12. Imagining Wild Russia

The Danicheffs, or, Married by Force
London: Aldine Publishing Company, [1893]

The Aldine Publishing Company released The Danicheffs, or, Married by Force as the 42nd issue of its ‘Home Library of Powerful and Dramatic Tales’. This particular Aldine series sensationalised the works of great playwrights, producing them as paperbacks with striking front covers for threepence (3d) to an adult British audience. Many of Aldine’s cover illustrations were produced by Robert Prowse Jr., the son of another noted penny dreadful illustrator. Prowse’s signature can be seen in the bottom right corner of this cover.

The Danicheffs, or, Married by Force was adapted from an 1889 play of the same name, itself a translation of an 1876 original. Les Danicheff was written by Alexandre Dumas fils and Pierre Newsky (the pseudonym of Petr Korvin-Krukovsky, to whose cousin – by coincidence – Dostoevsky proposed). Described by Laurence Senelick as ‘sub-Dostoevskyan’, the play follows Vladimir Danicheff, a Russian nobleman, who returns home from army service to find that his fiancée has been forced by his own mother to marry another man. Aldine embellished the story with a significant sub-plot about cruel captivity (including the scene depicted on the cover), reshaping the tale to fit the wild Russia of the British audience’s imagination.

Vanessa Singleton

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