Worry, want, and wickedness: insanity and the doppelgänger in Wilkie Collins' The woman in white and Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's secret

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John Herdman provides a brief explanation for neglecting the Victorian sensational double in his work The Double in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, "Nor have I ventured into the vast hinterland of Victorian

John Herdman provides a brief explanation for neglecting the Victorian sensational double in his work The Double in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, "Nor have I ventured into the vast hinterland of Victorian popular fiction in which doubles roam in abundance, as these are invariably derivative in origin and break no distinctive new territory of their own" (xi). To be sure the popular fiction of the Victorian Era would not produce such penetrating and resonate doubles found in the continental, and even American, literature of the same period until the works of Scottish writers James Hogg and later Robert Louis Stevenson; and while popular English writers have been rightly accused of "exploit[ing] it [the double] for sensational effects," (Herdman 19) the indictment of possessing "no distinctive new territory of their own" is hardly adequate. In particular, two immensely popular works of fiction in the 1860's, Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White (1860) and Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret (1862), employ the convention of the double for a simultaneous sensational and sociological effect. However, the sociological influence of the double in these two texts is not achieved alone: the "guise of lunacy" deployed as a cover-up for criminality acts symbiotically with the sensational double. The double motif provides female characters within these works the opportunity to manipulate the "guise of lunacy" to transgress patriarchal boundaries cemented within the socio-economic hierarchy as well as within other patriarchal institutions: marriage and the sanatorium. Overall this presentation formulates "new distinctive territory" in the land of the Victorian sensational double through the works of Collins and Braddon.