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Biography of Wilkie Collins

Portrait of 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 travels on a tour of Italy with his parents where he continues his education.

1839: He returns to London and works as a business man.

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

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

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

1852: He next turns his attention to crime and suspense writing and publishes “Basil” which is one of the first full-length detective stories to be seen in England.

1860: He enters his most successful period as “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 begins to suffer in quality. His books often take the social issues of the day as their main theme but do not strike a chord with the reading public.

When and Where did he Die?

23rd September 1889, London, England of a paralytic stroke.

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.