[Wilkie Collins spent the winter of 1863-64 in Italy.]
Gad's Hill Place,
Higham by Rochester, Kent
January 24th. 1864.
My Dear Wilkie,---The Christmas Number [Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings] has been the greatest success of all; has shot ahead of last year; has sold about two hundred and twenty thousand; and has made the name of Mrs. Lirriper so swiftly and domestically famous as never was. I had a very strong belief in her when I wrote about her, finding that she made a great effect upon me; but she certainly has gone beyond my hope. (Probably you know nothing about her? which is a very unpleasant consideration.) Of the new book [Our Mutual Friend] I have done the first two numbers, and am now beginning the third. It is a combination of drollery with romance which requires a great deal of pains and a perfect throwing away of points that might be amplified; but I hope it is very good. . . . You will have read about poor Thackeray's death--sudden, and yet not sudden, for he had long been alarmingly ill. At the solicitation of Mr. Smith and some of his friends, I have done what I would most gladly have excused myself from doing--if I felt I could-- written a couple of pages about him in what was his own magazine.
-from the Letters of Charles Dickens to Wilkie Collins edited by Laurence Hutton (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891) p. 130-31.