A COURT DUEL
A Court Duel was Collins's first dramatic adaptation. It took place on 26 February 1850 when he made his first appearance on a public stage at the Soho Theatre (previously Miss Kelly's) 73 Dean Street. Advertised in The Times of 22 and 26 February, it afforded a wider public audience than that of Collins's earlier amateur theatricals. He translated from the French a melodrama set in the French court of 1726. The original was by 'Monsieur Lockroy' (J. P. Simon) and Edmond Badon. Charles Collins played the lead and Wilkie the part of Soubise, a comic courtier. The cast also included Henry Brandling and one professional actress, Jane Mordaunt of the Theatre Royal Covent Garden. The play was staged in aid of the Female Emigraton Fund which assisted impoverished women settle in the colonies. This theme later appears in No Name (1862) where Magdalen's maid, Louisa, emigrates to Australia. A Court Duel may have been a collaboration since only one act of the manuscript is in Collins's handwriting.
Advertisement in The Times of 22 February 1850 for 'A Court Duel!
FOR THE FEMALE EMIGRATION FUND.- At Miss Kelly's Theatre, 73 Dean Street, Soho - On Tuesday evening, the 26th inst, a new drama (translated from the French for the occasion), called A COURT DUEL, will be performed by gentleman amateurs, assisted by Miss Jane Mordaunt, who has kindly given her gratuitous services. To be followed by a MUSICAL INTERLUDE and to conclude with RAISING THE WIND, in which Mrs Taylor and Mrs H. Hughes will appear. Prices of admission - dress circle 8s; stalls 5s; upper circle 4s. Performance to commence at 8 o'clock. Applications for tickets to be made at Messrs. Ebers's library, 27, Old Bond Street.
The only published version of the play was issued in 'A Court Duel as Performed by Wilkie Collins, with an Analysis of the Manuscript, Playbill, and Advertisement' by Robert Hanna, in Dickens Studies Annual Volume 47, 2016, pp. 224-288.
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