To William Dickson, 7 March 1870

ALS to William Dickson on headed paper approx 190x132mm, slightly ragged round edge but no loss of text. The letter is tipped in to a copy of Memoirs of the Life of William Collins Esq., R.A. by Wilkie Collins.

The Public Face of Wilkie Collins II 173-174

90, Gloucester Place,
Portman Square. W.
March 1870

Dear Sir,

I find a picture of my fathers
bearing a similar title to the
title which you mention, thus
described in my published “Life
of Wm Collins RA” (Vol II. Appendix
Page 347).
“Date of Exhibition 1831. Picture: – A Nutting Party. Exhibited at The British Institution.
Purchased by The Revd R.A. Thorpe.
Price paid 150 Guineas.”
If this is the picture now in
your possession, it will probably
sell by auction for a far larger
price than the price originally given for it.
Messrs Christie and Manson of
London (King Street St James’s) are
the best auctioneers for the
purpose, if you decide to sell
the picture this way. You
have only to communicate with


them on the subject – satisfying
them of course of the genuineness
of the picture by stating how it
came into your hands – and
they will put it with one
of their Sales. If you
prefer to treat directly for
the sale of the picture, Messrs
Agnew of Manchester are
well known as great buyers
of modern pictures. In
your place, however, I should
sell the picture by auction –
putting a reserved price on
it which Messrs Christie and
Manson would be able to suggest
as fairly representing its present

Faithfully yours
Wilkie Collins

Wm Dickson Esqre



William Dickson was the brother-in-law of the Rev. R. A. Thorpe, who had purchased the picture from William Collins for 150 guineas.

WC writes in Memoirs :

‘Of the pictures at the British Institution, the largest was “The Nutting Party,” painted for the Rev. R. A. Thorpe; a rustic inland scene, with a fine group of children in the foreground’ (Memoirs I 344).

The painting was given to the Guildhall Art Gallery, London by Charles Gassiot in 1902 and it is sometimes exhibited there. Its label says "Collecting nuts in season was an important social activity. Despite the peaceful scene in this picture it was painted during a turbulent year of agitation against agricultural mechanisation and low pay for farm labourers." The picture still retains its original varnish and is more or less untouched by restorers.

The image on the Guildhall website is deliberately degraded with a large 'C' across the centre..

The picture is recorded in George Redford, Art Sales (2 vols, London, 1888), as sold by W. Dickson at Christie’s in 1870 for 900 guineas (£945), buyer Agnew. However, a note by Dickson found with the letter says: ‘The Nutting Party – painted for The Revd R. A. Thorpe for 150 gns & put up at Christies for sale & for which 900 guineas was bid, but it was bought in. – This I had the sale of – Mr. Thorpe was my Brother in Law – He gave it to his aunt Miss Jane Thorpe of Durham & it came under my control as her Administrator.’

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