Editor’s Welcome

The editors of the current volume are delighted to oversee the publication of a third series of The Wilkie Collins Journal. Formerly named The Wilkie Collins Society Journal, this publication retains strong links with the Wilkie Collins Society, whose generosity and enthusiasm has enabled the publication to re-emerge as an online resource. 2012 has been the year for Dickens and interest in the author has shed new light on his relationship with Wilkie Collins – a man who was, some claim, Dickens’s protégée. 2012 also saw the publication of a new biography of Collins by Peter Ackroyd – a review of which appeared in the Summer newsletter of the Wilkie Collins Society. With new interest in the life and works of Collins, the time is right for a renewed academic interest in the author and related writers.

In this, the first issue of the new series, we are pleased to offer five essays, which collectively testify to the current vibrant and diverse scholarly work being undertaken in the field of Collins studies. Mariaconcetta Constantini opens the volume with an essay on corporeal and architectural degeneration in Collins’s work. She explores the relationship between decomposing corpses and decaying buildings in works such as “Mad Monkton” and The Haunted Hotel, and considers the ways in which Collins uses “Gothic tropes of degeneration to stage the conflict between past and present.” Drawing on Kristeva’s concept of abjection and Victorian theories of architecture, Constantini illuminates Collins’s ambivalent engagement with both modernity and the past.

In the second article, Shifra Hochberg examines a possible influence on The Woman in White which has been overlooked in Collins Studies. She argues that Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis by the Italian Romantic writer, Ugo Foscolo, offers a model, not only for plot elements such as enforced marriage for monetary gain and female madness, but also for the epistolary structure and the iconography of Collins’s novel – specifically the eponymous figure of a woman in white. Through a close analysis of the correlations and connections between the two texts, Hochberg offers a persuasive argument for seeing Foscolo as a potential influence on Collins’s most famous sensation novel.

Valerie Pedlar also focuses her essay on The Woman in White, but turns her attention to the drama and, specifically, to Collins’s 1871 stage adaptation of his best-selling novel for the Olympic Theatre. Pedlar discusses the intriguing changes Collins made in adapting the novel for the stage and offers an analysis of the nature of sensationalism in this production. The 1871 Woman in White production is contextualised within a broader consideration of Collins’s theatrical work and, as Pedlar suggests, although his “characteristic style” is melodramatic, Collins’s plays “lend themselves to production in different ways, ranging from melodramatic ‘sensationalism’ to ‘drawing room’ domestic drama”.

Returning to the issue of influence, though this time from the opposite direction, Marcia A. Morris traces the “legacy” of Collins’s writing on the work of the contemporary Russian novelist, Boris Akunin. Morris takes up Collins’s device of the legacy in The Moonstone and examines Akunin’s intertextual engagement of this novel in his historical fictions The Murder on the Leviathan and The Children’s Book. Through a closely-argued account of Akunin’s “acts of literary appropriation”, Morris demonstrates how he “borrows Collins’s legacies but shifts their signification” in order to reflect on the concerns of a post-soviet Russia.

In the final article of the issue, Ryan Barnett offers a fascinating discussion of naming and signing in Collins’s first and final published works: Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, R.A. and the posthumously published novel, Blind Love, left incomplete at the time of the author’s death in 1889. Barnett argues that, in their evocation of the tropes of death, inheritance, memory and mourning, the functions of names, naming, and signing in Collins’s texts anticipate Jacques Derrida’s work on the duality of names and signatures. The argument traces some unexpected yet compelling connections between theMemoirs and Blind Love, such as the “quasi-collaborative” nature of both.

All of the essays presented here showcase the rich textual and theoretical approaches evident in contemporary work on Collins. They also move beyond a narrow focus on the most famous sensation novels of the 1860s, crossing geographic and generic boundaries to locate Collins in a wider European context (Hochberg, Morris) and within multiple Victorian genres – drama (Pedlar), short stories (Constantini), memoir (Barnett), as well as fiction.

The editors would like to thank Andrew Gasson and Paul Lewis of the Wilkie Collins Society for their patience and good-natured support of the journal. We would also like to thank Tim Jennings at Really Simple Sites for his excellent work on the website and Verity Hunt for her work on the archives. We are grateful, as always, for Verity Burke’s editorial assistance and Tatiana Kontou, of Oxford Brookes University, is owed our thanks for her work as reviews editor on this edition. We would like to welcome Tara MacDonald (University of Amsterdam) as the new reviews editor from 2013.

Andrew Mangham and Anne-Marie Beller