Autograph letter signed, Philadelphia, 31 January 1868, to Wilkie Collins
Acquired by Pierpont Morgan before 1913
The letters Dickens wrote during his 1867–68 reading tour of the United States were altogether more positive in tone than those of 1842. He wrote to Collins with evident satisfaction about the myriad stage adaptations of his fiction: "Wherever I go, they play [perform] my books, with my name in big letters. Oliver Twist was at Baltimore when I left it last Wednesday. Pickwick is here, and Bob [Mr. Bob Sawyer's Party] and the Carrier [The Cricket on the Hearth] are here. Pickwick was at New York too, when I last passed that way; so was Our Mutual Friend." The audiences for his readings were "immense," and, he proudly reported, his reading "here last night (for the first time) bowled Philadelphia clean over."
Dickens visited the United States twice, first traveling extensively with his wife from 22 January to 7 June 1842. Twenty-five years later—from 19 November 1867 to 22 April 1868—he returned alone for an exhausting reading tour.
Prior to his first visit, he had "dreamed by day and night, for years, of setting foot upon this shore, and breathing this pure air." He received an unprecedented enthusiastic and extravagant welcome, as befitted the world's first literary superstar. But he soon grew tired of the intrusion resulting from his lionization. After making several vehement speeches in favor of an international copyright agreement that would protect his work from piracy in the United States, he was deeply hurt by the vitriolic response of the American press. His bitter disappointment is recorded in American Notes for General Circulation and his novel Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–44).
When Dickens returned in 1867, his fame, and the adulation it inspired, had intensified. In seventy-six public readings, he performed for more than one hundred thousand people and earned $95,000, equivalent to approximately $1.5 million in today's money.
My Dear Wilkie
Your letter dated on the eleventh reached me here this morning. Mine will be brief, as it must go on to New York presently, and there is much snow on the Line.
I am indeed delighted by your account of the Play, and do begin to believe that I shall see it! Every word of your account of your last visit "Behind", I have read—and shall read—again and again.
Of Mr. Barrett, I have seen nothing, heard nothing. Wherever I go, they play my books, with my name in big letters. Oliver Twist was at Baltimore when I left it last Wednesday. Pickwick is here, and Bob and the Carrier are here. Pickwick was at New York too, when I last passed that way; so was Our Mutual Friend; so was No Thoroughfare. Under which equitable circumstances, I doubt Mr. Barrett's putting in an appearance.
We are getting now among smaller