Read The Legacy of Cain by Wilkie Collins Online


When a condemned woman asks the local Minister to take her daughter home, the childless man is touched and finds himself unable to refuse. Yet the prisoner is unrepentant of the murder of her husband. Will her vices be passed on to this seemingly sweet child?...

Title : The Legacy of Cain
Author :
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ISBN : 9780750904537
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Legacy of Cain Reviews

  • Tristram
    2019-03-10 18:32

    “For twenty years past, my friend, I have been studying the question of hereditary transmission of qualities; and I have found vices and diseases descending more frequently to children than virtue and health. […] Children are born deformed; children are born deaf, dumb, or blind; children are born with the seeds in them of deadly diseases. Who can account for the cruelties of creation?”Do these bitter words of a somewhat jaded prison doctor echo the attitude of the aged writer Wilkie Collins himself, whose 1889 novel The Legacy of Cain was the last one he actually lived to finish? You’ll have to read the novel itself in order to find out, and let me tell you it will be worth your while because Collins’s last completed work is, mostly, an extremely suspenseful experience.Like many of his later novels, The Legacy of Cain not merely wants to thrill its readers by telling a blood-curdling story, but also to address social questions – in this case, the controversy about whether a disposition towards crime runs in a person’s “blood”, i.e. genetic code, or whether it can be successfully counteracted by a sympathetic and virtuous upbringing. In other words, Collins opens the nature vs. nurture debate. The novel starts when the baby daughter of a woman who is awaiting execution for having murdered her profligate husband in a fit of jealousy is adopted by the Congregationalist Minister Mr. Gracedieu, much against the advice of the aforesaid doctor, who prophesies that the little girl will grow up to bring shame on the family, whereas the minister himself is convinced that Christian education and virtuous example will be stronger than any temperamental leaning towards crime and passion. When Mr. Gracedieu’s wife a few years later has a child of her own, she plans to get rid of her adopted daughter, unbeknown to her husband, but, in her turn, finds herself peremptorily adopted by the Grim Reaper before she can realize her intention. So, Mr. Gracedieu’s children grow up regarding each other and being regarded by anyone else as real sisters, since the clergyman has made sure to hush up the secret of his adopted daughter’s origins and even destroyed any evidence as to which of the two daughters is the eldest. Life, however, throws in a weak and wimpy young man, who first falls in love with one of the daughters and then with her sister and then again with the other daughter, thus revealing either sister in her true colours – and himself, too. As though matters were not already complicated enough, there is the appearance of the aptly-named Miss Chance, now Mrs. Tenbruggen, who had reasons to hate the executed murderess and wants to vent her hatred on her daughter. In order to do this, however, she has to find out which of the two is the adopted daughter.And herein lies one of the brilliant effects achieved by the author, for Collins once more plays with limited first-person perspectives, giving us an account of the prison warden, followed by diary entries by each of the two sisters, Helena and Eunice, so that nearly half of the book is over before we can know for sure which of the two is the daughter of a murderess. Up to that moment, the reader keeps guessing, which is a clever way of dealing with the nature-nurture question in that our not being too sure about the sisters’ respective identities casts some doubt on the validity of the doctor’s initial warnings. Apart from that, of course, it heightens suspense. Even after the identities of the two sisters are clarified, however, the reader is kept excited by Mrs. Tenbruggen’s sly attempts at finding out which of the two girls is her former enemy’s daughter, and with each failure the sinister woman’s determination waxes. Last not least, we might also ask ourselves whether the girl in question will finally give in to her mother’s voice – somehow the old lady manages to haunt her daughter’s dreams – and improve her sister’s temper by severely reducing the speed of her blood circulation … to zero, to be precise.The Legacy of Cain certainly has a lot to recommend itself, viz. interesting characters – even though the young man is difficult to bear with and I found myself in an extremely murderous disposition towards him –, a clever use as well as change of perspective, just the right narrative pace and a good balance between the story itself and the message it is supposed to convey. I know that some people tend to find fault with Collins’s later novels, but I did really enjoy to read this one and can therefore fully recommend it.

  • Olga Wojtas
    2019-03-09 13:44

    I've been on another Wilkie binge recently, with The Guilty River and The Haunted Hotel, which were pretty much in his potboiler collection (although still good compared to many writers) but he's definitely on form with The Legacy of Cain, a 19th century tale of nature v. nurture. He keeps switching point of view, which he always does with great effect (cf The Moonstone and The Woman in White). You're just getting to a crucial denouement when you start galloping off in another direction. Fabulous characters: I won't say anything about them so that you can make up your own mind. My fave quote: She went about, from one place to another, curing people of all sorts of painful maladies, by a way she had of rubbing them with her hands. In Belgium she was called a "Masseuse." When I asked what this meant in English, I was told, "Medical Rubber."

  • Israel Drazin
    2019-02-25 15:48

    The Legacy of CainBy Wilkie Collins Amazon Digital Services, 257 pagesCost: FreeWilkie Collins (1824-1889), a friend and sometime co-author of Charles Dickens, wrote enjoyable books. He was the inventor of detective novels. He is best known for his books “The Woman in White” and “Moonstone.” His plots are unusual and suspenseful. Even some plots of his non-detective tales have the flavor of that genre. He has a keen understanding of psychology, which is reflected frequently in his tales. In this book two sisters grow up not knowing that they are not related biologically, and turn out differently.The story begins when a female prisoner who was sentenced to be hung for the horrible way she killed her husband persuades a minister, Mr. Gracedieu, to adopt her infant daughter. The minister and his wife have no children and do not expect to be able to have any. A doctor warns him that human nature causes physical and personality traits of parents to be inherited by their children, and tries to persuade the minister not to take the child because he will face horrors when the child grows up because she will have her mother’s despicable traits. The minister disagrees and states that his Christian lessons and pious home habits will assure the child grows into a responsible woman. The plot therefore focuses on what causes evil: heredity or environment or, to put it simply, is there a legacy of Cain?The plot is amplified when the minister’s wife unexpectantly gives birth to a daughter and, unknown to her husband, tells the head of the prison in a venomous manner that she does not want the hung woman’s child and will do all she can to dispose of the child even though her husband wants her. She tries to gain his help in the enterprise, but he refuses. She dies before she can carry out her plan. The minister does all he can to hide that his adopted daughter is the child of a sinister murderess. He refuses to reveal to his daughters that one of them is adopted, and for unusual reasons asserts that he does not want to say which of the two is older. This act raises the curiosity of people who hear about it. He names his adopted daughter Eunice, which, not mentioned or even hinted by Collins, is based on the Greek “eu,” meaning “good,” while the minister’s wife names her daughter Helena against his wishes, a name that is reminiscent of Helen of Troy. Is this meant to be ironic?The plot swells by the entrance of several characters into the lives of the children, including the mistress of the murdered husband, Miss Chance, who strongly disliked his wife who killed him and her daughter, who is determined to harm the daughter. Another is the entrance into the minister’s home of the minister’s cousin, Miss Jillgall, who Helena thinks is mean-hearted and duplicitous, while Eunice considers her a nice person. The well-meaning minister brought her into his home because she had nowhere else to live. One of her friends is Miss Chance. Jillgall is overly curious and a busy-body. Still another character introduced into the tale is the rich husband of the murderess’s sister who was no longer alive, who offered to help place the child, but refused to bring the child into his home lest his son fall in love with this tainted girl and want to marry her. He is not told that the minister adopted her. Years later, the two girls are eighteen. Helena, the minister’s natural daughter is far smarter, prettier, and with a warmer personality than Eunice. While Helena is away, Eunice and the son meet, neither knowing the history, and they fall in love. Eunice thinks that the only problem that she might have with this young man is that his father is exceedingly rich while her father is poor, but she is wrong.

  • Jacqueline
    2019-03-25 16:49

    This was my least favorite Wilkie book partly because I hated Philip Dunboyne. There was nothing redeeming about him. The story could have been more interesting with a better plot twist but it was still enjoyably easy to read and still Wilkie Collins.

  • Brenda Cregor
    2019-02-26 10:46

    This book was written towards the end of Wilkie's life [ yes, Wilkie].In my opinion [ and you know I have one], it had a smoothness in prose not as visible in his earlier works. Yes, it has that "bit of supernatural" that sometimes appalls modern readers, but it does not appall me. The Brits love their ghosts and spirit visitations, mainly because they truly occurred, in that more quiet and reflective era. This book enters into the nature v. nurture debate and ends in a way that was unexpected---I think I was more dramatic in my prediction than Wilkie ended up delivering. And yet, I was satisfied.

  • Mark
    2019-02-22 11:36

    Reading the feedbooks epub version: enjoyed this greatly. It did tend to lag a bit in the middle but Collins was able to pick it back up for all of the back half. It had a few twists several sort of side elements that all fed into the story in important ways.

  • Christie
    2019-03-19 14:42

    For research, of course. I tend to defend Wilkie Collins -- and I always enjoy some of his best novels -- but this one was a struggle to get through (and, to be honest, absolute crap). Useful, though, for research purposes.

  • Nicola Brown
    2019-02-23 16:36

    Wilkie Collins considers the importance of nature versus nurture. An interesting and enjoyable read.

  • Cooper Renner
    2019-02-24 17:53

    Better than Hide and Seek, not as good as Woman in White, Moonstone and Armadale. Hidden identity, the question of whether the parent's moral flaws are passed on the child, weak-willed men.

  • Imation
    2019-02-27 15:47

    Intrigante, entretenido y divertido, pero el final es un poco apresurado.

  • Rose
    2019-03-10 15:52

    Another lesser Wilkie Collins title, while not a patch on The Woman In White, it still has his lively style and turns on a nice device which will keep you guessing for a while.