Friday, August 22, 2008

a good round sum

Charles Dickens to W. Wilkie Collins

Parker House, Boston,
Monday, Second December, 1867.

My dear Wilkie, ---I find that if the Play be left unpublished in England, the right of playing it in America can be secured by assigning the MS. to an American Citizen. That I can do at once by using my publishers here for the purpose. I can make an arrangement with [Lester] Wallack, in New York, to have it produced at his Theatre (where there is the best company), on a sharing agreement after a certain nightly allowance for expenses, and I have arranged to see Wallack next week.

I have made inquiry about Mr. Lawrence Barrett (whose letter to me I enclose), and I find that he has a good reputation as a Star Actor, and that he is a responsible man pecuniarily. Now, I am advised that the best course will be to make an engagement with him to take the play and act in it, and get it up wheresoever he likes in the United States, except in New York City. (The exception, because Wallack and he are not d'accord, and the other good New York Theatres all have their hands full.) As I read his letter his proposal means that we give the play--that he gives his services--and that the receipts of each night's performance be divided between author and actor equally. Will you write to him at once, see him, and bind us both to such an engagement, if he be willing to bind himself to it? We might possibly get a good round sum by such a course. I have advised with one of the most knowing Managers in New York (who came over here this morning to see me)--the Black Crook Manager--and he says: "If you have Wallack for New York, and Barrett for the States generally, you could not do better." Mr. Barrett may have left England before this reaches you. If so, I have taken measures to catch [him] on this side when he comes over. As I read for the first time to-night, I will finish this to-morrow for Wednesday's steamer, which will be my own Cuba returning.

Tuesday, Third December.
A most tremendous success last night. The whole city is perfectly mad about it to-day, and it is quite impossible that prospects could be more brilliant.
Ever, my dear Wilkie,
Your always affectionate C. D.

-from the Letters of Charles Dickens to Wilkie Collins edited by Laurence Hutton (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891) p. 155-57.

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