Dr Caroline Radcliffe talks to Ideas Lab about her research on Willkie Collins’ plays, specifically the ‘The Lighthouse’, a play that Collins wrote and staged together with Charles Dickens.

Although a collaborative effort, Caroline explains that Collins was responsible for the majority of the play.  ‘All Dickens contributed was a prologue and a song, and we actually reconstructed the song at Birmingham, so it was the first time this Dickens song had been heard for over 150 years.’  Caroline describes Collins’ plays as perceptive society dramas, the forerunners of the works of writers like George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, and explains how studying Victorian drama reveals much about the politics and psychology of the time. She also has time to talk about her upcoming appearance on a new BBC Four series with Lucy Worsley and Len Goodman, looking at the social history of dance.

Dr Radcliffe has recently discovered fifteen unpublished letters by Collins relating to his dramatic works. She will be publishing them with the Wilkie Collins Society next year.