Transing Wilkie Collins

Jolene Zigarovich, Associate Professor

University of Northern Iowa, US

 

With its emphasis on gender identity, sensation fiction exposes the nineteenth-century navigation of shifting gender roles and identities. In particular, Wilkie Collins’ fiction interrogates gender conventions and notoriously destabilises the traditional gender binary. While there have been numerous critical examples of queering Collins’ work (D.A. Miller, Richard Collins, Richard Nemsvari, Ardel Haefele-Thomas, to name a few), this essay illuminates trans and gender non-normative characters in order to expose a pertinent aspect of the ‘false identity’ trope necessary to sensation fiction plots.[1] As with the Gothic, critics have fully addressed and explored the sensation genre as necessarily queer, but this scholarship does not explicitly discuss or examine transsexuality, transgender issues and theory, or the trans body. Reading sensation fiction as a genre that embeds explorations of ‘trans as modification and motion across time and space’, to use A. Finn Enke’s phrasing, I believe we can compound and disturb our understanding of sensation’s queer characters and genres.[2] As Susan Stryker aptly puts it, ‘transgender phenomena haunt the entire project of European culture. They are simultaneously everywhere and elsewhere.’[3] One of the aims of this essay is to continue the work of tracing and marking these phenomena that ‘haunt’ Collins’ fiction.

If we invoke Susan Stryker’s definition of transgender from Transgender History, as ‘people who cross over the boundaries constructed by their culture to define and contain’ gender,[4] we can explore the ways in which characters cross gender boundaries, but also the ways in which Gothic and sensation fiction crosses, intersects, and troubles genre boundaries as well.[5] Like queering, transing can also help explain why sensation fiction (along with Gothic fiction) has been a persistent venue for transgressive and non-normative sexualities and gender identities. With Stryker’s understanding that transgender studies investigates ‘forms of embodiment and subjectivity that do not readily reduce to heteronormativity’ and fall outside the analytic framework of sexual identity, we can expand a poststructuralist, queer approach to sensation.[6] For Collins’ fiction, this is especially relevant. By framing his work within Victorian sexology discourse and theories regarding gender non-binary people, we can better understand Collins’ participation in the growing cultural discussion about Victorian gender roles and identities.

While this essay necessarily discusses The Woman in White and (as it extends and reconstructs queer readings of Marian Halcombe, for instance), it also examines gender non-binary and transgender characters in several other novels, such as The Moonstone and The Law and the Lady, in order to demonstrate Collins’ persistent interest in gender non-normative roles and bodies. Victorian theories of gender and bodily variance will provide historical and scientific context as we examine proto-trans characters and transgender potentialities in Collins’ fiction. Thus, this essay aims to explore the overt and covert rejection of rigid gender binaries, noting that sensation fiction often portrayed a society where science attempted to define and secure gender identity. With a trans approach, this essay uniquely argues that Collins persistently explored and experimented with gender characterisation, and that his proto-trans characters represent larger cultural discussions of what we now consider trans identity and embodiment.

Victorian Trans & Science

In order to better understand how Collins’ fiction uniquely contributes to Victorian trans phenomena, and reflects the growing scientific interest in the trans population, it is important to illuminate some of the cultural framework surrounding non-binary gender identity. As Ardel Haefele-Thomas outlines in Queer Others in Victorian Gothic: Transgressing Monstrosity, the Victorian era was populated by all manner of non-binary and gender expansive slippages.[7] Non-conforming figures such as Vernon Lee, Ernest ‘Stella’ Boulton and Frederick ‘Fanny’ Park, and Michael Field attest to this fact. On trial two decades after Stella and Fanny, Oscar Wilde attempted to place his sexual behaviour within an artistic context. Under the Labouchere Amendment of 1885, which regulated public and private behaviour, Wilde was convicted. As Michel Foucault and others have shown, courts, police, The Society for the Suppression of Vice, and other entities exercised control over sexual and gender variants throughout the fin de siècle. From Charles Darwin’s studies of hermaphroditic barnacles in The Origin of Species (1859), to P.T. Barnum’s displays of anatomical curiosities (bearded ladies and the sort), to the medical classification and determinism of the sexually indeterminate, intersex concerns were in full-blown social, medical, and scientific discussion as early as the mid-century.[8] As Foucault observed,

The years from around 1860 to 1870 were precisely one of those periods when
investigations of sexual identity were carried out with the most intensity, in an
attempt not only to establish the true sex of hermaphrodites but also to identify,
classify, and characterise the different types of perversions. In short, these
investigations dealt with the problem of sexual anomalies in the individual and the
race.[9]

Though his periodisation is often questioned, Foucault’s point about mid-nineteenth-century interest in sexual and gender identity does reflect the rise of sexology. Mid-century writers like Collins and Dickens were necessarily exposed to and influenced by this growing scientific interest in ‘anomalies’. During the nineteenth century medical professionals saw increasing visits from patients, and those seeking gynaecological care (a practice on the rise) became subject to genital examinations. Subsequently, the ‘phenomenon’ of hermaphroditism was not as rare as previously thought. As Foucault recognises, medical, legal, social, and cultural discourses thereby required bodies to conform to gender norms through the twentieth century (medical experts sought to define one true sex in every person). Though with questionable methods and outcomes, Victorian sexologists often aimed for greater understanding and acceptance of homosexuals, inverts, cross-dressers, hermaphrodites, and other sexual, biological, and gender variants. Yet often the taxonomy of sexual and gender variance was coded with heteronormative prescriptives and measurements (categorising the non-conforming often validated non-conformity while simultaneously reinforcing heterosexual norms). So, instead of offering the hermaphrodite the right to choose a binary sex, physicians attempted to make sex-gender identity into a biological, measurable definition.

In fact, Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s conflation of queer sexual orientation and trans gender identity and expression became part of the scientific foundation that informed cisnormative and heteronormative standards not only in medicine and the law, but the popular imagination. Underlying the landmark taxonomic study Psychopathia Sexualis with Special Reference to Contrary Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Legal Study (1886) is Krafft-Ebing’s assumption that ‘any departure from procreative heterosexual intercourse represents a form of emotional or physical disease’ (Transgender Studies Reader 21). Krafft-Ebing, University of Vienna professor of psychology, regarded homosexuality as a form of gender variance, considering men attracted to men as having female attributes, and women sexually attracted to women as more masculine. As Susan Stryker explains in The Transgender Studies Reader, ‘Krafft-Ebing noted two primary categories of homosexuality—acquired and congenital—and considered each to contain transgender elements to which he applied ornate Victorian labels such as “eviration,” ‘defeminination,” “viraginity,” and “metamorphosis sexualis paranoica”’ (21). This latter term refers to the most pathological of disorders, describing individuals who completely identify with the opposite sex and who wish to alter the sex-signifying aspects of their bodies. Stryker continues, ‘Krafft-Ebing thought such individuals were profoundly disturbed, and considered their desire for self-affirming transformation to be psychotic’ (21). Psychopathia Sexualis is one of many taxonomic works from the Victorian era that discursively detail sexual ‘abnormalities’ and ‘deviance’ with blatantly subjective narratives. In addition to Krafft-Ebing, sexologists such as Havelock Ellis and later Freud present case studies that are novelistic in their descriptions and explanations, provocatively narrativising transgender, intersex, and homosexual phenomena.

As they grappled with the meaning of gender variance, medical doctors, including Krafft-Ebing, pried into the personal lives of their patients, looking for similarities and eccentricities to explain and narrativise sexual disorders. For example, in documenting ‘Case 131’ concerning Count Sandor Vay, a female-bodied person living as male, Krafft-Ebing noted that Sandor hailed from an ‘ancient, noble and highly respected family of Hungary.’[10] In Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 2, Havelock Ellis traces non-normative behaviours in the Count’s family tree, linking his transsexuality to hereditary, psychological abnormalities. Interestingly, Ellis mentions the acceptance of non-binary variation in the Count’s family:  ‘It was a whim of the father’s to educate Sarolta as a boy, to teach her to ride, drive, and hunt; he admired her masculine energy, and called her Sandor. On the other hand, he educated his two sons as girls and put them in woman’s clothing up to the age of fifteen.’[11] The case proved remarkable in that Sandor’s wife and family had no knowledge of his female biology. In fact, Ellis discovered that ‘Sandor wore a bandage round her body to support an artificial organ’ (261–62). In interviews with his doctors, Sandor admitted that ‘The idea of sexual intercourse with men is disgusting to her, and she regards it as impossible’ (264). Upon medical examination, it is determined that ‘the sexual organs are of completely feminine type, without any trace of hermaphroditic phenomena’ though her organs appeared small and undeveloped (266). Ellis summarises that the experts revealed a ‘congenital morbid perversion of the sexual instinct [. . .] the incriminated actions of Sarolta were due to her morbid and irresistible sexual impulse’ (267). In the 1880s, a criminal court later decided to test his sanity, and upon declaring him to be afflicted with ‘moral insanity’ he was for a time relegated to an asylum (a trajectory Collins also relegates to his non-normative characters). The details of the sensational case saw international attention and spread throughout Europe and America. Though Sandor’s is a notorious case, many other narrativised and medicalised cases of trans phenomena circulated during the mid- and late-nineteenth-century, contributing to and potentially influencing the ‘narratives’ of non-binary gender characters in Victorian fiction.

For Krafft-Ebing, Case 131 illustrated ‘gynandry’, a term with Greek origins (gyne, woman, aner, man) meaning hermaphrodite (or the more modern term intersex), and in Sandor’s case, pseudohermaphrodite. Sandor’s underdeveloped uterus (no larger than a ‘walnut’), narrow vagina, and ‘dwarf-pelvis’ of ‘decidedly masculine type’ signify ‘a congenitally abnormal inversion of the sexual instinct’ (Transgender Studies Reader 26). These anomalies in sex differentiation historically reinforce male/female dimorphism. Cheryl Chase recognises this fact:  ‘Though the male/female binary is constructed as natural and presumed to be immutable, the phenomenon of intersexuality offers clear evidence to the contrary and furnishes an opportunity to deploy “nature” strategically to disrupt heteronormative systems of sex, gender, and sexuality’ (301).[12] And for the Victorian medical community, observed bodily sex characteristics were valued. Though this is changing, today intersexuality often sees immediate medical intervention (surgeries, hormone therapy, forcing a gender choice). The Victorian medical world necessarily sought to categorise sex anomalies based upon biological, visual evidence. German pathologist Albrecht Edwin Klebs’ classification system, like Krafft-Ebing’s, sought to decrease the ‘actual’ and ‘true’ cases of hermaphroditism by requiring the presence of at least one ovary and testicle. He even divided these classifications further in ‘true bilateral hermaphroditism (one ovary and one testicle on each side), and ‘true unilateral hermaphroditism’ (one ovary or testicle on one side, a testicle and ovary on the other side). Krafft-Ebing’s ‘pseudohermaphroditism’ was termed by Klebs as ‘false hermaphroditism’ (which was further divided by gender).[13] Seemingly, as the amount of medical cases grew, physicians had to provide taxonomies that limited ‘true’ and ‘actual’ biological cases of intersexuality. Chase explains:

Victorian medical taxonomy began to efface hermaphroditism as a legitimated                              status by establishing mixed gonadal histology as a necessary criterion for ‘true’                           hermaphroditism. By this criterion, both ovarian and testicular tissue types had to                          be present. Given the limits of Victorian surgery and anesthesia, such                                      confirmation was impossible in a living patient. All other anomalies were                                           classified as ‘pseudohermaphroditisms’ masking a ‘true sex’ determined by the                          gonads. (301)

Although I do not have the space here to detail, there were numerous nineteenth-century cases of ‘confirming’ the biological gender of visually indeterminate individuals.[14] One such notorious case is that of the Chevalier d’Eon.[15] Upon her birth it was noted that ‘his sex was doubtful’ but she was raised as male (though she often cross-dressed as a child) and later identified as female for the majority of her adult life. Secretary to the Duke of Nivernois, and purported to be a French spy, d’Eon was brought to court several times with charges regarding her legal sex. Upon her death in 1810, the posthumous ‘confirmation’ that Chase mentions was enacted. One court report described the sensational results:  ‘His corpse was examined by several professional men, who pronounced it to be that of male, though there were peculiarities in his person which rendered the doubts respecting his sex the less extraordinary’ (636).[16] Another report related that d’Eon’s body displayed feminine characteristics such as rounded limbs and ‘breast remarkably full.’[17] D’Eon’s case is notable in transgender medical history. Like Krafft-Ebing and Magnus Hirschfield, a German psychologist known for his studies of transvestitism and coining the term ‘transsexual’, Ellis studied what today are considered transgender phenomena, thereby establishing a new category that was separate and distinct from homosexuality.[18]file:///Users/jo/Dropbox/Wilkie Collins Journal/Heart and Science/Articles August/Edited/‘https:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Havelock_Ellis’ – ‘cite_note-ttp-8’ Aware of Hirschfeld’s studies of transvestism, agreeing with his hormonal theory but disagreeing with his terminology, in 1913 Ellis proposed the term sexo-aesthetic inversion to describe the phenomenon. In a sort of tribute to the Chevalier, Havelock Ellis also coined the term eonism in 1920 to describe similar cases of transgender behaviour.

On the psychic side, as I view it, the Eonist is embodying, in an extreme degree,
the aesthetic attitude of imitation of, and identification with, the admired object. It
is normal for a man to identify himself with the woman he loves. The Eonist
carries that identification too far, stimulated by a sensitive and feminine element
in himself which is associated with a rather defective virile sexuality on what may
be a neurotic basis.[19]

Ellis found eonism to be ‘a remarkably common anomaly,’ and ‘next in frequency to homosexuality among sexual deviations,’ and categorised it as ‘among the transitional or intermediate forms of sexuality.’ As in the Freudian tradition, Ellis postulated that a ‘too close attachment to the mother’ may encourage eonism, but also considered that it ‘probably invokes some defective endocrine balance’ (110).

The nineteenth-century conflation of the homosexual with the transgender was certainly debated. In his 1914 essay ‘The Nosology of Male Homosexuality,’ Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi distinguished between two types of homosexuals: the object-homoerotic and the subject-homoerotic (in other words, the gender normative and cross-gender identified gay men).[20] Sigmund Freud not only cited and agreed with Ferenczi in a footnote to the 1920 edition of his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), but he specifically refuted Krafft-Ebing’s theory that male inverts (homosexuals) were inherently cross-gender identified because they possessed a ‘female brain’.[21] In other words, beyond object choice, not all homosexuals exhibit cross-gender characteristics. Notably, these Victorian gender theories still find relevance in discussions and debates today. Transgender theorist Jay Prosser noted in the 1990s that ‘transgendered subjectivity is not inevitably queer. That is, by no means are all transgendered subjects homosexual.’[22] More recently, Susan Stryker necessarily addressed this issue as well:

Because many transgender people don’t fit into other people’s sexual orientation
categories (or because they don’t have a clear sense themselves of where they
might fit in), there is a relatively high proportion of asexuality and autosexuality
in transgender populations. Some people are specifically attracted to transgender
people. A transgender person may be of any sexual orientation, just like a
nontransgender person.[23]

Victorian medical theories of sexual anomalies, transvestitism, cross-dressing, and hermaphroditism grapple with what we would often consider today to be transgender phenomena. They help us better understand medical and discursive responses to non-binary individuals, many of the responses having biological or psychological explanations. And though the coining of the term ‘homosexual’ and the wider dissemination of sexologists’ work occurs after the publication of Collins’ major novels, we can acknowledge that case studies and medical inquiry into sexuality and gender existed mid-century on, and that the Victorian novelist, notably Collins, consistently depicted numerous gender non-normative characters. In my view, by troubling and extending queer readings of his fiction, we can better understand Collins’ trans characterisations and narratives.

Collins’ Trans Fiction

The 1990s and early 2000s saw a deployment of queer theory and Gothic literature (Sedgwick, Hanson, Haggerty) and sensation fiction (D.A. Miller, Ross G. Forman, Richard Nemesvari). As Ellis Hanson has noted, ‘queer studies of the Gothic have typically shifted registers between the Freudian and the Foucauldian, or [. . .] between psychologizing and historicizing modes of critique.’[24] With its interrogation of oppositions and binaries, queer theory illuminates cultural transgressions so central to sensation and Gothic fiction, which typically upholds normalised, heterosexuality. Critics like Miller uncovered the operations of social surveillance in The Woman in White, noting how sensation fiction relies on somatic responses of shock and suspense that emphasise the erotics of reading itself. Indeed, for Miller, the reader (and literary critic) is the ultimate Foucauldian paranoid. He writes, the novel ‘makes nervousness a metonymy for reading’ (151). Miller links sexuality and power, noting how they incite paranoia and that there is a ‘homosexual component given to readerly sensation by the novel’ (112). Pointing to both male homoerotic and lesbian elements in the text, his queer reading of the moustachioed Marian Halcombe is seminal, and led to numerous queer interpretations of Marian and the novel’s other gender non-normative characters.[25] They have helped to illuminate genderqueer characters, such as Armadale’s Ozias Midwinter and Lydia Gwilt; subversive heroines, such as No Name’s Magdalen Vanstone; and The Dead Secret’s homoerotic Mrs. Jazeph. These interpretations signify how queer desire is, like the supernatural, invisible yet hauntingly familiar. Homosociality, intimate Victorian same-sex friendships, the queer and disabled, and other relevant queer subjects in Collins’ fiction are beginning to be fully explored.[26]

As Marshall Nowell has recognised, ‘the common assumption among literary critics that, especially in older historical periods, literary characters who cross gendered lines must automatically be read as queer suggests a problematic conflation of queer and transgender that dates back to late nineteenth-century sexology. Numerous scholars, ranging from psychoanalysts to trans scholars have debunked this assumption.’[27] My aim here is to acknowledge the work queer studies has done interpreting and identifying the queer in sensation fiction, but also acknowledge that the queer umbrella does not wholly provide a gendered lens with which to frame sensation fiction and its characters. Therefore, we must acknowledge that trans studies offers new and different approaches and theories, and that it has the potential to further destabilise the gender binary, but also provide mobile, shifting, and productive rhetorics and interpretations. I acknowledge ‘trans’ as connoting unstable, transient, or in-between, but also offer ‘trans’ as transformation, development, creativity, reorganisation, and reconstruction.[28] With this broader view, I believe we can illuminate Collins’ unique characterisations, seeing how his fiction participates in trans cultural discourse.

Similar to William Hughes’ and Andrew Smith’s pronouncement in their introduction to the collection Queering the Gothic ‘Gothic, in a sense, has always been “queer”’, I maintain that Gothic and sensation fiction has always been trans.[29] As Victorian culture normalised and privileged heterosexuality, criminalising non-hetero acts and relations, gender malleability was also demonised and figures such as the effete, dandy, New Woman, odd woman, and others destabilised these same gender norms. Writing at mid-century, Collins was firmly non-conformist: he never married, visited prostitutes, had concurrent female partners, and fathered three illegitimate children by the time of this death. Rejecting Victorian values, he celebrated (and sometimes fetishised) the non-conforming in his fiction. Just as his personal, secretive life was something out of one of the plots of his own sensation novels, his non-gender-conforming characters speak to the transgressive capabilities of Victorian culture. His fictional worlds offer spaces for the queer and transgender, spaces that incorporate, accept, or, as expected, also violently reject.

For this discussion, it is necessary to briefly address the character who spawned queer readings of Collins:  The Woman in White’s Marian Halcombe. Although her physical description as assessed by Walter Hartright has received frequent critical attention, it is necessary to quote it here so we can be reminded of Collins’ specific motive in depicting her in a hermaphroditic, androgynous, monstrous manner. Initially, Walter sees her from behind

Struck by the rare beauty of her form [. . .] her waist [. . .] was visibly and delightfully undeformed by stays [. . .] The easy elegance of every movement of her limbs and body as soon as she began to advance from the far end of the room, set me in a flutter of expectation to see her face clearly.[30]

Unconventional (not wearing stays or a corset), elegant, and causing Walter’s somatic reaction, Marian’s body is beautiful, elegant, and arousing. Yet Walter’s next description of her causes a different type of somatic and emotional reaction:

The lady’s complexion was almost swarthy and the dark down on her upper lip
was almost a moustache. She had a large, firm masculine mouth and jaw;
prominent, piercing resolute brown eyes; and thick, coal-black hair, growing
unusually low down on her forehead. Her expression—bright, frank, and
intelligent—appeared, while she was silent, to be altogether wanting in those
feminine attractions of gentleness and pliability, without which the beauty of the
handsomest woman alive is beauty incomplete. To see such a face as this set on
shoulders that a sculptor would have longed to model—to be charmed by the
modest graces of action through which the symmetrical limbs betrayed their
beauty when they moved, and then to be almost repelled by the masculine form
and the masculine look of the features in which the perfectly shaped figure
ended—was to feel a sensation oddly akin to the helpless discomfort familiar to
us all in sleep, when we recognize but cannot reconcile the anomalies and
contradictions of a dream. (25)

Walter’s taxonomy of difference, and suggestion that Marian is some atavistic anomaly (large ‘masculine’ mouth and jaw, low forehead hair) can remind us of the later Victorian sexologists’ taxonomies of sexual and gender anomalies (and even Cesare Lombroso’s studies of criminality). In fact, Victorian psychological, sexological, and evolutionary discourses often interlink, causing the hermaphrodite to be seen as atavistic, and unfinished in its development. (Linking the invert to the degenerate was common for sexologists). And with her majestic female body and masculine, ugly face, she is the embodiment of queer difference, as Miller, Richard Collins, and others argue. However, Marian can be more specifically read as transgender.[31] In fact, her appealing (yet repellent), androgynous appearance speaks to the Victorian crisis of gender identity. Miller is the first reader of Marian to fully theorise her queerness; his analysis of Walter’s description of her ‘masculine form’ and ‘masculine look’ is seminal. With this, Miller claims she embodies a symbolic phallus, is a lesbian, ‘mannish,’ and is ‘male-identified’ (176). Marian is the ‘conspicuously curious of a woman’s body that gives all the signs of containing a man’s soul’ (176). Today, we can better recognise Miller’s gesturing toward a trans reading, locating Marian’s difference with transgender concepts and identifications (even perhaps gender dysphoria). Ardel Haefele-Thomas’s queer reading of Marian aligns her with the Victorian monster or freak (a throwback to the bearded ladies in traveling shows), but also the spinster and superfluous woman; (and we can agree in that Marian gestures toward the odd woman and pre-figures the New Woman of the fin de siècle). Yet, she is also the novel’s moral compass, the character that reminds Walter of his duty as a man, and the person that all of the novel’s male characters rely on in some fashion. Haefele-Thomas remarks that through Marian, ‘Collins subverts heteronormative and gender normative constructions of masculinity, femininity, and the stereotypes about relationships between men and women’ (20). With her ‘genderqueer position,’ homoerotic and bonding love with her half-sister Laura, and role as sister wife at the end of the novel, Marian queers the Victorian family (Haefele-Thomas 29). I wish to extend this reading and suggest that Marian’s position in the novel is one primarily of transness. She not only subverts heteronormative constructs and reinforces female-female bonds, she physically defies a sexual binary and appears to male-identify.

The secretive Italian Count Fosco recognises and praises Marian’s masculinity. He asks Laura’s scheming husband, Sir Percival Glyde, ‘“Where are your eyes? Can you look at Miss Halcombe, and not see that she as the foresight and resolution of a man?”’ (296). Her relation to gender seems to perpetually shift and cross boundaries as she acknowledges the limits of women in her culture. In a notable scene, she refuses to pin her identity down with a series of binary comparisons to the ultra-feminine Laura as she introduces herself to the still-shocked Walter Hartright:

Except that we are both orphans, we are in every respect as unlike each other as
possible. My father was a poor man, and Miss Fairlie’s father was a rich man. I
have got nothing, and she as a fortune. I am dark and ugly, and she is fair and
pretty. Everybody thinks me crabbed and odd (with perfect justice); and
everybody thinks her sweet-tempered and charming (with more justice still). In
short, she is an angel; and I am––Try some of that marmalade, Mr. Hartright, and
finish the sentence, in the name of female propriety, for yourself.  (27)

The dash (‘and I am–’) marks her identity; the narrative not only draws a line to underscore the gender binary but also slashes it. She refuses to self-identify for Walter’s comfort, and the dash signifies her power: whatever term the blank is filled with by Walter has no weight or importance for her. She even pronounces to him, ‘Dear me, you look puzzled’ (60). Laurel Erickson recognises that Marian defines herself as a marked woman ‘but refuses to name her difference,’ and goes so far as to identify that the dash is as syntactic replacement for ‘a moustache’ (100). She reads Marian with hermaphroditic terms (‘she is both man and woman, yet neither man nor woman’) and also animalistic similarities, aligning her with The Pig-Faced Lady, Julia Pastrana, and other Victorian freaks (100). These comparisons would, of course, be common for the Victorians (and highly offensive), but when intersected with sexologist taxonomies, Marian’s description aligns more with Ellis’s eonist and Krafft-Ebing’s pseudohermaphrodite.[32] As we have seen, sexologists (and Victorians at large) struggled to categorise gender non-binary people. Collins seems to empower Marian and her trans possibilities; she is fully aware of her difference and ability to destabilise not only Walter, but Victorian norms and binaries.

I am not suggesting Collins was directly aware of his culture’s medical and scientific approaches to what we would now term the transgender population, but he was well aware of subverting norms through non-binary characters. The sensation genre (like the Gothic) allows for and celebrates these subversions, and as in Marian’s case, creates spaces for sympathising with non-normative characters. Whereas Erickson argues that she circulates in a ‘narrative space that has not already been defined for her,’ I argue that in the end the narrative forecloses Marian’s trans possibilities.[33] She is forced to accept the maternal, feminine role demanded by the text (though in a non-traditional manner as ‘sister wife’ to Walter). Once the monstrous, pseudohermaphroditic Other whose incongruous appearance caused ‘helpless discomfort,’ Marian is ‘the good angel of our lives’ by the novel’s last line.

Walter’s confusion is magnified upon the appearance of Marian’s hypochondriac uncle Mr. Frederick Fairlie. Again, Walter provides us with a taxonomic list of another Limmeridge House inhabitant’s odd, non-normative features:

His beardless face was thin, worn, and transparently pale, but not wrinkled; his
nose was high and hooked; his eyes were of a dim greyish blue, large, prominent,
and rather red round the rims of the eyelids; his hair was scanty, soft to look at,
and of that light sandy colour which is the last to disclose its own changes
towards grey. He was dressed in a dark frock-coat, of some substance much
thinner that 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—
something singularly and unpleasantly delicate in its association with a man, and,
at the same time, something which could by no possibility have looked natural
and appropriate if it had been transferred to the personal appearance of a woman. (32)

With ‘delicate hands,’ ‘effeminate feet,’ and ‘little womanish’ slippers, Fairlie disturbs Walter’s notion of masculinity and produces disgust. The cross-dressing Fairlie’s look embodies something ‘unpleasantly delicate in its association with a man,’ and Walter acknowledges that his appearance would have been ‘appropriate’ if he was a woman. Walter then admits that ‘My morning’s experience of Miss Halcombe had predisposed me to be pleased with everybody in the house; but my sympathies shut themselves up resolutely at the first sight of Mr. Fairlie’ (32). I would argue that Walter is also ‘predisposed’ to describe the occupants of Limmeridge House with some sort of sexologist lens. It is as if he is searching for signs of gender confusion in those he obsessively describes, painting them as abnormal, unpleasant, and unnatural.[34]

Notably, Collins continues to deploy this hyper-sensitive gender lens to his other narrators. A remarkable occurrence takes place in The Moonstone (1868), when Ezra Jennings, Dr. Candy’s biracial assistant, describes his own hermaphroditism to Franklin Blake: ‘Physiology says, and says truly, that some men are born with female constitutions—and I am one of them!’[35] As Marian marks her identity with the slash (‘and I am—’), Jennings’s hermaphroditic description is split and marked with the same signifier. He even warns Blake, ‘You are in bad company’ (420). In his diary, Jennings repeatedly describes his fascination with Blake:  ‘What is the secret of the attraction that there is for me in this man?’ and ‘Mr. Blake has given me a new interest in life’ (441). Blake seems to reciprocate these feelings:  ‘It is not to be denied that Ezra Jennings’s made some inscrutable appeal to my sympathies, which I found it impossible to resist’ (408). As with Collins’ disabled characters, Jennings’s othered body also produces a fearful gaze. Blake describes:

‘His gipsy-complexion, his fleshless cheeks, his gaunt facial bones, his dreamy
eyes, his extraordinary parti-coloured hair, the puzzling contradiction between his
face and figure which made him look old and young both together—were all more
or less calculated to produce an unfavourable impression of him on a stranger’s
mind.’ (408)

Like Marian Halcombe’s, Ezra Jennings’s appearance is ‘odd,’ dark, and produces a ‘puzzling contradiction between his face and figure.’ Of course, Jennings is aware of the somatic response his appearance generates. He writes, ‘My personal appearance (as usual) told against me. Mr. Bruff’s distrust looked at me plainly enough out of Mr. Bruff’s eyes. [I] being well used to producing this effect on strangers’ (459–60). His ‘monstrous’ appearance produces a somatic reaction from the elderly Mrs. Merridew:  she ‘uttered a faint little scream at the first sight of my gipsy complexion and piebald hair’ (462). Jennings straddles numerous binaries:  Indian/English, heterosexual/homosexual, male/female, monster/human, old/young. Although a minor character, Jennings holds the key to the novel’s great mystery, helping to solve it so that Blake can be cleared of the crime of stealing the diamond, which ultimately clears the way for him to marry Rachel Verinder. Yet as Haefele-Thomas argues, Jennings’s non-normativity cannot be contained by the novel and Victorian culture and he therefore dies at the end; in fact, he is buried in an unmarked grave and his important medical journals are burned (46). While the odd spinster (Marian) is allowed ‘a modicum of room to make a life for herself,’ ‘a biracial, genderqueer figure could have no such place,’ Haefele Thomas describes (46). Tellingly, Collins’ chooses a character who must not be allowed to survive the text to solve the novel’s mystery; his gender difference disables him and he cannot be ‘cured’ or accepted.

It is The Law and the Lady’s Valeria Woodville who fully takes up Walter’s role as gender-curious observer. As with Marian Halcombe, Frederick Fairlie, and Ezra Jennings, Collins often ‘monstrosizes’ his non-binary characters, and The Law and the Lady’s disabled Miserrimus Dexter is no different. Like Limmeridge House, ‘Prince Dexter’s Palace’ houses trans figures who must necessarily be given, atavistic, monstrous descriptors. While the novel’s female amateur detective Valeria Brinton (later Woodville then Macallan) is a less sensational rewriting of Marian Halcombe, it is Miserrimus Dexter who dramatically challenges physical and gender norms. Born without legs, Dexter gets around either in a wheelchair or by hopping on his hands. He also suffers from various stages of mental instability, as his mood changes violently, from mild and melancholy to the brink of madness (and by the end of the novel he is confined to an asylum). Sara, Eustace Woodville’s former wife, had rejected a previous marriage proposal from Dexter who was infatuated with her. In fact, the novel rests on Dexter’s knowledge of Sara’s ‘murder’ (which in fact turns out to be a suicide). As he did with The Moonstone’s Jennings, Collins centres the solution to the mystery around a ‘strange,’ physically challenged, and gender non-binary character.

Similar to Marian Halcombe, Dexter is endowed with homoerotic and trans possibilities: Valeria describes him as ‘a strange and startling creature literally the half of a man’ (163) and ‘like a woman’ (281).[36] He is monstrous (‘terrible’, ‘the halfman’), and like Marian, hyper-sexualised. Valeria repeatedly states that he is ‘an unusually handsome, and an unusually well-made man’ (163). Dexter crosses several lines of propriety, devouring Valeria’s hands with kisses, placing his hands on Valeria’s shoulders, and most shockingly for Victorians, around her waist. Collins even resurrects Walter’s taxonomic, binary-filled description of Marian with Valeria’s portrait of Dexter:

His long silky hair, of a bright and beautiful chestnut colour, fell over shoulders
that were the perfection of strength and grace. His face was bright with vivacity
and intelligence. His large clear blue eyes, and his long delicate white hands, were
like the eyes and hands of a beautiful woman. He would have looked effeminate,
but for the manly proportions of his throat and chest; aided in their effect by his
flowing beard and long moustache, of a lighter chestnut shade than the colour of
his hair. Never had a magnificent head and body been more hopelessly
ill-bestowed than in this instance! Never had Nature committed a more careless or
more cruel mistake than in the making of this man! (163)

Just as Marian’s body marks her gender difference and confusion, moustache and all, Dexter’s body signifies the same disruption and destabilisation of gendered physicality. Both bodies are startling in their combination of female and male incongruity and attractiveness; both shock and arouse; and both are in some way disabled and ‘unnatural.’ As Walter did with his descriptions of Marian and Frederick Fairlie, Valeria layers her portrait of Dexter with gendered terms:  he has ‘delicate’ hands and an ‘effeminate’ appearance;  ‘He spoke in the gentlest of voices–and he sighed hysterically when he had done, like a woman recovering from a burst of tears’ (195). Teresa Mangum notes, ‘His unclear sexual status and complex gendering are presented as his greatest deformities, motivating the spectator’s guilty gaze.’[37] In another remarkable description, Valeria details his effeminate ensemble:

His jacket, on this occasion, was of pink quilted silk. The coverlid which hid his
deformity matched the jacket in pale sea-green satin; and, to complete these
strange vagaries of costume, his wrists were actually adorned with massive
bracelets of gold, formed on the severely-simple models which have descended to
us from ancient times! (215–16)

Dexter explains that he has received Valeria ‘in the prettiest clothes I have,’ and defends his cross-dressing by pronouncing that ‘a hundred years ago, a gentleman in pink silk was a gentleman properly dressed’ (216). He further argues, ‘I despise the brutish contempt for beauty and mean dread of expense which degrade a gentleman’s costume to black cloth, and limit a gentleman’s ornaments to a finger ring, in the age I live in’ (216). And just as his clothing defies mid-Victorian male dress (as does Mr. Fairlie’s in The Woman in White), Dexter admits to Valeria that he also enjoys embroidery as a form of relaxation from his nerves: ‘“Women,” he said, “wisely compose their minds, and help themselves to think quietly by doing needlework. Why are men such fools as to deny themselves the same admirable resource–the simple and soothing occupation which keeps the nerves steady and leaves the mind calm and free? As a man, I follow the women’s wise example”’ (219). At one moment sewing in a pink silk jacket, the next denouncing women for their inability to concentrate their attention ‘on any one occupation’ (229), and the next cooking truffles in wine for Valeria, Dexter defies gender stereotypes while caustically endorsing others. As Walter is horrifyingly attracted to the moustached Marian, Valeria describes Dexter as ‘being an unusually handsome man,’ and that his blue eyes are ‘large as the eyes of a woman’ (200). And just as Walter monstrosizes Marian and gives her primordial attributes, Valeria describes Dexter with atavistic terms:  ‘For one moment we saw a head and body in the air, absolutely deprived of the lower limbs. The moment after, the terrible creature touched the floor as lightly as a monkey, on his hands. The grotesque horror of the scene culminated in his hopping away, on his hands, at a prodigious speed’ (194). Later seized by madness, furiously racing in his wheelchair, Dexter is ‘Half man, half chair,’ ‘looking in the distance like a monstrous frog’ (244). Valeria even refers to him as ‘Thing,’ ‘Object,’ and ‘It.’ Whereas Marian is given the opportunity to conform in the end and accept Victorian patriarchal and heteronormative norms, Dexter’s difference, like Jennings’s, cannot be contained by the narrative. Crippled by his madness, he is placed in an asylum where he eventually dies.

Misserimus Dexter is not the only character that transfixes Valeria’s gaze. Ariel, the mentally disabled cousin and helpmate to Dexter, captivates Valeria as she gently combs Dexter’s long hair, carries the legless man in and out of his wheelchair, and is the subject of Dexter’s beatings and loving harassment. Valeria admits, ‘Ariel fascinated me; I could look at nothing but Ariel’ (323). As with Dexter, Ariel is also given animalistic (another character calls her ‘a monkey’), gender-confused attributes. Valeria writes:

I could now see the girl’s round fleshy inexpressive face, her rayless and
colourless eyes, her coarse nose and heavy chin. A creature half alive; an
imperfectly-developed animal in shapeless form, clad in a man’s pilot jacket, and
treading in a man’s heavy laced boots:  with nothing but an old red flannel
petticoat, and a broken comb in her frowsy flaxen hair, to tell us that she was a
woman–such was the inhospitable person who had received us in the darkness,
when we first entered the house. (196)

‘A creature half alive’ and an ‘imperfectly-developed animal,’ the transgender Ariel is given zombie-like, atavistic qualities. And as he did in The Woman in White, Collins prefers the signifying dash to speak volumes about his perplexing characters. Similar to Walter, Valeria is searching for gendered signs while reinforcing a characters’ gender non-binary position. Dressed as a sailor, Ariel confuses Valeria with her cross-dressing, so much so Valeria grasps for female signifiers:  the petticoat and comb. When she visits Valeria in London, the maid announces, ‘“It’s a woman this time, ma’am–or something like one […] A great, stout, awkward, stupid creature, with a man’s hat on, and a man’s stick in her hand”’ (281). And when she speaks, Ariel reinforces her trans possibilities:  Valeria remarks that she has a ‘strange unwomanly voice’ (198). Similar to Walter’s description of Laura Fairlie as embodying ‘strangely something wanting,’ Valeria uses words such as ‘impenetrable’ and ‘incomprehensible’ to describe Ariel. She even asks herself, ‘Could Ariel […] be woman enough to cry?’ (282). In place of the sexologist, Valeria is the voyeur, the visual taxonomist desperately searching for gender confirmation in those that confuse. As with Jennings, Dexter, Frederick Fairlie and others, Ariel cannot survive the novel and sadly, she dies from heartbreak on Dexter’s grave. As The Law and the Lady provocatively demonstrates, while Collins creates narrative spaces for these gender non-conforming characters he also incorporates gender-policing voyeurs who either force these characters into conforming roles or violently eject them from the page.

What these trans possibilities in Collins’ fiction suggest is that the medical investigation of genderqueer and transgender people was growing in social interest. In many ways, Collins exploits and fetishises his trans characters (and they are often the recipients of a scathing heteronormative gaze), and in several instances (as in Dexter’s and Ariel’s) institutionalises or punishes them for their difference. Groundbreaking characters like Marian cannot be fully accommodated by their narrative world until they conform or choose a binary gender identity (as the ending of The Woman in White confirms and substantiates). As my essay also maintains, Collins depicts the punitive effects of a repressed, conservative Victorian culture. His work foreshadows and dramatises the social and scientific brutality often inflicted on the bodies of trans and non-binary people. Yet Collins can be seen to offer at least temporary generative spaces for gender non-binary and trans possibilities and characterisation. Readers can sympathise with the ugly, masculine Marian (while rejecting her egomaniacal uncle) as well as the painfully disabled Miserrimus Dexter. Similar to many Victorian sexologists, Collins exploited and monstrosized the gender non-binary population, yet at the same time he studied and explored the marginalised in order to better understand and depict those who defy, confuse, or resist gender categorisation. Indeed, much more work is needed at the intersection of gender and queer studies of Collins’ fiction, yet I hope this essay participates in some small way to this larger and necessary endeavour.

 

[1] See D.A. Miller, The Novel and Police; Lyn Pykett; Richard Collins ‘Marian’s Moustache’; Richard Nemesvari’s ‘The Mark of the Brotherhood:  Homosexual Panic and the Foreign Other in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White’; Ardel Haefele-Thomas Queer Others in Victorian Gothic: Transgressing Monstrosity (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2009).

[2] A. Finn Enke, Transfeminist Perspectives In and Beyond Transgender and Gender Studies, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012), 8.

[3] Susan Stryker, ‘(De)Subjugated Knowledges: An Introduction to Transgender Studies,’ in The Transgender Studies Reader vol. 1 (New York, Routledge, 2006), 15.

[4] Stryker, Transgender History (New York: Seal Press, 2008), 1.

[5] For a full discussion of transgender theory’s intersection with the Gothic, see ‘Transing the Gothic,’ Jolene Zigarovich’s introduction to TransGothic in Literature and Culture ed. Jolene Zigarovich (New York, Routledge, 2017), 1–22.

[6] Susan Stryker, ‘Transgender Studies: Queer Theory’s Evil Twin,’ GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10 no. 2 (2004): 214. For further discussion of the ‘queer desire for gender transitivity’ see Robyn Wiegman’s Object Lessons, (Durham,NC: Duke University Press, 2012).

[7] Ardel Haefele-Thomas Queer Others in Victorian Gothic: Transgressing Monstrosity, (Cardiff:

University of Wales Press, 2009).

[8] See Richard Collins for a discussion of Victorian gender teratology and hermaphroditism.

[9] Foucault, Herculine Barbin, Being the Recently Discivered Memoirs of a Nineteenth Century French Hermaphrodite (New York: Vintage, 1980), xii.

[10] Psychopathia Sexualis with Special Reference to Contrary Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Legal Study.

[11] Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 2, (Philadelphia: F. A. Davis, 1906), 259.

[12] Cheryl Chase, ‘Hermaphrodites with Attitude:  Mapping the Emergence of Intersex Political Activism.’ The Transgender Studies Reader vol. 1 (New York:  Routledge, 2006), 300–314.

[13] Albrecht Edwin Klebs, Handbook of Pathological Anatomy (Berlin: Hirschwald, 1876), quoted in A.D. Dreger Hermaphrodites and the medical invention of sex (London: Harvard University Press, 1998), 145.

[14] Herculine Barbin is another notorious case. Intersex, Barbin was raised as a woman but her biological sex was later revealed. After a physical examination determined her biological sex, she lost her civil status as a woman. Devastated, Barbin eventually committed suicide. See Barbin’s memoir, Barbin, Herculine (1980). Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-century French Hermaphrodite. Introduction: Michel Foucault, trans. Richard McDougall (New York: Pantheon Books) Alice Domurat Dreger (Spring 1995). ‘Doubtful Sex: The Fate of the Hermaphrodite in Victorian Medicine.’ Victorian Studies. 38 (3): 335–370.

[15] Since d’ Eon identified as female for the majority of her adult life, I use female pronouns when referring to her.

[16] Alfred Dowling and Vincent Dowling Reports of Cases and Determined in the Queen’s Bench 1841. For more on the Chevalier d’Eon, see Kates, Gary. Monsieur d’Éon Is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade, (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001); d’Éon De Beaumont, Charles. The Maiden of Tonnerre: The Vicissitudes of the Chevalier and the Chevalière d’Éon, (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001); Decker, Michel de. Madame Le Chevalier d’Éon, (Paris: Perrin, 1987). Burrows, Simon; Russell Goulbourne; Jonathan Conlin; Valerie Mainz (23 April 2010). The Chevalier d’Éon and his worlds: gender, espionage and politics in the eighteenth century (Continuum, 2010).

[17] Laughton, John Knox (1888). ‘D’Éon de Beaumont, Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée.’ In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 14. (London: Smith, Elder & Co.)

[18] Richard Ekins, Dave King, The transgender phenomenon, (SAGE, 2006), 61–64.

[19] Havelock Ellis, Eonism, Vol VII of Studies in the Psychology of Sex, (F.A. Davis & Co., 1928), 33.

[20] Sandor Ferenczi, First Contributions to Psychoanalysis (London: Hogarth, 1952).

[21] Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, ed. and trans. James Strachey (New York: Basic, 1962), 2–13.

[22] Prosser, Second Skins, 31.

[23] Stryker, Transgender History, 16. For discussions of how trans people have often been excluded from queer spaces, see Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues (New York: Alyson, 2004); Susan Stryker, ‘(De)Subjugated Knowledges: An Introduction to Transgender Studies,’ in The Transgender Studies Reader, vol. 1, eds. Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle (New York: Routledge, 2006); and Gayle Salamon, Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).

[24] Hanson, ‘Queer Gothic,’ 176.

[25] See Ardel Haefele-Thomas’s Queer Others in Victorian Gothic: Transgressing Monstrosity. (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2009); Richard Nemesavari’s ‘The Mark of the Brotherhood: Homosexual Panic and the Foreign Other in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White’; Lauren N. Hoffer and Sarah E. Kersh, ‘The Victorian Family in Queer Time:  Secrets, Sisters and Lovers in The Woman the White and Fingersmith,’ in Queer Victorian Families:  Curious Relations in Literature (New York:  Routledge, 2015), 195–210; Martha Stoddard Holmes’s ‘Queering the Marriage Plot:  Wilkie Collins’ The Law and the Lady’; Sarah Salih’s chapter ‘Mulattos in the Contact Zone: Mary Seacole and Ozias Midwinter’ in Representing Mixed Race in Jamaica and England from the Abolition Era to the Present (New York:  Routledge, 2011); Melissa Free’s ‘Freaks that Matter:  The Doll’s Dressmaker, the Doctor’s Assistant, and the Limits of Difference’ in Victorian Freaks:  The Social Context of Freakery in Britain (ed. Marlene Tromp, Ohio State University Press, 2008); and Laurel Erickson’s ‘In Short, She is an Angel; and I am—Odd Women and Same Sex Desire in The Woman in White’ in The Foreign Woman in British Literature. For helpful introductions, see Emily Allen’s ‘Gender and Sensation’ in The Companion to Sensation Fiction (John Wiley & Sons, 2011), as well as Ross G. Formans’s ‘Queer Sensation’ in the same volume.

[26] Despite this amount of work, a book-length queer study of Collins does not exist. Holly Furneaux produced a remarkable book-length study of the work of Charles Dickens titled Queer Dickens: Erotics, Families, Masculinities (2009). A similar study is needed for Collins.

[27] See Marshall, ‘Beyond Queer Gothic: Charting the Gothic History of the Trans Subject in Beckford, Lewis, Byron’ in TransGothic in Literature and Culture, edited by Jolene Zigarovich (New York:  Routledge, 2017), 25–52.

[28] Zigarovich, ‘Transing the Gothic’, Introduction to TransGothic in Literature and Culture ed. Jolene Zigarovich (New York, Routledge, 2017), 4.

[29] Hughes and Smith, Queering the Gothic, 1.

[30] Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1973), 25. All subsequent quotes from the novel cite this edition.

[31] While some of the textual evidence may point to trans identification, I wish to clarify that I am not pronouncing this identification for Collins’ characters and, instead, I wish to highlight the possibilities and questions the texts raise.

[32] Another subversive character, The Moonstone’s Ezra Jennings exhibits transgender possibilities and homoerotic tendencies. Jewish and like Marian, dark-skinned, Ezra would be seen by his Victorian audience as monstrous ‘Other.’ See Haefele-Thomas for an insightful discussion of Jennings and the Indian hijira (a traditional male eunuch).

[33] Laurel Erickson, ‘In Short, She is an Angel, and I am—’ The Foreign Woman in British Literature, 100.

[34] In fact, when he meets his eventual love, Laura Fairlie, he expresses that her difference is unspeakable: ‘Among the sensations that crowded on me, when my eyes first looked upon her […] there was one that troubled and perplexed me; one that seemed strangely inconsistent and unaccountably out of place in Miss Fairlie’s presence’ (42). He admits that her face ‘suggested to me the idea of something wanting,’ that he is ‘most troubled by the sense of an incompleteness which it was impossible to discover. Something wanting, something wanting—and where it was, and what it was, I could not say’ (42). As he did with Marian and Mr. Fairlie, Walter’s description includes the signifying dash and the painting of a person with similar diction: ‘perplexed,’ ‘strangely,’ ‘troubled.’ While Laura’s ‘something wanting’ is her actual difference from yet similarity to her half-sister Anne Catherick, Walter’s diction of confusion also suggests Laura’s lack and troubling incompleteness. Throughout the novel he admits that she disturbs him:  ‘Perhaps that strange sense of something wanting…which had perplexed me when I was first introduced to her, haunted me still’ (45). Unlike her uncle and half-sister, Marian, Laura embodies a different set of destabilising features, yet they are just as disturbing and haunting. As others have suggested, this ‘something wanting’ and strange, perplexing sense that Walter feels could be Laura’s oddness, her queerness, or her homosexuality. I certainly agree with these provocative readings of Laura, and though she isn’t given gender-confused attributes, she still perplexes and is somehow out of place.

[35] Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1982), 414.

[36] Wilkie Collins, The Law and the Lady (London:  Penguin, 1998). Subsequent quotations cite this edition.

[37] Teresa Mangum, ‘Wilkie Collins, Detection, and Deformity,’ Dickens Studies Annual 26 (1998):  296.

 

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