“I won’t plague you long, Anne,” she said. “I haven’t courage to go out of the world as you seem to fear I shall. But I began my life wretchedly, and wretchedly I am sentenced to end it.”
(Poignant saying relating to fate and fatality and I love it!)
Wilkie Collins’s birthday is on January 8th. In two days’ time it will be the 191st birthday of Wilkie Collins. Perhaps I should have said that his birth in 1824 falls on a Thursday as well! So you could comprehend better that it is my obligation to state this important date (with good reason). In avoidance of doing run-of-the-mill speech of my love of Wilkie Collins’s works (novels mainly), I only conclude it in two words: crime and passion. Whether the crime comes from passion, or passion (guilt and whim of pleasure) resulted from crime, it is within expectations that all readers are destined to be gravitated by his works in passion! Isn’t it comforting to lie in bed embarking on a journey of reading his sensation novels which set behind the curtain of an ordinary middle-class domestic environment yet with foreknowledge that all vile deeds and range of fury and fate are lurking behind and enshrouded in one and every character’s daily life (while servants speaking of servitude and masters speaking of gratitude)?
In the first month of 2015 I have read some good short stories by Wilkie Collins (Brother Owen’s Story of Anne Rodway [Taken from Her Diary], and Who Killed Zebedee?), and with this one-off opportunity it is best to review one of them, which is Brother Owen’s Story of Anne Rodway (1856). This story is said to have made Dickens cry when reading it on a railway carriage.
- Never have I found so many similarities between Brother Owen’s Story of Anne Rodway and Dickens’s The Drunkard’s Death; they both effectively underline the moral issues and concerns of the dreadful alcoholic drinking in their times, and emphasise the seriousness, derangement and hazard like hell resulting from drinking and finally facing their own retribution and cruel consequences.
“Alas! such cases are of too frequent occurrence to be rare items in any man’s experience; and but too often arise from one cause– drunkenness–that fierce rage for the slow, sure poison, that oversteps every other consideration; that casts aside wife, children, friends, happiness, and station; and hurries its victims madly on to degradation and death.”…
“Listen to me, father,’ he said, in a tone that made the drunkard’s flesh creep. ‘My brother’s blood, and mine, is on your head: I never had kind look, or word, or care, from you, and alive or dead, I never will forgive you. Die when you will, or how, I will be with you. I speak as a dead man now, and I warn you, father, that as surely as you must one day stand before your Maker, so surely shall your children be there, hand in hand, to cry for judgment against you.'(The Drunkard’s Death)
In Dickens’s story, it limns the horrible grievance and hostility from the antagonist’s angle in relation to obsessive drinking and facing his own consequence in the end. In Brother Owen’s Story of Anne Rodway by Wilkie Collins, it is the telling of the wretched fate related to the birth and negligent upbringing of the girl named Mary Mallinson through the incident of the tragedy of her being murdered on the street:
“Instead of answering my questions about her step-mother and her brother, she persisted at first, in the strangest way, in talking of her father, who was dead and gone, and of one Noah Truscott, who had been the worst of all the bad friends he had, and had taught him to drink and game.“…
“The matter was left to the jury to decide by their verdict. They found him guilty of the charge of manslaughter, without the excuse of insanity. He was brought up again, and condemned to transportation for life. All he did, on hearing the dreadful sentence, was to reiterate his desperate words: “Hang me before I do more harm! Hang me, for God’s sake, out of the way!” (Brother Owen’s Story of Anne Rodway)
(It is unknown that after the verdict heard in Old Bailey he was sent to Newgate!)
- In religious side of view, Brother Owen’s Story of Anne Rodway echoes Wilkie’s childhood of his family life (at least to me), mainly engineered and instructed by his father who is a devout Protestant, and also in his lifetime, apart from being as a painter, finds way in bettering himself with knowledge and enlightenment for intimacy and communication with God by enhancing his understandings of doctrines of “Oxford Movement” and “Speaking of tongues”.
“Robert agrees with me that the hand of Providence must have guided my steps to that shop from which all the discoveries since made took their rise. He says he believes we are the instruments of effecting a righteous retribution; and, if he spends his last farthing, he will have the investigation brought to its full end in a court of justice.”
- Beadle also seems to play an effective role in giving out assistance to Anne Rodway’s needs. For more reference please read Dickens’s Sketches by Boz (I also have to read and finish this book someday too!)
“The doctor was the first friend I thought of; but I knew he was always out seeing his patients of an afternoon. The beadle was the next person who came into my head. He had the look of being a very dignified, unapproachable kind of man when he came about the inquest…”
“Most fortunately, I found him at home. When I told him of the landlord’s infamous threats, and of the misery I was suffering in consequence of them, he rose up with a stamp of his foot, and sent for his gold-laced cocked hat that he wears on Sundays, and his long cane with the ivory top to it.”
“Landlord!” he cries, the moment he gets into the passage, with a thump of his cane on the floor, “landlord!” with a look all round him as if he was King of England calling to a beast, “come out!”
“The moment the landlord came out and saw who it was, his eye fixed on the cocked hat, and he turned as pale as ashes.”(Brother Owen’s Story of Anne Rodway)
- Apart from that, I also found Brother Owen’s Story of Anne Rodway comparable to The Law and the Lady written by Collins in 1875; both have female detectives and male sidekicks in resolving the mystery.
Hope this post plays fair to Wilkie Collins. I dedicate this post to him!