Wilkie Collins was born in 1824 in London, the son of the landscape painter William Collins. He was educated at private schools in London and travelled in Italy for two years with his family. In 1846 he was called to the bar, but his real interest lay in writing. His first book, a memoir of his father published in 1848, was followed by a historical novel, Antonia: or, The Fall of Rome (1850), and Rambles Beyond Railways (1851) which detailed a walking tour in Cornwall. In 1851 Collins met Charles Dickens and began contributing to his literature periodicals, Household Words and All the Year Round. Together they wrote two melodramas, The Lighthouse (1855) and The Frozen Deep (1857). Collins’ own work consisted mainly of short stories and novels; these included Hide and Seek (1854), The Dead Secret (1857), The Woman in White (1860), Armadale (1866) and The Moonstone (1868). The 1860s saw him hone his craft as a master of suspense and mystery. Although Collins’ popularity remained high for the duration of his writing career, critically his later works were thought to be inferior. He was dogged by ill health towards the end of his life and was reportedly addicted to opium. He died in 1889 and his last novel, Blind Love (1890) was posthumously completed by Walter Besant.