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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

'Our Words Are Giants'

“Our words are giants when they do us an injury, and dwarfs when they do us a service.”Willkie Collins

Born in London on this date in 1824, Collins was a novelist, playwright and short story writer best known for The Woman in White and The Moonstone, often called called the first modern English detective novel.

Collins grew up being groomed for the clergy, but by the time he was in secondary school he was more interested in the law, for which he studied and eventually passed the bar.  While he never practiced law, his knowledge of it stood him in great stead in his writing, particularly for his detective stories.

Collins was a close friend of fellow writer Charles Dickens.  They collaborated on several works, especially for the stage.  After touring with Dickens’ Theatrical Company as an actor, Collins’ wrote his first play, “The Lighthouse,” which was popularized by Dickens’ company.  In the late 1860s, the pair co-wrote “No Thoroughfare,” one of the most popular shows on the British stage at the time.
          His so-called “sensation” novels – precursors to modern detective and suspense genres – established him among the era’s most popular writers.  A crusader on behalf of many social and domestic issues, Collins used this writing celebrity to advocate for reform, cloaking hard-hitting suggestions within his compelling stories.

“I say what other people only think,” he said.  “And when all the rest of the world is in a conspiracy to accept the mask for the true face, mine is the rash hand that tears off the plump pasteboard, and shows the bare bones beneath.”

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