The Law and the Lady

The Law and the Lady

infobox Book |
name = The Law and the Lady
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Wilkie Collins
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Mystery
publisher = Chatto & Windus
release_date = 1875
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 3 vol.
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Law and the Lady" was published in 1875, by Wilkie Collins, although still in print, is largely forgotten now. Not quite as sensational in style as "The Moonstone" and "The Woman in White", it is still a detective story.

Plot summary

Valeria Brinton marries Eustace Woodville despite objections from Woodville's family leading to disquiet for Valeria's own family and friends.

Just a few days after the wedding, various incidents lead Valeria to suspect her husband is hiding a dark secret in his past and she discovers that he has been using a false name. He refuses to discuss it leading them to curtail their honeymoon and return to London where Valeria learnsthat he was on trial for his first wife's murder by arsenic. He was tried in a Scottish court and the verdict was 'Not Proven' rather than 'not guilty' implying his guilt but without enough proof for a jury to convict him.

Valeria sets out to save their happiness by proving her husband innocent of the crime. In her quest, she comes across the disabled character Miserrimus Dexter, a fascinating but mentally unstable genius, and his devoted female cousin, Ariel. Dexter will prove crucial to uncovering the disturbing truth behind the mysterious death.


Wilkie Collins' earliest career attempt - to read for the bar - informed much of his later work, and he was particularly interested in the marriage, divorce and property laws of England and of Scotland - mysteries and miseries surrounding these laws serve as plot-points in many of his novels. Readers may well have remembered the notorious trial of Madeleine Smith, accused of poisoning her paramour with arsenic (the verdict was 'Not Proven'). In the novel, Collins attacks the Scots courts for allowing these verdicts, by showing how the defendant's reputation is tarnished even though they have not been found legally guilty. [Dougald B. Maceachen, 'Wilkie Collins and British Law', "Nineteenth-Century Fiction", Vol. 5, No. 2 (Sep., 1950), pp. 135-138]

Though Collins is sometimes credited with inventing the detective story (others give that honor to Edgar Allan Poe, whose Murders in the Rue Morgue was published in 1841 - 27 years earlier than Collins' The Moonstone), he almost certainly began the tradition of female sleuths continued by Agatha Christie with Miss Marple and, in more modern times, V.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky's Chicago private detective. Perhaps it was Collins' unorthodox relationships that allowed him to see the strength and determination that a woman could bring to the role of detective and to reject the usual Victorian image of women being weak and in need of protection.


External links

*gutenberg|no=1622|name=The Law and the Lady

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