Wilkie Collins Books

Wilkie Collins

Easton Press Wilkie Collins books:
The Moonstone - 1959
The Woman in White - 1993

Franklin Library Wilkie Collins books:
The Moonstone - World's Best Loved Books - 1984
The Moonstone - Library of Mystery Masterpieces - 1988

Wilkie Collins biography
William Collins, better known as Wilkie Collins (1824-89) was a British novelist who was born in London, and educated privately. From 1841 to 1846 he clerked in a London firm of tea merchants. Later Wilkie Collins was admitted to the bar. His first novel, Antonina; or, The Fall of Rome (1850), is a historical romance. In 1851 Wilkie Collins met the British novelist Charles Dickens, and the two writers became close associates, each influencing the work of the other. They collaborated in writing the novel No Thoroughfare (1867). Collins is best known for his masterpieces The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), both mystery novels. Like many of his other works, these novels were first published in periodicals edited by Dickens. In later works Wilkie Collins was primarily concerned with social problems.

Wilkie Collins strongly influenced the technical development of the English novel, especially the detective novel, by creating a new type of fiction in which character counts for little and the greatest importance attaches to the construction of a plot designed to baffle the reader. Among Wilkie Collins' other writings are travel sketches published as Rambles Beyond Railways (1850-51); a series of ghost stories entitled After Dark (1856); and many novels, including The Dead Secret (1857), No Name (1862), Armadale (1866), The New Magdalene (1873), and The Legacy of Cain (1888).

Born to the London painter William Collins and his wife, he moved with them to Italy when he was twelve, living there and in France for two years and learning Italian and French. He worked initially as a tea merchant. After Antonina, his first novel, appeared in 1850, Collins met Charles Dickens, who became a friend and mentor. Some of his work appeared in Dickens's journals Household Words and All the Year Round. They also collaborated on drama and fiction. Collins gained financial stability and an international following by the 1860s, but became addicted to the opium he took for his gout, so that his health and writing quality declined in the 1870s and 1880s. Collins criticized the institution of he split his time between widow Caroline Graves living with her for most of his life, treating her daughter as his and the younger Martha Rudd, by whom he had three children.

The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins’s spellbinding tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired a hugely popular genre the detective mystery. Hinging on the theft of an enormous diamond originally stolen from an Indian shrine, this riveting novel features the innovative Sergeant Cuff, the hilarious house steward Gabriel Betteridge, a lovesick housemaid, and a mysterious band of Indian jugglers.

The Woman in White
This is the story of what a Woman’s patience can endure, and what a Man’s resolution can achieve. If the machinery of the Law could be depended on to fathom every case of suspicion, and to conduct every process of inquiry, with moderate assistance only from the lubricating influences of oil of gold, the events which fill these pages might have claimed their share of the public attention in a Court of Justice. But the Law is still, in certain inevitable cases, the pre-engaged servant of the long purse; and the story is left to be told, for the first time, in this place. As the Judge might once have heard it, so the Reader shall hear it now. No circumstance of importance, from the beginning to the end of the disclosure, shall be related on hearsay evidence. When the writer of these introductory lines (Walter Hartright by name) happens to be more closely connected than others with the incidents to be recorded, he will describe them in his own person. When his experience fails, he will retire from the position of narrator; and his task will be continued, from the point at which he has left it off, by other persons who can speak to the circumstances under notice from their own knowledge, just as clearly and positively as he has spoken before them. Thus, the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness with the same object, in both cases, to present the truth always in its most direct and most intelligible aspect; and to trace the course of one complete series of events, by making the persons who have been most closely connected with them, at each successive stage, relate their own experience, word for word. Let Walter Hartright, teacher of drawing, aged twenty-eight years, be heard first.

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his 'charming' friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

Matthew Sweet's introduction explores the phenomenon of Victorian 'sensation' fiction, and discusses Wilkie Collins's biographical and societal influences. Included in this edition are appendices on theatrical adaptations of the novel and its serialisation history.

"In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop... There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white"

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