'The only happy marriages are those in which the two destined spirits
have succeeded in meeting one another in this sphere of life.'
1876 Chatto & Windus first edition in two volumes
Collins's novel was published in 1876 and dedicated to Charles Reade.
Collins explores the themes of 'destined spirits' and supernatural
visions. He acknowledges taking
the second idea from a case reported in Robert Dale Owen's Footfalls on the
Boundary of another World. This
describes how a ship's captain is convinced to change course after seeing an
apparition and saves the passengers of a wrecked ship, including the person in
1881 Chatto & Windus yellowback
George and Mary are childhood sweethearts in Suffolk's Greenwater Broad.
Despite a prediction from Mary's grandmother, old Mrs Dermody, that
their two destinies are inextricably linked, George's father disapproves.
He separates them by taking his family to America where he subsequently
dies. George and his mother return
to England where she marries Mr Germaine, a rich suitor she had known before
her first marriage.
George has no way of tracing Mary and leads a dissolute existence which
prematurely ages his appearance. He
reforms, trains to become a surgeon, and takes up an appointment in India.
After being wounded in the shoulder, George returns to England where he
inherits his step-father's fortune and estate in Perthshire.
There is a condition that he must change his name to Germaine.
Mary, meanwhile has suffered a serious illness which has totally changed
her looks. She has married a
Dutchman called Van Brandt and is also living in the same part of Scotland.
When Mary discovers that her marriage is bigamous, she throws herself
into the river but is saved by George.
They fail to recognise each other but develop an almost telepathic
attraction. George sees an
apparition of Mary calling him to Edinburgh.
They meet and he learns that Mary had dreamed of him at exactly the
same time. She declines his help
and he next sees her in London, still in company with Van Brandt.
George proposes marriage but Mary, who has a baby daughter, refuses,
for fear of spoiling his life.
George goes away to the Shetlands to forget but injures his wounded
shoulder. He is nursed back to
health by the mysteriously disfigured Miss Dunross to whom he confides his
story. On his recovery, he sees
another apparition which leads him to Mary and her child, starving in lodgings
near St Paul's. Van Brandt is in a
debtors prison and George helps by paying off the debts.
He again proposes but Mary goes abroad with Van Brandt.
George's mother dies shortly after. Alone
and in despair, he returns to Suffolk where he contemplates suicide.
He is saved by a third apparition which takes him to the ghost town of
Enkhuizen on the coast of Holland. Van
Brandt has embezzled money from his old company and abandoned Mary and her
child. When she refuses marriage
for a third time, George resolves to drown himself and take Mary with him.
At the last moment she sees a childhood memento which she once made for
him. They finally recognise each
other and their two destinies are reunited.
Newly married, they are ostracized from society because of malicious
scandal. They leave England to
start a new life in Naples.
1876 first Canadian edition by Hunter,Rose of Toronto
Harper's Bazar, 25
December 1875 - 9 September 1876; Temple Bar, January - September 1876.
2 volumes, Chatto & Windus, London 1876.
Reddish-brown cloth, front covers blocked in black, spines lettered in
gilt, cream end-papers. Half-title
in volume I. Published between the
16 and 31 August 1876. Variant
binding in green cloth.
(viii) + 312 pp
iv + 304. 32 pp publishers'
catalogue dated September 1876 bound in at end
1 volume editions
Chatto & Windus 1878-1906. Sutton,
1st US edition
Harpers, New York 1876.
Russian, St Petersburg 1876, 1878; Dutch, The Hague 1877; Italian, Milan
1884; French, Paris 188-.
All material in these pages is © copyright Andrew Gasson 1998-2010