Again, I cannot underline how difficult it is to find enough bad covers in order to do a whole blog post. I was looking up Alice in Wonderland covers today and 99% of them were whimsical and trippy and delightful, and I thought, "What the hell am I supposed to do with these?"
So today I have only a few covers for the 1861 sensation novel East Lynne, written by Mrs. Henry Wood (aka, Ellen Wood). East Lynne is nowhere near as famous as Jane Eyre or Dracula, so please see below for a plot summary.
HERE BE SPOILERS
Beautiful and naive Lady Isabel marries hardworking middle-class lawyer, Archibald Carlyle, much to the dismay of Barbara Hare, a local girl who is in love with Archibald. Because Isabel is both beautiful and rather gullible, you know horrible, unspeakable things will happen to her. Mostly because this is a sensation novel. Isabel pops out three kids and is relatively happy in her worshipping husband's house, until her rougish former suitor, Levison, shows up and starts trying to tap dat ass. When a murder mystery involving Barbara's brother happens, Archibald starts working closely with Barbara to unravel the killer's identity. Like the giant dope he is, he doesn't bother explaining any of this to his wife, who only sees him going for late-night visits to a girl who is clearly crazy about him. Levison wastes no time in exploiting this situation, convinces Isabel that Archibald is having an affair, and gets her to abandon her children and run away with him for all sorts of filthy debauchery.
About a year later, Isabel has been divorced by Archibald from afar, had Levison's illegitimate baby, and been ditched by Levison in France (that's where all the best ditching happens). She tries to move away and start a new life for herself, but keep in mind that this is a sensation novel: the train she and her baby are traveling on CRASHES. IT CRASHES LONG AND IT CRASHES HARD. Actually, that's a lie. It crashes so fast in the book that I read right over it and almost missed it.
But her baby dies and she is. Messed. UP. It messes up her leg and it messes up her face and it even turns her hair gray. She decides, "Hey, I'm 100% unrecognizable now and I'm having SERIOUS buyer's remorse about this whole 'shacking up with Levison on the Continent' thing. Let's go back home and become a governess to my own children. No one will know it's me!"
And no one does. She goes home, sees that Archibald has married Barbara, the filthy skank, and started having more babies with her, and Isabel pretends she's an old widow, and gets the job minding her own kids in what used to be her own house, and everyone loves her because she's just so holy and doting, and then her eldest son dies and it's super duper sad, and then she dies (because you can't expect a fallen woman to survive this type of story, no matter how mangled she gets by way of punishment). On her death bed, she finally reveals who she really is, and Archibald is like, "WHAAAA?"
On to the book (and film and play) covers!
Let's start with the good one first.
I adore this cover. Firstly because this is the part of the book that everyone remembers, even though it's so brief, and secondly because (sing it if you know the words) this is SENSATION fiction. So I love this idea of danger approaching in the distance, looking rather innocuous, but ominously heading right toward you.
Let's call this first section 'Women Face-Palming'
Oh my god, this scrapbook is SO SAD.
Oh, Isabel, sweetheart, if you're head-desking over your life NOW, well . . . just enjoy it. After you get on that train, you will barely have a head to head-desk with.
This next section is called "Overly Maudlin Nonsense"
"It might have been! I might have had clothing and hairpins and sunshine. We don't get any of those things in France, just erotic bedroom hair and the Royal Standard of Scotland for bedsheets."
Not sure what happened to her third child with Archibald. I guess she could only dream up two of them.
"LOVE ME, CHILD!"
Wait . . . is Isabel a nun in this version? Also, in the still on the left, I think she might have keeled over and died on top of her ailing child.
Because nothing shows a seriously ill child how much you love him quite like going, "LOOK AT ME. I AM HIDEOUS. I AM HIDEOUS SO I COULD COME FOR YOU. THIS IS ALL FOR YOU."
And where would one of these posts be without a section called "HELLISHLY WRONG Clothing Styles"?
She appears to be wearing a 1930s evening gown that is perilously close to falling off her chest. Welp, everything seems to be in order.
"Kiss me, darling. Kiss me like I'm Jean Harlow, who I'm currently channeling."
Little East Lynne on the Prairie
And finally, "Sketchy Levison is Sketchy".
"Yup. That's a hand directly in my pants. I'm putting my hand in my pants and sneaking up on you while you're trying to read. You like that, baby? Does that do it for you?"
This is the 19th-century equivalent of a dick pic.
"I love how you blush when I glower at your breasts. Baby, that makes me want to abandon you in France SO MUCH."
"I'm Jason Biggs, dressed up like a pimp. Ain't nothing sexier than THAT."
Also, this cover raises so many questions.
1.) What in the hell is she wearing? It's like some 1970s moomoo, with some weird Biblical shroud over it.
2.) He is in white tie in the middle of the day. No class at all.
3.) They're not really 'spying' on her husband. They're more 'standing 30 feet away on the lawn and pointing blatantly.'
4.) Also, if Levison is trying to convince Isabel that her husband is having an affair, he couldn't have picked a worse example. "I saw them, Isabel, with my own eyes. They were totally clothed, outside, in the middle of the day, not touching each other in any way, knocking on someone's front door. It doesn't get more incriminating than that."
Sorry there are so few covers to choose from and take the piss out of! Please recommend any books that have loads of bizarre and nonsensical covers, if you know of any.