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Wilkie Collins: The Beginning

EPOCH ONE in the life of Wilkie Collins, as described by Andrew Lycett in his eminently readable biography Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation, comprises his birth to the meeting of Charles Dickens.

If you want to know about Wilkie Collins's early life, here're some main points: 

1) His dad was a painter who made some serious CASH MONEY.

2) His dad was also super into God, who Wilkie, in the grand tradition of children, was therefore NOT into.

3) The ladies around him inspired him to see women as actual people, as opposed to a certain other Victorian author who seemed to regard them as vessels to be filled with adoration for their future husband. That or as loveless shrews we should all laugh at. (DICKENS I'M TALKING ABOUT DICKENS)

4) Wilkie told Dickens a story later in life about how when his family lived in Italy, he banged a married lady when he was like 13. While normally I wouldn't believe this sort of story, with Wilkie Collins, it seems like it maybe happened.

5) Wilkie's friends called acclaimed artist Sir Joshua Reynolds "Sir Sloshua for his slapdash brushwork."

The first 25 years of his life indicate he had no major struggles aside from the bump on his forehead he was born with, "which might have been caused by the midwife or obstetrician manipulating the forceps," and his squabbles with his father. But we love him anyway because he is so great and here is a picture:


Something I particularly loved, and it's not fair to compare his circumstances with Dickens's, because no life is the same as another, etc, BUT Dickens's mother sent him to the blacking factory and arguably ruined his brain about women for the rest of his life. Wilkie's mother disappeared for long stretches because of that 19th century affliction, "nerves," and Lycett notes that:

Young Wilkie took note and would later write sympathetically about women with anxiety disorders. His novels would reflect how, as the century progressed, neuroses became more openly discussed and studied. He would try to recreate in his narrative style the experience of nervous agitation, with its highs and lows, its terrors and searing emotions.

Essentially, he had early exposure to art, travel, and the company of those in the arts. His father didn't want him to become a full-time novelist, so he had to wait until William Collins died to charge full-tilt towards that profession, but he got it done because he was Wilkie Collins and he was gonna write.

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  1. Even though it was said that he lied beautifully, I totally believe he slept with a Roman lady.

    Sir Sloshua. Zing, old-timey guys.

  2. I think I must have missed the part about Sir Sloshua, because I would NOT have forgotten that!

    The more I hear about his life and the more I read of his work, the more I'm convinced he's just BETTER than Dickens in pretty much every possible way!


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