Wilkie Collins: Ein biographisch-kritischer Versuch


This summary and critique of Wilkie's work was written by the German author Ernst Freiherr von Wolzogen (1855-1934). Chapter 2 is a short biographical account. Part of it is quoted directly from a letter written to him by Collins on 20 December 1882.

Wilkie Collins: Ein biographisch-kritischer Versuch This pdf version has been e-texted by Daniel Stark of www.wilkiecollins.de

Scan of original text This scan is also courtesy of Daniel Stark.

The only part of the book that has been translated into English is the quoted extract from the letter which von Wolzogen introduces "In einem Briefe von 20. Dezember 1882 sagt er nämlich" (In a letter of December 20th, 1882 he said).

"As far as my writing technique is concerned, I have four rules. First, the main idea. Secondly, the end. Thirdly, the beginning. The difficulty with carrying out this last rule, is that you always have to start from the beginning! Anyone who can solve that will also be able to manage the fourth rule – you must always be able to move the story forward. People often ask me about my ‘secret’ and that is what it is! I see myself as a literary craftsman and may well be one of the slowest and most methodical authors who has ever held a pen. I correct my manuscripts again and again until they are almost illegible and labour over the style, striving towards an ideal of how it should be, which becomes increasingly ambitious the older I get – but unfortunately far from what I can achieve. Several of my fellow writers wonder why I go to so much trouble with my writing, in this age when people read so rapidly and in such an uncritical and disorderly manner. My only answer is that I cannot do it in any other way. If I allowed a carelessly constructed phrase into print, it would make me completely unhappy for days."

From Public Face of Wilkie Collins 2005 III 376

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