COLLINS, William Wilkie (1824-1889). Novelist.
Autograph Letter Signed ('W. Wilkie Collins') to Richard Spiers [Mayor of Oxford 1853-1854] 3 pages 8vo, Garrick Club (blind stamp), 21 July 1854. Declining an invitation on account of his plan to visit friends in Boulogne [who included Charles Dickens], and thanking him for his hospitality at a recent Reception.
'... I am very happy to have this opportunity of thanking you for the pleasant evening you afforded us on the night of the "Reception" - and I hope to have a future opportunity of improving the acquaintance which began under your hospitable ambience.'Richard James Spiers was a prominent Oxford retailer and freemason who was Mayor of the city from 1853 to 1854. His banquet in June 1854 in the old Town Hall was recorded in considerable detail (with a picture) in the Illustrated London News.
'... The Reception by the Mayor and Mayoress in the Town-hall on Thursday evening was brilliantly attended. The invitations were extended to 1000, [including Charlotte Brontë, who refused]. The object of this gathering was to bring again together the most distinguished members of the University, the county gentry, and the citizens, and to place before their notice works of art, rare literary works, and other objects calculated to gratify intelligent curiosity, and afford intellectual enjoyment. In this object the Mayor and Mayoress most eminently succeeded. ...'At this time, Collins had been taken under the wing of Charles Dickens after he was recruited as an actor in one Dickens's amateur productions. From 1853 he became a regular contributor to his periodicals in addition to working for other journals. Collins's novel, Hide and Seek, published in 1854, was dedicated to Dickens.
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