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‘If good ideas are as infectious as bad, the end of the novel – written in this house – ought to be the best part of it’ - Wilkie Collins writing to his mother Harriet Collins while holidaying with Charles Dickens, 9 September 1852
The collaboration of Charles Dickens, at the height of his fame, with Wilkie Collins – a younger and relatively unknown writer – is one of the most remarkable examples of literary collaboration. It was in October 1856 that Wilkie officially joined the staff of Household Words, making Charles artistically a collaborator but professionally, his boss. In this comradely yet hierarchical relationship, Wilkie imagined himself as a successful professional tutored by the ‘Inimitable’ Dickens but also subordinate in their collaborative relationship, at least at the outset.
Charles’s first collaboration with Wilkie, on the story The Wreck of the Golden Mary, allowed him to experiment with the excitement of ‘writing a book in company’. Unlike other contributors to Household Words and All the Year Round, Wilkie became the only writer to have his name published in the journals. The pair were known to write side by side, exchanging advice and even offering to complete each other’s stories when the other fell ill. As late as 1866, Charles begged Wilkie to return to All the Year Round after his resignation in 1862: ‘always remember that Wills with carte blanche, and I with open arms, await you’.
They collaborated on 10 stories together – more than either did with any other author.