y The Mystery of Major Molineux single work   novella   mystery   horror  
Issue Details: First known date: 1881... 1881
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'The Mystery of Major Molineux is a strange and weird production, evidently founded on a fact connected with the early history of Tasmania. As a psychological study it approaches in subtlety to some of the most successful efforts of the author of Adam Bede; while for intensity of sustained interest and soul-thrilling excitement it is only surpassed by Edgar Allen Poe in The Mystery of Marie Roget and The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

That the story is based upon fact does not detract from its interest, but rather lends an air of vraisemblance to a story which would otherwise be too appalling. It is an introspective study, a psychological romance, a social drama - worthy of the author of His Natural Life.'

[Source: Burra Record 22 June 1881, p.2]

Notes

  • The quotation published in the Burra Record (above) very likely originated from the novel's first publisher Cameron Laing. Evidence for this comes from a number of metropolitan and regional newspapers which published the same blurb, in most instances word for word, that same year. The only difference appears to be the concluding paragraph. An alternate ending, not used by the Burra Record, appears in most other newspapers in place of the Record's final statement:

    It is a remarkable narrative, and another instance of the fact that 'truth' is stranger than fiction.' The author of The Raven in his wildest flights of fancy was not more absorbing (Border Watch 2 July 1881, p.1).

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1881
Serialised by: Tuapeka Times 1868 newspaper (12 issues)
Notes:
Published in serialised format by the Tuapeka Times in 1881.
  • Appears in:
    y The Mystery of Major Molineux / Human Repetends Marcus Clarke , Melbourne : Cameron, Laing , 1881 Z460138 1881 selected work short story novella

    'The Mystery of Major Molineux is a strange and weird production, evidently founded on a fact connected with the early history of Tasmania. As a psychological study it approaches in subtlety to some of the most successful efforts of the author of Adam Bede; while for intensity of sustained interest and soul-thrilling excitement it is only surpassed by Edgar Allen Poe in The Mystery of Marie Roget and The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

    That the story is based upon fact does not detract from its interest, but rather lends an air of resemblance to a story which would otherwise be too appalling. It is an introspective study, a psychological romance, a social drama - worthy of the author of His Natural Life.'

    [Source: Burra Record 22 June 1881, p.2]

    Melbourne : Cameron, Laing , 1881
    pg. 7-66
  • Appears in:
    y The Anthology of Colonial Australian Gothic Fiction Ken Gelder (editor), Rachael Weaver (editor), Carlton : Melbourne University Press , 2007 Z1415120 2007 anthology short story extract horror mystery science fiction historical fiction children's (taught in 7 units) Carlton : Melbourne University Press , 2007 pg. 45-86
  • Appears in:
    y Australian Ghost Stories James Doig (editor), Ware : Wordsworth Editions , 2010 Z1692736 2010 anthology short story horror 'Murderous ghosts, horrific curses and monstrous beings haunt an unforgiving landscape into which travellers stray at their peril. Journey through the dark byways of Australia's Gothic past in the rare stories gathered in this memorable new collection. Work by acclaimed Australian writers such as Marcus Clarke, Henry Lawson and Edward Dyson appears alongside many lesser-known authors such as Beatrice Grimshaw, Mary Fortune and Ernest Favenc. Many of the stories collected here have never been reprinted since their first publication in 19th and early 20th century periodicals and showcase the richness and variety of the Australian ghost and horror story.

    James Doig provides an authoritative introduction full of fresh insights into Australian Gothic fiction with detailed biographical notes on the authors represented' (cover).
    Ware : Wordsworth Editions , 2010

Works about this Work

'The Beast Within' : Degeneration in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Three Australian Short Stories Anne Maxwell , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , 31 October vol. 30 no. 3 2015;

'Both Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Clarke’s ‘The Mystery of Major Molineux’ (1881) appear to have influenced a small group of Australian short story writers who were working in the decade immediately preceding Federation. Their work appeared in The Bulletin, The Boomerang and the Australian Journal, as well as in privately edited collections of short fiction. This essay examines Campbell McKellar's 'The Premier's Secret' (1887) and Ernst Favenc's 'My Only Murder' (1893), in addition to Clarke’s ‘The Mystery of Major Molineux’, to determine how these three writers used the concepts of degeneration, the double brain and multiple personality, and to what ends. My contention is that, like Stevenson, the colonial writers explore atavism and reversion by using motifs and elements drawn from Gothic and popular crime fiction to expose the depravity of members of the nation’s ruling classes, but paradoxically also to lend them a more human face. While we might recognise greater moral ambiguity in the Australian stories compared to Stevenson’s, accounting for that ambiguity is more difficult. One possible explanation is that the writers were not just more mindful of the public’s growing taste for fictions that shocked and thrilled, they were also more willing to satisfy this demand. A second is the greater class mobility within Australian society compared to that of Britain, and that this generated a stronger tolerance for the savage impulses that lay at the heart of the settler enterprise. In other words, in that the violence that accompanied settlement had become a part of everyday life, the Australian stories appear to be more at ease with the atavistic elements of their characters – the veneer of civilisation seems to be much thinner in Australia than in Britain. Closely related to this idea is Australian audiences’ more ready acceptance of personal traits like eccentricity, mateship and anti-authoritarianism, which can arguably be traced to the colony’s convict beginnings but also to its mounting desire for an independent future.'

Source: Abstract.

Marcus Clarke, Gothic, Romance David Matthews , 2005-2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: Medievalism and the Gothic in Australian Culture 2006; (p. 3-17)
David Matthews examines the production of the Gothic in the fiction of Marcus Clarke.
Colonial Gothic : Morbid Anatomy, Commodification and Critique in Marcus Clarke's 'The Mystery of Major Molineux' Andrew McCann , 2000 single work criticism biography
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , October vol. 19 no. 4 2000; (p. 399-412)
Marcus Clarke, Gothic, Romance David Matthews , 2005-2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: Medievalism and the Gothic in Australian Culture 2006; (p. 3-17)
David Matthews examines the production of the Gothic in the fiction of Marcus Clarke.
Colonial Gothic : Morbid Anatomy, Commodification and Critique in Marcus Clarke's 'The Mystery of Major Molineux' Andrew McCann , 2000 single work criticism biography
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , October vol. 19 no. 4 2000; (p. 399-412)
'The Beast Within' : Degeneration in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Three Australian Short Stories Anne Maxwell , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Literary Studies , 31 October vol. 30 no. 3 2015;

'Both Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Clarke’s ‘The Mystery of Major Molineux’ (1881) appear to have influenced a small group of Australian short story writers who were working in the decade immediately preceding Federation. Their work appeared in The Bulletin, The Boomerang and the Australian Journal, as well as in privately edited collections of short fiction. This essay examines Campbell McKellar's 'The Premier's Secret' (1887) and Ernst Favenc's 'My Only Murder' (1893), in addition to Clarke’s ‘The Mystery of Major Molineux’, to determine how these three writers used the concepts of degeneration, the double brain and multiple personality, and to what ends. My contention is that, like Stevenson, the colonial writers explore atavism and reversion by using motifs and elements drawn from Gothic and popular crime fiction to expose the depravity of members of the nation’s ruling classes, but paradoxically also to lend them a more human face. While we might recognise greater moral ambiguity in the Australian stories compared to Stevenson’s, accounting for that ambiguity is more difficult. One possible explanation is that the writers were not just more mindful of the public’s growing taste for fictions that shocked and thrilled, they were also more willing to satisfy this demand. A second is the greater class mobility within Australian society compared to that of Britain, and that this generated a stronger tolerance for the savage impulses that lay at the heart of the settler enterprise. In other words, in that the violence that accompanied settlement had become a part of everyday life, the Australian stories appear to be more at ease with the atavistic elements of their characters – the veneer of civilisation seems to be much thinner in Australia than in Britain. Closely related to this idea is Australian audiences’ more ready acceptance of personal traits like eccentricity, mateship and anti-authoritarianism, which can arguably be traced to the colony’s convict beginnings but also to its mounting desire for an independent future.'

Source: Abstract.

Last amended 28 Mar 2013 09:28:52
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