Examining the impact of mid-Victorian sensationalism on the shaping of the nineteenth-century novel, this essay calls renewed attention to the intricacies of genre formation. Taking as its point of departure the notorious “sensational sixties,” it tracks the increasingly self-reflexive adaptations of the sensation genre's most popular paradigms in the following decades. Oliphant's At His Gates (1872) capitalized on the quickly established alignment between finance and sensation not so much to condemn commercial pressures as to turn them to good effect as the shapers of new literary motifs. Featuring a moderately successful painter who produces his one truly outstanding piece, ironically, when driven to despair by a financial swindle, At His Gates was not merely Oliphant's most fully realized fictional engagement with sensational narratives of Victorian economic crises. Reflecting its author's own dilemma in the struggles of a speculating painter, the novel addressed and exploited key intertextual exchanges at the Victorian book market.

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