A novel by Wilkie Collins, published 1860.
The narrative, related in succession by Walter Hartright and other characters in the story, starts with his midnight encounter on a lonely road with a mysterious and agitated woman dressed entirely in white, whom he helps to escape from pursuers. When working as a drawing‐master in the family of Mr Fairlie, a selfish valetudinarian, he falls in love with his niece Laura, who strikingly resembles the woman in white. She returns his love, but is engaged to Sir Percival Glyde, whom she marries. It comes to light that Sir Percival has married Laura to get possession of her wealth, that he was responsible for the confinement of the woman in white, Anne Catherick, in an asylum, and that Anne Catherick and her mother know a secret concerning Sir Percival. Unable to obtain Laura's signature to the surrender of her money, Sir Percival and his friend Count Fosco (a fat, smooth villain, admirably conceived) contrive to get Laura confined in an asylum as Anne Catherick, while Anne Catherick, who dies, is buried as Laura Glyde. The device is discovered by Marian Halcombe, Laura's half‐sister, and Laura is rescued. Hartright takes Laura and Marian under his care, and discovers Sir Percival's secret (that he was born out of wedlock and has no right to the title). Sir Percival is burnt to death while tampering with a parish register. Fosco is forced to supply the information which restores Laura to her identity, and is killed by a member of an Italian secret society which he has betrayed.
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Wilkie Collins (1824—1889) writer