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Jezebel's Daughter - Chatto & Windus Piccadilly Novels.

Jezebel's Daughter - Chatto & Windus Library Edition.

1887 Chatto & Windus Piccadilly Novels 1897 Chatto & Windus Library edition


Sensation novel published in 1880 and dedicated to Alberto Caccia, Collins's Italian translator.  Based on the 1858 play, The Red Vial, Collins's attempt to write for 'the masses' resulted in an unduly melodramatic tone.  The novel, however, is notable for the way it handles the treatment of lunatics and the mentally retarded; and for the creation of a female character who is effective both in business and as a philanthropist.  The plot revolves around the use of poisons and includes forensic details applicable to detective fiction.

Jezebel's Daughter - Chatto & Windus three-decker first edition in cloth.

1880 First edition in 3 volumes

Plot Summary

In 1828, the firm of Wagner, Keller and Engelman has offices in London and Frankfort.  After the death of her husband, the progressive Mrs Wagner becomes senior partner, running the London office where she plans to employ women clerks.  To prove that lunatics can be cured by kindness, she removes the simple-minded Jack Straw from Bedlam and takes him into her household.


In Frankfort, Fritz Keller, son of one of the other partners, has fallen in love with Minna Fontaine, daughter of a sinister widow whose husband made a life-time study of poisons.  Keller's father disapproves of Mrs Fontaine, who is constantly in debt, and refuses to allow Fritz and Minna to marry.  Fritz is sent to London and a young Englishman, David Glenney, who tells the story, goes to Frankfort in his place.  Here he meets Minna and her mother and innocently introduces them to the third partner, Engelman.  Mrs Fontaine, determined to further her daughter's marriage, uses Engelman, who falls in love with her, to trick her way into Keller's house. 


Mrs Fontaine possesses a chest of poisons and their antidotes which her husband intended to be destroyed on his death.  She doses Keller with a slow-acting poison and to win his goodwill revives him with the antidote.  She becomes his nurse and then his housekeeper, having assured him, falsely, that she is no longer in debt.  Keller withdraws his objections to the marriage of Fritz and Minna.


Mrs Wagner comes to Frankfort on business accompanied by Jack Straw, who is much improved by her kindness and devoted to her.  He is immediately recognised by Mrs Fontaine as 'Hans Grimm', mentally damaged by being accidentally poisoned in her  husband's laboratory years before.

Fritz returns to marry Minna.  Mrs Fontaine has a debt to pay which falls due the day after the wedding, but when the ceremony has to be postponed she steals the key to Mrs Wagner's desk from Jack Straw and embezzles the money she needs from the firm's funds.  Mrs Wagner discovers the theft and, unable to pay back the money, Mrs Fontaine poisons her with a fast-acting, undetectable poison.  Jack Straw unsuccessfully tries to revive his benefactress with the same antidote that had saved Keller but her body is taken to the Deadhouse, where the devoted Jack refuses to leave her.  In a lurid scene Mrs Fontaine, who has secretly followed them, is accidently poisoned by her own mixtures while Mrs Wagner recovers from a deathlike coma, ringing an alarm bell which alerts the watchman.  Mrs Fontaine dies, leaving a self-incriminating diary.  Fritz and Minna marry, while Jack remains in the care of Mrs Wagner.

Jezebel's Daughter - Tauchnitz Leipzig edition.

1880 Tauchnitz edition




First published in the Bolton Weekly Journal, 13 September 1879--31 January 1880, and several other Tillotson syndicated newspapers.

Book publication

First English edition

3 volumes, Chatto and Windus, London 1880.  White cloth, covers blocked in black, spines lettered in gilt, green and white decorated end-papers.  Half-title in each volume. Published in March 1880.  Variant binding in tan cloth with later publishers' catalogue dated April 1880.


Vol I     viii + 284 pp.  32 pp publishers' catalogue dated February 1880 bound in at end.

Vol II    (iv) + 284 pp

Vol III   (iv) + 296 pp


1 volume editions

Chatto & Windus 1880-1901; Sutton, Stroud 1995.


1st US edition

Seaside Library (vol 34, no 696), New York 1880 (first book publication).



Dutch, The Hague 1880  

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