My Lady’s Money (1878) by Wilkie Collins

FatLady
I need to pick this Singing Lady from Harry Potter to be the cover picture of the post as she reminds me of the Lady in the novel! (photo credit from https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Fat_Lady)

Although My Lady’s Money (1878) by Wilkie Collins is a relatively short story compared with his other works, it is still instilled with a few Wilkie Collins’s elements. It is teeming with social objects, care and observations of undistinguished persons of his contemporaries and this novel really deserves some recognition.

Mr. Troy made no answer. In the melancholy experience of humanity to which his profession condemned him, he had seen conscious guilt assume the face of innocence, and helpless innocence admit the disguise of guilt: the keenest observation, in either case, failing completely to detect the truth.

This story draws the quotidian misconceptions and societal mores which exist in everyday life. Hearing the cousin of Late Husband, James Tollmidge, passed away, Lady Lydiard decided to draw out her 500-pound bank note in order to support financially Tollmidge’s family, but to enclose it in a letter anonymously and get it dispatched to the clergyman’s hands. As the letter was left unsealed on the table when being called upon an emergency concerning the health of her canine friend Tommie, the bank note was found missing when it was communicated to the clergyman’s hands. As visitors came and went, all persons who were present before the letter was sent were all suspected of theft. Through the interrogations of Mr. Troy, Lady Lydiard’s lawyer, a person was pointed out as the only suspect of theft – Isabel Miller, a young girl who was employed as the reader, companion for almost two years, and regarded as the adopted daughter by Lady Lydiard, as she was the one who was instructed to seal the letter. However, the interrogation was devoid of comprehensive search and questioning, persons concerned who were of rank and reputation were out of the question of theft.

“Now listen. Here’s the guinea opinion: Suspect, in this case, the very last person on whom suspicion could possibly fall.” (Old Sharon)

Accidents and mystery always happen in the most hospitable roofs, appearances do not always look like what they really seem to be. If not for the obstinacy and loyalty in proving her innocence to Lady Lydiard, she would never clear her name and further investigations would not be conducted. It was not until the appearance of Old Sharon, a ragged, unconventional “detective” who gave out this useful advice that we start to see the light for the story in culminating with a satisfying conclusion.

One thing I love about Wilkie Collins’s works is that he always delineates the social standards of his times to conflict them. The Victorian moralities are always referred to and appreciated these days but fiction writers of those times were always looking for all points of contemporary perspectives and mores, observing and accepting the irregularities, constructing their points, refuting, debunking, and wrestling with them. In the case of this story, it tackles the misconceptions that a person with ranks and said reputations should be much respected and devoid of wrongdoings. One of the most interesting scenes in the novel is the interaction between Miss Pink and Lady Lydiard. Miss Pink, a retired schoolmistress of a young girls’ academy, and the aunt of Isabel Miller, is the character who is exactly the anomaly and juxtaposition of Lady Lydiard. She is absent of title and rank but she desires it, she imitates the proprieties, refined but ostensible qualities which she considers as the criteria that only a titled person would acquire. “Miss Pink’s highly-trained conversation had perhaps one fault – it was not, strictly speaking, conversation at all. In its effect on her hearers it rather resembled the contents of a fluently conventional letter, read aloud.”Placing the primness and pride on top she was overwhelmed with shock concerning her meeting with Lady Lydiard with her “coarse terms and vulgarities”.  Miss Pink and Lady Lydiard are respectively the living images of South Morden (a dull remote countryside) and London (a vivacious and fast-paced capital).  Despite a place with its beautiful and pastoral nature its residents do not constitute it to become a desirable place of abode as it seems.

Thus far he had stood apart, watching her and listening to her in silence. Not a look that had crossed her face, not a word that had fallen from her, had escaped him. Unconsciously on her side, unconsciously on his side, she now wrought on his nature with a purifying and ennobling influence which animated it with a new life. All that had been selfish and violent in his passion for her left him to return no more. The immeasurable devotion which he laid at her feet, in the days that were yet to come – the unyielding courage which cheerfully accepted the sacrifice of himself when events demanded it at a later period of his life – struck root in him now. Without attempting to conceal the tears that were falling fast over his cheeks – striving vainly to express those new thoughts in him that were beyond the reach of words—he stood before her the truest friend and servant that ever woman had.

In Wilkie Collins works, he occasionally upholds dispositions of vibrancy and energy like P. G. Wodehouse concerning the aged and elderly. For example, Bertram Wooster always describing his aunts as “aged relatives” but when troubles get them, they could fiercely steam up their temper like a boiled teapot. Not without mentioning Hon. Galahad, in the case, a friendly and energetic raconteur in the Blandings series, one of my favourite characters apart from Frederick Threepwood.

“Cousins!” exclaimed her Ladyship, suddenly descending from the lofty ranges of sentiment to the low. “I hate the very name of them! A person who is near enough to me to be my relation and far enough off from me to be my sweetheart, is a double-faced sort of person that I don’t like. Let’s get back to the widow and her sons. How much do they want?”

In My Lady’s Money, characters in old age are in no way undermined as dull. They are full of energy and they know how they live their lives.

Although you might have never heard of a short story named A Step in the Dark by Kate Eyre (serialied in Cassell’s Magazine in 1887) , but Lady Lydiard really resonates the pleasant personalities of Lady Vane in person (a woman in her eighties), and I would quote one passage here,

Somehow it saddened me to watch her, Why, I can hardly tell, possible only because it is not what one looks for in a woman of her age. Yet with all her worldliness, her bitter tongue, and her love of sarcasm, I doubt if Lady Vane is any worse than many a sedate old dame, correct in manner, but hard of heart. Seldom indeed does her ladyship turn a deaf ear to the poor and needy- always provided the poor and needy do not come to her in the guise of relations – but the fact that her gifts are nearly always accompanied by cruel, stinging words, takes away from them much of their charm…

And this is a description about this mischievous Lady Lydiard,

Accurately described, Lord Lydiard’s widow was short and fat, and, in the matter of age, perilously near her sixtieth birthday. But it may be said, without paying a compliment, that she looked younger than her age by ten years at least. Her complexion was of that delicate pink tinge which is sometimes seen in old women with well-preserved constitutions. Her eyes (equally well preserved) were of that hard light blue color which wears well, and does not wash out when tried by the test of tears. Add to this her short nose, her plump cheeks that set wrinkles at defiance, her white hair dressed in stiff little curls; and, if a doll could grow old, Lady Lydiard, at sixty, would have been the living image of that doll, taking life easily on its journey downwards to the prettiest of tombs, in a burial-ground where the myrtles and roses grew all the year round.

Not only Lady Lydiard but also Robert Moody, the Lady’s steward, is a great and important character in the novel. Although in a relatively old age comparing with the youngsters in the story, he is always maturing and transforming, just like the protagonist in a bildungsroman novel. In the beginning he is a lackadaisical steward whose love we find is always unrequited; but till the middle of the story, when the theft incident happens, he becomes a revered, patient, committed, and a noble warrior of love. This is the power Wilkie Collins instilling to the aged and the underprivileged in all his works. Although the characters are of frail bodies but they are not the faint-hearted. Last but not least, the story has the exemplary ending of consolation and refuge for the soul of a reader.

Good-by to Miss Pink—who will regret to her dying day that Isabel’s answer to Hardyman was No.

Good-by to Lady Lydiard—who differs with Miss Pink, and would have regretted it, to her dying day, if the answer had been Yes.

Good-by to Moody and Isabel—whose history has closed with the closing of the clergyman’s book on their wedding-day.

Good-by to Hardyman—who has sold his farm and his horses, and has begun a new life among the famous fast trotters of America.

Good-by to Old Sharon—who, a martyr to his promise, brushed his hair and washed his face in honor of Moody’s marriage; and catching a severe cold as the necessary consequence, declared, in the intervals of sneezing, that he would “never do it again.”

And last, not least, good-by to Tommie? No. The writer gave Tommie his dinner not half an hour since, and is too fond of him to say good-by.

 

Mrs Zant and the Ghost by Wilkie Collins

In Mrs Zant and the Ghost (The Ghost’s Touch), Wilkie Collins implies two concepts or conflicts of the contemporaries: supernatural vision of persons and the agreed matrimonial act imposed by an ecclesiastical belief.

In the story, protagonist, Mr Rayburn, and his daughter, Lucy, encountered a young lady (Mrs Zant) in Kensington Gardens whom they believed was distressed by agitation and troubled by illness. Mrs Zant seemed to overlook their presence but approached them, saw through them with an unspeakable fear. Intrigued by her presence and concerned about her helplessness, Mr Zant followed her to a lodging house with his daughter and contrived to find out the truth. Through Mrs Zant epistolary confession, she experienced a certain kind of vision, not by sight but by feelings. While she wandered under the tree, she felt everything in reality disappeared before her eyes, every sound of hearing among the surroundings was completely erased and only her sense remains. “I felt an Invisible Presence near me. It touched me gently.” The unknown entity touched and embraced her and she felt a rapture of joy. She acknowledged the unknown entity to be her husband, who died of consumption (or the overdose of sleeping drops) after they had not married to each other for long. According to the letter to Mr Rayburn, she returned to the Park for the first time since she had convalesced from brain fever; and this was the place where she used to take a stroll with Mr Zant when they were betrothed.

“Judged from the point of view of the materialist, Mrs. Zant might no doubt be the victim of illusions (produced by a diseased state of the nervous system), which have been known to exist — as in the celebrated case of the book-seller, Nicolai, of Berlin — without being accompanied by derangement of the intellectual powers.”

In this story, Wilkie Collins mentioned the case of Nicolai, who had seen supernatural figures during the days incessantly, for two years, while his habitual treatment of bloodletting was ceased. One morning in February 1791, out of his nervous mood and annoyance with his business, he saw phantasms for the first time, which were only seen by him, and did what the mortals did in the daytime at the market – transacting businesses, some were even on horsebacks, and some were with dogs. The figures also spoke to him occasionally. It seemed like a pleasing view, a normal spectra. But once he applied bloodletting again, the phantasms never reappeared. There was a paper of his called “A Memoir on the Appearance of Spectres or Phantoms occasioned by Disease“, in which Nicolai acknowledged that this vision was subjected to his bodily ailments, “the whole panorama was exhibited on his own retina, and the working brain behind was the manager and scene-shifter of the show”. Compared with this context, Mrs Zant did not reflect what her passing fancies of her brain into her vision, but according to the preface of the story, a plausible and unknown supernatural presence “reached mortal knowledge through the sense which is least easily self-deceived: the sense that feels”. In Wilkie Collins’s contemporaries, illusions and ghostly encounters were gradually superseded by scientific explanation under the progression of secularism, but in my point of view, Wilkie Collins really tried to ascertain that every man is certainly with feeling, and immortality, supernatural entities, religions, and superstitions are still some requisite components to propel his stories in reflecting the beauty of fate, faith, hope, and a belief which can constitute humans value better virtue, and even exert a moral and fatal punishment on the misdeeds, just as what we had read in Man and Wife, The Two Destinies, and The Moonstone.

“In his way of thinking, if one man may marry his wife’s sister, and no harm done, where’s the objection if another man pays a compliment to the family, and marries his brother’s widow? My master, if you please, is that other man. Take the widow away before she marries him.”

As we had read in Wilkie Collins’s novels, he was concerned much about the welfare and state of women in their matrimonial lives. In Man and Wife, a doubt arises in Scotland on couples that could be announced as husband and wife legally when the third witness is present, as well as mentioning the case of Irregular Marriage in Ireland. In Woman in White, we learn the unfair Married Women’s Property Act in Victorian England; however in Evil Genius, we see lenience towards the fairer sex in marriage act concerning the divorced law implemented in Scotland.

In the case of Mrs Zant and the Ghost, the story touches the subject of Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act, which stipulated in 1835 that a widower was illegal to marry the late wife’s sister. It was considered incestuous as husband and wife were made one flesh upon marriage. However, perhaps as to be seen more “protective” to women and due to “moral” concerns, a widow was allowed to be married into a husband’s brother’s household. In this opinion, it was based on the fact that the in-law family needed the wife to conceive of a future heir, or to accept the in-law daughter under a roof so that she would not be left destitute. This act was not repealed until 1905. It is a shame I have not read it, but Dinah Maria Craik and Felicia Skene wrote Hannah and Inheritance of Evil Or, the Consequences of Marrying a Deceased Wife’s Sister, respectively, based on this law. In Mrs Zant and the Ghost, Wilkie Collins, in my point of view, might be questioning the Parliament if this act of “levirate marriage” was really without consequences and if it was really in every nuptial case without misdeeds and immoral motives on the male’s part.

In this story, we can see again another case of Wilkie Collin’s challenging the contemporaries. Although Mrs Zant and the Ghost might not be an eye-catcher compared with his other works, but all works could be treated as gems if they are to be digged diligently.

Wilkie Collins – My Soul Asylum

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The Cliff Path, by Edmund Leighton

I haven’t read Wilkie Collins’s works for a while, as there are some books I think I have been wanting to read for long, I have accomplished some of them, but some are still left on the shelf. Honestly as reading those novels, the emotions are not as strong as reading Wilkie Collins’s stories. There is always a time I feel I need to go back to the basics and get to read some of his books again; especially recently I am finding myself at lost, feeling listless when I am back home. I do not have much social life, do not know where to go to and what to do apart from my assiduous nature to work, work, work.

When in solitude, I resort and correspond myself to the characters of Wilkie Collins’s works. He is an irreplaceable author and occupies a significant portion in my reading world. Some characters are too Eccentric and feel at ease only on their own. Being of course the essential and indispensable existence of the books, the stories which are full of sensation and mystery would not be so much fascinating and absorbing without them. On the other hand, on an emphatic scale, they are eagerly waiting to have someone who is willing to delve into their minds and understand their poignancy. As a reader, eccentricity in Wilkie Collins’s stories is one of the most tantalizing aspects and always ends up to be my favourite part of the plots. I get to know and feel the characters through their confessions, their monologues and epistolary writings. Rosanna Spearman and Ezra Jennings from The Moonstone, Hester Dethridge from Man and Wife, Sarah Leeson from The Dead Secret, Miserrimus Dexter from The Law and the Lady, Miss Dunross from The Two Destinies, and so forth. They are always alone, they are phlegmatic, full of regrets, and they long to love and admire a person, to be forgiven of the sins that had committed in the past, to be accepted and respected by whoever that is tolerant enough and has a big heart. As a quote from one of Wilkie Collins’s novel, everyone tends to have a time who is prone to be alone, to observe the aura and the surrounding atmosphere. It is impossible of a person who had grown up and been in solitary moments is not stirred in emotions by the eccentric characters that Wilkie Collins protrays. Being in solitude is the moment in real life that you can develop an unique self.

They are not sociable; they are hardly ever seen to make acquaintance with each other; perhaps they are shame-faced, or proud, or sullen; perhaps they despair of others, being accustomed to despair of themselves; perhaps they have their reasons for never venturing to encounter curiosity, or their vices which dread detection, or their virtues which suffer hardship with the resignation that is sufficient for itself. (I Say No, Wilkie Collins)

Reading Wilkie Collins’s stories, you read about Reconciliation. That is why you always have a good feeling when reaching the end of the stories. In Hide and Seek, there are regrets for readers, of course, that the unrequited love on the aspects of man-and-woman endearment between Madonna and Zack is not fulfilled in the end though it is compensated with the most affectionate tenderness. However, more importantly, it is the comradeship between Matthew Grice and Zack Thorpe that should be considered and regarded as the best solution in the story. The friendship is subtle in the beginning but grows into a passionate nature in the end emphasizing with that astounding secret they share. Even between The Two Destinies, the common feature of reconciliation in the end is similar – the separation, the rumination, the abandonment of oneself into an unknown place, and finally, the undying, limitless love, and the recognition of one to another. There is no wordy decoration, the recognition of love is simple, straight-toward and without pretension. That is why I always adore Wilkie Collins’s writing.

The time came; and on either side, the two comrades of former days — in years so far apart, in sympathies so close together — lived to look each other in the face again. The solitude which had once hardened Matthew Grice, had wrought on him, in his riper age, to better and higher ends. In all his later roamings, the tie which had bound him to those sacred human interests in which we live and move and have our being — the tie which he himself believed that he had broken — held fast to him still. His grim, scarred face softened, his heavy hand trembled in the friendly grasp that held it, as Zack pleaded with him once more; and, this time, pleaded not in vain.

“I’ve never been my own man again” said Mat, “since you and me wished each other good-bye on the sandhills. The lonesome places have got strange to me — and my rifle’s heavier in hand than ever I knew it before. There’s some part of myself that seems left behind like, between Mary’s grave and Mary’s child. Must I cross the seas again to find it? Give us hold of your hand, Zack — and take the leavings of me back, along with you.” (Hide and Seek, Wilkie Collins)

Another essence is the Empowerment in Wilkie Collins’s stories. Talking about empowerment, I mean a woman’s empowerment, a progress of self-realization and enlightenment, a consciousness that a heroine can believe herself as she has the ability to execute her power, to achieve and accomplish, and an ability to be her own self. A heroine can also be reticent and sufficient to protect and defend what she thinks is right, which it should not be regarded as sacrifice but a moral act. For instance, in The Law and the Lady, isn’t Valerie the propeller to assert her husband’s innocence against the notorious verdict of “not proven” in that case? In Man and Wife, Anne Silvester is a strong character who is initially teeming with ambivalence of whether to submit or to defend the dignity of herself against the protagonist’s control which she finds that the harmful relationship has been eclipsing her own free will. In the end, she toughens herself. The disposition of the heroines in Wilkie Collins’s might not be uncommon in his contemporaries, but it is the enlightenment of a woman who is resilient and satisfied at the same time that she could decide her life on her own. It is not important to focus on whether a woman could set to be free from a man’s life in the end, but it is important that a woman has a story, has a past, can think proactively, and gets to have an opportunity to explore and execute her power.

The first instinct of girls in general, on being told of anything which interests them, is to ask a multitude of questions, and then to run off, and talk it all over with some favourite friend. Rachel Verinder’s first instinct, under similar circumstances, was to shut herself up in her own mind, and to think it over by herself. This absolute self-dependence is a great virtue in a man. In a woman it has a serious drawback of morally separating her from the mass of her sex, and so exposing her to misconstruction by the general opinion. (The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins)

I might not be focusing on Wilkie Collins’s works on literary aspects, but these are some of the reasons for my love of his works; that he is considerate and treats every character as an individual, which also includes us readers. It is his contrivances of genuineness, virtue and beauty to compose a story that moves me.

The Legacy of Cain (1888) by Wilkie Collins

Millais, John Everett, 1829-1896; The Twins, Kate and Grace Hoare
The Twins, Kate and Grace Hoare, by John Everett Millais

“I resigned myself to recognize the existence of the hereditary maternal taint, I firmly believed in the counterbalancing influences for good which had been part of the girl’s birthright…With the great, the vital transformation, which marks the ripening of the girl into the woman’s maturity of thought and passion, a new power for Good, strong enough to resist the latent power for Evil, sprang into being, and sheltered Eunice under the supremacy of Love.”  – The Governor

The Legacy of Cain, a book with a name of biblical connotation, written by Wilkie Collins in his late years, is another novel carried out with a “mission”. This book actually tries to elaborate some of his published works that he touched on before; but the main theme here is the argument over the term of hereditary moral characteristics (nature). One’s reputation is important, once ruined it is irretrievable, which will then be passed on to next generations. Its reputation is not confined to pecuniary deterioration as in other novels of the contemporaries, but it is actually the ruin of moral character. It might be genetically shared and looked down upon by the general public. Wilkie Collins explicates that this might not necessarily be the case. In many Victorian novels, many protagonists forbear and defeat destitution through diligence and fortitude. In Legacy of Cain, under the general stigma regarding the passing of motherly sins and characteristics to the daughter, positive nurture and upbringing however prepare heroines to forbear future obstacles. Most importantly, it is of her individual cultivation of good and inner strength which assist her to confront the hardship in the end. In general it is individual virtue and peace of triumphing the bad and public stigma.

“There are inherent emotional forces in humanity to which the inherited influences must submit; they are essentially influences under control – influences which can be encountered and forced back. That we, who inhabit this little planet, may be the doomed creatures of fatality, from the cradle to the grave, I am not prepared to dispute. But I absolutely refuse to believe that it is a fatality with no higher origin than can be found in our accidental obligation to our fathers and mothers.”  – The Governor

One of the obstacles in The Legacy of Cain is human emotions. The intense plot constitutes a sisterly competition for the love of a handsome but a weak gentleman of a respectable background. It echoes a resemblance of the charismatic preacher, Mr Miles Mirabel in I Say No.

The story-line and characters induce a bit of interaction and guesswork for readers. For example, I keep guessing who is the daughter of a ruined mother as well as the adopted one in the family. Of course, it is a test which tempts and reveals to readers that their judgement are not always the truth. Eunice is the simple-minded character in the beginning. She is more impressionable than her sister, Helena. Helena, on the other hand, shines and always contrives to win others’ heart over Eunice with her cleverness and beauty (You might have guessed it correctly who the adopted daughter is! But you know, once you are indulged in Wilkie’s narratives, it is not easy to see 🙂 ). This didactic approach might remind readers of Man and Wife, in that case, athleticism – the revival of manly virtue is set to compete against personal nourishment of virtue in good and kindness. In Legacy of Cain, it is the artifice of beauty against the unblemished virtue of humility in competition of love and confrontation of obstacles.

To compete for one’s love turns out ugly; it derives an emotional force which overrides hereditary morality, and is one of the most tainted, fatal and incurable flaws existing in human nature – an emotion of jealousy. Jealousy is the tool in the story which induces one’s rage, fury, and desperation so as to unveil mortal masquerades and to see clearly of the counterbalancing and conflict of intrinsic good and evil in an individual’s heart and character. In Eunice’s case, she lets jealousy subside instead of linger. She chooses the “giving-up-and forgiven-all” attitude to her sister Helena as well as to her lover. It might be an exemplary virtue which is always exhibited in many pure female characters in Wilkie Collins’s works – the considerate, and caring ones in the family, a character who has gone through a process to enlightenment and self-realisation to become a better person – it might be heart-wrenching; however, readers who are familiar with Wilkie Collins’s stories would know him to be a considerate author as he always gets you a warm feeling to know that fate is destined to restore true lovers in the end.

I hope Penguin, Oxford and other publishers could do more Wilkie’s titles with introduction and explanatory notes. I am running out of ideas!

The Mystery of Charles Dickens: A Tale of Mesmerism and Murder by John Paulits

9781780921778Between 1844 an 1845, during the time of Dickens’ excursion with his family, he was acquainted with the de la Rues in Genoa. Emile de la Rue, a Swiss banker, confided to Dickens that his English wife Augusta was having troubles with facial tics and sleepless nights. Taught by Dr. Elliotson in London, Dickens returned to Genoa and underwent sessions of mesmerism to put Augusta into a trance-like state, so that she could be cured during the process of awakening and dreaming. However, the One and Only Dickens, the Great Original, the master that all men great and small who gravitated towards this resplendent being, was defeated in this one and only circumstance. During the trance, Augusta divulged to Dickens that she was actually haunted by a “phantom” in her subconscious mind, and little was known by Dickens that twenty-five years later, in doing the justice to the Swiss banker’s wife, and having a righteousness in mind to uncover the deepest depth of a gruesome truth in writing the Mystery of Edwin Drood (what excitement to find out this name is a play of anagram!), the inescapable jeopardy was awaiting Dickens to meet his accursed end.

“You have caused these attacks. You are the source of these attacks. Do not sit there and act as if your wife’s attacks are but a small price to pay to possess the likes of you! You talk as if you were some rare and precious prize. What you have done is to destroy the woman’s peace of mind, her health, and her stability.”(p. 122)

The Mystery of Charles Dickens is one of the most interesting books I have read. One of the aspects which makes this book unforgettable is that there is a great juxtaposition drawn between the nuptial/familial affections of Dickens’ and that of de la Rues. Some dialogues actually remind me of the biographies and fiction I read about Dickens with his wife Catherine.  In Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold, Catherine is also portrayed as an insecure wife, suffered from indisposition and stuck in a rotation of birth-giving confinement. In truth, before the separation in 1858, Dickens even made his instructions to set up a partition wall in the bedroom and accused of Catherine being suffered from mental disorder. In The Mystery of Charles Dickens, Catherine is more belligerent and acrimonious to Dickens, perhaps used to illustrate Dickens being the restless and unique character in search of the truth and justice in this mystery. But still, both Catherine Dickens and Augusta de la Rue were victims in a way that their misfortune was self-disguised as blessings that they believed the total darkness of their lives was illuminated by a rare and precious light like their husbands, but the truth is that the relationships were actually a deception, a psychological detriment, and they were only seen as impressionable beings.

“Dickens seemed now to control the very respiration of his audience. There were passages where taking a breath, making a disturbance, however slight, would have been a sacrilegious impossibility.” (p.138)

On the other aspect, Dickens, when put onto paper in fiction, biographies, and projected on screens as the protagonist of possessing restless and inquisitive mind, is a character who makes one very excitable to dissect, devour, and admire in words. “Dickens’ command over his audience amazed de la Rue. The Room no longer seemed a collection of individuals but had become one attentive thing, pushed, pulled, driven, frightened, amused, and entertained by the man in the small circle of light.” (p. 138) I really enjoy reading these kinds of enlivened passages in the book narrating Dickens with his reading desks, citing aloud his works during his farewell reading performances on stage, and every time he has read the murder scene of Nancy by Sikes in Oliver Twist, Dickens was described as being too exhausted and overwrought that he needed to stagger off from the stage being flanked by two men in assistance.

Vengeance plays a major part in the book. There is Dickens’s vengeance against Emile de la Rue’s immoral filth that he needed to make it come alive in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (admittedly I still haven’t read it), and on the other side, Emile de la Rue’s mistaken vengeance against Dickens for ruining his life and hopeful possibility to attain a high social status in London is ubquitious in the story. Emile de la Rue’s sinful tramps around Rochester is especially making one feel really tense while reading it, even better than the mesmerising chapters on Augusta (I find some dialogues quite humourous, especially the bits when Dickens was convinced he had a great pair of visual rays that could subdue Augusta). Emile was really one of a rogue in the book, and those chapters make me really want to explore Gad’s Hill once in a lifetime. (Although I think it has been turned to a school for a long time but I really hope someday I could visit this place).

By the way, Dr Elliotson is also another interesting person in the book, apart from him being an expert of mesmerist, little did I know he was also an eminent phrenologist. But most importantly, he actually underwent a successful operation of amputating a patient’s penis using mesmerism as an anesthetic. So, one must get hold of this book to dig more information!

Hide and Seek by Wilkie Collins (quote 2)

Our faculties are never more completely at the mercy of the smallest interests of our being, than when they appear to be most fully absorbed by the mightiest. And it is well for us that there exists this seeming imperfection in our nature. The first cure of many a grief, after the hour of parting, or in the house of death, has begun, insensibly to ourselves, with the first moment when we were betrayed into thinking of so little a thing even as a daily meal.

Hide and Seek by Wilkie Collins (quote)

Nothing was more characteristic of Mrs. Blyth’s warm sympathies and affectionate consideration for Madonna than this little action. The kindest people rarely think it necessary, however well practiced in communicating by the fingers with the deaf, to keep them informed of any ordinary conversation which may be proceeding in their presence. Wise disquisitions, witty sayings, curious stories, are conveyed to their minds by sympathizing friends and relatives, as a matter of course; but the little chatty nothings of everyday talk, which most pleasantly and constantly employ our speaking and address our hearing faculties, are thought too slight and fugitive in their nature to be worthy of transmission by interpreting fingers or pens, and are consequently seldom or never communicated to the deaf. No deprivation attending their affliction is more severely felt by them than the special deprivation which thus ensues; and which exiles their sympathies, in a great measure, from all share in the familiar social interests of life around them.

Hide and Seek, Wilkie Collins