Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 307 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Martha Rozett

Committee Members

Martha Rozett, Stephen North, Edward Schwarzschild


detective, historical, Historical fiction, Detective and mystery stories

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


Misfortune is a work of historiographic metafiction that takes as its subject what many regard as an unsolved crime: the suspicious death on Sunday September 8, 1560 of Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley, the favorite of Elizabeth I. The plot revisits the black-legend of Robert Dudley, the wife killer, by casting him as the victim and his wife as a co-conspirator in a scheme to assassinate her husband. Misfortune connects the events and personalities surrounding the death of Amy Robsart to Leicester’s Commonwealth, a work of political propaganda published in 1584 that accused Dudley of murdering his wife. This novel is concerned with and comments upon authors as historical actors, stolen stories and fiction masquerading as nonfiction. Because it is a novel of detection, the story of the crime is gradually reconstructed via investigations conducted by two amateur detectives working in two different centuries. The dominant narrative is that of the investigation that unfolds in September of 1560 at Cumnor Place during the week after the murder. The subordinate investigation is set in Sir Water Scott’s country estate of Abbotsford as he writes Kenilworth in September of 1820. Sir Thomas Blount is the sixteenth-century detective and the primary narrator; Lady Louisa Stuart is eighteenth century detective whose journals entries both add to and contradict Blount’s findings. Blount is modeled upon the hard-boiled detective who has a personal stake in the investigation. Lady Louisa is a classic armchair detective whose strength is her detachment. My dissertation draws upon a diverse and extensive body of historical evidence, both factual and circumstantial, the sources of which are cited in my afterword, “The Thing That Thou Saw Only in Thought: Crafting a Creative Dissertation.”