Wilkie Collins (1824 – 1889)

William Wilkie Collins, born January 8th, 1824, was an English novelist, playwright and short story writer.

Named after his father, William Collins, a well-known landscape painter, the younger Collins became known by his middle name, Wilkie. Born in London, he spent part of his childhood in Italy and France as well. His first story, The Last Stage Coachman, was published in Illuminated Magazine when he was 19 years old and working as a clerk at a tea merchant firm. He wrote a novel shortly after this, Iolani, but it was rejected and never published. Although his father had imagined his son would become a painter like him, upon his father's death in 1847 Wilkie published his first novel, Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R. A. IN 1850 his second book, a novel titled Antonina, was published by Richard Bentley.

In 1851 Collins met Charles Dickens, whom became a close friend and mentor. He began to regularly contribute pieces to Dicken's magazine Household Words, and published the novels Basil (1852) and Hide and Seek (1854). During this time he also began to suffer from gout, and to take laudanum as treatment.

During the 1860s Collins produced what are considered to be his most important works. The Woman In White (1859) considered the first mystery novel, and The Moonstone (1868) generally considered the first detective novel, were both extremely popular titles, setting the standards for detective novels for decades to come while making the author a household name.

Wilkie Collins was publicly skeptical of the institution of marriage. He lived with a woman, Caroline Graves, and her daughter , for most of his life. He also had a 'common-law' wife, Martha Rudd, whom he met when she was 19 and he was 44. Together they assumed the last name Dawson, and had three children.

Collins died on September 23, 1889 and is buried with Caroline Graves, who died in 1895, in West London.

Books by Wilkie Collins