The Moonstone: A Romance. A wood-engraving by Harper & Bros. house illustrator William Jewett ("W. J."), 11.6 cm high by 17.6 cm wide. 1 August 1868 instalment in Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, Chapter 1 in "Second Period. The Discovery of the Truth. 1848-1849. Fifth Narrative. The Story resumed by Franklin Blake," p. 485. [Here, just as Franklin Blake and Sergeant Cuff arrive in company with Gooseberry at The Wheel of Fortune public house in Lower Thames Street, east of the Tower of London, they discover the landlord upset because his people cannot rouse the sailor who rented the garret and the door is locked from inside. When the local carpenter arrives to force the door, the bystanders (including, apparently, the barmaid and Gooseberry) find on the bed the tall, dark-skinned, bearded sailor — suffocated.] 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 in a web document or cite it in a print one.] Click on the image to enlarge it.— second illustration for the thirty-first instalment of Wilkie Collins's
Passage Illustrated: Godfrey Ablewhite, disguised as an East Indian sailor, murdered
The carpenter's hammer and chisel disposed of the resistance of the door in a few minutes. But some article of furniture had been placed against it inside, as a barricade. By pushing at the door, we thrust this obstacle aside, and so got admission to the room. The landlord entered first; the Sergeant second; and I third. The other persons present followed us.
We all looked towards the bed, and all started.
The man had not left the room. He lay, dressed, on the bed—with a white pillow over his face, which completely hid it from view.
"What does that mean?" said the landlord, pointing to the pillow.
Sergeant Cuff led the way to the bed, without answering, and removed the pillow.
The man's swarthy face was placid and still; his black hair and beard were slightly, very slightly, discomposed. His eyes stared wide-open, glassy and vacant, at the ceiling. The filmy look and the fixed expression of them horrified me. I turned away, and went to the open window. The rest of them remained, where Sergeant Cuff remained, at the bed.
"He's in a fit!" I heard the landlord say.
"He's dead," the Sergeant answered. "Send for the nearest doctor, and send for the police."
The waiter was despatched on both errands. Some strange fascination seemed to hold Sergeant Cuff to the bed. Some strange curiosity seemed to keep the rest of them waiting, to see what the Sergeant would do next.
I turned again to the window. The moment afterwards, I felt a soft pull at my coat-tails, and a small voice whispered, "Look here, sir!"
Gooseberry had followed us into the room. His loose eyes rolled frightfully — not in terror, but in exultation. He had made a detective-discovery on his own account. "Look here, sir," he repeated — and led me to a table in the corner of the room.
On the table stood a little wooden box, open, and empty. On one side of the box lay some jewellers' cotton. On the other side, was a torn sheet of white paper, with a seal on it, partly destroyed, and with an inscription in writing, which was still perfectly legible. The inscription was in these words:
"Deposited with Messrs. Bushe, Lysaught, and Bushe, by Mr. Septimus Luker, of Middlesex Place, Lambeth, a small wooden box, sealed up in this envelope, and containing a valuable of great price. The box, when claimed, to be only given up by Messrs. Bushe and Co. on the personal application of Mr. Luker."
Those lines removed all further doubt, on one point at least. The sailor had been in possession of the Moonstone, when he had left the bank on the previous day.
I felt another pull at my coat-tails. Gooseberry had not done with me yet.
"Robbery!" whispered the boy, pointing, in high delight, to the empty box.
"You were told to wait down-stairs," I said. "Go away!"
"And Murder!" added Gooseberry, pointing, with a keener relish still, to the man on the bed.
There was something so hideous in the boy’s enjoyment of the horror of the scene, that I took him by the two shoulders and put him out of the room.
At the moment when I crossed the threshold of the door, I heard Sergeant Cuff's voice, asking where I was. He met me, as I returned into the room, and forced me to go back with him to the bedside.
"Mr. Blake!" he said. "Look at the man's face. It is a face disguised — and here's a proof of it!"
He traced with his finger a thin line of livid white, running backward from the dead man's forehead, between the swarthy complexion, and the slightly-disturbed black hair. "Let's see what is under this," said the Sergeant, suddenly seizing the black hair, with a firm grip of his hand.
My nerves were not strong enough to bear it. I turned away again from the bed.
The first sight that met my eyes, at the other end of the room, was the irrepressible Gooseberry, perched on a chair, and looking with breathless interest, over the heads of his elders, at the Sergeant’s proceedings.
"He's pulling off his wig!" whispered Gooseberry, compassionating my position, as the only person in the room who could see nothing. — "Second period. The Discovery of the Truth. (1848-1849.) Fifth Narrative. The Story resumed by Franklin Blake," Ch. 1, p. 486.
The tall, dark-skinned sailor who has abandoned his nationality and social status to void detection is none other than the arch-hypocrite Godfrey Ablewhite, thought to be on the Continent. He has been clever enough to avoid detection by Mr. Bruff's men, but Gooseberry had seen the package passed from Luker to the sailor in the bank, and had quickly pursued the tall, East Indian sailor to a public house on Lower Thames Street, where he rented a garret room for the night. His mistake was underestimating the powers of detection and the resourcefulness of the "jugglers," the three Brahmins entrusted with the sacred mission of regaining custody of the Moonstone and returning it to the Temple of the Hindu Moon god at Somnath in India. Western greed has at last been defeated by eastern patience and religious dedication.
Finally, the novel is book-ended with complementary illustrations (Parts 3 and 31), the lonely deaths of Herncastle and Ablewhite (fig. 3) echoing each other through twenty-eight weeks of serialization. These two men (both of whom only value the diamond for its material worth) are linked in the novel's visual iconography by their lonely deathbeds, their darkly bearded faces highlighted against white sheets and their solitary bodies surrounded by figures of officialdom. Notably, the illustrator shows Ablewhite's corpse before his identity is revealed; he is still wearing the dark beard, wig, and brown make-up that enabled him to pass as Indian. The page layout thus balances the imperialist thief (Herncastle, depicted in Part 3) against the thief of cultural identity (ironically named Able/white). — Leighton & Surridge, p. 216-217.
Since the solution of the mystery and the unmasking (literally in this case) of the criminal are the climax and dénouement of the crime-and-detection novel, the illustrator has been careful to select the moment for realisation just before the true identity of the tall, apparently Anglo-Indian sailor is revealed. Franklin Blake as the focal character (from whose perspective we view this climactic moment in the text) is in the centre, with Sergeant Cuff, gesturing and acting as his (and our) interpreter, immediately to his right (our left). The bearded, dark-skinned man in the nightgown is still looking up, at the skylight in the garret. With his stiff, wiry beard (a very good forgery, like Ablewhite himself) the dead man in no way resembles the suave confidence man of previous illustrations. William Jewett's handling of his materials is masterful as he associates the death of the hypocrite and thief with the working class stratum of society who fill the spartan room with its cracked plaster and peeling paint, rather than the upper-middle-class drawing-room society through which the persuasive, ever-smiling, handsome, and fashionably dressed Godfrey was accustomed to move. The curious bystanders await anxiously Sergeant Cuff's revelation while Franklin Blake thoughtfully contends the corpse as a memento mori — the reader naturally wonders whether he has already guessed the dead man's true identity.
Relevant Illustrations by William Sharp for the Doubleday Edition (1946)
Left: William Sharp's realisation of street-detective Gooseberry as a headnote vignette, Headnote vignette, Fifth Narrative: Gooseberry in London (uncaptioned, 1944). Centre: Sharp's realisation of how Ablewhite acquired the Moonstone in the first place, Godfrey Ablewhite taking the Moonstone from Franklin Blake (uncaptioned, 1944). Right: Sharp's illustration of the scene in which Cuff and Blake find Ablewhite dead in the garret, Gooseberry, Cuff, and Blake find Godfrey Ablewhite dead (uncaptioned, 1944). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
- 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 19 September 2016