Collins, Wilkie

BORN 8 Jan 1824, London: 11 New Cavendish Street, Marylebone (now: 96-100 New Cavendish Street) - DIED 23 Sep 1889, London: 2 Wimpole Street
BIRTH NAME Collins, William Wilkie
GRAVE LOCATION London: Kensal Green Cemetery, Harrow Road, Kensal Green (141/PS (31754))

Son of the landscape painter William Collins RA. Studied law before turning his full attention to writing. In 1845 his first novel was refused by Chapman & Hall. After exhibiting a painting at the Royal Acadcemy in 1849 his novel "Antonina" was published in 1850.

In 1851 he met Charles Dickens and they soon became friends. They travelled together in the UK and in France and Collins published his stories in Dickens' Household Words. They also shared a fascination for theatre and in 1855 Collins' play "The Lighthouse" was staged by Dickens' theatre group, followed in 1857 by "The Frozen Deep". Later that year "The Lighthouse" was staged at the Olympia Theatre. In 1871 "The Woman in White" could be seen at the same theatre and in 1879 Ada Cavendish played "Miss Gwilt" in New York (Miss Lydia Gwilt was one of the main characters of "Armadale").

Collins' most famous novel, "The Moonstone" (1868) is regarded as the first real British detective novel. Before that "The Woman in White" (1860) had already been a huge success. In his later books he paid more attention to social issues like separations (in "Man and Wife") and vivisection (in "Heart and Science", 1883).

The unconventional Collins never married, but lived for many years with Caroline Graves and had three children with Martha Rudd. He was a very famous man in his days but often suffered from poor health. In July, 1889, The Times wrote that Queen Victoria 'had made special inquiries as to his health". Collins died in September of that year and was buried according to his explicite wishes in a simple grave at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

Other novels: "Basil" (1852); "Hide and Seek" (1854); "No Name" (1863); "Armadale" (1866).

• Father: Collins, William
• Brother: Collins, Charles Allston

Related persons
• cooperated with Bentley, Richard
• has a connection with Besant, Walter
• was a friend of Cavendish, Ada
• is brother/sister of Collins, Charles Allston
• was a friend of Dickens, Charles
• was a friend of Egg, Augustus Leopold
• knew Eliot, George
• was a friend of Frith, William Powell
• lived with Graves, Caroline Elizabeth
• has a connection with Le Clerq, Rose
• was a friend of Lear, Edward
• knew Lewes, George Henry
• was a friend of Loudon, Agnes
• was painted by Millais, John
• visited Ouida
• was a friend of Roosevelt, Blanche
• corresponded with Webster, Benjamin Nottingham

13/1/1835Wilkie Collins enters Maida Hill Academy 
0/8/1843"The Last Stage Coachman" by Wilkie Collins is published in "The Illuminated Magazine" 
8/3/1845Wilkie Collins' first novel is refused by Chapman & Hall. The story was set in Tahiti. He had sent it to Chapman & Hall in January. 
17/5/1846Wilkie Collins is admitted as a student to Lincoln's Inn 
23/2/1847Burial of William Collins at Paddington Green Churchyard. At the Saint Mary on Paddington Green Churchyard in London. He was buried in the grave where his mother Margaret and his brother Frank were buried before. Among those present were his wife Harriet, his sons Wilkie and Charles, the painters Thomas Uwins and Charles Leslie and his friend Joseph Bullar as well as his brother John Bullar. [Collins, Charles Allston][Collins, William][Leslie, Charles]
0/0/1849Wilkie Collins exhibits a painting at the summer exhibition of the Royal Academy 
27/2/1850Wilkie Collins' first novel "Antonina" is published 
0/1/1851"Rables beyond Railways" by Wilkie Collins is published. It was an account of his travels in Cornwall. 
0/3/1851First meeting between Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins [Dickens, Charles]
0/1/1852Wilkie Collin's "Mr. Wray's Cash Box" is published. It had a cover illustration by John Millais. [Millais, John]
24/1/1852For the first time a story of Wilkie Collins appears in Household Words. It was the story "A Terribly Strange Bed". 
16/11/1852Wilkie Collins' novel "Basil" is publised 
5/6/1854Wilkie Collins' novel "Hide and Seek" is published 
16/1/1855Wilkie Collins' play "The Lighthouse" is first performed. It was performed at Travistock House by the theatre group that was led by Charles Dickens 
0/2/1856"After Dark" by Wilkie Collins is published. It was a volume of short stories. 
6/1/1857"The Frozen Deep" by Wilkie Collins is performed by Charles Dickens' theatre group. It was the first of four semi-public performances at Tavistock House, Dickens' home in London. About ninety people were present. [Dickens, Charles]
1/6/1857"The Dead Secret" by Wilkie Collins is published in book form. It had been published serially in "Household Words" from 3 Jan to 13 Jun 1857. 
0/8/1857Wilkie Collins' play "The Lighthouse" is performed at the Olympia Theatre 
21/8/1857Wilkie Collins' play "The Frozen Deep" is performed three times in Manchester at the Free Trade Hall. Dickens played the main part in the play that was written by his friend and the public was completely under his spell. The second night was attended by 3,000 people. He had hired the actress Frances Ternan together with her daughters Maria and Ellen. Ellen was so impressed by the scene in which Dickens died that her tears fell on his beard and his clothes. The performances were given August 21, 22 and 24. [Dickens, Charles][Ternan, Ellen][Ternan, Maria Susanna]
11/10/1858"The Red Vial" by Wilkie Collins is produced at the Olympic Theatre. Frederick Robson was Hans Grimm and Fanny Stirling was Madame Bergman. Collins later used the plot for his novel "Jezebel's Daughter" (1880). It ran for four weeks. As far as known it wasn't performed again until Caroline Radcliffe staged it in 2011 with the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts of Birmingham University. [Stirling, Fanny]
16/5/1859Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins dine at Vereys in Regent Street, London [Dickens, Charles]
26/11/1859Start of the serial publication of "The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins in "All The Year Round" 
14/8/1860"The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins is published 
4/9/1860Wilkie Collins leaves London to stay in Gloucester for a week 
15/3/1862Start of serial publication of "No Name" by Wilkie Collins in "All The Year Round. The last part appeared on 17 Jan 1863. 
31/12/1863"No Name" by Wilkie Collins is published in book form 
15/5/1866"Armadale" by Wilkie Collins is published in two volumes 
4/1/1868Start of the serial publication of "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins in "All the Year Round". The last part was published on 8 Aug 1868. 
1/7/1868"The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins is published in book form in three volumes 
0/10/1871Wilkie Collins' play "The Woman in White" is performed at the Olympia Theatre 
13/9/1873Wilkie Collins leaves for the USA. Before he left he drew up a will in which he provided for Martha Rudd as well as for Caroline Graves. 
27/9/1873Wilkie Collins is guest of honour at the Lotos Club in New York City 
18/3/1874Wilkie Collins lands in Liverpool, returning from the USA  
0/0/1879Ada Cavendish plays Miss Gwilt in New York. "Miss Gwilt" was the stage adaption of Wilkie Collins' novel "Armadale". The play was produced for three weeks and didn't return after that. In London it had been staged for twelve weeks. [Cavendish, Ada]
16/5/1883"Heart and Science" by Wilkie Collins is published in book form. It had been serially published in Belgravia Magazine from Aug 1882 until June 1883. 
15/7/1889Queen Victoria inquires about the health of Wilkie Collins. "The Times" of 15 Jul 1889 stated that 'The Queen has made special inquiries as to his health'. 
27/9/1889Wilkie Collins is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. According to his wishes he was buried in a simple grave. Among those present were his niece Jane Ward, Holman-Hunt, Pigott, George Redford, Edmund Yates, Charles Dickens the Younger, Frank Beard, Caroline Graves, Ada Cavendish, Arthur Pinero, Squire Bancroft, Sebastian Schlesinger, Andrew Chatto, A.P. Watt, Hall Caine and Edmund Gosse. In 1895 Caroline Graves was buried in the same grave. [Bancroft, Squire ][Cavendish, Ada][Dickens, Charles Culliford Boz][Graves, Caroline Elizabeth][Hunt, William Holman]
0/0/1890"Blind Love" by Wilkie Collins is published. Collins had died before it was finished and Walter Besant had completed the story. [Besant, Walter ]


Wilkie Collins' grave at Kensal Green Cemetery, London. His companion Caroline Graves was buried beside him.
Picture by Androom (11 dec 1993)


Wilkie Collins painted by John Everett Millais (1850, National Portrait Gallery, London).


The grave of Wilkie Collins at Kensal Green Cemetery, London.
Picture by Androom (26 Jun 2009)


• Clarke, William M., The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins, Allison & Busby/W.H. Allen, London, 1988
• Peters, Catherine, The King of Inventors, A Life of Wilkie Collins, Seeker & Warburg, London, 1991
• Storey, Graham (ed.), The Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. IX 1859-1861, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997
The Private Library, Third Series, Volume 3:2, The Private Libraries Association, Pinner, Middlesex, 1980
The Frozen Deep - Wikipedia

Collins, William

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 25 Apr 2022