"Miss Rachel then covered the surface under his directions and with his help, with patterns and devices."
Probably William Jewett.
14.5 cm high by 11.3 cm wide
Ninth regular illustration for Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: A Romance in Harper's Weekly (25 January 1868), page 53. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
[You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Illustrations courtesy of the E. J. Pratt Fine Arts Library, University of Toronto, and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia.
On the twenty-ninth of the month, Miss Rachel and Mr. Franklin hit on a new method of working their way together through the time which might otherwise have hung heavy on their hands. There are reasons for taking particular notice here of the occupation that amused them. You will find it has a bearing on something that is still to come.
Gentlefolks in general have a very awkward rock ahead in life — the rock ahead of their own idleness. Their lives being, for the most part, passed in looking about them for something to do, it is curious to see — especially when their tastes are of what is called the intellectual sort — how often they drift blindfold into some nasty pursuit. Nine times out of ten they take to torturing something, or to spoiling something — and they firmly believe they are improving their minds, when the plain truth is, they are only making a mess in the house. I have seen them (ladies, I am sorry to say, as well as gentlemen) go out, day after day, for example, with empty pill-boxes, and catch newts, and beetles, and spiders, and frogs, and come home and stick pins through the miserable wretches, or cut them up, without a pang of remorse, into little pieces. You see my young master, or my young mistress, poring over one of their spiders' insides with a magnifying-glass; or you meet one of their frogs walking downstairs without his head — and when you wonder what this cruel nastiness means, you are told that it means a taste in my young master or my young mistress for natural history. Sometimes, again, you see them occupied for hours together in spoiling a pretty flower with pointed instruments, out of a stupid curiosity to know what the flower is made of. Is its color any prettier, or its scent any sweeter, when you doknow? But there! the poor souls must get through the time, you see — they must get through the time. You dabbled in nasty mud, and made pies, when you were a child; and you dabble in nasty science, and dissect spiders, and spoil flowers, when you grow up. In the one case and in the other, the secret of it is, that you have got nothing to think of in your poor empty head, and nothing to do with your poor idle hands. And so it ends in your spoiling canvas with paints, and making a smell in the house; or in keeping tadpoles in a glass box full of dirty water, and turning everybody's stomach in the house; or in chipping off bits of stone here, there, and everywhere, and dropping grit into all the victuals in the house; or in staining your fingers in the pursuit of photography, and doing justice without mercy on everybody's face in the house. It often falls heavy enough, no doubt, on people who are really obliged to get their living, to be forced to work for the clothes that cover them, the roof that shelters them, and the food that keeps them going. But compare the hardest day's work you ever did with the idleness that splits flowers and pokes its way into spiders' stomachs, and thank your stars that your head has got something it must think of, and your hands something that they must do.
As for Mr. Franklin and Miss Rachel, they tortured nothing, I am glad to say. They simply confined themselves to making a mess; and all they spoilt, to do them justice, was the panelling of a door.
Mr. Franklin's universal genius, dabbling in everything, dabbled in what he called "decorative painting." He had invented, he informed us, a new mixture to moisten paint with, which he described as a "vehicle." What it was made of, I don't know. What it did, I can tell you in two words — it stank. Miss Rachel being wild to try her hand at the new process, Mr. Franklin sent to London for the materials; mixed them up, with accompaniment of a smell which made the very dogs sneeze when they came into the room; put an apron and a bib over Miss Rachel's gown, and set her to work decorating her own little sitting-room — called, for want of English to name it in, her "boudoir." They began with the inside of the door. Mr. Franklin scraped off all the nice varnish with pumice-stone, and made what he described as a surface to work on. Miss Rachel then covered the surface, under his directions and with his help, with patterns and devices — griffins, birds, flowers, cupids, and such like — copied from designs made by a famous Italian painter, whose name escapes me: the one, I mean, who stocked the world with Virgin Maries, and had a sweetheart at the baker's. Viewed as work, this decoration was slow to do, and dirty to deal with. But our young lady and gentleman never seemed to tire of it. When they were not riding, or seeing company, or taking their meals, or piping their songs, there they were with their heads together, as busy as bees, spoiling the door. Who was the poet who said that Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do? If he had occupied my place in the family, and had seen Miss Rachel with her brush, and Mr. Franklin with his vehicle, he could have written nothing truer of either of them than that. — "The Loss of the Diamond (1848)," Chapter 8, p. 53 in Harper's Weekly, vol. XII. — No. 577.
The painter to whose domestic affairs Betteredge alludes is probably the young genius from Urbino, Raphaelo Santé (1483-1520), who the art historian Giorgio Vasari in The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times (1550) recalls had a mistress who was the daughter of a baker — the painting entitled La Fornarina is of Margherita Luti, the daughter of a baker (fornaro). The reference is pertinent if one considers that Collins was a supporter of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who sought to revive the realism of European art as it existed before the painter of beautiful surfaces. The PRB emphasized the precise, almost photographic representation of even humble objects, and not fanciful decorations such as those that Raphael and his minions executed in the suites of Italian Renaissance nobility.
As Collins's mouthpiece for social as well as art criticism here, Gabriel Betteredge exhibits the sort of anti-aristocratic prejudice that one finds in a range of Victorian writers, whose satires on the dissolute children of the land-owning class extend from Charles Dickens's Sir Mulberry Hawk in Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39) to Oscar Wilde's Algernon Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). This sort of satirical digression may have been particularly suited to the inherent prejudices of middle-class readers on either side of the Atlantic whose wealth was derived from ingenuity and enterprise. Here, the satire of the painting activity is readable immediately alongside the illustration, which treats the figures of Franklin Blake (left) as artistic director and Rachel in apron (right) as painter with considerably more charity than Betteredge's judgmental commentary suggests.
Although the swirling ornamentation suggests Baroque elaboration, only one Cupid is discernible (just above Rachel's head, to the right) — "griffins, birds, flowers" one does not see realistically represented. In consequence, the illustrator draws the eye forward to the moustached Franklin Blake, apparently reading from some sort of list of instructions on the new "method," and Rachel in profile, painting with her right hand and holding a palette (centre) with her left. His long hair, bow-tie, and casual pose give him an artistic look, while Rachel is merely following the master's instructions, as was the case with Maestro Raffaello and his army of apprentices (notably his assistants Gianfrancesco Penni, Giulio Romano, and Raffaellino del Colle) when they decorated the four papal reception rooms in Rome, famously the Stanza della Segnatura ("Room of the Signatura"), for Julius the Second. Channeling the Italian Renaissance master, Franklin appears to have a short paintbrush in his hand, as if he is about to deliver some sort of occasional master-touch.
- The Moonstone and British India (1857, 1868, and 1876)
- Detection and Disruption inside and outside the 'quiet English home' in The Moonstone
- Illustrations by F. A. Fraser for Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: A Romance (1890)
- Illustrations by John Sloan for Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: A Romance (1908)
- Illustrations by Alfred Pearse for The Moonstone: A Romance (1910)
- The 1944 illustrations by William Sharp for The Moonstone (1946).
Last updated 22 November 2016