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About the Author: Wilkie Collins

A close friend of Charles Dickens' from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William "Wilkie" Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens' bloomed. Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has received for fifty years. Most of his books are in print, and all are now in e-text. He is studied widely; new film, television, and radio versions of some of his books have been made; and all of his letters have been published. However, there is still much to be discovered about this superstar of Victorian fiction.
Born in Marylebone, London in 1824, Collins' family enrolled him at the Maida Hill Academy in 1835, but then took him to France and Italy with them between 1836 and 1838. Returning to England, Collins attended Cole's boarding school, and completed his education in 1841, after which he was apprenticed to the tea merchants Antrobus & Co. in the Strand. In 1846, Collins became a law student at Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the bar in 1851, although he never practiced. It was in 1848, a year after the death of his father, that he published his first book, The Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R.A., to good reviews. The 1860s saw Collins' creative high-point, and it was during this decade that he achieved fame and critical acclaim, with his four major novels, The Woman in White (1860), No Name (1862), Armadale (1866) and The Moonstone (1868). The Moonstone, meanwhile is seen by many as the first true detective novel T. S. Eliot called it "the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels...in a genre invented by Collins and not by Poe.


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Goodreads rating: 3.73

Paperback, Published in Mar 2004 by Wildside Press

ISBN10: 080959482X | ISBN13: 9780809594825

Page count: 340

The secret of the title is the parentage of the heroine, Rosamund Treverton, who has been passed off as the daughter of the wealthy former actress Mrs Treverton of Porthgenna Tower, but is in fact the illegitimate child of her servant Sarah Leeson by a local miner (Mrs Treverton's motive was to provide her husband with a child, being apparently unable to bear children herself). Sarah writes down the details of the secret from the words of the dying Mrs Treverton, and hides the paper bearing the message in an unused room at Porthgenna. Having previously tried my hand at short serial stories (collected and reprinted in _After Dark, _ and _The Queen of Hearts), _ I ventured on my first attempt, in this book, to produce a sustained work of fiction, intended for periodical publication during many successive weeks. The experiment proved successful both in this country and in America. Two of the characters which appear in these pages -- "Rosamond," and "Uncle Joseph" -- had the good fortune to find friends everywhere who took a hearty liking to them. A more elaborately drawn personage in the story -- "Sarah Leeson" -- was, I think, less generally understood. The idea of tracing, in this character, the influence of a heavy responsibility on a naturally timid woman, whose mind was neither strong enough to bear it, nor bold enough to drop it altogether, was a favorite idea with me, at the time, and is so much a favorite still, that I privately give "Sarah Leeson" the place of honor in the little portrait-gallery which my story contains. Perhaps, in saying this, I am only acknowledging, in other words, that the parents of literary families share the well-known inconsistencies of parents in general, and are sometimes unreasonably fond of the child who has always given them the most trouble. -- Wilkie Collins, _January, 1861_

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