Mary Braddon and the English Heroine in Meiji-Era Japan


Author: Ian McArthur, University of Sydney, Australia
Published: August 4, 2017

Citation: McArthur, I. (2017). Mary Braddon and the English Heroine in Meiji-Era Japan. IAFOR Journal of Asian Studies, 3(1).


In the 1880s and 1890s, a large number of adaptive translations of European and American mystery novels were published in Japan in book form and as serialized newspaper novels. One of the more prominent of the sources of these works was English sensation fiction author Mary Braddon. Her works are associated with strong-willed heroines and villainesses. She is possibly the first, and certainly one of the earliest, European sensation fiction female authors adapted in this manner in Japan. Braddon’s works proved popular among a coterie of translators and publishers who saw in them opportunities to pursue their own agendas. These agendas included: participation in debates over the nature of femininity; theatre reform; and the introduction of new legal codes. Her works were targeted for adaptation by playwrights, professional storytellers (rakugoka), and newspaper editors. Two of the more prominent adaptors of Braddon works were editor and translator Kuroiwa Ruikō (1862–1920), and Australian-born professional storyteller Henry Kairakutei Black (1858–1923). By examining such adaptations of Braddon’s works, this paper sheds light on how European sensation fiction served the interests of reformists in Meiji-era (1886–1912) Japan.


kabuki, rakugo, Meiji era, Mary Braddon, sensation fiction