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)
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*