Collins is my favourite Victorian writer by a distance (so far), I’ve tried with Dickens but have never really got beyond feeling quite worthy for making the effort. Why Dickens is so much better beloved is something I wonder about every time I pick up a Collins book, and ‘Hide and Seek’ has proved no exception to that rule, now I’ve finished it I find I’m missing it – a hard read to follow.
The second was the story of Mary Grice the hapless young mother. She’s young, innocent, and not altogether wise when she falls in love, and falls from virtue – for which she pays a very heavy price. Forced to flee from her home she’s cheated of her savings and left alone and friendless; an absolute outcast from society. It’s a harsh punishment for a momentary lapse from virtue, but very much the correct fate for a Victorian maiden who strayed. It’s worth remembering too that it’s not very long since having a child out of wedlock was a disgrace. My grandmother put the fear of god in my mother when she was a teenager in the sixties by telling her that pregnancy would result in all of them being thrown out of home (it’s just possible that my grandfather would have done it to – that or not raised an eyebrow). Granny was speaking from not altogether happy experience of her own youthful mishap.