Contemporary Reviews, Adaptations, and Imitations
August 25, 1860 – Illustrated London News (excerpt)
Literature and Art
Mr. Wilkie Collins’s strange, powerful romance of “The Woman in White” has been concluded in the columns of All the Year Round, and now, in a three-volume guise, claims the suffrages of Mudie’s myriad adherents. In a characteristic preface Mr. Collins begs the critics not to forestall public interest in his work by “telling the story at secondhand.” Go to, Mr. Collins! Such a request resembles the reticence of the reduced gentlewoman who cried “Hearthstones! in a back street and a weak voice, and “hoped nobody heard her. If we dine with the Lord Mayor are we to go into disquisitions on the architectural features of the Mansion House, give a succinct history of the Pyramids in connection with the Egyptian Hall, and write the lives of the Lord Mayor’s footmen, and say never a word about the turtle and venison, the champagne and loving-cup, we have had for dinner? We “obtemperate” Mr. Wilkie Collins’s request in this place, as we cannot compress a sketch of the incidents which occupy a thousand pages in narration into the twentieth part of a column of this Journal; but the clever author of “The Woman in White” must not think to escape diagnosis at the hands of the critics. We shall have the armadillo next deprecating description by the showmen outside the booth. “The Woman in White” is an admirable fiction, and will be none the worse for the synopsis of the gentlemen who “cut the leaves and smell the paper-knife.”
“Literature and Art.” Illustrated London News, 25 Aug. 1860, p. 184. Hathi Trust, hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015007000865?urlappend=%3Bseq=188. Accessed 7 Apr. 2015.
- Charles Edward Mudie was the proprietor of a popular subscription library in the 1900s. ↵
- “Hearthstones!” likely refers to the sale of Bath Brick, an abrasive cleaning product often used for scouring knives. In this context, "a reduced gentlewoman" is a woman who has lost financial stability and must make a living by selling commodities. Simply phrased, the reviewer is pointing to the hypocrisy of denying the commercial interest Collins’s publication serves by claiming the literary work but not the marketplace that supports it. ↵
- The article shifts to other topics from here. ↵