To John Palgrave Simpson, 5 July 1866

ALS to John Palgrave Simpson dated [Thursday] 5 July [1866], on plain laid paper 179x115mm watermarked JOYNSON 1865. The letter is tipped into an extra-illustrated edition of The Life of Dickens by Frank Marzials, London 1887 p114.

The Public Face of Wilkie Collins II 41


9. Melcombe Place 

Dorset Square N.W.

July 5

My dear Palgrave Simpson,


I am again! This

time, it is to ask a


       A friend of mine

has written an opera-

-book, at the request

of certain music sellers

who commissioned him

to produce the work, [del]

who have received it, and

who have expressed themselves

perfectly satisfied with it.

The time has now come for the

[del] author to ask for his

price (a matter not hitherto settled /or even entered on, as I understand,/

between him, and the

music sellers); and the question

is what ought the demand

to be? The Libretto [del]

is in four acts – and the

author has only produced /one / other

work of the same sort [del]

, set to music, and performed

at a country “Festival.” I

am utterly ignorant in these

matters. [del] Can your


experience tell

me what is the average


price paid for /an English/ libretto in four

acts by the English music-sellers?

Or what is the average price

asked, by the average English

librettist? My friend is very

modest about his claims –

but he wants /to ask/ the fair remuneration

for a work executed on

commission, and received

by the person commissioning it.

          Forgive my troubling you

about this. I ought perhaps

to add that the musical

part of the enterprise (with

which my friend has nothing

to do) has broken down – and

that the sooner he sends in

his demand the better.



How did the Lighthouse

go off? Had you a good

audience? And did you

act to your own satisfaction?

Starving and physic are

helping me to get my foot

into an old patched boot

– but I am still feeling

the horrid depression which

gout and gout’s remedies

always produce.

Ever yours

Wilkie Collins




The friend was Frederick Enoch, poet and member of the staff of the publisher Smith, Elder, as a letter to him of the following day makes clear. The libretto in question has not been securely identified, but the other work referred to is the cantata The Bride of Dunkerron with words by Enoch set to music by Henry Smart, performed at the Birmingham Music Festival on 9 September 1864 – see the review in The Times of the following day, p.9c.

Palgrave Simpson was performing in Collins's play The Lighthouse which Collins had been unable to see due to his illness..

Collins was suffering - as he often did - from gout and had given up taking the standard remedy Colchicum, an extract of meadow saffron, because of the side effects of nausea and vomiting. He was probably now taking laudanum.

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