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The main incident on which the following story turns, is founded on a fact which many readers of these pages will probably recognize as having formed a subject of conversation, a few years back, among persons interested in Literature and Art. I have endeavored, in writing my little book, to keep the spirit of its title-page motto in view, and tell my "honest tale" as "plainly" as I could - or, in other words, as plainly as if I were only relating it to an audience of friends at my own fireside. - W. W. C.
William Wilkie Collins (1824 - 1889) was an English novelist, playwright and short story writer. His best-known works are The Woman in White (1859), No Name (1862), Armadale (1866) and The Moonstone (1868). The last is considered the first modern English detective novel. Born into the family of painter William Collins in London, he lived with his family in Italy and France as a child and learned French and Italian. After his first novel, Antonina, was published in 1850, he met Charles Dickens, who became a close friend, mentor and collaborator. Some of Collins's works were first published in Dickens' journals All the Year Round and Household Words and the two collaborated on drama and fiction. Collins was critical of the institution of marriage and never married; he split his time between Caroline Graves, except for a two-year separation, and his common-law wife Martha Rudd, with whom he had three children.