The Dead Secret

The Dead Secret

The Dead Secret

The Dead Secret


A mystery of unrelenting suspense and penetrating characterization, The Dead Secret explores the relationship between a fallen woman, her illegitimate daughter, and buried secrets in a superb blend of romance and Gothic drama. Reprinted here in the only critical edition available, is the text of the first edition, including Collins's preface and revisions. A superb introduction relates the text to Collins's love of the theatre, and previous and subsequent works.


Readers who do not wish to learn details of the plot will prefer to treat the Introduction as an Afterword.

Wilkie Collins wrote The Dead Secret between promise and fame. the last of his apprentice novels, it was succeeded by his first major success, The Woman in White. Up to that point, Collins was known as a writer of daring novels that challenged social behaviour through his presentation of domestic crime or bohemian artists. The Dead Secret only slightly altered that view, confronting such issues as the fallen woman, false inheritance, and mistaken identity, all on the wild coast of Cornwall.

Collins began his career by flirting with romance: an exotic novel titled Iolani and set in Tahiti, written at 20 and lost until I99I. He turned next to historical fiction with Antonina, located in ancient Rome and written in the manner of Bulwer-Lytton; the novel was an early if limited hit. He then turned to contemporary material: his third novel, Basil, dealt with the startling topic of a wife's infidelity. His fourth, Hide and Seek, expanded his belief that one must defy society to survive through the story of a painter and his rebellious friend. in 1856 he published a series of tales entitled After Dark and continued with his journalism, which mostly appeared in Dickens's Household Words, where he first published in 1852. in the nine years since his first printed work, an account of his father, the artist William Collins, Wilkie Collins had established himself as a writer whose narratives created suspense but, above all, told a story. The Dead Secret is no exception.

A tempered but encouraging reception greeted The Dead Secret when it was serialized in twenty-three parts in Household Words between January and June 1857, and published in book-form later that year. Reviews were at first tepid and complained about the flat style, slow action, and thin characters. 'Too much is made of too little mystery', the reviewer in . . .

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