The Woman in White, and a guest blogger – round 2

Today we have another guest entry from Rich Westwood, who runs the highly-recommended website Past Offences, with news and reviews of classic crime books. He has looked at The Woman in White for us, and Clothes in Books will be reviewing Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train for his blog in the near future – his idea of simple genius was that this would be in keeping with the concept of Strangers on a Train. Rich’s first entry was last week.

the book:
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collinspublished 1860

Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (1859-60) tells of a dastardly plot against the innocent and beautiful Laura Fairlie by her cash-strapped husband Sir Percival Glyde, aided and abetted by his scheming friend Count Fosco. Collins seems to have had an eye for costume.

One of the book's lesser villains is Mr Fairlie, the highly strung, hypochondriac guardian of half-sisters Laura and Marian:

 He was dressed in a dark frock-coat, of some substance much thinner than cloth, and in waistcoat and trousers of spotless white. His feet were effeminately small, and were clad in buff-coloured silk stockings, and little womanish bronze-leather slippers. Two rings adorned his white delicate hands, the value of which even my inexperienced observation detected to be all but priceless. Upon the whole, he had a frail, languidly-fretful, over-refined look.

Count Fosco is the stand-out character in the novel. He is almost a cartoon villain - pompous, obese, and piratically dressed. Blofeld-like, he even has pets - in his case a gang of white mice that scamper around his waistcoat;
As we passed an open space among the trees in front of the house, there was Count Fosco, slowly walking backwards and forwards on the grass, sunning himself in the full blaze of the hot June afternoon. He had a broad straw hat on, with a violet coloured ribbon round it. A blue blouse, with profuse white fancy-work over the bosom, covered his prodigious body, and was girt about the place where his waist might once have been with a broad scarlet leather belt. Nankeen trousers, displaying more white fancy-work over the ankles, and purple morocco slippers, adorned his lower extremities.

The images are by John Lenan for Harper's Weekly.