No Name
by Wilkie Collins

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Etext prepared by James Rusk

No Name

by Wilkie Collins

[editorial note: italics are indicated by the underscore
character; accent marks in the few words in French are omitted;
the umlaut in Zurich is omitted]


THE main purpose of this story is to appeal to the reader's
interest in a subject which has been the theme of some of the
greatest writers, living and dead -- but which has never been,
and can never be, exhausted, because it is a subject eternally
interesting to all mankind. Here is one more book that depicts
the struggle of a human creature, under those opposing influences
of Good and Evil, which we have all felt, which we have all
known. It has been my aim to make the character of "Magdalen,"
which personifies this struggle, a pathetic character even in its
perversity and its error; and I have tried hard to attain this
result by the least obtrusive and the least artificial of all
means -- by a resolute adherence throughout to the truth as it is
in Nature. This design was no easy one to accomplish; and it has
been a great encouragement to me (during the publication of my
story in its periodical form) to know, on the authority of many
readers, that the object which I had proposed to myself, I might,
in some degree, consider as an object achieved.

Round the central figure in the narrative other characters will
be found grouped, in sharp contrast -- contrast, for the most
part, in which I have endeavored to make the element of humor
mainly predominant. I have sought to impart this relief to the
more serious passages in the book, not only because I believe
myself to be justified in doing so by the laws of Art -- but
because experience has taught me (what the experience of my
readers will doubtless confirm) that there is no such moral
phenomenon as unmixed tragedy to be found in the world around us.
Look where we may, the dark threads and the light cross each
other perpetually in the texture of human life.

To pass from the Characters to the Story, it will be seen that
the narrative related in these pages has been constructed on a
plan which differs from the plan followed in my last novel, and
in some other of my works published at an earlier date. The only
Secret contained in this book is revealed midway in the first
volume. From that point, all the main events of the story are
purposely foreshadowed before they take place -- my present
design being to rouse the reader's interest in following the
train of circumstances by which these foreseen events are brought
about. In trying this new ground, I am not turning my back in
doubt on the ground which I have passed over already. My one
object in following a new course is to enlarge the range of my
studies in the art of writing fiction, and to vary the form in
which I make my appeal to the reader, as attractively as I can.

There is no need for me to add more to these few prefatory words
than is here written. What I might otherwise have wished to say
in this place, I have endeavored to make the book itself say for