The exhibition explores the huge body of work the friendship produced, from jointly written articles in Dickens’s Household Words magazine, to novellas and plays such as The Frozen Deep (1856). It also examines the suggestion that Wilkie Collins worked on Dickens’s final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Also included is Dickens' reaction to reading a pre-publication draft of The Woman in White from a letter to Wilkie on January 7, 1860: "The story is very interesting, and the writing of it admirable. You know what an interest I have felt in your powers from the beginning of our friendship, and how very high I rate them: I know that this is an admirable book…No one else could do it, half so well…So go on and prosper, and let me see some more when you have enough (for your own satisfaction) to shew me!"
Other highlights include:
- an original edition of their collaborative play The Frozen Deep with notes by Wilkie Collins
- a group photograph of Dickens and Collins along with friends and family at Dickens’s home at Gad’s Hill in Kent
- Wilkie Collins’s sketchbook
- a birthday invitation from Charles to Wilkie from 1859
- Dickens’ personal set of rules and regulations for amateur dramatic performances
Faith Clarke, great-granddaughter of Wilkie Collins and Patron of the Wilkie Collins Society, said: “Beyond the personal happiness of a treasured friendship, the professional collaborations between Wilkie and Charles were beneficial for both. Charles could call on Wilkie as a reliable, gifted contributor while Wilkie’s most celebrated work, The Woman in White, first reached readers when it was serialized in Charles’s journal All the Year Round. It is entirely fitting that the first exhibition devoted to Wilkie should be happening in the rooms of Charles’s home."
An exclusive interview with exhibition curator Emma Harper will appear in the forthcoming winter issue of Fine Books & Collections.