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The Moonstone, a romance [NOOK Book]

Overview

According to Wikipedia: "The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins is a 19th-century British epistolary novel, generally considered the first detective novel in the English language. The story was originally serialized in Charles Dickens' magazine All the Year Round. The Moonstone and The Woman in White are considered Wilkie Collins' best novels. Besides creating many of the ground rules of the detective novel, The Moonstone also reflected Collins' enlightened social attitudes in his treatment of the servants in the...
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The Moonstone, a romance

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Overview

According to Wikipedia: "The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins is a 19th-century British epistolary novel, generally considered the first detective novel in the English language. The story was originally serialized in Charles Dickens' magazine All the Year Round. The Moonstone and The Woman in White are considered Wilkie Collins' best novels. Besides creating many of the ground rules of the detective novel, The Moonstone also reflected Collins' enlightened social attitudes in his treatment of the servants in the novel."
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The first and greatest of English detective novels."
—T. S. Eliot
From Barnes & Noble
One of the first English detective novels, this mystery involves the disappearance of a valuable diamond, originally stolen from a Hindu idol, given to a young woman on her eighteenth birthday, and then stolen again. A classic of 19th-century literature.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940000748220
  • Publisher: B&R Samizdat Express
  • Publication date: 7/4/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 739,824
  • File size: 407 KB

Meet the Author

Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins was an English novelist who critics often credit with the invention of the English detective novel. Sergeant Cuff from Collins's novel The Moonstone became a prototype of the detective hero in English fiction. Collins's works center on mainstream Victorian domestic life. Collins liked to tackle social issues, and many of his novels contain sympathetic portraits of physically abnormal individuals. In addition to Moonstone, he is well known for his popular suspense thriller The Woman in White, No Name, and Armadale.Collins was born in London in 1824 to William Collins, a well-known landscape painter, and Harriet Collins, the daughter of a painter. Despite a secure home, he was a small, sickly child and had a slightly deformed skull. He was educated privately and studied painting for several years. He later studied law and became a lawyer at the age of twenty-seven. Collins never practiced law, but he did put his legal knowledge to work in his crime writing. In 1851, Collins met his lifelong friend and mentor Charles Dickens while they were pursuing a mutual interest in amateur theater. Dickens helped Collins bring humor and believable characters into his books.The two women in Collins's life-Caroline Graves, his life-long companion, and Mrs. Martha Rudd, his mistress-also greatly influenced his writing.During the 1860s, Collins started to suffer severely from rheumatic pains and became addicted to laudanum, a form of opium. The death of Dickens in 1870 robbed him of his powerful inspiration, and his popularity declined. In 1873, he met Mark Twain and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on a trip to the United States. Soon thereafter he wrote The Evil Genius, which was published in 1886. Collins died from a stroke on September 23, 1889. James Langton trained as an actor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. An AudioFile Earphones Award winner, he has performed many voice-overs and narrated numerous audiobooks, including the international bestseller The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud by Julia Navarro, The Virtues of War by Steven Pressfield, and The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. He is also a professional musician who led the internationally renowned Pasadena Roof Orchestra from 1996 to 2002. James was born in York, England, and is now based in New York City.

Biography

Wilkie Collins has long been overshadowed by his friend and collaborator Charles Dickens -- unfortunately for readers who have consequently not discovered one of literature's most compelling writers. His novels are ceremonious and none too brief; they are also irresistible. Take the opening lines of his 1852 story of marital deceit, Basil: "What am I now about to write? The history of little more than the events of one year, out of the twenty-four years of my life. Why do I undertake such an employment as this? Perhaps, because I think that my narrative may do good; because I hope that, one day, it may be put to some warning use." It's a typical Collins opening, one that draws the reader in with a tone that's personal, but carries formality and import.

With his long, frizzy black beard and wide, sloping forehead, Collins looked like a grandfatherly type, even in his 30s. But his thinking and lifestyle were unconventional, even a bit ahead of his time. His characters (particularly the women) have a Henry James–like predilection for bucking social mores, and he occasionally found his work under attack by morality-mongers. Collins was well aware of his books' potential to offend certain Victorian sensibilities, and there is evidence in some of his writings that he was prepared for it, if not welcoming of it. He writes in the preface to Armadale, his 1866 novel about a father's deathbed murder confession, "Estimated by the clap-trap morality of the present day, this may be a very daring book. Judged by the Christian morality which is of all time, it is only a book that is daring enough to speak the truth."

Collins began his career by writing his painter father's biography. He gained popularity when he began publishing stories and serialized novels in Dickens's publications, Household Words and All the Year Round. His best-known works are The Woman in White and The Moonstone, both of which -- along with Basil -- have been made into films.

Collins often alludes to fantastic, supernatural happenings in his stories; the events themselves are usually borne out by reasonable explanations. What remains are the electrifying effects one human being can have upon another, for better and for worse. His main characters are often described in terms such as "remarkable," "extraordinary," and "singular," lending their actions -- and thereby the story -- a special urgency. In one of his great successes, 1860's The Woman in White, Collins spins what is basically a magnificent con story into something almost ghostly: The fates of two look-alike women -- a beautiful, well-off woman and a poor insane-asylum escapee -- are intertwined and manipulated by two evil men. One of those is among the best fictional villains ever created, the kill-‘em-with-kindness Count Fosco. Fosco is emblematic of another Collins hallmark -- antagonists who manage to throw their victims off guard by some powerful charm of personality or appearance.

The Moonstone, published in 1868, is regarded by many to be the first English detective novel. Starring the unassuming Sergeant Cuff, it follows the trail of a sought-after yellow diamond from India that has fallen into the wrong hands. Like The Woman in White, the novel is told in multiple first person narratives that display Collins's gift for distinctive and often humorous voices. Whether it is servants, foreigners, or the wealthy, Collins is an equal-opportunity satirist who quietly but deftly pokes fun at human foibles even as he draws nuanced, memorable characters.

Though The Woman in White and The Moonstone are Collins's standouts, he had a productive, consistent career; the novels Armadale, No Name and Poor Miss Finch are worthwhile reads, and his short stories will particularly appeal to Edgar Allan Poe fans. Fortunately in the case of this underappreciated writer, there are plenty of titles to appreciate.

Good To Know

Collins studied law, and though he never practiced as a lawyer, his knowledge of the subject is evident in his fiction. He also apprenticed with a tea merchant in his pre-publication years.

He was addicted to laudanum, a form of opium that he used to treat his pain from rheumatic gout.

Collins never married, but he had a long-term live-in relationship with one woman, and a second romance that produced three children.

He is named after popular artist Sir David Wilkie; both his parents were painters who counted Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth among their friends.

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    1. Also Known As:
      William Wilkie Collins (full name)
      Wilkie Collins
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 8, 1824
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Date of Death:
      September 23, 1889
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England

Read an Excerpt

Collins: THE MOONSTONE

First Period the loss of the diamond (1848) The Events related by Gabriel Betteredge, House-Steward in the service of Julia, Lady Verinder

Chapter I

In the first part of Robinson Crusoe, at page one hundred and twenty-nine, you will find it thus written:

“Now I saw, though too late, the Folly of beginning a Work before we count the Cost, and before we judge rightly of our own Strength to go through with it.”

Only yesterday, I opened my Robinson Crusoe at that place. Only this morning (May twenty-first, Eighteen hundred and fifty), came my lady’s nephew, Mr. Franklin Blake, and held a short conversation with me, as follows:—

“Betteredge,” says Mr. Franklin, “I have been to the lawyer’s about some family matters; and, among other things, we have been talking of the loss of the Indian Diamond, in my aunt’s house in Yorkshire, two years since. Mr. Bruff thinks, as I think, that the whole story ought, in the interests of truth, to be placed on record in writing—and the sooner the better.”

Not perceiving his drift yet, and thinking it always desirable for the sake of peace and quietness to be on the lawyer’s side, I said I thought so too. Mr. Franklin went on.

“In this matter of the Diamond,” he said, “the characters of innocent people have suffered under suspicion already—as you know. The memories of innocent people may suffer, hereafter, for want of a record of the facts to which those who come after us can appeal. There can be no doubt that this strange family story of ours ought to betold. And I think, Betteredge, Mr. Bruff and I together have hit on the right way of telling it.”

Very satisfactory to both of them, no doubt. But I failed to see what I myself had to do with it, so far.

“We have certain events to relate,” Mr. Franklin proceeded; “and we have certain persons concerned in those events who are capable of relating them. Starting from these plain facts, the idea is that we should all write the story of the Moonstone in turn—as far as our own personal experience extends, and no farther. We must begin by showing how the Diamond first fell into the hands of my uncle Herncastle, when he was serving in India fifty years since. This prefatory narrative I have already got by me in the form of an old family paper, which relates the necessary particulars on the authority of an eye-witness. The next thing to do is to tell how the Diamond found its way into my aunt’s house in Yorkshire, two years ago, and how it came to be lost in little more than twelve hours afterwards. Nobody knows as much as you do, Betteredge, about what went on in the house at that time. So you must take the pen in hand, and start the story.”

In those terms I was informed of what my personal concern was with the matter of the Diamond. If you are curious to know what course I took under the circumstances, I beg to inform you that I did what you would probably have done in my place. I modestly declared myself to be quite unequal to the task imposed upon me—and I privately felt, all the time, that I was quite clever enough to perform it, if I only gave my own abilities a fair chance. Mr. Franklin, I imagine, must have seen my private sentiments in my face. He declined to believe in my modesty; and he insisted on giving my abilities a fair chance.

Two hours have passed since Mr. Franklin left me. As soon as his back was turned, I went to my writing-desk to start the story. There I have sat helpless (in spite of my abilities) ever since; seeing what Robinson Crusoe saw, as quoted above—namely, the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it. Please to remember, I opened the book by accident, at that bit, only the day before I rashly undertook the business now in hand; and, allow me to ask—if that isn’t prophecy, what is?

I am not superstitious; I have read a heap of books in my time; I am a scholar in my own way. Though turned seventy, I possess an active memory, and legs to correspond. You are not to take it, if you please, as the saying of an ignorant man, when I express my opinion that such a book as Robinson Crusoe never was written, and never will be written again. I have tried that book for years—generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco—and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life. When my spirits are bad—Robinson Crusoe. When I want advice—Robinson Crusoe. In past times, when my wife plagued me; in present times, when I have had a drop too much—Robinson Crusoe. I have worn out six stout Robinson Crusoes with hard work in my service. On my lady’s last birthday she gave me a seventh. I took a drop too much on the strength of it; and Robinson Crusoe put me right again. Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into the bargain.

Still, this don’t look much like starting the story of the Diamond—does it? I seem to be wandering off in search of Lord knows what, Lord knows where. We will take a new sheet of paper, if you please, and begin over again, with my best respects to you.

Copyright 2001 by Wilkie Collins
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

William Wilkie Collins: A Brief Chronology

A Note on the Text

The Moonstone

Appendix A: Early Reviews of The Moonstone

1. Geraldine Jewsbury, The Athenaeum

2. The Spectator

3. Nation

4. The Times

5. Harper's New Monthly Magazine

6. Lippincott's Magazine

Appendix B: Excerpts from Newspaper Accounts of the Constance

1. Kent/Road-house Murder Case of 1860

2. The Times (July 3, 1860 to October 2, 1865)

3. The Sommerset and Wilts Journal (July 21, 1860)

Appendix C: Excerpts from The Times Accounts of the Major Murray/Northumberland Street Case of 1861

Appendix D: Collins on Indians

"A Sermon for Sepoys." Household Words

Appendix E: Letters by Collins Concerning The Moonstone (the Novel and the Play)

Appendix F: The Moonstone (the Play)

Appendix G: Reviews of the Olympic Theatre Performance of Collins's The Moonstone

1. The Times

2. The Illustrated London News

3. The Athenaeum

4. The Spirit of the Times, New York

Select Bibliography

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Reading Group Guide

1. T. S. Eliot called The Moonstone “the first and the best of English detective novels.” What classic elements of mystery are present in this story, and how has the genre of detective fiction evolved from the 1860s to the present day?

2. Discuss Collins’s employment of first-hand accounts to tell the story of The Moonstone. What does each narrator bring to the story, and how skillful is the author in shifting from comedy to pathos, romance to suspense? Is it an effective method of storytelling?

3. According to his 1868 preface, Collins’s stated objective was to trace the influence of character on circumstances. Whose character exerts the strongest influence on the plot of this novel, and how?

4. Drawing on the Prologue, as well as the opinions expressed by characters including Mr. Betteredge and Mr. Murthwaite, what may be determined about Collins’s views on British imperialism? Does he support or defy racial stereotypes in his depiction of the trio of Brahmins?

5. When Penelope suggests to her father that Rosanna Spearman has fallen in love with Franklin Blake, Betteredge bursts out laughing at the “absurdity” of it. What additional examples of class distinctions are evident in The Moonstone?

6. Dorothy L. Sayers, the acclaimed detective novelist, noted that, for his time, Collins was “genuinely feminist” in his treatment of women. Do you agree?

7. Discuss the role that opium plays in The Moonstone. Is it a believable plot device? Does the fact that the author created the story while under the influence of laudanum lend credibility to his depiction of its effects?

8. Charles Dickens,longtime friend and mentor to Wilkie Collins, edited and published The Moonstone in its initial serialized form. What do these two writers have in common in terms of style, structure, and characterization? How do they differ?

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