Collins, Wilkie (William Wilkie Collins), 1824–89, English novelist. Although trained as a lawyer, he spent most of his life writing, producing some 30 novels. He is best known for two mystery stories, The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), which are considered the first full-length detective novels in English and among the best of their genre; they helped to define the genre of literary melodrama which would peak at the end of the century. Collins's heroines are drawn with considerable clarity and sympathy. He was a close friend of Dickens, in whose periodical Household Words many of Collins's novels first appeared.
See his letters, ed. by W. Baker and W. M. Clarke (2 vol., 1999); biographies by W. M. Clarke (1988), C. Peters (1993), and M. Klimaszewski (2011); studies by M. P. Davis (1956), W. H. Marshall (1970), N. Page (1974), and S. Lonoff (1982).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.