'At the Mercy of the German Eagle': images of London in dissolution in the novels of William Le Queux

TAYLOR, Antony David (2017). 'At the Mercy of the German Eagle': images of London in dissolution in the novels of William Le Queux. Critical Survey. (In Press)

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Abstract

The works of the prolific author, William Le Queux, represent the highpoint of the German 'invasion panic' genre in the years before 1914. Widely read by contemporaries, his novels provided a catalyst for British debates about the economic, military and spiritual exhaustion of the empire in the face of new national and imperial rivals. For Le Queux, the capture of London was integral to German military occupation. Either buttressing the capital’s will to resist, or undermining its capacity to withstand attack, the vigour and vitality of London was always at issue in his novels. Drawing on contemporary fears about the capital and its dissolution, this article considers the moral panics about London and Londoners and their relationship to Britain’s martial decline reflected in his stories. Ranging across anxieties about anarchist and foreign terrorism, attuned to fears of the mob, and suspicious about wealthy spy masters at large in governmental circles, Le Queux’s fiction reflects concerns about London as a decadent ’new Rome’ in process of lengthy and agonising disintegration. Le Queux pursued a populist path in his vision of an embattled London, brought low by a decadent leadership but saved by a population purged of bankers, outsiders, immigrants, its cultural establishment, and defeatists. Analysing these themes in Le Queux’s fiction, this article exposes the vein of anxiety about the defence of London in the invasion panic genre, and raises questions about the degree to which contemporaries believed the nation might turn to the capital for its salvation in its hour of need.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Special Edition 'Literature and Propaganda'
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Humanities Research Centre
Departments: Development and Society > Humanities
Depositing User: Tony Taylor
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2017 17:12
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2017 20:07
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14555

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