BRIDGET WHELAN writer

Muse, News and Views

How to jump on a bandwagon and do it well… Art for Writers

The somnambulist

This young woman might be a resident of the gothic house I featured in last week’s art for writers post but I chose this painting by John Everett Millais because it’s highly likely that it was inspired by a novel.

When Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White first appeared in installments in Charles Dickens’s periodical All the Year Round the criticis didn’t like it. Readers, however, loved it. They went mad for it.

Manufacturers produced Woman in White perfume,  cloaks and bonnets, there were Woman in White waltzes and quadrilles and Walter (the name of the hero) became a popular boy’s name. Collins was flooded with fan mail and bets were made on what would happen in the next installment. When it was published in book form in the summer of 1860 the entire print run of 1000 sold out on the first day.  It hasn’t been out of print since.

If you haven’t read it, put it on your summer reading list. It’s a suspense novel, a mystery packed with cliffhangers. Get past the Victorian turn of phrase and you have a thumping good holiday read.

Back to Millais’ painting…Saying he was jumping on a bandwagon is perhaps unfair, but he was working with the popular ideas of his day, a fascination with the occult and the ‘other’. And he produced something special out of it, setting himself a huge challange: painting wide open eyes that can’t see. I think he’s suceeded (although the title helps: The Somnambulist). 

So, as writers there’s nothing wrong with seizing on fashionable trends as long as what we produce is good (no pressure, then) and adds something, something of ourselves, not a secondhand someone else.

 

 

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3 comments on “How to jump on a bandwagon and do it well… Art for Writers

  1. Jennie
    June 16, 2017

    Thank you, Bridget. Great post (as always). This is on my summer reading list!

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