Decorated initial 'C' ollins' depiction of his era is forcefully gripping. The novelists Balzac, Scott, and Cooper were the favourites of his youth, and his works share with theirs the breaking of new ground in fiction: Collins, reacting to Dickens and Thackeray, desired to be a trail-blazer. In The Moonstone, for example, Collins precariously shifts narrative points-of-view, anticipating such twentieth-century novelists as Conrad and Joyce. His keen eye for detail, his humanity, and his sympathy for women are reflected in his letters, but these change abruptly in form after the publication of The Woman in White (1860), which marks his perfection of the epistolary technique. He measures up to Scott in structure, and to Balzac in innovation.

Collins changed the train schedule in The Woman in White after a Times reviewer pointed out an error in a serial episode: verisimilitude mattered very much to Collins. In his scrupulous attention to such realistic details he again anticipates later novelists. Eliot and others have credited him with being the father of the modern mystery novel, even though he may not have been aware that he was creating a genre — after all, The Moonstone is subtitled "A Romance." However, he consciously developed the mystery subgenre in new ways as he explored new realms.

Related Materials

Collins, Wilkie. Sensation Stories: Tales of Mystery and Suspense. London: Peter Owen, 2004.

Last modified 25 November 2004