COLLINS, William Wilkie (1824-1889). The Woman in White: A Drama in a Prologue and Four Acts. London: published by the author, 1871.
8° (188 x 115mm). (Small stain on title, pp. 5-9 detached, a few short marginal tears.) Original white printed wrappers (soiled, front wrapper with old fold mark and small stain), brown cloth box. Provenance: author's copy (title inscribed in Wilkie's hand 'Represented for the First Time at the Olympic Theatre. October 9th 1871'; his additions and deletions in pen or pencil to 16 pages of text) -- purchased from George Bates, London, 17 June 1938, £35. Exhibited: Grolier Club (1950s exhibition label loosely inserted).
WILKIE COLLINS' OWN COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION IN PLAY FORM which rewrote the novel, by now too familiar to hold surprises for the audience. In 1860 J.M. Ware had staged an unauthorised Woman in White at the Surrey Theatre. Although the true Wilkie Collins play had been tried out in August 1870 at the Theatre Royal, Leicester, his title inscription rightly records that this was the first performance of the authorised script. The play opened at London's Olympic Theatre on 9 October, and in Wilkie's words 'really took the audience by storm.' Receipts for the first week reached £475, and the play eventually had a run of 19 weeks. However, rehearsals had been been anything but a pleasure, George Vining, who played the part of Count Fosco, also doubling as a rather difficult and indecisive manager. The young actor, Wybert Reeve, marvelled at Wilkie's patience as rehearsals regularly dragged on from the morning until five, and often again from six or seven in the evening until the early hours of the next day (see Catherine Peters The King of Inventors, 1991, pp. 332-33).
From the annotations made to this copy, it appears that Wilkie's script worked well and required little alteration until the denouement at the end of Act IV. The names of the actors, both in the Prologue and the main drama, are neatly written in. There are deletions to two speeches by Pesca in the Prologue and 7 new lines are written in (pp. 10-11, 12). Three of Fosco's lines are deleted in Act I and two new lines provided (p. 28). Changes in pencil to Act II (pp. 48-50) are mainly to stage directions. A 12-line speech by Mr. Kyrle is cut out in Act IV (p. 73), and two lines of Walter Hartright's (p. 77) are the subject of a 'query' ('Is this cut out? If so restore it).' But the setting of 'the last scene' (p. 80) is entirely deleted, a direction being given to 'see corrections in the other book,' and on the closing pages (85-88) hitherto careful annotation gives way to frenzied rewriting, much of the text being boxed for deletion, and the blank versos of three pages filled with new stage directions and dialogue. A deleted inscription on the front wrapper reads: 'Book No. 2 corrections in the last scene,' indicating that Wilkie may have annotated two copies of the play, and that this was probably his fair copy up until the last scene. Some thought was evidently given to reprinting the amended text for a pencil note, in another hand and formerly pinned to the title, reads: 'There are no others corrected whole. There are none marked "corrected copy" -- & none with any loose leaves in. I have looked everywhere ....' Parrish p. 43.