Frith's daughter

Jane Ellen Panton (1847-1923) was the second daughter - and third child - of the artist William Powell Frith - above. She wrote several books of reminiscences, including information about many writers, but the one her family knew best - Wilkie Collins - gets just a few, perhaps inaccurate, lines in this one book. The play mentioned has not been identified and no jointly authored play by Collins and Reade is known. Only Rank and Riches (1883) was booed off the stage. Panton's account of Wilkie's nerves at a first night is confirmed by other writers. Her quote from Frith is new..

I think the most embarrassing evening I ever spent at the play was when I accompanied Wilkie Collins to see a three-act mystery which he and Charles Reade had concocted together. Both were in the most intense state of nervousness, Wilkie sitting behind the curtain biting his nails, and Charles Reade was in and out of the box constantly, using the strongest of strong language and driving me nearly wild. The whole play turned on the finding of some document which had been hidden behind a brick in a bed-room wall, a most obvious brick, plainly to be seen by the least observant person. The detectives came in and tapped in every place save the right one, until the gallery could bear it no longer and called out which the brick was. That damned the play; all the fine sentiments of the hero were screamed at, and howls and cat-calls finally brought down the curtain, while Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade fiercely condemned the British public to eternal damnation, and we went home delighted to get away from the company of the unhappy authors.

We used to see a great deal of Wilkie Collins, and hear a great deal about his books as he wrote them. I do not think many better stories of the kind have been written than "The Woman in White," "Armadale," or "The Moonstone." Most of this latter was written when he was suffering agonies from gout, to which he was a martyr, "but if a fellow lives on pigs' eyelids and port wine," remarked Papa, " what can he expect? "I do not believe those were his "pertickler wanities," as Sam Weller says, but I do know he loved my mother's good dinners and used to make one of her most appreciative guests.

From Leaves from a Life by Jane Ellen Panton (1847-1923), London 1908 pp264-265

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