The horrid mystery hanging over us in this house gets into my head like liquor, and makes me wild.
"Make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, make 'em wait – exactly in that order." William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was the leading sensational novelist of the Victorian era, and during the 1860s his novels, published in weekly instalments, equalled the popularity of the works of his friend Charles Dickens. With 'The Woman in White' and 'The Moonstone', he is credited with the creation of the detective story.
William Wilkie Collins was born on 8th January 1824 in Marylebone, London, where he lived for most of the 65 years of life. He was the elder son of William Collins a celebrated landscape artist and portrait painter.
He attended Maida Vale Academy in 1835 followed by a two year absence when he travelled to France and Italy with his family. When he returned to England he attended Cole’s boarding school where he began storytelling. He left school in 1841 and began work as an apprentice to a tea merchant. It was here that he began writing his first publication, Iolani. Unhappy working for the tea merchant, he explored other avenues of work including a career in painting. However after the success of his first published novel Antonina, he decided on his career as a writer.
In 1852 he was introduced to Charles Dickens. They became lifelong friends and Collins became an editor for Dickens. Collins continued to publish books including The Woman in White, Armadale, The Haunted Hotel and Other Stories, and The Moonstone. In 1858 he set up home with Caroline Graves and her young daughter. Although they lived together as man and wife they were never legally married as Collins was adamantly opposed to the idea of wedlock. Although still living with Caroline Graves, in 1864 Collins began a relationship with another young woman, Martha Rudd, who by 1868 had settled in London as his mistress. For the rest of his life Collins was to divide his time between both women and the children.
Collins died on the 23rd September 1889. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, West London. His grave notes him as the author of The Woman in White.