"And whispered to the company, confidentially, 'Please to change your mind, and try it; for I know it will do you good.'" — second illustration for the Harper's Weekly serialisation of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1 February 1868; fifth weekly instalment), Chapter 10 in "First Period. The Loss of the Diamond (1848), The Events related by Gabriel Betteredge," p. 69. 11.5 x 17.3 cm. [At Rachel Verinder's birthday dinner on 21 June 1848, table-talk at cross purposes leads to arguments, but here everyone seems to be in perfect amity as Betteredge, right, serves the wine and extols dishes in which the diners have not expressed much interest.] "And whispered to the company, confidentially, 'Please to change your mind, and try it; for I know it will do you good.'" — the passage occurs immediately above the illustration referenced, on p. 69. Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

Illustrations courtesy of the E. J. Pratt Fine Arts Library, University of Toronto, and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia.

Passage Illustrated

As the dinner got on, I became aware, little by little, that this festival was not prospering as other like festivals had prospered before it.

Looking back at the birthday now, by the light of what happened afterwards, I am half inclined to think that the cursed Diamond must have cast a blight on the whole company. I plied them well with wine; and being a privileged character, followed the unpopular dishes round the table, and whispered to the company confidentially, "Please to change your mind and try it; for I know it will do you good." Nine times out of ten they changed their minds — out of regard for their old original Betteredge, they were pleased to say— but all to no purpose. There were gaps of silence in the talk, as the dinner got on, that made me feel personally uncomfortable. When they did use their tongues again, they used them innocently, in the most unfortunate manner and to the worst possible purpose. Mr. Candy, the doctor, for instance, said more unlucky things than I ever knew him to say before. Take one sample of the way in which he went on, and you will understand what I had to put up with at the sideboard, officiating as I was in the character of a man who had the prosperity of the festival at heart. — Harper's Weekly, Vol. XII, No. 579, 1 February 1868: First Period: The Loss of the Diamond (1848)," Chapter X, p. 69.

Commentary: Innumerable Quarrels over Dinner

Among the guests at Rachel's birthday dinner on the evening of 21 June 1848 are the local physician, Mr. Candy, and an intrepid Indian explorer, Mr. Murthwaite. Blake's contempt for medicine (despite his sleeping problems resulting from his renunciation of tobacco because Rachel does not like the smell of his cigars) leads him to speak contemptuously of Mr. Candy's profession. The physician leaves the dinner party for a time, but returns — unbeknownst to Blake, Candy gives him a dose of a sleeping drug, laudanum (a form of opium frequently prescribed for such maladies as neuralgia and sleeplessness). Thus, Blake will unconsciously purloin the diamond from Rachel's cabinet in order to protect it. Indeed, E. R. Gregory in "Murder in Fact" in the 22 July 1978 issue of The New Republic contends that "the central action of The Moonstone grows out of a quarrel between Franklin Blake and the physician, Candy, that we hardly notice" (33). This crucial quarrel, however, must have been much more noticeable to the story's readers in its Harper's Weekly version simply because the quarrel between the physician and the protagonist seems to be the subject of one of the three illustrations for the fifth weekly part; in fact, the speaker here is not Dr. Candy but Betteredge. Continues Gregory,

Even though Franklin comments the next morning on how stupified he feels, drugging does not occur to most of us because the men's quarrel, like the pebble on the beach, has been well-camouflaged by a whole series of quarrels. At Rachel's birthday dinner, Franklin has upheld French views on sex to the vicar's maiden aunt, deprecated experience as important in breeding bulls to the lord of the manor, and pooh-poohed the spread of democracy to the county member. By the time he gets around to telling the physician that medicine and groping in the dark mean the same thing, the fact does not register on us as having possibly important ramifications.

Well, nearly. In Chapter 10, Collins, mindful that he has set the action in the Year of Revolutions (1848), is actually making the Member for the County a spokesperson for the landed interest, which naturally feared that the "spread of democracy in England" (69) would do away with the parliamentary prerogatives ("our ancient safeguards," p. 70) of the aristocracy, who continued to enjoy unwarranted powers in the selection of their local members of parliament even after the Great Reform Bill of 1832. The chief altercation during the dinner concerns the doctor and a professor's widow, Mrs. Threadgall, as a consequence of which Dr. Candy is mortified to have been recommending the study of anatomy at the College of Surgeons to a man ten years dead. His embarrassment undoubtedly contributes to his extreme chagrin at Franklin Blake's denigration of the merits of modern medicine. The illustration's caption seems to be pointing to Candy's extolling the virtues of a course of medication to cure the insomnia — "And whispered to the company, confidentially, 'Please to change your mind, and try it; for I know it will do you good.'", but in fact it is merely alluding to Betteredge's recommending dishes in which the diners are expressing little interest (though no food appears to be served at this point in the illustration, and one might reasonably think the meal well advanced).

The illustrator received little direction in the text for how to compose the picture of the dinner, other than that Rachel Verinder is in the centre, Dr. Candy ("This was a pleasant, companionable little man") to the left of Rachel (that is, the viewer's right), and on her right (that is, the viewer's left) "the celebrated Indian traveller, Mr. Murthwaite" (69). We should assume that the older man with the full moustache is Murthwaite; that the very much older, clean-shaven man is Candy; that the liveried Betteredge is in the lower right corner, presumably extolling the virtues of a dish to a dinner as he pours wine (although he does not appear to be speaking); and that Franklin Blake is sitting on the far side of Betteredge. Of the four women besides Rachel, the two youngest must be Godfrey Ablewhite's sisters, and the one only partially visible on Rachel's side of the table is likely Lady Julia Verinder. The "lord of the manor" with whom Franklin Blake quarrels over the breeding of bulls is probably the balding diner in the chair, down right. Where, then, are Godfrey Ablewhite and Miss Clack, whom Collins describes as seated together? Perhaps at this juncture the illustrator was not aware of their significance, and therefore failed to include them. Certainly, since Godfrey Ablewhite is a distinct physical type, with towering height and shoulder-length blond hair, he would be easily remarked.

Related Materials

Last updated 14 August 2016