The novel, which is Collin's most famous, was published in 1860. Walter Hartright, a young drawing master, was walking home from Hampstead on his last evening in London. On this time he meets amysterious woman dressed in white, apparently in deep distress. He helps her on her way but later learns that she has escaped from an asylum. The next day he travels north to Limmeridge House, on acommission of being drawing master to residents of the house, previously gained by his devoted friend, an Italian drawing professor named Pesca. The household comprises of Mr Frederick Fairlie, and Walter'sstudents: Laura Fairlie, Mr Fairlie's niece, and Marian Halcombe, her devoted half-sister. Hartright finds that Laura bears an astonishing resemblance to the woman in white, called Anne Catherick. Thementally disadvantaged Anne had lived for a time in Cumberland as a child and was devoted to Laura's mother, who first dressed her in white.
Walter and Laura quickly fall in love. Laura, however,has promised her father that she will marry Sir Percival Glyde, and Marian advises Walter to leave Limmeridge. Anne, after sending a letter to Laura warning her against Glyde, meets Hartright who isconvinced that Glyde was responsible for shutting her in the asylum. Laura and Glyde marry in December 1849 and travel to Italy for 6 months. Hartright also leaves England, joining an expedition toHonduras. After their honeymoon, Sir Percival and Lady Glyde return then to his family estate in Hampshire, Blackwater Park. They are accompanied by Glyde's friend, Count Fosco. Marian Halcombe is alsoliving at Blackwater and learns that Glyde is in financial difficulties. Sir Percival unsuccessfully attempts to bully Laura into signing a document which would allow him to use her marriage settlementof £20,000. While Marian is hearing about their plan, it is also raining and then she collapses with a fever which turns to typhus.
While she is ill, Laura is tricked into travelling to London....
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