Charles Dickens at 200

An early detective story in All the Year Round

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;
it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.

These famous last words of Sidney Carton in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities appear in the November 26, 1859 issue of All the Year Round. They are immediately followed by the first installment of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Collins was an English novelist, playwright, journalist, and close companion of Dickens in the 1850s and 1860s. The Woman in White is considered one of the earliest mystery novels and presents multiple narratives of the same story and numerous techniques used by private detectives. Collins’ other well-known novel, The Moonstone, was serialized in 1868.

One paragraph does interrupt briefly between the end of A Tale of Two Cities and the start of The Woman in White. The editor (Dickens) remarks on the unusual placement for this new “continuous original work of fiction,” which will generally be on page 1 of each issue. He also writes: And it is our hope and aim, while we work hard at every other department of our journal, to produce, in this one, some sustained works of imagination that may become a part of English Literature.

All the Year Round: A Weekly Journal. Conducted by Charles Dickens
Volume 2


First American edition of The Woman in White

Woman in White

[Click image to enlarge]

American publishers were eager to produce and sell popular novels originally published as serials in England. This is a copy of the first American edition of Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White which was issued the same year it appeared in Dickens' magazine, All the Year Round. The American edition was illustrated by John McLenan. McLenan was an admired American caricaturist who, during a brief career just before the U.S. Civil War, produced images mainly for Harper & Company, including those for two of Collins' novels and two by Dickens.

The Woman in White: A Novel. By Wilkie Collins
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1860


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