The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
  • The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
  • The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.7 315
by Wilkie Collins
     
 

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The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:See more details below

Overview

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the greatest mystery thrillers ever written, Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White was a phenomenal bestseller in the 1860s, achieving even greater success than works by Dickens, Collins’s friend and mentor. Full of surprise, intrigue, and suspense, this vastly entertaining novel continues to enthrall readers today.

The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening. Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.

Masterfully constructed, The Woman in White is dominated by two of the finest creations in all Victorian fiction—Marion Halcombe, dark, mannish, yet irresistibly fascinating, and Count Fosco, the sinister and flamboyant “Napoleon of Crime.”

Camille Cauti earned a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. Her dissertation concerns the Catholic conversion trend among the London avant-garde of the 1890s. She has also published articles in Italian-American studies. She works in New York City as an editor and critic.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593082802
Publisher:
Barnes & Noble
Publication date:
05/01/2005
Series:
Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages:
672
Sales rank:
62,615
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.68(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Camille Cauti’s Introduction to Woman in White

The opening line of Wilkie Collins’s enormously popular novel The Woman in White is one of the more confrontational in narrative history: “This is the story of what a Woman’s patience can endure, and what a Man’s resolution can achieve.” It is a statement of mystery as well as a challenge. Pausing here, a reader is likely to wonder about what trials await this poor woman and to speculate on what constitutes her relationship to this resolute man. Is he the cause of her travails, or is he her rescuer? Why must she be forced to endure what one presumes can be only cruelties? And why must she so patiently withstand them at all, rather than fight back herself? Even beyond these contemplations, what are we to make of an author who begins his tale this way? Does he enjoy seeing women suffer, for example? And more important, to what sadistic ends will our own attention be put?

A more famous set of lines preceded this opener on the same page of its first serial installment, and when one contrasts these sentences, Collins’s abruptness and somewhat harsh tone become even more unsettling. The Woman in White appeared first in serial form in Charles Dickens’s weekly publication All the Year Round, from November 26, 1859, to August 25, 1860 (and simultaneously in the United States in Harper’s Weekly, from November 25, 1859, to August 4, 1860). More interestingly, it commenced one column over from the conclusion of Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities, and the juxtaposition of the inspirational final words of Dickens’s text with the chilling first words of Collins’s cannot fail to capture the reader’s attention. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known,” Sydney Carton proclaims in the legendary last line from A Tale of Two Cities, as he goes to the guillotine in place of a better man than he so that this man may return to the woman Carton himself loves. He certainly demonstrates resolution, as well as enacting a personal redemption, in making the ultimate sacrifice, and for the contemporary reader—or today’s reader who wants to perform an interesting comparison—Collins’s hero, no matter who he turns out to be, obviously has a lot to live up to. Sydney Carton is a hard act to follow.

But these brusque new lines of Collins’s signify a larger shift in temperament between the two novels, a move from Dickens’s brilliantly evolved characterizations, vast social sweep and scale, and stateliness of narrative to Collins’s heralding the advent of the pure sensation novel, of which The Woman in White represents an early and prime example. Collins is universally acknowledged as the master of the Victorian sensation novel, a wildly popular genre that managed to transmit the shocks and surprises familiar to readers of hair-raising Gothic novels but that contained no, or generally no, supernatural elements. Yet the usually domestic crimes described in sensation novels—whose authors prided themselves on their realism in opposition to outrageous Gothic conventions—were mainly of a lurid nature and many times were impossible to imagine happening in the real world. As an anonymous critic of the trend argued in the Dublin University Magazine (February 1861), “The spirit of modern realism has woven a tissue of scenes more wildly improbable than the fancy of an average idealist would have ventured to inflict on readers beyond their teens.” Sensation fiction was precursor of the mystery thriller and the detective novel, and it proved extremely attractive to a Victorian audience primed with an appetite for scandal and for shocks that could not be sated by the gruesome accounts of crimes readers devoured in the cheap daily newspapers.

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