A very late Sensation Sunday post from me but I do have my reasons as you will see later and so I hope you will forgive me. Despite being on something of a break and having some relaxing and very much needed ‘me’ time, this doesn’t seem to be an appropriate time to be scheduling posts. I digress though, lets move swiftly on to this weeks Sensational Novel…
Basil was only Wilkie Collins second novel written before some of his better known works and so to me was something of a mystery. It is a shorter tale than most of Collins works and looks at the relationships between men and women in the main. The narrator of the tale Basil, who the book is named after, who tells us ‘the story of an error, innocent in it’s beginning, guilty in its progress, fatal in its results’. Now what that tale is I shall not divulge too much as in typical Collins style there are many a twist in this tales… erm… tail ending.
The book opens with Basil (who oddly at the start of the book wants to remain nameless only then through Clara his sister suddenly tells us his name) one day randomly ends up on an omnibus where he is instantly smitten with a young woman. So smitten in fact that not only does he believe that he has experienced ‘love at first sight’ but also follows her to her home. There he learns her name, Margaret Sherwin, and then to his dismay the fact that she is of a family of lower rank than himself and this he knows would be something his father would never allow.
Along with the nurse he soon plots to meet Margaret and then in plotting with her father he organises a secret wedding, however there are conditions and the conditions are they will marry within a week though no one, other than the people are involved, can ever speak of it. It must remain unknown for a year and then Basil can have Margaret to himself. Sounds like there must be something mysterious going on there doesn’t it? And of course indeed there is. All seems to be going well at first and then Mr Sherwin’s right hand man Mr Mannion appears on the scene (bringing with him a lot of storms, whenever there is a big scene the clouds thunder and the rain storms) and things start to become a little darker.
The characters are wonderful. We have the disapproving feared father, the sweet angelic sister, the dandy brother and that’s just Basil’s family. Margaret starts sweet and innocent but still waters might run deep, her father is a greedy self obsessed man, her mother a pale frail weeping woman and Mr Mannion is just brilliantly creepy. Don’t let those descriptions make you assume that the likely end could come from this synopsis as it isn’t the case.
I don’t want to give anything away and if you have read it then please don’t either. I will say that this book did shock generations as it dealt with adultery, not something for polite society to read, though of course I am sure they loved gossiping about it. Who is the adulterer, I couldn’t possibly say but that wasn’t the only shock that Collins has in store. A wonderful novel that shows how Collins was honing his skills to create the sensation novels that came later, this early gem shouldn’t be missed.
So why was I so late in posting this? Well as I am seriously throwing myself into all things sensational and as part of my break, part of my getting to know London better (on our ten year anniversary) I ended up in Kensal Green Cemetery today and not only did I get lost in some Victorian catacombs I also got to have a very special moment as I visited the grave of a man who has become one of my all time favourite authors and who I am so looking forward to reading more of.
I was quite surprised as to how understated Wilkie Collins grave is compared to some of the mausoleums and gothic buildings many chose to have above them after their death. We also visited Thackeray and Trollope, though Wilkie did something neither of the other authors did. Whilst they had no mention of being authors or having any fame at all it is inscribed on Wilkie Collins final resting place that he was “the author of ‘The Woman in White’ and many other works” just in case we should ever forget. I don’t think with such wonderful writing we ever could. So that’s why the delay… I wanted to share a snap shot of what was a very special Sensational moment for me.