Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) is best known as the innovator of the English detective novel, whose sensational novels, plays, and short stories were hugely popular in the Victorian Era. Today, readers enjoy Collins' intricate and suspenseful plots, and his penetrating social commentary on the plight of women and domestic issues of the time.
Unfortunately Collins suffered from rheumatic gout, for which he took the opiate laudanum, and which eventually led to paranoid delusions and the deterioration of his health. Armadale is a semi-epistolary novel that was serialized in the 1860s, published as a novel in 1866. Although the book was popular, and sold for much more than similar works of the time, it was ultimately a financial failure for Collins and his publishers. The intricate story recounts the lives and relationships of two Allan Armadales, cousins who are seemingly destined to suffer for the sins of their fathers, the villainous Lydia Gwilt, a beautiful but fortune-hungry governess, and a slew of other dramatic and entertaining characters.
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Born in London, the son of artist William Collins, Wilkie Collins was educated at Highbury and spent four years in Italy with his parents. Upon his return to England, he worked first in business and then law, but eventually turned to literature. Collins created the crime novel of intricate plot and baffling mystery. The Woman in White (1860) was his first success, followed in 1863 by his masterpiece The Moonstone. Both novels demonstrate Collins' fascination with psychological portraiture and sensationalistic complication. Other books include The Haunted Hotel (1875), Antonia (1850), and Heart and Science (1883). Collins was a close friend of Charles Dickens and collaborated with him. His mastery of plot influenced Dickens, and he was influenced by Dickens's mastery of character.