The Woman In White

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Wilkie Collins, throughout his life, was haunted by what one may call a second self. As a young man he confided to Percy Fitzgerald ‘how he was subject to a curious ghostly influence, having often the idea that “someone was standing behind him” and that he was tempted to look round constantly’. This second self Collins spoke of alludes to the double identity he maintained and explored in his life as well as in his work. William Wilkie Collins was born January 8, 1824 to William John and Harriet Collins. Though it is supposed that his birth may have been a difficult one, as he was marked by a permanent deformation on his head, he enjoyed a rather happy childhood, his parents being blissfully in love and financially comfortable. Having traveled extensively around England and other countries in Europe, the family finally returned to London and Collins attended a private boarding school. Subsequent to leaving the school his is apprenticed to Edmund Antrobus, a tea merchant, it is during his apprenticeship that he publishes his first work of fiction, The Last Stage Coachman. In May of 1846 Collins enters Lincoln Inn to study law, although he never exercised a career of the practice, he was able to use his acquired knowledge in writing his later novels. Two years later, the death of his father prompts Collins to write his first book, Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., Ra,. Not long thereafter Collins becomes acquainted with Charles Dickens who would become a close friend and professional contemporary. In January 1859 Wilkie Collins meets Caroline Graves, and although Collins becomes associated with Martha Rudd and fathers three illegitimate children with her, his relationship with Caroline Graves is said to inspired Collins to write The Woman in White. The Woman in White is a story of double identity. The innocent and frail character Laura Fairley is eerily doubled with the distraught and disturbed Anne Catherick. After Laura enters into marriage with Sir Percival Glyde , he in order to extort her inheritance, has Anne Catherick removed, under which circumstances she suspiciously dies, and Laura Fairley is remanded to the asylum in which Anne Catherick was once confined. Caroline Graves had concocted many identities of her own in which she used to disguise her poor and rather ambiguous past.

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