To Messrs. Harper & Brothers, 25 March 1861

ALS to Messrs. Harper & Brothers in New York, [Monday] 25 March 1861. Single sheet of cream laid paper, no legible watermark, 210x126mm, integral blank removed and traces of mounting in an album. Printed label ‘WILKIE COLLINS’ affixed under signature.

The Public Face of Wilkie Collins I 227

12. Harley Street, W
March 25th 1861

Dear Sirs,

This note will be
delivered to you by my
friend, Mr John Russell Buckler,
who is visiting America
for the first time, at this
critical period in the history
of the United States.

Although Mr Buckler's
journey is in no way
connected with literature,
and although his stay
in New York is not likely

to extend beyond a few days,
I give him this letter of
introduction to you, in the
event of his requiring any
information or advice while
in your city. Any
friendly assistance in this
way which you can render
to him, as a stranger, will

Dear Sirs,
yours faithfully
Wilkie Collins

Messrs Harper & Brothers



Harper & Brothers published much of Wilkie's work in the USA under a deal whereby they got early manuscript copies and could publish his books before the pirates who published cheap copies of English fiction as soon as a copy arrived in the USA. Many of his stories were published first in Harper's Weekly or Harper's New Monthly Magazine. In exchange for the early copy, they paid Wilkie for his work, which they had no obligation to do under the international copyright laws which then existed. 

Fletcher Harper (1806-1877)

James Harper (1795-1869)

The American Civil War was just beginning. Nine states had seceded from the Union, the Confederacy had held its own Congress, and two weeks before this letter was written, Southern forces had captured Fort Sumter in Charleston harbour. Note how Wilkie uses the precise phrase 'critical period in the history of the United States'.

John Russell Buckler, a wool broker of Gannicox House, Stroud, Gloucestershire was born around 1831. He was on a list of eight friends for whom Wilkie obtained tickets to a dinner on Saturday 2 November 1867 to say farewell to Dickens before his departure to the United States. Wilkie wrote to him on 3 July 1862 - The Public Face I 266. That letter makes it clear that he featured in No Name Third Scene, chapter 1 where Wilkie mentions an advert for 'Comfort in the Field. Buckler's Indestructible Hunting Breeches.'

All material on these pages is © Paul Lewis 1997-2005