Gad's Hill Place, Higham by Rochester, Kent,
Thursday, Sixth October, 1859.
My dear Wilkie,-----I do not positively say that the point you put might not have been done in your manner; but I have a very strong conviction that it would have been overdone in that manner--too elaborately trapped, baited, and prepared--in the main anticipated, and its interest wasted. This is quite apart from the peculiarity of the Doctor's [Dr. Manette--A Tale of Two Cities] character, as affected by his imprisonment; which of itself would, to my thinking, render it quite out of the question to put the reader inside of him before the proper time, in respect of matters that were dim to himself through being in a diseased way, morbidly shunned by him. I think the business of art is to lay all that ground carefully, not with the care that conceals itself--to shew, by a backward light, what everything has been working to--but only to suggest, until the fulfilment comes. These are the ways of Providence, of which ways all art is but a little imitation.
"Could it have been done at all, in the way I suggest, to advantage?" is your question. I don't see the way, and I never have seen the way, is my answer. I cannot imagine it that way, without imagining the reader wearied and the expectation Wire-drawn.
I am very glad you liked it so much. It has greatly moved and excited me in the doing, and Heaven knows I have done my best and believed in it.
Ever affect'ly yours, C. D.
-from the Letters of Charles Dickens to Wilkie Collins edited by Laurence Hutton (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891) p. 95-96.