On 16 March 1850, Reynolds’s Miscellany, a popular magazine of fiction and reportage, promised an exciting new serial for the following issue. The story would be different from the historical blood and thunder yarns that were the journal’s normal stock in trade:

The Tale will be of a domestic character—the plot belonging to the present age, and the scene being laid in England. The object will be to expose...one of the most fertile causes of oppression, misery, and demoralization which belong to the many abuses characteristic of the social system. All classes of society will feel— or at least ought to experience—an interest in the topic to be thus dealt with: the fair sex in particular will accord their sympathy to the subject of the new Tale. 1