The French spelling of my name (Lefranc) was Anglicized generations since–in the days when the letter “k” was still used in England at the end of words which now terminate in “c.” We hold our heads high, nevertheless, as a Jersey family. It is to this day a trial to my father to hear his son described as a member of the English bar.

300x300_9781557423047After haven’t been visiting Wilkie’s works for so long, and now returning to those s rewarding as well as riveting. There are so many elements relating to the crime, passion, and style of narration of sensation novels  that wholly impale and enliven me into the core heart. The most engrossing part in his novels is that each one has its own invaluable legacy and prides itself to leave us something to learn from, according to those pieces of knowledgeable, historical accounts and events contained within – Basil instills Margaret Sherwin as being one of the finest adulterous women in sensation fiction; Poor Miss Finch deals with mental conditions of persons inflicted with blindness and the notion of medical use in applying silver nitrate in cure of epilepsy; Man and Wife arduously magnifies the vice of irregular marriage laws in Ireland and Scotland based on the poignant nuptial court case between William Yelverton and Theresa Longworth

Despite the mystery clouded over his personal life, Wilkie Collins’s novels are actually my main route and pathway into understanding the social conditions and status of women in Victoria era.

I initiate to open the first page of The Dead Alive  so as to seek some inspirations and knowledge of the term “premature burial”, which overwhelmed and instigates people’s anxiety to an inexplicable extent in the olden days.  Safety coffins were invented with mechanical devices complemented with careful measures onto the coffins. A bell was attached to the inferred and oxygen was at once pumped through should the bell ring. Edgar Allen Poe was a high-profile author who had fear of being buried alive (taphophobia), which inspired him to have written quite a number of horror stories on this notion. These days the phobia implicates the notion of claustrophobia.

However, The Dead Alive is not in any way related to this. It is about the alleged murder of an overlooker of a farm operated by the Meadowcroft  family in America, which leads to the suspicion, confessions, and conviction of the two brothers that he worked for. What makes it worse, the past hatred towards each other and altercation made the prosecution and evidence more or less substantiated. The story is based on the notorious “strange case” – “The Trial, Confessions, and Conviction of Jesse and Stephen Boorn for the Murder of Russell Colvin, and the Return of the Man supposed to have been murdered. By Hon. Leonard Sargeant, Ex-Lieutenant Governor of Vermont. (Manchester, Vermont, Journal Book and Job Office, 1873.).” The Dead Alive is seasoned and featured with genuine American feisty but helpless girl named Naomi Colebrook under the much-admired limelight in narrator’s eyes, as well as the eccentric middle-aged widow without visible attration, Miss Meadowcroft.

It may not be amiss to add, for the benefit of incredulous readers, that all the “improbable events” in the story are matters of fact, taken from the printed narrative. Anything which “looks like truth” is, in nine cases out of ten, the invention of the author.–W. C.

Entertaining read as usual, and I was traumatised and extorted with terror to see what would happen next yesterday.

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