Mutual Friends: The Adventures of Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins
“I always feel your friendship very much, and prize it in proportion to the true affection I have for you.”
Our new exhibition Mutual Friends explores one of the most pivotal partnerships of Charles Dickens’s life, his friendship and collaboration with writer Wilkie Collins.
Charles Dickens was a man of many friendships and, like his close friend and biographer John Forster, had the gift of surrounding himself with a vibrant circle of authors, artists, playwrights and performers. On 12 March 1851, at Forster’s house, Charles was introduced to a young man who would become one of the most significant friends of his adult life - Wilkie Collins. This meeting between two amateur actors performing in a mutual friend’s play ignited the flames of a personal and professional relationship that would last over 15 years.
Charles and Wilkie would become fellow writers, editors, collaborators, and the best of friends: travelling the world for work and pleasure, becoming linked by family marriages and sharing secrets.
This new exhibition reveals their friendship and collaboration and the huge body of works it produced, from articles in Dickens’s Household Words through to novellas and plays such as The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices and The Frozen Deep. Through original letters, historic objects, and interactive displays, discover the adventures of Charles and Wilkie - from moustache-growing contests, falling down mountains and cruising international entertainment districts to co-writing side by side, discussing writer’s block and plot devices.
At times they were as close as family but business dynamics, differing opinions on literary ideals and clashing social and political views created points of contention. Explore how two giants of Victorian literature navigated the challenges of adult friendship in both their personal and professional lives and reveal their human side in the process.
Mutual Friends opens on 15 November 2023 and runs until 25 February 2024. Admission is included in your general admission ticket.
We are grateful to the Wilkie Collins Society and the Dickens Fellowship for supporting this exhibition.