Public Face of Wilkie Collins published 2,987 letters of Wilkie Collins,
most of them for the first time.
These pages support and expand the published volumes with 84 items shown both in manuscript and line by line transcription. Some have supporting material and photographs.
More than 200 letters have been discovered since
Public Face of Wilkie Collins went to press. An annual Addenda and
Corrigenda has been published in the Wilkie Collins Society Journal
2005, 2006, and 2007 and also each year 2005 to 2011 as a separate pamphlet by the Wilkie Collins Society.
More than 3200 letters have now been identified.
As part of the preparations for a publicly available database of Wilkie
Collins's Collected Letters each letter is being assigned a number as it is
published. These are shown in the entries below. Recent
discoveries due to appear in Addenda and
Corrigenda (8) do not have a number as that will be assigned on printed publication.
They are denoted [A&C8]. Two items at the bottom of the list are numbered with four zeroes and a letter eg 0000a.
They are scraps that have no identified date or recipient and are outside the editorial principles which allow inclusion in The Public Face
and its supplements.
These pages are the only substantial collection of Wilkie Collins's letters published with
images of the original manuscripts. The letters range from important to
insignificant and cover more than forty years of correspondence from 1848 to 1889. The
manuscripts show the
changes in the handwriting, address, and style of paper and, in some cases,
envelope. Two are in the hands of Wilkie's frequent amanuenses, Caroline Graves and her daughter
Harriet Elizabeth, known as Carrie.
11 December 1848 to Richard
Westmacott  a receipt for purchasing Memoirs of the Life of William
Collins, Esq., R.A.
With an image of Westmacott's father.
14 April 1858 to Herbert Watkins  enclosing
June 1856 to August 1858 to Harriet Collins
 about dining with her.
24 December 1859 to Messrs Williams & Norgate
about importing copies of a Tauchnitz edition of his stories, with a form to Customs
With a photograph of Bernhard Tauchnitz and an
image of the book..
1858 - 1859 to Edmund Yates  a scrap only of a letter from Wilkie Collins to Yates.
With a picture of Yates.
27 November 1860 to Sampson Low 
enclosing an item - probably proofs - from his brother Charles in Paris.
With an engraving from Charles Collins's The
25 March 1861 to Messrs Harper & Brothers, New
York  asking them to assist his friend John Russell Buckler
With images of two of the Harper
- 30 March 1861 to Mrs Mitchell  advising that her friend's poems are
unlikely to be published
1861 to A W Bostwick
 a signature cut from a letter.
6 February 1862 to Sir James Emerson Tennent
about making arrangements for dinner.
With an image of Tennent.
25 March 1862 Unidentified 
requesting Ice from 'the Manager'.
6-20 August 1863 to George Redford 
accepting dinner tomorrow and referring to the Isle of Man.
4 April 1864 to George Russell 
meeting tomorrow, Shakespeare dinner put off.
22 November 1864 to
Miss Thackeray  the whereabouts of Jane and thanks for helping his
20 October 1865 to Mrs
Moncton  a short note fulfilling her request for an autograph.
7 June 1866 to Mrs. Mitchell  about a dinner
5 July 1866 to John Palgrave Simpson
 about an opera written by George Smith and mentioning
15 September 1866 to Miss Constance Lennox
arranging to send her some photographs.
With photographs of Wilkie Collins from 1866.
12 October 1866 to John Palgrave Simpson
selling the rights to The Frozen Deep.
9 December 1866 to Nina Lehmann  a long, detailed
letter about the reception of The Frozen Deep, the dramatisation of
Armadale, his journey back from Italy and personal matters.
With a picture of Nina Lehmann.
May 1867 a small signed scrap 
16 November 1867 to Benjamin Webster
 about Carlotta Leclercq's part in the play No Thoroughfare
With a photograph of the actress Carlotta Leclercq.
13 February 1868 a signed compliment slip
17 November 1868  a signed scrap for
an autograph hunter
12 February 1869 to Bernhard Tauchnitz
 thanking him for a book.
With a photograph of Tauchnitz.
- 3 March 1869 to Benjamin Webster  about the contract for the production of Black and
White at The Adelphi theatre.
With a photograph of Webster in No
- 14 June 1869 to
Margaret Carpenter  thanking his aunt for a memento of his late
7 March 1870 to William Dickson 
about selling his father's painting A Nutting Party.
With an image of the painting
27 December 1870 to Miss Frith  with views
on Christmas and a dinner engagement.
6 March 1871 to W P Frith  about
engagements and lack of formality.
With a fine engraving of Frith.
23 May 1871 to Walter Lacy  with
medical information and hopes to see him soon.
29 June 1871 to William F
Tindell  Has rheumatic gout, can he call to see him.
4 July 1871 to Harry  about his and Charles's
health and with a signature for an admirer.
26 July 1871 to unidentified 
probably sent to an autograph hunter.
12 May 1873 to Thomas Faed RA  part of
a letter supporting Edward Pigott's bid for a job.
25 October 1873 to James T Fields [A&C8] he
will be in Boston next week and will write again.
1 November 1873 to an unidentified autograph
hunter  a signature and date written on a folding sheet of lined
10 July 1874 to an unidentified autograph hunter
 a signature and date on a neatly clipped piece of laid paper
18 March 1875 a signed and dated scrap
with a booklist from c1885.
27 March 1875 to Richard Edgcumbe  accepting a
position on the Byron Memorial committee.
10 September 1875 to Kate Field  about her visit
and his health and her play.
a picture of Kate Field.
27 December 1875 to John Palgrave Simpson
staging a play in Germany
26 January 1876 to unidentified 
a dated signature only
11 April 1876 to Anne
Benson Procter  Gout in the eye but recovering; glad about
her new house.
24 June 1876 to T H French  about possible
performances of Miss Gwilt in the States.
a picture of Ada Cavendish.
26 July 1877 to Charles Collette  autograph
a picture of Charles Collette.
30 July 1877 to Kate Field  about Doctor Sayre of
pictures of Kate Field and Dr Sayre.
- 1 August 1877 to
signed front of an envelope which probably enclosed an order or a cheque
6 August 1877 to Charles Collette  sending him
proofs of the dramatic version of The Moonstone.
a picture of Charles Collette.
19 December 1877 to Messrs
Williams & Norgate  asking for the form needed to get his latest book imported
With an image of the book.
27 February 1879 to Charles Thomas [1826e] a signed
23 April 1879 unidentified  A signature
probably for an autograph hunter.
1 May 1879 to John W Hinton  thanking him for a
21 May 1879 to Andrew Chatto 
confirming a meeting tomorrow.
11 June 1879 to Charles Thomas  a signed
envelope which enclosed copy of The Fallen Leaves
23 June 1879 to Charles Thomas  a
- 26 September 1879 to Thomas Janvier  a signed envelope
1879 to Georgina Hogarth  a scrap
cut from a letter asking when she will be at home.
With a photograph of Georgina.
12 April 1880 to Leonora E Frank 
sending her an autograph
24 June 1881 to John Palgrave Simpson
him to vote for Charles Kent to join the Athenaeum.
18 August 1881 to Andrew Chatto [1970a]
enclosure with a
letter amending The Black Robe.
This enclosure is not transcribed in full in The
8 November 1881 to Edward A Buck 
envelope front probably enclosing copy for the story 'How I married him'.
9 January 1884 to New England Mutual Life
Insurance Co  envelope only, letter elsewhere.
26 February 1884 to unidentified
 signature for autograph hunter.
2 August 1884 to Ada Cavendish 
giving her the exclusive right to perform The New Magdalen outside
With a Sarony photograph of Ada Cavendish as Mercy
Merrick in The New Magdalen in 1873 in New York.
6 October 1884 to James Payn 
suggesting a translator for his Italian work.
With a cartoon of Payn.
10 October 1885 to Alexander P Watt  an
envelope only, but the contents can be inferred.
With a census extract for Watt
16 November 1885 to Eleanor Selfe 
there is so far no sequel to The Fallen Leaves
1 June 1886 to Daniel S Ford 
Editor of the Youth's Companion in Boston about progress on three stories.
With an advert for
The Youth's Companion.
18 September 1886 to unidentified 
apparently a signature for an autograph hunter
10 January 1887  about a premium to
Manhattan Insurance company
25 April 1887 to Alfred Nutting  declining an invitation
to join his association's council.
25 June 1887 to Miss Burt  telling
her Armadale is his best novel.
18 July 1888 to James Stanley Little 
enclosing 10/6 for a dinner to American authors
30 July 1888 to Mrs Flint  apologising for
mislaying her letter.
24 September 1888 to unidentified  a
signature on a card probably for an autograph hunter
1 February 1889 to Benjamin Franklin Stevens
 saying he has
referred a literary proposal to his agent A P Watt.
- 19 February 1889 to Edward William Bok
 thanking him for copies of an excellent engraving of
With a picture of Bok.
- Undated to Coutts and Co.  A fragment of an order to pay Naylor & Co.
Undated to unidentified  close
and signature cut from a letter - and believe me.
Undated to unidentified  the last four
lines and signature of a letter about sending proofs when they are set up.
unidentified  this scrap was cut from a letter for the
valediction and signature.
Undated to unidentified [0000a] with compliments and a signature on a small scrap
presumably to an autograph hunter.
Not in The Public Face due to editorial
- Undated to
unidentified [0000b] very truly yours and a signature cut from a letter.
Not in The Public Face due to editorial
Background and other sources
Wilkie Collins was a prolific correspondent. Most of his letters have disappeared
and no doubt many still remain undiscovered. Dorothy L Sayers, the crime writer, who admired Collins and began a biography of him, wrote in 1928 to a friend
"...I have had a kind letter from Millais - but alas he knows nothing! That his father had "many letters" of Wilkie's but that these have "now all disappeared". It is maddening. It is like a conspiracy. He refers me to the Dickens family. Ha! ha!."
Charles Dickens burned many letters from Collins in his infamous
fire at Gad's Hill Place on 3 September 1860. Nevertheless,
more than 3000 of Collins's letters have now been identified in public and private
collections around the world. Most are brought together in
The Public Face of Wilkie Collins - the Collected Letters ed. William
Baker, Andrew Gasson, Graham Law and Paul Lewis, Pickering & Chatto, London,
2005 ISBN 1851967648. Price £350/$540.
This is the comprehensive and definitive edition of Collins's letters. It does
not generally transcribe the letters published in full in Baker and Clarke's The Letters of Wilkie Collins
(see item 1 below). They are all summarised in their correct chronological
place. Several entries from Baker & Clarke have been redated and some are republished where Baker and Clarke was defective. The
volumes contain monochrome images of eight letters. The volumes contain letters
1 to 2987.
The rest are published as they are found in an annual supplement to The Public Face.
- The Collected Letters of Wilkie Collins: Addenda and Corrigenda 1
published by the Wilkie Collins Society with the Winter 2005 Newsletter and in
the Wilkie Collins Society Journal VIII 2005 pp48-55. Adds 11 letters
2988-2998 and corrects two 1301, 2986.
- The Collected Letters of Wilkie Collins: Addenda and Corrigenda 2
published by the Wilkie Collins Society with the Winter 2006 Newsletter and in
the Wilkie Collins Society Journal IX 2006 pp59-70. Adds 18 letters
2999-3016 and corrects five 978, 1241, 1337, 1694, 2982.
- The Collected Letters of Wilkie Collins: Addenda and Corrigenda 3
was published by the Wilkie Collins Society with the Winter 2007 Newsletter and in
the Wilkie Collins Society Journal X 2007. This A&C
is the most substantial to date. It adds 60 letters 3017-3076 and amends 27
others. Four items published as letters in The Public Face (229, 2975,
2977, 2979) are deleted from the database after being combined with other
- The Collected Letters of Wilkie Collins: Addenda and Corrigenda 4
published by the Wilkie Collins Society in December 2008.
The Wilkie Collins Society Journal was not published in 2008. A&C4 contains 40 new letters and
five significant amendments. Minor amendments are being held over for the
- The Collected Letters of Wilkie Collins: Addenda and Corrigenda 5
published by the Wilkie Collins Society in December 2009.
The Wilkie Collins Society Journal was not published in 2009. A&C5
contains 30 new letters and
14 significant amendments. Minor amendments are being held over for the
- The Collected Letters of Wilkie Collins: Addenda and Corrigenda 6
published by the Wilkie Collins Society December 2010.
The Wilkie Collins Society Journal was not published in 2010. A&C6
contains 25 new letters and
5 significant amendments, one a group of 10 changes to the name of the
recipient. Minor amendments are being held over for the
- The Collected Letters of Wilkie Collins: Addenda and Corrigenda 7 published by the Wilkie Collins Society December 2011. A&C7
contains 28 new letters. Some of them are to the actor Frank Archer and A&C7
also contains revised and corrected texts for the letters from Wilkie to
Archer. There are also two revised and one new letter from Wilkie's
god-daughter Carrie Bartley to Archer before and just after Wilkie's death.
The letters' footnotes draw extensively on the newly available Frank Archer
are three other published editions of some of Wilkie's letters.
Many letters are quoted and cited in the various
especially the four major ones by Robinson 1951, Davis 1956, Clarke 1989 and
Peters 1991. Some letters can also be found in some modern books including.
- The Letters of Wilkie Collins edited by William Baker and William
Clarke, Macmillan, London 1999 ISBN 0-333-73247-2.
book publishes the full text of 462 letters and a further 126 letters are
summarised. An appendix lists the remaining 1632 letters they had identified at
that time, though with some errors. The book has a comprehensive commentary and footnotes and, despite errors
of transcription and dating, is an essential companion to The Public Face
of Wilkie Collins.
- The University of Texas Collection of the Letters of Wilkie Collins, Victorian Novelist Dissertation by William Rollin Coleman, University of Texas at Austin, 1975.
Contains transcripts of 262 letters from 1847 to 1889 with an introduction, full footnotes and an index.
This thesis is almost impossible to obtain and contains numerous errors of
transcription, dating, and addressee.
- Six Letters of Wilkie Collins from the Charlotte Ashley Felton Memorial Library at Stanford University introduced by J Terry Bender, Charles Wood, San Francisco, 1957.
This limited edition book contains six letters in facsimile and transcript from
the 1870s and 1880s.
- The Letters of Charles Dickens ed. Graham Storey, British Academy Pilgrim Edition vol.IX, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1997 has a transcript of one of the three known letters from Wilkie Collins to Charles Dickens on p.568
- 'Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade: Some Unpublished Letters' by Thomas D
Clareson, an essay in Victorian Essays: A Symposium edited by
Clareson and Warren D Anderson, Kent State University Press 1967. The essay
lists 27 letters and includes partial or full transcripts (with some errors) and commentary for
some of them. The letters are all published accurately and in full from the
original manuscripts in The Public Face (see above).
- Robert Lee Wolff Nineteenth Century Fiction Garland Publishing, Inc. New York 1981
The bibliography of Wolff's collection of Collins's books pp254-272 includes transcripts of 27 letters.
M L Parrish and E V Miller Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade: First Editions
Described with Notes London, 1940 includes transcripts of 36 letters, 28
- 'Wilkie Collins in the Parrish Collection' by William Baker, Princeton
University Library Chronicle LXII No.3 Spring 2001 pp501-518 summarises 16
letters and publishes one in full.
Other sources for letters are the books of reminiscences or biographies by people who knew
Wilkie Collins. For many letters these books provide the only source for the text as
the manuscript is unknown. The Public Face of Wilkie Collins contains a
comprehensive source list of previously published letters of Wilkie Collins
(see I xiii-xvii). Full or partial transcripts of some letters are found
in the catalogues of auction houses and dealers in manuscripts or books.
More than 200 letters are only known through secondary sources.
Updated 4 June 2012
All material on these pages is © Paul Lewis 1999-2012