6 Pages

Introduction: Performing to Strangers

In the opening lines of ‘Book the Fourth’ of Wilkie Collins’s novel Armadale, the fictional female diarist Lydia Gwilt returns to the diary she closed on her marriage and asks herself: ‘Why have I gone back to this secret friend of my wretchedest and wickedest hours?’ She answers her own question immediately: ‘My misery is a woman’s misery and it will speak – here rather than nowhere; to my second self, in this book, if I have no one else to hear me.’1 Gwilt is a consummate actress who has convinced a young man called Ozias Midwinter to marry her in his real name of Allan Armadale, the name he shares with his best friend whose father was murdered by Midwinter’s father. The two men have ‘second selves’ in each other; the woman’s ‘second self’ is in her diary.