Books about Wilkie Collins

I Biography and letters

These books are listed in reverse date order.

  1. Andrew Lycett Wilkie Collins A Life of Sensation, London 2013 ISBN 978-0-091-93709-6
    The best biography of Wilkie certainly since Peters (1991) and possibly simply the best. My biggest quibble is the lack of detailed footnotes - though there are extensive page notes at the end. There is a lot of new material especially about Wilkie's family and friends, and Lycett's analysis of his work is unparalleled.
  2. Peter Ackroyd Wilkie Collins, Chatto & Windus, London 2012.   ISBN 978-0-701-16990-9
    A fine short and appreciative biography. As usual with Ackroyd the book lacks scholarly apparatus such as footnotes but makes up for it in completeness and enthusiastic understanding of Collins and his work.
  3. Melisa Klimaszewski Brief Lives - Wilkie Collins, Hesperus Press, London 2011. ISBN 978-1-84391-915-5
    A short but factually precise biography in the Hesperus Brief Lives series.
  4. Susan R Hanes Wilkie Collins's American Tour, 1873-4 Pickering and Chatto, London 2008. ISBN 9781851969685
    A valuable and thoroughly researched account of Collins's six month tour of the USA. Hanes has read every contemporary newspaper and account of the tour and in the process discovered many new letters buried in out of the way local libraries.
  5. Graham Law and Andrew Maunder Wilkie Collins - A Literary Life Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire and New York 2008. ISBN 978-1-403-94896-0
    Wilkie's life cut another way - analysing his education and his circles, looking at him as a journalist and missionary, and relating him to London, women, the theatre, overseas, and the Victorian literary marketplace. Excellent and well-researched stuff but with the odd inexplicable error. 
  6. William Baker A Wilkie Collins Chronology Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire and New York 2007. ISBN 9781403994813
    A day by day and month by month chronology of Collins's life using letters and other sources. Could have been so much better.
  7. Jenny Bourne Taylor (Ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Wilkie Collins Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ISBN-10 0-521-84038-4 hardback 45 or 0-521-54966-3 paperback 16.99
    This collection of 13 essays is part biography, part literary analysis. It covers Collins and the arts, his early writing, his shorter fiction, his plays, his later novels, his contribution to disability and Empire fiction and what has happened to his work since as well as other topics.
  8. William Baker, Andrew Gasson, Graham Law, and Paul Lewis (Eds.) The Public Face of Wilkie Collins - the Collected Letters, Pickering & Chatto, London 2005. ISBN 1851967648.
    The definitive collected edition of Wilkie Collins's letters. The book is a comprehensive chronological sequence of almost 3000 letters by Wilkie Collins drawn from public and private collections all over the world. More than 2500 are published in full while the 450 or so letters published in full in Baker and Clarke's 1999 Collected Letters are listed in their correct chronological place. In four volumes with four contemporary photographs and eight reproductions of letters, together with detailed footnotes, a long introduction, and two indices. Updated annually by the Wilkie Collins Society.
  9. Alexander Grinstein, MD Wilkie Collins - Man of Mystery and Imagination International Universities Press, Madison, Connecticut 2003 ISBN. 0-8236-66816
    A psychoanalytical view of Wilkie Collins's life. A useful bibliography and references at the end.
  10. William Baker and William Clarke (eds), The Letters of Wilkie Collins, 2 volumes, Macmillan, London 1999. ISBN 0-333-73247-2
    These volumes are the first collected edition of Wilkie's letters. Sadly the publisher decided to limit them in size and out of the 2223 letters identified by the authors, only 464 are published in full, with a further 127 letters summarised in the text. However, Baker and Clarke do at least list the other 1632 letters in two appendices that, together with the text, form the first comprehensive handlist of Wilkie's letters. The editors have been criticised for incorrect transcriptions, patchy notes, and some errors of fact. In addition, a number of easily identifiable letters have been omitted.
  11. Andrew Gasson, Wilkie Collins - An Illustrated Guide, Oxford University Press, 1998
    ISBN 0-19-866215-7
    Gasson's guide is an A-Z encyclopaedia of Wilkie Collins's life and work. The book has entries on almost every friend, relative, and acquaintance of Collins; full details of the publishing history of every book, story, and play; potted histories of Victorian publishers and publishing practices; and contains comprehensive bibliographical detail throughout. It also has more than 200 illustrations, most published for the first time.
  12. Jean Ruer, Wilkie Collins, Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1995, ISBN 2-85939-381-1
    Professor Jean Ruer wrote this book in 1976 as his doctoral thesis and it was published posthumously by his colleagues as a tribute to his work. It is a thorough and comprehensive review of Collins's life and work, though a bit brief on the post-1870 period. Written in French.
  13. Catherine Peters, The King of Inventors, Secker and Warburg, London 1991
    ISBN 0 436 36712 2
    Catherine Peters, an Oxford academic, went everywhere and read everything. Wonderful footnotes and the most comprehensive bibliography of material about Collins. Lacks some detail about his early work. Also in paperback Minerva 1992 ISBN 0 7493 9817 5
  14. William M Clarke, The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins, W H Allen, London, 1988, ISBN 0 85031 960 9
    William Clarke is the husband of Collins's great-granddaughter Faith Elizabeth Dawson and to a certain extent deals with his life as a problem in family history. He has tracked down the full details of Wilkie's relationships with his two partners, Caroline Graves and Martha Rudd. The family connections gave him unique access to some material. Includes many photographs, a family tree, and details of Collins's bank account.
    The first edition was published by and also in paperback by Alison and Busby, London, 1989 ISBN 0 7490 0031 7 and 2nd edition, Alan Sutton, 1996
    ISBN 0 7509 1208 1
  15. R V Andrew Wilkie Collins - A Critical Survey of his Prose Fiction with a Bibliography, Garland Publishing, New York & London 1979.
    A facsimile of Andrew's 1959 PhD thesis at Potchefstroom University with one of the first bibliographies of Collins's work which is remarkably full and accurate considering material had to be shipped to South Africa.
  16. Dorothy Leigh Sayers, Wilkie Collins: a biographical and critical study, ed. E R Gregory, Toledo, Ohio, 1977.
    Sadly, Dorothy Sayers did not finish this book before her death in 1957.
  17. W H Marshall, Wilkie Collins, Twayne Publishers, Inc., New York, 1970
    A short general study which concentrates mainly on listing his work and summarizing the plots. No.94 in the Twayne English Authors Series.
  18. Nuel Pharr Davis, The Life of Wilkie Collins, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1956
    This book has been criticised for drawing too many inferences about Collins' life from the plots and events of his books. But it contains a lot of very useful information, especially in its copious footnotes.
  19. Robert Ashley, Wilkie Collins, London 1952
    A brief general study which nevertheless contains some useful material. Based on his 1948 thesis below.
  20. Kenneth Robinson, Wilkie Collins, Bodley Head, London, 1951
    The first book length biography of Collins and absolutely superb. Full of detail but frustrating for its lack of sources. Republished by Davis-Poynter, London, 1974.
  21. Robert P Ashley Jr The Career of Wilkie Collins Harvard University 1948
    This two volume unpublished PhD thesis is a massive study of Collins's life and work. It contains a wealth of detail and some references and finds which have been ignored by later scholars.
  22. Malcolm Elwin Victorian Wallflowers Jonathan Cape London 1934
    Contains a 25 page essay with biography and analysis of Wilkie's writings. It is an expansion of Elwin's article in The London Mercury XXIII 138, April 1931 pp574-584..
  23. S M Ellis, Wilkie Collins, Le Fanu, and others, Constable, London 1931
    The first chapter is a useful 53 page account of Wilkie's life but inevitably lacks detail. Relies mainly on reminiscences. It was at the time the only substantial account of his life in English. Contains a shorter chapter on Wilkie's brother, Charles Allston Collins. Re-issued in 1951 with no changes.
  24. Lewis Melville, Victorian Novelists London 1906.
    Contains a 21 page essay on Collins's life and work
  25. Hans Sehlbach, Untersuchungen über die Romankunst von Wilkie Collins, Verlag der Frommannschen Buchhandlung (Walter Biedermann), Jena, 1931
    The first book length study of Collins's work in the context of his life. Written in German.
  26. Ernst von Wolzogen, Wilkie Collins: Ein biographisch-kritischer Versuch, Leipzig, 1885
    The first book-length study of Collins and the only one published during his life. Chapter 2 is biographical and other chapters analyse his work. It also contains part of a letter from Wilkie to Wolzogen. Written in German. Download the German text here.

II Book Length Literary Criticism

These books are listed in reverse date order

  1. Sundeep Bisla Wilkie Collins & Copyright: Artistic Ownership in the Age of the Borderless Word, Ohio State University, 2013.
    Bisla is the Asst Professor of English at York College CUNY and says he has spent a decade on this book which examines whether Wilkie's plots were affected by his concerns about copyright and ownership of what we call his intellectual property. I didn't warm to his prolix style but but this academic work has its place in Collins studies. ISBN 13 978-0-8142-1235-6
  2. A B Emrys Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the evolution of the Casebook Novel, McFarland & Company, Jefferson N. Carolina, 2011.
    ISBN978-0-7864-4786-2
    Fascinating study of Wilkie's work relating it to the 20th century writer and film maker Vera Caspary.
  3. Bren Monteiro The Dark Minds of Mystery Writers: Focus on Wilkie Collins, Six Degrees Books, La Vernge, TN USA, 2011. ISBN 9-781171-069805
    A slight work.
  4. Laurence Talairach-Vielmas Wilkie Collins, Medicine and the Gothic University of Wales Press, Cardiff 2009 ISBN 978-0-7083-2223-9
    A study of the medical details in ten novels from Basil to The Legacy of Cain and how Wilkie rewrote the eighteenth century Gothic structure through them..
  5. Mariaconcetta Costantini (ed) Armadale - Wilkie Collins and the Dark Threads of Life Studi di Anglistica, Aio ISBN 978-88-548-2613-7
    A series of 16 essays on Armadale edited by Mariaconcetta Costantini.
  6. Claudio Di Vaio Wilkie Collins e il Gioco delle Coppie - Rappresentazioni dei Ruoli Sessuali in The Woman in White Aracne Aio 2008 ISBN 978-88-548-2130-9
  7. Mariaconcetta Costantini Venturing into Unknown Waters: Wilkie Collins and the Challenge of Modernity Edizioni Tracce, Pescara 2008 ISBN 978-88-7433-500-8
    An academic study in English of how Collins navigated the changing Victorian culture.
  8. Andrew Mangham (Ed.) Wilkie Collins - Interdisciplinary Essays Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle 2007
    ISBN 9-781847-181091
    These seventeen essays are grouped into five themes - Collins in Context, Collins and Art, Collins and Medicine, Collins and the Law, Collins, Theatre, and Film. The essays are mainly based on those given at a Wilkie Collins Conference in Sheffield organised in 2005 by its editor Andrew Mangham.
  9. Lyn Pykett Wilkie Collins Authors in Context, OUP 2005
    ISBN 9-780192-840349
    It is hard to classify Professor Pykett's interesting new book as biography or as literary criticism. It is both and fits in with the Oxford World's Classics series 'Authors in Context'. An initial chapter looks at Collins's life, followed by the social context, the literary context, an almost inevitable chapter on class, gender and social mobility as well as interesting work on sex, crime, madness, empire, mesmerism, science, medicine and psychology. Further chapters look at Collins on film and television as well as his publication and criticism.
  10. Maria K Bachman & Don Richard Cox (eds), Reality's Dark Light - the Sensational Wilkie Collins, University of Tennessee Press 2003
    ISBN 1 57233 274 3
    Bachman and Cox bring together 13 essays on various aspects of sensational fiction and Collins's place in it by authors such as Lillian Nayder, Graham Law, Audrey Fisch and Richard Collins together with their own introduction. 
  11. William Baker, Wilkie Collins's Library - A Reconstruction. Greenwood Press, Westport Connecticut, 2002
    ISBN 0 313 31394 6
    Professor Baker reconstructs the books owned by Wilkie Collins on his death from auction and bookseller's catalogues and analyses the significance of the books he owned. Fully indexed and footnoted and with an appendix giving some information about the pictures Wilkie left at his death, this is a valuable addition to Wilkie Collins scholarship.
  12. Lillian Nayder, Unequal Partners - Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, & Victorian Authorship, Cornell University Press 2002
    ISBN 0801439256
    The first study to look at the collaboration between Dickens and Collins on literary enterprises including Household Words, All The Year Round, and The Frozen Deep
  13. Lyn Pykett, Wilkie Collins, St. Martin's Press, New York 1998
    ISBN 0312212690
    A new introduction by Pykett and a useful collection of 11 hard to find periodical pieces from 1975 to 1992 analysing Wilkie Collins's work.
  14. Lillian Nayder, Wilkie Collins, Twayne Publishers, New York 1997
    ISBN 0805770593
    This book is no.544 of Twayne's English Authors Series (see also W H Marshall, 1970, above). Lillian Nayder brings new insights - particularly on class and feminisim - to Wilkie Collins's life and work.
  15. Nelson Smith and R.C.Terry (eds) Wilkie Collins to the Forefront - Some Reassessments, AMS Press, New York 1995
    ISSN 10595406
    Papers from the Centennial Conference held at University of Victoria, British Columbia 29/9/89-1/10/89
  16. Tamar Heller Dead Secrets - Wilkie Collins and the Female Gothic Yale University Press, New Haven 1992
    ISBN 0300045743
    Plot analysis woven into his life and Victorian society
  17. Peter Thoms The Windings of the Labyrinth Ohio University Press, Athens USA 1992
    ISBN 0821410393
    He calls it 'Quest and structure in the major novels of Wilkie Collins'
  18. Nicholas Rance Wilkie Collins and Other Sensation Novelists : Walking the Moral Hospital Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, USA 1991 ISBN:0-8386-3444-3.
  19. Philip O'Neill Wilkie Collins - Women, Property & Propriety Macmillan Press, London 1988
    ISBN 033342199X
    An analysis of sexuality and how property affected morals
  20. Jenny Bourne Taylor In the Secret Theatre of Home - Wilkie Collins, sensation narrative and nineteenth-century psychology Routledge, London 1988
    ISBN 0415007070
    A series of sociological literary analyses of Basil, The Woman in White, No Name, Armadale, The Moonstone, and some later fiction.
  21. Sue Lonoff Wilkie Collins and his Victorian Readers - a study in the rhetoric of authorship AMS Press, Inc, New York 1982
    ISSN 0196657X
    An analysis of Collins's own view of fiction and his audience
  22. Norman Page (ed) Wilkie Collins - the critical heritage, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1972
    ISBN 0710078439
    An introduction followed by 86 contemporary reviews of Collins's work.

Biographies and book length criticism - updated 2 December 2013.


Paul Lewis 1997-2013