COLLINS, WILLIAM WILKIE. 1824-1889.  Autograph Manuscript, being working drafts of the play "The New Magdalen. A Dramatic Story in Three Acts,"

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Lot 4
COLLINS, WILLIAM WILKIE. 1824-1889.
Autograph Manuscript, being working drafts of the play "The New Magdalen. A Dramatic Story in Three Acts,"

Sold for US$ 100,000 inc. premium

Fine Literature

11 Apr 2016, 10:00 EDT

New York

COLLINS, WILLIAM WILKIE. 1824-1889.
Autograph Manuscript, being working drafts of the play "The New Magdalen. A Dramatic Story in Three Acts," in ink and heavily corrected, 88 leaves, plus manuscript fair copies in another hand with occasional corrections; together 212 pp on 161 leaves, including the Prologue, Acts I and II and a portion of Act III, 4to, London, c.1871. Housed in cloth folder and green morocco backed slipcase with gilt lettered spine. Overall toning with some tears and soiling, with minor loss.
Provenance: Arthur A. Houghton (bookplate to chemise; his sale, Christie's London, June 13, 1979, Lot 132).

Written simultaneously with the novel of the same name that was serialized in Temple Bar Magazine from October 1872 to July 1873, this play opened at the Olympic Theatre on May 19, 1873, two days after the book's publication. The plight of a reformed prostitute was an immediate hit, soon translated into several languages and known throughout the world. It remained playing at The Olympic for nineteen months and ran for years on the road in the Provinces. Even Collins admitted, "We have really hit the mark" (Robinson, Wilkie Collins, 1951, p 261). The daring plot dealt openly with white slavery, identity theft and many other tough social ills of the day. The most demanding role of the drama was that of the anti-heroine, Mercy Merrick. The Athenaeum (May 24, 1873) described what she was up against: "Within the space of one short act the heroine has to unlive an entire life, to make atonement for a series of cruel wrongs, to conquer her own nature, to separate herself from her friends, whose gravest censure she has incurred, win them again into forgiveness, quarrel with and discard the man she loves, and accept and learn another" (p 673-74). American audiences found the content of the play shocking. During the composition some names of the "Persons of the Drama" changed: Rhoda Judkin became Mercy Merrick, later Sarah and finally Mercy again; Lady Rachel to Lady Janet. "Scenario First Act In Two Parts, Part the First" contains the outline of a discarded scene between Julian Gray and the German Surgeon in the office of the English Consul in Mannheim. The whole play was written by Collins at a feverish pace, as demonstrated by the slashing handwriting and the abundant and rough changes throughout the manuscript. A wonderful example of a playwright's train of thought in action, the hand hardly able to keep up with the brain.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note, the manuscript consists of 160 leaves, not 161.
Contacts
COLLINS, WILLIAM WILKIE. 1824-1889.  Autograph Manuscript, being working drafts of the play "The New Magdalen. A Dramatic Story in Three Acts,"
COLLINS, WILLIAM WILKIE. 1824-1889.  Autograph Manuscript, being working drafts of the play "The New Magdalen. A Dramatic Story in Three Acts,"
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