Biography of Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins was originally a lawyer but is more famous as a nineteenth century novelist.

When and Where was he Born?

8th January 1824, London, England. (Christened William Collins).

Family Background:

Collins was the eldest son of William Collins R. A. (Royal Academy) the famous landscape painter.


Private boarding school in Highbury, London.

Timeline of Wilkie Collins:

1836: Collins travelled on a tour of Italy with his parents where he continued his education.

1839: He returned to London and worked as a business man.

1843: Wilkie Collins was called to the bar as a barrister but spent much of his spare time devoting himself to literature.

1848: He completed his first work, which was a biography of his father the painter.

1850: Collins completed his first work of fiction “Antonina” which concerns the fall of ancient Rome.

1852: He next turned his attentions to crime and suspense writing and published “Basil” which was one of the first full-length detective stories to be seen in England.

1860: He enters his most successful period when “The Woman in White is published to much acclaim.

Fitzrovia Hotel, London
The Fitzrovia Hotel, Bolsover Street, London near where Collins lived. 
This is one of the few buildings in the road he would have known. 
The site of his home is now a modern Holiday Inn (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1870’s: Now in poor health and addicted to opium, which was a universal painkiller in those days, his work began to suffer in quality. The books often took the social issues of the day as their main theme but did not strike a chord with the reading public.

When and Where did he Die?

23rd September 1889, London, England.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1850: “Antonina.”
1852: “Basil.”
1860: “The Woman in White.”
1862: “No Name.”
1866: “Armadale.”
1868:“The Moonstone.”
1870: “Man and Wife.”
1873: “The New Magdalen.”


Collins never married but lived with Caroline Graves for 30 years from 1858, at 33 Bolsover Street, London. He also had three children with Martha Rudd who lived nearby, whom he knew after 1868.

Site of Grave:

Kensal Green Cemetery, Kensal Green, London, England.

Places of Interest:


Bolsover Street.
The British Library.

Further Information:

Wilkie Collins Society, c/o Andrew Gasson, 3 Merton House, 36 Belsize Park, NW3 46A.