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Elizabeth Young, 25 February 1993

The Case of Anna Kavan 
by David Callard.
Peter Owen, 240 pp., £16.95, January 1993, 0 7206 0867 8
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... Kavan’s ability to lead an orderly life and to write so productively and consistently recall Wilkie Collins or George Crabbe, the latter like Kavan an addict for forty years. Kavan was a dedicated writer but she believed that her will to write – rather, her will to live – came from the heroin which protected her from a menacing world. This ...
Pieces of Light 
by Adam Thorpe.
Cape, 478 pp., £16.99, August 1998, 0 224 03988 1
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... His detective work, at first jocular and unamazed – ‘Good grief, sounds like something Wilkie Collins might have put on in his drawing room’ – takes him dangerously close to the sources of his trauma, finally implicating him in a murder that looks like satanic ritual. With a prissily Conradian ‘Horrible. Absolutely horrible,’ the diary ...

Fear among the Teacups

Dinah Birch: Ellen Wood, 8 February 2001

East Lynne 
by Ellen Wood, edited by Andrew Maunder.
Broadview, 779 pp., £7.95, October 2000, 1 55111 234 5
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... circumstances. Persistent scepticism and a spirit of hard-headed enquiry is always needed. Like Wilkie Collins or Mary Braddon, Ellen Wood makes detectives of her readers. East Lynne is not precisely a ‘bigamy novel’. Archibald Carlyle has divorced Isabel, and believes her dead, before his remarriage. But the dramatic situation in the novel’s ...

Fumbling for the Towel

Christopher Prendergast: Maigret’s elevation to the Panthéon, 7 July 2005

Romans: Tome I 
by Georges Simenon.
Gallimard, 1493 pp., €60, May 2004, 2 07 011674 3
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Romans: Tome II 
by Georges Simenon.
Gallimard, 1736 pp., €60, May 2004, 2 07 011675 1
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... their range of imaginative power. Perhaps the more apposite analogy for him is with a writer like Wilkie Collins, whose talents are now properly recognised. Simenon made no bones about writing for money or aiming for popular success. This made for a high degree of repetition, a certain homogeneity of themes and writing methods. This may be deemed a real ...


Andrew Saint: Foscolo’s Grave, 20 September 2007

... is conjured up as the wicked Count Fosco of St John’s Wood. The travesty was probably relayed to Wilkie Collins by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose exiled father had met Foscolo once and did not get on with him at all. By the spring of 1824, with Floriana’s inheritance spent and the tradesmen-creditors massing, Digamma had to be abandoned. After that ...

Walking on Eyeballs

E.S. Turner: The history of gout, 7 January 1999

Gout: The Patrician Malady 
by Roy Porter and G.S. Rousseau.
Yale, 393 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 300 07386 0
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... gout to windy gout, from recurrent, retrocedent, irregular and suppressed gout to imaginary gout. Wilkie Collins claimed to have gout in the eyes, curing himself of gout in other places by visits to European spas. Tennyson’s gout covered a wealth of debilitations and was not helped by heavy drinking. It was also possible to be ‘gouty without having ...

Am I intruding?

Peter Campbell: Open Windows, 3 November 2011

Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century 
by Sabine Rewald.
Yale, 190 pp., £20, March 2011, 978 0 300 16977 5
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... and I said to myself (with a sense of surprise which words fail me to express), The lady is ugly! Wilkie Collins uses the withheld information of a back view to preface a revelation. A painter can’t do that. In pictures the effect is more often to make you wonder, not how a person looks, but what they think about the view that you and they ...

The Cadaver Club

Iain Sinclair, 22 December 1994

Original Sin 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 426 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 571 17253 9
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Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 1 85619 507 4
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The Hidden Files: An Autobiography 
by Derek Raymond.
Warner, 342 pp., £5.99, December 1994, 0 7515 1184 6
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Not till the Red Fog Rises 
by Derek Raymond.
Little, Brown, 248 pp., £15.99, December 1994, 0 316 91014 7
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... taken in conjunction with the club’s ‘few first editions of Conan Doyle, Poe, Le Fanu and Wilkie Collins’, is enough to invoke, by conditioned reflex, the Agatha Christie cornerstone, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Or as Derek Raymond (Robin Cook) frequently proclaimed, paraphrasing Edmund Wilson: ‘who gives a fuck who killed Roger ...

Hoist that dollymop’s sail

John Sutherland: New Victorian Novels, 31 October 2002

by Sarah Waters.
Virago, 549 pp., £12.99, February 2002, 1 86049 882 5
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The Crimson Petal and the White 
by Michel Faber.
Canongate, 838 pp., £17.99, October 2002, 1 84195 323 7
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... British press in 1857. Fire-eaters like Charles Dickens approved heartily; his friend and disciple Wilkie Collins was appalled. And Flashy? He’s just a soldier who’s seen it all and has no illusions. Thomas Hughes dedicated his novel to ‘the great army of Browns who are scattered all over the whole Empire on which the sun never sets’. Fraser ...

To be continued

Brigid Brophy, 6 November 1980

The Mystery of Edwin Drood 
by Charles Dickens and Leon Garfield.
Deutsch, 327 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 233 97257 9
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... if magnificently, another Dickens novel or a true mystery in the genre classically established by Wilkie Collins with The Moonstone, which Dickens had published two years earlier in All the Year Round?Either answer points to considerable complexity of plot in the second half. Forster’s recollection that the story was to concern ‘the murder of a ...

Make the music mute

John Barrell, 9 July 1992

English Music 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 241 12501 4
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... Wuthering Heights to Ford Madox Brown to George Eliot to Whistler to Edwin Drood (I think) and to Wilkie Collins. The effect is like an unseen examination for Joint Honours in English Art and Literature, except that while Ackroyd trusts the ‘scholarly reader’ to recognise the literary gobbets, he slips him a crib to the slide-test. There are no doubt ...
... an Indian’s, with dirt’). And behind Orwell and McEwan may stand a Victorian manipulator like Wilkie Collins. There is the celebrated visual surprise, for instance, when Walter Hartright sees Marian Halcombe from behind, in The Woman in White. She seems to have a fine figure, a ‘comely shape’, until she turns: She left the window – and I said ...

Wall Furniture

Nicholas Penny: Dickens and Anti-Art, 24 May 2012

... 13 September 1856 the leading contribution was an anonymous article written by Dickens’s friend Wilkie Collins and entitled ‘To think, or be thought for’. The pretext for the piece was a controversy in the correspondence columns of the Times concerning a picture by ‘the old Venetian painter Bellini’ recently acquired for the National ...
Joseph Conrad: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Murray, 320 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 7195 4910 8
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Joseph Conrad and the Modern Temper 
by Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan.
Oxford, 218 pp., £30, August 1991, 9780198117858
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... a far more haunting version – slight as it may be – of the prototype tales in Poe and Wilkie Collins. On the other hand, too ponderous a reliance on the procession of the factual can be a nemesis for Conrad’s method, as it is in the leaden apotheosis of Nostromo, the fatalistic adventure-epic of Patusan in Lord Jim, and the excessively ...

Getting high

Charles Nicholl, 19 March 1987

The Global Connection: The Crisis of Drug Addiction 
by Ben Whitaker.
Cape, 384 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 224 02224 5
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... Quieting Syrup. As is clear from the famous opium-users of the day – Coleridge, De Quincey, Wilkie Collins, Wilberforce, Clive of India, et al – the analgesic use of opium swiftly shaded into psychological and physical dependence. On the other hand, no one can read the letters of Coleridge and De Quincey – let alone ‘Kubla Khan’ and ...

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