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Wilkie Collins photograph by Sarony of New York.


Mutually Assured Destruction

I begin to believe in only one civilising influence – the discovery one of these days, of a destructive agent so terrible that War shall mean annihilation, and men’s fears shall force them to keep the peace.  The Letters of Wilkie Collins. (7 August 1870)  

He not only believes in The Philosopher’s Stone; he says he is on the trace of some explosive compound so terrifically destructive in its effect, that it will make war impossible.  Jezebel’s Daughter (1880) 

One report says that he is trying to find a way of turning common metals into gold.  Another declares that he is inventing some explosive compound, so horribly destructive that it will put an end to war.  Heart and Science (1883)


Books and Writing

There are few higher, better, or more profitable enjoyments in this world than reading a good novel.  'A Petition to the Novel-Writers' (1856)

Books - the generous friends who met me without suspicion - the merciful master who never used me ill!  Armadale

Books are companionable creatures.  The Black Robe

People who read stories are said to have excitable brains.  Heart and Science

You are one of the most remarkable women England - you have never written a novel.  The Evil Genius.

If the public only knew that every writer worthy of the name is the severest critic of his own book before it ever gets into the hands of the reviewers, how surprised they would be!  The Black Robe

The man who has worked in the full fervour of composition yesterday is the same man who sits in severe and merciless judgement to-day on what he has himself produced.  The Black Robe

A very remarkable work... in the present state of light literature in England - a novel that actually tells a story... it has another extraordinary merit - it isn't written by a woman.  The Dead Secret



The present time is the precious time.  Live for the passing day: the passing day is all we can be sure of.  The Legacy of Cain

In all the thousands of times I have asked other people for advice, I never yet got the advice I wanted.  Armadale

It is the nature of Truth to struggle to the light.  Man and Wife

Life is a comedy to those who think, and a tragedy to those who feel.  Man and Wife

Vanity wants nothing but the motive power to develop into absolute wickedness.  Heart and Science

Have you ever heard of such a thing as the fascination of terror?  The Haunted Hotel

Ask yourself if there is any explanation of the mystery of your own life and death.  The Haunted Hotel

The greatest of all virtues is - Patience.  The Fallen Leaves

True remorse depends, to my mind, on a man's accurate knowledge of his own motives.  The Black Robe

The actions of human beings are not invariably governed by the laws of pure reason.  The Law and the Lady

The hardest disease to cure that I know of is - worry.  'I Say No'

The worst curse of human life is the detestable necessity of taking exercise. 'I Say No'

I was wondering ... whether there is such a thing as chance.  Armadale

Time possesses nothing but the negative virtue of helping to wear itself out.  The Dead Secret

Blindness is never bashful, for the one simple reason that that blindness cannot see.   Poor Miss Finch

It is the grand misfortune of my life that nobody will let me alone.  (Mr Fairlie in The Woman in White)


The Law and Justice

But then I am a lawyer, and my business is to make a fuss about triflesThe Law and the Lady

The men who rise in the law are the men who decline to take No for an answer.  Armadale

Fell headlong into the bottomless abyss of the English Law.  Armadale

Every human institution (Justice included) will stretch a little, if you only pull it the right way.   The Moonstone

Always distrust a man's last wishes on his death-bed  -  unless they are communicated to his lawyer, and expressed in his will.  Jezebel's Daughter


Crime and Detection

Suspect, in this case, the very last person on whom suspicion could possibly fall.  'My Lady's Money'

Reckoned up is, if you please, detective English for being watched.  The Evil Genius

Sand - in respect of its printing off of people's footsteps - is one of the best detective officers I know of.  The Moonstone

Doors and listeners have a knack of getting together.  The Moonstone

There are foolish criminals who are discovered, and wise criminals who escape.  The hiding of a crime, or the detection of a crime, what is it?  A trial of skill between the police on one side, and the individual on the other. When the criminal is a brutal, ignorant fool, the police, in nine cases out of ten, win.  When the criminal is a resolute, educated, highly-intelligent man, the police, in nine cases out of ten, lose.  The Woman in White


Money and Finance

I am not rich enough to care about money.  Poor Miss Finch

What right has anyone to be rich?  Poor Miss Finch

A governess is a lady who is not rich...and a Duchess is a lady who is not poor.  Armadale

Rosanna Spearman had been a thief, and not being the sort that get up Companies in the City, and rob from thousands, instead of only robbing from one, the law laid hold of her.  The Moonstone

Reckless speculation which is, so to speak, the national sin of the United StatesPoor Miss Finch

I thought a contract was the sort of thing a builder signs, when he promises to have the workman out of the house in a given time, and when the time comes (as my poor mother used to say) the workmen never go.  Armadale

Doctors and Medicine

The doctor who is not honest enough to confess it when he is puzzled, is a well-known member of the medical profession in all countries.  Jezebel's Daughter

The doctors had no immediate fear of his death.  He proved the doctors to be mistaken, and took the liberty of dying at a time when they all declared that there was every hope of his recovery.  Jezebel's Daughter

He is at the head of his profession.....- and he knows no more about it than I do.  The great physician has just gone away with two guineas in his pocket.  One guinea for advising me to keep her quiet; another guinea for telling me to trust to time.....  The New Magdalen  

The medical profession thrives on two incurable diseases in these modern days - a He-disease and a She-disease.  She disease - nervous depression;  He-disease - suppressed gout.  Remedies, one guinea if you go to the doctor; two guineas if the doctor goes to you.  The New Magdalen



When you say No to a Woman, Sir, always say it in one word.  If you give her reasons, she invariably believes that you mean Yes.  Armadale

A woman's courage rises with the greatness of the emergency.  The New Magdalen  

No sensible man ever engages, unprepared, in a fencing match of words with a woman.  The Woman in White

A drop of tea is to a woman's tongue what a drop of oil is to a wasting lampThe Moonstone 

The grand secret, in dealing with a woman, is to take her as you take a cat, by the scruff of the neckMan and Wife

In one respect, men are all alike; they hate to see a woman in tears.  The Evil Genius

Modestly looking down at the ample prospect of a personal nature which presented itself below her throat. The Evil Genius

Time, animals, and buildings wear out with years, and submit to their hard lot.  Time only meets with flat contradiction when he ventures to tell a woman that she is growing old.  The Evil Genius

A woman who can't talk and a woman who can cook, is simply a woman who has arrived at absolute perfection.  Man and Wife

After a child or two, that sort runs to fat, and you find you have married more of her than you bargained forThe Fallen Leaves

When there's a rash thing to be done by a man and a woman together, sir, philosophers have remarked that it's always the woman who leads the way.  The Fallen Leaves

Only give a woman love, and there is nothing she will not venture, suffer, and do.  The Law and the Lady

Did you ever know a woman who could resist looking out of a window?  The Law and the Lady

All women have a claim on us.  The Law and the Lady


Food and Drink

My business in this world is to eat, drink, sleep, and die.  Everything else is superfluity - and I have done without it.  The Dead Secret

Whatever happens in a house, robbery or murder, it doesn't matter, you must have your breakfast.   The Moonstone

At my age...nothing is serious except indigestion.  Man and Wife

A man who eats a plain joint is only one remove from a cannibal - or a butcher.  The Law and the Lady

Properly pursued, the Art of Cookery allows of no divided attentionThe Law and the Lady

Cooked to a degree of imperfection only attained in an English kitchen.  Blind Love 

Culpably deficient in gastronomic enthusiasm.  Antonina


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