Thursday, June 21, 2012

Author Focus: William Wilkie Collins (A Victorian Celebration).

 This week's Author Focus in on a Victorian writer I don't have a lot of experience with. In fact, he is one of 2 writers I added to my project list after I had been working on it for a few months. I had never even heard of Wilkie Collins until I started blogging.

In any case, I added two of his works to my project list and have read one to date (The Woman in White). The second, The Moonstone, is on my pile to read for the celebration. I'm hoping I get to it! From my reading of The Woman in White, I've found that I really enjoy Collins' writing style, so that is why I'm going to push you to give him a try.

William Wilkie Collins was born in 1824 in London, England. As a boy, he traveled with his family to France and Italy, which has a huge impact on him. In 1844, he wrote his first novel, Iolani, which was never published in his lifetime. He eventually went to school to study law in honor of his father's wishes, but when his father died in 1847, he began writing on a more regular basis.

In 1851, Collins met Charles Dickens, who became a lifelong friend and mentor. I can't imagine what kind of impact Dickens had on him-Collins was a young, fledgling writer and Dickens was a force to be reckoned with. I am sure that their friendship was something to see! They collaborated on a number of things and Dickens supported Collins' writing by helping it get published in Household Words and All the Year Round-Dickens' journals and magazines. The two also traveled Europe together in the 1850s.

Collins' first story, "A Terribly Strange Bed," was published in Household Words in April 1852 and it was the first of many. He also had stories published in The Leader which was run by George Lewes. Lewes might seem like a familiar name if you read last week's Author Focus, since he was George Eliot's "husband" for a number of years. Isn't that an interesting connection? Something I have found by researching these writers is how interconnected they all were. Makes me wonder what writers weren't in their "clique" and didn't get published because of it!

Keeping up with the scandalous lifestyle as done by Eliot, Collins moved in with Caroline Graves and lived with her as man and wife. The two didn't marry, but carried amidst a lot of scandal (I think the Victorians were quite fond of scandal, don't you?). During this time period (late 1850s into the 1860s), Collins published a whole slew of titles and was gaining more attention from the public.

And, keeping up with scandal, Collins met another woman, Martha Rudd, in 1867 and decided to settle down with her as well! He led a double life-living with Graves while in London, and Rudd in the countryside near London. He even used a different name when he was with Rudd to avoid being found out...but eventually Caroline discovered his affair, left him, and returned two years later. Collins lived the rest of his life taking turns between his two ladies o_O.

Later on in his life, he suffered from gout and used a lot of opium to deal with the pain. He also struggled to maintain his success after the death of Charles Dickens in 1870. Many feel that once he lost his best friend and mentor, his novels lost their passion, which is why many of his later novels aren't as acclaimed as his earlier titles. Many of his novels were deemed "sensation" novels that were meant only for entertainment and shock. They were also the precursors to later detective novels, like Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Another notable aspect of his novels is the focus on his female characters and their plights in Victorian society-something I definitely noticed in my read of The Woman in White.

Some of his more famous works include:
  • Antonina (1850)
  • The Ostler (1855)
  • The Frozen Deep (1857) Co-written with Dickens
  • The Woman in White (1860)
  • No Name (1862)
  • Armadale (1866)
  • The Moonstone (1868)
  • Poor Miss Finch (1872)
  • The Law and the Lady (1875)
Collins died in 1889 at the age of 82. He has left behind a great legacy and certainly was a large part of the surge in literature during the Victorian event. He is definitely a writer I need more exposure to and I can't wait for the opportunity to explore more of his work.






There is no giveaway with today's Author Focus, but I will be giving away one of Collins' novels later on in the celebration-so keep an eye out!

*Information taken from wikipedia.org and wilkiecollins.com*

27 comments:

  1. I started The Woman in White yesterday. I've read 100 pages, hoping to read another 100 today. I've seen the movie adaption which I loved, on BBC America. I too have Moonstone, but not sure if it will be this year I'll read it. Collins certainly had an interesting love life? 2 mistresses, the younger bore him 3 children. I was going to do a little research and see if these children survived to adulthood and had families of their own. Dickens, Collins, and Gaskell were contemporaries/friends. I just finished Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell last week, loved it. I'm also reading Oliver Twist, about 127 pages into it.

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    1. I love that many of the main Victorians were friends. They must have had GREAT literary conversations! :)

      I think I remember reading that one of Collins' sisters or daughters (could be wrong) married one of Dickens' children...but I can't remember exactly!

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  2. I absolutely loved The Woman in White when I read it in April for a readalong. In August, Alice at Reading Rambo is planning to host a second Wilkie Collins readalong for The Moonstone -- you should join in!

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    1. Oh man....I think I'll have to join in. :)

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  3. Wilkie Collins is one of my favorite Victorians!!! I've read Man and Wife, Armadale, Moonstone, Woman in White, and Evil Genius. I hope to read at least one of his books for the Celebration!!! I also just happened to read "A Terrible Strange Bed" but I didn't know it was his first story!

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    1. I've had a hard time finding some of his novels, but I'm planning on getting to more of them in the future!

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  4. I'm currently on p 48 of "The Moonstone" and it's a re-read for me. I usually don't read the editor's preface/introduction first, but having already read the novel I enjoyed the introduction this time (Oxford World Classics edition). Be careful because the preface often gives away major plot points. The Moonstone is a wonderful "detective novel". I would recommend reading "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher" http://www.scrambledbooks.com/2012/06/suspicions-of-mr-whicher-real-victorian.html along with it.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely make sure to read that one too!

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  5. Oh, he is one of my absolute favorites. I had to read The Moonstone as part of my English degree, and I fell in love! Since then, I've read The Woman in White (AWESOME), A Rogue's Life (Fun!) and No Name (probably my least favorite of the four, but still pretty darn good.). He's just so readable! I'm hoping to read Armadale next.

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  6. The Woman in White is one of the best novels I've ever read regarding plot, structure and the creation of mystery in thrillers. I hope you like it :)

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  7. I've read The Woman in White as well and The Moonstone is on my list for this year. I'm hoping to get to it in August.

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    1. Did you see the above comment about the readalong in August? I think I'll be joining that!

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  8. I started The Woman in White recently, but as with so many books, I need to finish it! :-)

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    1. haha. Your ability to read numerous books at one time is rubbing off on me. :)

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  9. Wilkie Collins is certainly the best author ever to read for a readalong. I don't understand why he is so unknown, his novels seem to be pure awesomeness (well, I've only read The Woman in White, but The Moonstone is on my nightstand!).
    There is only one word you surely couldn't use to describe him: boring.

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    1. Like I said, I had never heard of him until I started blogging. He's just fabulous!

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  10. I've read The Woman in White & The Moonstone and loved both. Will read No Name next.

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    1. can't wait to see your thoughts!

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  11. Thank you for exposing Wilkie Collins' personal life. I wonder too, why there are many scandal around Victorian authors? And the relationship between Dickens and Collins is interesting too, it must be quite deep, that affected in Collins writings.
    Aaagghh..can't wait to read his book!

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    1. All of them seem to have been up to no good at some point! ;)

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  12. Great bio! I've read only two by him. He and Dickens could have an ugly beard contest ;)

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    1. Lol. Yes! I love the bearded writers! Whitman's beard is the best though!

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  13. I've read several books by Collins, but not yet The Woman in White! I'm saving that for fall, as I think it will be a perfect read then. I really liked The Moonstone, so I hope you have a chance to read it soon!

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    1. Woman in White is PERFECT for fall. :)

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  14. I love Wilkie Collins for some reason. I too had not heard of him before I started blogging. He was our first classics circuit:
    Information Page | In Retrospect

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