The Italian Ambivalence of Wilkie Collins in The Woman in White

© 2009 Sean M. Donnell

            Numerous historians and critics have observed Britain ’s interest in the Italian struggle for an independent republic in the mid-nineteenth century.[1]  As Kenneth Churchill notes, “In the middle of the nineteenth century . . . English interest in all aspects of Italy was growing rapidly” (135).  With relatively few exceptions, however, scholars have done little more than observe this phenomenon.  However, with the publication of John Bull’s Italian Snakes and Ladders: English Attitudes to Italy in the Mid-Nineteenth Century in 2007, Annemarie McAllister raises noteworthy queries into the implications of identity formation in Victorian Britain.  Examining how Italy and Italians were represented in the mid-nineteenth century by the English media and how these representations helped refine the middle-class Victorian masculine identity, McAllister’s work delves into a heretofore unexplored niche in Victorian studies. 

            Wilkie Collins, like his Victorian contemporaries, was undoubtedly interested in Italy as well—another well-documented fact among critics.[2]  In fact, Mariaconcetta Costantini begins her recent article on Collins with, Italy held an enduring fascination for Wilkie Collins” (13).  Nevertheless, as with Victorian Britain in general, few scholars have done more than observe the fact of Collins’s interest in Italy .  Like McAllister does for Victorian conceptualizations of male identity, Costantini explores the formation of identities, and how cultural hybridization occurs at the site of identity formation specifically in the works of Wilkie Collins.  However, rather than seeing Collins’s depictions of Italians as a function of his Victorian culture as McAllister does, Costantini attributes Collins with an awareness of cultural contradictions and hybridity.  Consequently, she sees Collins’s work as more than reflecting the cultural imperatives of Victorian Britain, characterizing his work as a conscious attempt to explore the interliminality inherent in the English construction of the Italian identity. 

            Both McAllister and Costantini devise interesting and persuasive arguments regarding Victorian formulations of Italianness; moreover, both women expand the current critical discussion of Wilkie Collins, especially concerning his most famous sensation novel, The Woman in White.  However, neither explains sufficiently the contradictions and tensions inherent in Wilkie Collins’s depictions of Italians in The Woman in White.  I propose that Collins’s representations of Italians in The Woman in White, namely Count Fosco and Professor Pesca, exhibit an ambivalence toward the Victorian construction of an Italian identity.  This paper shall examine how Collins mediates the tensions between the cultural imperatives regarding the Italian identity generated by his Victorian society and his personal impressions of Italy in his novel The Woman in White.

            Like many other European countries, Italy was greatly concerned with nation-building in the nineteenth century.  Divided into various smaller states, often centered on historically important cities (e.g., Rome , Naples , and Venice ), Italy was a fractured and fractious area in the 1800s.  Various revolutionary organizations, most notably the Carbonari, developed their influence and power exponentially in nineteenth-century Italy, often engaging in terrorism as a means of exacting political gains toward a unified Italy.  The resultant national movement arising from this time period, the Risorgimento, or resurgence, began to spread across the Italian countryside.  Luigi Salvatorelli succinctly explains the aspirations of the Risorgimento, as well as the importance the Carbonari had in executing them: 

Essentially, what [Italian revolutionaries associated with the Risorgimento] wanted was liberty and a constitution, demands derived from the [French] Revolution, and reinforced by the revolt against the tyranny of Napoleon and of his continuers.  The Carbonari became the interpreters of this liberal mood. . . .  The importance of the Carbonarist movement consists precisely in its having propagated liberal-constitutional demands, with unity of aspirations, in all of Italy . . . .  The fundamental idea of . . .  liberal-Carbonarist European public opinion was that individual liberty and national liberty (or independence) had to be considered together as a harmonious pair.  The individual’s freedom to develop was considered the incontestable right of each man, just as the free development of its own nationality was the ineradicable right of each people.  (Salvatorelli 76-77)   

Traditionally, mainstream British culture has been none too fond of revolutionaries or terrorism; the Gunpowder Plot, if nothing else, proves this. 

            In spite of British reluctance to endorse revolution, many in nineteenth-century Britain did exhibit increasing, albeit limited, sympathies toward the Italian struggle for unification, and after Mazzini’s departure, when the Risorgimento struggle for independence pursued more diplomatic solutions, British support for Italian unification burgeoned even further.  Gabriela Caponi-Doherty provides an excellent description of the development of British sympathies in this regard:

The British attitude during the 1830s and 1840s was characterized . . . by a willingness to commiserate with, but a reluctance to become involve in, the Italian political situation.  Between 1859 and 1860 . . . the struggle for [Italian] independence assumed a different character and was pursued through diplomatic effort rather than through terrorist tactics.  This change was mirrored by a corresponding change in British attitude and thereafter the Italian cause gained vast and open support among the British public.  (152)

The developing prosperity of the Victorian middle-class also helped in this regard.  More and more, the British middle-class began traveling as a way to express its increasing affluence, and Italy was a favorite destination.  The relative squalor in which their Italian contemporaries lived elicited sympathetic reactions from British travelers, and as they “experienced the glories of the Italian past, they could not help but long for what they regarded as the revival of Italian liberties to wipe away the degradation and despotism into which they believed Italy had fallen” (McIntyre 35).  Similarly, the proliferation of British travel books on Italy in the mid-nineteenth century suggests the fondness for, and importance of, Italy among the British.  In writing about British travel-writers Caponi-Doherty posits,

A major factor in the romantic appeal of Italy was its past.  A sympathy for Italian political aspirations developed in many travelers at the sight of contemporary Italian decay which was set against the background of ancient Rome and the Renaissance and so these writers made some comments on the state of Italian affairs in their journals . . . [and] in many cases they were able to awaken an interest in Italian political aspirations which was of considerable importance in later years.  (151)

Consequently, the plight of their Italian contemporaries elicited sympathetic reactions from nineteenth-century British travelers and travel-book writers alike. 

            This is not to suggest that England had no interest in Italy until the 1800s.  More precisely, the nineteenth-century British reaction toward Italy and Italian national politics betokens an intensification of England ’s longstanding interest in Italy , not a beginning awareness.  For centuries, Italy had facilitated England in the formation of its identity by allowing the English to define themselves in opposition to the Italians.  For instance, England ’s sense of propriety contrasted nicely with Italy ’s apparently inherent amorality.  McAllister contends that the English construction of an Italian identity “had been used conventionally as a signifier for amorality since the first English readings of Machiavelli in the sixteenth century” (160).  Moreover, by the mid-nineteenth century the influx of Italian political refugees into England provided the Victorians with more than enough fodder for furthering the English formulation of gender identities.  As McAllister notes of the Victorian period, “Questions of what it meant to be a man, what was appropriate manly behaviour, and the construction and policing of gender boundaries were all opened up for consideration, with the Italian operating as Other against which to define English nationality” (26).  However, whenever the hegemonic values of a society are defined in contrast to another, usually marginalized group, one finds inherent contradictions in, and conflicts with, the hegemony’s ostensibly homogeneous identity of the Other.  And this we also see in the British construction of the Italian identity:

Italians inhabited a particularly contested cultural area.  They were dashing revolutionaries, winning their liberty, they were the inheritors of Rome , they were sensuous, exciting, musical, handsome, and therefore represented a threat to the self-esteem of the Englishman.  So other strands of discourse about them were necessary—the bourgeoisie could constitute Italy as a place of peasants, whose much-vaunted cultural superiority stood revealed as a sham—a degenerate animal-like race who used music as a weapon for blackmail and legitimized crime.  (McAllister 180)

Situated in this milieu, it is small wonder that an “Italophile” (Caracciolo 384) like Wilkie Collins should be susceptible to the tension generated by the juxtaposition of his personal sentiments regarding Italy and the cultural imperatives dictated by the Victorian culture in which he was immersed. 

            Italy and the Italian culture clearly served as a guiding influence on Collins dating from the time of his boyhood trip to Italy with his family.  “Wilkie Collins,” declares Catherine Peters in The King of Inventors: A Life of Wilkie Collins, “always believed that [his childhood] journey to Italy was crucial for his development as a writer. . . .  The attitudes he formed then were kept to the end of his life” (37).  In his memoirs, personal correspondence, and especially the biography he wrote on his father, Collins demonstrates a fondness and sympathy for Italy and its people.  Collins took three extended trips to Italy—one as a child with his family, one as a young man with Dickens, and one with both of the Carolines in his life.  Caracciolo contends, “. . . a two years’ stay in Italy as a boy and a subsequent visit to that country gave him a special familiarity with the language and culture” (384).  All three journeys are remembered and written of warmly by Collins; for him, “ Italy was always the land of lost delight” (Peters 129).  Unlike other Victorian novelists, because of his partiality to and familiarity with the Italian culture, Collins brings unparalleled levels of subtlety, complexity, and sensitivity to his Italian characters, primarily because he “felt a strong attraction for the culture of the Mediterranean country, which he strove to represent from a realistic, unbiased perspective” (Costantini 13). 

            From this perspective, it becomes readily apparent that Collins’s depictions of Count Fosco and Professor Pesca must necessarily be multifarious and nuanced in The Woman in White.  In their creation Collins acknowledges the complexities associated with mediating the inherent tensions arising between his culture and his personal comprehension of Italian identity.  As Costantini suggests, “If it is true that [Collins] lived in a nation that still preserved its cultural homogeneity, it is also true that he understood that the uncanny forces of otherness could not be kept at a distance forever.  Once transplanted into Britain , these forces eroded the limen between diversity and sameness, and generated hybrid forms which altered the local perception of identity” (28).  Collins drew deeply and from many sources of inspiration when creating the characters of Fosco and Pesca.  Costantini surveys the breadth of Collins’s sources, suggesting the necessity of drawing from so large a pool:       

In addition to representing the people he actually met during his travels [in Italy], Collins drew inspiration from the popular heroes of the Risorgimento who lived in London as refugees in the 1840s and 1850s, as well as from a number of mythicized figures of artists and politicians.  Like other Victorians, he saw himself in a literary tradition that gave birth to multifarious images of Italy (as the fatherland of Roman emperors and Renaissance dukes, of great artists and bandits, of popes and patrioti).  Yet, unlike many contemporaries, he strove to interpret these conflicting images in the light of his personal experiences and made limited use of cultural stereotypes . . . his Italian characters are far from being types or caricatures.  Quite varied in their physical and socio-cultural features, they exhibit a psychological complexity and a moral ambiguity which are thought provoking.  (Costantini 20)

In order for Fosco and Pesca to be emblematic of the tensions Collins felt between his personal predilections and his Victorian culture’s depictions of Italians, then the two characters must, of necessity, demonstrate numerous contrapuntal characteristics, which is precisely what they do. 

            Of the two Italians in The Woman in White, most critics tend to elaborate on Fosco, often eschewing Pesca entirely or mentioning him as an addendum, merely a point of comparison to what they consider is the much more important Fosco.  Certainly, the Count does play more of a leading role in the novel; however, Pesca’s function as the final arbiter of Fosco’s fate certainly makes him worthy of more consideration than he gets.  In fact, on closer examination, several points of similarity arise between the two Italians, which, after all, should not be too terribly surprising, for both Pesca and Fosco are products of a similar intricacy and subtlety.  Costantini notes how Collins drew inspiration from key figures in the Risorgimento, and several critics have noted this in regards to Fosco.  For instance, the Count bears many similarities to key leaders in the Italian Risorgimento, particularly Mazzini.  His name recalls Foscolo, Mazzini’s hero, but this is not the only connection with Mazzini that Fosco shares.  Like Fosco, “Mazzini has pet birds and animals over whom he exercises magnetic fascination as he does over human beings” (Milbank 75).  Fosco definitely demonstrates a mesmeric quality over people.  The housekeeper at Blackwater, Mrs. Michelson, certainly falls under the Count’s spell.  Even Marian Halcombe, indubitably the most perceptive and intelligent woman in the novel, concurs, “He looks like a man who could tame anything.  If he had married a tigress, instead of a woman, he would have tamed the tigress.  If he had married me, I should have made his cigarettes as his wife does—I should have held my tongue when he looked at me, as she holds hers” (Collins 219).  Anyone familiar with the bold, decisive, and independent Miss Halcombe understands what an impactful revelation this is; it certainly speaks volumes for Count Fosco’s charisma. 

            Interestingly, Allison Milbank contends that this link between Fosco and Mazzini indicates that Collins viewed Mazzini’s politics with ambivalence because “Fosco is revealed as a would-be murderer and double agent for the Austrians” and because Pesca, “who teaches Dante to young ladies for his living and is entirely benign” is also linked to Mazzini, for he possesses the man’s penchant for calling everyone “my dears” (75).  This claim must be viewed with a bit of skepticism, however, because neither the Count nor the Professor is solely linked to Mazzini.  Moreover, Milbank’s contention that Pesca is “entirely benign” seems a bit overstated, given that he is Secretary of the Brotherhood in England .  By Pesca’s own admission, he was so “overzealous in [his] younger time” that he “ran the risk of compromising [himself] and others” (Collins 589).  If, as many critics suggest, the Brotherhood is a thinly-veiled allusion to the Carbonari, and if the Carbonari regularly resorted to terrorism to forward their political agenda, it seems unlikely that an “overzealous” Carbonaro would be “entirely benign” as Milbank infers.  Both Pesca’s and Fosco’s characters are multifaceted and represent a wide range of signifiers.  Hence, to deduce that the likeness between Fosco and Pesca to Mazzini serves as an indictment of Mazzini’s politics also seems unlikely.  What is perhaps more probable is that both characters represent the ambivalence that Collins felt toward the Victorian construction of Italian identity.  If such is the case, then both characters should allude to others than just Mazzini, which they do. 

            In fact, both Pesca and Fosco are linked to other figures associated with the Risorgimento.  Fosco bears some striking similarities to Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, the Prime Minister of Piedmont, who is usually referred to simply as Cavour.  Costantini finds this insightful connection: “Under attentive reading, Fosco displays a number of traits in common with the Piedmontese Minister.  Phonically suggested by their names [Fosco and Benso], the parallels between their figures are reinforced by their Machiavellianism, their aristocratic titles (both are counts), their corpulent frames and their Anglophile leanings” (25).  The Count’s practically flawless English could possibly allude to his being an Anglophile.  The study required to learn the language so well may betoken this.  Certainly, Fosco is a Machiavel.  His confession that he would have murdered Anne Catherick, had she not died before he had the chance, identifies him as such—even if he couches the admission in flowery prose: “I should . . . have assisted worn-out Nature in finding permanent repose [for Anne Catherick].  I should have opened the doors of the Prison of Life, and have extended to the captive (incurably afflicted in mind and body both) a happy release” (Collins 628).  Never was a lovelier admission of guilt written.  Fosco’s powers of rationalization here identify the Machiavellian tendencies in his character.  Like the Count, Pesca is also associated with another figure, albeit a minor one, from the Risorgimento, Agostino Ruffini.  Like Pesca, Ruffini taught Italian, was a political exile, and was slight of stature.  Moreover he was characterized as trying to be very English in speech, even adopting English colloquialisms, and, like Pesca, he was known to be extraordinarily likeable (Rudman 220-22). 

            Perhaps the most interesting similarity between Fosco and Pesca, one that has gone virtually unexamined by critics, is their similarities with Wilkie Collins himself.  Fosco and Pesca are both characterized by their disproportionate sizes in the novel.  The Count is grossly fat.  Hartright’s concluding narrative contains an interview with John Owen, driver of the brougham hired by Fosco to conduct him to the Waterloo Bridge station, where they picked up Lady Glyde.  When asked whether he remembered Fosco, Owen replies, “The fattest gentleman as ever I see—and the heaviest customer as ever I drove” (Collins 630).  Pesca is incredibly small in stature.  Regarding the Professor, Hartright observes, “Pesca was, I think, the smallest human being I ever saw, out of a show-room” (Collins 7).  Furthermore, both men possess peculiarities either in dress (Fosco) or in personality (Pesca).  In short, both men reside beyond the normative bounds of stature and behavior. 

            Like both Pesca and Fosco, Collins was a man possessing several irregularities in his features and comportment, with several physical quirks and tics, including a cast in one eye, an appearance that was “weird and odd” generally, a protruding forehead, a weak chin, a slight stature (Collins was barely five foot six inches tall), disproportionately small hands and feet, and a nervous penchant for gesticulating and rocking in place, sometimes referred to by his intimates as being in a “Collinsian state” (Peters 100).  Like Fosco, Collins also possessed “an idiosyncratic taste in dress.  He shared his mother’s passion for clothes and her indifference to convention. . . .  Wilkie favoured bright colours, shirts with checks or wide stripes.  He had a fixed aversion to evening dress: his invitations to dinner always insisted on no dressing or formality of any kind” (Peters 100).  Furthermore, he was noted for donning (by Victorian standards) rather eccentric dinner clothing: “light camel hair or tweed suit, with a broad pink or blue striped shirt, and perhaps a red tie” (qtd. in Peters 101).  Under close scrutiny, it becomes apparent that both Pesca and Fosco possess too many similarities with Collins for the references to be merely happenstance. 

            By imbuing Count Fosco and Professor Pesca with some of his own characteristics, Collins incorporates yet another wrinkle within his Italian characters from The Woman in White.  If Pesca and Fosco represent Collins’s ambivalence toward the English construction of an Italian identity, how does his inscription of himself onto these characters complicate the matter even further?  The issue becomes more than just the English construction of an Italian identity, for Collins now presents, via personal testimony, the Italian construction of an English identity—his own.  In his dress and demeanor, Collins often appeared more Italian than English.  Consider McAllister’s description of the differences in dress between Italians and English:

Italians were usually depicted as wearing clothing which was bright, light, and loose, rather than dark and buttoned up, as was the English fashion, and this in itself implied more than sexual accessibility.  In an increasingly mobile society such as that of the mid-nineteenth century, appearance became an important signifier of social position and even moral worth. . . .  (McAllister 37).

In dress, at least, Collins appeared more like an Italian than an Englishman.  And while only an external signifier, his choice of apparel was a conscious departure from the British image of propriety.  Perhaps the exteriority of his clothing depicted the tensions inherent in the interior cross-culturalization that Collins must have felt.  In his choice of clothing as well as his fiction, Collins pushes the issue of hybrid identities and interliminality between cultures even further.     

            Despite their similarities, Fosco and Pesca do possess some striking differences.  To put it more precisely, they possess the inverse characteristics of one another.  Perhaps their most obvious points of departure are their stature and demeanor.  Fosco is larger-than-life.  Tall, immensely corpulent, and charismatic, the Count is described by Marian Halcombe as bearing a striking resemblance to Napoleon (221).  Pesca seems to embody everything that the Count is not.  The Professor is tiny, and if he possesses any kind of charisma, it is by virtue of his comically whimsical demeanor.  Fosco bears an almost unconscious élan, whereas Pesca’s self-conscious attempts to emulate the British are endearingly clumsy—his dress, his ham-handed attempts at athleticism, and especially his malapropisms.  Fosco and Pesca, in short, possess a chiastic relationship, where the one appears to be the inverse of the other. 

            While not as readily apparent, the intrinsic differences in their respective characters—their mettle and their motives, so to speak—constitute the most noteworthy distinction between these two Italians from The Woman in White.  From his first appearance in the novel, Count Fosco casts a strikingly dramatic impression.  Even his name, Count Fosco, carries a portentous significance.  The title “Count” emphasizes the nobility of his birth, and “Fosco” in Italian means “Dark, Gloom.”  Hence, “Count Fosco” in this context suggests a “dark” character of “noble” birth; in other words, his name alludes to the “Prince of Darkness” (Caracciolo 398).  Mysterious, grandiloquent, and suave, Fosco appears to be cut from a nobler cloth.  Several of his gestures are anachronistic, even antiquated, but none more so than his assertion to have the “satisfaction of a gentleman” with Hartright, implying that the Count, having his reputation besmirched by the young painter, seeks to settle the matter by dueling with swords (Collins 605-06).  While not unheard of in the nineteenth century, Fosco’s demand recalls an old-world sense of honor that is surprisingly out of place in Victorian London.  Moreover, his demand that the duel should take place on the Continent, time and place to be named later by virtue of a letter that was also to contain a strip of paper indicating the exact length of Fosco’s sword, epitomizes precisely the Count’s self-aggrandizing eccentricities of personality.  Nevertheless, overweening sense of self-importance and bombast aside, an examination of Count Fosco’s primary motivation for all of his intrigues, conspiracies, and plots of murder is shockingly puerile and mercenary.  At the root of everything is Fosco’s basest desire: he wants money.  Beneath the seemingly noble and sensitive exterior of old-world charm lies the crass, wanton desire for profit.  Such a motivation ultimately undercuts everything for which Fosco purports to stand, revealing nothing more than the lip-service of a sideshow huckster, a con-man.        

            Conversely, for all of his comic antics, Pesca possesses by the end of the novel a depth of character, a gravitas, completely unanticipated by his earlier actions.  Hartright’s depiction of Pesca lying pathetically in the fetal position, in “a hollow of shingle” on the ocean floor, practically eradicates any possibility of seeing the diminutive Professor in a serious manner (Collins 8).  However, even more than Fosco’s name does, Pesca’s name speaks volumes about his character:

“Pesca” in Italian denotes the sweet fruit with the bitter kernel, namely the “peach” (i.e. the engaging Pesca’s concealment of his links with “The Brotherhood”); the suggestion that there is also in his name a reference to the Italian for “fisher-man” (“pesca” also means “fishing”) is reinforced by two of Collins’s allusions to Italian operas which voice the political aspirations of the Risorgimento.  (Caracciolo 396n20) 

Like the peach, Pesca is sweet.  He is by far one of the most likeable and endearing characters in The Woman in White.  However, as soon as his dark secret is revealed—his association with the Brotherhood—Pesca becomes a different man.  Quietly speaking in his native tongue, the Professor explains to Hartright the defining principles behind the Brotherhood:

The object of the Brotherhood . . . is, briefly, the object of other political societies of the same sort—the destruction of tyranny, and the assertion of the rights of the people.  The principles of the Brotherhood are two.  So long as a man’s life is useful, or even harmless only, he has the right to enjoy it.  But, if his life inflicts injury on the well-being of his fellow-men, from that moment he forfeits the right, and it is not only no crime but a positive merit to deprive him of it.  (Collins 589)

Pesca’s words here are strikingly reminiscent of Salvatorelli’s in his description of the Carbonari.  Clearly, Pesca’s association with the Brotherhood, with its compartmentalized structure, its safeguards against discovery and, above all, its demand that members adhere to the precepts of the organization upon pain of death, is uncomfortably analogous to modern-day representations of terrorist cells.  Combined with Pesca’s sobering narrative of the Brotherhood, these facts force readers to reevaluate completely their conception of the miniscule Italian.  Collins deftly replaces the clownish Professor Pesca with the Secretary of the Brotherhood, a position of authority second only to the President of the organization.  At the opera, Fosco blanched merely at the sight of Pesca.  Count Fosco, the man of action, who warned Walter Hartright, “you are now face to face with Fosco!  If twenty Mr. Hartrghts were the stepping-stones to my safety, over all those stones I would go, sustained by my sublime indifference, self-balanced by my impenetrable calm.  Respect me, if you love your own life!” (Collins 603).  Yet this selfsame Fosco pales in fright in the presence of Pesca.  Either Fosco is not nearly as brave as he purports, or Pesca is a much more dangerous, perhaps even deadly, character than he appears to be.  Whereas Fosco appears grand but is comprised of shallow values, Pesca seems frivolous but is far deeper, and more dangerous, than anyone can see.  Like different sides of the same coin, Fosco and Pesca, as they are mediated through their chiastic relationship, represent multivalent aspects constructing the Italian identity in Victorian Britain. 

            One final point to consider between Fosco and Pesca is their relationship to Italian society.  Fosco, with his old-world charm and noble looks hearkens back to bygone eras.  He symbolizes the grandeur of the Italian past, of Roman emperors and Renaissance artists.  For all this, he is still at his core, mercenary and shallow.  In this respect, Fosco represents the Italian identity mandated by the Victorian society, embodying the bourgeoisie’s depiction of the Italian.  Surrounded by grand architecture and breathtaking artwork, the Italian people had fallen (in the eyes of the Victorians) to become a degenerate, animal-like race.  Pesca, on the other hand, is initially characterized as a clown in the novel.  However, with his association (through the Brotherhood) to the Risorgimento, he becomes a noteworthy individual in the text, one who demands, by virtue of his connections, respect.  In this light, Pesca represents Collins’s personal understanding of the Italian.  Between the two, then, is the tension that Collins felt between himself and his Victorian culture.  In the examination of them both, a more complete picture of Collins’s Italian ambivalence arises. 

            Ultimately, one may argue that Collins did end this tension between self and society with his conclusion to The Woman in White.  It must be noted that Fosco was found murdered, with a “T” carved through his Brotherhood brand, signifying “tradiore”—traitor (640).  In this light, Pesca triumphs over Fosco, for the Count’s death must be linked back to the Brotherhood, and Pesca is the Brotherhood’s emblem of authority in the novel.  Hence, one can perhaps see in Pesca’s triumph Collins’s hopes for a future Italy .  Like Pesca, the Italians were initially overlooked and undervalued, but through their efforts in the Risorgimento, they would eventually unify their country.  While Collins worked on The Woman in White, the Italian peninsula was again embroiled in war of independence.  Perhaps in the character of Pesca, Collins embodied his hopes for a unified Italian state, and a return to their former glory for the Italian people. 


Works Cited

Caponi-Doherty, M. Gabriella.  “Charles Dickens and the Italian Risorgimento.”  Dickens Quarterly.  13.3 (1996): 151-63. 

Caracciolo, Peter.  “Wilkie Collins’s ‘Divine Comedy’: The Use of Dante in The Woman in White.”  Nineteenth-Century Fiction.  25.4 (1971): 383-404. 

Churchill, Kenneth.  Italy and English Literature: 1764-1930.  Totawa: Barnes, 1980. 

Collins, Wilkie.  The Woman in White.  Oxford : Oxford UP, 2008. 

Costantini, Mariaconcetta.  A Land of Angels with ‘Stilettos’: Travel Experiences and Literary Representations of Italy in Wilkie Collins.”  Wilkie Collins Society Journal. 10 (2007): 13-33.

McAllister, Annemarie.  John Bull’s Italian Snakes and Ladders: English Attitudes to Italy in the Mid-Nineteenth Century.  Newcastle : Cambridge Scholars, 2007. 

McIntyre, C. T.  England Against the Papacy 1858-1861: Tories, Liberals, and the Overthrow of Papal Temporal Power during the Italian Risorgimento.  Cambridge : Cambridge UP, 1983.

Milbank, Allison.  Dante and the Victorians.  Manchester : Manchester UP, 1998. 

Peters, Catherine.  The King of Inventors: A Life of Wilkie Collins.  Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. 

Rudman, Harry William.  Italian Nationalism and English Letters: Figures of the Risorgimento and Victorian Men of Letters.  New York : AMS, 1966.

Salvatorelli, Luigi.  The Risorgimento: Thought and Action.  Trans. Mario Domandi.  New York : Harper & Row, 1970.

[1] Caracciolo; Caponi-Doherty; Rudman; Milbank; McIntyre; Salvatorelli. 

[2] Peters; Caracciolo; McAllister; Milbank.