Charles Allston Collins

Charles Allston Collins (1828-1873) was an artist and author, more talented at the former though not particularly successful at either. On Tuesday 17 July 1860 he married Charles Dickens's daughter Kate and he was a regular visitor to Dickens's home at Gad's Hill Place near Rochester in Kent. He was there in October 1869 when he wrote this letter to the American James T Fields, a partner in the publishing firm Ticknor & Fields and editor of Atlantic Monthly.

[Blue embossed address in gothic face]
Gad's Hill Place
Higham by Rochester, Kent.

October 13. 1869

Dear Fields

           Many thanks for the
cheque (in payment for my article
On Accident) safely received Oct 12th.
          The remembrance of our meeting
here will always will always [sic] be
among my pleasantest recollections and
I most sincerely hope that neither
you nor Mrs Fields will be able
long to rest contented on the other

GadsA.JPG - 36Kb
GadsB.JPG - 26Kbside of the Atlantic. So I say
au revoir rather than Good bye.

always very sincerely yours

Charles Allston Collins

James Thomas Fields was the editor of Atlantic Monthly from 1861 to 1871. He was in Europe in 1869 - Dickens wrote inviting him on 9 April - and after touring round London with Dickens he arrived at Gad's Hill Place, as his guest on June 2. Fields and his wife stayed for a few days, taking trips into the countryside and enjoying a large dinner party with so many guests some had to be accommodated in the inn over the road.

Fields returned to Gad's Hill in October "Once more we recall a morning at Gad's Hill, a soft white haze over everything, and the yellow sun burning through. The birds were singing, and beauty and calm pervaded the whole scene" (1). It is likely that this letter refers to that visit rather than the one in June. The piece referred to in the letter as 'On Accident' was in fact published in Atlantic Monthly as 'The Value of Accident' in February 1870 (2). It is a dull and derivative piece about the part played by serendipity in everyday lives and great discoveries.

It could be that Charles sold Fields the idea in June, gave him the manuscript in October and received the cheque once Fields had returned to Boston, or possibly just to London. The former would place Fields's visit as Sunday 3 October 1869 - Fields confirms it was Sunday when he awoke there. The latter could make it Sunday 10 October. Charles's brother Wilkie Collins had contributed a story to the sixth issue of Atlantic Monthly in April 1858 (3).

Charles was back in London by Saturday 23 October. Wilkie wrote on Monday 25 October to his friend Frederick Lehmann "I had a day at Gadshill a little while since. Only the family. Very harmonious and pleasant - except Dickens's bath, which dripped behind the head of my bed all night...Charley and Katey are back in town. Charley dined here yesterday - [no] Saturday. He is very fairly well."

(1) James T Fields Yesterdays with Authors, Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, London 1872, pp208ff, p228
(2) Atlantic Monthly XXV, February 1870 pp172-178
(3) 'Who is the Thief' Atlantic Monthly I No.6 April 1858 pp706-722
(4) M A DeWolfe The Atlantic Monthly and its Makers Boston 1919

21 April 1999
CAC Letter version 1.5 adding material and making corrections

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