Author(s): Wilkie Collins
This is the "Penguin English Library Edition" of "The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins. 'In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop ...There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth ...stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white'. "The Woman in White" famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter is drawn into the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his 'charming' friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, "The Woman in White" is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism. "The Penguin English Library" - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
William Wilkie Collins was born in London in 1824, the eldest son of a successful painter, William Collins. He studied law and was admitted to the bar but never practiced his nominal profession, devoting his time to writing instead. His first published book was a biography of his father, his second a florid historical romance. The first hint of his later talents came withBasil(1852), a vivid tale of seduction, treachery, and revenge. In 1851 Collins had met Charles Dickens, who would become his close friend and mentor. Collins was soon writing unsigned articles and stories for Dickens s magazine, Household Words, and his novels were serialized in its pages. Collins brought out the boyish, adventurous side of Dickens s character; the two novelists traveled to Italy, Switzerland, and France together, and their travels produced such lighthearted collaborations as The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices. They also shared a passion for the theater, and Collins s melodramas, notably The Frozen Deep, were presented by Dickens s private company, with Dickens and Collins in leading roles. Collins s first mystery novel wasHide and Seek(1853). His first popular success wasThe Woman in White(1860), followed byNo Name(1862), Armadale(1866), andThe Moonstone(1868), whose Sergeant Cuff became a prototype of the detective hero in English fiction. Collins s concentration on the seamier side of life did not endear him to the critics of his day, but he was among the most popular of Victorian novelists. His meticulously plotted, often violent novels are now recognized as the direct ancestors of the modern mystery novel and thriller. Collins s private life was an open secret among his friends. He had two mistresses, one of whom bore him three children. His later years were marred by a long and painful eye disease. His novels, increasingly didactic, declined greatly in quality, but he continued to write by dictating to a secretary until 1886. He died in 1889."