Read Wilkie Collins by Peter Ackroyd Online

wilkie-collins

Ackroyd at his best - gripping short life of the extraordinary Wilkie Collins, author of 'The Moonstone' and 'The Woman in White'.Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely short-sighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colourful clothes, 'as if playing a certain part in the great general drama of life' Wilkie Collins looked distinctily strange. BuAckroyd at his best - gripping short life of the extraordinary Wilkie Collins, author of 'The Moonstone' and 'The Woman in White'.Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely short-sighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colourful clothes, 'as if playing a certain part in the great general drama of life' Wilkie Collins looked distinctily strange. But he was none the less a charmer, befriended by the great, loved by children, irresistibly attractive to women -- and avidly read by generations of readers.Ackroyd follows his hero, 'the sweetest-tempered of all the Victorian novelists', from his childhood as the son of a well-known artist to his struggling beginnings as writer, his years of fame and his life-long friendship with the other great London chronicler, Charles Dickens. A true Londoner, Collins, like Dickens, was fascinated by the secrets and crimes - the fraud, blackmail and poisonings - that lay hidden behind the city's respectable facade. He was a fighter, never afraid to point out injustices and shams, or to tackle the establishment head on. As well as his enduring masterpieces, 'The Moonstone' -often called the first true detective novel - and the sensational 'Woman in White', he produced an intriguing array of lesser known works. Collins had his own secrets: he never married, but lived for thirty years with the widowed Caroline Graves, and also had a second liaison, as 'Mr and Mrs Dawson', with a younger mistress, Martha Rudd, with whom he had three children. Both women remained devoted as illness and opium-taking took their toll: he died in 1889, in the middle of writing his last novel -'Blind Love'.Told with Peter Ackroyd's inimitable verve this is a ravishingly entertaining life of a great story-teller, full of surprises, rich in humour and sympathetic understanding....

Title : Wilkie Collins
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780701169909
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 199 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Wilkie Collins Reviews

  • Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
    2019-03-31 05:22

    Poor William Wilkie Collins, destined forever to fall under the shadow of Charles Dickens, his contemporary and his friend. Poor William Wilkie Collins, a man who wrote two great novels and a lot of middling ones. But, oh, how captivating this master of Victorian melodrama could be, how mesmerising, how compelling. I read The Woman in White in less than a day, horribly fascinated by the dastardly deeds of Sir Percival Gylde and Count Fosco, two of the most delightfully dark villains in all of Victorian literature! The Moonstone, which I also devoured in a fever, is, as T. S. Eliot once said, the first and best detective novel in the English literary canon. Collins was a Londoner, born and bred. Like Dickens he is a chronicler of the city in a time of great transition. It’s as well that we remember him in this year when his mentor is being so lavishly celebrated. Peter Ackroyd has in Wilkie Collins, not so much a biography as a literary pot-boiler. It’s a pity, really, because if I were a publisher thinking of commissioning a work on Collins Ackroyd would be the first writer to come to mind. After all, who could be better? Who could be better than a man who wrote masterly biographies of Dickens and of London? But Wilkie Collins is oddly two-dimensional, almost as if the author was bored with the subject, the occasional flashes of brilliance notwithstanding. There is much to fascinate in the life of Collins, a man in so many ways wholly untypical of his times. He had none of Dickens bourgeois respectability. He never married. Instead he had two long-term mistresses, one of whom bore him three children. Two mistresses, both of whom knew of the other, meant two households and lots of imaginative juggling. There is an interesting parallel here with his fiction, where doppelgangers abound. I’m thinking specifically of Laura Farlie and Anne Catherick in The Woman in White, shadows, perhaps, of Caroline Graves and Martha Rudd, the women in Marylebone! Like Thomas de Quincy, Collins was an English opium eater. Suffering from ‘rheumatic gout’, a Victorian portmanteau covering a variety of sins (the ‘sin’ in Collins’ case may have been venereal), he took increasing quantities of laudanum, a tincture of alcohol and opium freely available at the time. By his mid-thirties he was drinking to levels that would have killed those not habituated. There were consequences, of course, terrifying hallucinations, the sort of demon that pursued de Quincy, except his pursuer wasn’t a Chinaman (read Confessions of an English Opium Eater!) but yet another doppelganger, another Wilkie Collins. Ill-health, addiction and domestic complexity did not stop him working, though by his own admission he had no recollection at all of writing large parts of The Moonstone. As a novelist he came at just the right time. Paper taxes had been abolished in the 1820s; there had been important breakthroughs in printing technology and a mass market was developing with the improvement in elementary education. This was all helped along by the expansion of the railway, with travellers able to buy ‘Shilling Shockers’ at the new stations. The Woman in White was an immediate sensation, the first edition selling out within a short space of time. It also caused what we would now call product placement, with Woman in White bonnets, Woman in White perfume and even a Woman in White waltz. Collins knew his public. He liked to travel around on the new London omnibuses, picking up snatches of conversation, then colouring his fiction. He was really the first modern sensationalist, and how sensational he could be, touching on the lowest recesses of human behaviour – murder, fraud, adultery and blackmail. And, yes, sex! It’s quite rightly said that there is more sex in Collins’ books than there is anywhere else in the fiction of the time, outside underground pornography. In Basil the eponymous hero discovers he has been cuckolded when he listens through a thin wall while his young bride does the wild thing - noisily- with the book’s villain!Hardly surprising, given his unusual domestic arrangements, he was critical of what he called ‘clap trap morality’. He was particularly critical of the way that women were treated at the time. To compensate for this, as Ackroyd points out, he created in his books fiercely independent women who defied the conventions of nineteenth century femininity. So, then, there is lots to be going on with about a writer, about his public and about his times. But Ackroyd seems to have taken his own somnambulant trip through Wilkie Collins. It’s a brief life, a mere two hundred pages compared with the thousand or so of the magisterial Dickens. That may not have been so bad – there is far less original material for a life of Collins than there is for Dickens – but the subject does not seem to engage him. His pedestrian treatment certainly won’t gain Collins many new readers. The problem is, in the end, he makes the author sound like a bit of a bore, a measure, I suspect of his own boredom, or, sad to say, declining power as a writer. I don’t want to be completely unfair. As I said above, there are occasional flashes of brilliance, of the old Ackroyd. He still has a penetrating eye for detail, picking up on the future significance of the magnifying glass in detective fiction from Sergeant Cuff’s use of it in The Moonstone. The prose shines at points but mostly it’s a picture painted in dull monotones. It gives me the appearance of a book written in a hurry. There are far too many crutches, ‘must have’, ‘seems’, ‘is likely’, the sort of authorial interventions to cover lacunae, words and phrases that simply madden me with their silly imprecision, proof that the writer is not the master of his subject. Collins deserves better. At one time Ackroyd could have done better.

  • Jaylia3
    2019-04-14 06:23

    This very short biography of Victorian author Wilkie Collins is breezy in style and it skims the surface of his colorful life. Readers are given facts about his childhood, oddly shaped body, dislike of marriage, two mistresses, friendship with Charles Dickens, travels abroad, and illnesses, but with only 233 small size pages of text there isn’t room to go into much depth about them all. I would have liked to learn more about how the two mistresses managed--their relationships with Collins overlapped, and though he provided for them and their children as best he could his refusal to marry put them both in a difficult situation. I also would have enjoyed a larger sense of history from the book, and deeper insights into life in Victorian England, but as the subtitle indicates this is “A Brief Life” and I did come away from the book with new perspectives on Wilkie Collins.I was most fascinated by the ongoing overview of the books and plays Collins wrote that’s integrated into his personal history, with the plots and characters of those works put into the context of his life and time. This quick introduction to Wilkie Collins is like an intriguing appetizer that whets the appetite for more.I read an ebook advanced review copy of this book provided to me at no cost by the publisher through NetGalley. Review opinions are mine.

  • Tracey
    2019-04-09 04:09

    I "met" Wilkie Collins a few years ago when Heather Ordover's CraftLit did The Woman in White. I loved it. It was entirely unexpected and fun and quirky and altogether engaging … and, come to find out, all of those adjectives can be equally applied to the author. And also to this biography – Ackroyd is a deeply enjoyable writer, who obviously has a solid knowledge and affection for Collins. I actually wish this had been longer, deeper – but, as it is, it's lovely as an appetizer, something to whet the appetite for more of Collins's own work. The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review.

  • Chris
    2019-04-07 06:07

    My friend saw this on the recently arrived table at his local school library and took it out for me because he knows I'm a Peter Ackroyd fangirl.My friend then totally outed himself and asked "Who is Wilkie Collins?".Sometimes I want to cry.I love Wilkie Collins and I love Peter Ackroyd so it is not surprising that I loved this book. Collins is one of the best mystery writers, and unlike his more famous friend, Dickens, actually writes good women characters. It is wonderful to read a biography of him that is engaging, fun, and expresses love for Collins work. Now Mr Ackroyd, could you write one about Trollope?

  • Dee
    2019-04-11 07:12

    This is a brief sketch that doesn't in the end leave us with a much deeper understanding of Collins, but it does entice you into further reading. There are a few novels I would read just based on how Ackroyd described and analyzed them. Like Basil, for how it talks about obsessive love at first sight, and that other one about vivisection and the creepy scientist.It was odd though how each and every one of Collins' vacations seemed to be listed here. Who cares...There was this passage talking about how he hated woman doctors, like most people of his time, and how he had other peculiarities when it came to women. I got the feeling he talked the talk (when it came to independent women in his novels,) but didn't walk the walk (when it came to such women in real life.) A bit like a father saying he's got nothing against so-and-so, as long as they don't date his daughter.Of course we can excuse him as being a man of his age, but still there were very forward-looking people during the Victorian times too. Though being a radical (or progressive) and being a good writer doesn't always go hand in hand.

  • Tony
    2019-03-29 02:23

    WILKIE COLLINS. (2015). Peter Ackroyd. ****.Back in the early 1960s I bought a set of Wilke Collins’ novels at an auction for the grand price of $0.25 per volume. The set has since departed in one of my moves, but I think there were about twenty volumes. I immediately read “The Moonstone,” and “The Woman in White,” both of which I enjoyed. I then tried to read several other novels by him, but was discouraged by the style of writing prevalent in the Victorian era. I didn’t know much about Collins, so when I saw this ‘Brief Biography’ by Ackroyd I quickly reserved it from the library. Ackroyd is a very good writer, and has a respectable back list of books to his credit, including fiction, biography, drama, etc. I have been pleased with all of his works. This work continues his studies in the field of biography. He already had Dickens, T. S. Eliot and others under his belt. I knew his coverage of Collins would tell me what I wanted to know about that author. Turns out that I was correct. Collins was a semi-strange character who was afflicted with illness of one sort or another throughout his whole life. He did manage to become friends with Dickens and managed to collaborate with that author on several plays staged in London. What Ackroyd’s book did manage to do, however, was to review Collins’ novels and make me want to go back and find some of them again – this time to apply myself to actually reading them. I’ve now got a list of about five novels of his that I am on the look-out for. Wish I still had that set!

  • Jason Pettus
    2019-04-02 03:13

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)Wilkie Collins: A Brief Life is the newest volume in the series of the same name by popular historian Peter Ackroyd, whose London: The Biography I'm a huge fan of; as befitting its name, this particular series is an attempt to present informative and entertaining biographies of various second-tier-famous figures throughout history (past volumes include people like Chaucer and J.M.W. Turner), but in a succinct and fast-moving style within a manuscript that I'm guessing is right around 50,000 words, or barely the minimum length of the smallest novels on the market. And Collins is a natural subject for such a series; although known at his height as the second most popular author of Victorian England (beaten only by his good friend and theatrical collaborator Charles Dickens), the fact is that Collins didn't have an interesting enough life to justify one of those 700-page barnburner bios like you see of other Victorian novelists, a man certainly with his notorious touches (he didn't believe in monogamous marriage, and carried on essentially a polyamorous relationship with two different women for decades), but who by and large spent most of his adult life simply writing and then visiting southern Europe, writing and then visiting southern Europe, like so many of his upper-middle-class British Empire peers. Highly worthwhile as a primer to why the largely forgotten Collins is such an important part of English-language literary history (among other accolades, he wrote Britain's very first detective novel, and virtually invented the genre known at the time as "sensation stories," which in the 20th century morphed into the crime and noir genres we know today), this is a nearly perfect length for getting to know the man without him overstaying his welcome, and comes strongly recommended to anyone interested in the subject.Out of 10: 9.0

  • Angie
    2019-04-24 02:26

    I can highly recommend this short biography which charts the life and career of the author of The Woman in White, one of my favourite Victorian authors. I enjoyed learning about the way he flouted Victorian protocol and lived with his mistress for many years while having three children with another much younger mistress who lived across the park just two streets away. He was free in spirit and certainly unconventional however in his stories, he did delve into the seedy side of life and of those less fortunate than himself which wasn't always well received by his critics. Hailed as one of the first detective story writers he was quite prolific by choice but also by necessity due to having to keep two families afloat in central London. He wrote 30 novels and over 60 short stories as well as dramatising several of his stories for the stage. His contemporaries do include an array of very interesting characters including The Pre-Raphaelites and CharlesDickens. Both authors serialised their stories in popular papers and magazines and Collins' work was in great demand selling many thousands of copies. He suffered greatly from ill health due to overindulgence and paid the price living much of his adult life with gout and eye problems but despite this lived a full and relatively long life. Well worth a read especially if, like me, you are a fan of Collins.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-04-04 23:12

    Read by Michael Pennington.blurb - Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely short-sighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colourful clothes, 'as if playing a certain part in the great general drama of life' Wilkie Collins looked distinctly strange. But he was none the less a charmer, befriended by the great, loved by children, irresistibly attractive to women - and avidly read by generations of readers. Peter Ackroyd follows his hero, 'the sweetest-tempered of all the Victorian novelists', from his childhood as the son of a well-known artist to his struggling beginnings as writer, his years of fame and his life-long friendship with the other great London chronicler, Charles Dickens. A true Londoner, Collins, like Dickens, was fascinated by the secrets and crimes -- the fraud, blackmail and poisonings - that lay hidden behind the city's respectable facade. He was a fighter, never afraid to point out injustices and shams, or to tackle the establishment head on. As well as his enduring masterpieces, "The Moonstone" - often called the first true detective novel - and the sensational "Women in White," he produced an intriguing array of lesser known works. But Collins had his own secrets: he never married, but lived for thirty years with the widowed Caroline Graves, and also had a second liaison, as 'Mr and Mrs Dawson', with a younger mistress, Martha Rudd, with whom he had three children. Both women remained devoted as illness and opium-taking took their toll: he died in 1889, in the middle of writing his last novel - Blind Love. Told with Peter Ackroyd's inimitable verve this is a ravishingly entertaining life of a great story-teller, full of surprises, rich in humour and sympathetic understanding.Abridged by Libby SpurrierProducer: Joanna Green A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.Well worth splashing out for the book when the price comes down a bit.3* - The House of Doctor Dee5* - Dickens4* - Chatterton1* - The Lambs of London4* - Shakespeare3.5* - Hawksmoor

  • The Lit Bitch
    2019-04-25 00:15

    Biographies and non fiction are always such an interesting genre for me. It must be such a challenge trying to research a person or subject so famous or well known and still be able to bring something ‘new’ to the table. Not to mention write a book that doesn’t read like a boring history timeline with a bunch of dates and milestones in a person’s life.So I am always intrigued when non fiction and/or biographies come across my nightstand for review, if the person or subject interests me I usually give it a go. Wilkie Collins has been a very interesting literary figure for me since I read Drood by Dan Simmons a few years ago. While I didn’t really like the book itself that well…..the character Wilkie Collins appealed to me so much that I read his novel The Woman in White a short time later.As I said, sometimes it’s hard as a biographer or non fiction writer to bring a new voice or freshness to a popular or well known subject or person…..but Peter Ackroyd does not disappoint. While this is a relatively short biography, he fills it with interesting details, behind the scenes tidbits, and facts about Collins’s life and literary career. Some were well known, like his friendship with Dickens, while others were new to me such as how much he influenced the detective genre etc.His writing style was fluid, straight forward, and active. I didn’t feel like I was reading a bland biography at all! It was well written and just long enough to get the job done and keep me interested but also made me want to learn more about Collins. For some people that might be a criticism, but I looked at this novel like it was an intro to who he was and gave a brief background for those who are interested but if you wanted to know more you could read other biographies that were maybe longer or went into more detail.See my full review here

  • Dawn
    2019-04-27 01:08

    I have always loved Wilkie Collins ! Woman in White and The Moonstone were my two favorite stories so I was very excited to read about his life . Oh ! I almost forgot about Armadale . We have a very olde antebellum home here in Oxford named Armadale and I have always wanted to go inside. It is closed now . We used to have pilgrimages of all the Antebellums along the Main Street of Lamar Drive . The houses were beautiful . Wilkie Collins was best known for his short stories and especially his first detective story The Woman in White . The longer novel Armadele was very popular also . He was a very unusual character , often described as Bohemian in style ! He wore rather trendy fancy clothing and drank quite a bit while always telling stories. He was a really good friend with Charles Dickens and the two remained friends throughout life . Later on in life , Wilkie met a woman and fell in love and stayed with her for many years but never married. After some time he met another young girl half his age and fell in ,ove again . They had three children but never married , eventually she left Wilkie and married a man . Wilikie attended the wedding . When Wilkie became ill , she returned and cared for him the rest of his life. He became an opium addict because he could not stop the terrible pain . He was a successful writer all throughout his career . People read his books as long as he wrote them and they are still published today .

  • Gerry
    2019-04-14 04:21

    For an author so lauded in his time, he even rivalled Dickens at times, Wilkie Collins is now mainly remembered for two novels, 'The Moonstone' and 'The Woman in White'. The rest of his work is often, perhaps surprisingly, relegated to also-rans.Peter Ackroyd tells his story with sympathy and understanding and his detail is, as is always the case with his work, superb. He begins by a less than flattering picture of the Victorian author, 'At five feet and six inches he was relatively short ... his head was too large for his body; his arms and his legs were a little too short, while his hands and feet were too small and considered to be "rather like a woman's".'Despite these physicalities his writing did not suffer at all. He began with a life of his father William Collins, an artist, starting the book when William died while he was in the middle of writing his first novel 'Antonina'. The biography was a betseller and Collins' writing career was off to a good start.Thereafter he was writing for the rest of his life, except when he needed a rest from his exertions either from overwork or from illness, with which he was bothered in later life. And his work was well received by the public, especially once he had become a close friend of Dickens who published some of his novels in serial form in his magazines.He became acquainted with Dickens through his interest in the theatre when the latter asked him to perform in one of his amateur theatricals, 'Not So Bad As We Seem' (I am fortunate to have a playbill from the production). From then on Collins featured in many of Dickens' productions and collaborated with him on a number of them. And despite Collins' success as a novelist, he always had ambitions to be a playwright and have a career in the theatre. Indeed, he was relatively successful in this direction as many of his plays had lengthy runs.Collins personal life was something of a puzzle; he kept two mistresses who never met each other, although the children he had with one regularly mixed with the family of the other (I wonder who they thought they were?). When he died he left his modest fortune, although quite substantial in Victorian times (£11,000), to the both of them and in turn they both tended his grave after his death.Ackroyd brings out plenty of biographical information in an entertaining narrative that tells us that Wilkie Collins even had a picture exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1849. Entitled 'The Smugglers' Retreat', it led to the artist William Holman-Hunt proclaiming, '... you might well admire that masterpiece. It was done by that great painter Wilkie Collins, and it put him so completely at the head of landscape painters that he determined to retire from the profession in compassion for the rest.' Victorian literature will be eternally grateful for his decision!And thanks are also due to Peter Ackroyd for covering his most interesting story in a lively and entertaining way.

  • Laura
    2019-03-28 23:04

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:Peter Ackroyd charts the life of Wilkie Collins. From his childhood as the son of an artist, to his struggles to become a writer, and his life-long friendship with Charles Dickens.Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely short-sighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colourful clothes, 'as if playing a certain part in the great general drama of life' Wilkie Collins looked distinctly strange. But he was none the less a charmer, befriended by the great, loved by children, irresistibly attractive to women - and avidly read by generations of readers.Peter Ackroyd follows his hero, 'the sweetest-tempered of all the Victorian novelists', from his childhood as the son of a well-known artist to his struggling beginnings as writer, his years of fame and his life-long friendship with the other great London chronicler, Charles Dickens. A true Londoner, Collins, like Dickens, was fascinated by the secrets and crimes -- the fraud, blackmail and poisonings - that lay hidden behind the city's respectable facade. He was a fighter, never afraid to point out injustices and shams, or to tackle the establishment head on. As well as his enduring masterpieces, "The Moonstone" - often called the first true detective novel - and the sensational "Women in White," he produced an intriguing array of lesser known works. But Collins had his own secrets: he never married, but lived for thirty years with the widowed Caroline Graves, and also had a second liaison, as 'Mr and Mrs Dawson', with a younger mistress, Martha Rudd, with whom he had three children. Both women remained devoted as illness and opium-taking took their toll: he died in 1889, in the middle of writing his last novel - Blind Love.Told with Peter Ackroyd's inimitable verve this is a ravishingly entertaining life of a great story-teller, full of surprises, rich in humour and sympathetic understanding.Abridged by Libby SpurrierProducer: Joanna GreenA Pier production for BBC Radio 4.http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01cjm4f

  • Aisling
    2019-04-15 07:03

    Extremely readable, fascinating account of the life and works of Wilkie Collins including many quotes by his friend and often co-writer Charles Dickens. I had no idea Collins and Dickens wrote (and often performed in) so many plays together. It was interesting to read about the cult following Collins had after his early works appeared as serial releases in magazines. The Moonstone has always been a favorite of mine and learning about the process of writing it and Collins feelings about it, the public reaction---all of that made my appreciation greater. Author Ackroyd paints a vivid picture of Victorian life in England, Italy, France as Collins travels and writes. A great biography of a truly great writer and a fascinating time. Highly recommend this one.

  • DoubledayBooks
    2019-04-06 01:25

    A fascinating biography of a little known, unsung hero of English literature. I remember reading (and loving) The Woman in White in college, but little did I know how much he affected storytelling in a lasting way that has carried through to today. He helped cultivate detective fiction, invented sensation novels, and re-created the female characters in English literature. This short and easy to read biography was filled with page-after-page of behind the scenes of an author, a dramatist, and a time in literary history that he considered "a great age for authors."- Lauren W., Doubleday Marketing Department

  • Brenda Clough
    2019-04-24 04:04

    Full of fun details of the era, but there are not all that many new details of Collins himself. Well worth reading!

  • Alex
    2019-04-12 05:10

    Really liked this biography--I liked the length and how quirkily (is that a word?) it was written. Wilkie would have approved!!

  • Karen
    2019-04-14 23:14

    It's about Wilkie Collins - what's not to like...

  • Michelle
    2019-03-31 04:04

    British biographer Peter Ackroyd, who has authored notable and acclaimed series of "Brief Lives" on Poe, J.M.W. Turner, Newton, Charlie Chaplin, he has also written best selling biographies of Shakespeare, Dickens, Moore, Blake, and others. Ackroyd turns his attention to a lesser known Victorian novelist "Wilkie Collins: A Brief Life". Collins wrote the masterpiece classic "The Woman In White" (1860) and "Moonstone" (1868) recognized as the first true detective novel. He wrote numerous other books, and with Dickens co-authored popular serial stories usually featured in newspapers that were eagerly anticipated by the reading public.As a child Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) known as Willie, had a nervous disposition, did not like school, though read a great deal, and spoke French and Italian. The family enjoyed long holidays in Italy visiting ancient sights, his father was a tallented successful artist, his mother a homemaker. One holiday, lasted over 2 years, as William wanted his young son to learn from life experiences. Collins greatly admired his father, and established himself as a writer with "Memoirs of the Life of William Collins R.A." (1848). He released his book with tremendous pride, his father greatly pleased, the memoir launched his prolific writing career, and demonstrated his skill as an author. Collins often wrote constantly and obsessively, pushing himself, seldom taking much time off.Known as a "writer of stature" he was greatly admired, he and Charles Dickens frequently traveled abroad and wrote together. Queen Victoria attended a private performance of Collins and Dickens screenplay "The Frozen Deep" (1856). Her majesty sent Collins a personal note, stating her "highest Approval" the first and only honor he would receive from royalty. By 1858 he was living with Carolyn Graves, and was known to associate with women with questionable reputations. Collins was busy with her remodeling his home and she was known as Mrs. Collins. Collins refused to marry, citing inequality and unfairness of marriage to women, though this was unlikely the real reason. In the Victorian times married women were held in servitude their husbands. Ackroyd points out the "conventions of ordinary life concealed the burden of secrets and irregular relationships". Curiously, during the time of repressed judgmental Victorian era, there is little recorded if his friends or neighbors sensibilities were offended by Collins openly having Graves, Martha Rudd, and her three children to support.Collins was a colorful dresser, a dear charming man, liked by everyone. Unfortunately, he was afflicted with assorted health problems during his life: gout, arthritis, rheumatism, liver problems, stomach upset, respiratory infections/distress from the damp London fog. Fearing a breakdown, his emotional well being was greatly compromised. He was faint, he could barely get out of bed, easily startled by noise, trembling, unable to sleep. His physician prescribed the powerful mix of alcohol and opium: laudanum (1862). Laudanum was available over the counter, Collins developed a life long dependency on the drug and ingested it in large alarming amounts. Collins seldom let his health issues interfere with his writing deadlines, and produced large volumes of work at a time. Wilkie Collins was famous and highly regarded and admired for his authorship, in spite of his poor health and unconventional personal life. We have many clues to his truth in this compelling biography, also by reading his novels. Many thanks and much appreciation to Doubleday for the ARC for the purpose of review.

  • Italo Italophiles
    2019-04-13 01:26

    By "brief" the author means 200+ pages rather than the usual 400+ pages of literary biographies; some bios span volumes of 400+ pages each. This book is readable with a stylish British prose. Disappointingly it covers many but not all of Collins's works. The outline of the novelist's life is there, with names, dates, travels, children, affairs, friends, family, etc.What I missed was the female perspective. This book is so overwhelmingly masculine in values and perception that I felt it could easily have been written by a contemporary of Collins's, back in that misogynistic era that is so reminiscent of paternalistic societies today. What did the two women Collins doomed to social pariah status by refusing to marry them think about the sickly, pervy, troll they attached themselves to, a man who was most probably infected with a life-long venereal disease, and was a junkie addicted to both stimulants and sedatives?What did Collins, who wrote about the abuse of women in that society, think about his overbearing mentor Charles Dickens's abuse of his wife Catherine Dickens, a woman who had graciously hosted Collins over many, many years; and what did Catherine and the other Dickens children really think of him?What did Collins's larger-than-life mother think of her two sickly sons, and of Wilkie's sleazy, libertine romps through Europe and London currying favor with Charles Dickens, a man who could and did ensure his success, much like Collins's father had sought out powerful patrons to support his painting career?And what about Collins's beautiful consort who was similar to Collins's adored mother but never allowed to meet her, and who had her own bedroom, and with whom Collins never fathered a child despite their three decades together and the woman's fertility evidenced by her child by a previous marriage?And what about the mistress he took who was little more than a child, a rough daughter of a shepherd, who bore him three children, and who definitely looked like a dude, and who he never let any of his friends meet? This "brief life" has a glossed-over feeling to it, leaving all that is hidden below the surface, way down below. The author seems too enamored of his subject to be critical in an any way, so I would have to say this book is more a hagiography than a biography.I received a review copy. This is my honest review.

  • Victoria Blacke
    2019-04-08 06:25

    Very light reading. Some biographies leave you with a deeper understanding of the author (and by extension their works) as person and others with just a deeper understanding of their appointment book and travels. This one is the latter. There were brief glimpses into Collins' motivations as a writer but overall it just seemed like a stream of "Collins lived, ate and traveled here" notes to me. The author spent a great deal of time on Collins' relationship with Dickens and then barely a sentence on how his death impacted Collins. There was nothing on the public's perception of his unusual lifestyle choices (mistresses) or if in fact the public was aware. I thought it was curious there were very little quotes from Collins' personal correspondence. These type of books are usually silly with references from personal letters, journals, etc. between friends and family.As a fan of Collins, I did learn more about his love of the theatre of which I was unaware before reading this book.

  • ·Karen·
    2019-04-03 00:57

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/...http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/...Following the death of his beloved father William, Wilkie embarks on a memoir to celebrate his life.http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/...Wilkie Collins meets Caroline Graves in unusual circumstances. She will become the companion of his life.Part four:By 1863, Wilkie Collins has found great literary success with works including The Woman in White. And soon another woman enters his life.Part five:Wilkie's first child with Martha Rudd is born and Caroline returns to Gloucester Place. Read by Michael Pennington. Gorgeous voice.

  • Lauren Weber
    2019-04-24 05:26

    A fascinating biography of a little known, unsung hero of English literature. I remember reading (and loving) The Woman in White in college, but little did I know how much he affected storytelling in a lasting way that has carried through to today. He helped cultivate detective fiction, invented sensation novels, and re-created the female characters in English literature. This short and easy to read biography was filled with page-after-page of behind the scenes of an author, a dramatist, and a time in literary history that he considered "a great age for authors."

  • John Uzzi
    2019-03-30 03:16

    Interesting short bio.

  • The Bookend Family
    2019-04-23 02:25

    2016 TOP PICK***** 5 out of 5 StarsReview by: Mark PalmA Gem of a Book.When all other criterion fails, many believe that time is the best test of whether a work of art has merit. True art, some folk say, is timeless, and if a work doesn't last, it must have failed the test. If you believe that, then I have some prime beach-front real estate for sale, cheap. Fashion, and even more likely, luck, are as important as artistic merit, and if you think I am wrong check out the clunkers that find their way on nearly every inane list of “Must Read” books. Wilkie Collins isn’t a forgotten writer, but it’s not too hard to imagine it happening. He was one of the most popular and acclaimed writers of his time, but it’s hard to find most of his works now. He is known now primarily for The Moonstone, one of the earliest novels of detection, which I suggest that you read for more reasons than I can list here, and The Lady in White, also well worth reading. He wrote many other novels, and collaborated with Charles Dickens, a life-long friend, on many popular plays. His life was equally interesting. A non-conformist in the Victorian Era, Collins openly lived with and supported two separate women, both of whom were aware of the other, without marrying either, as he claimed marriage was an institution that was unfair to women. This unusual arrangement lasted for decades, and Collins was well-liked enough that almost no negative reactions to his personal habits were to be found from his contemporaries. Afflicted with various maladies he became a laudanum addict, yet managed to write prolifically, and managed to support two families, and three children for his entire life.All of this, and much more is wonderfully told in Peter Ackroyd’s Wilkie Collins: A Brief Life, which is one in a series of smaller-than-usual biographical works that the author has written. Now for someone who often enjoys burying myself in a massive biographical tome the size of a dictionary, some might think that I would have issues with a life story that clocks in at just over two hundred and seventy pages, but Mr. Ackroyd, an experienced and prolific writer, whose works, both fiction and nonfiction I have admired greatly, is just the man for the job. There are a places where I feel that some corners have been cut, but Mr. Ackroyd is fearsomely intelligent, and it shows in the way he manages to so successfully condense such an eventful life. Just as important he writes of Collins, for the most part, as if he were an old friend, a tactic that works particularly well as he portrays his subject’s enduring serenity and equanimity, even as his health eroded. There is sympathy and empathy in his portrayal of the aging Collins, but never pity. As good as Mr. Ackroyd is at Collins life he really shines when discussing his art. He not only points out Collins artistic skills, which were prodigious, but his compassion for the underdogs and afflicted of Victorian society, and how the author went out of his way to shine a light upon them, and often featured them in his works in a way that was realistic and fair. In the end, where Wilkie Collins: A Brief Life succeeds best is in doing what literary biographies should do; make you want to experience the work if you have not before, and make you want to re-read it if you have. Now I am going to go dig up my copy of The Moonstone, if you don’t mind. You should do the same.Full reviews available at: http://www.thebookendfamily.weebly.com

  • Nancy
    2019-04-24 05:25

    The high Victorian age saw the rise of the novel as we know it. Taxes on paper had been abolished and advances in printing technology led to an increase in book production. Circulating libraries and monthly magazines offered affordable access to literature to the masses. "Shilling Shockers" were hawked for reading on the trains. Millions of working men and women were buying up cheap penny journals.The new class of readers wanted a new kind of novel. Sensationalism, sentimentality, and melodrama were in demand, and stories about crime and murder. They wanted Genre fiction that took readers on a wild ride, with great plots to keep things moving along.And Wilkie Collins was a genius at just this kind of novel.Peter Ackroyd's short biography Wilkie Collins, A Brief Life succinctly covers the life and art of the author of The Women in White and The Moonstone. With a "painter's eye" and brilliant plotting he became the fourth greatest writer of his generation. He wrote the first English detective story and created the first female detective. A social liberal who disdained Victorian values, he tackled controversial issues, writing about the underclass, vivisection, illegitimacy, and 'fallen women'. His female characters were strong and self sufficient, the opposite of the idealized Victorian female.He suffered from bad health and was in pain most of his life. He used laudanum in ever increasing doses, grateful for the relief it brought. Later he added calomel and colchicum and inhaled amyl nitrite. Wilkie Collins used a cane in his thirties and by his sixties his health was so deteriorated people thought he looked twenty years older. And yet when working on a book he kept up a diligent pace, even dictating from his sick bed.Collins determined not to marry, but had a long term mistress Caroline Graves (who already had a child) and later a second mistress who bore him children. The two women never met although their children sometimes mingled at his home.At university I had a Victorian Studies course in which we read the important books published in 1859. That was the year in which Charles Dickens, in his magazine All the Year Round, published his serialized A Tale of Two Cities. The November issue saw the conclusion of Two Cities and the first installment of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. (This was also the year Origin of Species was published!)I later read The Moonstone. I also read a lot about Charles Dickens and learned about his collaboration with Wilkie Collins to write The Frozen Deep, inspired by the lost Franklin expedition which never returned from the frozen north. Franklin's widow didn't give up hope and sent an expedition to find her husband. Collins and Dickens were great friends and collaborated in other plays as well, even acting.But I knew nothing of the man Collins. And what an odd man he was! He was completely unconventional. He wore flashy clothes, was oddly proportioned, and loved French cooking. Medical science could only offer him remedies that today we shudder to consider, and likely ruined his health even more.I am left wanting to explore his life in greater depth, to know him more vividly. I also an curious to re-read again Women in White, which spawned quite a fan club, and books I have not read especially Heart and Science which Ackroyd contends is one of Collin's "most unjustly neglected novels" with more characterization.I thank the publisher and NetGalley for the free ebook in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  • Laurie
    2019-04-07 01:15

    As a fan of Victorian novels, many years ago I asked a neighbor (also a well-read fan) what novels and which authors she recommended. Without batting an eyelash she said The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I have since read that plus The Moonstone, No Name, The Dead Secret, Miss or Mrs?, The Haunted Hotel, and The Guilty River. I enjoyed each one, with the first two being superb.So it was that I was eager to read Peter Ackroyd's brief book about Collins, having seen the review of it in an October issue of the New York Times. Ackroyd's book did not disappoint. Initially, in the early chapters, I had to work through Ackroyd's language. While written in 2012, his use of language reminded me more of a Collins' novel than a contemporary author's. The book is peppered with words new to me, including on page 31: rodomontade.His first work is a slight piece of rodomontade entitled "Volpurno"; its existence is only known because it was reprinted in a New York journal, and its first English publication is not recorded.I included the entire quote so that anyone reading my review can have the benefit of the full sentence to try and figure out the meaning of the word (or perhaps you already knew its meaning?)Turns out that rodomontade means "boastful talk or behavior" and is a "mass" noun, meaning that it needs to have a unit of measurement to indicate quantity. I ran into several instances of new-to-me vocabulary, each causing me to think of Ackroyd as a modern biographer using Victorian language to write about a Victorian author. Nonetheless, I came to delight in coming upon these words and eventually got into Ackroyd's rhythm of writing.I smiled to learn that Collins and Dickens were close friends who joined together for traveling, producing and acting in plays, and living according to their own creeds. Collins was not a fan of Victorian mores and had a most unusual romantic life. Ackroyd explains the two women of Collins's life as two misstresses overlapping one another. Ultimately, the first woman because his companion and co-traveler, and the second woman was the mother of his three children. He left his estate equally to the two of them, and there was no question in my mind that he respected both of them. I had no preconceived notion of Collins as a person other than appreciating him as a story teller. Apparently that was his strength, being a story teller who could conceive of complex twists and turns while poking holes in Victorian life. Critics of the time enjoyed his stories but noted the tales themselves were more robust than his character development. This did not deter the public from enjoying his books and productions, and contributing to his financial independence through their patronage. Peter Ackroyd's book provides an excellent window into Wilkie Collins, his contemporaries, and Victorian times; almost feels like he was there with them all – writing, suffering through health crises, producing, traveling, and living.

  • Jack Hrkach
    2019-03-27 04:12

    I have really got into Wilkie Collins of late, ands after reading what most critics say are his two best novels, The Woman in White and The Moonstone, I decided to find out more about him. The excellent Peter Ackroyd, among many other things a Dickens expert, has written a series of "brief lives" and this one is well-written and informative, as well as for me at least quite engaging. I knew that Collins was involved with Dickens's theatrical group, but I'd forgot that he was the author of The Frozen Deep, a great success - even her majesty Queen Victoria liked it. But I was unaware that as well as writing suspenseful and often shocking (for the Victorian age - nothing shocks us these days) novels, he frequently adapted them or expanded short stories and drafted them in theatrical form. Some of the finest talents of the day produced his plays, including French star Charles Fechter and the Bancrofts, and he had more successes than bombs.I'm a theatrical sort of fellow myself, and so Mr Collins became even more of interest to me as he was one of the best playwright working at a time that is not known for its great plays - they were much better at scenery nd stage tricks in those days. But whether you've got theatre in your blood or not, you'll enjoy the relatively scandalous life of this man who never married but managed to have two mistresses at the same time - he housed them close by but fortunately in separate quarters - only one of them came to his funeral...well, I wonder if that begins to interest you as well? It certainly has encouraged me to read at least two more of his novels - it might do you as well!

  • Lois
    2019-04-13 23:12

    I’ve read a few of Wilkie Collins’ books and stories, but most of what I knew about him came to me thru my reading several biographies of Charles Dickens, including one by the same author of this book. Dickens and Collins were good friends, so he shows up frequently in Dickens’ life, tho Collins is several years younger. The main things I knew were that they were friends, that Collins was also a writer and sometimes a collaborator of Dickens, tho never as successful as his friend. He did not want to be married, but had two separate families at once, one with children. He was ill most of his life and it aged him greatly. These points are all brought up in this neat little book, and basically it mostly just expands on them, while also going into the events of his life while writing his different novels and stories. It does not go into great detail about his private life with each of his two mistresses, but did go into length about his terrible illnesses, which often held up his writing process.All in all, it was a fairly interesting little book, and did actually make me want to pursue one or two more books by Wilkie Collins that I haven’t read yet.I won this book through Goodreads Giveaways and am thankful. Its one I would most likely have eventually purchased.

  • Jackie
    2019-04-06 04:26

    Biography of the man and his workI was introduced to the novels of Wilkie Collins as a college freshman. The class was taught by Dr. Robert Ashley, whose book on Collins is listed in Mr. Ackroyd's bibliography. I enjoyed the Moonstone and The Woman in White in college, but have a much deeper appreciation now. I was so excited to find this biography.My middle of the road rating is because I did not learn much new information about Mr. Collins and his life. Perhaps there is not much available since his contemporary was Charles Dickens. Speaking of Mr. Dickens, I have read in other sources that there was more of a rivalry between the two of them. If that is true, it was certainly downplayed here. This book is equal parts about the books, plays, short stories, and essays written by Mr. Collins. It certainly peaked my interest to read more of his work. I also enjoyed the insights into Mr. Collins' philosophy and writing style. The book is well written and moves along at a good pace. I was just wishing for more.