The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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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: 9781593083700
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 1.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Wilkie Collins
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.

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

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 159 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(79)

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.

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  • 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 November 9, 2011

    bad

    This book is horrible

    1 out of 3 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

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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

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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??

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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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2013

    Gibberish

    Unreadable. Very bad OCR.

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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.

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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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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2012

    .

    I dont like all the typos

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