One day Basil is on an ominbus and
- He's known her for 5 minutes.
- His father is going to freak out.
Basil spends his evenings with Margaret and her mother as chaperon. She doesn't seem to have much personality but he attributes this to her youth and her station. He figures he can mold her into the woman he wants her to be, so it's all good. Enter Mr Mannion, Mr Sherwin's clerk. He's an enigma. He has no past, no friends or family. No one knows anything about him but he has a strange power over everyone in the house.
The year is almost up and Basil still hasn't told his father of his marriage but he's optimistic. Then a scandalous event occurs and Basil is on the run. Then more secrets! and plot twists! right until the end.
The first half of Basil took me awhile to get into. The characters are one dimensional and the foreshadowing is rather obvious. At the beginning, Basil has a dream of a fair woman who makes him feel happy and a darker woman who scares him. The fair woman is clearly his sister and the darker one, Margaret. Clara is meek and gentle, blond and kind. In other words a perfect woman. I found this annoying. Basil himself annoyed me- he's such a schmuck and I didn't think anyone would marry a girl he just met without massive amounts of alcohol being involved. I don't think I'm the first one to feel that way. Collins is quite defensive in his Dedication. He insists such things happen in real life.
Basil touches on the Victorian fears of the classes intermarrying. The whole world will go hell in a hand basket if that happens! And when Basil marries Margaret, well, there you go. It's perfectly fine for his brother Ralph to have a middle class mistress though, as long as precious Clara isn't sullied by her presence.
Basil is quite the melodrama. People swoon, break out into cold sweats and fall into nervous fevers at the drop of a hat. The bad guy is seriously bad and there is sort of a chase scene. Ralph steals every scene he's in. He adds a little levity to the story. Despite all the negatives, the second half is fast paced and quite entertaining.
I suspect that Basil isn't Wilkie Collins best, but it's still pretty good.
Drop by the Classics Circuit for more Collins tour stops.