A Rogue’s Life

By Wilkie Collins

            This is a book that can be acquired for nothing from sources such as amazon because its copyright has long expired. Collins said he wrote the short novel when he lived next to Charles Dickens and had a very happy life. The novel reflects this joy, but it also contains an interesting drama. Its humorous protagonist is a likeable scamp who was tossed out by his family because he insulted his grandmother by publically displaying a mocking caricature of her. He moved from job to job, never being successful in any of them. His adventures are generally funny. Two stand out. In one he painted fake paintings of famous masters such as Rembrandt until his employer was caught; although he saves him. In another, a much longer tale, he falls in with a clearly disreputable fake doctor called Dulcifer, and obvious play on the name Lucifer, falls in love with his daughter, and does things no reasonable person would do because he loves her.

It is certainly worth the money to read this tale; however the mocking tone of the description of the head thief of the painting counterfeits as a funny-speaking Jew is as insulting as Dickens’ portrayal of Fagan and Shakespeare’s description of Shylock.