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The last Romantic

Prolific and reclusive, Peter Ackroyd is the master of England’s myths

By DJ Taylor   March 2012

The most extraordinary thing about Wilkie Collins, the latest addition to Peter Ackroyd’s series of Brief Lives, is the groaning “By the same author” column that adjoins its title page. Here, in a space measuring six inches by four, using one of the smallest typefaces known to print, some compositor has managed to squeeze no fewer than 31 items. Most varieties of the modern literary experience are represented: a heap of novels; fat biographies; buxom historical travelogues; selected journalism winched up from the vault. Yet the mark of this altogether heroic effort in bibliography is its incompleteness. No sign of…

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