The Memories of Rose Eytinge

Rose Eytinge (1835-1911) was born in Philadelphia and was an actress most of her life. She visited London after a year playing the lead in Anthony and Cleopatra in various US states first at the California Theater in San Francisco and culminating on Broadway in November. During her London visit she met Wilkie at least twice. They first met when he called on her in late July or early August 1878. On 5 August Wilkie wrote to William Seaver "The never sufficiently-to be-damned-and-blasted-rheumatic gout, has hit me in one of my eyes again. I am only now able to use my other sound eye without damaging its inflamed neighbour. The illness seized me just after I had called on Miss Eytinge, and had had a most pleasant talk with her. From that time to this, to my great regret, I have not been well enough to see her again." But we know from this account that later she visited him. She married the English actor Cyril Searle in 1880.

AMONG the literary men whom I met in London, perhaps Wilkie Collins was as great a surprise, and, in a way, as great a disappointment, as I ever experienced in a first meeting with a "notable." In all Mr. Collins's stories I had read, his men, especially his villains, had been big, portentous, heavy men; while he, in his own person, was the exact opposite of all these, and certainly, in dealing out all these fine proportions to his characters, Wilkie Collins displayed a modesty unusual among people of his craft.

He was "the mildest-mannered man," and almost the smallest, I ever met, who was not positively a dwarf. His hands and feet were almost dwarfed, and as he sat perched up on a rather high chair at his writing-table, with his grizzled beard flowing over his breast, and his low, soft voice flowing out in silvery accents, his head surmounted with a quaintly shaped skull-cap, he looked rather like a wizard who had fallen under the ban of his fairy godmother, who in anger had deprived him of his legs.

The first time I met him, he was suffering from one of his frequent attacks of gout. I remember, when I mentioned this circumstance to Charles Reade, that gentleman said and there seemed to be a sort of gusto, a sense of satisfaction in his tone: "Ah! Wilkie has been drinking champagne! He will do it, though he knows it's poison to him. The very moment he gets a bit better, off he will trot to the club and have a good 'tuck-in' of lobster and champagne, and so gets another attack."

This gloating over the weakness of his literary brother struck me as particularly human, for this was precisely one of Mr. Reade' s many weaknesses. His enemy was dyspepsia, and any deviation from simple fare was sure to be followed by a sharp attack of this malady, with the inevitable result of reducing him to repentance, abstemiousness, and bad temper.

The Memories of Rose Etyinge, New York, 1905 pp296-297

go back to biographies list

go back to Wilkie Collins front page

visit the Paul Lewis front page

All material on these pages is Paul Lewis 1997-2013