Cult Criminals is a set of early Victorian novels 'sensationally' popular with readers and of immense influence in the development of the novel form. All six novels, commonly labelled 'Newgate' novels, scandalized the Victorians by glamorizing criminals and led to a bitter literary controversy between Dickens and Thackeray, who damned the former's Oliver Twist as a 'Newgate' novel.
At the heart of the 'Newgate' debate lay questions concerning the moral and social function of the novel, the relationship between romance and realism in fiction, and whether crime should be portrayed in fiction at all. The Newgate novels function as a bridge between the eighteenth- century tradition of crime fiction and the detective and crime novels of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as encapsulating many of the social and cultural shifts that took place in the early Victorian period.
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