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Paliography

John Sutherland, 15 September 1988

The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins 
by William Clarke.
Allison and Busby, 239 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 85031 960 9
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Wilkie CollinsWomen, Property and Propriety 
by Philip O’Neill.
Macmillan, 238 pp., £27.50, September 1988, 9780333421994
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... Gordon Ray, writing in 1956, all that posterity could reasonably expect to know about the elusive Wilkie Collins was his name and dates of birth and death. This has proved to be an exaggeration. Thanks to Kenneth Robinson (whose revised Wilkie Collins, A Biography came out in 1974) and now, preeminently, to ...

In Praise of Spiders

Caleb Crain: Wilkie Collins’s Name Games, 11 September 2008

The Woman in White 
by Wilkie Collins.
Vintage, 609 pp., £5.99, October 2007, 978 0 09 951124 3
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... which blurred the edges very nicely. It was in these improper fantasies that the novelist Wilkie Collins found his raw materials. In his world, the tags are always falling off the luggage. The narrator of Basil (1852) has been ‘obliged in honour to resign’ his surname, because his father has literally torn his page out of the family ...

The butler didn’t do it

Bee Wilson: The First Detectives, 19 June 2008

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or the Murder at Road Hill House 
by Kate Summerscale.
Bloomsbury, 334 pp., £14.99, April 2008, 978 0 7475 8215 1
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... that if only the guilty – bloodied – nightdress could be found, the case would be solved. Wilkie Collins borrowed this clue for The Moonstone, though he turned it from a bloody garment to one splattered with fresh paint. Because of the breast flannel and the nightdress, every woman at Road Hill House had to account for her undergarments. The ...

My Missus

John Sutherland, 13 May 1993

Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain, 1914-1950 
by Joseph McAleer.
Oxford, 284 pp., £35, December 1992, 0 19 820329 2
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American Star: A Love Story 
by Jackie Collins.
Heinemann, 568 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 0 434 14093 7
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... less about working-class literature than about Lapland. In a much quoted essay twenty years later, Wilkie Collins, after a similar expedition, coined the phrase ‘the Unknown Public’. It was something of a misnomer since the public was well enough known. It was their ‘entertaining literature’ that was the mystery. English society put such a moral ...

A Little Local Irritation

Stephen Wall: Dickens, 16 April 1998

The Letters of Charles Dickens. Vol. IX: 1859-61 
edited by Graham Storey.
Oxford, 610 pp., £70, July 1997, 0 19 812293 4
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... is no evidence of unhappiness. The other child to marry at this time was Katie. Her choice of Wilkie Collins’s younger brother was more acceptable, and Dickens presided genially enough over the pastoral festivities: ‘the people of the village strewed flowers in the churchyard, and erected triumphal arches, and fired guns.’ It was ‘a great ...

Ripping Yarns

John Sutherland, 8 April 1993

Tennyson 
by Michael Thorn.
Little, Brown, 566 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 316 90299 3
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Tennyson 
by Peter Levi.
Macmillan, 370 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 333 52205 2
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... the last decade there have been four authoritative biographies of Trollope; two of Dickens; two of Wilkie Collins; three of Stevenson (one down, two to come); and – with the present centennial haul – three of Tennyson. Given the huge expenditure of scholarly energy modern biography demands it would be rational to redistribute some of it. One would ...

Shuddering Organisms

Jonathan Coe, 12 May 1994

Betrayals 
by Charles Palliser.
Cape, 308 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 224 02919 3
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... of readers hungry for a return to the narrative and moral certainties of Dickens, Eliot and Collins. Deservedly, this unusual and ambitious book – 12 years, we are told, in the researching and writing – became an international bestseller. Somewhere along the way, however, Palliser seems to have become dissatisfied with the way his novel was being ...

Diamond Daggers

Stephen Wall, 28 June 1990

Death’s Darkest Face 
by Julian Symons.
Macmillan, 272 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 333 51783 0
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Vendetta 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 281 pp., £12.99, June 1990, 0 571 14332 6
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Gallowglass 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 296 pp., £13.99, March 1990, 0 670 83241 3
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... the crafted symmetries of the book’s construction, but – as Trollope complained when reading Wilkie Collins – it’s difficult to lose the taste of the construction. Motivation is too exactly tailored to produce the results required by the plot; the very proficiency with which the characters function in what is admittedly an effortless read makes ...

Read it on the autobahn

Robert Macfarlane: Vanishing Victorians, 18 December 2003

The Discovery of Slowness 
by Sten Nadolny, translated by Ralph Freedman.
Canongate, 311 pp., £10.99, September 2003, 1 84195 403 9
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... of the Erebus and the Terror by Turner, and a melodrama called The Frozen Deep, written by Wilkie Collins and produced by Dickens, with ‘authentic’ Arctic costumes for the explorers, and paper snow shredded and scattered onto the stage from above by ‘snowboys’. Between 1847 and 1859, more than thirty expeditions were despatched in search ...

A Perfect Eel

Elaine Showalter: ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’, 21 June 2012

Lady Audley’s Secret 
by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, edited by Lyn Pykett.
Oxford, 448 pp., £9.99, January 2012, 978 0 19 957703 3
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... precocious and eclectic reader’ of Shakespeare, Scott, Byron, Dickens, Eliot, Thackeray and Wilkie Collins, but modelled her first literary efforts ‘chiefly upon Jane Eyre’ and believed that Charlotte Brontë was the most passionate Victorian novelist. Braddon also enjoyed the popular fiction in penny magazines and was a ‘genuine ...

At Manchester Art Gallery

Inigo Thomas: Annie Swynnerton, 27 September 2018

... at the Manchester Academy of Fine Art, which meant they had less chance to sell their work. Wilkie Collins described the taste and enthusiasms of the self-made industrialists of the mid-19th century: they wanted paintings, he said, with ‘interesting subjects, variety, resemblance to nature, genuineness of the article, and fresh paint’. So there ...

Descent into Oddness

Dinah Birch: Peter Rushforth’s long-awaited second novel, 6 January 2005

Pinkerton’s Sister 
by Peter Rushforth.
Scribner, 729 pp., £18.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5235 7
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... Tennyson, George MacDonald, Charles Reade, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Louisa May Alcott, Wilkie Collins, Mary Braddon, Conan Doyle, Du Maurier, and plenty more. Her literary memory is a compendium of every syllabus in Victorian literature that could be contrived. Alice is the woman in white, or Lewis Carroll’s little girl lost in a ...

Martin Chuzzlewig

John Sutherland, 15 October 1987

Dickens’s Working Notes for his Novels 
edited by Harry Stone.
Chicago, 393 pp., £47.95, July 1987, 0 226 14590 5
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... When he found himself on his deathbed with half his last novel, Blind Love, still to write, Wilkie Collins sent the plans to Walter Besant, who was politely asked in a spirit of authorial comradeship to finish the work. ‘Tell him I would do as much for him if he were in my place,’ Collins said. So full and ...

Embarrassed

Graham Hough, 7 October 1982

Thomas Hardy: A Biography 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 637 pp., £15, June 1982, 0 19 211725 4
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The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. III: 1902-1908 
edited by Richard Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 367 pp., £19.50, July 1982, 0 19 812620 4
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The Neglected Hardy: Thomas Hardy’s Lesser Novels 
by Richard Taylor.
Macmillan, 202 pp., £17.50, May 1982, 0 333 31051 9
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Good Little Thomas Hardy 
by C.H. Salter.
Macmillan, 200 pp., £15, August 1982, 0 333 29387 8
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Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form 
by Penny Boumelha.
Harvester, 178 pp., £18.95, April 1982, 0 7108 0018 5
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Illustration and the Novels of Thomas Hardy 
by Arlene Jackson.
Macmillan, 151 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 333 32303 3
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... modest phrase. The unmistakable Hardy is present, even among the near-absurdities of the Wilkie Collins plot – as he is present in different fashions throughout the minor works. Present in moods of lesser tension that are worth recalling as a real part of Hardy’s achievement. This is thoughtful criticism exercised on a subject that was well ...

Dry Eyes

John Bayley, 5 December 1991

Jump and Other Stories 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 257 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1020 2
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Wilderness Tips 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 247 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 7475 1019 9
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... outdated heroism of Franklin’s men, celebrated in that very Victorian melodrama by Dickens and Wilkie Collins, has no counterpart in the new world of Toronto, falling apart with Aids and the insidious toxins of waste dumps, ‘concealed here and there in the countryside, and masked by the lush deceitful green of waving trees’. ‘Franklin my dear, I ...

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