Online Encyclopedia

WILLIAM WILKIE COLLINS (1824–1889)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 694 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
WILLIAM WILKIE COLLINS (1824–1889), English novelist, elder son of William Collins, R.A., the landscape painter, was born in London on the 8th of January 1824. He was educated at a private school in Highbury, and when only a small boy of twelve was taken by his parents to Italy, where the family lived for three years. On their return to England Wilkie Collins was articled to a firm in the tea trade, but four years later he abandoned that business for the law, and was entered at Lincoln's Inn in 1846, being called to the bar three years later. He found little pleasure in his new career, however; though what he learned in it was exceedingly valuable to him later. On his father's death in 1847 young Collins made his first essay in literature, publishing the Life of William Collins, in two volumes, in the following year. In 185o he put forth his first work of fiction, Antonina, or the Fall of Rome, which was clearly inspired by his life in Italy. Basil appeared in 1852, and Hide and Seek in 1854. About this time he made the acquaintance of Charles Dickens, and begat, tumult; but it was not until 1791 that he became a figure of importance. Then, however, by the publication of L'Almanach du Pere Gerard,' a little book setting forth, in homely style, the advantages of a constitutional monarchy, he suddenly acquired great popularity. His renown was soon increased by his active interference on behalf of the Swiss of the Chateau-Vieux Regiment, condemned to the galleys for mutiny at Nancy. His efforts resulted in their liberation; he went himself to Brest in search of them; and a civic feast was decreed on his behalf and theirs, which gave occasion for one of the few poems published during his life by Andre Chenier. But his opinions became more and more radical. He was a member of the Commune of Paris on the loth of August 1792, and was elected deputy for Paris to the Convention, where he was the first to demand the abolition of royalty (on the 21st of September 1792), and he voted the death of Louis XVI. " sans sursis." In the struggle between the Mountain and the Girondists he displayed great energy; and after the coup d'etat of the 31st of May 1793 he made himself conspicuous by his pitiless pursuit of the defeated party. In June he was made president of the Convention; and in September he was admitted to the Committee of Public Safety, on which he was very active. After having entrusted him with several missions, the Convention sent him, on the 3oth of October 1793, to Lyons to punish the revolt of that city. There he introduced the Terror in its most terrible form. In May 1794 an attempt was made to assassinate Collot; but it only increased his popularity, and this won him the hatred of Robespierre, against whom he took sides on the 9th Thermidor, when he presided over the Convention during a part of the session. During the Thermidorian reaction he was one of the first to be accused of complicity with the fallen leader, but was acquitted. Denounced a second time, he defended himself by pleading that he had acted for the cause of the Revolution, but was condemned with Barere and Billaud-Varenne to transportation to Cayenne (March 1795), where he died early in 1796. Collot d'Herbois wrote and adapted from the English and Spanish many plays, one of which, Le Paysan magistrat, kept the stage for several years. L'Almanach du Pere Gerard was reprinted under the title of Etrennes aux amis de la Constitution francaise, ou entretiens du Pere Gerard avec ses concitoyens (Paris, 1792). See F. A. Aulard, Les Orateurs de la Legislative et de la Convention (Paris, 1885–1886), t. ii. pp. 501-512. The principal documents relative to the trial of Collot d'Herbois, Barere and Billaud-Varenne are indicated in Aulard, Recueil des actes du comite de salut public, t. i. pp. 5 and 6.
End of Article: WILLIAM WILKIE COLLINS (1824–1889)
[back]
WILLIAM COLLINS (1787–1847)
[next]
COLLODION (from the Gr. &M a' , glue)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.