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Creator / Wilkie Collins

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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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'.
  • 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.
  • Murphy's Bed: In A Terribly Strange Bed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Scrooge: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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


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