Originally published as "The Duel in Herne Wood" in The Spirit of the Times, 22 December 1877. Captain Stanwick and Lionel Varleigh are old friends, but after falling out over their attentions to Bertha Laroche, they fight an illegal duel in Herne Wood. Stanwick wrongly thinks he has killed Varleigh and goes mad, killing himself with a razor when his supposed victim returns like an apparition from the dead. Varleigh is acquitted of murder and marries Bertha.
William Wilkie Collins (1824–1889) was a very popular Victorian novelist and a close friend and collaborator of Charles Dickens. Collins was a prolific writer, publishing not only novels, but many plays, short stories, and works of nonfiction. Collins sold his first short story at 19, and his first novel at 24. Collins had a very successful career as a master of suspense with a distinct narrative voice, filled with social commentary. Wilkie Collins never actually practiced law, but his knowledge profoundly impacted his writing and he is considered one of the godfathers of the detective novel.
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