Wilkie Collins is one of those authors whom I knew virtually nothing about until recently. I had heard the name of one of his books, The Woman In White, bandied around quite a bit, but it wasn’t until I started blogging and until I had read the book Drood, by Dan Simmons that I was able to fully connect him with any of his works.
In Drood, Collins does not come off as the best character in the book. By the time we meet him it is intimated that he is past the prime of his career, that he is working on some outlandish new novel that errs on the side of unoriginality (The Moonstone), that he feels angry and competitive toward his friend and mentor Charles Dickens, and lastly that he has a raging addiction to opium which makes him think that he see a ghostly double of himself. Even though Drood is in a lot of ways supposed to be an exploration of Dickens and all the mysterious things with which he involved himself, Collins as the unreliable narrator is just as interesting as Dickens, if not more so.
I love it when novels get me so interested in real life people that I have to go off and seek more information about them. Drood introduced me to Wilkie Collins and made me go off and find out more about him. The novel had been painstakingly researched so it stood to reason that a lot of the information provided might really be true in some form or another. I’ve shared with you some of the wild and crazy things that got me more interested in this classic author. Now let’s take a look and see how the facts that that I dug up compare.
A Few Facts About Our Friend Wilkie
- Collins never married, but lived on and off with a widow, Mrs Caroline Graves, and her daughter. And this is back in 1858. Scandalous!
- Collins was basically a functional drug addict. He had very painful “rheumatic gout” and took such large amounts of opium in the form of laudanum that he thought he had a ghost double of himself whom he called “Ghost Wilkie” Hmmm.
- The Moonstone is the most popular of Collins’ novels and is considered to be the forerunner of Sherlock Holmes. Dickens didn’t really like it that much.
- Collins popularity as an author took a dive when he stopped writing thrillers and starting writing social commentary. Not what his core audience wanted I guess.
- At the height of his fame and popularity Collins was the highest paid writer from the Victorian Era.
- Collins life was firmly entwined with that of Charles Dickens. Not only were they friends, and was Collins published by Dickens, but Collins’ brother was married to Dickens’ daughter.
- While extensive correspondence remains from Dickens to Collins, only three letters were preserved that Collins wrote to Dickens because Dickens burned them all!
To read more about Wilkie Collins check out The Wilkie Collins Pages. I learned a lot of fascinating information there. I tell you…what these authors won’t get into!