Author. He was born to a creative family. His father became an associate member of the Royal Academy in 1814 and a full member in 1820 painting more than 200 works and was one of the most famous artists of his day with both wealthy and aristocratic patrons. His maternal aunt Margaret Carpenter was also a well known portrait painter and his brother Charles Allston Collins was a close friend of the members of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; particularly John Everett Millais and Holman Hunt. Charles exhibited a number of pictures at the Royal Academy, but never became a full member, even though the brother made his living for some time by painting and later also by writing. Wilkie spent almost his entire life living within one square mile of London in the district of Marylebone. He was born and died there and he lived there with both of the women he loved. For most of his life he maintained two establishments. The one, while officially his residence, he shared with Caroline Graves and her daughter. While known as housekeeper or secretary, she was his lover for most of his life. From the late 1860's he also was known as William Dawson, barrister-at-law and kept house with a Martha Rudd who was known as Mrs. Dawson and by whom he had three children who carried the name of Dawson. Both women are bequeathed two hundred pounds by his last will and testament and Elizabeth Harriet, the daughter of the above Caroline is married to his one executor Henry Powell Bartley. The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins by William Clark who is the husband of his great-granddaughter Faith Elizabeth Dawson has tracked down the full details of the two relationships. It is of interest to note that his first loyalty in paying dividends interest is to Caroline Graves, next to her daughter Elizabeth Bartley and third to Martha Rudd. He then goes into detail in the creation of a trust for his three children by Martha Rudd, naming each and giving the date and place of birth for each. This gives us further insight to one of his perhaps three best known books No Name where children born out of wedlock have no legal right to their father's name because their father married their mother and was killed before he could alter his will. The other two best known of his novels are The Moonstone the first 'detective' story and The Woman in White[/a]. Each of these later two gaining even greater recent popularity through their BBC productions televised on Public Television. He was a through researcher and careful in all detail that he used in his books from train times to the phase of the moon. He used authentic local details in all of his novels. His first novel Iolani was unpublished in his own lifetime and lost for over one hundred years, published in 1999. A writing contemporary of Charles Dickens, he was twelve years his junior. They had a life long friendship. Not only did they take holidays and dine together, but they were known to visit the less reputable parts of London and Paris together. They met in 1851 and for over five years he was employed by Dickens. First on Household Words and then All The Year Round. He also collaborated with Dickens on several Christmas issues of both publications. Dickens' daughter Kate married Charles Allston Collins which perhaps in part led to strained relations shortly before Dickens' death, also driven by jealousy over the success of The Moonstone led to Dickens working at such a feverish pitch to complete Edwin Drood. The diversity of social issues was common to both of their writing. Basil, his first novel of contemporary Victorian life, published in 1852, was released in the only know film version in 1998 on the American Movie Classics channel on cable television. During his lifetime he wrote over 25 novels and more than 50 short stories. While his popularity declined for a time he is now becoming both more popular as well as receiving more critical attention than he has had in the last century.
Bio by: D C McJonathan-Swarm