William Wilkie Collins was an English novelist, playwright, and writer of short stories. He was hugely popular in his time, and wrote 27 novels, more than 50 short stories, at least 15 plays, and over 100 pieces of non-fiction work.
Collins was born in January 8, 1824, in London, the son of a well-known landscape painter, William Collins. At 17 he left school and was
apprenticed to a firm of tea merchants, but after five unhappy years, he entered Lincoln's Inn to study law. After his father's death in 1847, Collins produced his first published book, Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R.A. (1848), but it was with the publication of his first published
novel Antonina in 1850 that his career as a writer began in earnest.
An instrumental event in Collins' career occurred in 1851 when he was introduced to Charles Dickens by a mutual friend. They
became lifelong friends and collaborators; several of Collins' novels were serialized in Dickens' weekly publication All the Year Round, and Dickens later edited and published them himself.
Collins suffered from a form of arthritis known as 'rheumatic gout', and became severely addicted to the opium that he took to
relieve the pain. As a result he experienced paranoid delusions, the most notable being his conviction that he was constantly accompanied by a
doppelganger he dubbed 'Ghost Wilkie'. His novel The Moonstone prominently features the effects of opium, and opium addiction.
His works were classified at the time as 'sensation novels', a genre seen nowadays as the precursor to detective fiction and
suspense fiction. He wrote penetratingly on the plight of women and on the social and domestic issues of his time. Like many writers of his time, he published most of his novels as serials in magazines such as Dickens's All the Year Round, and was known as a master of the form, creating just the right degree of suspense to keep his audience reading from week to week.
Collins never married, but he lived, on and off from 1858, with a widow, Mrs Caroline Graves, and her daughter. He also fathered three children by another woman, Martha Rudd, whom he met after Mrs Graves left him in 1868. Mrs Graves returned to Collins after two years and
he continued both relationships until his death on September 23, 1889. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, West London.
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