William Wilkie Collins was the son of a successful painter, William Collins, and a cultured mother. With his parents and his younger brother, Charles, he spent his twelfth and thirteenth years on the Continent, mostly in Italy, looking at buildings and paintings with his father and becoming proficient in French and Italian.
Back in England, Collins was sent to a private school, where the prefect made him tell stories at night under threat of a cat-o’-nine-tails. He left school at seventeen and preferred being apprenticed to a firm of tea importers to continuing his education at Oxford or Cambridge. At work, he wrote stories instead of bills of lading and requested frequent long holidays, which he usually spent in...
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