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A Rogue's Life

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  531 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Excerpt from La Vida de un Perillan
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Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at
This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections p
Audio CD, 5 pages
Published by Blackstone Audio (first published 1856)
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Guillermo Macbeth
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Magnífico libro. Wilkie Collins era un bribón. Amigo de parranda de otro gran bribón, Charles Dickens. Estas confesiones son geniales porque están escritas con un pulso anímico lleno de energía, elegancia y astucia. El estilo en este libro deriva del contenido. Es puro carisma. Los episodios que narra son insólitos, excesivos, geniales. Sólo en la era victoriana era posible un libro tan divertido. Para tomarle el pelo a la mojigatería se necesita primero que haya mojigatería. Es cierto que no co ...more
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best things about working in a big public library is that you get the long view on things, and explore the vast backlist of great stories. This novella from 1856 is just the kind of lost treasure I love to stumble upon. It tells of the varied misadventures of one Frank Softly, the son of the good Doctor Softly and the black sheep of his family. From fame as a caricaturist to debtor’s prison to work as a forger, and on through a mounting series of glorious failures in various walks of ...more
Avel Rudenko
Aug 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a charming and very readable novel written in the mid 19th century by a contemporary of Charles Darwin. Written around the time of Voltaire's Candide and Flaubert's A Sentimental Education, this novel also mixes the adventure and unexpected turns of a picaresque work with the protagonist being from a mildly upper class lineage. Like those others, A Rogue's Life trades on the main character's one foot in the noble's world and one foot in the workingman/adventurer's world to shed light on ...more
I realize that a tale being picaresque de facto means that there is rarely a point or shape to the narrative, but the whole forgery part of the tale went on way too long. Despite being a novella, it still seemed interminable.
I have loved pretty much every Wilkie Collins book I've read like The Moonstone, The Woman in White, and even No Name...until this one. I mean, it wasn't bad, but compared to his other books it really didn't hold my interest. That's what I loved so much about The Woman in White in particular. The Woman in White is a long book but it was a pageturner because I was so eager to see what would happen next. A Rogue's Life was much more leisurely and at times, dare I say it, boring.

There were definit
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
Frank Softly is a Rogue. Refusing to follow in his father's footsteps and become a doctor, he has tried out a number of different careers since leaving school – and failed at them all. However, he remains optimistic and sees each failure as an opportunity to make a fresh start. Even when he is sent to a debtors’ prison he simply asks himself, "What of that? Who am I that I should object to being in prison, when so many of the royal personages and illustrious characters of history have been there ...more
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Introductory words:
The critical reader may possibly notice a tone of almost boisterous gayety in certain parts of these imaginary Confessions. I can only plead, in defense, that the story offers the faithful reflection of a very happy time in my past life. It was written at Paris, when I had Charles Dickens for a near neighbor and a daily companion, and when my leisure hours were joyously passed with many other friends, all associated with literature
Aug 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Paolo Nutini
Shelves: fiction

A slight and comical picaresque. The young rogue, Frank Softly, comes from vaguely aristocratic stock but also has relatives in the trades and a physician father. He has an exceedingly difficult time earning a living. After a stint in debtors prison, he sells caricatures and paints fake Old Masters before a buyer of one of his Rembrandts threatens a lawsuit. He falls in love with a mysterious woman and is roped into working for her father's criminal enterprise, currency counterfeiting. That stor
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a real hoot, and well titled. The guy really is a rogue, but he has such an optimistic outlook that he's really charming. I'd not like to rely on him in a crisis, but then, I don't have to.

Again, Collins's sympathies with his characters are so strong and his style so conversational that I found this book a thorough joy. It seems that Moonstone started me off on a Collins kick. There are many worse places to be.
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this was one of the funniest novels I've ever read. I wasn't expecting that from Collins, whom I mostly know as the author of early detective novels. But it's a laugh-out-loud funny read, a brief and enjoyable picaresque tell of a rogue who is not entirely bad, but not entirely good, either. After falling hard for the daughter of a counterfeiter, after enduring many scandals and adventures which bring him perilously close to the prison or the gallows, ...more
Nov 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, book-group
I was looking forward to reading this, having really enjoyed The Woman in White a couple of years ago. This is a much lighter piece, but quite entertaining. There is lots of humour in the first half, but much less in the second. It’s almost as if Collins changed his mind about how he was trying to present the story. As an adventure/romance it succeeds and is very easy to read. However, I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to Collins – go to the Woman in White for that!
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the main character, Frank, very charming and this short novel was a fun read. Frank idly wanders from one profession to another before falling in love with Alicia Dulcifer and attempting to ingratiate himself with her father to win Alicia's hand. Along the way he learns that Dr. Dulcifer's activities may not be completely on the up and up and finds himself pulled deeper into trouble than he ever imagined. A very enjoyable read with fun characters and good plot twists.
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lively, humorous, and sometimes suspenseful first person account of a young man trying to find his way in life. It has romance, treachery, and a wee bit of violence. It’s a fun, fast read. Originally published in 1879. I listened to this as a free download from
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good romp. Laughed out loud a few times!
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A surprisingly entertaining read from 1856.
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick fun read very entertainingly written. I liked it a lot better than I did either The Moonstone or The Woman in White.
Clever, well-written fun.
Perry Whitford
Frank Softly is not so much of a rogue, more the lovelorn suitor of the daughter of a rogue.

First published periodically in Dickens's Household Words this is an early and entirely average outing from Collins. A second part was planned but never written. That tells you all you need to know really. Wilkie went on to write much more interesting stuff soon after when he all but invented the detective novel. There are some genuine rogues in The Lady in White and The Moonstone.

Softly does commit art f
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
People who've read Collins can agree that this book stands nowhere near her other works. While it was a well written book, it lacked the ingenuity of Collins that comes out shining in her works like After Dark.

A good book but not one of her finest. Very simplistic and clichéd for Collins which is saying a lot for her other works in general.
A ROGUE’S LIFE. (1856). Wilkie Collins. ***.
This short novel by Collins was first serialized in “Household Words,” a magazine edited by Charles Dickens. The two authors were tight friends, and collaborated on several works. Collins is credited with having written the first detective novels, including “The Moonstone,” and “The Woman in White.” This work, written in the first person, is a semi-humorous account of the doings of Frank Softly, a young man of meager means – though from a highly respec
Ruby Bibi
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable and amusingly written story of a young man in late 19th Century England. His mother was from a titled family with no money, and his father was a doctor but they lived as high as their money would allow due to their position in society.
The young man, Frank Softly, was very cunning. Due to the lack of funds, though, he was forced to be a doctor, as his father. He had an artistic ability and, on the side, drew caricatures and became mildly in demand, but had to remain anonymous.
Nov 06, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tamra by: Deanna
Shelves: book-club
Book Club book.

It took me a while to get into the story, because it takes the author a while to get into the story. I swear, you could take out the first 5 chapters with very little lost. Some parts were particularly slow and kinda pointless (like the history of knock-off art), but they were short-lived.

After those first few chapters, the book was fun and cute and quick to read. The ending was especially good fun. I also appreciated the glimpse into English society at that time (Collins is a Di
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wilkie Collins, best known for his rambling master pieces "The Woman in White" and "The Moonstone," and for those who know their literary history, being one of Charles Dickens best friends, wrote a lot of books that no one reads anymore. Being eccentric, I once was obsessed with his work and collected quite a few of his books. Sadly, the lesser known and unknown works have probably deserved their lack of reputation.

However, there are pleasant surprises like this slim volume, at best a novella.
Jason Furman
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, novella, classic
This early novella by Wilkie Collins is a picaresque story of a young many from a good family who goes through a series of professions, from publishing anonymous caricatures of his unwitting friends to forging old masters to counterfeiting. His family isn't exactly blameless either: in a typical Collins device, a will leaves money to the rogue's sister and brother-in-law only if he outlasts his grandmother -- which becomes their motivation for checking in on the rogue every now and then.

The pica
Robert Hepple
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short novel dating back to 1856, sometimes referred to as a novella. The main character is a lazy sponger who slips into criminal activities without too much trouble. Set possibly around the 1820s in Britain, the story has the main character lurching from one crisis to another, but he remains likeable throughout. He even becomes involved in the manufacture of counterfeit coins, which Collins would have us believe was a capital offence at that time. The publisher must have a sense of humour - t ...more
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I smiled much of the time while reading this book. I love the fact that it was written over 150 years ago and can still bring delight to me and to others!

Frank Softly is a rogue but only once does he actually do physical harm to someone. And when someone does physical harm to him, he takes it as a good lesson learned.

The story even has a happy and unambiguous ending--unlike several contemporary novels I have been reading lately.

I looked up Collins' other books but thought 500 pages or so of th
It's been some time since I read a Wilkie Collins novel, and I had forgotten how much Collins enjoys telling his stories through the voices of his characters. Not all of his novels use this tactic, but in this one the voice and viewpoint of the narrator, Frank Softly, provide much of the interest, most especially in the first half of the novel. In the second half, the plot takes over and sweeps a reader along. Perhaps there's a bit of a disconnect: the Frank Softly whom Collins substantiates in ...more
Apr 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really love the voice Wilkie Collins uses in his writing. It's so chipper and upbeat, and just makes you want to smile. This one was particularly fun, as it was written from the perspective of the 'rogue', ie a young man with not a lot of direction who has disappointed his family and gets into lots of scrapes, and one big misadventure.

It made a lot of sense when I realized that it was originally written in segments for Charles Dickens's periodical.

My favorite part was the ending, when he confe
Jun 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd never read anything by Wilkie Collins and when I saw the audiobook on the library shelf I figured I'd give it a try. The fact that it is a pretty short book didn't hurt. It was entertaining, though not wildly so. Basically the antihero/narrator is (as the title suggests) a rogue. Educated as a doctor, he finds respectability not to his taste and wants to live a life of ease and dissipation until he finds True Love. Actually he still doesn't really want to change his ways, but the law catches ...more
Bill Cavanagh
I did not think that this was Collins at his best but like all his books it was strangely endearing once you got into it. It was made up of several separate incidents in the 'rogue's' life which were in most respects unconnected. It only engaged me completely when when he got into cahoots with his future wife's father. The ending was a bit abrupt and it might have been interesting to extend the story to cover more of his time in Australia.
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Around the Year i...: A Rogue's Life, by Wilkie Collins 3 11 Oct 27, 2016 11:58PM  
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A close friend of Charles Dickens from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William Wilkie Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens' bloomed.

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