To Sir James Emerson Tennent. 6 February 1862

ALS to Sir James Emerson Tennent. Folded single sheet of laid paper watermarked J WHATMAN, 80x225mm. The address embossed but not inked, centred, 12. Harley St, W. 34 lines of ms text on pages 1 and 2. Pages 3 and 4 blank. Dated [Thursday] 6 February 1862.

The Public Face of Wilkie Collins I 256


Transcript   Go to commentary on letter.

[embossed address] 
12, Harley Street, W.

       Feby 6th 1862
My dear Sir Emerson,
                 If, after opening
this letter, you look at
your left arm, and find
written on it in flaming
letters : --- "Collins is
a Humbug " --- I shall
be grieved but not surprised.
Improbable as it seems,
it is really the plain
truth that the adjourned
dinner finds me again
engaged. On Wednesday
the 12th, I must be
in Regents Park Terrace
(with an appetite and white cravat)
at seven o'clock --- so
there is no hope for me
in the direction of Curzon
Street. I can only thank
you for giving me
this second chance, and
regret that it does not
                   or other
happen on one / of the only
two free evenings which
my memorandum book
leaves at my disposal for
the next fortnight.
    Believe me
            Dear Sir Emerson
    Very truly yours
            Wilkie Collins
Sir James Emerson Tennent

The envelope, 124x80mm
recto Penny red stamp, sheet letters F B. Postmarked LONDON Z FE 6 62 with another cancelling stamp possibly W 14. 
verso Trade name BOOTH, 307, REGENT STREET. W. embossed on left angle of opening. Embossed pattern of roses at centre of folding flap, secured at centre only and torn.

Sir James Emerson Tennent
          "          "          "
   66. Warwick Square
          Pimlico      S.W.

There are traces of a fingerprint by the stamp and another fainter one by the postmark. These presumably were made by whoever stuck on the stamp with the glue that was then used. They could be Wilkie's or those of one of his servants.

Sir James Emerson Tennent bt. (1804-1869) was a traveller, a barrister and MP who supported Peel - one of Wilkie's father's patrons. Collins first met him during his trip to Europe with Charles Dickens and Augustus Egg in 1853. Dickens recalls their meeting on the boat to Genoa, remarking that Sir James and his wife and two children were travelling without servants "which is odd for people of their condition" (to his wife Catherine 4 November 1853). Collins records his meeting with Tennent in a letter to his brother Charles from Rome on 13 November 1853.

"The first day after our arrival [at Naples] we went to Pompei with Sir Emerson Tennent and his family - friends of Dickens's, whom we met on board the steam boat, and very delightful people."

Tennent was a friend of Dickens who dedicated Our Mutual Friend to him. Dickens wrote a similarly abject letter to him on 26 August 1864 for breaking an appointment. Tennent wrote several books himself and contributed at least one item to All The Year Round 'Killing of Dr. Parkman', XIX 14 Dec 1867 pp.9-16.

One of Collins's engagements in that fortnight was dinner the next day, Friday 7th, with Dickens, Thomas Beard, and John Forster to celebrate Dickens's 50th birthday which he had chosen to spend with friends rather than his family (see Dickens to Beard 1 February 1862). The meal was at Verey's restaurant in Regent Street. Another was on Wednesday 19th with Dickens, the artist Clarkson Stanfield, and William Henry Wills, the sub-editor of All The Year Round (see Dickens to Clarkson Stanfield 12 February 1862). Collins's reference to his engagement on Wednesday the 12th in Regent's Park Terrace could also have be with W H Wills, who lived at number 22. The Curzon Street event to which Tennent invited him has not been identified.

At this time Wilkie was writing No Name for All The Year Round. It began serialisation on 15 March but Collins had already finished volume I and had probably just decided on the title at a late night meeting with Dickens and Wills (and possibly John Forster) - see 'The Naming of No Name' by Virginia Blain in Wilkie Collins Society Journal, 1984 IV pp25-29.

Collins lived at 12 Harley Street from early in 1860 to the end of 1864.

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