'Man is the sport of circumstances'

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A Rogue's Life - Chatto & Windus yellowback.

1890 Chatto & Windus yellowback

Wilkie Collins's short novel was originally published in Household Words during 1856.  It was republished in book form in 1879 after an invitation from George Bentley 'to take a place in his new series of pretty volumes in red.'  Collins made minor changes to the text and noted in some 'Introductory Words' that it was written 'at a very happy time in my past life...at Paris, when I had Charles Dickens for a near neighbour and a daily companion.'  He also revealed that he had intended, but never written, a further series of the Rogue's adventures in Australia.  The theme of picture forgery, and the character of Frank Softly, were probably inspired by Memoirs of a Picture, written by Collins's grandfather, William Collins Senior.  The Scotch marriage of Frank and Alicia anticipates Collins's later attack on marriage laws in Man and Wife (1870).



A Rogue's Life by F. M. Lupton, New York.

1900 edition by F. M. Lupton of New York

Frank Softly is a poor young gentleman whose snobbish father sends him to boarding school to make useful connections, but without success.  He tries a variety of professions to earn his living but by the time he is twenty-five has failed at medicine, caricaturing, portrait painting, forging Old Masters and administering a scientific institution.


Frank then falls in love with Dr Dulcifer's daughter, Alicia, but discovers that her father is a counterfeit coin maker.  Our likeable hero is unwillingly recruited into forging to compromise him as a felon.  At this point the doctor considers him unsuitable as a son-in-law and sends Alicia away to Wales.  The counterfeiters are betrayed to the Bow Street Runners but Frank escapes, finds Alicia and elopes with her to Scotland.  Immediately after their wedding, Frank is arrested, tried and transported to Australia.  As a model prisoner he becomes servant to his own wife who has travelled to the New World in the person of a widow.  By the time Frank is officially released, their speculations have proved so successful that he is a rich man and a rogue no longer.


A Rogue's Life in Munro's Library of Popular Novels.

1894 edition in paper wrappers by Munro of New York


Household Words 1-29 March 1856, as 'A Rogue's Life: Written by Himself'.


Book publication

First edition A Rogue's Life in Bentley's Empire Library.

1 volume, Richard Bentley, London 1879.  Red flexible cloth, covers blocked in black, spine lettered in gilt, black end-papers.  No half-title.  Published 7 April 1879.  Number 7 in Bentley's Empire Library, a half-crown series with a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.


               iv + 188 pp


1 volume editions

Chatto & Windus 1889-1903.  Sutton, Stroud 1984.


First US edition

Appleton's New Handy-Volume Series, New York 1879.



Spanish, New York 1892, 1897.

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