Online Encyclopedia

ROBERT COLLYER (1823— )

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 694 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ROBERT COLLYER (1823— ), American Unitarian clergy-man, was born in Keighley, Yorkshire, England, on the 8th of December 1823. At the age of eight he was compelled to leave school and support himself by work in a linen factory. He was naturally studious, however, and supplemented his scant schooling by night study. At fourteen he was apprenticed to a blacksmith, and for several years worked at this trade at Ilkley. In 1849 he became a local Methodist minister, and in the following year emigrated to the United States, where he obtained employment as a hammer maker at Shoemakersville, Pennsylvania. Here he soon began to preach on Sundays while still employed in the factory on week-days. His earnest, rugged, simple style of oratory made him extremely popular, and at once secured for him a wide reputation. His advocacy of anti-slavery principles, then frowned upon by the Methodist authorities, aroused opposition, and eventually resulted in his trial for heresy and the revocation of his licence. He continued, however, as an ' Michel Gerard was a popular Breton peasant deputy (see JACOBINS). 694 to contribute to Household Words, where After Dark (1856) and The Dead Secret (1857) ran serially. His great success was achieved in 186o with the publication of The Woman in White, which was first printed in All the Year Round. From that time he enjoyed as much popularity as any novelist of his day, No Name (1862), Armadale (1866), and The Moonstone, a capital detective story (1868), being among his most successful books. After The New Magdalen (1873) his ingenuity became gradually exhausted, and his later stories were little more than faint echoes of earlier successes. He died in Wimpole Street, London, on the 23rd of September 1889. Collins's gift was of the melodramatic order, and while many of his stories made excellent plays, several of them were actually reconstructed from pieces designed originally for stage production. But if his colours were occasionally crude and his methods violent, he was at least a master of situation and effect. His trick of telling a story through the mouths of different characters is sometimes irritatingly disconnected; but it had the merit of giving an air of actual evidence and reality to the elucidation of a mystery. He possessed in the highest degree the gift of absorbing interest; the turns and complexities of his plots are surprisingly ingenious, and many of his characters are not only real, but uncommon. Count Fosco in The Woman in White is perhaps his masterpiece; the character has been imitated again and again, but no imitation has ever attained to the subtlety and humour of the original.
End of Article: ROBERT COLLYER (1823— )
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