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Hilda Wade, a Woman with by Grant Allen

Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of Purpose

Hilda Wade, a Woman with by Grant Allen

Hilda Wade: The Nurse Who Solved Mysteries with Her Brilliant Mind


If you love mystery stories with clever and strong female characters, you might want to check out Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of Purpose by Grant Allen. This novel, published in 1900, is one of the first examples of a detective story with a woman as the main hero. Hilda Wade is not just a nurse who works at a London hospital. She is also a brilliant and resourceful person who uses her keen observation skills and scientific knowledge to crack some of the most baffling cases. She often outwits her boss, Professor Sebastian, who is a famous and arrogant physiologist. And she has a personal motive to pursue the truth: she wants to clear the name of her father, who was wrongly accused of murder.

In this article, we will explore the plot and the characters of Hilda Wade, as well as the background and the legacy of its author, Grant Allen. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about this novel and provide some suggestions for further reading. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of why Hilda Wade is a remarkable and influential work of fiction that deserves more attention.

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Grant Allen

The Plot and the Characters of Hilda Wade

Hilda Wade consists of 12 chapters, each one describing a different episode or adventure in Hilda’s life. The narrator of the story is Dr. Hubert Cumberledge, a young doctor who works with Hilda at St. Nathaniel’s Hospital and falls in love with her. He admires her intelligence and courage, and often assists her in her investigations.

The first chapter introduces Hilda as a new nurse who arrives at the hospital with a mysterious letter of recommendation from Professor Sebastian. She immediately impresses everyone with her skill and efficiency, but also arouses curiosity and suspicion with her secretive behavior. She reveals to Cumberledge that she has a special gift: she can anticipate what people are going to do or say next, based on their habits and personalities. She calls this gift “the cipher method”, and uses it to predict and prevent disasters.

The following chapters show how Hilda applies her gift to various situations, such as:

  • Saving the life of a patient who was about to die from an overdose of chloroform administered by a careless anesthetist.
  • Exposing the fraud of a gentleman who pretended to be poor and sick in order to get money from charitable people.
  • Helping a woman who was abused by her husband to escape from his clutches.
  • Preventing a man who was depressed and suicidal from killing himself.
  • Finding out the truth behind the death of a woman who was stabbed by a needle that did not match her sewing kit.
  • Tracing the origin of a letter that contained clues about the identity of her father’s murderer.
  • Solving the mystery of a stone that moved by itself in an ancient temple in Egypt.
  • Uncovering the secret of a European explorer who had a heart transplant from an African warrior.

The final chapter reveals the ultimate goal of Hilda’s quest: to confront Dr. Nathaniel Sebastian, the man who framed her father for murder and ruined his reputation. She follows him to Antarctica, where he is leading an expedition to study the effects of extreme cold on human physiology. There, she confronts him with the evidence of his guilt and forces him to confess. However, before she can return to England and clear her father’s name, she dies in a tragic accident involving an iceberg.

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The Background and the Legacy of Grant Allen

Grant Allen was born in 1848 in Canada, but he spent most of his life in England. He was educated at Oxford University, where he studied classics and science. He became interested in evolution and natural history, and wrote many books and articles on these topics. He was also a prolific writer of fiction, especially short stories and novels that combined scientific ideas with sensational plots. He wrote more than 30 novels, some of them under pseudonyms.

Hilda Wade was his last novel, and he did not live to see it published. He died in 1899 from liver cancer, leaving behind an unfinished manuscript. His friend and neighbor, Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, helped him complete the last chapter, based on his notes and his wishes. The novel was serialized in The Strand Magazine, a popular monthly magazine that also published Conan Doyle’s stories, and then published as a book in 1900.

Hilda Wade is considered one of the first detective novels with a female protagonist, and one of the earliest examples of a scientific detective. Hilda Wade is a precursor of other famous female sleuths, such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Dorothy L. Sayers’ Harriet Vane, and Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta. She is also a pioneer of using logic, psychology, and forensic science to solve crimes, rather than relying on intuition, luck, or coincidence. She is a modern and progressive heroine, who challenges the stereotypes and prejudices of her time.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Hilda Wade

Is Hilda Wade based on a real person?

No, Hilda Wade is a fictional character created by Grant Allen. However, some aspects of her character and her story may have been inspired by real people or events. For example, some critics have suggested that Hilda Wade’s gift of anticipation may have been influenced by the experiments of William James, an American psychologist and philosopher who studied the phenomenon of “automatism”, or unconscious mental activity. James was a friend of Grant Allen, and they corresponded about their ideas.

Another possible source of inspiration for Hilda Wade may have been Florence Nightingale, the famous nurse who revolutionized the field of nursing and public health in the 19th century. Nightingale was also a pioneer of statistics and data visualization, and used her skills to improve the conditions and outcomes of patients. She was known for her dedication and tenacity, as well as her influence and authority. She was admired by many people, including Grant Allen, who wrote an article about her in 1891.

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Is Hilda Wade a feminist novel?

Hilda Wade can be seen as a feminist novel in some ways, but not in others. On the one hand, it portrays a strong and independent woman who excels in her profession and pursues her goals with determination and courage. It also challenges the patriarchal and sexist attitudes of some of the male characters, such as Professor Sebastian, who is arrogant and dismissive of women’s abilities and opinions. It shows that women can be as intelligent, capable, and heroic as men, if not more so.

On the other hand, Hilda Wade also reflects some of the limitations and prejudices of its time and its author. For example, Hilda Wade is often described in terms of her physical appearance and attractiveness, rather than her personality or achievements. She is also dependent on the love and approval of Dr. Cumberledge, who is her romantic interest and her narrator. She sacrifices her own happiness and life for his sake, and dies in his arms. She is also portrayed as an exception among women, rather than a representative of them. She is often contrasted with other female characters who are weak, foolish, or wicked.

Therefore, Hilda Wade can be seen as both a progressive and a conservative novel, depending on the perspective.

Is Hilda Wade available online?

Yes, Hilda Wade is available online for free, as it is in the public domain. You can read it or download it from various websites, such as Project Gutenberg, Wikisource, Google Books, or Internet Archive. You can also find some illustrations by Gordon Browne that accompanied the original publication.

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Hilda Wade is a fascinating novel that combines mystery, adventure, romance, and science. It features a remarkable female protagonist who uses her wit and wisdom to solve crimes and seek justice. It is also a historical document that reflects the social and cultural context of its time and its author. It is a novel that deserves more recognition and appreciation for its originality and its influence.

If you enjoyed reading this article about Hilda Wade by Grant Allen, you might also like to read some of his other works, such as:

  • The Woman Who Did (1895), a controversial novel about a woman who defies social norms and lives according to her own principles.
  • An African Millionaire (1897), a humorous collection of stories about a wealthy and eccentric adventurer who travels around the world.
  • The British Barbarians (1895), a satirical novel about an anthropologist who visits England and observes its customs and manners.

You might also like to read some other novels that feature female detectives or scientists, such as:

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) by Agatha Christie
  • Strong Poison (1930) by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Postmortem (1990) by Patricia Cornwell

Thank you for reading this article! I hope you found it interesting and informative. If you have any questions or comments about it, please feel free to

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