When the two writers first met in 1851, their friendship evolved out of a mutual interest in drama. Dickens, who had already published eight novels and was established as one of the greatest Victorian novelists, continually encouraged Collins to write and eventually requested that Collins join the staff of Dickens’ journal Household Words in 1856 (Phillips 109-11).
In addition to offering suggestions for improvements for Collins’ works and serving as his editor, however, Dickens held tremendous admiration for his understudy. In a letter to Collins after the publication of No Name, Dickens expressed his esteem for Collins when he wrote, “I find it wonderfully fine. […] I was certain from the Basil days that you were the Writer who would come ahead of all the Field” (qt. in Phillips 129).
I intend to examine, therefore, that the literary influence of these two writers was not unilateral. when studying Dickens’ later works such as Our Mutual Friend and comparing them with previous works such as The Pickwick Papers, one notices a significant change in Dickens’ style. Whereas his earlier works are meritorious mostly for his strength of character portrayals, the latter novels place more emphasis on plot development. This thesis will argue that this shift in Dickens’ style was a direct result of his friendship and collaboration with Collins, who was known as “the master of plot and situation” (Eliot 308).
As the almost insurmountable volume of Dickens scholarship proves, most scholars consider him the greatest of all Victorian writers. Interest in Wilkie Collins’ works is comparably minute. however, these two novelists are often studied side by side in the context of the development of the Victorian novel. Walter Clarke Phillips, in his book Dickens, Reade, and Collins: Sensation Novelists, discusses the direct impact of the rise in serialized journals to the advent of the Sensation Novel in Victorian England.