Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) is best known as the innovator of the English detective novel, whose sensational novels, plays, and short stories were hugely popular in the Victorian Era. Today, readers enjoy Collins' intricate and suspenseful plots, and his penetrating social commentary on the plight of women and domestic issues of the time. Unfortunately Collins suffered from rheumatic gout, for which he took the opiate laudanum, and which eventually led to paranoid delusions and the deterioration of his health. Basil was Collins' second novel, published in 1852, and touches on themes frequently found in Collins' work: marriage between differing social classes, betrayal, revenge and insanity. "Basil", a man of high station, falls in love with Margaret Sherwin, the daughter of a linen draper, and the year following their secret marriage is fraught with dramatic conflict. This psychologically penetrating story of love and loss is recognized today as one of, if not the, first sensation novels of the nineteenth century.
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