Serialised Victorian novel written by Wilkie Collins
. Run from 1859 to 1860.
Walter Hartright, a young drawing master from Victorian London
, gets a job teaching art to two young women, half-sisters Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie, at Limmeridge house in Cumberland. He soon is tangled in a web of dastardly deeds involving an Arranged Marriage
and a Mysterious Waif
in the form of escaped mental patient Anne Catherick.
The book is often considered the first Victorian sensation novel, and has been adapted into a play, several films and an Andrew Lloyd Webber
The novel provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Count Fosco.
- Arranged Marriage: Percival Glyde to Laura Fairlie.
- Aristocrats Are Evil
- Author Appeal: Collins found the female form most beautiful when viewed from behind, so we got mention of Marian having a beautiful backside.
- Awesome McCoolname: Isidor Ottavio Baldassare Fosco
- Break the Cutie:
- Laura is an adorable lady and Walter and Marin love her so much, and she them. Then her soon-to-be husband appears, and let the torturing of readers begin. She suffers terribly in her unhappy marriage, and she's a part of very evil scheme.
- It's also implied that this happened to Anne. She was probably as pretty as Laura, but her mother neglected her. We meet her when she's broken already, though she does have a kind friend who takes care of her.
- Butterface: Marian. Her gorgeous and perfect body is described in great detailed while she stands at the window. Then she turns around and... but her face. Walter didn't expect her to be ugly.
- Chekhov's Italian Professor: Pesca, who ends up being responsible for Fosco's death.
- Contrived Coincidence: Half the novel runs on this. But it was written in Victorian England, so nobody is surprised.
- Deadpan Snarker: Marian. Her precise sarcastic remarks are directed at nearly everybody. She has a soft spot for Laura and Walter, but even they don't always escape her snark.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Laura replacing Anne in the Asylum toward the end of the book.
- Epistolary Novel: Though it's more in the form of diary entries rather than letters.
- Evil Uncle: Fosco is married to Laura's aunt.
- Genre Savvy: Walter.
- When he goes to share what he's learned with Fosco, he takes precautions so that, when he's asked "Have You Told Anyone Else??", he can assure Fosco that he has, and killing him would therefore not solve anything.
- He happily makes a deal with Fosco that will get him what he wants but allow the latter to escape from the law scot-free because Walter assumes karma will punish him anyway.
- Girls with Moustaches: Marian Halcombe has one. It's part of her being more than simply plain.
- Identical Stranger: Anne and Laura, apparently ( Walter discovers that Anne was Laura's half-sister.).
- Love Is a Weakness: Fosco confesses that his esteem for Marian proved to be his only weakness in the affair.
- Malaproper: Professor Pesca.
- Male Gaze: Shamelessly done by Walter on Marian.
- The Ophelia: Anne and Laura. Though their mental health problems are described as rather troubling but Mr Hartright takes great pleasure in taking care of Laura and making her better. Anne's weak and confused mind do not make her attractive at all.
- Person with the Clothing
- Polyamory: Hinted at with Walter, Laura, and Marian at the end.
- The Reveal: The truth of Professor Pesca is one of many. This is, after all, a serialized sensation novel.
- Sexless Marriage: Fortunately for Laura, implied for her and her husband; Sir Percival assures Fosco that there's no chance of Laura producing heirs.
- Smart People Play Chess: Marian is good at it. When she plays with Count Fosco, she discovers very quickly that her let her win on purpose. She immediately tells him what the hell, he apologizes and utterly destroys her in their next game.
- Spirited Young Lady: Marian. Intelligent, capable, strong and physically fit. Laura is her Proper Lady Foil and frankly, she pales in the comparison.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Marian the Tomboy and Laura the Girly Girl.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance: Two half-sisters (not Marian and Laura).
- Victorian Britain
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Used by Fanny to smuggle letters for Marian. Fosco's wife gets them anyway.
- Villainous Glutton: Fosco.
- Woman in White: Arguably, the Trope Namer.
- Worthy Opponent: Marian Halcombe to Count Fosco. Cue rambling about how intelligent/courageous/perfect she is and how they could rule together under different circumstances (if he wasn't married, and he wasn't trying to get her sister's fortune, for starters). But one has to wonder what part of this comes from pure, candid, objective esteem, independent of the fact that the old goat is in love with her. At least in two occasions when she could have been owned by him, he just lets her off.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Collins got annoyed by reviewers who nitpicked about mistakes in dating, which he later fixed in a future edition. He consoled himself by thinking that Shakespeare was guilty of the same thing.
- You Got Spunk: Marian, in Fosco's opinion. And he likes spunk.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Marian's initial reaction upon discovering that Fosco likes her and admires her a lot.
The musical adaptation provides examples of: