Wilkie Collins "The Moonstone".

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Wilkie Collins

(1824 - 1889)

Although Wilkie Collins was one of the most popular novelists of his day, his reputation now rests on the novels "The Woman in White" and "The Moonstone." An expert in mystery, suspense and crime, he is often regarded as the inventor of the detective story.

The eldest son of the landscape artist William Collins RA, Wilkie Collins was born in London, Marylebone in 1824. He came from a family of artists. His brother Charles Allston Collins was a close friend of the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood - particularly John Everett Millais and Holman Hunt. Though never a full member he exhibited twelve pictures in the Royal Academy and made his living for some years by painting.

Wilkie's father William Collins RA became an associate member of the Royal Academy in 1814 and a full member in 1820. He created more than two hundred pictures and was one of the most famous artists of his day with patrons among the wealthy and aristocracy.

His mother Harriet Geddes also came from an artistic family and his aunt Margaret Carpenter was a well-known portrait painter.

Educated for a few years at private schools in London, Wilkie Collins was thirteen years old when the family moved to Italy, and it's here that he gained his real education. Rebelling against his father's strict religious code and conservative values, he refused to settle into life either in the tea business or as a barrister and remained adamant that he would write. His first book, a biography of his father, was published in 1848.

A close friend of and a travelling companion to Charles Dickens, with whom he spent much time during the 1850s, Collins wrote regularly for Dickens's periodicals "Household Words" and "All the Year Round." The two...