woodcut illustrations, some signed by J Pickering, which provide what is almost a comic strip summary of the plot.

Full title:
Ela the Outcast; or, The Gipsy of Rosemary Dell. A romance of thrilling interest
estimated 1841, 231 Shoreditch [High Street?], London
Penny dreadful / Serial / Illustration / Image
Prest Thomas Peckett, J Pickering [illustrator]
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Victorian readers

Article by:
Kate Flint
The novel 1832–1880, Reading and print culture

Professor Kate Flint explores the way Victorians bought, borrowed and read their books, and considers the impact of the popular literature of the period.

Penny dreadfuls

Article by:
Judith Flanders
Crime and crime fiction, Popular culture, Reading and print culture

The penny dreadful was a 19th-century publishing phenomenon. Judith Flanders explains what made these cheap, sensational, highly illustrated stories so popular with the Victorian public.

Related collection items