A biography of Victorian "Sensation" novelist Wilkie Collins, author of "The Woman in White" and "The Moonstone". The author has drawn on many of Collins' unpublished letters and has also studied the manuscripts of his novels, plays and stories, including those which he did not complete.
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``All his life, Wilkie Collins was haunted by a second self,'' begins this briskly authoritative portrait of the greatest of all the Victorian sensationalists--and British academic Peters (Thackeray's Universe, 1987--not reviewed) convincingly applies her thesis both to Collins's life and his work. Certainly Collins's notorious private life invites the revisionary interpretation Peters shares with W. M. Clarke's Secret Life of Wilkie Collins (1991--not reviewed) and William Palmer's novel The Detective and Mr. Dickens (1990). Unlike the properly bourgeois Dickens, who labored to keep his affair with Ellen Ternan secret, Collins lived openly for many years with his common-law wife Caroline Graves while carrying on an equally open liaison with the young servant Martha Rudd--and acknowledged the children of both women as his own. Peters traces Collins's scorn for the hypocrisy of Victorian social convention--he was a far more steadfast and consistent opponent of Podsnappery than Dickens--to an early infatuation with continental mores that, in his novels, is transformed into a fascination with the problem of personal identities thrown into question by doubles, dreams, hallucinations, and guilty secrets. Determined that his own ``other self'' should escape the trap of marriage and respectability, Collins rooted the sensational plots of his best novels, from The Woman in White to The Moonstone, in a closely observed critique of English prudery and provincialism that Peters aptly compares to the work of Balzac and Flaubert, ascribing the decline of Collins's later novels--which lack the ``mythic, fairy-tale quality'' of his earlier syntheses of melodramatic nightmares and social pathology--to the dating of his call for change, overtaken by spreading literacy and feminine empowerment. Peters persuasively recasts Collins's sensationalism as a prophetic social modernism that explains both his meteoric rise and his later decline. Seldom has a novelist so completely expressed, in both life and art, the contradictions of his moment. (Photographs) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.Review:
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1994
"[Collins] clearly relished performing his life, one minute as the well-known author Wilkie Collins, the next as 'Mr. William Dawson' holidaying in Ramsgate with Mrs. Dawson and the children. . . . Dealing with such an extraordinary life and such extraordinary fictions, most accounts of the artistic life would have no difficulty in presenting the one as simply a spill-over from the other. In this admirable biography, Catherine Peters resists such reductiveness."--Stephen Gill, The Times Literary Supplement
"[Collins's] oddity was increased by his addiction to opium, which he carried around with him in a silver hip-flask. 'All his life,' we learn from his present biographer, he was 'haunted by a second self,' by the idea that 'someone was standing behind him.' . . . Catherine Peters's book is crammed with interesting details."--Peter Quennell, The Evening Standard
"The first readable portrait of Collins as a human being."--Françoise Rivière, The European
"A wonderful case study in Victorian morals. . . . [Peters] offers a fascinating story, plainly told."--William St. Clair, Financial Times
"As intelligent and comprehensive account of [Collins's] work as we are ever likely to have."--Claire Tomalin, Independent on Sunday
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Descrizione libro Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1991. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. book. Codice libro della libreria 436367122
Descrizione libro Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1991. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. book. Codice libro della libreria 0436367122