Author Birthday: Wilkie Collins

Jennifer Mendez Editorials

Wilkie Collins, the famous author of The Woman in White, and Armadale was born on January 8, 1824. London born and bred, he is well known for writing the first modern English detective novel, The Moonstone. An impressive man, he was a novelist, a  playwright, and short story writer.

Let’s celebrate his birthday together, by getting to know more about his life!

Early Life

  • The son of a well-known painter, William Collins. He had a younger brother, Charles.
  • Collins studied in boarding schools, moved to Italy and France with his family. He even became fluent in Italian.
  • In 1840, he left school and apprenticed as a clerk to the firm Antrobus & Co., a tea merchant. He hated it, but he worked there for five years.


  • The Last Stage Coachman was published in the Illuminated Magazine in 1843.
  • The following year, he wrote Iolani, or Tahiti as It Was: a Romance. It was rejected by a publisher in 1845. The novel would remain unpublished during his lifetime.
  • He met Charles Dickens through a mutual friend, painter Augustus Egg. This led to multiple collaborations together.
  • Together, Collins and Dickens worked on the play Not So Bad As We Seem. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were among the audience.
  • “A Terribly Strange Bed” was published in Household Words in 1852.
  • His novel, Basil, was published in the same year.
  • In the next several years, he kept writing and publishing his work, including articles in George Henry Lewes’s paper, The Leader.

Personal Life

  • In 1858, Collins began living with Caroline Graves and her daughter Harriet. Even though he disliked the institution of marriage, he remained dedicated to them and treated Harriet as a daughter for the rest of his life.
  • There was one short separation, but not much else. During this time, Caroline was married to a younger man named Joseph Clow. She didn’t love him nearly enough and returned to Collins two years later.
  • Collins helped provide for Harriet’s education.
  • Caroline wanted to marry Collins, but eventually accepted he could offer her the same thing as marriage, but without the title.
  • Unfortunately, Collins wasn’t faithful. He met a poor, 19-year-old named Martha Rudd. She moved to London for him and had his daughter, Marian in 1869. They had more children together over the years, Harriet and William Charles.
  • He spent the rest of his life playing “husband without a title” to both women, in two separate homes.


  • For quite a part of his life, Collins suffered from gout, which began early on in his career.
  • Surprisingly enough, the cause of death was a paralytic stroke, at the age of 82.
  • He is now buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, West London.
  • Caroline Graves died in 1895 and was buried with him. Martha died several years later, in 1919.


Wilkie Collins, a frequent Charles Dickens collaborator, novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. He led a life filled with creativity. Credited with the first British detective novel, Collins was a pioneer playwright and overall writer. Unfortunately, the end of his life was filled with gout pain, opium, and marked by a decline in the quality of writing due to his health.

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Jennifer Mendez

Jennifer Mendez has brought insightful articles to From author interviews to how literature meets gaming to expert insight into tools and writing processes, her dedication to helping our author community is quite inspiring. You can find more of her writing at