The Woman in White
The Story Begun By Walter Hartright
This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can
If the machinery of the Law could be depended on to fathom every case of suspicion, and
to conduct every process of inquiry, with moderate assistance only from the lubricating
influences of oil of gold, the events which fill these pages might have claimed their share
of the public attention in a Court of Justice.
But the Law is still, in certain inevitable cases, the pre-engaged servant of the long purse;
and the story is left to be told, for the first time, in this place. As the Judge might once
have heard it, so the Reader shall hear it now. No circumstance of importance, from the
beginning to the end of the disclosure, shall be related on hearsay evidence. When the
writer of these introductory lines (Walter Hartright by name) happens to be more closely
connected than others with the incidents to be recorded, he will describe them in his own
person. When his experience fails, he will retire from the position of narrator; and his
task will be continued, from the point at which he has left it off, by other persons who can
speak to the circumstances under notice from their own knowledge, just as clearly and
positively as he has spoken before them.
Thus, the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, as the story of an
offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness--with the same object,
in both cases, to present the truth always in its most direct and most intelligible aspect;
and to trace the course of one complete series of events, by making the persons who have
been most closely connected with them, at each successive stage, relate their own
experience, word for word.
Let Walter Hartright, teacher of drawing, aged twenty-eight years, be heard first.
It was the last day of July. The long hot summer was drawing to a close; and we, the
weary pilgrims of the London pavement, were beginning to think of the cloud-shadows
on the corn-fields, and the autumn breezes on the sea-shore.
For my own poor part, the fading summer left me out of health, out of spirits, and, if the
truth must be told, out of money as well. During the past year I had not managed my
professional resources as carefully as usual; and my extravagance now limited me to the
prospect of spending the autumn economically between my mother's cottage at
Hampstead and my own chambers in town.
The evening, I remember, was still and cloudy; the London air was at its heaviest; the
distant hum of the street-traffic was at its faintest; the small pulse of the life within me,
and the great heart of the city around me, seemed to be sinking in unison, languidly and