The Frozen Deep
BETWEEN THE SCENES.
THE LANDING STAGE
THE HUT OF THE SEA-MEW
(Relating the Adventures and Transformations of The Frozen Deep.)
As long ago as the year 1856 I wrote a play called "The Frozen Deep."
The work was first represented by amateur actors, at the house of the late Charles Dickens, on the 6th of January 1857. Mr. Dickens himself played the principal part, and played it with a truth, vigour, and pathos never to he forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to witness the performance. The other personages of the story were represented by the ladies of Mr. Dickens's family, by the late Mark Lemon (editor of "Punch"), by the late Augustus Egg, E. A. (the artist), and by the author of the play.
The next appearance of "The Frozen Deep" (played by the amateur company) took place at the Gallery of Illustration, Regent Street, before the Queen and the Royal Family, by the Queen's own command. After this special performance other representations of the work were given—first at the Gallery of Illustration, subsequently (with professional actresses) in some of the principal towns in England—for the benefit of the family of a well-beloved friend of ours, who died in 1857—the late Douglas Jerrold. At Manchester the play was twice performed—on the second evening in the presence of three thousand spectators. This was, I think, the finest of all the representations of "The Frozen Deep." The extraordinary intelligence and enthusiasm of the great audience stimulated us all to do our best. Dickens surpassed himself. The trite phrase is the true phrase to describe that magnificent piece of acting. He literally electrified the audience.
I present here, as "a curiosity" which may be welcome to some of my readers, a portion of the original playbill of the performance at Manchester. To me it has now become one of the saddest memorials of the past that I possess. Of the nine amateur actors who played the men's parts (one of them my brother, all of them my valued friends) but two are now living besides myself—Mr. Charles Dickens, jun., and Mr. Edward Pigott.
In Remembrance of the late Mr. Douglas Jerrold.
FREE TRADE HALL.
UNDER THE MANAGEMENT OF ME. CHARLES DICKENS.
On FRIDAY Evening, Aug. 21, and on SATURDAY
Evening, Aug. 22, 1857,
AT EIGHT O'CLOCK EXACTLY,
Will be presented an entirely new Romantic Drama, in three Acts, by
MR. WILKIE COLLINS,
THE FROZEN DEEP.
The Overture composed expressly for this Piece by Mr. FRANCESCO BERGER, who will conduct the ORCHESTRA.
The Dresses by Messrs. Nathan, of Titchbourne Street, Haymarket, and Miss Wilkins, of Garburton St., Fitzroy Square. Perruquier, Mr. Wilson, of the Strand.
(Officers and Crews of the 'Sea-Mew' and 'Wanderer.')
The Scenery and Scenic Effects of the First Act by Mr. TELBIN;
The Scenery and Scenic Effects of the Second and Third Acts by Mr. STANFIELD, R A.
The country performances being concluded, nearly ten years passed before the footlights shone again on "The Frozen Deep." In 1866 I accepted a proposal, made to me by Mr. Horace Wigan, to produce the play (with certain alterations and additions) on the public stage, at the Olympic Theatre, London. The first performance took place (while I was myself absent from England) on the 27th of November, in the year just mentioned. Mr. H. Neville acted the part " created " by Dickens.
Seven years passed after the production of the play at the Olympic Theatre, and then "The Frozen Deep" appealed once more to public favour, in another country than England, and under a totally new form.
I occupied the autumn and winter of 1873-74 most agreeably to myself, by a tour in the United States of America, receiving from the generous people of that great country a welcome which I shall remember proudly and gratefully to the end of my life. During my stay in America I read in public, in the principal cities, one of my shorter stories (enlarged and re-written for the purpose), called "The Dream-Woman." Concluding my tour at Boston, I was advised by my friends to give, if possible, a special attraction to my farewell reading in America, by presenting to my audience a new work. Having this object in view, and having but a short space of time at my disposal, I bethought myself of "The Frozen Deep." The play had never been published, and I determined to re-write it in narrative form for a public reading. The experiment proved, on trial, to be far more successful than I had ventured to anticipate. Occupying nearly two hours in its delivery, the transformed "Frozen Deep" kept its hold from first to last on the interest and sympathies of the audience. I hope to have future opportunities of reading it in my own country, as well as in the United States.
Proposals having lately been made to me, in England and in America, to publish my "readings," I here present "The Frozen Deep" and "The Dream-Woman." The stories, as I print them, are in both instances considerably longer than the stories as I read them; the limits of time in the case of a public reading rendering it imperatively necessary to abridge without mercy developments of character and incident which are essential to the due presentation of a work in its literary form. I have only to add, for the benefit of those who may have seen, and who may not have forgotten, the play, that the narrative version of "The Frozen Deep" departs widely from the treatment of the story in the First Act of the dramatic version, but (with the one exception of the Third Scene) follows the play as closely asin the succeeding Acts.
The third and last story in the present collection (entitled "John Jago's Ghost") was suggested to me by a printed account of a remark able trial which took place in America some years since. This little work was written during my stay in New York and was published (periodically) in England in "The Home Journal."
- September, 1874.
- A facetious nickname, invented by Dickens for his eldest son.
- Another nickname by Dickens for a young lady who had nothing to say.