Armadale, by Wilkie Collins


NOTE— My readers will perceive that I have purposely left them, with reference to the Dream in this story, in the position which they would occupy in the case of a dream in real life: they are free to interpret it by the natural or the supernatural theory, as the bent of their own minds may incline them. Persons disposed to take the rational view may, under these circumstances, be interested in hearing of a coincidence relating to the present story, which actually happened, and which in the matter of “extravagant improbability” sets anything of the same kind that a novelist could imagine at flat defiance.

In November, 1865, that is to say, when thirteen monthly parts of “Armadale” had been published, and, I may add, when more than a year and a half had elapsed since the end of the story, as it now appears, was first sketched in my notebook — a vessel lay in the Huskisson Dock at Liverpool which was looked after by one man, who slept on board, in the capacity of shipkeeper. On a certain day in the week this man was found dead in the deck-house. On the next day a second man, who had taken his place, was carried dying to the Northern Hospital. On the third day a third ship-keeper was appointed, and was found dead in the deck-house which had already proved fatal to the other two. The name of that ship was “The Armadale.” And the proceedings at the Inquest proved that the three men had been all suffocated by sleeping in poisoned air!

I am indebted for these particulars to the kindness of the reporters at Liverpool, who sent me their statement of the facts. The case found its way into most of the newspapers. It was noticed — to give two instances in which I can cite the dates — in the Times of November 30th, 1865, and was more fully described in the Daily News of November 28th, in the same year.

Before taking leave of “Armadale,” I may perhaps be allowed to mention, for the benefit of any readers who may be curious on such points, that the “Norfolk Broads” are here described after personal investigation of them. In this, as in other cases, I have spared no pains to instruct myself on matters of fact. Wherever the story touches on questions connected with Law, Medicine, or Chemistry, it has been submitted before publication to the experience of professional men. The kindness of a friend supplied me with a plan of the doctor’s apparatus, and I saw the chemical ingredients at work before I ventured on describing the action of them in the closing scenes of this book.

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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52