ABSTRACT

As revealed in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White and No Name, English law is never perfect and seldom fair from the novelist’s perspective; evidently, Scottish law inflames Collins’s enthusiasm for juridical reforms. Critics, including Collins’s contemporaries like Margaret Oliphant, and modern ones like Lyn Pykett and Jenny Bourne Taylor, note that the novelist’s “didactic” purpose and sense of “social commitment” become much more “explicit” and “self-conscious,” compared with that found in his earlier novels. Instead of ridiculing Scottish law in Man and Wife and The Law and the Lady, Collins unfolds the complexities found within the intersections of the law, the public, and the individual. This essay aims to probe these relationships, in which the public play a greater role in judgment than the jury. Collins’s indignant criticism about Scottish law—the irregular Scotch marriage and the Scotch verdict in particular—reveals a deconstruction of the conventional boundary between the public and the individual. Owing to this deconstruction, justice, usually being a communally conceived ideal, is brought into a private relationship between husband and wife.

KEYWORDS: Wilkie Collins, Scottish law, Man and Wife, The Law and the Lady, irregular Scotch marriage, Scotch verdict “Not Proven”