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Hide and Seek (1854)

de Wilkie Collins

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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

This domestic drama from beloved author Wilkie Collins focuses on the abiding power of family, whether by birth or by chance. A profoundly disabled girl is adopted by a loving family, but her true origins are shrouded in mystery. When a few intrepid friends begin trying to find out more about her history, a wholly unexpected chain of events is set into motion.

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This is one of Collins's less well known novels, but is still a good example of his solid grasp of the essentials of a sensationalist mystery novel. The mystery essentially revolves around the identity of the father of Mary ("Madonna") Grice, a deaf and dumb child of around 10 years old, a man who abandoned Mary's mother, the young woman he had made pregnant. Different characters have different levels of knowledge about the truth of Mary's origins, so there is more mystery for most of the characters than there often is for the reader. I liked the interplay between the characters though and enjoyed this, albeit in a somewhat more low key way than Collins's greater works. The author's depiction of Mary as a disabled child who is somewhat more than just a passive figure was seemingly quite unusual for the time, and he apparently researched it quite well. A good read. ( )
  john257hopper | Apr 11, 2024 |
Como en todas sus novelas, en El juego del escondite Wilkie Collins combina sabiamente el misterio y los sentimientos. Porque hay un misterio: el de la joven sordomuda a quien todo el mundo conoce como Madonna. Valentine Blyth, un artista, la adoptó tras haberla rescatado del circo donde era cruelmente exhibida.
  Natt90 | Jul 18, 2022 |
This took a bit for me to get into, but once I did, I enjoyed it. The resolution to the mystery was pretty clear well before the end, but no real matter there; it was interesting to see how Collins resolved it. ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Aug 23, 2018 |
Hide and Seek is the third novel by Wilkie Collins. Its initial publication was in 1854, just as the Crimean War broke out. The first edition sold out, but then sales fizzled. Collins blamed it on the war, saying in his preface to the second edition
Unfortunately for me, 'Hide and Seek' was originally published... at the outbreak of the Crimean War. All England felt the absorbing interest of watching that serious national event; and new books... found the minds of readers in general pre-occupied or indifferent. My own little venture in fiction necessarily felt the adverse influence of the time.

He revised the novel, leaving out part of the first section and altering part of the ending. The revised edition was issued in 1861 and was rewarded with much better sales, probably helped by the fact that by then he had achieved fame as the author of The Dead Secret and The Woman in White.

As the title suggests, there are two parts to this novel. Book I, The Hiding, sets up the characters through the story of Madonna. A Mrs Peckover had found Madonna's mother by the side of the road with her infant daughter, Mary. She promised to raise the about to be orphaned child. She had no information about the identity of the child's parents. Mrs Peckover raised the child in a circus, run by the evil Mr Jubber. An accident left the little girl deaf, with a subsequent loss of speech. Enter Valentine Blyth, a happy go lucky painter with an invalid wife. Valentine rescued the child from the circus and adopted her with Mrs Peckover's help, changing her name to Madonna in the process.

This whirlwind summary contains many of the standard Victorian themes and characters: unwed mother, orphaned child of unknown parentage, well meaning lower class woman, evil boss and invalid woman. Collins tells us in the preface though that he is advancing his 'conception and delineation of character' and true to his promise, with few exceptions, he doesn't give his characters the expected treatment. He uses this section of the book to give a description of middle class life in rich detail, mocking the desire for conformity, the unquestioning religiosity, and the relentless expansion of the London suburbs.
First stories were built, and mortgaged by the enterprising proprietors to get money enough to go on with the second; old speculators failed and were succeeded by new; foundations sunk from bad digging; walls were blown down in high winds from hasty building; bricks were called for in such quantities, and seized on in such haste, half baked from the kiln, that they set the carts on fire, and had to be cooled in pails of water before they could be erected into walls - and still the new suburb defied all accidents, and grew irrepressibly into a little town of houses, ready to be let and lived in, from the one end to the other.

The one non conformist in the new neighbourhood was Valentine Blyth, happy in his studio, oblivious to his neighbours' scorn. Once Valentine adopted Madonna, however, he became obsessive about one thing: no one must ever know the story of how Mrs Peckover found her, or how she came to his household. Naturally,
Persons who knew little or nothing of his real disposition and his early life, all shook their heads, and laughed in secret; asserting that the mystery was plain enough to the most ordinary capacity, and that the young lady could be nothing more nor less than a natural child of his own.
Valentine's obsession was the hide part, although as Mrs Peckover tartly reminded him, In my time, sir, it used always to take two parties to play at a game of Hide and Seek. Who in the world is seeking after little Mary I should like to know?

Book II is The Seeking. A man appears searching for Madonna. Initially Collins leaves his identity and connection to her uncertain, shifting the focus of the book from domestic life to an edgier more uncertain atmosphere, foreshadowing the mysteries of his later novels. Bit by bit we learn about the stranger through his trips around the countryside. There is more being sought here than just Madonna though. Zack Thorpe, a family friend of the Blyths, introduced in Book I, had been thrown out by his father for disreputable behaviour. In need of a father figure, Zack fell in with the mystery man through a chance meeting , allowing both their stories to develop in tandem.

Interestingly, Dickens like the stranger's character best, saying he was "... the thing in which I observe myself to be the most reflected, but his is admirably done" (p x). Looking at Great Expectations, published in 1861, or seven years after the first edition of [Hide and Seek], one might think Dickens had developed this rough character from parts unknown into Magwitch.

If you are a fan of nineteenth century English fiction, Hide and Seek fills a gap in the development of the novel from the early purely domestic concerns to stronger social commentary. It shows a concern with the role of physical limitations, what Collins called 'human calamity' that would continue in his later works. Collins had done his research. The injury to Madonna and her subsequent medical treatment were strongly based on the memoir of a stonemason, John Kitto, who had had a similar accident and written about it in The Lost Senses. It questions the growing complacency of the Victorian middle classes. It shows a concern for illegitimate children that would continue in his later works. Like many nineteenth century works though, it doesn't have strong central female characters.

Collins would later create some of the greatest female Victorian characters, women like Lydia Gwilt, Magdalen Vanstone and Marion Halcombe. He hasn't reached that stage yet in [Hide and Seek], perhaps because he was still living with his mother when he wrote the first edition. Madonna is talented, good and beautiful, in other words a typical Victorian heroine. No flashes of evil there. Collins is clever enough to save her from a conventional Victorian fate, but her character still lacks development. All in all though, definitely recommended if this era is a reading favourite.
4 vote SassyLassy | Jun 23, 2014 |
Novela del gran escritor anglosajón, quien colaborara con Charles Dickens, traducida al francés.
  chapunov.txt | Jul 2, 2007 |
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Peters, CatherineIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

This domestic drama from beloved author Wilkie Collins focuses on the abiding power of family, whether by birth or by chance. A profoundly disabled girl is adopted by a loving family, but her true origins are shrouded in mystery. When a few intrepid friends begin trying to find out more about her history, a wholly unexpected chain of events is set into motion.

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