To T H French, 24 June 1876

ALS to Thomas Henry French dated Saturday 24 June 1876. Single sheet of book folded, laid paper 225x176mm. No watermark. Slight fawn stain on front and tiny holes on fold not affecting text. Some original, accidental blotting on last page, not affecting legibility.

The Public Face of Wilkie Collins III 132-133

"Miss Gwilt"

[90, Gloucester Place, 
Portman Square. W.]

Saturday. 24th June 1876

Dear Mr French,

Your kind letter 
of the 5th June has 
reached me.

You have no doubt 
already heard from 
your father that I had 
proposed to keep this 
piece in reserve, on 
the chance [of: del] that 
Miss Cavendish may 
go to the United States 
next year, and play  


"Miss Gwilt" herself. If, 
however, you receive a 
good offer from Mr Cheney 
(or, failing him, from any 
other responsible person) 
for the exclusive right 
to play the piece in 
America -- I am perfectly 
willing to sell it. The 
question of terms in 
such a case as this is 
a very difficult one to 
decide. It seems to 
me that I ought not 
to sell the entire right 
of playing the drama in 
America under $5000 
-- say one thousand pounds 
Sterling (1000). If your 
experience tells you that 
this is too high a price 
to ask in the States, then 
lower the demand to seven 
hundred and fifty (750) 
pounds Sterling. I 
leave this decision entirely 
to your discretion. In 
the meantime, it may 
be as well to settle 
matters, one way or 
the other, with Mr Cheney. 
If he makes an acceptable 
offer for the piece (on the 
terms which I have just 
mentioned) let him have 
it. If not, withdraw it 
~ from Mr Cheney's Theatre -- ~
/[del] -- either to hold it 
in reserve until next year, 
or to sell it to any other 
/respectable and/
[person: del] responsible person 
who may make a 
sufficient offer, and who 
will pay the money 
"in cash" (as we say in England).

These are the only 
instructions that I can 
now send to you. Let 
me have a line please 
to say that you have 
received my letter, and 
believe me, yours truly, 
Wilkie Collins
J.H.French Esqre.

The letter came with an envelope used for storage at French's New York office.

Samuel French & Son, Dramatic Publishers. 122 Nassau Street, N.Y., and 89 Strand, London All plays 15c each.--Send for Catalogue.


Thomas Henry French was the son of the theatrical publisher Samuel French who had offices in London and new York. Wilkie referred to Thomas as 'Mr French junior, my agent in New York.' (to Augustin Daly 22 September 1877).

Miss Gwilt, the dramatised version of Armadale, was first performed at the Alexandra Theatre Liverpool on 9 December 1875 Ada Cavendish starred as Miss Gwilt and Arthur Cecil as Dr Downward. Cecil wrote to John Palgrave Simpson just after the play opened in Liverpool 

"I have scored very distinctly in "Miss Gwilt". I had a heck of very hard work and considerable anxiety but have every reason to be more than satisfied with the result upon the audience and the newspapers. Wilkie Collins expresses himself very much pleased and I think he means it." 

On 16 December Wilkie wrote "I am so busy with making arrangements for performing the dramatised "Armadale" (Miss Gwilt") all over the civilised earth. The piece was produced at Liverpool on the 9th under my direction - and proved to be really an immense success."

The play opened in London at the Globe on 15 April 1876 to popular and critical acclaim and was a great financial success. Ada Cavendish did take the play to New York in 1878/9. 


Ada Cavendish

The exchange rate of the dollar to the pound was five to one, making a dollar worth four shillings. 

All material on these pages is Paul Lewis 1997-2005