[a handsome set] London: Sampson, Low, Son, & Co., 1863. 16 pp ads dated Nov 1863 in each volume. Original green cloth with spines stamped in gilt.
First Edition of this collection of twenty-five essays, sketches and other pieces (including some fiction). All of them had initially appeared between 1856 and 1861 either in "Household Words" or in "All The Year Round," the two periodicals founded and edited by Collins's brother's father-in-law, Charles Dickens. (Collins's most famous works, THE WOMAN IN WHITE and THE MOONSTONE, also first appeared in "All The Year Round.")
Most of the pieces are categorized by Collins as "Sketches of Character," "Nooks and Corners of History," "Social Grievances," "Curiosities of Literature," "Fragments of Personal Experience" and "Cases Worth Looking At." Andrew Gasson in his bibliography provides a one-clause recap of each piece, enough to get across that many demonstrate Collins's wit and his disdain for Victorian sensibilities -- for example "Talk Stoppers" details "enemies to the art of conversation," "A Journey in Search of Nothing" constitutes "reflections on the difficulties of enforced idleness," "Give Us Room!" covers "the dangers of crinoline and overcrowding at parties...," and "Save Me From My Friends" is "a wry look at the disruptive influence on a writer of too many well-meaning friends." This title also appears in Hubin's bibliography of crime fiction, due to such pieces as "The Poisoned Meal" and "The Cauldron of Oil," based on real crimes.
These volumes, as issued without half-titles, are in the primary binding of "grass-green diagonal-wide-bead-grain cloth, greenish buff endpapers," as described by Sadleir -- with the first-state ads; most copies we hear of either are rebound or are in the secondary brown cloth binding (with Chapman & Hall ads) from about a decade later. Condition is bright and just about fine (the volumes are slightly askew, but there is no external soil or wear other than one faint droplet-mark on a front cover); near the gutter of each front free endpaper is the remnant of an affixed leaf that included numbers down the left (visible) edge. Gasson pp 111-112; Parrish pp 51-53; Sadleir 599; Wolff 1369; Hubin p. 88. Item #14328