Page 139 - PB Cat 1999-2021
P. 139

The New Magdalen WILKIE COLLINS
Most people will have read The Moonstone and The Woman in White
but Wilkie Collins published 21 novels
in total. This one is about a ‘fallen woman’ attempting to rehabilitate
her character and her reputation; and the (often reprehensible and unkind) attitude of some of those around her.
At the time it came out as a novel it
also had a very successful run on the London stage – which is why it is divided into two ‘scenes’ and why much of the dialogue does in fact feel like a play. From the outset the novel was seen as scandalous due to its title. ‘Magdalen’ was the name for a reformed prostitute, a subject that was not to be discussed
in proper society. The New Magdalen (1873) is absorbing and thought- provoking, despite the sometimes almost pantomime-ish conventions. Wilkie Collins manages to challenge clichés about the ‘fallen’ woman; most importantly, he gives Mercy Merrick agency and self-determination in her own story. Wilkie Collins was a man who was ahead of his time not only in his attitudes to women, but also to the world around him.
‘Waiting for the Artist’ George Winchester 1859 The Maas Gallery.
PREFACE BY JAMES BOBIN
  1999–2021
‘Sutherland’, a woven silk designed by Owen Jones for Warner in 1871
 NO 138
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