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CCU professor publishes new edition of early British mystery

July 24, 2006

Coastal Carolina University English professor Maria K. Bachman, a specialist on the works of British novelist Wilkie Collins, has co-edited a new edition of one of his most important novels, "The Woman In White."

Considered by many scholars to be the first detective novel, "The Woman In White" shocked English readers when it was first published in serial form in 1859-60. This new edition, which Bachman co-edited with English professor Don Richard Cox of the University of Tennessee, includes the original test, three prefaces and two essays by Collins, as well as nine illustrations. The appendices include contemporary reviews as well as essays on lunacy, asylums, mesmerism and women's rights, subjects that Collins explores in "The Woman In White."

"The Woman in White' secured Collins' literary reputation during his lifetime (1824-1889); it is regarded as one of his two major works along with his later novel "The Moonstone." Collins rivaled Charles Dickens as the most famous living Victorian novelist, yet, unlike Dickens, his popularity declined quickly after his death. Known as a kind of "Victorian bad boy" who pushed the limits of propriety in both his personal and professional life, Collins wrote sensational and enormously successful novels that revolved around crime, adultery, bigamy, and, most of all, secrets.

The new volume, published recently by Broadview Literary Texts, has been praised by the chairman of the Wilkie Collins Society as "an excellent edition...prepared with great thoroughness by two editors well versed in Collins studies."

Other Collins books that Bachman and Cox have co-edited are "Reality's Dark Light: The Sensational Wilkie Collins," an anthology of contemporary critical essays that call attention to Collins' non-Victorian choice of topics and beg for a reevaluation of his literary legacy, and "Blind Love," designed for use in undergraduate and graduate classrooms.

Bachman teaches a variety of courses on 19th-century British literature and culture, the novel and children's literature.