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A Note on the Texts

The short fiction compiled in this digital archive has been drawn from nineteenth century periodicals published in Britain. One of the benefits of the digital medium is the ability to assemble a larger number of texts than is accommodated in the typical print anthology and to add material to the collection periodically. Accordingly, we anticipate expanding the archive on a regular basis during the upcoming years.

A Note on the Selection of Texts

When selecting texts for this digital archive, we have faced a number of very practical questions. How long or short is a piece of short fiction? How do we define fiction? Should we include fiction that was published slightly before or after the years of Victoria’s reign (1837-1901)? What about fiction written earlier, but published during her reign?

Though set answers to these questions continue to be elusive, we have made certain decisions that determine what types of short fiction we include and why. We have set no limit on how short a piece of short fiction can be. This allows us to include brief anecdotes, sketches, and even jokes, genres that function as precursors to our modern short story.  We do have a length limit—we do not include fiction longer than 30,000 words.  This length is arbitrary, though logical.1For a discussion of the difficulties in pinpointing a set length for Victorian short fiction, see Wendell V. Harris, British Short Fiction in the Nineteenth Century: A Literary and Bibliographic Guide, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979: 21 and Harold Orel, The Victorian Short Story: The Development and Triumph of a Literary Genre, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP, 1986: 8. A text of 30,000 words, about the length of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, is brief enough to differentiate it from the ponderously long Victorian novel, which often was published in three volumes; yet it is long enough to include substantial texts whose focus on character development, setting, and plot showcase the strengths of Victorian literature. The majority of the texts in this archive are between 2,000 and 10,000 words long.

Timing is also a matter of discussion. We include short fiction that was published during the long nineteenth century, that is, from the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth. This allows us to explore the fiction from key periodicals that may overlap the beginning or end of the period. The vast majority of the fiction, however, was published between 1820 and 1900. We do, upon occasion, publish fiction that was written before the nineteenth century if it was edited and/or translated for publication during the nineteenth century.

All of the texts we include are fictional prose narratives, though we do allow for variation within these terms. The collection houses examples of historical fiction, fictionalized biography, allegory, myth, and legend. On the rare occasion, we include historical narratives that adopt the style of fiction in order to examine the relationship between fictional realism and narrative history. We include educational texts whose main purpose is to communicate factual information, if the text also includes some element of narrative, such as a frame story. We do limit our texts to those written in prose, though they may contain verse within the narrative.

As a whole, the examples of short fiction included in the collection represent a cross-section of the short fiction published during the nineteenth century. We include texts representing a range of sub-genres, topics, authors, and audiences. Rather than limit this range, we plan for it to increase as we add new texts on a regular basis.

A Note on Editing Methodology

We use a diplomatic approach to editing, and our editorial practices follow the MLA Guidelines for Editors of Scholarly Editions ( Consistent with the methods of diplomatic editing, we use one source text for our transcriptions, and transcribe them with minimal emendations. The source text for each piece of short fiction is the version published in the periodical indicated in the heading and in the “How to Cite” notation at the end of the transcription. Each transcription is prepared using the original periodical by the editor listed in the “How to Cite” section, and is then proofed by three additional editors. We retain the original punctuation and spelling, unless they contain obviously typographical mistakes (such as “hte” for “the”) or would be misleading for the modern reader. All emendations are indicated in footnotes.

We include author (when available) and publication information in the heading to the transcription, and give a brief headnote to orient the reader to the original audience, to any historical context useful for understanding the narrative, and to the subgenre(s) of the text. We offer limited footnotes containing original footnotes (if any), translations, identification of quotations, and information essential to understanding the narrative. We include author pages with birth and death dates (when available), a list of the author’s short fiction posted on this site, and, when relevant, a list of selected further readings. In addition, we post journal pages with basic data, a list of the VSFP short fiction published in them, and, for the more thoroughly studied journals, a list of selected further readings.

The headnotes and footnotes are the result of joint writing and editing by the original editor and several staff members. One hallmark feature of the editing involved in this archive is its collaborative nature. All the material included in the archive has been composed and/or edited by several contributors, and we have ongoing editorial processes to refine and update material periodically.

Whenever possible, we include a PDF file (300 dpi) of the original periodical text so that those interested in typography, illustrations, etc. will have access to a facsimile version. The PDFs are prepared and posted by permission of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library at Brigham Young University. All short fiction texts included in this digital collection are out of copyright, though we do protect the original material included in headnotes, footnotes, and journal introductions under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

A Note on the Audience

The material in this digital archive has been prepared with a variety of readers in mind.  It is meant to be accessible to the general reader, the student, and the professional scholar interested in the history of the short story.  Ideally, it will be suitable to supplement the more traditional anthologies typically used in university classrooms.

A Note on Technical Specifications

The current VSFP website employs a WordPress content management system with the Pods framework plugin. Pods allows us to easily extend WordPress’ default posts and pages to include custom pages for journals, authors, short fiction titles, and topics. This system provides an excellent structure in which users can contribute and edit content to the VSFP with minimal risk to the consistency and usability of the website.

The prior version of the VSFP, now archived, ran on MediaWiki, the same software that powers Wikipedia. While the wiki facilitated contributions, it also required that contributors learn MediaWiki’s markup language and exercise close control over the content they submitted. For example, new content on a Wiki is entered into a large blank field, so each contributor had to include the correct sections, headings, etc., on every submission.

When submitting new information to the WordPress/Pods system, contributors are provided with a set of fields to complete, thus lowering the probability that information will be entered incorrectly. Section headings, links between authors, journals, and short fiction titles, as well as citations in MLA format, etc., are processed algorithmically so as to reduce errors from data entry.


1 For a discussion of the difficulties in pinpointing a set length for Victorian short fiction, see Wendell V. Harris, British Short Fiction in the Nineteenth Century: A Literary and Bibliographic Guide, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979: 21 and Harold Orel, The Victorian Short Story: The Development and Triumph of a Literary Genre, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP, 1986: 8.