William Wilkie Collins was born in London on January 8, 1824, the oldest son of a fashionable artist. He was named after Sir David Wilkie, a friend of the family.
After an early career in business, he studied law and was admitted to the bar, though he apparently never practiced. He also tried his hand at painting, and wrote many articles and stories that were published anonymously.
A biography of his father was his first major published work, the success of which encouraged him to write for a living. His first novel, a historical work called Antonina or The Fall of Rome, was published in 1850.
In 1851, Collins was introduced to Charles Dickens by a mutual friend. The two formed a lasting friendship, and worked together on Dickensâ€™s magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round, where many of Collinsâ€™s works appeared in serial form.
Collins was one of the pioneers of the mystery and suspense genre, and his most famous novels include The Woman in White and The Moonstone. The latter was mostly dictated while he was bed-ridden and suffering from gout. He died in 1889.