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The serials were priced to be affordable to working-class readers, and were considerably cheaper than the serialised novels of authors such as Charles Dickens, which cost a shilling [twelve pennies] per part.The stories themselves were reprints, or sometimes rewrites, of the earliest Gothic thrillers such as The Castle of Otranto or The Monk, as well as new stories about famous criminals.Penny dreadful is a pejorative term used to refer to cheap popular serial literature produced during the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom.The term is roughly interchangeable with penny horrible, penny awful, The term typically referred to a story published in weekly parts, each costing one penny.

While the term "penny dreadful" was originally used in reference to a specific type of literature circulating in mid-Victorian Britain, it came to encompass a variety of publications that featured cheap sensational fiction, such as story papers and booklet "libraries".The publisher Edward Lloyd, for instance, published a number of penny serials derived from the works of Charles Dickens entitled Oliver Twiss, Nickelas Nicklebery, and Martin Guzzlewit.Working class boys who could not afford a penny a week often formed clubs that would share the cost, passing the flimsy booklets from reader to reader.The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap wood pulp paper and were aimed at young working class men.Crime broadsides were commonly sold at public executions in the United Kingdom in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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