(From Lives of Victorian Literary Figures, Pickering & Chatto, 2007)



'Recollections of Wilkie Collins.'  Wybert Reeve, Chambers Journal, 9 June (1906): 458-61.

Recollections by Wybert Reeve (1831-1906) were published in Chambers Journal but were based on an earlier, very similar essay in Reeve's collection of sketches, From Life [George Robertson: Melbourne 1891].  Some of these had in turn previously been published in The Australasian, a weekly Melbourne newspaper.  In his preface, Reeve described himself as "an actor, writer, manager, and traveller over the greater part of the civilized world."  He was also a theatrical collaborator and long standing friend of Collins.


Reeve was born in London and entered the theatre at Bradford in 1849.  His first part was Frederick in The Wonder.  Following several juvenile roles, he produced his first play, a farce called An Australian Hoax, in Plymouth during 1852.  He played mainly comic parts with several provincial companies and managed the Theatre Royal Sheffield for three years from 1862.  He became the lessee in 1867 and, later, the proprietor of the Theatre Royal Scarborough.  Plays - mainly farces - written by Reeve included Never Reckon your Chickens, Parted, The Better Angel, I Love You, A Match for Mother-in-law and Pantomime for Bluebeard, the Great Bashaw, or, Harlequin Stormcloud, and the Fairy Starlight Queen.


Reeve returned to London to appear in Collins's dramatic adaptation of The Woman in White, staged at the Olympic Theatre.  He originally played Walter Hartright from the play's opening on 9 October 1871.  When George Vining fell ill, Reeve took over the role of Fosco from 11 January 1872 and subsequently took the production on tour around England for over a year.  He joined Collins on his reading tour of North America in 1873 and played Fosco for a two week run at the Broadway Theatre, New York.  During an eight year period, Reeve played the role over 1,500 times in England , Canada and the USA [Winter, Old Friends, New York : 1909, p. 209].  Reeve produced his own adaptation of The Woman in White with the Majeroni Company at the Bijou Theatre Melbourne from the 6 to 16 August 1887.


Reeve also dramatised works for the stage including, at Collins's request, No Name.  Although never staged in England , the play was performed in both New York and Melbourne ; in the latter case it had the new title Great Temptation for its production during 1879.  Reeve spent much of his theatrical life touring in the USA and Australia .  Collins maintained a regular correspondence with him in Australia and in December 1883, sent him a New Year card of English oaks adding the note "a little bit of English landscape, my Dear Reeve, to remind you of the old country and this old friend."




Pascoe, Charles Eyre, The Dramatic List: A Record of the Principal Performances of Living Actors and Actresses on the British Stage, London : Hardwicke and Bogue, 1879.

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