Wilkie Collins (1824–1889)
W. Collins’ father William John Thomas Collins (1788–1847) was a well-known landscape artist, and his mother Harriet (1790–1868) was a daughter of Captain Alexander Geddes of Alderbury.
Collins did not attend schools, but was tutored at home. He soon showed a particular personality adopting unconventional attitudes and dress. In 1836 the Collins left for
where Wilkie learned Italian and developed his own sense of aesthetics. Back in Italy in 1838 he did not want to follow his father’s advice to enter the Church. First he get a position with a tea merchant, then started writing. London
Collins’ first published short story was The Last Stage Coachman (1843) in Illuminated Magazine, then he wrote Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, at his father’s death.
In 1851 Collins followed his passion and started acting in one of Charles Dickens’ amateur theatre productions. Their friendship was born in that period; Dickens became his mentor – he was 12 years older. Collins wrote for Dicken’s periodical Household Words and for other journals. Probably Dickens appreciated Collin rebellious attitude towards Victorian life’s conventions. Hide and Seek (1854) was not surprisingly dedicated to Dickens
Collins’ first play was The Lighthouse (1855) followed by The Frozen Deep . While writing A Rogue’s Life (1856) in
, Collins suffered an attack of rheumatism and was forced to take relief in the opiate laudanum …. Slowly it became an addiction. Paris
In 1856 Collins went together with the widow Caroline Elizabeth Graves Compton, and her daughter Harriet. They would never marry.
His first masterpiece was Woman in White (1860) which appeared in Dicken’s magazine All the Year Round .
Dickens and Collins continued their collaboration for All the Year Round until 1862.
Collins second success was about the negative effects of opium addiction The Moonstone (1868) and Sergeant Cuff was to become a prototype of future detective heroes.
In 1864, Collins first met Martha Rudd: they never married but had three children
In 1868 his mother died, but he was too ill to attend the funeral… the bitterest of all afflictions he dealt with in his life. In 1870s Collins went to
and met Mark Twain. Collins continued writing but his health got worse and worse. He suffered from heart and chest pain; he suffered a stroke and a few months later contracted bronchitis which would lead to his death in 1889, America
Collins was the first author to use a literary agent, Alexander Pollock Watt, and was involved in the initial formation of the concept of intellectual rights for authors, a cause he championed during his lifetime. In 1884 Collins helped found the Society of Authors.