xxx xxx

[A flashback: Rosanna Spearman's sewing a new nightgown to compensate for the one she has secreted; the actual gown that Franklin Blake was wearing on the night of the robbery, the paint-smeared original, Rosanna had hidden in her japanned chest in the Shivering Sand] — uncaptioned headnote vignette for Chapter IV in "Second period. The Discovery of the Truth. (1848-1849.) Third Narrative," the twenty-first such vignette. The twenty-third weekly instalment of Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: A Romance in Harper's Weekly (6 June 1868), page 357. Wood-engraving, 7.5 x 5.5 cm., located within the fourth chapter in the first volume edition, p. 156. [The Harper & Bros. house illustrator provides a flashback to focus on the activities of Rosanna Spearman in the Verinder country-house and on the Yorkshire coast prior to her suicide. Guided by her letter to him, Franklin Blake has just discovered the paint-smeared nightgown with his own name sewn into the neck. As Blake reads her note to him, he learns how she acquired the materials to construct a duplicate nightgown so that Sergeant Cuff would not realise that it was Franklin Blake who took the Moonstone. Thus, she has obstructed the the investigation, and delayed the unmasking of the real thief in her misguided attempt to protect the young aristocrat with whom she is infatuated.]

Scanned images and text by Philip V. Allingham. Illustrations courtesy of the E. J. Pratt Fine Arts Library, University of Toronto, and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Universities of Toronto and British Columbia and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite The Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage suggested by the Headnote Vignette for the Twenty-third Instalment

"When I got back to the servants' hall, the bell was going for our dinner. Afternoon already! and the materials for making the new nightgown were still to be got! There was but one chance of getting them. I shammed ill at dinner; and so secured the whole of the interval from then till tea-time to my own use.

"What I was about, while the household believed me to be lying down in my own room; and how I spent the night, after shamming ill again at tea-time, and having been sent up to bed, there is no need to tell you. Sergeant Cuff discovered that much, if he discovered nothing more. And I can guess how. I was detected (though I kept my veil down) in the draper's shop at Frizinghall. There was a glass in front of me, at the counter where I was buying the longcloth; and — in that glass — I saw one of the shopmen point to my shoulder and whisper to another. At night again, when I was secretly at work, locked into my room, I heard the breathing of the women servants who suspected me, outside my door.

"It didn't matter then; it doesn't matter now. On the Friday morning, hours before Sergeant Cuff entered the house, there was the new nightgown — to make up your number in place of the nightgown that I had got — made, wrung out, dried, ironed, marked, and folded as the laundry woman folded all the others, safe in your drawer. There was no fear (if the linen in the house was examined) of the newness of the nightgown betraying me. All your underclothing had been renewed, when you came to our house — I suppose on your return home from foreign parts. — "Second Period. The Discovery of the Truth (1848-1849). Third Narrative. Contributed by Franklin Blake." Chapter IV, p. 358.

Commentary: Complementary Perceptions and Narratives

A chapter head depicting Rosanna sewing Franklin's nightgown appears in Part 23 (6 June 1868), fully twelve weeks after Rosanna's suicide in Part 11 (14 March 1868). Harper's illustrators portray her sewing at night, her thin frame illuminated by a single candle, her eyes shadowy in her gaunt face. This boldly analeptic illustration invites enormous sympathy for Rosanna by means of its rich interpictorial references. To Victorian viewers, it would have resonated with the many other images of night work by worn seamstresses, a pathetic theme made famous by Thomas Hood's The Song of the Shirt" (published in Punch's Christmas 1843 issue) and taken up by numerous painters and illustrators. Interestingly, then, the visual material surrounding Rosanna in the American text de-emphasizes her disability in favour of pathos surrounding her class status. — Surridge and Leighton, p. 229.

Here, then, in both the illustration and the accompanying text is the incident that prepares Franklin Blake for a moment of self-revelation akin to both the epiphany of a James Joyce short story and to the termination of Oedipus's investigation into the murder of Laius: the detective discovers that he himself must be the criminal. The simple vignette of Rosanna as a seamstress working in secret, in the middle of the night, constitutes a flashback and a shift in narrative perspective as, through the note and her letter to Franklin Blake, Rosanna temporarily assumes control over the narrative, from "beyond the grave," so to speak. The normal chronological order of the illustrations is maintained here as the previous illustration, showing Limping Lucy's confrontation with the man whom Rosanna loved, occurs prior to Blake's discovering the pieces of correspondence that Rosanna has left (at Cobb's Hole with Lucy, and in the japanned box) and, as it were, reading these fragments into evidence so that the reader can absorb them into the facts of the robbery already presented — including Godfrey's being the real thief. The action of the pictorial flashback is reflexive, taking the reader back to Rosanna's markedly odd behaviour on the morning of 22 June 1848. Her mysterious comings and goings are now fully accounted for, although the astute reader had already anticipated what Franklin Blake would discover in the japanned box at the close of Chapter 3. Now, after the discovery of the paint-smeared nightgown, Blake at Betteredge's behest finally returns to the letter which he had found in the case, but which he had not had the opportunity to read before Betteredge's arrival. Thus, the headnote vignette at the beginning of Chapter 3 reinforces the suspense generated by the conclusion of the third chapter, acting as a foreshadowing, then, but also constituting a flashback.

Relevant Images from Later Editions (1908 and 1946)

Left: John Sloan's depiction of Franklin Blake's discovery of his own name in the collar of the nightgown, "I took it up from the sand, and looked for the mark" (1908). Right: William Sharp's realisation of the dramatic recovery of Rosanna Spearman's japanned box, Uncaptioned full-page chromolithograph, Second Narrative, Chapter 1 (1946). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

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Last updated 1 December 2016