Sunday, 1 January 2012
"A House to Let:" a Victorian collaboration
Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
I have just discovered an oddity on Radio 4 Extra, which has so surprised me that I wanted to share it. Others more knowledgeable than I about Victorian literature might already know of it, but I have only just discovered its existence.
This unusual curio is a "Christmas story" called "A House to Let." What makes it so special is that it was written as a relay by Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins and a poet called Adelaide Anne Procter (I have never heard of her before, but then I read very little poetry). Dickens and Collins wrote the 1st and last chapters together, and the writers wrote chapters individually in the middle section. Wikipedia (Ok, maybe not the best source, I know) describes this as the "first collaboration between the four writers," so there are presumably others of which I am as yet unaware.
My apologies if I am being naive and uneducated in getting excited about sharing something about which you might already be aware. But it is a fascinating idea to me. I knew that in recent years Jeffrey Deaver and assorted crime writers had taken this approach in writing a couple of audio books, for example with "The Chopin Manuscript," but I have only discovered that this relay approach to writing had already been done by Dickens.
Although, thinking about it, I don't know why I should be so surprised. I believe that the story was first published in Dickens' periodical "Household Words," so the serial nature of its publication might lend itself to this kind of experiment.
If anyone else shares my fascination with this idea and they have an e-reader, "A House to Let" is available to download for free from The Gutenberg Project here. I have just done so. I don't know if and when I will get time to do it, but it would be an interesting experiment to read it and see if the differing styles of the contributing authors are identifiable.
I would be interested in whether anyone knows about any earlier examples of such a relay approach to collaboration...?