Kate Field - A Record

Kate Field (1838-1896) was an independent actress and writer and campaigner for women’s rights who met Wilkie Collins in 1873 and became a friend. They exchanged many letters over the years. Lilian Whiting (1847-1942) was a close friend of Kate Field and after her death used her letters and papers to write her biography. Kate Field – A Record publishes some letters from Collins which are not reproduced here; they can be read in The Public Face of Wilkie Collins (London 2005) and The Letters of Wilkie Collins (London 1999). The other brief references to Collins are below.

In May of 1873, Kate again sailed for England, Rev. Dr. and Mrs.Chapin and Rubinstein being among her fellow-passengers. Just before sailing, the great pianist was introduced to Miss Field, and he exclaimed:—

“Everybody has told me how charming you are, and have congratulated me upon sailing with you.” It was in the early June that Miss Field reached London, where she dined first of all with her old friends, the Hennessys, and the next night at Anthony Trollope’s, meeting Wilkie Collins. (p306)

[Letter to Field from Whitelaw Reid]

You ask about Bradlaugh. Give him a letter of introduction, by all means. You spoke to me about him when here, and interested me in him not a little. As for Wilkie Collins, I will try to make it pleasant for him when he comes, but I have no particular fondness for this business of lionizing. Hitherto I have done what the club wanted. This winter I mean to take things a little more easily, and hope it may be easy and courteous when the time comes to decline peremptorily a re-election. (p308)

A collection of Miss Field’s “Tribune” letters, with various revisions and additions, had just been published in Boston by Fields, Osgood, and Company under the title of “Hap-Hazard,” and her copies reached her in London. Of the naval review she wrote a vivid description to “The Tribune.” She heard Wilkie Collins read at the Olympic Theatre; Garcia, her master in singing, called on her frequently and they had long talks; Alfred Austin, now the poet laureate of England, was one of her callers, and she found him “sincere and agreeable.” With a merry party of Americans she drove to the Crystal Palace, where they had supper. Du Maurier dined with her one night, and she greatly lilted him, and in the evening Kinglake and Lord Houghton called. “They went into raptures over my Japanese polonaise,” she said. Another morning Wilkie Collins made her a long call. She lunched with the Smalleys, and went with them to see Aimee Desclee in “Maison Rouge,” which she found “very clever.” A London friend took her to Grosvenor House, where she enjoyed the magnificent paintings. (pp312-313)


From Kate Field – A Record by Lilian Whiting, Boston 1899

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