[Wilkie Collins:] “The Girl at the Gate (Written for the Christmas Spirit)” [published within:] The Spirit of the Times.
First appearance of Wilkie Collins’ 1884 short story “The Girl at the Gate”; precedes first English magazine appearance
Rare first appearance of Wilkie Collins’ short story “The Girl at the Gate” published in New York in December 1884 before its January 1885 appearance in “The English Illustrated Magazine.”
“The Girl at the Gate” was explicitly written for this special December 27, 1884 “Christmas Spirit” issue of The Spirit of the Times, The American Gentleman’s Newspaper.
It was later reprinted as “Mr. Lepel and the Housekeeper” in the book Little Novels, a collection of Collins’ short stories published in 1887 toward the end of his life. The narrator of the story declares, “One of my objects in writing these lines is to vindicate the character of an innocent woman (formerly in my service as housekeeper) who has been cruelly slandered.” (p658)
Set in Italy, the short story concerns a love triangle, a mysterious illness, and poisoned medicine. The story is notable for its positive portrayal of Roman Catholicism, a priest playing a minor role in the plot. Contemporary English “...critic Edmund Yates wrote an article on Collins’s fiction, suggesting that it was exceeded only by that of Dickens, Thackeray, and Charlotte Brontë.” (ODNB)
Collins, a collaborator with Charles Dickens at the magazine Household Words, had, like Dickens, toured and given public readings in America. The American audience for “The Girl at the Gate” would have been familiar with Collin’s novels The Woman in White (1859) and The Moonstone (1868), the latter often referred to as the first modern English detective novel. It is not surprising, therefore, that a story like “The Girl at the Gate” would appear in a popular sporting magazine aimed at gentlemen such as The Spirit of the Times.
In 1989, Sothebys hammered down the manuscript draft for “The Girl at the Gate” for just over $15,000, all in.
Description: [Wilkie Collins:] “The Girl at the Gate (Written for the Christmas Spirit)” [published within:] The Spirit of the Times.
New York: E.A. Buck, Editor and Publisher, Saturday, Dec. 27, 1884. –696pp. Magazine. 15¾ x 11 inches. Full-page cover illustration by Alfred Thompson; illustrated ads. Lightly dust-soiled at center fold line; near fine condition.