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The Moonstone (1868)

The Moonstone (1868). Wilkie Collins. Wilkie Collins (1824-1889). Born 1824 in London. His father was a successful painter. Collins entered Lincoln’s Inn as a law student in 1846.

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The Moonstone (1868)

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  1. The Moonstone (1868) Wilkie Collins

  2. Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) • Born 1824 in London. His father was a successful painter. • Collins entered Lincoln’s Inn as a law student in 1846. • His first novel, Antonina, appeared in 1850. He made his name with sensation novels like The Woman in White (1860), No Name (1862) and Armadale (1866). • He met Charles Dickens in 1851; the pair were life-long friends and literary collaborators. Collins contributed to Dickens’s magazines Household Words and All the Year Round. • The Moonstone first appeared in All the Year Round. It was later published as a three-volume novel by Tinsley. • Collins never married, but lived with a widow, Caroline Graves, and also had three children with Martha Rudd, whom he kept in a separate home. • Collins suffered from ‘rheumatic gout’ (a form of arthritis) and was an invalid later in life. He was addicted to laudanum. He died in 1889. Picture by Elliott and Fry of 55 Baker Street (c.1871). (Public domain.)

  3. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (New York: Harper, 1868). From The British Library. (Public Domain.)

  4. The Moonstone • Use of multiple narrators to tell the story • Combination of professional and amateur detectives • Different forms of expertise: domestic (Betteredge), gentleman (Franklin), detective (Cuff), legal (Bruff), medical (Jennings) Classic features of detective fiction: • Closed cast of suspects • Country house setting • Red herrings – paint-smeared nightgown • Reconstruction of the crime

  5. Historical Context: Policing and Detection • C18th - law and order imposed by local magistrates (usually landowners) and constables (often ex-soldiers with limited training). • 1829 Metropolitan Police Act – introduced police in central London. Focus: crime prevention. Surveillance by uniformed officers. • 1835 Municipal Corporations Act and 1839 County Police Act – established police officers in other parts of the country (e.g. Wigan 1836; Manchester 1839; Salford 1844; Oldham 1849). Permissive rather than compulsory legislation. • 1842 Detective Branch of the Metropolitan Police formed. Plainclothes, investigative work. • 1856 County and Borough Police Act – compelled all counties and boroughs to set up and maintain a police force. Inspectors of Constabulary established to improve standards of police efficiency throughout the country. • 1872 Criminal Investigation Department formed.

  6. Critical Reception: The First Detective Novel? ‘probably the very finest detective story ever written’ - Dorothy L. Sayers, ‘The Omnibus of Crime’, 1928. ‘the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels’ - T S. Eliot, ‘Wilkie Collins and Dickens’, 1960.

  7. Critical Reception ‘In effect, the work of detection is carried forward by the novel’s entire cast of characters, shifted not just from professional to amateur, but from an outsider to a whole community.’ - D.A. Miller, The Novel and the Police, 1988. ‘The lesson of The Moonstone […] is that the family is complicit in the failings of the larger society; murder and robbery are not invasions from without but manifestations of societal tensions – involving especially the dangerous desires of greed and sexuality – within.’ - Elisabeth Rose Gruner, ‘Family Secrets and the Mysteries of The Moonstone’, 1993.

  8. Group Activity Themes and Features: • The Professional Detective • Servants and Masters • The Reconstruction • Threats from Inside and Outside Read the set passage in light of the theme you’ve been given. Talk through the discussion prompts on your handout, making connections between the passage and other parts of the novel.

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