Thursday, August 21, 2008

tolerably stout

Charles Dickens to W. Wilkie Collins

Parker House, Boston, U. S.,
Thursday, Twenty-eighth November, 1867.

My dear Wilkie,---I have received a letter from one Mr. Barrett, an American actor (dated 308 Regent Street, London, W.), proposing for the dramatic version of No Thoroughfare. He says in that letter that he "learns from Mr. Wilkie Collins that I have taken the play to America, intending to arrange for its production there," and offers to come out here with the New Year and play it. As I have not got the play, I am at a loss to know whether this is an intentional or an unintentional mistake.

Now, Dolby is going over to New York this morning, and has it in charge from me to see the most speculative of dramatic men there, and ascertain what terms he will make for the play. I think it far better to deal with a man here than with a man in Regent Street, London. The excitement in New York about the Readings being represented as quite unprecedented, I have little doubt of being able to make a good thing of the Drama, and, if necessary, I will get it up. But what I shall want as soon as I can possibly have them, are:

1. A detailed Scene Plot from Fechter.
2. His notion of the Dresses.
3. A copy of the Play itself. Act by Act, as you do it.
4. Together with any stage Directions that Fechter has in his mind.

Thus armed, I should not be at all surprised if I could get a very handsome addition to our gains. I think it will be worth while for you, on receipt of this, to telegraph to me at the Westminster Hotel, Irving Place, New York City, when you will be able to send me the last of the Play, because I shall then be in a condition to make a contract. Tell Fechter, with my love and regards, that I will write him a note immcdiately after my first Reading here next Monday. (Between ourselves, I have already some 2000 pounds in hand before opening my lips.)

I am yearning already for the Spring and Home, but hope to work out the intervening time with a tolerably stout heart. I am wonderfully well in health, and got over the voyage with the greatest success.

This note is left open for Dolby to add Postscript to. He will know, before closing it, whether or no it is certainly worth while for you to telegraph (in 20 words, containing not more than 100 letters). It will be best for you always to address me about the Play, and always to address whatever you send in connection with it, Westminster Hotel, Irving Place, New York City.

Ever, my dear Wilkie, your affectionate
Charles Dickens.

I will not at present reply to Mr. Barrett at all.

Westminster Hotel. New York,
29 Nov., 1867.

My dear Mr. Collins,--I have only time--to save the Mail--to add a few lines to Mr. Dickens's letter to request you will send out the acting part of the Play as soon as possible, as I am in hopes I may be able to arrange for its production here, possibly at Wallack's; and if you can get models made and sent out of the Scenery, it will also be a great thing to have. I spoke to [Harry] Palmer about the price last evening on my arrival here, and he seems most enthusiastic on the matter.

I have sold to-day the tickets for the first Four Readings in the City, and sold out (8000 tickets in all) in six hours. The enthusiasm with regard to Dickens and all that he does is enormous, and I am in hopes we shall be able to spend the whole of our time in the large cities.

Give my kindest regards to Wills and all London friends, and believe me.
Yours faithfully,
George Dolby

-from the Letters of Charles Dickens to Wilkie Collins edited by Laurence Hutton (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891) p. 152-54.

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