Sheridan vs. Wilkie: Place your Bets!

Yesterday I had a sort of library-blah (let’s say, a sub-optimal experience). I hadn’t meant to go this week, because I’m already absorbed in Tom Perrotta’s Abstinence Teacher and a French history book on popular classes in Paris 18C called “The Fragile Life”. Both are fascinating, and I just needed to renew the loan for another 3 weeks.

In theory, I can do it online, but it’s a new service in Paris public libraries and their internet website has all sorts of breakdowns. So I had to go and renew, baby in tow. When we got there, the librarians too were having a network breakdown; there was a long line at the check out counter! So I figured, at least let’s have a look on the shelves and bring back something new, perhaps the mess will be sorted out by then.

I wanted some comfort read too, but somehow nothing seemed to measure up to those 2 I’m reading now. And I had to be quick because Baby Smithereens isn’t really that patient (it doesn’t help that the library is over-heated and has a strict silence policy). But eventually I found a fun project for the Halloween season:

Sheridan Le Fanu and Wilkie Collins are old Victorian gothic favorites: I’ve read that they were rivals, but also that Le Fanu had influenced Collins. I’m curious to experience that firsthand, because I had read them before with a long interval between them. Will I see some parallels? Is one better than the other?

I’ve borrowed 2 novels: The Evil Guest by Le Fanu (1851), and The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins (1871), and intend to read them together. I confess, I chose them both only because they were rather short by Victorian standards, and that the titles seemed mysterious. Maybe I will discover that they have nothing in common, but at least I’ll have a real Gothic fall this year!


5 thoughts on “Sheridan vs. Wilkie: Place your Bets!

  1. I’ve only read one Wilkie Collins – The Frozen Deep – but it was appropriately gloomy and spooky. Perfect for October. I look forward to reading your thoughts on Le Fanu as well, haven’t read anything by this author yet.

    And also – what do you think of The Abstinence Teacher? I’ve been meaning to get my hands on a copy…

  2. I’m currently reading The Woman in White. I don’t think I have heard of Le Fanu, now I’m going to have to look him up! I look forward to hearing the results of your little project.

  3. Verbivore – mmh, spooky October! I’m not a great Halloween fan but I love Victorian gothic. About the Abstinence Teacher, I love it! A more proper by the end of the week I guess…

    Stefanie – Le Fanu is well known for his female vampire named Carmilla (not like Prince Charles’ Camilla, but I got the names mixed up ;)!) but in this sub-genre I do prefer Bram Stocker.

  4. Le Fanu is great for gothic thrills, and sadly underrated! Through a glass darkly and Uncle Silas are my favourites to date, surpisingly good and very spooky stories.

    Collins has less supernatural elements to his work, but his occasionally outlandish plot twists and twists and vivid (often hilarious) characters keep the pages turning.

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think of each.

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