William Collins, R.A.
The Memoirs was Collins's first published book, a biography of his
father published in 1848. It
was dedicated to Sir
Robert Peel, a valued patron of William
William Collins had always intended his biography to be written by his
son. The journal for 1 January
1844 records "As I think it quite possible that my dear son, William
Wilkie Collins, may be tempted...to furnish the world with a memoir of my
life, I purpose occasionally noting down some circumstances as leading points,
which may be useful."
The twenty-three year old Collins was at work on Antonina the
evening his father died on 16 February 1847.
He put the novel to one side, noting on the manuscript: "Thus far
have I written during my father's lifetime - This portion of Chapter 3rd was
composed on the last evening when he was alive."
As a mark of respect he left the remainder of the page blank, resuming
the story on 25 July 1848. In the
interval, Collins wrote the Memoirs in chronological fashion reaching
1815 by May 1847 and completing the book a year later.
The biography draws on William Collins's Journals, correspondence and
notes. Collins's introduction also
acknowledges the help of his father's friends and the literary advice of
Alaric A. Watts. The book gives
some insight into Wilkie's formative years while describing William Collins's
early struggles, his artistic career, his family and friends, and his travels
in England, Scotland and Europe. There
are also detailed descriptions of his paintings.
The Memoirs received generally good notices from the Observer,
the Athenaeum, Westminster Review and Blackwoods Magazine.
Maria Edgeworth praised the clear and unaffected style, and the absence of
eulogy. Walter de la Mare later
called it "a remarkable book...for its endearing loyalty and affection,
its modesty, insight, judgement, dignity, and quiet and sedate style."
For Wilkie Collins's correspondence with the American writer, R. H. Dana,
and the painter, George Richmond, see Parrish and Miller's Wilkie Collins
and Charles Reade, London 1940.
2 volumes, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London 1848.
Purple-brown cloth, covers blocked in blind, spines lettered in gilt,
cream end-papers. No half-titles.
Volume I has an engraved portrait of William Collins after Linnell and
illustrated title with vignette of The Shrimper's Return; volume II has
illustrated title with vignette of Visiting the Puppy.
Variant in grey-blue cloth with different blocking and lettering and the
illustrated titles in volumes I and II reversed.
Published in November 1848.
xii + 348 pp. 32
pp publishers' catalogue dated 29 April
1848 bound in at end
vi + 354 pp
The only other edition is a facsimile by E. P. Publishing, 1 volume, Wakefield 1978. Useful for its added index of names and places.
All material in these pages is © copyright Andrew Gasson 1998-2010