HOW THE PENNY DREADFULS CREATED THEIR OWN LEGENDS: Icy Sedgwick
Online talk originally presented by Icy Sedgwick, host of the 'Fabulous Folklore' podcast on 11 Feb 2023. Followed by a Q&A with the audience.
'Penny dreadful' is the nickname for a quirk of 19th-century publishing in Britain. They were short booklets, printed on thin, cheap paper, that could be sold for a penny. Many of the penny dreadfuls have since faded into obscurity, with the exception of Spring-Heeled Jack, Sweeney Todd, and Varney the Vampire.
These three penny dreadfuls have had a circular impact, being inspired by folklore and in turn contributing to the folklore about them. Spring-Heeled Jack's penny dreadful has in a large part fuelled the way people retrospectively view him, while Sweeney Todd's penny dreadful even had people convinced he was a real person. Meanwhile, Varney the Vampire drew on folklore, and in turn, went on to influence the way vampires were represented in popular culture.
This talk explores the ways in which these three penny dreadfuls created their own legends while drawing on existing tales.