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Basil (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Wilkie Collins , Dorothy Goldman
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

10 July 2008 Oxford World's Classics
In Basil's secret and unconsummated marriage to the linen-draper's sexually precocious daughter, and the shocking betrayal, insanity, and death that follow, Collins reveals the bustling, commercial London of the nineteenth century wreaking its vengeance on a still powerful aristocratic world.

Contemporary reviewers vehemently disapproved of this explicit treatment of adultery; and even today the passionate and lurid atmosphere he creates still has the power to disturb the reader.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (10 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199536708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536702
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 340,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wilkie Collins was born in London in 1824, the eldest son of the landscape painter William Collins. In 1846, having spent five years in the tea business, he was entered to read for the bar at Lincoln's Inn, where he gained the legal knowledge that was to give him much material for his writing.

From the early fifties, he was a friend of Charles Dickens, acting with him, contributing to Household Words, travelling with him on the Continent. Dickens produced and acted in two melodramas written by Collins, The Lighthouse (1855) and The Frozen Deep (1857).

Collins is best remembered for his novels, particularly The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), which T. S. Eliot called 'the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels'. His later, and at the time rather sensational, novels include The New Magdalen (1873) and The Law and The Lady (1875). Collins also braved the moral censure of the Victorian age by keeping two women (and their households) while marrying neither. He died in 1889.

Product Description


"[A] characteristically chilling work by the master of Victorian suspense." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Dorothy Goldman, Deputy Director, School of Continuing Education, University of Kent

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating early work by a master! 4 Jun 2001
Wilkie Collins had a long and productive career, producing a number of great "sensation novels", works which brought the horrors and paranoia of gothic fiction into the domestic realm of everyday Victorian England. Perhaps his best, and best-known, are the wonderful 'The Woman in White', which introduced multiple unreliable narrators to fiction, and 'The Moonstone', the first detective novel. 'Basil' is an earlier work (his second published novel), and eschews the mysterious murders and insanities of his later work to concentrate on a (then quite shocking) portrayal of secret adultery. Not as carefully crafted as his more mature masterpieces, 'Basil' is still an absorbing and gripping tale, well worth investigating.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but don't expect too much. 6 Jun 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
'Basil', being one of Collins earlier works, was never going to be as exciting or thrilling as his later novels 'The Woman in White' and 'The Moonstone'. I ventured to expect this when I voluntarily picked this book up to see the roots of the later masterpieces.

'Basil' is the beginning of the mystery thriller that Collins would adopt later on, and the inferiority of his treatment of this genre is easy to see. Whereas in 'The Moonstone' things were difficult to predict, and unable to see where things are going, the signs in 'Basil' are not discreet enough, there are no red herrings, what you read are the glaringly obvious hints that lead the story on and lead you to guess the subsequent events. This makes reading 'Basil' a lot less thrilling to read, and will pale in comparison to what you may have read in TWIW and TM. If you have not read these two novels, and you want to give Collins a try, this is not a good introduction (unless you take the length of the novel into account, which took me a day to read, whilst his later novels take three days). There is too much foreshadowing, and too much of it is made very clear.

'Basil' has a good basic plot, his characters well drawn out, but verging on stereotypical which is demonstrated on Basil's first dream of the two ladies in his life. One is dark, shrouded by wood in shadows, the other is pure and white, illuminated by sunshine and pleasant landscape. This is the basic concept of Margaret, his deceitful wife, and Clara, his virtuous sister. The protagonist can be difficult to like sometimes, his reasoning can be unconvincing, and his actions verge on stupidity, not on behalf of the character, but on behalf of Collins, on creating him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love and Madness 16 Sep 2011
By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
For its time - the book was first published in 1852 - this is actually a remarkably brave telling of a strange, unsettling and rather racy tale. Basil, the sober but idle second son of a monstrously straight-laced and formal father becomes besotted with a young woman whom he first sees on an omnibus. Margaret Sherwin, the focus of his infatuation, is considerably beneath Basil in terms of social standing but via some shabby dealings on the part of the young lady's father a deal is struck whereby the pair marry but live apart as single people for the space of a year. From this slightly tortuous set-up Collins then begins to unweave and shred the fabric of poor Basil's romantic notions. Margaret Sherwin, alas, is not exactly the innocent young woman she seems.....

Basil appears early in Collins's career. The heights of The Woman in White and Armadale were still some years away and, at this stage, Collins is clearly still learning his craft. All the same his handling of pace and character is remarkably assured, as is his ability to create an air of cloying menace. About a third of the way through the novel the enigmatic Mr Mannion appears - a man who has a remarkable ability to learn all the useful details about others while revealing nothing of himself. There is one scene in particular between Mannion and Basil which takes place in the former's house during a violent thunderstorm (absolutely everything in this novel is signposted by the weather at the time) which positively crackles with understated menace. Collins was always great at creating an atmosphere of enigmatic dread and this brilliant piece of descriptive writing early in his career is a superb early example of his talent for creating the uneasy and the worrying; that delicious sense of things being 'not quite right'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading if you are a Collins fan 12 May 2013
Really I think this book deserves 3.5 stars - it doesn't rank amongst the best of Collins' productions but it is worth reading if you have read all the rest and are eager for more, or are interested in how he developed as a writer. It is quite a short novel, and an easy read, so won't find yourself ploughing through and counting how many pages to go - even at this early point in his writing career, Collins had the knack of writing a page-turner.

In fact, the book is astonishingly explicit about adultery and sexual attraction for a mid-nineteenth century novel, and certainly caused a bit of a stir on that front at the time. There are examples of the ideas and themes which occur much later: written in the form of a personal memoir it also contains letters by characters explaining their actions, there is some mystery and suspense, late-night rambles about London, and adventures in the half-built suburbs of the growing city. There is some wonderful domestic detail in the description of a suburban villa interior, and analytical filleting out of class differences, with some interesting questions posed as to what really makes a 'gentleman', one of those recurring themes in Victorian fiction. Here we have would-be gentlemen, once gentlemen, and very definite gentlemen, all of whom behave in ways which cause the reader to question what actually constitutes gentlemanly behaviour. Poor Basil acts according to a very gentlemanly and chivalric code but is accused of being unmanly; his brother who is far more conventionally 'manly' and most definitely would be seen by society as a gentleman leads a most 'ungentlemanly' life, and both 'marry' across class boundaries.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best
Not the best Wilkie Collins books but am glad that I have read such a classic, but don't expect to much from this book it's not his best
Published 12 months ago by Abbi G
4.0 out of 5 stars Basil by Wilkie Collins

I have read and enjoyed other Wilkie Collins books. This is the first of his that I am reading on my Kindle. Read more
Published on 4 July 2012 by Solitaire
4.0 out of 5 stars Basil: Sensation fiction at its best
Basil is one of the first novels penned by author Wilkie Collins in the nineteenth century. Collins was at the forefront of the sensation novel explosion in the mid 1800s, he... Read more
Published on 16 Oct 2011 by Princess P
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not his best
Our narrator, the Basil of the title, is the son of a rich gentleman who is proud of his family's ancient background and despises anyone of a lower social standing. Read more
Published on 5 Jun 2010 by Helen S
3.0 out of 5 stars High flown melodrama
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

The themes of 'Basil' are sex and class. The eponymous hero, a jejune young man is smitten by a young woman he sees on an... Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2010 by Mr. T. Harvey
3.0 out of 5 stars Early Collins where he's still honing his craft
If you loved The Woman in White (Oxford World's Classics) and The Moonstone (Penguin Classics) and are looking for something similar then this might come as a disappointment. Read more
Published on 18 Mar 2010 by Roman Clodia
4.0 out of 5 stars An Early Collins Gem
Basil was only Wilkie Collins second novel written before some of his better known works and so to me was something of a mystery. Read more
Published on 4 Oct 2009 by Simon Savidge Reads
5.0 out of 5 stars A strike out against victorian values and expectations
Another excellent story to Collins credit. Written before his two well know sucesses it is no less a very enjoyable book telling of one man's struggle against the staid victorian... Read more
Published on 17 May 2009 by Jeejack
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