Title page of first edition of Antonina published by Richard Bentley in 1850. Antonina was Wilkie's first published novel.

Antonina is a historical adventure set in Rome during the invasion of the Goths in 410AD. He researched it in the British Museum library. It was published in three volumes by Richard Bentley in February 1850 and he paid Collins 100 for it - with another 100 when 500 copies had been sold. Collins was interrupted in writing Antonina by the death of his father in 1847. He set the manuscript aside to write his first published work Memoirs of the Life of William Collins R.A., his biography of his father, published in 1848. He had already written a novel for which he could not find a publisher, Iolani also a historical tale, set in Tahiti before Western sailors had landed there.

Antonina was well received at the time. Writing in The Athenaeum in March 1850, H F Chorley said

"It is a richly-coloured impassioned story, busy with life, importunately strong in its appeal to our sympathy...[Collins] dramatic instinct makes up for want of elaborate training."

But it is has not appealed to more modern tastes. It is the only major work of his fiction which has been out of print for most of this century. Fortunately, it is now available in electronic form.


All material on these pages is Paul Lewis 1997-2000