The Invisible Woman (the movie)

Felicity Jones Ralph Fiennes

Finally I have watched The Invisible Woman at home! Very enjoyable it is! I like the concern with the moral issues in the 19th century. Moreover it is so rewarding to see Wilkie Collins and Caroline Graves appearing in the movie. It is so informative in a way that I always need to browse the speeches and quotes in between the movie on the internet, in this case I could know where they originally come from. Here are my favourite moments and quotes I have encountered while watching the movie.

The Frozen Deep (Finale):

“This is a tale of woe, this is a tale of sorrow, a love denied, a love restored to live beyond tomorrow. Lest we think silence is the place to hide a heavy heart, remember to love and be loved is life itself, without which we are naught.”

Getting out of Park Cottage:

“God looked leniently on all vice that proceeded from human tenderness and natural passion.”

Great Expectations:

“Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since – on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to displace with your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation I associate you only with the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you!”

The London Times:

“Some domestic trouble of mine, of long-standing, on which I will make no further remark than that it claims to be respected, as being of a sacredly private nature, has lately been brought to an arrangement, which involves no anger or ill-will of any kind, and the whole origin, progress, and surrounding circumstances of which have been, throughout, within the knowledge of my children. It is amicably composed, and its details have now to be forgotten by those concerned in it.

By some means, arising out of wickedness, or out of folly, or out of inconceivable wild chance, or out of all three, this trouble has been made the occasion of misrepresentations, most grossly false, most monstrous, and most cruel—involving, not only me, but innocent persons dear to my heart, and innocent persons of whom I have no knowledge, if, indeed, they have any existence—and so widely spread, that I doubt if one reader in a thousand will peruse these lines, by whom some touch of the breath of these slanders will not have passed, like an unwholesome air…”

The Invisible Woman (Book Review 6) – Final thoughts

Ellen_TernanClaire Tomalin, in her final chapters, summarises about the reasons and the motives that might cause Dickens irretrievably embroiled in the love with Nelly Ternan. First, it would be because of the nature of vulgarity that Dickens and Nelly both shared. As Tomalin said, “Vulgarity belonged to the class from which Dickens sprung and was deeply ingrained in him”, as for Nelly, as one of the Gaslight Fairies, she was, as Kate Perugini once stated, different from the traditional Victorian women of the time in defying the conventionality and was free as a bird in the theatrical world where the actresses indulged themselves into hard play. It was certainly  the field that Dickens was interested in too. So in this case as Dickens was disenchanted and demystified with Catherine all these years, he must be seeking some merriment and juvenile nature in him in 47, Nelly would be a good replacement for Dickens’s amusement, who Dickens must have mystified and fantasied about her at start. She also had Little Nell’s (The Old Curiosity Shop) flawless and compassionate vibe on the hardship and loss of a parent she had to endure at a very young age.

Secondly, Nelly reminded of and recalled the resemblance of Kate. Dickens’s daughter Kate was the favourite child of all his and they were also of the same age. Kate must have disappointed Dickens always; she befriended with John Everett Millais, a member of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and married Charles Allston Collins, a fragile brother of Wilkie, those incidents might have aroused Dickens’s detest. Provided with Kate’s outspoken and determined nature, Nelly who was somewhat similar to Kate, who were both 27 years Dickens’s junior, must have attracted Dickens’s attention, and treated Nelly as an affection of daughterliness.

However, something about their relationship was handled so discreetly. I think it was because they both concerned about their reputation of one another. If their relationship was revealed at some point, it would be scandalous because Dickens just separated from Catherine, provided that he was the greatest writer of the time doing so much charity work for women, the affair must be unendurable (as similar as the philanthropic irony in Bleak House?) , his personal and literary reputation would be disputed, and on the other hand, Ternan was still young and still in her 30s in 1870s, her affairs with Dickens would also considerably ruined her reputation. She later on in the marriage to her husband she reported to have lied about her age 10 years younger and concealed the affair to her children Geoffrey and Gladys until her death. I don’t know if it is a good explanation and don’t know why Wilkie would have two mistresses, but I guess it is the case of social perception like adultery in Victorian era. Or that they were resolute to reveal it upon Catherine’s death but it never worked out because Dickens’s death was earlier than Catherine’s.

I didn’t digest this biography completely and still have many points missing out but I really like this book because I found myself eager to do some research on the people who came across in this book when I was reading along, for example, it dug my curiosity on the relationship between Dickens’s and his children, his relationship between other fellow writers, some other historic accounts like Staplehurst Accident, as well as some anecdotes of the Royal History like William IV. Moreover, I like this book’s direction and narrative. Its main focus was not on Dickens but on Nelly’s life and the theatrical world in the 19th century, and underline the poignancy and struggle of women in that industry of the time. I have learnt so much from this book and love every bit of it!


I have got more biographies: Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation by Andrew Lycett, and Effie by Suzanne Fagence Cooper. Can’t wait to read and share them all!


Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins

9780199538171Undoubtedly Post-1865 Man and Wife is another Wilkie Collins masterpiece, and I am not in the slightest doubt that he will always be my favourite authors of all no matters how many authors I have read in my life.

I love reading Wilkie’s novels published by Oxford World’s Classics because apart from its beautiful covers (source of my interest in Pre-Raphaelite art) I would always go back to the introductory pages after finishing the novels, in which a lot of background information about the novels and the social circumstances are stated and described in great details. According to these pages, I have gathered that Man and Wife was inspired by the nuptial case between William Yelverton and Theresa Longworth. They were Protestant and Roman Catholic respectively; however they stated their vows before a Catholic priest and married in Ireland, and they soon found that the ceremony was actually announced null and void. This irregular marriage case somehow brought the adoption of Married Women’s Property Act and the reform of Irish and Scotland’s scandalous marriage law. Fascinating facts!

In this novel, Wilkie actually had a mission of narrating, of which one is called “Athleticism” – that was mentioned in the preface:

Is no protest needed, in the interests of civilization, against a revival of barbarism among us, which asserts itself to be a revival of manly virtue, and finds human stupidity actually dense enough to admit the claim?

That he stated that in society that everything emphasized the heroism of athletic morals he could undoubtedly find a material epitome in writing the character of Geoffrey. I think that was why Wilkie comparably chose Sir Patrick with physical flaws to be the hero of the novel. His stance was actually detailed in the beginning chapters of the dialogue between Sir Patrick and Geoffrey Delamayn, for example, would Geoffrey’s moral thoughts win over his physical attributes when there was something disadvantageous, especially mercenary matters, got in his way? Impossible especially in uncommon risks stood before him that he could definitely resort his evil means resulted in unforgivable crimes. With Geoffrey’s betrayal to Arnold Brinkworth, Sir Patrick was foreshadowing Geoffrey’s vile upcoming events with Anne Silvester. By the way the footrace chapters are actually intense and exciting that I can definitely smell the atmosphere as if I was one of the lookers-on at the field.

Apart from that, Wilkie also dealed with the moral and social issues humoredly, for example, the sarcasm on married couples’ honeymoon travelling, that no married couples would be more willing to see each other’s faces rather than beautiful scenery, unless their marriages came to a crisis. It is interesting, in this technological-advanced days what would the couples do? Upload their travelling pictures on the internet of course. Other issues were also explicitly mentioned, such as the slavery of love from woman, no matter how virtuous a woman was, she must come across a monstrous man in her life; or that in the case of vacious character of Mrs. Glenarm, for she was encountering a man who caused uproar between “assertion of her wealthy influence and “the assertion of his will”. I also love the opening lines and comments in Wilkie style of narrative when setting the scene, for instance, before commencing the talking of Lady Lundie and Mrs. Glenarm, he linked the correlation between respectability and virtue together with posture, whether it was in horizontal or perpendicular way, and I found that quite amusing.

As to the themes and psychological developments of characters of the novel, it mainly concerned 1) debt, 2) sacrifice; and 3) fate. The Debt between Anne and Blanche that already existed in the last generation (recurring but interesting story plots in Wilkie novels); and the debt between Arnold and Geoffrey were crucial in developing the sacrifice of Anne and Anrold along in the story. Only that Anne would be the sacrifice of more of an echo of her virtues and of an altruistic one but Arnold could inevitably and harmfully be linked to the betrayal subject to Geoffrey’s character and his villainy. It is especially interesting in Anne’s case as she had an ambivalent struggle between her self-respect and her sacrifice to Blanche. She protested against Mrs. Glenarm’s marriage with Geoffrey for the sake of Blanche’s welfare but at the same time she also did this for her own sake of self-preservation that herself is not married to Arnold and she is still a lady in virtues, and also a revenge to Mrs. Glenarm . But how could she respect herself to marry such a man like this? This sacrifice then accrued to the unprecedented danger of confinement and murder. Then, finally, fate was the outcome and aftermath of their choices and decisions. It seemed to be a choice of their own but it was inescapable to the fate, characters were all yielding to it. In Lady Lundie’s case debt and sacrifice was an exceptional one. Her debt was to her deceased husband and sacrifice is liable to her Christian characters.

Finally, some factors gravitated me to the world of Wilkie’s works and his trademarks, namely, the development of the characters, the rivalry, and the style of writing in his novels, undoubtedly this one as well. First of all, his novels always have some doppelgänger and double entities, this novel were Anne and Blanche, as well as paranoid delusion of Hester when she encountered the apparition of the double self. Physical deformity portrayal is also fantastical trait of Collins: Hester in Man and Wife is of the most interesting character; her deformity and seclusion  and apparent dumbness made herself eccentric in front of the others, and her isolation from society came to rescue of Anne in the end. From the first appearance of Hester I always knew there would be a revelation of her past as the story goes on. I think she reminded me of Sarah Leeson in The Dead Secret. Both are victims of men, both are servants and isolated, only that one is timid and one is “merciless”. Of course, Epistolary writing appears at some points of this novel…All hail to the King of sensation novels!

By the way, I would love the respective Publishing House could do some more Wilkie Collins’s books in future!

Poor Miss Finch: A Domestic Story – Wilkie Collins

9780199554065WILKIE Collins is certainly the writer who arouses my interests in reading Victorian literature and sensational novels, and even to be the one who triggers my love of reading. Suffice to say that since I am an addict to him, and am not a bit disappointed with this one. It only takes me four days to finish it; the plot is deadly intriguing and the characters are superbly wonderful, and simply cannot let yourself neglect it for a minute. I definitely do not regret buying it (this book is not available in the libraries of my place).

I don’t want to give the plot away, just as similar to the feeling that none would want to be spoilt by reading the Introduction pages of his books. Briefly to say, it is the story about a blind girl named Lucilla, twin brothers of Brighton (I feel guilty to write these words lest you would guess what happens next), and a woman who is  the companion of the girl; and the backdrops are mainly set in the rectory and a desolate house called Browdown which is right off the hill (interesting place that is!).

To me, the chapters about the retelling of the story of the trial told by Madam Pratolungo, the arrival to the house of the twin brother from America, and the narration of Journal belonging to the blind girl with notes and letters (epistolary writing is something we enjoy when reading Wilkie’s novels) edited and inserted by Madam Pratolungo, are the most interesting parts throughout the novel. Of all the characters, Nugent Dubourg is the most wonderful one. Similar to other villains of Wilkie Collins’s novels, he has a decent and charismatic disposition. He surely cannot be described as cunning, but skillful and clever, just as what Madam Pratolungo says. It is diverting to read the part where he cites the words of Doctor Johnson to support his argument and remonstrance towards Mr Finch of the Voice and Mrs Finch of the Wife. Right in their faces!!! He is also someone to be sorry for, and it is an agony to see him trying to win what he thinks to be destined for but unable to escape the remorse towards himself and his brother, and also the struggle between conscience and greed.

It is sad that the novel reaches the end and I certainly feel that the dialogues are still lingering and stuck in my head. Wilkie Collins is a genius.



HAVE been reading a novel by Wilkie Collins lately (cannot tell you the name yet), and the plot has been interesting and engaging so far. I have done some researches on him while reading the novel, and realised that almost every close relative of his is an inborn painter! Like father, like son, ain’t it?

Charles's impression of his elder brother Wilkie
Charles’s impression of his elder brother, Wilkie Collins

Charles Allston Collins (1828-1873) – Although he has close connection to members of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he was never made an official one. To me, he was a victim of unrequited love! After being rejected by Maria Rossetti, he was married to Dickens’s daughter, Kate.

The Good Harvest (1854)
The Good Harvest (1854)
Convent Thoughts (1850-51)
Convent Thoughts (1850-51)

Kate was also a painter of the 19th century. I believe she must be a beautiful woman as she was portrayed several times by a fascinating Pre-Raphaelite artist called John Everett Millais. Millais is one of my favourite members of the Pre-Raphaelite Club.

Kate Perguini
Kate Dickens (by Perugini)
The Black Brunswicker (1880) Kate was used as a model in the above painting by Millais
The Black Brunswicker (1880) Kate was used as a model in the painting by Millais

After Charles’s death, Kate was remarried to another artist, whose name was Charles Edward Perugini.

A painting by Perguini

So many connections right? Wilkie Collins was Dickens’s son-in-law’s brother. And who knows that Charles Dickens, in fact, didn’t like Pre-Raphaelite paintings! What an irony to him when he saw his daughter appearing on those paintings of Millais! Do you know if there were any more connections between these two novelists of the Victorian era?

Reading Progress in 2013

Finished The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins in December 2012 and still have a few more novels of WC on my To-Be-Read List (Man and Wife, The Law and the Lady and Poor Miss Finch).

Logos Hope visited Hong Kong in December 2012 and there I was, buying some books with my own intent. Although I have never read Christian books in my life, I was really excited to see Amish fiction on the bookshelves cos I always wanted to read them! However I know that many Amish books are sold in series so I didn’t dare to buy lots.

I bought some books on the ship, some of which were: (1) The Carousel Painter by Judith Miller; and (2) When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall. I am going to read them soon.

But now let me now finish Bleak House and Nothing to Envy first (two books still have a long way to go). I am longing to watch the BBC adaptation. The starring cast seems great and can’t wait for the human combustion scene! I also borrowed The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. Not sure if I’ll like it?

Wow. SO there’re so many books waiting for me in 2013!