Born into the family of painter William Collins in London, Wilkie 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 dramatic and fictional works.
My wife, in her impulsive way, forgot the formalities proper to the occasion, and kissed her at parting. At that one little act of sisterly sympathy, the fortitude which the poor creature had preserved all through the evening gave way in an instant. She burst into tears. I felt as fond of her and as sorry for her as my wife. But (unfortunately) I could not take my wife's privilege of kissing her. On our way downstairs, I found the opportunity of saying a cheering word to her husband as he accompanied us to the door. "Before I open this," I remarked, pointing to the portfolio under my arm, "my mind is made up, sir, about one thing. If I wasn't married already, I tell you this -- I should envy you your wife." He pointed to the portfolio in his turn. "Read what I have written there," he said; "and you will understand what those false friends of mine have made me suffer tonight." The next morning my wife and I opened the portfolio, and read the strange story of George Germaine's marriage.