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Charles Allston Collins

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Published : 67 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 25/1/1828
Death : 9/4/1873
Views : 4020

Painter, writer. Studied at Royal Academy schools; became associated with Pre-Raphaelite painters, but was not a member of the Brotherhood. Exhibited at Royal Academy. After 1857, devoted himself almost entirely to writing. Art critic for the Echo (Boase); contributed to Macmillan's, Cornhill. Author of A Cruise upon Wheels, three works of fiction, and two other books. Collins married Dickens's daughter Kate in 1860. Dickens liked Collins but he had misgivings about the marriage; he doubted that Kate really loved CoIlins, and he was concerned about Collins's ill health. Dickens's apprehensions about Kate's being left a young widow became, after some years, so ill concealed that, according to Charles Fechter, they aroused the resentment of Collins's brother Wilkie and led to an estrangement between Wilkie and Dickens (Adrian, "A Note on the Dickens-Collins Friendship", Huntington Library Quarterly, February 1953). In 1857 CoIlins had appeared in one of Dickens's presentations of The Frozen Deep; in 1862, when Dickens was thinking of a trip to Australia, on which he would take along as secretary some man of literary pretensions", he wondered whether Collins would be an appropriate choice (to Forster, October 22 1862). In 1869 Collins designed the Edwin Drood cover illustration, which Dickens liked very much; his ill health made impossible his carrying out his intention of drawing the illustrations for the book itself.

Collins's first H.W. contribution is marked in the Office Book as "per W. Collins"; Wilkie Collins was at the time on the editorial staff. Collins's "Smallport Monte-Cristo" Dickens thought "very whimsical and good". He liked to look over Collins's contributions before they were set up in final form: "A very little erasure here and there, makes a considerable difference in his case", he wrote to Wills (October 18, 1858).

Collins contributed both fiction and non-fiction to A.Y.R., some of his stories appearing in the Christmas numbers. Dickens particularly liked the "Our Eye-Witness" sketches, which he urged Collins to continue. In a helpful letter of criticism to Collins, November 19 1859, Dickens pointed out the lack of coherence and ease in one of Collins's A.Y.R. contributions, the over-intrusion of a nonparticipating narrator, and the "want of touches of relief, and life, and truth"; he mentioned Collins's "correct and delicate observation" and his "excellent humour". (Saturday Review, October 4 1862, found in Collins's Cruise upon Wheels "a humour that forcibly recalls Mr. Dickens, perhaps all the more that it is frequently exaggerated and overdone"). Of Collins's books, A New Sentimental Journey, 1859; The Eye-Witness, 1860; and At the Bar, 1866, originally appeared in A.Y.R.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1973.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


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