Old Books, New Readers discussion

The Woman in White
This topic is about The Woman in White
Archived > 2014 February Book- The Woman in White

Comments Showing 1-50 of 50 (50 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments Hello everyone,

Our new book is The Woman in White which you can read for free if you click on the link. Or if you would like the free Kindle edition from Amazon you can go here.

Please post your thoughts and your review, if you write one, here!

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments I am loving this book, it is quickly moving up the chart to being one of my favorites. The mystery is suspenseful, but not scary. A bright summers mystery, that is quickly turning into winter I believe, as the book has now established the charters by chapter 12, i think it is going to get darker now.

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments one of my favorite, favorite books of all time. Also, there was a super dramatization of it on public television some years ago.

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments I just grabbed the Kindle edition and saw that the unabridged audio was available for 99 cents. I think this book is going to be my companion during my hour of driving time each day.

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments Great idea, I am listening to a version read by Roger Rees and he is great! Really nice voice, very much sounds like the charter, a young man.

One thing that caught my notice right away was that Walter's father had provided for both his widow and daughter, so Walter could pursue whatever caught his fancy and not have to worry about. In the book it was much more elegantly put, but the end result was the same. For once a father was not a complete moron and took it upon his self to provide after his death.

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments There was clearly not enough $ to get the sister married, however. No dowry. She is living at home with the mother.

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments I'm listening to the version narrated by Josephine Bailey and Simon Prebble - it's really good.

I just got to the part where Walter meets the first sister during breakfast at Limmeridge. I couldn't help but chuckle the way his description suddenly changed!

Tabs I was excited to find the audio version on my library's overdrive media app. I'm still waiting for it to be available, but I'm next on the waiting list so it shouldn't be too long! :)

Steve mitchell I read this a few months ago, let me know when you guys get to the point where he is given clues about the lady in white, and the bible verses.

I have a few questions on that.

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments Haha Tabs, you are probably waiting for me to finish with it :D That is where I got my version.

And it true there was no dowry for Walters sister, but their father was only an artist after all. Dowries were only for those who had enough money to afford them.

I instantly Liked Marian Halcombe and at first found Mr. Fairlie to be entertaining. Now that I am a bit further in I am liking the Uncle, or Mr. Fairlie less and less.

message 11: by Brenda (last edited Feb 05, 2014 01:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments It's not clear how old the sister is. But clearly she would be expected to marry some day.

message 12: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments Steve wrote: "I read this a few months ago, let me know when you guys get to the point where he is given clues about the lady in white, and the bible verses.

I have a few questions on that."

I made it to that part and would love to discuss it, but remember to put anything revealing inside of <spoiler> tags like this:

<spoiler>My secret goes here</spoiler>, which looks like: (view spoiler)

That way we don't ruin it for anyone that hasn't read to that part, yet. :)

Now for the good part, just for reference. I looked up (view spoiler) It seemed straightforward to me, but I'm interested to see what you picked up on that I might have overlooked.

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments Gene that is how I interpreted it too. (view spoiler)

I think I am a little ahead of everybody, but let me know when you come to Marian's deliberately overheard conversation. (view spoiler)

Steve mitchell Thanks for the info Gene although I dont think its really a spoiler but one persons spoiler is another persons just info so to be safe:

(view spoiler)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments It is worth remembering that in the period people were far, far more conversant with the Bible than we are. There were many households where the Bible might have been the only printed book they owned. And people who were illiterate or barely literate memorized huge chunks of it.

message 16: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments I think Brenda's right. I don't think there is much to read into the Bible verses in relation to the story.

Though for grins and giggles, you could read over Revelation 12:1. It talks about the "woman clothed in the sun". AKA: a woman in white :)

message 17: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments I'm 21% of the way in and just hit a change in narrators. I was enjoying the narration of Mr. Hartright but as a character, he was beginning to seem a little spineless and with poor judgement. I get that there are class differences in this age, and that he is being a gentleman. But I still think he should have stood up for himself a little better. Was the expression of his feelings all that taboo?

With the change in narrators, I'm finding that I'm identifying most closely with Ms. Halcombe. I really like the way that she thinks and I share what I perceive to be her very strong suspicions. She seems to be a strong woman and her personality reminds me of Mina Harker in Dracula.

Other than her wealth, I don't see the attraction to Laura Fairlie. Though she seems to play the piano well, there doesn't seem to be much of substance written about her. Aside from her musical talent, she's pretty. Are there other qualities that I'm missing that make her such a good catch?

I'm worried about Anne Catherick because I think there may have been a huge injustice done to her. I also can't help but think that her resemblance to Laura is more than coincidence, but I haven't read anything to indicate that (yet!) There is a part of me that wonders if she isn't a little off her rocker. Is anyone else questioning her sanity?

The way these characters are written I find to be enjoyable. I like how they have such distinct personalities and there are quirks with each of them. I like Marian Halcombe the most so far, because she's smart and bold. Does anyone else have a favorite?

Steve mitchell Yes Marian was my fave also, the one I really hated and you will also is the Uncle, he is just annoying, so wrapped up in his idiotic things and paying no attention to real life, he becomes a hyperbole for a pain in the ass head stuck in the sand sort of fellow so much you want to scream!

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments You need to finish reading this book!

There's a whole class thing that is still far more powerful in Britain than it is in the US. (The reason there was such a foofaraw when Prince William was dating Kate was because she is decidedly middle class -- her mom was a stewardess! Compare to when Prince Charles married Diana, who was the daughter of an earl and a descendant of some king or other.)

Walter is not actually a gentleman as the term was defined then -- he works for a living and his father worked for a living. Remember when he got the job offer? "On the footing of a gentleman" was one of the sweeteners. In other words, even though everybody KNEW he wasn't a gentleman he got TREATED as one, a nice room and everything.

The reason, of course, was because the job involved instructing the young ladies, and it wouldn't look good for them to be getting instruction from a mere servant. But the fuzzing of the line allows him to fall in love with Laura, even though all parties agree it is impossible.

message 20: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments Brenda wrote: "You need to finish reading this book!"

I'm working on it! :)

I couldn't relate to the Charles/Diana or William/Kate issues, but I understand that's part of British culture. Your comparison brings the "gentleman" offer into better clarity. But I still think Hartright could use more of a backbone, even if my opinion is a product of my American upbringing :)

And Steve, I already see what you're saying about the uncle. he's really self-centered and seems to be quite the hypochondriac.

message 21: by Brenda (last edited Feb 10, 2014 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments The modern assessment of Philip Fairlie might be that he is in serious need of psychoactive medication. A couple rounds of Xanax might set him right up. Certainly he has an anxiety disorder and OCD.
The other concept is that he's actually gay. The way he shows absolutely no interest in marriage kind of points this way. And because nobody was allowed to be homosexual in this period (it was a criminal offense that Oscar Wilde was actually jailed for, at hard labor) he has led a life of perpetual frustration which has evidently warped him. If I can't be happy, nobody can be happy seems to be the attitude.

Steve mitchell Its amazing how a bunch of books have similar themes, I just read keep the aspidistra flying by Orwell and its all about the caste/class system of Britain.

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments I disagree with you Gene about Walter Hartright. I think it shows great moral charter that he was able to look past his own feelings and do what was expected of him. There was no way he could ever marry Miss Fairlie, and indeed one of the conditions of his staying and teaching was that he was not to in any way approach the ladies in that manner. When he saw what was happening he ignoring it believing it was just him. But once Marian told him he needed to leave I think it showed great courage and honor that he did so at the first opportunity.

Although I agree with you in that what is so fabulous about Miss. Fairlie. I think she is just a "good" woman who is sweet and kind and good looking. Hard enough to find them it seems in that day and age. (A good looking woman I mean, it seems like in every book there is only one or two.)

I think the "Count" although you have yet to meet him until it becomes Marian turn to narrate. But until then Marian was my favorite.

I despise the Uncle, utterly abhor him.

message 24: by Gene (last edited Feb 11, 2014 10:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments I thought it showed professionalism for Walter Hartright to look past his own feelings and do what was expected of him as a drawing master. However, I thought it was a lapse of professionalism (and to a degree, moral character) with the events leading to his departure.

He ultimately left someone he cared a great deal for, leaving them to deal with a man of questionable intent. This happened while he felt he had legitimate concerns for their safety.

I let that slide because of the assurances that he was given by others, but I found his lack of follow-up to be questionable, too. The only follow-up (view spoiler)

Was it because he didn't really care for her well-being after all? Or is it because he felt too sorry for his own feelings to be able to handle it? The excuse of falling back to his "honor" for not intruding just sounds like a poor excuse for turning a blind eye when you genuinely feel like something bad is going on.

Of course, I just got to the part where Marian takes over narration, so my view is probably a little skewed in relation to the rest of the story. For now, I think that Walter Hartright is a nice guy and I understand there are societal challenges in his way. But I also think he lacks backbone and makes questionable decisions. Maybe in time, or as the story progresses, he'll grow on me :)

The Uncle on the other hand ... he treats people like objects that are only there please his selfish desires. I think he uses his "sickness" as a play for sympathy, to avoid conflict, and to get what he wants when his money (which he didn't even earn) can't buy it.

message 25: by Brenda (last edited Feb 11, 2014 12:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments No, keep in mind the chronology. When Hartright left the first time, the plan was for Laura to marry Sir Perceval Glyde. This had been her father's idea, to which her uncle Philip Fairlie also signed on, and she consented as well. Even Marian was cool with it. So everything was all settled and she was going to be taken care of by her husband. There is no place in here for Hartright.

Only in the unraveling of these arrangements (you must read ahead!) is there any room for development.

Also, as an heiress Laura is in a dicey position. (As events do indeed bear out.) Any suitor who shows up must be suspected of gold-digging. A poor man, especially, is inevitably going to be suspected of wooing her for money. She is not expected or indeed allowed to have any initiative on this. Her father prudently selects a man who he knows is already well off and is not shopping for a rich wife. English law at the period gave women zero control of monetary affairs. Even though she is the heiress she does not control her money. She has to marry with the consent of her father or guardian (uncle Philip) and once she is wed her finances are managed by her spouse. Prudent legal language gives her some slight protection, but it is purely optional.

message 26: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments I just got to the discussion at the boathouse. What a clever dialogue!

The discussion about the lake as a murder scene, crimes causing their own detection and the wise being inherently good was very thought provoking. While all the conversation was hypothetical, it seemed like pointed commentary on the characters and their present situations.

Without revealing anything in the plot, whose side would you take in the discussions? Marian's? Percival's? The Count's?

Do you think that criminals can be wise? Or can the wise only be good by definition?

Would the lake be a good murder location? (Which ironically, in a way it was - that poor beast.)

message 27: by Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (last edited Feb 14, 2014 08:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments I personally would never pick a lake as a murder site, and I would never leave a body there either. Bodies left near water have a way of being found. The best crime is the one that nobody knows about.

I think I was on the Count's side in so much as I understood it. There can be wise criminals, (rather how there are wise politicians,) but that does not make them good.

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments Yes, I like the sound of those deep woodlands around the lake. If you leave the body deep in the forest then the wild animals will take care of it, and in a year there'll be nothing to see or find. (Tip: remove any identifiables like rings, watches, or jewelry.)

In this very book is quite a good example of a wise criminal. That he is brought to book is a matter of pure luck combined with determination; he is just about knife-proof. Lord Peter Wimsey (whose author, Dorothy Sayers, was a great admirer of Wilkie Collins) said once that it is easy to get away with murder as long as you are prudent, and don't try to repeat your effects too often.

message 29: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments Is that why they shoot all the stray dogs in Blackwater Park? We can't have any dogs dragging body parts back home!

After thinking about it, I think that a criminal can be shrewd and intelligent, but I can see how wise has a connotation of doing what is inherently good/morally acceptable.

I think the criminals in this story are definitely shrewd, but I think I agree with Ms. Halcombe that they are not generally wise.

Steve mitchell Christa - Ron Paul 2016 wrote: "I personally would never pick a lake as a murder site, and I would never leave a body there either. Bodies left near water have a way of being found. The best crime is the one that nobody knows abo..."

Hah, I remember reading a short story about the perfect murder, that was a great story, I cant remember it now though?

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments I think you have a point there Gene, I was trying to think of how to word that idea. I always associate "Wise men/women" with "Good". Clever does not necessarily mean wise. Would "Wise" be more of which idea's you would act upon, where as "Clever" is how you execute an idea regardless of how good or bad it is?

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments Well if you want a wise and moral murder, it's hard to set up. (WOMAN IN WHITE does not have that kind.)

message 33: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments Brenda wrote: "Well if you want a wise and moral murder, it's hard to set up. (WOMAN IN WHITE does not have that kind.)"

"A wise and moral murder" ... that sounds like the basis of an interesting story. I can't think of any books that would fit that requirement, off hand.

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments I am writing one, as it happens, but it won't be out for a while yet.

message 35: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments Just be careful of your word choice between "wise" and "shrewd" :) Be sure to let me know when it's out. I'm interested to see what you come up with, especially if you end up with bodies in the forest next to the lake.

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments No, it's in a Roman villa and they hold him down in the impluvium.

message 37: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments Oh, NO!!! Did anyone else scream after reading the part just after when Marian got sick!?!?!?

I'm really dreading what's coming, next.

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments Bwahaha!
When this first came out, it was published in serial form -- a couple chapters a month! (If you look closely at the text you can spot where it breaks.) Imagine how frenzied the readers were.

message 39: by Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (last edited Feb 19, 2014 11:09AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments I was all a tremble was agony! Poor Marian. Right then my Cd's had to be returned too, and I had to wait a whole week to rent them again! (Someone else had them on hold, thank goodness they got through them quickly.)

I have just gotten to where the house keeper takes over the narrative, but struggling through where the Uncle was talking *UHHHGGG*, shudders. Let me know when you get there!

message 40: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 14 comments Something about this book always seemed a little twisted to me. I could never put my finger on it.


Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments I think you are in the wrong thread Shelley, a better place to put that might be "Chat it up my bookworms".

I am finished! All told I think the Count is my favorite charter, although I shall wait a bit to say why.

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments And tell me what you think of Walter and Laura's prospects. There is a persistent meme around that Laura, frail as she is, is not long for this world. And I do think that
(view spoiler)

message 43: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments I'm in the home stretch - 89%. It's been really good, so far. I've been tempted to take a longer way home from work so I could listen, longer.

This book has had so many twists. I can't wait to see how it finishes in the next day or so.

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments Collins was a master of plot, and this book is one of his best for that -- even better than THE MOONSTONE, his other famous work.

Christa - Ron Paul 2016 (christa-ronpaul2012) | 3184 comments The twisting was brilliantly done. (view spoiler)

I don't think Laura will die, she is frail do to supreme mental stress, lack of sleep and worry. At the beginning of the book she seemed healthy enough, I think she complained of a headache the first day Walter appeared at their house, but many women get headaches.

(view spoiler)

message 46: by Brenda (last edited Feb 26, 2014 09:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments Of course Marian is a perfect relative -- she's been doing it all her life! But she is such a wonderful character, I would hate to see her dwindle into a spinster aunt. In an ideal universe (has somebody written this? Damn, do I hear violins?) she would live for a few years with Walter and Laura, doing the aunt thing. But then she would meet somebody, a nice man who has the sense to see past peripherals to her inner wonderfulness. She is, what, perhaps in her early 20s? She is only a couple years older than Laura. Plenty of time to meet someone and set up her own family. (And, oh Lord, I even see how it should be done. Pesca shall once again step in as the figure of destiny. Walter has his mother and sister in for a visit, and Pesca comes along to help them on the train ride...)

And Laura did (view spoiler)

message 47: by Gene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene (ewdupler) | 255 comments Dear Mr. Hartright,

Please accept my most sincere apology regarding my consideration of your character. In retrospect, I understand that the decisions you made at Limmeridge were of necessity, bearing the most honorable of intentions.

(view spoiler)

Again, please accept my sincere apologies for my harsh treatment of your character before I was aware of the full story.

(view spoiler)



P.S. Tell Marian I said "hi." She is my favorite, but not in a creepy way (view spoiler)

P.P.S. Brenda: You were right. It got MUCH better as the book went on.

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 246 comments Isn't Walter's growth as a character wonderful? There are papers that point out how his travails in South America are the making of him as a man -- many analogies to Christ and so on.

message 49: by M. (new) - rated it 5 stars

M. Noelle (mnoelle) | 31 comments Read for the catch-up challenge.

Loved the story-telling! This made it onto my favorites list. Sir Percival was creepy.

message 50: by Jon (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jon | 397 comments This is one of my catch up challenge reads.

{SPOILERS} Here is my comment on The Woman in White. With luck it will not be as lengthy as the book itself (!). (Thanks to Camille Cauri of Columbia University for her introduction to TWIW in my edition. It helped me on the historical aspects of TWIW).

1. This is a "sensation novel." It is a natural outgrowth of the popular Gothic stories inhabited by ghosts, spirits, and other unworldly things. While TWIW lacks the other-worldly elements, it has all the same elements of mystery, intrigue, and personal challenge that they had. It was also a natural product of the weekly publication schedule in which it was published. Collins and Dickens were friends and artistic collaborators, and Collins published TWIW in Dickens' journal called "All the Year Round." I say it was a natural product of the publishing schedule because such a lengthy work issued in small increments had to sustain the readers' interest over a long time. Hence there had to be a cliffhanger scene near the end of each increment.

2. "This is the story of what a woman's patience can endure, and what a man's resolution can achieve." Thus starts TWIW. Marian and to some extent Laura are the strong women who endure everything that Count Fosco can throw at them. William Hartright (what a great name for a hero!) is the force that exposes Sir Percy's "Secret" as well as extort from Fosco evidence of the plot used to steal Lady Glyde's fortune. We eventually learn the "Secret" but we do not know the conduct that led to Fosco's jeopardy. We know only that his body was marked with the letter "T" denoting "Traditore" or a traitor to the cause of the Brotherhood. Hartright had an indirect but potent role in exposing Fosco to the Brotherhood.

3. One autobiographical or historical note is in order about Collins. He was an adamant precursor to the feminists and women's movements of our own times. He objected fiercely to the legal nullification of married women's rights and existing cases of women falsely imprisoned in mental institutions. Those cases even inspired "lunacy panics" in England. Laura's swapped identity, the misapplied diagnosis, and her utter lack of recourse were all characteristics of actual cases of women's false imprisonment. The Madame do Douhault example in Paris and the ugly conduct between Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton and his estranged wife Rosina all fired public outrage. Of course, Collins took full advantage of that hysteria to promote the sale of his book. But he also had a personal commitment to that cause by never marring the woman he lived with for many years named Caroline Graves. Collins even passed off as real a fictional circumstance that Graves had been imprisoned by an evil mesmerist in a London villa that Collins had been standing near when she escaped wearing flowing white robes in the course of her dramatic moonlight escape. Sound familiar? That was only his embellishment to explain how they met. As a "kept woman" with Collins, she could not accompany him to public events. So Collins observed a strange Victorian compromise that a vocal rule flouter like him would allow a smaller social prohibition to mask a much greater social sin.

4. The marketing frenzy for the book was incredible for its time. By today's standards it was modest. The combination of the existing "lunacy panics" and the blatant sensationalism of the book whetted the appetite for tie-ins such as bonnets, cloaks, and perfume; the composition of waltzes inspired by the book; and the popularity of the name Walter for newborn sons and the name Fosco for cats. Readers even wagered on the outcome of different plot twists and Sir Percival's "Secret."

5. I think characterization is very weak in this book. I saw a Saturday Review commentary about the characters, a portion of which is: "They are staring listlessly and vacantly like witnesses who are waiting to be called before the court, and have nothing to do until their turn arrives." While I agree that the rigid narrative structure used by Collins is unnatural and a bit affected, it is to me a normal consequence of its journal form, with multiple characters telling increments of the story from multiple perspectives. More on this later.

6. Collins boasted that he had created the strategy of using multiple narrators. This was blatantly false, since this narrative form, called the epistolary novel, had existed since at least as early as Samuel Richardson's "Pamela" in 1740, and maybe as far back as Nicholas Breton's "A Poste with a Packet of Mad Letters" in 1602. The epistolary novel was very popular in the eighteenth century especially for "sentimental novels" such as "Humphry Clinker" and "Evelina" The greatest of them all was probably Richardson's "Clarissa Harlowe." But it was not as successful a narrative form in more modern times. It certainly worked well for Collins, especially for the "sensation novel" he helped create, all because it helped divorce him as a writer from being part of the action, and for the way he could drive the immediacy of the action of the action. As a reader, if I do not sense the author as the teller of all truths, then I do not consider him an intermediary between me and the action, and this heightens the frenzy if the plot demands it. I think that was Collins' key contribution and it helped to diminish the weight from the overabundance of unnecessary details and very flat characters.

7. For me, there are five very chilling or haunting scenes that will likely stay with me. They all set the tone, plot action, and pivot points for the characters. A. the scene when Hartright first encounters Ann Catherick; B. Marian Holcombe's diary entry from Limmeridge when she writes about Laura shortly before a marriage that she knows will end badly: "Who else is left you? No father, no brother---no living creature but the helpless, useless woman who writes these sad lines"; C. for the perfect opposition of moral choice versus blunt, selfish aggression, I give you the scene in the boathouse at Blackwater Park (what a great name to signal the oppression there!) about wise criminals, when Sir
Percival tells Laura: ' "Tell him next, that crimes cause their own detection. There's another bit of copy-book morality for you, Fosco. Crimes cause their own detection. What infernal hum-bug!" "I believe it to be true," said Laura quietly. Sir Percival burst out laughing, so violently, so outrageously, that he quite startled us all---the Count more than any of us'; D. probably the most chilling event in the novel is the "Postscript by a Sincere Friend" written by Fosco in Marian's diary. It tells the reader that Fosco has taken the time to read her diary when she is unable to protect it from him due to her typhus and delirium. So he now knows all of the steps Marian has taken to protect Laura from Sir Percival and his plans to defraud her. It disgusts me deeply because he now knows all that she knows as though she had willingly told him. And this is just as the diversions of Ann Catherick, Laura, and Marian are about to commence; E. this one statement by Count Fosco tells you what you need to know about keeping women in abject servitude: "Human ingenuity, my friend, has hitherto discovered only two ways in which a man can manage a woman. One way is to knock her down--a method largely adopted by the brutal lower orders of the people, but utterly abhorrent to the refined and educated classes above them. The other way (much longer, much more difficult, but, in the end, not less certain) is never to accept a provocation at a woman's hands. It holds with animals, it holds with children, and it holds with women, who are nothing but children grown up. Quiet resolution is the one quality the animals, the children, and the women all fail in...." If the demeaning logic behind this is not the best argument for women's rights, I am very surprised; and F. I feel sympathy for the horrible fiery conclusion to Sir Percival's life. The conditions inside that cramped vestry were terrible, and being trapped inside as the fire overwhelmed him is as bad as it gets. Yes, he is despicable and loathsome, so he deserves a miserable end, but that is just ghastly.

8. There is one huge hole in the chronology that Collins tried to fix in later editions, but did not succeed. This was the critical part of the story, namely the date that Laura Glyde left Blackwater Park. This is the key to the entire plot in order to unravel the swapped identity between Lady Glyde and Ann Catherick. Collins' original date was 2 weeks off, but even when he corrected that, he invented a willful ignorance in the meticulous Mrs. Michaelson for not recalling that Lady Gldye left the same date that the housekeeper was fired. This matters because all the successive events are logically impossible, because the variance between Ann Catherick's death and Lady Glyde's departure is so easily verifiable.

9. I have a reluctant admiration for Count Fosco. He is the most fully realized character, between his elaborate gentlemanly behavior to his coddling of his pet mice to his careful attention to the niceties of polite discourse. He even apologizes to Marian in writing for violating her privacy by reading her diary. He has a savage attention to detail in how Marian responds to him. There may be some kind of amorous attachment to her, and he seems to admit as much.

10. The other characters are much flatter: A. Walter has the drive to get the answers about the fiendish plot, but he also fades out of the picture in an escape to South America for no reason other than to speed the plot at Limmeridge along; B. Marian has a lot of courage and is afraid of no one in her effort to protect Laura, but she also fades from the plot for no particular reason; C. Laura herself is quite helpless, as though she has no control over her destiny. She seems even complicit in playing the pawn in other people's plans. I suspect Collins drew her this way as an example of his concern about the fate of all women in marriage. But she also loses any fascination for me because she is so lifeless, inert, and inactive; D. Frederick Fairlie is just selfish, super-sensitive, and hypochondriac. He cannot be awakened enough to save his niece's life because it is just too great a mental and physical effort. That is fine, but he then somehow generates enough effort to write a lengthy narrative at the urging of Walter. He seems to be one more character who serves a mechanical function in the plot for that sole purpose.

11. On balance, I do not rate the book highly. It is way too much overwritten, burdened with lengthy descriptions of unnecessary things, and bizarre cliff-hanger conditions that sacrifice character
development to engineer a devious plot line. It was as often tiring to me as it was a compelling story. However, I will rate it more highly than I would otherwise for its important place in literary history. Its success led Collins to develop his formula further and to produce what is arguably the first detective novel, namely Collins' "The Moonstone.""

back to top