Ward's Book of Days.

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On this day in history in 1889, died Wilkie Collins.

Collins was a Nineteenth Century novelist, the first to write in the mystery genre.

Collins was born on 8th January 1824, the son of a landscape painter who named his sons after eminent artists. William Wilkie Collins, as was his full name, was named after the painter Sir David Wilkie and his brother Charles Allston Collins was named for the artist, Washington Allston.

Collins read law at Lincoln’s Inn and was called to the bar in 1851. He appears to have had little talent for law, as for the next few years, he was engaged in painting, theatricals and the writing of a historical novel. His artistic career developed well, he was exhibited in the National Gallery, and his literary talents were rewarded when two novels, Antonia and Basil received critical acclaim.

Collins’ fellow painter, Augustus Egg, introduced him to Charles Dickens, with whom he became involved in a lifetime friendship. Dickens encouraged Collins to write full time and gave him regular employment by allowing him to publish his work in serial form in Dickens’ journal Household Words.  Collins produced The Woman in White, a mystery story with a tension laden plot structure reminiscent of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. Collins’ later works No Name and The Moonstone exhibit a characterisation evocative of Dickens’ novels. Collins was not dependant on Dickens for his ideas. His work was creative and original. Some say that Dickens was driven by rivalry to write his final work Edwin Drood, a mystery novel, which sadly remains a mystery, as it was unfinished.

Collins spent his entire life residing within one square mile in Marylebone London [NW1 area]. Here he was born, lived with his two mistresses, concurrently but at different residences, and after having three children who bore the name Dawson, died on 23rd September 1889. Collins is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery [Harrow Road, London W10 4RA]. On his grave is inscribed ’Author of The Woman in White’.

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