William Wilkie Collins was an English novelist, playwright, and author of short stories. He was hugely popular in his time and wrote 27 novels, more than 50 short stories, at least 15 plays, and over 100 pieces of non-fiction work. Collins was born in London, the son of a well-known Royal Academician landscape artist, William Collins. Named after his father, he swiftly became known by his second name (which honoured his godfather, David Wilkie). From the ages of 12-15 he lived with his parents in Italy, which made a great impression on him. At the age of 17 he left school and was apprenticed as a clerk to a firm of tea merchants, but after five unhappy years he entered Lincoln’s Inn to study law. After his father’s death in 1847, Collins produced his first published book, Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R.A. (1848), and also considered a career in painting, exhibiting a picture at the Royal Academy summer exhibition in 1849, but it was with the release of his first published novel, Antonina, in 1850 that his career as a writer began in earnest.