The woman in white [NOOK Book]

Overview

Generally considered the first English sensation novel, The Woman in White features the remarkable heroine Marian Halcombe and her sleuthing partner, drawing master Walter Hartright, pitted against the diabolical team of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. A gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, Collins's psychological thriller has never been out of print in the 140 years since its publication.
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The woman in white

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Overview

Generally considered the first English sensation novel, The Woman in White features the remarkable heroine Marian Halcombe and her sleuthing partner, drawing master Walter Hartright, pitted against the diabolical team of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. A gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, Collins's psychological thriller has never been out of print in the 140 years since its publication.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Playwright and audio dramatist Beverley Cooper has done a masterful job in adapting Collins's classic Victorian suspense novel to the audio medium. Within the framing story of a courtroom setting, each character stands up to describe the events that he or she has witnessed; the words of testimony then fade into a flashback scene, so the listener can experience the story as it unfolds. The actors are simply marvelous, particularly Douglas Campbell as the oily, sinister Count Fosco and Cedric Smith as Lord Percival Glyde, the manipulative gold digger with secrets to hide. Suzanne Hoffman sounds appropriately sweet and lovely as Laura, the damsel in distress, and Gina Wilkinson gives a nice contrasting performance as her practical, intelligent and down-to-earth sister, Marian. The story is well paced and suspenseful, while background music adds a subtly ominous atmosphere without distracting from the tale. Likewise, the production uses just the right amount of sound effects. With its colorful characters and air of mystery, this superb dramatization truly does the tale justice. (Dec.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940024897294
  • Publisher: London ; New York : Penguin Books
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Digitized from 1999 volume
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins was born in 1824. A close friend and contemporary of Charles Dickens, Collins became one of the best known of Victorian fiction writers. He wrote 25 novels, 50 short stories, 15 plays, and over 100 non-fiction pieces. His work showed the beginnings of detective fiction and horror writing. He died on September 23, 1889.

Biography

Wilkie Collins has long been overshadowed by his friend and collaborator Charles Dickens -- unfortunately for readers who have consequently not discovered one of literature's most compelling writers. His novels are ceremonious and none too brief; they are also irresistible. Take the opening lines of his 1852 story of marital deceit, Basil: "What am I now about to write? The history of little more than the events of one year, out of the twenty-four years of my life. Why do I undertake such an employment as this? Perhaps, because I think that my narrative may do good; because I hope that, one day, it may be put to some warning use." It's a typical Collins opening, one that draws the reader in with a tone that's personal, but carries formality and import.

With his long, frizzy black beard and wide, sloping forehead, Collins looked like a grandfatherly type, even in his 30s. But his thinking and lifestyle were unconventional, even a bit ahead of his time. His characters (particularly the women) have a Henry James–like predilection for bucking social mores, and he occasionally found his work under attack by morality-mongers. Collins was well aware of his books' potential to offend certain Victorian sensibilities, and there is evidence in some of his writings that he was prepared for it, if not welcoming of it. He writes in the preface to Armadale, his 1866 novel about a father's deathbed murder confession, "Estimated by the clap-trap morality of the present day, this may be a very daring book. Judged by the Christian morality which is of all time, it is only a book that is daring enough to speak the truth."

Collins began his career by writing his painter father's biography. He gained popularity when he began publishing stories and serialized novels in Dickens's publications, Household Words and All the Year Round. His best-known works are The Woman in White and The Moonstone, both of which -- along with Basil -- have been made into films.

Collins often alludes to fantastic, supernatural happenings in his stories; the events themselves are usually borne out by reasonable explanations. What remains are the electrifying effects one human being can have upon another, for better and for worse. His main characters are often described in terms such as "remarkable," "extraordinary," and "singular," lending their actions -- and thereby the story -- a special urgency. In one of his great successes, 1860's The Woman in White, Collins spins what is basically a magnificent con story into something almost ghostly: The fates of two look-alike women -- a beautiful, well-off woman and a poor insane-asylum escapee -- are intertwined and manipulated by two evil men. One of those is among the best fictional villains ever created, the kill-‘em-with-kindness Count Fosco. Fosco is emblematic of another Collins hallmark -- antagonists who manage to throw their victims off guard by some powerful charm of personality or appearance.

The Moonstone, published in 1868, is regarded by many to be the first English detective novel. Starring the unassuming Sergeant Cuff, it follows the trail of a sought-after yellow diamond from India that has fallen into the wrong hands. Like The Woman in White, the novel is told in multiple first person narratives that display Collins's gift for distinctive and often humorous voices. Whether it is servants, foreigners, or the wealthy, Collins is an equal-opportunity satirist who quietly but deftly pokes fun at human foibles even as he draws nuanced, memorable characters.

Though The Woman in White and The Moonstone are Collins's standouts, he had a productive, consistent career; the novels Armadale, No Name and Poor Miss Finch are worthwhile reads, and his short stories will particularly appeal to Edgar Allan Poe fans. Fortunately in the case of this underappreciated writer, there are plenty of titles to appreciate.

Good To Know

Collins studied law, and though he never practiced as a lawyer, his knowledge of the subject is evident in his fiction. He also apprenticed with a tea merchant in his pre-publication years.

He was addicted to laudanum, a form of opium that he used to treat his pain from rheumatic gout.

Collins never married, but he had a long-term live-in relationship with one woman, and a second romance that produced three children.

He is named after popular artist Sir David Wilkie; both his parents were painters who counted Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth among their friends.

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    1. Also Known As:
      William Wilkie Collins (full name)
      Wilkie Collins
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 8, 1824
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Date of Death:
      September 23, 1889
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England

Read an Excerpt

The Woman in White


By Wilkie Collins

Tor Books

Copyright © 2005 Wilkie Collins
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780765353955

Chapter One: The Narrative of Walter Hartright, of Clement's Inn, London

I

It was the last day of July. The long hot summer was drawing to a close; and we, the weary pilgrims of the London pavement, were beginning to think of the cloud-shadows on the corn-fields, and the autumn breezes on the sea-shore.

For my own poor part, the fading summer left me out of health, out of spirits, and, if the truth must be told, out of money as well. During the past year, I had not managed my professional resources as carefully as usual; and my extravagance now limited me to the prospect of spending the autumn economically between my mother's cottage at Hampstead, and my own chambers in town.

The evening, I remember, was still and cloudy; the London air was at its heaviest; the distant hum of the street-traffic was at its faintest; the small pulse of the life within me and the great heart of the city around me seemed to be sinking in unison, languidly and more languidly, with the sinking sun. I roused myself from the book which I was dreaming over rather than reading, and left my chambers to meet the cool night air in the suburbs. It was one of the two evenings in every week which I was accustomed to spend with my mother and my sister. So I turned my steps northward, in thedirection of Hampstead.

Events which I have yet to relate, make it necessary to mention in this place that my father had been dead some years at the period of which I am now writing; and that my sister Sarah, and I, were the sole survivors of a family of five children. My father was a drawing-master before me. His exertions had made him highly successful in his profession; and his affectionate anxiety to provide for the future of those who were dependent on his labours, had impelled him, from the time of his marriage, to devote to the insuring of his life a much larger portion of his income than most men consider it necessary to set aside for that purpose. Thanks to his admirable prudence and self-denial, my mother and sister were left, after his death, as independent of the world as they had been during his lifetime. I succeeded to his connexion, and had every reason to feel grateful for the prospect that awaited me at my starting in life.

The quiet twilight was still trembling on the topmost ridges of the heath; and the view of London below me had sunk into a black gulf in the shadow of the cloudy night, when I stood before the gate of my mother's cottage. I had hardly rung the bell, before the house-door was opened violently; my worthy Italian friend, Professor Pesca, appeared in the servant's place; and darted out joyously to receive me, with a shrill foreign parody on an English cheer.

On his own account, and, I must be allowed to add, on mine also, the Professor merits the honour of a formal introduction. Accident has made him the starting-point of the strange family story which it is the purpose of these pages to unfold.

I had first become acquainted with my Italian friend by meeting him at certain great houses, where he taught his own language and I taught drawing. All I then knew of the history of his life was, that he had once held a situation in the University of Padua; that he had left Italy for political reasons (the nature of which he uniformly declined to mention to anyone); and that he had been for many years respectably established in London as a teacher of languages.

Without being actually a dwarf -- for he was perfectly well-proportioned from head to foot -- Pesca was, I think, the smallest human being I ever saw, out of a show-room. Remarkable anywhere, by his personal appearance, he was still further distinguished among the rank and file of mankind, by the harmless eccentricity of his character. The ruling idea of his life appeared to be, that he was bound to show his gratitude to the country which had afforded him an asylum and a means of subsistence, by doing his utmost to turn himself into an Englishman. Not content with paying the nation in general the compliment of invariably carrying an umbrella, and invariably wearing gaiters and a white hat, the Professor further aspired to become an Englishman in his habits and amusements, as well as in his personal appearance. Finding us distinguished, as a nation, by our love of athletic exercises, the little man, in the innocence of his heart, devoted himself impromptu to all our English sports and pastimes, whenever he had the opportunity of joining them: firmly persuaded that he could adopt our national amusements of the field, by an effort of will, precisely as he had adopted our national gaiters and our national white hat.

I had seen him risk his limbs at a fox-hunt and in a cricket-field; and, soon afterwards, I saw him risk his life, just as blindly, in the sea at Brighton. We had met there accidentally, and were bathing together. If we had been engaged in any exercise peculiar to my own nation, I should, of course, have looked after Pesca carefully; but, as foreigners are generally quite as well able to take care of themselves in the water as Englishmen, it never occurred to me that the art of swimming might merely add one more to the list of manly exercises which the Professor believed that he could learn impromptu. Soon after we had both struck out from shore, I stopped, finding my friend did not gain on me, and turned round to look for him. To my horror and amazement, I saw nothing between me and the beach but two little white arms, which struggled for an instant above the surface of the water, and then disappeared from view. When I dived for him, the poor little man was lying quietly coiled up at the bottom, in a hollow of shingle, looking by many degrees smaller than I had ever seen him look before. During the few minutes that elapsed while I was taking him in, the air revived him, and he ascended the steps of the machine with my assistance. With the partial recovery of his animation came the return of his wonderful delusion on the subject of swimming. As soon as his chattering teeth would let him speak, he smiled vacantly, and said he thought it must have been the Cramp.

When he had thoroughly recovered himself and had joined me on the beach, his warm Southern nature broke through all artificial English restraints, in a moment. He overwhelmed me with the wildest expressions of affection -- exclaimed passionately, in his exaggerated Italian way, that he would hold his life, henceforth, at my disposal -- and declared that he should never be happy again, until he had found an opportunity of proving his gratitude by rendering me some service which I might remember, on my side, to the end of my days. I did my best to stop the torrent of his tears and protestations, by persisting in treating the whole adventure as a good subject for a joke; and succeeded at last, as I imagined, in lessening Pesca's overwhelming sense of obligation to me. Little did I think then -- little did I think afterwards when our pleasant Brighton holiday had drawn to an end -- that the opportunity of serving me for which my grateful companion so ardently longed, was soon to come; that he was eagerly to seize it on the instant; and that, by so doing, he was to turn the whole current of my existence into a new channel, and to alter me to myself almost past recognition.

Yet, so it was. If I had not dived for Professor Pesca, when he lay under water on his shingle bed, I should, in all human probability, never have been connected with the story which these pages will relate -- I should never, perhaps, have heard even the name of the woman, who has lived in all my thoughts, who has possessed herself of all my energies, who has become the one guiding influence that now directs the purpose of my life.

II

Pesca's face and manner, on the evening when we confronted each other at my mother's gate, were more than sufficient to inform me that something extraordinary had happened. It was quite useless, however, to ask him for an immediate explanation. I could only conjecture, while he was dragging me in by both hands, that (knowing my habits) he had come to the cottage to make sure of meeting me that night, and that he had some news to tell of an unusually agreeable kind.

We both bounced into the parlour in a highly abrupt and undignified manner. My mother sat by the open window, laughing and fanning herself. Pesca was one of her especial favourites; and his wildest eccentricities were always pardonable in her eyes. Poor dear soul! from the first moment when she found out that the little Professor was deeply and gratefully attached to her son, she opened her heart to him unreservedly, and took all his puzzling foreign peculiarities for granted, without so much as attempting to understand any one of them.

My sister Sarah, with all the advantages of youth, was, strangely enough, less pliable. She did full justice to Pesca's excellent qualities of heart; but she could not accept him implicitly, as my mother accepted him, for my sake. Her insular notions of propriety rose in perpetual revolt against Pesca's constitutional contempt for appearances; and she was always more or less undisguisedly astonished at her mother's familiarity with the eccentric little foreigner. I have observed, not only in my sister's case, but in the instances of others, that we of the young generation are nothing like so hearty and so impulsive as some of our elders. I constantly see old people flushed and excited by the prospect of some anticipated pleasure which altogether fails to ruffle the tranquillity of their serene grandchildren. Are we, I wonder, quite such genuine boys and girls now as our seniors were, in their time? Has the great advance in education taken rather too long a stride; and are we, in these modern days, just the least trifle in the world too well brought up?

Without attempting to answer those questions decisively, I may at least record that I never saw my mother and my sister together in Pesca's society, without finding my mother much the younger woman of the two. On this occasion, for example, while the old lady was laughing heartily over the boyish manner in which we tumbled into the parlour, Sarah was perturbedly picking up the broken pieces of a teacup, which the Professor had knocked off the table in his precipitate advance to meet me at the door.

"I don't know what would have happened, Walter," said my mother, "if you had delayed much longer. Pesca has been half-mad with impatience; and I have been half-mad with curiosity. The Professor has brought some wonderful news with him, in which he says you are concerned; and he has cruelly refused to give us the smallest hint of it till his friend Walter appeared."

"Very provoking: it spoils the Set," murmured Sarah to herself, mournfully absorbed over the ruins of the broken cup.

While these words were being spoken, Pesca, happily and fussily unconscious of the irreparable wrong which the crockery had suffered at his hands, was dragging a large arm-chair to the opposite end of the room, so as to command us all three, in the character of a public speaker addressing an audience. Having turned the chair with its back towards us, he jumped into it on his knees, and excitably addressed his small congregation of three from an impromptu pulpit.

"Now, my good dears," began Pesca (who always said "good dears," when he meant "worthy friends"), "listen to me. The time has come -- I recite my good news -- I speak at last."

"Hear, hear!" said my mother, humouring the joke.

"The next thing he will break, mamma," whispered Sarah, "will be the back of the best arm-chair."

"I go back into my life, and I address myself to the noblest of created beings," continued Pesca, vehemently apostrophising my unworthy self, over the top rail of the chair. "Who found me dead at the bottom of the sea (through Cramp); and who pulled me up to the top; and what did I say when I got into my own life and my own clothes again?"

"Much more than was at all necessary," I answered, as doggedly as possible; for the least encouragement in connexion with this subject invariably let loose the Professor's emotions in a flood of tears.

"I said," persisted Pesca, "that my life belonged to my dear friend, Walter, for the rest of my days -- and so it does. I said that I should never be happy again till I had found the opportunity of doing a good Something for Walter -- and I have never been contented with myself till this most blessed day. Now," cried the enthusiastic little man at the top of his voice, "the overflowing happiness bursts out of me at every pore of my skin, like a perspiration; for on my faith, and soul, and honour, the Something is done at last, and the only word to say now, is -- Right-all-right!"

It may be necessary to explain, here, that Pesca prided himself on being a perfect Englishman in his language, as well as in his dress, manners, and amusements. Having picked up a few of our most familiar colloquial expressions, he scattered them about over his conversation whenever they happened to occur to him, turning them, in his high relish for their sound and his general ignorance of their sense, into compound words and repetitions of his own, and always running them into each other, as if they consisted of one long syllable.

"Among the fine London houses where I teach the language of my native country," said the Professor, rushing into his long-deferred explanation without another word of preface, "there is one, mighty fine, in the big place called Portland.9 You all know where that is? Yes, yes -- course-of-course. The fine house, my good dears, has got inside it a fine family. A Mamma, fair and fat; three young Misses, fair and fat; two young Misters, fair and fat; and a Papa, the fairest and the fattest of all, who is a mighty merchant, up to his eyes in gold -- a fine man once, but seeing that he has got a naked head and two chins, fine no longer at the present time. Now mind! I teach the sublime Dante to the young Misses, and ah! -- my-soul-bless-my-soul! -- it is not in human language to say how the sublime Dante puzzles the pretty heads of all three! No matter -- all in good time -- and the more lessons the better for me. Now mind! Imagine to yourselves that I am teaching the Young Misses to-day, as usual. We are all four of us down together in the Hell of Dante. At the Seventh Circle -- but no matter for that: all the Circles are alike to the three young Misses, fair and fat, -- at the Seventh Circle, nevertheless, my pupils are sticking fast; and I to set them going again, recite, explain, and blow myself up red-hot with useless enthusiasm, when -- a creak of boots in the passage outside, and in comes the golden Papa, the mighty merchant with the naked head and the two chins. -- Ha! my good dears, I am closer than you think for to the business, now. Have you been patient, so far? or have you said to yourselves, 'Deuce-what-the-deuce! Pesca is long-winded, to-night'?"

We declared that we were deeply interested. The Professor went on:

"In his hand, the golden Papa has a letter; and after he has made his excuse for disturbing us in our Infernal Region with the common mortal business of the house, he addresses himself to the three young Misses, and begins, as you English begin everything in this blessed world that you have to say, with a great O. 'O, my dears,' says the mighty merchant, 'I have got here a letter from my friend, Mr. -- -- ' (the name has slipped out of my mind; but no matter; we shall come back to that: yes, yes -- right-all-right). So the Papa says, 'I have got a letter from my friend, the Mister; and he wants a recommend from me, of a drawing-master, to go down to his house in the country.' My-soul-bless-my-soul! when I heard the golden Papa say those words, if I had been big enough to reach up to him, I should have put my arms round his neck, and pressed him to my bosom in a long and grateful hug! As it was, I only bounced upon my chair. My seat was on thorns, and my soul was on fire to speak; but I held my tongue, and let Papa go on. 'Perhaps you know,' says this good man of money, twiddling his friend's letter this way and that, in his golden fingers and thumbs, 'perhaps you know, my dears, of a drawing-master that I can recommend?' The three young Misses all look at each other, and then say (with the indispensable great O to begin) 'O, dear no, Papa! But here is Mr. Pesca -- -- ' At the mention of myself I can hold no longer -- the thought of you, my good dears, mounts like blood to my head -- I start from my seat, as if a spike had grown up from the ground through the bottom of my chair -- I address myself to the mighty merchant, and I say (English phrase), 'Dear sir, I have the man! The first and foremost drawing-master of the world! Recommend him by the post to-night, and send him off, bag and baggage (English phrase again -- ha?), send him off, bag and baggage, by the train to-morrow!' 'Stop, stop,' says the Papa, 'is he a foreigner or an Englishman?' 'English to the bone of his back,' I answer. 'Respectable?' says Papa. 'Sir,' I say (for this last question of his outrages me, and I have done being familiar with him), 'Sir! the immortal fire of genius burns in this Englishman's bosom, and, what is more, his father had it before him!' 'Never mind,' says the golden barbarian of a Papa, 'never mind about his genius, Mr. Pesca. We don't want genius in this country, unless it is accompanied by respectability -- and then we are very glad to have it, very glad indeed. Can your friend produce testimonials -- letters that speak to his character?' I wave my hand negligently. 'Letters?' I say. 'Ha! my-soul-bless-my-soul! I should think so, indeed! Volumes of letters and portfolios of testimonials, if you like?' 'One or two will do,' says this man of phlegm and money. 'Let him send them to me, with his name and address. And -- stop, stop, Mr. Pesca -- before you go to your friend, you had better take a note.' 'Bank-note!' I say, indignantly. 'No bank-note, if you please, till my brave Englishman has earned it first.' 'Bank-note?' says Papa, in a great surprise, 'who talked of bank-note? I mean a note of the terms -- a memorandum of what he is expected to do. Go on with your lesson, Mr. Pesca, and I will give you the necessary extract from my friend's letter.' Down sits the man of merchandise and money to his pen, ink, and paper; and down I go once again into the Hell of Dante, with my three young Misses after me. In ten minutes' time the note is written, and the boots of Papa are creaking themselves away in the passage outside. From that moment, on my faith, and soul, and honour, I know nothing more! The glorious thought that I have caught my opportunity at last, and that my grateful service for my dearest friend in the world is as good as done already, flies up into my head and makes me drunk. How I pull my young Misses and myself out of our Infernal Region again, how my other business is done afterwards, how my little bit of dinner slides itself down my throat, I know no more than a man in the moon. Enough for me, that here I am, with the mighty merchant's note in my hand, as large as life, as hot as fire, and as happy as a king! Ha! ha! ha! right-right-right-all-right!" Here the Professor waved the memorandum of terms over his head, and ended his long and voluble narrative with his shrill Italian parody on an English cheer.

My mother rose the moment he had done, with flushed cheeks and brightened eyes. She caught the little man warmly by both hands.

"My dear, good Pesca," she said, "I never doubted your true affection for Walter -- but I am more than ever persuaded of it now!"

"I am sure we are very much obliged to Professor Pesca, for Walter's sake," added Sarah. She half rose, while she spoke, as if to approach the arm-chair, in her turn; but, observing that Pesca was rapturously kissing my mother's hands, looked serious, and resumed her seat. "If the familiar little man treats my mother in that way, how will he treat me?" Faces sometimes tell truth; and that was unquestionably the thought in Sarah's mind, as she sat down again.

Although I was myself gratefully sensible of the kindness of Pesca's motives, my spirits were hardly so much elevated as they ought to have been by the prospect of future employment now placed before me. When the Professor had quite done with my mother's hands, and when I had warmly thanked him for his interference on my behalf, I asked to be allowed to look at the note of terms which his respectable patron had drawn up for my inspection.

Pesca handed me the paper, with a triumphant flourish of the hand.

"Read!" said the little man, majestically. "I promise you, my friend, the writing of the golden Papa speaks with a tongue of trumpets for itself."

The note of terms was plain, straightforward, and comprehensive, at any rate. It informed me,

First, That Frederick Fairlie, Esquire, of Limmeridge House, Cumberland, wanted to engage the services of a thoroughly competent drawing-master, for a period of four months certain.

Secondly, That the duties which the master was expected to perform would be of a twofold kind. He was to superintend the instruction of two young ladies in the art of painting in water-colours; and he was to devote his leisure time, afterwards, to the business of arranging and mounting a valuable collection of drawings, which had been suffered to fall into a condition of total neglect.

Thirdly, That the terms offered to the person who should undertake and properly perform these duties, were four guineas a week; that he was to reside at Limmeridge House; and that he was to be treated there on the footing of a gentleman.

Fourthly, and lastly, That no person need think of applying for this situation, unless he could furnish the most unexceptionable references to character and abilities. The references were to be sent to Mr. Fairlie's friend in London, who was empowered to conclude all necessary arrangements. These instructions were followed by the name and address of Pesca's employer in Portland-place -- and there the note, or memorandum, ended.

The prospect which this offer of an engagement held out was certainly an attractive one. The employment was likely to be both easy and agreeable; it was proposed to me at the autumn time of year when I was least occupied; and the terms, judging by my personal experience in my profession, were surprisingly liberal. I knew this; I knew that I ought to consider myself very fortunate if I succeeded in securing the offered employment -- and yet, no sooner had I read the memorandum than I felt an inexplicable unwillingness within me to stir in the matter. I had never in the whole of my previous experience found my duty and my inclination so painfully and so unaccountably at variance as I found them now.

"Oh, Walter, your father never had such a chance as this!" said my mother, when she had read the note of terms and had handed it back to me.

"Such distinguished people to know," remarked Sarah, straightening herself in her chair; "and on such gratifying terms of equality, too!"

"Yes, yes; the terms, in every sense, are tempting enough," I replied, impatiently. "But, before I send in my testimonials, I should like a little time to consider -- "

"Consider!" exclaimed my mother. "Why, Walter, what is the matter with you!"

"Consider!" echoed my sister. "What a very extraordinary thing to say, under the circumstances!"

"Consider!" chimed in the Professor. "What is there to consider about? Answer me this! Have you not been complaining of your health, and have you not been longing for what you call a smack of the country breeze? Well! there in your hand is the paper that offers you perpetual choking mouthfuls of country breeze, for four months' time. Is it not so? Ha? Again -- you want money. Well! Is four golden guineas a week nothing? My-soul-bless-my-soul! only give it to me -- and my boots shall creak like the golden Papa's, with a sense of the overpowering richness of the man who walks in them! Four guineas a week, and, more than that, the charming society of two young Misses; and, more than that, your bed, your breakfast, your dinner, your gorging English teas and lunches and drinks of foaming beer, all for nothing -- why, Walter, my dear good friend -- deuce-what-the-deuce! for the first time in my life I have not eyes enough in my head to look, and wonder at you!"

Neither my mother's evident astonishment at my behaviour, nor Pesca's fervid enumeration of the advantages offered to me by the new employment, had any effect in shaking my unreasonable disclination to go to Limmeridge House. After starting all the petty objections that I could think of to going to Cumberland; and after hearing them answered, one after another, to my own complete discomfiture, I tried to set up a last obstacle by asking what was to become of my pupils in London, while I was teaching Mr. Fairlie's young ladies to sketch from nature. The obvious answer to this was that the greater part of them would be away on their autumn travels, and that the few who remained at home might be confided to the care of one of my brother drawing-masters, whose pupils I had once taken off his hands under similar circumstances. My sister reminded me that this gentleman had expressly placed his services at my disposal, during the present season, in case I wished to leave town; my mother seriously appealed to me not to let an idle caprice stand in the way of my own interests and my own health; and Pesca piteously entreated that I would not wound him to the heart, by rejecting the first grateful offer of service that he had been able to make to the friend who had saved his life.

The evident sincerity and affection which inspired these remonstrances would have influenced any man with an atom of good feeling in his composition. Though I could not conquer my own unaccountable perversity, I had at least virtue enough to be heartily ashamed of it, and to end the discussion pleasantly by giving way and promising to do all that was wanted of me. The rest of the evening passed merrily enough in humorous anticipations of my coming life with the two young ladies in Cumberland. Pesca, inspired by our national grog, which appeared to get into his head, in the most marvellous manner, five minutes after it had gone down his throat, asserted his claims to be considered a complete Englishman by making a series of speeches in rapid succession; proposing my mother's health, my sister's health, my health, and the healths, in mass, of Mr. Fairlie and the two young Misses; pathetically returning thanks himself, immediately afterwards, for the whole party. "A secret, Walter," said my little friend, confidentially, as we walked home together. "I am flushed by the recollection of my own eloquence. My soul bursts itself with ambition. One of these days, I go into your noble Parliament. It is the dream of my whole life to be Honourable Pesca, M.P.!"

The next morning I sent my testimonials to the Professor's employer in Portland-place. Three days passed; and I concluded, with secret satisfaction, that my papers had not been found sufficiently explicit. On the fourth day, however, an answer came. It anounced that Mr. Fairlie accepted my services, and requested me to start for Cumberland immediately. All the necessary instructions for my journey were carefully and clearly added in a postscript.

I made my arrangements, unwillingly enough, for leaving London early the next day. Towards evening Pesca looked in, on his way to a dinner-party, to bid me good-by.

"I shall dry my tears in your absence," said the Professor, gaily, "with this glorious thought. It is my auspicious hand that has given the first push to your fortune in the world. Go, my friend! When your sun shines in Cumberland (English proverb), in the name of Heaven, make your hay. Marry one of the two young Misses; inherit the fat lands of Fairlie; become Honourable Hartright, M.P.; and when you are on the top of the ladder, remember that Pesca, at the bottom, has done it all!"

I tried to laugh with my little friend over his parting jest, but my spirits were not to be commanded. Something jarred in me almost painfully, while he was speaking his light farewell words.

When I was left alone again, nothing remained to be done but to walk to the Hampstead Cottage and bid my mother and Sarah good-by.

III

The heat had been painfully oppressive all day; and it was now a close and sultry night.

My mother and sister had spoken so many last words, and had begged me to wait another five minutes so many times, that it was nearly midnight when the servant locked the garden-gate behind me. I walked forward a few paces on the shortest way back to London; then stopped, and hesitated.

The moon was full and broad in the dark blue starless sky; and the broken ground of the heath looked wild enough in the mysterious light to be hundreds of miles away from the great city that lay beneath it. The idea of descending any sooner than I could help into the heat and gloom of London repelled me. The prospect of going to bed in my airless chambers, and the prospect of gradual suffocation, seemed, in my present restless frame of mind and body, to be one and the same thing. I determined to stroll home in the purer air, by the most roundabout way I could take; to follow the white winding paths across the lonely heath; and to approach London through its most open suburb by striking into the Finchley-road, and so getting back, in the cool of the new morning, by the western side of the Regent's Park.

I wound my way down slowly over the Heath, enjoying the divine stillness of the scene, and admiring the soft alternations of light and shade as they followed each other over the broken ground on every side of me. So long as I was proceeding through this first and prettiest part of my night-walk, my mind remained passively open to the impressions produced by the view; and I thought but little on any subject -- indeed, so far as my own sensations were concerned, I can hardly say that I thought at all.

But when I had left the Heath, and had turned into the by-road, where there was less to see, the ideas naturally engendered by the approaching change in my habits and occupations, gradually drew more and more of my attention exclusively to themselves. By the time I had arrived at the end of the road, I had become completely absorbed in my own fanciful visions of Limmeridge House, of Mr. Fairlie, and of the two ladies whose practice in the art of water-colour painting I was so soon to superintend.

I had now arrived at that particular point of my walk where four roads met -- the road to Hampstead, along which I had returned; the road to Finchley; the road to West End; and the road back to London. I had mechanically turned in this latter direction, and I was strolling along the lonely high-road -- idly wondering, I remember, what the Cumberland young ladies would look like -- when, in one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop by the touch of a hand laid lightly and suddenly on my shoulder from behind me.

I turned on the instant, with my fingers tightening round the handle of my stick.

There, in the middle of the broad, bright high-road -- there, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven -- stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments; her face bent in grave inquiry on mine, her hand pointing to the dark cloud over London, as I faced her.

I was far too seriously startled by the suddenness with which this extraordinary apparition stood before me, in the dead of night and in that lonely place, to ask what she wanted. The strange woman spoke first.

"Is that the road to London?" she said.

I looked attentively at her, as she put that singular question to me. It was then nearly one o'clock. All I could discern distinctly by the moonlight, was a colourless, youthful face, meagre and sharp to look at, about the cheeks and chin; large, grave, wistfully-attentive eyes; nervous, uncertain lips; and light hair of a pale, brownish-yellow hue. There was nothing wild, nothing immodest in her manner: it was quiet and self-controlled, a little melancholy and a little touched by suspicion; not exactly the manner of a lady, and, at the same time, not the manner of a woman in the humblest rank of life. The voice, little as I had yet heard of it, had something curiously still and mechanical in its tones, and the utterance was remarkably rapid. She held a small bag in her hand: and her dress -- bonnet, shawl, and gown all of white -- was, so far as I could guess, certainly not composed of very delicate or very expensive materials. Her figure was slight, and rather above the average height -- her gait and actions free from the slightest approach to extravagance. This was all that I could observe of her, in the dim light and under the perplexingly-strange circumstances of our meeting. What sort of woman she was, and how she came to be out alone in the high-road, an hour after midnight, I altogether failed to guess. The one thing of which I felt certain was, that the grossest of mankind could not have misconstrued her motive in speaking, even at that suspiciously late hour and in that suspiciously lonely place.

"Did you hear me?" she said, still quietly and rapidly, and without the least fretfulness or impatience. "I asked if that was the way to London."

"Yes," I replied, "that is the way: it leads to St. John's Wood and the Regent's Park. You must excuse my not answering you before. I was rather startled by your sudden appearance in the road; and I am, even now, quite unable to account for it."

"You don't suspect me of doing anything wrong, do you? I have done nothing wrong. I have met with an accident -- I am very unfortunate in being here alone so late. Why do you suspect me of doing wrong?"

She spoke with unnecessary earnestness and agitation and shrank back from me several paces. I did my best to reassure her.

"Pray don't suppose that I have any idea of suspecting you," I said, "or any other wish than to be of assistance to you, if I can. I only wondered at your appearance in the road, because it seemed to me to be empty the instant before I saw you."

She turned, and pointed back to a place at the junction of the road to London and the road to Hampstead, where there was a gap in the hedge.

"I heard you coming," she said, "and hid there to see what sort of man you were, before I risked speaking. I doubted and feared about it till you passed; and then I was obliged to steal after you, and touch you."

Steal after me, and touch me? Why not call to me? Strange, to say the least of it.

"May I trust you?" she asked. "You don't think the worse of me because I have met with an accident?" She stopped in confusion; shifted her bag from one hand to the other; and sighed bitterly.

The loneliness and helplessness of the woman touched me. The natural impulse to assist her and to spare her, got the better of the judgment, the caution, the worldly tact, which an elder, wiser, and colder man might have summoned to help him in this strange emergency.

"You may trust me for any harmless purpose," I said. "If it troubles you to explain your strange situation to me, don't think of returning to the subject again. I have no right to ask you for any explanations. Tell me how I can help you; and if I can, I will."

"You are very kind, and I am very, very thankful to have met you." The first touch of womanly tenderness that I had heard from her, trembled in her voice as she said the words; but no tears glistened in those large, wistfully attentive eyes of hers, which were still fixed on me. "I have only been in London once before," she went on, more and more rapidly; "and I know nothing about that side of it, yonder. Can I get a fly, or a carriage of any kind? Is it too late? I don't know. If you could show me where to get a fly -- and if you will only promise not to interfere with me, and to let me leave you, when and how I please -- I have a friend in London who will be glad to receive me -- I want nothing else -- will you promise?"

She looked anxiously up and down the road; shifted her bag again from one hand to the other; repeated the words, "Will you promise?" and looked hard in my face, with a pleading fear and confusion that it troubled me to see.

What could I do? Here was a stranger utterly and helplessly at my mercy -- and that stranger a forlorn woman. No house was near; no one was passing whom I could consult; and no earthly right existed on my part to give me a power of control over her, even if I had known how to exercise it. I trace these lines, self-distrustfully, with the shadows of after-events darkening the very paper I write on; and still I say, what could I do?

What I did do, was to try and gain time by questioning her.

"Are you sure that your friend in London will receive you at such a late hour as this?" I said.

"Quite sure. Only say you will let me leave you when and how I please -- only say you won't interfere with me. Will you promise?"

As she repeated the words for the third time, she came close to me, and laid her hand, with a sudden gentle stealthiness, on my bosom -- a thin hand; a cold hand (when I removed it with mine) even on that sultry night. Remember that I was young; remember that the hand which touched me was a woman's.

"Will you promise?"

"Yes."

One word! The little familiar word that is on everybody's lips, every hour in the day. Oh me! and I tremble, now, when I write it.

We set our faces towards London, and walked on together in the first still hour of the new day -- I, and this woman, whose name, whose character, whose story, whose objects in life, whose very presence by my side, at that moment, were fathomless mysteries to me. It was like a dream. Was I Walter Hartright? Was this the well-known, uneventful road, where holiday people strolled on Sundays? Had I really left, little more than an hour since, the quiet, decent, conventionally-domestic atmosphere of my mother's cottage? I was too bewildered -- too conscious also of a vague sense of something like self-reproach -- to speak to my strange companion for some minutes. It was her voice again that first broke the silence between us.

"I want to ask you something," she said, suddenly. "Do you know many people in London?"

"Yes, a great many."

"Many men of rank and title?" There was an unmistakable tone of suspicion in the strange question. I hesitated about answering it.

"Some," I said, after a moment's silence.

"Many" -- she came to a full stop, and looked me searchingly in the face -- "many men of the rank of Baronet?"

Too much astonished to reply, I questioned her in my turn.

"Why do you ask?"

"Because I hope, for my own sake, there is one Baronet that you don't know."

"Will you tell me his name?"

"I can't -- I daren't -- I forget myself, when I mention it." She spoke loudly and almost fiercely, raised her clenched hand in the air, and shook it passionately; then, on a sudden, controlled herself again, and added, in tones lowered to a whisper: "Tell me which of them you know."

I could hardly refuse to humour her in such a trifle, and I mentioned three names. Two, the names of fathers of families whose daughters I taught; one, the name of a bachelor who had once taken me a cruise in his yacht, to make sketches for him.

"Ah! you don't know him," she said, with a sigh of relief. "Are you a man of rank and title yourself?"

"Far from it. I am only a drawing-master."

As the reply passed my lips -- a little bitterly, perhaps -- she took my arm with the abruptness which characterised all her actions.

"Not a man of rank and title," she repeated to herself. "Thank God! I may trust him."

I had hitherto contrived to master my curiosity out of consideration for my companion; but it got the better of me, now.

"I am afraid you have serious reason to complain of some man of rank and title?" I said. "I am afraid the baronet, whose name you are unwilling to mention to me, has done you some grievous wrong? Is he the cause of your being out here at this strange time of night?"

"Don't ask me; don't make me talk of it," she answered. "I'm not fit, now. I have been cruelly used and cruelly wronged. You will be kinder than ever, if you will walk on fast, and not speak to me. I sadly want to be silent -- I sadly want to quiet myself, if I can."

We moved forward again at a quick pace; and for half an hour, at least, not a word passed on either side. From time to time, being forbidden to make any more enquiries, I stole a look at her face. It was always the same; the lips close shut, the brow frowning, the eyes looking straight forward, eagerly and yet absently. We had reached the first houses, and were close on the new Wesleyan College, before her set features relaxed, and she spoke once more.

"Do you live in London?" she said.

"Yes." As I answered, it struck me that she might have formed some intention of appealing to me for assistance or advice, and that I ought to spare her a possible disappointment by warning her of my approaching absence from home. So I added: "But to-morrow I shall be away from London for some time. I am going into the country."

"Where?" she asked. "North, or south?"

"North -- to Cumberland."

"Cumberland!" she repeated the word tenderly. "Ah! I wish was going there, too. I was once happy in Cumberland."

I tried again to lift the veil that hung between this woman and me.

"Perhaps you were born," I said, "in the beautiful Lake country."

"No," she answered. "I was born in Hampshire; but I once went to school for a little while in Cumberland. Lakes? I don't remember any lakes. It's Limmeridge village, and Limmeridge House, I should like to see again."

It was my turn, now, to stop suddenly. In the excited state of my curiosity, at that moment, the chance reference to Mr. Fairlie's place of residence, on the lips of my strange companion, staggered me with astonishment.

"Did you hear anybody calling after us?" she asked, looking up and down the road affrightedly, the instant I stopped.

"No, no. I was only struck by the name of Limmeridge House -- I heard it mentioned by some Cumberland people a few days since."

"Ah! not my people. Mrs. Fairlie is dead; and her husband is dead; and their little girl may be married and gone away by this time. I can't say who lives at Limmeridge now. If any more are left there of that name, I only know I love them for Mrs. Fairlie's sake."

She seemed about to say more; but while she was speaking, we came within view of the turnpike, at the top of the Avenue-road. Her hand tightened round my arm, and she looked anxiously at the gate before us.

"Is the turnpike man looking out?" she asked.

He was not looking out; no one else was near the place when we passed through the gate. The sight of the gas-lamps and houses seemed to agitate her, and to make her impatient.

"This is London," she said. "Do you see any carriage I can get? I am tired and frightened. I want to shut myself in, and be driven away."

I explained to her that we must walk a little further to get to a cab-stand, unless we were fortunate enough to meet with an empty vehicle; and then tried to resume the subject of Cumberland. It was useless. That idea of shutting herself in, and being driven away, had now got full possession of her mind. She could think and talk of nothing else.

We had hardly proceeded a third of the way down the Avenue-road, when I saw a cab draw up at a house a few doors below us, on the opposite side of the way. A gentleman got out and let himself in at the garden door. I hailed the cab, as the driver mounted the box again. When we crossed the road, my companion's impatience increased to such an extent that she almost forced me to run.

"It's so late," she said. "I am only in a hurry because it's so late."

"I can't take you, sir, if you're not going towards Tottenhamcourt-road," said the driver, civilly, when I opened the cab door. "My horse is dead beat, and I can't get him no further than the stable."

"Yes, yes. That will do for me. I'm going that way -- I'm going that way." She spoke with breathless eagerness, and pressed by me into the cab.

I had assured myself that the man was sober as well as civil, before I let her enter the vehicle. And now, when she was seated inside, I entreated her to let me see her set down safely at her destination.

"No, no, no," she said, vehemently. "I'm quite safe and quite happy now. If you are a gentleman, remember your promise. Let him drive on, till I stop him. Thank you -- oh! thank you, thank you!"

My hand was on the cab door. She caught it in hers, kissed it, and pushed it away. The cab drove off at the same moment -- I started into the road, with some vague idea of stopping it again, I hardly knew why -- hesitated from dread of frightening and distressing her -- called, at last, but not loudly enough to attract the driver's attention. The sound of the wheels grew fainter in the distance -- the cab melted into the black shadows on the road -- the woman in white was gone.

Ten minutes, or more, had passed. I was still on the same side of the way; now mechanically walking forward a few paces; now stopping again absently. At one moment, I found myself doubting the reality of my own adventure; at another, I was perplexed and distressed by an uneasy sense of having done wrong, which yet left me confusedly ignorant of how I could have done right. I hardly knew where I was going, or what I meant to do next; I was conscious of nothing but the confusion of my own thoughts, when I was abruptly recalled to myself -- awakened I might almost say -- by the sound of rapidly approaching wheels close behind me.

I was on the dark side of the road, in the thick shadow of some garden trees, when I stopped to look round. On the opposite, and lighter, side of the way, a short distance below me, a policeman was strolling along in the direction of the Regent's Park.

The carriage passed me -- an open chaise driven by two men.

"Stop!" cried one. "There's a policeman. Let's ask him."

The horse was instantly pulled up, a few yards beyond the dark place where I stood.

"Policeman!" cried the first speaker. "Have you seen a woman pass this way?"

"What sort of woman, sir?"

"A woman in a lavender-coloured gown -- "

"No, no," interposed the second man. "The clothes we gave her were found on her bed. She must have gone away in the clothes she wore when she came to us. In white, policeman. A woman in white."

"I haven't seen her, sir."

"If you, or any of your men meet with the woman, stop her, and send her in careful keeping to that address. I'll pay all expenses, and a fair reward into the bargain."

The policeman looked at the card that was handed down to him.

"Why are we to stop her, sir? What has she done?"

"Done! She has escaped from my Asylum. Don't forget: a woman in white. Drive on."

Copyright © 2005 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.





Continues...


Excerpted from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins Copyright © 2005 by Wilkie Collins. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Wilkie Collins has been hailed as the creator of the “sensation novel”. Citing examples from The Woman in White, how would you define this Victorian literary genre?

2. In his preface to the 1860 edition of The Woman in White, Collins wrote, “An experiment is attempted in this novel, which has not (so far as I know) been hitherto tried in fiction. The story…is told throughout by the characters of the book.” Was the experiment a success? What is gained and what is lost in telling the story exclusively through first person narratives?

3. In her Introduction to this Modern Library edition, Anne Perry asks, “What is there in The Woman in White that transcends the change in culture from 1860 to the present, and beyond?” How would you answer this question?

4. Collins has been widely praised for his fully drawn portraits. Which characters stand out as the most vivid, and why?

5. Throughout the novel, how does Collins use premonitions, coincidences and dreams to foreshadow key events?

6. “Walter Hartright is very much a man of his time, ” declares Anne Perry. “His view of women is almost unbelievably naïve compared with today’s.” Drawing on Hartright’s descriptions of Marian Halcombe and her sister Laura, as well as Anne Catherick and her mother, do you agree with Perry’s comment? Do you think that Wilkie Collins shared his protagonist’s view of women?

7. Why does Mrs. Catherick allow her own daughter to be placed in an insane asylum, and how does she justify her actions?

8. In his concluding narrative, Count Fosco describes “thefirst and last weakness” of his life. What is the nature of Fosco’s self-described “deplorable and uncharacteristic fault”?

9. Throughout the novel, how does Collins explore the themes of respectability and social class?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 160 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(80)

4 Star

(34)

3 Star

(17)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(16)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 160 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A good read

    The Woman in White is a Victorian mystery that is considered to be one of the best mysteries ever written. Written in 1859, it takes the form of an early detective novel with an amateur sleuth. The plot (man marries woman and schemes to get her money), albeit predictable by today's standards, is plausible, entertaining and, at times, slightly suspenseful. I attribute this slightness to the Victorian language itself. I'm not a fan of that style of speaking and found myself frustrated at times and thinking just get on with it all ready, stop dragging things out. The story is told from the viewpoints of several characters - much like a legal deposition where each character relates what he/she knows about certain events.
    -----
    The characters were interesting and memorable; however, I was disappointed in the characterization/treatment of women - weak and inferior. Was this an accurate portrayal for the times? I don't know. I have read other Victorian novels and didn't come away with the same feeling. Because of his portrayal of women, Mr. Collins didn't do justice to Marion Halcombe, one of the more memorable characters in the novel. A greater role would have been appreciated more by today's society but, in 1859, who knows. Creating a lead woman character who 'out thinks' a man may have been taboo. The other memorable character was Count Fosco, the mastermind behind everything evil in the world. I am being a bit facetious; however, the character was so full of himself that I couldn't help but inflate his imaginary ego a little more. His character was fully developed - I didn't like him and found him frustrating - once again this could be attributed to the Victorian language.
    -----
    Overall, I did like the novel; however, the above issues prevent me from giving it more than three stars. I recommend to those who enjoy Victorian literature and those who would like to read one of the first mystery novels. This is a long book and not a quick read - you will be in it for the long haul - which you will enjoy.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2011

    A lost classic

    Where has this book been all my life? Written in the time of Dickens and Stoker and as good as either, this is a shockingly modern thriller/mystery.

    This United Holdings Group edition is very good, with no typos or scan errors that I noticed. Worth the buck over the free version which is riddled with errors.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2014

    I had a really hard time with this almost 600 page book.

    This book was published in 1860. It has almost 600 pages. By today's standards it is a squeaky clean book. If I read correctly, it is one of the first paranormal mystery books published. Unfortunately, it did not transfer to e- book format very well and the antique, english style of narration almost drove me bonkers. I found this a very difficult and time consuming read. At least with a book of this age, I do not have to worry about hurting the author's feelings. For ages 16 and up, if they can stick with it. I could not.

    AD

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Sorry, I just couldn't.

    What can I say? I'm terrible. I want to try to read classics. I really do. But then when it happens I drive myself nuts for an entire trying to get into them with no avail. Same here unfortunately. I can honestly say, I have no idea what this is about. It didn't help at all that my ebook had insane typographical errors that inserted random punctuality into the middle of any sentence or word. That being said, I'm just not an old soul, just an old guy I guess.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2013

    Gibberish

    Unreadable. Very bad OCR.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2013

    Recommeded

    Excellent turn of the century page turner! Can't put it down.

    BUT, formatting terrible. Often reads like one long, small type paragraph and there is no using normal Nook features to adjust the type size or to break text into chapters with number of remaining pages shown. Book is formatted as one long narrative without breaks. Pages remaining show as pages remaining in book. Not helpful.
    BN should quit acting like they have a huge store of free and low cost give-away classics. These are quick scanned library books. I have much better luck with Kindle...and YES, that is where my next e-reader will be coming from. Amazon has MUCH better customer care. I guess they really CARE about their customers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2012

    Great period piece

    526 pages/numerous typos/however what a great story. Rated 5 w/o typos

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2011

    bad

    This book is horrible

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 20, 2011

    Charming.

    I'd forgotten how charming books from that time can be. I totally enjoyed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2010

    Too long

    There were aspects of this book I really enjoyed. I love the Victorian, Jane Austenesque language of the book. The plot is also intricate and promising. But it was just too dang long to get where it was going. Somewhere along the way I read that this had been a serialized novel published in a paper. I could see that and I had the same problem with another book compiled from a serial. Also while the plot was good on its own merits, the way it gets tied up at the end is disappointing in terms of the characters involved. That being said, if you love the writing coming from this time period, you will find this book satisfying. If you love intrigue and mystery you will also find something satisfactory in this book. But, Wilkie, couldn't you have just gotten to the point quicker!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Quintessential Mystery Novel

    Often lauded as the first true mystery novel, "The Woman in White" is as intriguing as it is original. The plot is carefully crafted and often surprising in its twists and turns.

    The characters are painstakingly crafted and beautifully developed (particularly Count Fosco) and, by the middle of the book, I found I was worrying over the fate of the hero and heroine in spite of myself.

    Admittedly, I found this novel slow to start, but once all of the characters were on the proverbial stage, things moved rather quickly. All in all, this novel is worth the read for avid mystery novel readers interested in how the mystery genre first became popular. Incidentally, Collins wrote some wonderful psychological/ghost thrillers, which I have recommended it below. Happy reading!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    Boo

    It sucked all i read were summarys of the storys

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 10, 2013

    Classic - Excellent NOOK version

    This is a classic book, so my review will be of this particular NOOK publication. For an inexpensive product, this version had no printing flaws or typo errors that may be seen in other public domain publications.

    Highly recommend.

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  • Posted December 8, 2013

    I began reading this book because of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music

    I began reading this book because of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of this book. I am a huge Michael Crawford fan, and he was in the musical in England. I even have the soundtrack. I had listened to soundtrack once, but of course, I didn't understand it. I had read a couple people's reviews of the story, and I thought I should give it a try.

    I began reading this, and it did not begin slowly as so many classics do. I used to joke that classics were always slow for the first 50 pages. It was rare to find one that captured your attention from the beginning. I think this one captured me almost from the beginning. Wilkie Collins puts you right into the midst of the story, and you, as the reader, are not even truly sure of what is going on. You want to keep reading.

    My two favorite characters were Marian and Count Fosco. (That is actually ironic. You'll have to read the book to catch my meaning.)

    I liked Marian because she was such a strong woman. I love it when male authors--especially the classics--are able to write about strong women who really impact the story. And yet she remains feminine in spite of it all. The only sad thing is that she never marries. It's the wimpy Laura who gets married and has a child. Go figure. I guess strong women back then didn't get married. At least according to Wilkie Collins.

    I enjoyed the character of Count Fosco because he was so devilishly evil and yet so likable. I kept imagining how Michael Crawford would have played the part--he would have been ideal.

    I truly enjoyed the mystery in the book. I did not have everything figured out--there were so many layers and twists and turns! Goodness! Easily the best mystery I have read in ages.

    I would say the only reasons someone would not like the book is that it is long, and it is written in Victorian language instead of our modern-day lingo. I would recommend this as a mystery and as a classic. I look forward to reading more Wilkie Collins!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2013

    Oh and i almost forgot(wrote tht review abt agreeing w/ that othr person)

    Does anyone else think of Supernatural??

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    great read

    this one kept me interested, it is a goodbook to curl up with.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    Liyla here

    It was pretty good nice job wilkie!!! :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

    Great mystery

    A very long book but a great read and model mysery.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2012

    Wonderful mystery!

    A great classic novel which starts with a mysterious woman in white, a young art teacher and two distinctly different sisters and then proceeds to envelope you in a twisted plot of murder, mistaken identities, arson and and secret brotherhood. It will definitely keep you guessing!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2012

    Highly recommended for readers of Victorian Novels

    I had never heard of Wilkie Collins before I read The Woman in White recommended to me by my wife though she had not read it either. It's an engrossing Victorian Novel with interesting characters ranging from an artistic narrator to a frail heiress. The writing is very good. I could summarize the first half of this long book in one sentence, yet lounging around in the language and the characters makes the experience worthwhile. This book is not for people who like quick reads!

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