The Evil Genius

COLLINS, Wilkie. The Evil Genius.

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"He took the only course that was open to him; he took his hat."

COLLINS, Wilkie. The Evil Genius. London: Chatto & Windus, 1886.

3 vols; 8vo; original dark green cloth, front covers blocked in black with bat motifs, spines lettered in gilt; Vol. I pp.viii, 284; vol II vi, 304; vol iii vi, 265, [i], 32 (advertisements, some uncut); all volumes a little rubbed and lightly worn, volume 2 a bit shaky, very occasional small internal page tears (no text loss), and faint dog-ears to some pages, covers largely unfaded, internally clean and unfoxed, with the bookplate of John Martineau to front free endpaper, and the subscription library label of W.H.Smith & Sons to the front paste-down endpaper in all 3 volumes.
First appearance in novel form. A scarce book in this format.
Developed parallel to a theatrical version of the same name, The Evil Genius is a tale exploring themes of adultery, divorce and how it impacts the lives of children tossed about in the process. The eponymous villain is a snooping mother in law determined to reveal an affair, in an amusing joke likely misunderstood by the binder, who trussed up the set in cloth smattered with gothic looking bats. The plot itself quickly devolves into the exciting (if unbelievable) action that wouldn't be out of place in a soap opera today - flights to train stations, fits of histrionics and fainting and even a particularly unnecessary (but wonderful) sequence where characters flee over a misty lake in a rowboat. Strangely, the protagonist of the book is the adulterous husband's mistress, and though the book resolves with the married couple re-uniting, the work as a whole presents the mistress in a much more favourable light than one would expect of the time. This could have somehing to do with Collins' own personal life, having rather brazenly entertained two mistresses for the previous two decades, and though the book stops short of openly advocating bigamy, it raises rather interesting questions about the nature of marriage, parenthood, and romance.