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"I'm sick to death of novels with an earnest purpose. I'm sick to death of outbursts of eloquence, and large-minded philanthropy, and graphic descriptions, and unsparing anatomy of the human heart, and all that sort of thing. Good gracious me ! Isn't it the original intention or purpose, or whatever you call it, of a work of fiction, to set out distinctly by telling a story? And how many of these books, I should like to know, do that? Why, so far as telling a story is concerned, the greater part of them might as well be sermons as novels. Oh, dear me! what I want is something that seizes hold of my interest, and makes me forget when it is time to dress for dinner—something that keeps me reading, reading, reading, in a breathless state, to find out the end." Wilkie Collins' confession of faith as a novelist is comprised in the above speech of his sprightly heroine, Miss Jessie Yelverton, in 'The Queen of Hearts'. He is emphatically a story-writer. He is unrivaled in the construction of an elaborate and intricate plot, and he certainly succeeds in making his readers "go on reading, reading, reading, in a breathless state, to find out the end." Wilkie Collins' career has been a progressive one. There are some ardent novel readers who will doubtless remember the publication of 'Antonina', and a few years later of 'Basil' – two books of singular power. Soon after Mr. Dickens commenced the publication of Household Words, there appeared in that periodical a number of short stories which were remarkable for the perfection of their style, the elaboration and originality of their plots and their general artistic finish. Then came a novel, 'The Dead Secret', also published in Household Words, in which the wonderful skill of the author in con structing and unfolding a plot was for the first time fully displayed. The 'Woman in White followed', and the claims of Wilkie Collins to be considered a great novelist were at once firmly established. He is, however, no mere weaver of intricate plots—no teller of elaborately constructed stories only. Few characters in modern fiction are as well drawn and sustained as that of Count Fosco, the cool, sensible, intellectual villain in 'The Woman in White.' Collins also possesses, in common with Anthony Trollope, the power of delineating a heroine who shall be neither a dressed-up doll nor an impossible angel. Rachel Verinder in 'The Moonstone' bears witness to the truth of this assertion. This novel is the best that Mr. Collins has given to the world and possibly the best he has ever written. The story is singularly original; and when we remember the force and extent of Hindoo superstition, we can scarcely venture to pronounce it improbable. And how admirably is the story told! Clear, lucid and forcible in style, never straying into the alluring but pernicious paths of description or dissertation, the narrative moves onward in its unbroken and entrancing course. Let the impatient reader, hurrying to reach the dénouement, skip half a dozen pages. Instantly the thread of the story is broken, the tale becomes incomprehensible, the incidents lose their coherence. 'The Moonstone' is a perfect work of art, and to remove any portion of the cunningly constructed fabric destroys the completeness and beauty of the whole.

Fiction & Literature
August 20
Jazzybee Verlag
Bookwire GmbH

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