(1862) PREFACE The main purpose of this story is to appeal to the reader's interest in a subject which has been the theme of some of the greatest writers, living and dead--but which has never been, and can never be, exhausted, because it is a subject eternally interesting to all mankind. Here is one more book that depicts the struggle of a human creature, under those opposing influences of Good and Evil, which we have all felt, which we have all known. It has been my aim to make the character of "Magdalen," which personifies this struggle, a pathetic character even in its perversity and its error; and I have tried hard to attain this result by the least obtrusive and the least artificial of all means--by a resolute adherence throughout to the truth as it is in Nature. This design was no easy one to accomplish; and it has been a great encouragement to me (during the publication of my story in its periodical form) to know, on the authority of many readers, that the object which I had proposed to myself, I might, in some degree, consider as an object achieved. Round the central figure in the narrative other characters will be found grouped, in sharp contrast--contrast, for the most part, in which I have endeavored to make the element of humor mainly predominant. I have sought to impart this relief to the more serious passages in the book, not only because I believe myself to be justified in doing so by the laws of Art--but because experience has taught me (what the experience of my readers will doubtless confirm) that there is no such moral phenomenon as unmixed tragedy to be found in the world around us. Look where we may, the dark threads and the light cross each other perpetually in the texture of human life. To pass from the Characters to the Story, it will be seen that the narrative related in these pages has been constructed on a plan which differs from the plan followed in my last novel, and in some other of my works published at an earlier date. The only Secret contained in this book is revealed midway in the first volume. From that point, all the main events of the story are purposely foreshadowed before they take place--my present design being to rouse the reader's interest in following the train of circumstances by which these foreseen events are brought about. In trying this new ground, I am not turning my back in doubt on the ground which I have passed over already. My one object in following a new course is to enlarge the range of my studies in the art of writing fiction, and to vary the form in which I make my appeal to the reader, as attractively as I can. There is no need for me to add more to these few prefatory words than is here written. What I might otherwise have wished to say in this place, I have endeavored to make the book itself say for me. TO FRANCIS CARR BEARD; (FELLOW OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS OF ENGLAND), IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE TIME WHEN THE CLOSING SCENES OF THIS STORY WERE WRITTEN.
dialogue rivets attention. It is not an easy task, nor is it pleasant, to carry on another man's work: but the possession of this scenario lightened the work enormously. I have been careful to adhere faithfully and exactly to the plot, scene by scene, down to the smallest detail as it was laid down by the author in this book. I have altered nothing. I have preserved and incorporated every fragment of dialogue. I have used the very language wherever that was written so carefully as to show that it was meant to be used. I think that there is only one trivial detail where I had to choose because it was not clear from the notes what the author had intended. The plot of the novel, every scene, every situation, from beginning to end, is the work of Wilkie Collins. The actual writing is entirely his up to a certain point: from that point to the end it is partly his, but mainly mine. Where his writing ends and mine begins, I need not point out. The practised critic will, no doubt, at once lay his finger on the spot. I have therefore carried out the author's wishes to the best of my ability. I would that he were living still, if only to regret that he had not been allowed to finish his last work with his own hand! WALTER BESANT. ~
(1854) Dedicated To Charles Dickens: this story is inscribed as a token of admiration and affection, by his friend, the author.
A Play by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens (1867)
(1857) Collins's best-known play The Frozen Deep was one of the many plays his friend Charles Dickens would play the lead role in.
A Domestic Story (1886) Affectionately Dedicated to Holman Hunt
(1873) To the Memory of my brother, Charles Allston Collins, (9 April 1873)
(1879) To CAROLINE Experience of the reception of The Fallen Leaves by intelligent readers, who have followed the course of the periodical publication at home and abroad, has satisfied me that the design of the work speaks for itself, and that the scrupulous delicacy of treatment, in certain portions of the story, has been as justly appreciated as I could wish. Having nothing to explain, and (so far as my choice of subject is concerned) nothing to excuse, I leave my book, without any prefatory pleading for it, to make its appeal to the reading public on such merits as it may possess. W. C. GLOUCESTER PLACE, LONDON July 1st, 1879. ~
A mystery novel of the 'sensation' genre, published in 1860. The Woman in White is a mystery novel made up of eleven Parts. There are a number of narrators throughout the story, often one per Part. The main narrator is Walter Hartright, who relies on the others as "witnesses" to describe events that took place during his absence. Each narrator holds information regarding the central mystery. The story begins from Walter Hartright's perspective. He obtains a position as a drawing master at an estate in Cumberland. On his way there, he meets a woman dressed entirely in white. This strange woman asks him for directions and he assists her. Once they part ways, Walter overhears a policeman asking a passerby if he had seen a woman dressed all in white. This woman had escaped an insane asylum and needed to be escorted back. Walter wonders if he has assisted a dangerous woman as he journeys on to Cumberland. After his arrival, Walter meets his two pupils, half-sisters Marian and Laura, and the head of the estate, Sir Frederick Fairlie, who is Laura's uncle. Soon we see Walter and Laura falling in love. Unfortunately, she is engaged to another man, Sir Percival Glyde. At the same time, Laura receives an anonymous letter warning her that her betrothed is a horrible man and to stay away from him at all costs. After some investigation, Walter and Marian conclude that the warning letter came from the woman in white. Can the woman's word be trusted or is she insane? After more investigation, no evidence against Sir Percival Glyde's character can be found. Once Walter is sure of Laura's well-being, he decides to leave his position as drawing master earlier than planned, as to spare the girl unnecessary pain. Walter ends up leaving the continent to start fresh. Here, the other narrators take over for awhile. Once Laura and Sir Percival are married, his true colors begin to show. Marian resides with the Glydes at Percival's estate, for Laura's sake. We are introduced to Percival's foreign friend, Count Fosco, and his wife, the Countess who also happens to be Laura's estranged aunt. Marian and Laura end up distrusting Percival, Fosco, and the Countess. The untrusting threesome seem to be scheming amongst themselves. Marian fears for her and Laura's futures. The woman in white reappears for a second warning, makes her presence known to the sisters, and alludes to Sir Percival's "secret". Marian does her best to get information out of the woman in white, all the while arousing suspicion from Percival and Fosco. It soon becomes apparent that Percival is using Laura for something, and Fosco is going to help him. He's also hiding a secret, one so important that he might be willing to send a woman to an insane asylum to keep her from revealing it. What is this secret and how far will Percival go to keep it hidden? What does he want from Laura and what will he do to get it? Can Marian protect her sister from Percival and Fosco? I was very intrigued by the plot of this book, which kept me reading even though parts were a little dull. I had to know who the woman in white really was, and why she was in the insane asylum. The characters were well developed, especially the characters who were also narrators. There were multiple twists and turns, building and unfolding the mystery. Overall, an easy and enjoyable read. I suggest this book to anyone who likes a more drawn out story. It reminded me of reading The Count of Monte Crisco.--Submitted by CLM.
(1875) NOTE: ADDRESSED TO THE READER. In offering this book to you, I have no Preface to write. I have only to request that you will bear in mind certain established truths, which occasionally escape your memory when you are reading a work of fiction. Be pleased, then, to remember (First): That the actions of human beings are not invariably governed by the laws of pure reason. (Secondly): That we are by no means always in the habit of bestowing our love on the objects which are the most deserving of it, in the opinions of our friends. (Thirdly and Lastly): That Characters which may not have appeared, and Events which may not have taken place, within the limits of our own individual experience, may nevertheless be perfectly natural Characters and perfectly probable Events, for all that. Having said these few words, I have said all that seems to be necessary at the present time, in presenting my new Story to your notice. W. C. London, February 1, 1875. ~