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. "Armadale" is a semi-epistolary novel that was serialized in the 1860s, published as a novel in 1866. Although the book was popular, and sold for much more than similar works of the time, it was ultimately a financial failure for Collins and his publishers. The intricate story recounts the lives and relationships of two Allan Armadales, cousins who are seemingly destined to suffer for the sins of their fathers, the villainous Lydia Gwilt, a beautiful but fortune-hungry governess, and a slew of other dramatic and entertaining characters.