The Woman in White

The Woman in White Summary and Analysis of Mr Gilmore's Narrative


Mr. Gilmore spends the first few days of his time at Limmeridge House quietly, noting that Laura Fairlie seems depressed. Mr. Fairlie indicates that he is in favor of the marriage between her and Sir Percival, but his main priority is to be bothered as little as possible. When Sir Percival arrives, he acknowledges that he has seen the copy of the anonymous letter, and readily offers an explanation. Mrs. Catherick (Anne's mother) had formerly been his employee, and he had always felt particularly concerned about her since her husband abandoned her, leaving her as a single mother to a child with psychological difficulties. Anne's illness eventually made it necessary for her to receive full-time care, and so Sir Percival offered to pay the cost of her being housed in a private asylum. He did so out of a charitable desire to help the Catherick family and to ensure that Anne received a good quality of care, but Anne perceived being sent to the asylum as a kind of imprisonment, and blamed him for it. Thus, she sent the angry letter in which Sir Percival was presented as a villain. He is more than happy to provide any necessary documentation to support this story, and is actively trying to find Anne so that she can be returned to the institution.

Mr. Gilmore finds this story entirely plausible and Marian says that she does too, although she appears somewhat hesitant. Sir Percival notices this hesitation, and suggests that she write to Mrs. Catherick for confirmation of this story. She reluctantly does so. Sir Percival also finds out where Anne Catherick was staying, and says he will ask more questions in hopes that she can be located. Marian still seems dissatisfied with the conversation, and tells Mr. Gilmore that she wishes Walter were still at the house. A short time later, a very brief reply comes from Mrs. Catherick, in which she confirms everything that Sir Percival has said. Sir Percival has also told Marian that he has noticed that Laura does not seem happy, and that he is willing to break off the engagement if she tells him she wants to. Marian is concerned that Sir Percival is being manipulative, and does not want to have any responsibility in persuading Laura to marry him. When Marian explains the story behind the letter to Laura, Laura seems to accept it, but also requests time to delay making up her mind about the marriage.

Mr. Gilmore, however, is concerned about the delay; he will not be able to return to Limmeridge House in the coming months due to his other business, and this means that if Laura decides to go ahead with the engagement, he will not be able to discuss terms with her in person. In light of this, he meets with her the following morning, and while still acknowledging that the marriage may not go forward, asks her if she has reservations about the terms. Laura surprises him by asking that it be stipulated for Marian to live with her. Mr. Gilmore brushes this off and clarifies that he is interested in where she would like to see her money go. Laura suggests that she would like to leave it to Marian, and then tries to say something about someone she would like to leave a keepsake to, but gets overwhelmed by tears. Mr. Gilmore drops the subject. As he leaves, however, Mr. Gilmore comes to feel increasingly unsettled about the prospect of Laura and Percival's marriage.

Eight days after his return to London, Mr. Gilmore receives a letter notifying him that Laura has agreed to marry Sir Percival, and that they plan to marry very quickly. Marian also tells him that prior to the wedding, she and Laura will be traveling to Yorkshire to visit some friends. Mr. Gilmore then explains the financial situation relevant to the legal documents he must now draw up in preparation for the wedding. If Frederick Fairlie dies without having children, the Limmeridge estate will be inherited by Laura. She will have access to the income from the estate during her lifetime, and could arrange her will such that her husband would have access to the income after her death. More importantly, if she has a son, he will inherit the Limmeridge Estate. This arrangement is clear and straightforward, and unlikely to present problems. When Laura turns twenty-one (which will happen a few months after her marriage) she will also be able to access twenty thousand pounds, which her father willed to her. There is also an additional ten thousand pounds the interest on which will go to Laura; upon Laura's death, this will be inherited by her aunt Eleanor.

This unusual set-up took place because Eleanor, the sister of Philip and Frederick Fairlie, married an Italian man named Count Fosco. Philip was angry about this marriage and disinherited his sister. Even though Laura advocated for her aunt, the best she could achieve was the strange condition which made it very unlikely Eleanor would ever receive her inheritance. Eleanor unfairly blames Laura, and refuses to see her niece. The source of potential tension is the 20,000 pounds Laura will inherit when she comes of age. Mr. Gilmore wants to establish the settlement such that, should Laura die without having children, the money will be willed by her to whomever she chooses. If she has children, the money will of course go to them. During her lifetime, she will have access to the interest, as will Sir Percival for his lifetime.

Mr. Gilmore sends this proposed contract to Sir Percival's lawyer, but is countered with a request that if Laura dies without children, the 20,000 pounds will pass to her husband. Neither lawyer can come to an agreement, and Mr. Gilmore is particularly worried because he knows that Sir Percival is deeply in debt, and in fact not very well off. He writes to Mr. Fairlie, who does not want to be bothered and thinks Gilmore should just agree to the terms. Gilmore and Sir Percival's lawyer, Merriman, have a meeting and Gilmore tries to negotiate a compromise. Merriman also discloses that he is still working to find Anne, and now believes a man is involved in hiding her in London. Gilmore is still preoccupied with getting a better settlement to protect Laura, and decides to travel to Cumberland to meet with Mr. Fairlie in person.

As Gilmore is leaving for his journey, he runs into Walter in London. Walter asks if Laura will be marrying Percival, and Gilmore does not give him a straight answer. Walter also says he is hoping to get away, and asks Gilmore to let him know if he hears of any opportunities that would allow him to go abroad. Gilmore agrees to do so, and resumes his journey. However, Gilmore is not successful at persuading Mr. Fairlie to change his mind. He leaves angrily, and upon his return reluctantly draws up a settlement that he knows is unfair and disadvantageous to Laura.


The switch in narrators to Mr. Gilmore allows a new tone and perspective to be introduced into the narrative. Unlike Walter, Mr. Gilmore is not biased by his own interests, and his only priority is to see Laura happy. As readers know from Walter's narrative, Gilmore is also a very logical and practical man. Therefore, Mr. Gilmore's fears about the impending marriage are quite different: he doesn't worry that some sinister Gothic secret might be threatening Laura. Rather, he worries about the financial situation that she find herself in. The lengthy details of the negotiation process and Laura's financial position make it very clear that this marriage is essentially a business transaction, and that it is being treated like one. The two lawyers represent opposing interests and both fight very hard for the best deals for their clients.

The marriage negotiations also show how little control Laura has, and how she is insufficiently protected by the man who should take care of her. While Mr. Gilmore makes an effort to find out what she wants, he does so because he cares about her, not because he is obligated to. It is also not Laura who gets to make the decision about whether or not to accept the terms that Sir Percival's lawyer proposes. Frederick, as her male guardian, gets to make this decision, and he is too lazy and incompetent to advocate for her best interests. The way in which the man who is supposed to be responsible for Laura's welfare fails to safeguard it offers a grim foreshadowing of the way in which her husband will also fail to keep her safe.

This section builds dramatic tension in that Sir Percival at first seems charming and attentive, and has a plausible explanation for everything. Still, both Marian and even eventually Mr. Gilmore cannot shake the feeling that something is not right, which raises the reader's suspicions. Ironically, the fact that Sir Percival is so eager to have his story checked out seems to make it even more suspicious. The letter from Mrs. Catherick seems like inarguable proof, and adds to the way in which written documents are assumed to offer a truthful account. Still, a reader's doubts about this letter might begin to shed light on how nothing in the novel is quite what it seems.

The history of Laura's finances does give the reader the opportunity to learn about Laura's aunt Eleanor, whose fate offers an echo of what might have happened if Laura tried to marry Walter. Eleanor's husband was wealthy and aristocratic, but because he was not English, no one approved of the marriage. As a result, Eleanor lost her financial independence as well as contact with her family. This unhappy fate shows another way in which women lacked control; even if they defied expectations to marry the man of their choice, they might suffer very much as a result of this decision.