Sunday, 8 January 2012

“I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the primary object of  a work of fiction should be to tell a story.” 
― Wilkie Collins

This year, I am making it my mission to find out more about the authors of my favourite period in literature- The 19th Century. Most people are aware that 2012 marks the 2ooth anniversary of Charles Dicken's birth and there are countless blog posts being written about the great man. In the interests of variety,  I thought I would give another of the great 19th Century writers a chance in the spotlight.

William Wilkie Collins was born on the 8th January 1824 in London. His father, William Collins was a well known landscape artist and member of the Royal Academy and at one time, Wilkie himself considered a career as an artist.

However, fortunately for the world of literature, he began to write and became prolific producing 30 novels, more than 60 short stories as well as 14 plays and 100 works of non-fiction.

Perhaps his most famous works are his novels The Woman in White and The Moonstone.

 The Woman in White, which was published in 1860 is a "sensation novel", a genre that includes other literary classics such as Great Expectations, East Lynne and Lady Audley's Secret.Sensation novels were popular with the general public in the 1860's and 1870's, but were scorned by academics of the time. Today, these works are generally viewed as the forerunners of detective novels.

In March 1851, Wilkie Collins met Charles Dickens and they formed a friendship that lasted until Dickens death in 1870. This meeting resulted in Collins working as an editor on Dickens publication 'Household Words' which featured serialized works by Collins including 'The Dead Secret' and 'A Rogue's Life.'

It seems to be a prerequisite of many of the successful  19th Century writers that their personal lives were almost more complicated than the fictitious ones they created.Wilkie Collins was no exception,  never marrying but instead enjoying two relationships at the same time.

 The first, the beautiful Mrs Caroline Graves was a widow who Collins lived with from around 1858 until his death in 1889, with a two year break in 1868 when Collins had a relationship with the second significant woman in his life, Martha Rudd. During this time, Mrs Graves remarried to a Joseph Clow, but this marriage ended in 1871 and she carried on where she had left off with Collins.

Martha Rudd was a girl of nineteen when she met the then 40 year old Collins in 1864 in Great Yarmouth. Four years later, Wilkie bought her to London and put her in a house in Bolsover Street. Rudd and Collins had 3 children together- 2 girls and a boy.

It seems that despite resuming his relationship with Caroline Graves, Collins was still committed to Martha and their children and left them well provided for in his will.

Until I began researching the Mr Collins for this blog post, I knew little of him and of the complicated romantic life that he led. However, I am intrigued to find out more about this man who was described in his obituary of 1889 written by Francis W. Halsey as 
..... a man of small stature, stooping somewhat in the shoulders, but with large eyes and a round, genial face, framed in by heavy hair and beard, that ill late years were almost white.

  I have added the biography by William M Clarke to my TBR pile as well as all of Collins works, beginning with The Moonstone.

2012 is going to be a busy reading year me thinks!

A belated Happy New Year to all my readers.I hope this year is a good one for you.



  1. I read A Woman in White many years ago and loved it but I have not read anything else by Collins, I know that is something I should remedy, perhaps this year. What an interesting personal life he must have led. I look forward to reading more about Wilke Collins and his works.

  2. Thanks for your comment Arabella. I hope you enjoy his books.