Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's a Man's Man's Man's World

I'm quite far along with Wilkie Collins' 1860 sensationalist novel The Woman in White. Observations: titles and social graces will be routinely mistaken for good morals and trustworthiness; women are the victims and servants of men, who get things done; foreigners are not to be trusted (and the middle classes are the Strength of England); when a man recovers from a serious illness, he gains fortitude but when a woman recovers from a serious illness, she is left forever weakened; have I mentioned that foreigners ain't no damned good?

Count Fosco is a great invention, a truly magnificent character. Mr Fairlie is also delightful, and the more socially blinkered of the supporting cast are finely drawn and ironically comic. Good stuff, Wilkie. I'd like to have a look at the original case that inspired Woman in White. The plot twists and labyrinthine machinations of the villains could begin to strain credulity, but that's part of the fun. "No way, Collins! Who believes that?"

Here's a bit from Mr Fairlie's narrative:
Louis suddenly made his appearance with a card in his hand.

"Another Young Person?" I said. "I won't see her. In my state of health Young Persons disagree with me. Not at home."

"It is a gentleman this time, sir."

A gentleman of course made a difference. I looked at the card.

Gracious Heaven! my tiresome sister's foreign husband, Count Fosco.

Is it necessary to say what my first impression was when I looked at my visitor's card? Surely not! My sister having married a foreigner, there was but one impression that any man in his senses could possibly feel. Of course the Count had come to borrow money of me.

"Louis," I said, "do you think he would go away if you gave him five shillings?"


  1. From my laptop in my hospital room while enjoying the blessings of the post-op drip, drip, drip . . . I say, Bailey, old chap, you seem to be enjoying your Collins experience. Don't neglect The Moonstone and No Name. Now it is time for a snooze . . .

    1. Tim, I'm happy to have proof that you yet live! Take it easy.

      Yes, Collins is a good time. I read up on the original case, and old Wilkie seems to have ratcheted up the complexity of the plot a good bit. Well done, him.