"The Woman In White" is a 1859 novel by the English author, Wilkie Collins. The novel, which predates Sherlock Holmes by decades, is considered to be one of the first mystery novels ever written. It was first published in the serial format in Charles Dickens' magazine, "All the Year Round" and "Harper's Weekly" before … [Read more...] about The Woman In White
Wilkie Collins was born on January 8th, 1824 in Marylebone, London. The son of a well-known painter, named William, he was given the middle name Wilkie to honor his godfather and quickly became known by it. Initially, Collins' religious mother schooled he and his brother at home until he was finally allowed to attend the Maida Vale Academy in 1835.
The following year, he lived with his parents in Italy and France, later attending a private boarding school in Highbury. It was at this school that Collins first learned a passion for storytelling as he was bullied by a boy who insisted that Collins tell him a story before bed every night. Collins later admitted that the bully awakened a love of storytelling in him that he may never have known otherwise.
In 1840, Collins left school and began working as a clerk in a firm of tea merchants. During this time, his first story 'The Last Stage Coachman' was published in a magazine. In 1844, he wrote his first novel, "Iolani, or Tahiti As It Was, A Romance" which was rejected and not published until after his death.
In 1846, Collins' father put him in law school where he showed no interest in his studies and continued to write. Collins' father died in 1847 and the same year, his first published book, "Memoirs of the Life of William Collins' Esq., R.A." came out. His second book, "Antonia, or the Fall of Rome" was published only three years later.
In 1851, Collins completed law school, and although he never had a law practice, he still used much of his legal knowledge in his writing. In 1851, Collins was introduced to the famous author Charles Dickens but a mutual friend and the two became close friends. He part of the next decade touring with Dickens' acting troupe and publishing stories in Dickens' magazine.
In 1853, Collins had his first case of gout which plagued him for the rest of his life. He later began using laudanum to treat the illness and became addicted. In 1856, he joined the staff of the magazine Household Words and began writing plays with Dickens.
In 1858, Collins began living with his lifetime companion, Caroline Graves, a widow with one child, whom he lived with for the rest of his life. Throughout the 1860s, Collins published some of his best-known and most enduring works, including "The Woman in White", "No Name", "Armdale" and "The Moonstone". These works secured his international fame and financial security.
In 1863, he began traveling to German and Italian spas for his health. In 1868, Collins began seeing a woman named Martha Rudd whom he had three children with. He continued to see Caroline Graves during this time, splitting his time between the two women.
In 1870, Charles Dickens died, an event that grieved Collins deeply. A theater production of "The Woman in White" was produced the following year to good reviews.
In 1873 and 74, Collins traveled to the United States and toured the country giving readings of his books. He continued to publish new works although the quality began to decline as he became more and iller. During this time, he mentored many young writers and helped to work on copyright laws surrounding novels.
At the age of 82, Collins died after a paralytic stroke. He was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in West London.