Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Wilkie Collins

Go To

William Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889) was an English writer best known for his novels The Woman in White and The Moonstone (arguably the first detective novel in English literature).

He was a close friend of Charles Dickens, and several of his novels were originally serialised in Dickens' magazine All the Year Round.

Works by Wilkie Collins with their own trope pages include:

Other works by Wilkie Collins provide examples of:

  • Adaptation Deviation: At the end of the BBC Radio adaptation of The Haunted Hotel, the roles of Agnes and Henry are reversed; she is the one who hears the Countess's final confession, and he is left baffled, rather than vice versa.
  • Affluent Ascetic: Andrew Treverton in The Dead Secret is quite well-off, but he doesn't have any interest in comfort or luxury, so he lives an extremely frugal life.
  • Ailment-Induced Cruelty: In Armadale, Mrs Milroy's chronic illness brought her vicious, jealous qualities to the fore.
    Suffering can, and does, develop the latent evil that there is in humanity, as well as the latent good. The good that was in Mrs. Milroy’s nature shrank up, under that subtly deteriorating influence in which the evil grew and flourished. Month by month, as she became the weaker woman physically, she became the worse woman morally. All that was mean, cruel, and false in her expanded in steady proportion to the contraction of all that had once been generous, gentle, and true.
  • And Some Other Stuff: The chemicals used to make the poisonous gas in Armadale.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Dr Downward, a shady doctor in Armadale. In the last part of the book he appears under the alias 'Dr le Doux', running a very suspicious private sanatorium.
  • Bastard Angst: The titular "dead secret" in The Dead Secret is that protagonist Rosamund is actually an illegitimate child passed off as an heiress. This causes much internal and external conflict, as her husband refuses to accept her inheritance.
  • Beardness Protection Program: In I Say "No", the chief suspect for Mr Brown's murder is a short, clean-shaven man, with short blond hair. Doctor Allday realises the Reverend Mr Mirabel matches the description, except for his long hair and beard, and suspects this trope is in play.
  • Beard of Sorrow: In The Dead Secret, Andrew Treverton let his beard grow when he lost faith in humanity.
    In the year eighteen hundred and forty-four, the fact of a man's not shaving was regarded by the enlightened majority of the English nation as a proof of unsoundness of intellect. At the present time Mr. Treverton's beard would only have interfered with his reputation for respectability. Seventeen years ago it was accepted as so much additional evidence in support of the old theory that his intellects were deranged.
  • Big Eater: Cecilia Wyvil in I Say "No" is in her late teens, and still retains a schoolgirl's appetite.
  • Break the Cutie: Sarah Leeson in The Dead Secret — her fiancé died in a mining accident the day after the marriage was arranged, and her life went downhill from there.
  • Class Princess: Emily Brown, the protagonist of I Say "No", is introduced as the 'queen' of her dormitory at school, and is a genuinely charming, likeable girl.
  • Composite Character: In the BBC Radio The Haunted Hotel, Stephen and Francis Westwick are combined into a single character.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • In Basil, Margaret's father's confidential clerk just happens to be someone with a sizeable grudge against Basil's family.
    • In Poor Miss Finch, it's remarkable how Mme Pratolungo keeps getting called away to deal with her troublesome father just when it would be really helpful to have her around.
  • Cut Short: The Fallen Leaves was intended to be the first part of a larger series. Thanks to poor sales, the series went no further.
  • Descending Ceiling: In "A Terribly Strange Bed", some innkeepers murder (in order to rob) their guests by giving them a canopied bed where the canopy can be silently lowered to smother the sleeper.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the BBC Radio The Haunted Hotel, Countess Narona takes her own life at the end rather than dying of a stroke.
  • Disposing of a Body: In the last chapters of The Haunted Hotel, it's finally revealed that the victim's body was dissolved in a vat of acid. All except the head, which for some reason the murderers left until last, and had to dispose of by other means.
  • Dreadful Musician: Mr Wyvil in I Say "No" has played the violin as a hobby for twenty years, despite his complete lack of talent at it.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: In The Haunted Hotel, the first thing anyone who meets her notices about Countess Narona is her complexion, which is of 'corpse-like pallor'.
  • Faint in Shock: In I Say "No", Mr Mirabel faints when Emily asks him to help her find her father's murderer. What she doesn't know (but the reader does) is that he's a remarkably close match to the description of the prime suspect in the case.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: At the start of Basil, Basil's older brother Ralph has spent his whole life being irresponsible, while their sister Clara is a paragon of virtue.
  • Gold Digger: Margaret in Basil, encouraged by her father, is only interested in the money and rank that she can gain from her marriage to Basil. Not that Basil suspects this until it's far too late.
  • Hot Drink Cure: In The Haunted Hotel, Lord Montbarry, suffering from a cold, sends out his courier for lemons to make hot lemonade... and unwittingly sets off a chain of events that lead to both men's deaths.
  • Identification by Dental Records: In The Haunted Hotel, the identity of the skull found in the hotel is finally confirmed by identification of the dental plate in its mouth.
  • In the Blood: Armadale revolves around this trope; a young man who has (for unrelated reasons) adopted a pseudonym meets another young man who shares his birth name of Allan Armadale. They become fast friends, until the first young man discovers that his father had murdered the father of the other Allan Armadale. He spends much of the rest of the novel haunted by his father's conviction that the sons are destined to repeat the fathers' fatal feud.
  • Inn of No Return: In A Terribly Strange Bed.
  • Jail Bait Wait: The protagonist of Basil marries his crush Margaret, on the condition that they live apart until she turns eighteen.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: In the backstory of The Dead Secret — Mrs Treverton and her husband desperately wanted a child but hadn't been able to conceive one.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In The Fallen Leaves one character takes care to make their suicide look like an accidental overdose.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The title character of Poor Miss Finch has 14 half-siblings, and the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue reveals that the family kept getting bigger after that.
  • Midnight Snack: I Say "No" opens with a group of schoolgirls having a midnight feast in their dormitory.
  • Murphy's Bed: In A Terribly Strange Bed.
  • One Degree of Separation: In I Say "No", Emily keeps bumping into characters who turn out to have knowledge of her father's mysterious death. It's understandable that her aunt and her aunt's servant would, but more of a Contrived Coincidence when it comes to the new teacher at her school, the servants at the house where she happens to get a job as a secretary, or the preacher whom her best friend coincidentally meets while on holiday in Switzerland.
  • One-Steve Limit: The aversion is a big plot point in Armadale, which features five different characters named Allan Armadale: the "original" Allan Armadale, uncle of the one, father of the other Allan Armadale of the older generation of Armadales, who disowned the son to make the nephew his heir, starting the feud.
  • The Ophelia: Simple Sally in The Fallen Leaves, though her mental health improves once she's rescued from her life as a prostitute.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The entire plot of I Say "No" runs on people not telling Emily the truth about her father's death, only for her to find out anyway and resent them for keeping her in the dark.
  • Prematurely Grey-Haired: Sarah Leeson in The Dead Secret, which we eventually learn was caused by the tragic death of her fiancé.
  • Private Detective: Old Sharon in My Lady's Money, a former lawyer who was struck off (we never learn the exact reason) and now makes his living finding things (and people) that have disappeared.
  • Relationship Sabotage: In I Say "No", Francine tries to push Emily and Mirabel apart (combined with trying to get Emily and Alban together) so she can have Mirabel for herself. Her clumsy efforts end up having the opposite effect.
  • Schmuck Bait: In The Dead Secret, Mrs Jazeph warns Rosamond: "When you go to Porthgenna, keep out of the Myrtle Room." Rosamond promptly decides that the moment they find out where the Myrtle Room is, she'll go straight there.
  • Spoiled Brat: Francine in I Say "No" comes from a well-off family, but her selfish attitude does her no favours.
  • Sudden Name Change: In the Project Gutenberg text of The Haunted Hotel, Lord Montbarry's eldest daughter's name changes from Lucy to Marian between chapters. The same slip is present in the French edition.
  • Taking the Veil: At the end of I Say "No", Francine, rejected by her family, has entered a convent, though the characters discussing this are doubtful whether she'll stay there.
  • Tap on the Head: The aversion is a major plot point in Poor Miss Finch — Oscar is left with serious long-term consequences after being knocked out by a gang of burglars.
  • Third-Person Person: Selina "Jicks" Finch in Poor Miss Finch — being only three years old, she hasn't yet got the hang of pronouns.
  • This Is Reality: In I Say "No", Emily, intent on investigating her father's murder, tries to learn detection by reading every true crime account and detective story she can get hold of. She concludes that if she, an untrained young woman, tried to behave like a professional detective, she'd quickly end up dead or worse.
  • Tomboy: Rosamond in The Dead Secret, in her younger days. The vicar's young son describes her as "the only girl I ever saw who was fit to play with boys."
  • Twin Switch: In Poor Miss Finch. Miss Finch is engaged to Oscar, but his twin brother Nugent poses as Oscar in the hope of marrying her himself.
  • Twin Test: In Poor Miss Finch, the title character Lucilla Finch (who's blind) is challenged to tell the difference between her fiance Oscar and his twin brother Nugent. This becomes a crucial plot point later in the story when Nugent tries to marry Lucilla under the guise that he's actually Oscar. She finds she can do it by holding their hands:
    Lucilla: "When Oscar takes it, a delicious tingle runs from his hand into mine, and steals all over me. I can't describe it any better than that."
    Madame Pratolungo: "I understand. And when Nugent takes your hand, what do you feel?"
    Lucilla: "Nothing!"
  • Voodoo Doll: Francine de Sor in I Say "No" uses one to try to frighten a confession out of a servant.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Poor Miss Finch ends with one, set twelve years later than the main action of the book.
  • Writer on Board: A complaint about his later books. As Swinburne put it:
    What brought good Wilkie’s genius nigh perdition?
    Some demon whispered –“Wilkie, have a mission!”
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Collins seems to have been fond of this trope; Lydia Gwilt in Armadale and Captain Wragge in No Name are both excellent Xanatos Speed Chess players.

Alternative Title(s): William Wilkie Collins