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Wilkie Collins and his first-ever detective fictions

Wilkie Collins, a famous name who stepped into the world of detective fiction so early in the Victorian era of English literature.

The son of a famous painter named William Collins, he is best known as the expounder of sensational fiction. He was born and brought up in London, then moved to Italy when he was twelve. He spent two years there and in France in order to learn Italian and French. In his first life, he worked as a tea merchant. After the publication of his first novel, Antonina, Collins came across the great Victorian novelist Charles Dickens. Then he collaborated with Dickens in writing short story collections like The Perils of Certain English prisoners. Moonstone, his great novel, is considered the first detective novel. Collins’ first play, The Lighthouse was performed several times at Dickens’ home which again proves the good relation between them. However, in this article we’ll focus on some of his important detective fiction. So, let’s look at them one by one –

The Moonstone,the first-ever mystery fiction

As the title clearly mentions, this is the first successful example of detective fiction, serialized in Dickens’ All Year Round. The entire narrative revolves around a precious diamond which has great religious significance. Originally this diamond belonged to a deity of an Indian temple and it was guarded by four priests. Later, it was stolen and gifted to Rachel, the heroine of this novel by her uncle, who was a corrupt police officer in India. Rachel wears it on her 18th birthday party but unfortunately it was again missing and leads to a lot of confusion and misunderstandings. Overall, it presents the theft and finally the recovery of that jewel. There are three Indian jugglers who are basically the disguised brahmins from India ‘determined to recover the diamond’. Finally, the diamond was back to its own place.

The Woman in White, an example of unequal laws

This novel explores the theme of unequal laws for married women. Multiple narrators have narrated the entire tale from different perspectives. Walter Hartright is the protagonist and ‘a teacher of drawing, something of an everyman character and distinguished by a strong sense of justice. He presents many exclusive techniques to solve the case. The character of Anne Catherick is referred to as the woman in white because she is obsessed with white clothes. However, this novel was a great success and got a place in Dickens’ journal All the Year Round.

Lastly, we want to end the discussion with his understanding about books – “The books – the generous friends who met me without suspicion – the merciful masters who never used me ill!”


Sohini is a journalism and mass communication enthusiast from Kolkata with an extreme interest in creative writing. Focused on entertainment, health and lifestyle, her stories could make your net surfing much more interesting.
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