(William Wilkie Collins), 1824–89, English novelist. Although trained as a lawyer, he spent most of his life writing. He produced some 30 novels, the best known of which are two mystery stories, The Woman in White
(1860) and The Moonstone
(1868). Considered the first full-length detective novels in English and among the best of their genre, these two works also helped to define the genre of literary melodrama that peaked at the end of the 19th cent. Collins's heroines and his female villains are drawn with considerable clarity and sympathy and are usually the strongest characters in his novels. He was a close friend of Dickens
, in whose periodical Household Words
many of Collins's novels first appeared. Collins also wrote short stories, travel books, essays, and plays.
See his letters, ed. by W. Baker and W. M. Clarke (2 vol., 1999); biographies by W. M. Clarke (1988), C. Peters (1993), M. Klimaszewski (2011), and P. Ackroyd (2015); studies by M. P. Davis (1956), W. H. Marshall (1970), N. Page (1974), and S. Lonoff (1982).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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