Russian Nihilists in Grant Allen’s Under Sealed Orders

Sat9  Apr02:10pm(10 mins)
Where:
Umney Lounge
Presenter:

Authors

Katya Jordan

Discussion

Shortly after the publication of the “pot-boiler” novel Under Sealed Orders in the U.K., a newspaper reviewer observed that “Mr. Grant Allen’s new three-volume novel […] is a stirring story of love and Nihilism […] Of the principal characters several seem to have been borrowed from real life […] Olga Mireff is Olga Novikoff, and Prince Ruric Brassoff the late Czar’s disgraced cousin.” (Evening Star, Issue 9686, 1895/05/02, p.3). The quickly spreading fame of this work in the English-speaking world was due not only to Allen’s own literary reputation, but also to the aura of mystery surrounding the work that Olga Novikoff conducted in London and elsewhere on behalf of the Russian monarchy in the late 1800s. In the novel, acts of international political terrorism directed against Russia are plotted in England, raising suspicion of foreign influence. The purpose of the present paper is to investigate the accuracy of the newspaper review, to examine the extent to which Allen's fictional narrative reflects the myth surrounding Olga Novikoff's work in the U.K., and to evaluate Under Sealed Orders an early example of spy fiction with a pronounced terrorism theme.

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