Wilkie Collins

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Wilkie Collins

William Wilkie Collins (January 8, 1824September 23, 1889) was an English novelist, playwright and writer of short stories. He was a pioneer in the writing of detective fiction.


  • Men ruin themselves headlong for unworthy women.
    • Man and Wife [1870] (p. 385); Also quoted in Wilkie Collins: Man of Mystery and Imagination by Alexander Grinstein [International Universities Press, 2003], (p. 155)
  • I confess I have often fancied myself transformed into some other person, and have felt a certian pleasure in seeing myself in my new chracter. One of our first amusements as children (if we have any imagination at all) is to get out of our own characters, and to try the characters of other personages as a change—to be fairies, to be queens, to be anything, in short, but what we really are.
    • Valeria describing entering the characters of others in The Law and the Lady (p. 195)
    • Also quoted in Gothic Returns in Collins, Dickens, Zola, and Hitchcock by Eleanor Salotto [Springer Publishing, 2016], (p. 39)
  • I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the primary object of a work of fiction should be to tell a story; and I have never believed that the novelist who properly performed this first condition of his art, was in danger, on that account, of neglecting the delineation of character — for this plain reason, that the effect produced, by any narrative of events is essentially dependent, not on the events themselves, but on the human interest which is directly connected with them. It may be possible in novel-writing to present characters successfully without telling a story; but it is not possible to tell a story successfully without presenting characters: their existence, as recognizable realities, being the sole condition on which the story can be effectively told. The only narrative which can hope to lay a strong hold on the attention of readers is a narrative which interests them about men and women — for the perfectly obvious reasons that they are men and women themselves.
    • Collins explaining what he calls the literary principal guiding him, in the preface of the second edition of The Women and White.
    • Also quoted in Reality's Dark Light: The Sensational Wilkie Collins by Maria K. Bachman, Don Richard Cox [University of Tennesse Press, 2003], (p. xiv)
  • We had our breakfasts--whatever happens in a house, robbery or murder, it doesn't matter, you must have your breakfast.
    • The Moonstone (p. 49). Also quoted in Recipes from an Edwardian Country House: A Stately English Home Shares Its Classic Tastes by Laura Schaefer [Simon and Schuster, 2013] (p. 22)
  • Your tears come easy , when you're young, and beginning the world. Your tears come easy, you're old, and leaving it.
    • The Moonstone (p. 86). Also quoted in Soulsalsa: 17 Surprising Steps for Godly Living in the 21st Century by Leonard Sweet [Zondervan, 2013]
  • I have noticed that the Christianity of a certain class of respectable people begins when they open their prayer-books at eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, and ends when they shut them up again at one o'clock on Sunday afternoon. Nothing so astonishes and insults Christians of this sort as reminding them of their Christianity on a week-day.
    • Collins subverting ostentatious sanctity through observations of her herione in Armadale.
    • Also quoted in Literature and Religion in Mid-Victorian England: From Dickens to Eliot by Carolyn Oulton [Springer Publishing, 2002] (p. 136)

The Woman in White[edit]

  • I am nothing but a bundle of nerves dressed up to look like a man.
    • Mr. Fairlie, an effiminate man, describing himself; Volume 2 (p. 253)
    • Also quoted in The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century [ University of California Press, 1986] by Catherine Gallagher and Thomas Walter Laqueur (p.110); The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Identities by Dennis Walder [Routledge 2013] (p.89)
  • My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody.
    • Page 226; Also quoted in The Secret Ingredient by Laura Schaefer [Simon and Schuster, 2012] (p. 169)
  • Any woman who is sure of her own wits, is a match, at any time, for a man who is not sure of his own temper.
    • Page 336 of the novel; Also quoted in The King of Inventors: A Life of Wilkie Collins by Catherine Peters [Princeton University Press, 2014], (p. 169)
  • The woman who first gives life, light, and form to our shadowy conceptions of beauty, fills a void in our spiritual nature that has remained unknown to us till she appeared.
    • Walter encasing Laura in the Victorian paradigm of the angel of ideal feminine beauty, (p. 49).
    • Also quoted in The Pre-Raphaelite Art of the Victorian Novel: Narrative Challenges to Visual Gendered Boundaries by Sophia Andres [Ohio State University Press, 2005], (p. 86)

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