Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wilkie-along Post I: Sympathetic treatment of strong, independent women

Right, we're going with "Wilkiealong" for this, cos all readalongs must have some sort of nickname?
Anyway, post the first (cos the other one was the intro and thus does not count) in this Wilkie Collins biography A Life of Sensation readalong, hosted by Alice, our fearless leader. Which, now that I'm thinking about the title, doesn't necessarily mean a "sensational life" so much as a life where things are sensed. Or at least that's another way to read it. You know, like smell or touch. Which is basically how all of us do this life thing. Wilkie included. And now I've said the word "sensation" so much to myself that it's lost meaning.

This is off to a great start.
Our biography of Wilkie Collins begins with his dad, and how William Collins was a painter. Not like, a super famous painter. Not even a particularly interesting one with crazy stories. Definitely not, like, the rock star of painters. More like...the accountant of painters.

Anyway, there's a good amount of boring stuff about his dad and I skimmed a lot of this because really, let's get to the Wilkie. Also there are multiple Williams and Wilkies (there's a David Wilkie and then Wilkie Wilkie whose name is actually William and was sometimes called that or Willie and staaahp) and Harriets in this early section and, past-people, could you PLEASE come up with some additional names? Variety is the spice of life.

Anyway, let's focus on Wilkie stuff:

  • Wilkie's head looks like that, likely cos of some issues during birth where some old-timey forceps were used. 
  • Wilkie's mom lacked an outlet for her creative spirit and suffered from "nerves". Wilkie would later "write sympathetically about women with anxiety disorders" so good on him.
  • The Collins family travelled to Italy for art, but then spent almost no time in Florence cos it was Christmas/New Years and stuff wasn't open and also it snowed a lot. You guys probably could have planned that better.
  • Wilkie may or may not have lost his virginity around age twelve to a "voluptuous Roman lady". Will this lead into his tastes later? 
  • While at school Wilkie is told that he can "tell a lie beautifully" and he seems to take this as a compliment, which does not appear to be how it was meant. But Wilkie is an optimist / hears what he wants to hear.
  • Wilkie was small for his age and the boys at school bullied him by making him tell them stories. I feel like some crucial detail is lost here, or bullying was very different back then.
  • Wilkie gets a job doing something with tea but the job is boring and leaves him time to write so good for us.
  • Wilkie travels around Europe a bit getting stuck in France twice and needing his mom to send him money so he can get home. Come on, Wilks
  • Wilkie decides he "does not take much interest in Matrimony". I mean, not that anyone was asking him to get married, but still. He takes a stance and he sticks with it.
  • Wilkie helps his 31 year-old friend elope with a 15 year-old (ewww). But DON'T WORRY, they weren't rushing into anything cos the "passion for each other had been clear for four years". You know, when he was 27 and she was 11. EW EW EW EW EW
  • Wilkie doesn't give out his books for free, not even to friends. In fact, when his publisher gave out a few free copies to Wilkie's friends, Wilkie said nuh uh, you gotta pay for those. No word if they actually did pony up or just gave him the book back.
Alright, there have been some treats here but I'm hoping for some more sensation in the next section. UNTIL NEXT WEEK!

Title quote from page 62

Lycett, Andrew. Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation. Windmill, 2013.