"THE WOMAN IN WHITE" has been received with such marked favour
by a very large circle of readers, that this volume scarcely stands in need of
any prefatory introduction on my part. All that it is necessary for me
to say on the subject of the present edition -- the first issued in a portable
and popular form -- may be summed up in few words.
I have endeavoured, by careful correction and revision, to make my
story as worthy as I could of a continuance of the public approval.
Certain technical errors which had escaped me while I was writing the
book are here rectified. None of these little blemishes in the slightest
degree interfered with the interest of the narrative -- but it was as well to
remove them at the first opportunity, out of respect to my readers; and
in this edition, accordingly, they exist no more.
Some doubts having been expressed, in certain captious quarters, about
the correct presentation of the legal "points" incidental to the story,
I may be permitted to mention that I spared no pains -- in this instance,
as in all others -- to preserve myself from unintentionally misleading my
readers. A solicitor of great experience in his profession most kindly and
carefully guided my steps, whenever the course of the narrative led me into
the labyrinth of the Law. Every doubtful question was submitted to
this gentleman, before I ventured on putting pen to paper; and all the
proof-sheets which referred to legal matters were corrected by his hand
before the story was published. I can add, on high judicial authority,
that these precautions were not taken in vain. The "law" in this
book has been discussed, since its publication, by more than one competent
tribunal, and has been decided to be sound.
One word more, before I conclude, in acknowledgment of the heavy debt
of gratitude which I owe to the reading public.
It is no affectation on my part to say that the success of this book has
been especially welcome to me, because it implied the recognition of a
literary principle which has guided me since I first addressed my readers
in the character of a novelist.
I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the primary object of
a work of fiction should be to tell a story ; and I have never believed that
the novelist who properly performed this first condition of his art, was in
danger, on that account, of neglecting the delineation of character -- for this
plain reason, that the effect produced by any narrative of events is essen-
tially dependent, not on the events themselves, but on the human interest
which is directly connected with them. It may be possible, in novel-
writing, to present characters successfully without telling a story ; but it
is not possible to tell a story successfully without presenting characters :
their existence, as recognisable realities, being the sole condition on which
the story can be effectively told. The only narrative which can hope to
lay a strong hold on the attention of readers, is a narrative which interests
them about men and women -- for the perfectly obvious reason that they
are men and women themselves.
The reception accorded to "The Woman in White" has practically con-
firmed these opinions, and has satisfied me that I may trust to them in the
future. Here is a novel which has met with a very kind reception,
because it is a Story ; and here is a story, the interest of which -- as I
know by the testimony, voluntarily addressed to me, of the readers them-
selves -- is never disconnected from the interest of character. "Laura,"
"Miss Halcombe," and "Anne Catherick;" "Count Fosco," "Mr. Fairlie,"
and "Walter Hartright;" have made friends for me wherever they have
made themselves known. I hope the time is not far distant when I may
meet those friends again, and when I may try, through the medium of
new characters, to awaken their interest in another story.
Harley Street, London,