'Lord bless us! it was a Diamond!'
12.9 x 8.9 cm
Frontispiece for Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone in the Charles Scribner's Sons Edition (1908), facing title-page.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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There stood Miss Rachel at the table, like a person fascinated, with the Colonel's unlucky Diamond in her hand. There, on either side of her, knelt the two Bouncers, devouring the jewel with their eyes, and screaming with ecstasy every time it flashed on them in a new light. There, at the opposite side of the table, stood Mr. Godfrey, clapping his hands like a large child, and singing out softly, "Exquisite! exquisite!" There sat Mr. Franklin in a chair by the book-case, tugging at his beard, and looking anxiously towards the window. And there, at the window, stood the object he was contemplating — my lady, having the extract from the Colonel's Will in her hand, and keeping her back turned on the whole of the company.
She faced me, when I asked for my instructions; and I saw the family frown gathering over her eyes, and the family temper twitching at the corners of her mouth.
"Come to my room in half an hour," she answered. "I shall have something to say to you then."
With those words she went out. It was plain enough that she was posed by the same difficulty which had posed Mr. Franklin and me in our conference at the Shivering Sand. Was the legacy of the Moonstone a proof that she had treated her brother with cruel injustice? or was it a proof that he was worse than the worst she had ever thought of him? Serious questions those for my lady to determine, while her daughter, innocent of all knowledge of the Colonel's character, stood there with the Colonel's birthday gift in her hand.
Before I could leave the room in my turn, Miss Rachel, always considerate to the old servant who had been in the house when she was born, stopped me. "Look, Gabriel!" she said, and flashed the jewel before my eyes in a ray of sunlight that poured through the window.
Lord bless us! it was a Diamond! As large, or nearly, as a plover's egg! The light that streamed from it was like the light of the harvest moon. When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else. It seemed unfathomable; this jewel, that you could hold between your finger and thumb, seemed unfathomable as the heavens themselves. We set it in the sun, and then shut the light out of the room, and it shone awfully out of the depths of its own brightness, with a moony gleam, in the dark. No wonder Miss Rachel was fascinated: no wonder her cousins screamed. The Diamond laid such a hold on ME that I burst out with as large an "O" as the Bouncers themselves. The only one of us who kept his senses was Mr. Godfrey. He put an arm round each of his sister's waists, and, looking compassionately backwards and forwards between the Diamond and me, said, "Carbon Betteredge! mere carbon, my good friend, after all!" — "The Story: First Period — The Loss of the Diamond," Chapter 9," p. 85-86.
The frontispiece directs the reader not towards Herncastle's theft of The Diamond (as the initial vignette of the 1868 serial does) or the sensational mugging of Godfrey Ablewhite, the subject of Pearse's frobntispiece in the 1910 volume, but Rachel's receiving her eighteenth birthday-present from the hands of Franklin Blake on 21 June 1848. The perspective not that of the trusted family retainer and amused observer of human nature Gabriel Betteredge, as in Pearse's treatment. Rather, the reader views all the characters as in a play, with Betteredge occupying a place of prominence on the left of the composition, immediately beside the attractive, eighteen-year-old brunette. Balancing these two inmates of the Verinder mansion are the "bouncers," Godfrey Ablewhite's blonde sisters, utterly enchanted with the effect of the gem (which the artist does not attempt to show) and their tall brother, framed by the doorway. Again, as in the Pearse illustration, Franklin Blake (centre rear) thoughtfully observes their reactions. The window, the source of light for the diamond's mesmerizing effect, is clearly visible behind Betteredge (dressed in tail-coat, breeches, and syockings, as becomes his age and position) and Rachel, but no ray of light breaks through and we can barely see the Moonstone in Rachel's hand.
The diamond in the illustration has just been unveiled as Colonel Herncastle's birthday present to his niece, Rachel Verinder. Acting under the terms of the will of the late "Honourable John," Franklin Blake has just retrieved the Moonstone from the local bank at Frizinghall where he deposited two weeks earlier to safeguard it from the Indian "jugglers" (in fact, the present-day brahmin protectors of the sacred gem). Wearing a dress in fashion at the mid-century, Rachel Verinder (the dominating figure in the composition) is admiring the gemstone as it glitters in her right hand as Franklin Blake (centre) strokes his beard thoughtfully. Despite his assertion that it is mere carbon, Rachel's philanthropic cousin, Godfrey Ablewhite (right) is applauding vigorously, betraying his true feelings about the Moonstone as he appreciates its effect and cries, "Exquisite! exquisite!" (97). The remaining figures in the frame are Godfrey Ablewhite's somewhat fatuous sisters, whom Betteredge has derisively dubbed "Bouncers" (96), although Pearse's illustration does not convey their boundless "india-rubber" energy or their overwrought emotional natures as they squeal with delight:
the two Miss Ablewhites were cheerful enough for twenty, which more than restored the balance. They were nearly as big as their brother; spanking, yellow-haired, rosy lasses, overflowing with super-abundant flesh and blood; bursting from head to foot with health and spirits. The legs of the poor horses trembled with carrying them; and when they jumped from their saddles (without waiting to be helped), I declare they bounced on the ground as if they were made of india-rubber. Everything the Miss Ablewhites said began with a large O; everything they did was done with a bang; and they giggled and screamed, in season and out of season, on the smallest provocation. — Chapter 9, p. 84.
Compare Pearse's closeup of the figures (Betteredge not included) with this highly animated, cheerful frontispiece from the 1908 Scribner's edition, in which the artist gives the varied reactions of all the characters, including Betteredge's, but implies nothing sinister in Godfrey's apparently good-natured appreciation of the gem.
- The Moonstone and British India (1857, 1868, and 1876)
- Detection and Disruption inside and outside the 'quiet English home' in The Moonstone
- "Do you think a young lady's advice worth having?" — p. 94.
- Introduction to the Sixty-six Harper's Weekly Illustrations for The Moonstone (1868)
- The Harper's Weekly Illustrations for Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone (1868)
- Illustrations by F. A. Fraser for Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: A Romance (1890)
- "'Exquisite! exquisite!'" — Page 97 (1910).
Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone: A Romance. with sixty-six illustrations. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. Vol. 12 (1868), 4 January through 8 August, pp. 5-503.
________. The Moonstone: A Romance. All the Year Round. 1 January-8 August 1868.
_________. The Moonstone: A Novel. With 19 illustrations. New York & London: Harper and Brothers, 1868, rpt. 1874.
_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. Illustrated by George Du Maurier and F. A. Fraser. London: Chatto and Windus, 1890.
_________. The Moonstone, Parts One and Two. The Works of Wilkie Collins, vols. 5 and 6. New York: Peter Fenelon Collier, 1900.
_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. With four illustrations by John Sloan. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908.
_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. Illustrated by A. S. Pearse. London & Glasgow: Collins, 1910, rpt. 1930.
_________. The Moonstone. With forty-nine illustrations by William Sharp. New York: Doubleday, 1946.
_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. With nine illustrations by Edwin La Dell. London: Folio Society, 1951.
Farmer, Steve. "Introduction" to Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 1999. Pp. 8-34.
Leighton, Mary Elizabeth, and Lisa Surridge. "The Transatlantic Moonstone: A Study of the Illustrated Serial in Harper's Weekly." Victorian Periodicals Review Volume 42, Number 3 (Fall 2009): pp. 207-243. Accessed 1 July 2016. http://englishnovel2.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/files/2014/01/42.3.leighton-moonstone-serializatation.pdf
Vann, J. Don. "The Moonstone in All the Year Round, 4 January-8 1868." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985. Pp. 48-50.
Last updated 27 August 2016