`This time the fiction is founded upon facts' stated Wilkie Collins
in his Preface to Man and Wife (1870). Many Victorian writers
responded to contemporary debates on the rights and the legal
status of women, and here Collins questions the deeply inequitable
marriage laws of his day. Man and Wife examines the plight of a
woman who, promised marriage by one man, comes to believe that she
may inadvertently have gone through a form of marriage with his
friend, as recognized by the archaic laws of Scotland and Ireland.
From this starting-point Collins develops a radical critique of the
values and conventions of Victorian society. Collins had already
developed a reputation as the master of the `sensation novel', and
Man and Wife is as fast moving and unpredictable as The Moonstone
and The Woman in White. During the novel the atmosphere grows
increasingly sinister as the setting moves from a country house to
a London suburb and a world of confinement, plotting, and murder.