“There’s a man who spoke wonders, though I never met him.
He said, ‘He who seeks finds, and who knocks will be let in.’
I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting
and how every little thing anticipates you.
All down my veins, my heartstrings call:
Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?
Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?”
– Nick Cave
Walter Hartright’s testimony, or whatever the narrative conceit Collins is employing here, in The Woman in White leaves out crucial details in the formation of his, er, improper relationship with Laura Fairlie. In fact, there are only two times in the course of the first 120 pages where she actually speaks. I doubt it is a coincidence that they occur when Walt introduces himself and when she tells him to sod off in their (allegedly) final interaction. The steamy montage of the master “teaching” his pupil never bothers to get specific; it portrays their courtship as a voyeuristic tango with brief moments of semi-contact (bending over bosoms and grazing ribbons and rubbish like that).
Yet Walt insists, even before he goes into those vague descriptions, that he loved Laura. He loved her! “Feel for me, or despise me [clever invocation of the audience here], I confess it with the same immovable resolution to own the truth” (64). We understand that she possesses the qualities he looks for in a girl. Bro, is she hot? Hell yeah. Seriously, bro, how hot is she? “A fair, delicate girl, in a pretty light dress…with truthful, innocent blue eyes” (52). I guess, for no reason whatsoever, we can check “submissive” off the list, too. Could she maybe be a ghost? Oh, she certainly has potential. So far, so good. Shouldn’t Laura be the one our peerless protagonist has been waiting for?
Well, if you consider her absence from large chunks of the story up until this point and her conspicuous lack of a voice, perhaps not. In my opinion, the conventional “falling in love” process between the artist and his perfect muse is a feint to conceal Walt’s more shameful admiration for a masculine (in both her visage and comportment) matron and/or an insane commoner. He reminds me greatly of David Faux in his capacity to prattle on while saying very little. Though what ultimately endears me to the fellow is that he associates with Marian Halcombe and Anne Catherick without any noticeable shame. They both intrigue him, instead. I suppose that this sensation novel has little to do with Walt’s love life, but I figure I’d refer to it anyway. Just for fun, I wonder what to make of him staring at Marian’s lips and “penetrating eyes” (68).