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Wilkie Collins is a Mysterious Man

Wilkie Collins wrote so many books, and this author insists on detailing the plots of all of them, which I must invariably skim over because I don't want them spoiled, thank you, sir.

As one reads through Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation, one gets the sense that this book could have been much shorter than it is, and therefore more satisfying, as much much much of it is filler. Yes! It is indeed sad that Dickens did not keep Wilkie's letters but instead burned them in some sort of pyratic ecstatical moment he apparently had with much of his correspondence, but that does not mean you then just summarize novel plots and talk about the histories of his friends' and acquaintances' families.

Some of this I am greatly enjoying, because I like knowing about The Bigger Picture and how everyone jigsaw puzzleish fits in, but I do not need to know about the family background of the man Wilkie's sometimes live-in girlfriend married for like a year.

Which brings us to another point: was anyone else given the impression in past knowledge of Wilkie that his two girlfriends were totes chill with each other's existence? Because reading this makes me go "Hmmmm they were probably very sad but also had little recourse because Victorian Times and also how well did Wilkie deal with this situation, not well it seems." But that's based on very little evidence, because he was so DAMN PRIVATE.

[Victorian editors remove 'damn' from previous sentence]

So I have some questions re how the women in his life took this situation, and especially around this comment about Victorian men having a lower class fetish (which sounds legit, but I want more sources cited here). ALSO, Wilkie ignored Shelley's grave in order to pet a cat, and are we sure he did not base Count Fosco on himself?

NEXT WEEK: finish the book.


  1. My summary of this book: "Sadly, no letters survive from this journey, but census records do provide us with some insight into the family life of Wilkie's train conductor."

    1. FACT! And then we get 3 pages of the train conductor's second cousin.

    2. This made me snort because it's so COMPLETELY justified.

  2. I was trying to come up with a quick summary of what happened in this epoch and once I stripped out all the periphery characters I was left with "Wilkie got a new lady and had two daughters but didn't talk much about them and also he had a falling out with Dickens, but there aren't too many details about that either."

  3. I agree that this book could have been much, much shorter. We've just read a whole epoch about Wilkie's new mistress and his two daughters, but I don't feel like I've learned much other than she was a 'buxom wench' and the details of his first mistress' husband's passage to Australia.

    I'm also wondering how much both women were completely in love with the arrangement. Not just the inconvenience/indignity of it, but the damage to their reputations, etc.


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