“Remember this–the discovery which follows will be a terrible one. If you have any doubt about your capacity to sustain a shock which will strike you to the soul, for God’s sake give up the idea of finding out your husband’s secret at once and forever!”
The Law and the Lady is the ninth book I have read by Wilkie Collins. Wilkie Collins, my favourite author, insuperable in every way. Something in his novels gives me consolation with a surrounding aura of genuineness, virtue, and beauty.
Once again (I don’t know how many times as to have said this…), The Law and the Lady gives me another thrill! It is so peerless, unputdownable and keeps me entertained and guessing all the way. It has all classic traits in Collins’s oeuvre: (1) the wonderful epistolary writing (the diary, the confession, and the letters of correspondence); (2) impressive villain (who is a character with physical deformity this time, and, as usual, always portrayed as an influential steering wheel of the plot); (3) literary connotations and playing with names; (4) rich details of psychological descriptions and flaws in mentality which Collins is interested to investigate at all times; (5) glimpse of one particular criminal case in his era; (6) doppelgänger; and, of course, most important of all, (7) the suspense and mystery going on throughout the novel teeming with wonderful depiction of living interiors.
This time, Collins touches a Scotch Law which is infamous at his time, known as a verdict of Not Proven. It is a middle verdict/a pain purgatory which happens when the jury is “in doubt of whether to condemn or acquit the prisoner brought before them”. It often exists when there is not sufficient evidence and the jury not convinced thoroughly whether he/she is innocent. In this case, the jury then extricates from difficulty by resorting this frail mean that would be a blot on the life of the accused. Collins shifts the focus based on the reference of Madeleine Smith’s case to the second wife, Valeria, the heroine of the story, who determines to vindicate her husband’s innocence (Eustace Macallan) of a poisonous and murderous case to his ex-wife, Sara Macallan, in order to restore both her and the husband’s reputation and happiness to place.
“You will remember that I was held responsible for it, and that my innocence was never proved. You will say to yourself, ‘Did it begin, in her time, with a harsh word from him and with a hasty reply from her? Will it one day end with me as the jury half feared that it ended with her?’ Hideous questions for a wife to ask herself!”
I remember it vividly that last Collins’s novel I read is Man and Wife which concerns Irregular Marriages. The Law and the Lady also touches the Scotch Law and it is diverting to delve into; moreover, the psychological development projected from the proceedings in the Trial is interesting:
“Self-possession, in his dreadful position, signified, to their minds, the stark insensibility of a heartless and shameless criminal, and afforded in itself a presumption, not of innocence, but of guilt.”