After Dark



COLLINS, Wilkie After Dark

Smith, Elder & Co., 1856.

First edition. Two volumes in original publisher's wavy grained, dark green cloth with gilt titles to the spine and decorative floral device to the covers in blind. Author's presentation copy. Inscribed on the half title of volume I, to the inspiration for two of the book's stories , "To W.S.Herrick from Wilkie Collins February 1856". A very good set, with some wear to the corners at the spine ends and a little to the joints, with a neat repair to the base of the rear joint of volume I. Pages slightly browned, but generally clean. Housed in chemise and quarter morocco box.

An important association copy. William Salter Herrick was a mainly unsuccessful society portrait painter, who was part of the large artistic circle which included Collins and Dickens. He was however, "a fascinating story-teller" (The Atheneum, 12 June 1915), and one evening recounted to Collins a tale apparently told him by one of his sitters, about a bed in a low den in Paris, the canopy of which had a habit of descending on the sleeper and smothering him. Collins took the idea and developed it into the most celebrated of his early horror stories, The Terribly Strange Bed, which was also his first contribution to Dickens' magazine, Household Words in 1852.
After Dark takes six stories, five of which were originally published in Household Words, and connects them together by the story of William Kerby, a travelling portrait painter and talented storyteller, who recounts the stories to his wife. It is plain that William Kerby is based upon William Herrick. Collins further acknowledges Herrick's contribution in the introduction,
"I must also gratefully acknowledge an obligation of another kind to the accomplished Mr W. S. Herrick, to whom I am indebted for the curious and interesting facts on which the tales of 'The Terribly Strange Bed' and 'The Yellow Mask' are founded."
After Dark is Collins' first collection of stories and his first significant work marking a breakthrough in his narrative style. "To the modern reader, the unmistakable first appearance of the real Collins in these excellent tales comes with a pleasurable shock after the mild bohemianism of the preceding novel, Hide and Seek. After Dark consists of six narratives of varying length and subject, ingeniously woven together into the pattern of a single story. At their best they are as good as anything the author ever wrote." (Sadleir, Excursions in Victorian Bibliography)
Wilkie Collins presentation copies are of the utmost scarcity in commerce. Only three inscribed first editions are recorded at auction in the last 45 years, and a brief census of institutionally held presentation copies, shows but a mere handful more and also strongly indicates that Collins only inscribed to close friends such as Elizabeth Graves (Collins's daughter in law), Henry Buller (literary friend), F Carr Beard (Collins's doctor) and Dickens.

PROVENANCE: W.S.Herrick (inscription from the author); Albert B. Ashworth (New York book collector), his sale Park Bernet in 1950; Florence & Edward Kaye (noted collectors of detective fiction, bookplate to chemise); Private collection.

Stock ID: 39848


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