After Dark is Wilkie Collins's first collection of six short stories, published in 1856. Collins provides a narrative framework, 'Leaves from Leah's Diary', set in 1827. Leah Kerby's husband,... More > William, is a poor travelling portrait-painter forced to abandon his profession for six months in order to save his sight. Leah realises that if she acts as amanuensis William can support them by turning author. This situation may have been prompted by a period of eye-trouble suffered by Collins's father. In the preface to After Dark, Collins also acknowledges the painter W. S. Herrick as his source for the facts on which 'A Terribly Strange Bed' and 'The Yellow Mask' are based.< Less
The Dead Alive" is told in the first person by an English attorney, Mr Lefrank. He has just been advised by his doctor that he is headed for a complete breakdown from the strain of over... More > work and needs a long rest away from his current environment. At first he dismisses the advice but after suffering severe confusions while in court he comes to realize he does need a rest. He has a distant relative in America, in New York State, whom he has never met but who has told him he is welcome at his farm.
The first idea of this little story was suggested to the author by a printed account of a trial which actually took place, early in the present century, in the United States... It may not be amiss to add, for the benefit of incredulous readers, that all the ''improbable events'' in the story are matters of fact, taken from the printed narrative. Anything which ''looks like truth'' is, in nine cases out of ten, the invention of the author.
Antonina was Collins's first published novel, it was written in a laborious, deliberately florid style using detail from Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and modelled on Bulwer-Lytton's... More > The Last Days of Pompeii (1834). The plot is challenging, with many passages reading like a cross between a guide book to ancient Rome (based on Collins's visit in 1837) and a description of his father's paintings. The story begins in the Rome of 408 AD, where the young Antonina lives with her father Numerian, zealous in his aims to restore the Christian faith to its former ideals. Numerian's steward, Ulpius, brought up in the old religion, secretly lives only to restore the forbidden gods of pagan sacrifice. Vetranio, their wealthy neighbour, has designs on the innocent Antonina. When they are surprised by Numerian in an apparently compromising situation, Antonina flees outside the city walls just before Rome is blockaded by the encircling army of the Goths< Less