'He felt...that he should mope and pine, like a wild animal in a cage, under confinement in an office'.

[Plot Summary]  [Publishing History]

Title-Page to the Richard Beltley first edition of Hide and Seek.

First edition in boards by Richard Bentley.

First edition title-page in 1854

Three volume first edition in boards


Collins's third novel, published in 1854; dedicated to Charles Dickens 'As a token of admiration and affection'.  Dickens wrote to Georgina Hogarth: 'I think it far away the cleverest novel I have ever seen written by a new hand.'  Reviews were enthusiastic but despite praise from the Athenaeum and The Leader sales were disappointing; Collins believed this was due to the effect of the Crimean War on the book-reading public.

The novel is the first by Collins to explore the positive aspects of physical handicap.  It is also one of his least sensational, laying emphasis on domestic affections.  The quieter atmosphere may in part be attributed to the influence of Dickens, and also to the use of autobiographical material in the first half of the book.  The ebullient and rebellious Zack shares many of Collins's early experiences as well as some of his characteristics.  The description of Valentine Blyth's studio was taken from that of William Collins at Devonshire Terrace, Bayswater.

Collins was already careful to carry out background research;   the experiences of the deaf-mute Madonna are closely modelled on examples in Dr John Kitto's 1845 The Lost Senses.  The character of Mat Marksman was probably influenced by the novels of Fenimore Cooper.


Hide and Seek - Smith, Elder yellowback.

Hide and Seek - Chatto & Windus yellowback.

1871 Smith, Elder Yellowback 1881 Chatto & Windus Yellowback

  Plot Summary

From the 1875 Chatto & Windus Piccadilly Novels.

From the 1875 Chatto & Windus Piccadilly Novels

Valentine Blyth, an artist, and Lavinia, his invalid wife, have an adopted deaf and dumb daughter, Mary, usually called Madonna because of her beautiful eyes and resemblance to a painting by Raphael.  There is a mystery about her origins.  She was rescued by Blyth from a travelling circus, where she was mistreated by the cruel proprietor after she lost her hearing in an accident.  Years before, her dying mother had been helped by the wife of a circus clown, the good-natured Mrs Peckover, who brought up the orphaned baby as her own.  Mrs Peckover agrees to Mary's informal adoption by the Blyths since they can offer her a better life.  The only clue to her original identity is a hair-bracelet with the initials MG which Blyth keeps locked in his bureau for fear that Mary's unknown family might one day claim her.

Zachary Thorpe (Zack), closely attached to his gentle mother but at odds with his over-bearing, religious father, is a frequent visitor to the Blyths despite Mr Thorpe's disapproval of Madonna's dubious origins.  Madonna falls in love with him, but Zack is too immature to respond.  He is a wild twenty-year-old who secretly frequents late night theatres and drinking places against his father's wishes.  One night he is involved in a brawl and is rescued by Mat Marksman, an outlandish, nomadic character who was scalped by Indians.  Zack arrives home drunk and the following day leaves his father's house to share lodgings with his new found friend.

Mat, in search of his lost sister, visits his aunt, old Joanna Grice, in the Midlands town of Dibbledean and hears the family scandal which occurred after he went abroad.  His sister, Mary, left home, pregnant with an illegitimate child, and is buried in a pauper's grave in Bangbury.  Mat takes a box containing Mary's old love letters as well as a note from Joanna Grice justifying her conduct.  The letters identify Mary's lover as Arthur Carr.  Carr had written several times but Joanna intercepted his letters.  Thinking herself deserted, Mary left home to avoid disgracing the family without realising that her father had forgiven her.

On his return to London, Mat accompanies Zack to Blyth's studio.  He is struck by the resemblance between Madonna and his dead sister and from a comment by Zack guesses that the clue to her origin is locked in Blyth's bureau.  Mat gets Blyth drunk, takes an impression of his key and obtains the bracelet.  He is resolved to find Arthur Carr and take revenge.

Mat, recognising that the distinctive brown hair in the bracelet is identical with Zack's, deduces that Zack's father was in reality  'Arthur Carr' and confronts him.  Thorpe confesses in a letter to Blyth, while the magnanimous Mat destroys a similar note to Zack and takes him travelling in America.  When news comes that Zack's father has died, Mat reveals the whole secret, including the fact that Zack and Madonna are brother and sister.  Zack returns home and eventually persuades Mat to leave his solitary life to rejoin his niece and friends in England.


Hide and Seek - Chatto & Windus Piccadilly novels.

Hide and Seek - Chatto & Windus variant binding.

1875 Chatto & Windus binding for the Piccadilly Novels collected edition 1876 variant or possible trial binding, also from Chatto & Windus






Book publication

First edition

3 volumes, Richard Bentley, London 1854.  Pale maroon cloth, covers blocked in blind, spines lettered in gilt, pale yellow end-papers.  Half-title in each volume.  Published 6 June 1854.  Variant bindings issued simultaneously in dark brown cloth; and paper boards, half cloth, with white end-papers.

Vol I          viii + 300 pp.  Publishers' advertisements dated June 1854 occupy pp (299-300)

Vol II         (iv) + 324 pp. Publishers' advertisements dated June 1854 occupy pp (323-324)

Vol III        (iv) + 332 pp

1 Volume editions

Sampson Low (sub-titled The Mystery of Mary Grice, with revised text and a frontispiece by John Gilbert) 1861-1863; Smith, Elder 1865-1872; Chatto & Windus (with 8 illustrations by M. F. Mahoney) 1875-1921.  Dover, New York 1981; Sutton, Stroud, 19  , World's Classics 1993 (Critical edition, edited by Catherine Peters).


1st US edition

Dick & Fitzgerald, New York 1858.



Russian, St Petersburg 1858; German, Sondershausen 1864; French, Paris 1877.

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