The Haunted Study, a rare example of a work of literary history that is genuinely interdisciplinary, explores how the leading novelists of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods came to develop so many of the attitudes that are now generally accepted as characteristically modern.
The writing of fiction is not treated as though it exists in some kind of isolation, but is shown to be intimately related to other forms of social activity. Conrad, James, Meredith, and their immediate modernist successors Joyce, Lawrence, and Woolf, may now seem to be set apart in a variety of crucial ways from, say, Ouida and Marie Corelli, or even Gissing, Wells, and Bennett, but all of them worked within the same rapidly changing society and were unavoidably influenced by its dominant economic, political, and cultural concerns. These influences were not peripheral, but central and formative. They profoundly affected the creation of a commercially fragmented culture as well as the nature of fiction within that culture.
The Haunted Study covers an exceptionally large number of authors, from the critically despised to the critically admired, and examines the impact on their work of such factors as the professionalisation of literature, the earning power of authors, the emergence of new kinds of readers, and, disturbingly present throughout the whole period, fundamental democratic change.