William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was an English novelist, playwright, and writer of short stories. He was hugely popular in his time, and wrote 27 novels, more than 50 short stories, at least 15 plays, and over 100 pieces of non-fiction work. His best-known works are The Woman in White (1860), The Moonstone (1868), Armadale (1866) and No Name (1862). His works were classified at the time as 'sensation novels', a genre seen nowadays as the precursor to detective fiction and suspense fiction. He also wrote penetratingly on the plight of women and on the social and domestic issues of his time. His novel, No Name combined social commentary - the absurdity of the law as it applied to children of unmarried parents - with a densely-plotted revenge thriller. Amongst his other works are: Basil (1852), Hide and Seek (1854), After the Dark (1856), The Frozen Deep (1857), The Queen of Hearts (1859), Man and Wife (1870), The New Magdalen (1873), The Law and the Lady (1875), The Two Destinies (1876), and A Rogue's Life (1879).
Wilkie Collins was born in London in 1824, the eldest son of the landscape painter William Collins. In 1846, having spent five years in the tea business, he was entered to read for the bar at Lincoln's Inn, where he gained the legal knowledge that was to give him much material for his writing.
From the early fifties, he was a friend of Charles Dickens, acting with him, contributing to Household Words, travelling with him on the Continent. Dickens produced and acted in two melodramas written by Collins, The Lighthouse (1855) and The Frozen Deep (1857).
Collins is best remembered for his novels, particularly The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), which T. S. Eliot called 'the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels'. His later, and at the time rather sensational, novels include The New Magdalen (1873) and The Law and The Lady (1875). Collins also braved the moral censure of the Victorian age by keeping two women (and their households) while marrying neither. He died in 1889.