'False appearances. As we all know, they lie like the truth'
Excerpts from Wilkie Collins: an Illustrated Guide by Andrew Gasson. Oxford University Press, 1998.
1886 first edition in paper wrappers
Short novel originally published as the 1886
Arrowsmith's Christmas Annual. Written
late in Collins's career, it incorporates
two of the themes often featured in his work:
the psychological effects of physical handicap, in this case deafness,
and the love of a middle-class man for an intelligent and independent woman
from a lower social stratum. Collins
began writing in September and worked twelve hours a day to enable the story
to be published on 15 November 1886.
Roylake returns from Germany on the death of his father to take up his
inheritance at Trimley Deen. On
his first evening he walks to the nearby River Loke and recognises his
childhood friend, Cristel Toller, the miller's daughter.
He also meets a deaf man living at the mill known only as The Lodger.
Gerard's stepmother, meanwhile, is keen to introduce him to local
society and in particular to her friend Lady Rachel's sister.
and Cristel gradually fall in love, incurring the Lodger's jealousy.
He is obsessed with Cristel and loans Gerard a manuscript which describes
his fear of inherited evil (from both his father and grandfather) as well as his
study of medicine, illness and subsequent deafness.
Pretending friendship, the Lodger invites Gerard to tea with the real
intention of poisoning him. Despite
warnings, the na´ve Gerard accepts. Cristel
realises the deadly intentions of the Lodger and with the help of his servant,
Gloody, administers an antidote that saves Gerard's life.
Gerard proposes marriage which Cristel declines because of their
difference in station. She then
disappears and although the Lodger is suspected and followed no trace of her is
found. After a year away on a
Pacific island, Gerard receives a letter from the now dying and repentant
Lodger. He reveals that, with the
aid of her father and Lady Rachel, Cristel had been abducted along the 'guilty'
River Loke . She has been cruising
on a yacht with her wealthy uncle, Stephen Toller, whose wife has been improving
Cristel's education. On her return
to England she marries Gerard to become the mistress of Trimley Deen.
1 volume, J. W. Arrowsmith, Bristol 1886. Buff paper wrappers, printed in dark blue, black and yellow. No half-title. Arrowsmith's Christmas Annual. Published 15 November 1886. Variant binding in maroon cloth
(viii) + 200 pp. Advertisements occupy pp (i-vi), (viii) and (189-200)
Reissued in Arrowsmith's Bristol Library (no 19) 1887; 1899, . Sutton, Stroud 1991.
1st US edition (simultaneous with English) Harper's Handy Series (no 105), New York 1886.
Robert Ashley records another story by Collins with the same title, issued in the same year by the same publisher, but with a completely different plot. This was probably what Collins called 'a bogus story' of a dozen pages written and published to preserve the title.
All material in these pages is © copyright Andrew Gasson 1998-2010