The Moonstone  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins is a 19th-century, British, epistolary novel, generally considered the first detective novel in the English language. Others consider the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe's detective C. Auguste Dupin in such tales as The Murders in the Rue Morgue as providing a model for Collins.

The Moonstone was originally serialized in Charles Dickens's magazine All the Year Round. The Moonstone and The Woman in White are considered Wilkie Collins' best novels. Besides creating many of the ground rules for the detective novel, "The Moonstone" also reflected Collins' enlightened social views in his treatment of the Indians and the servants in the novel. Collins adapted "The Moonstone" for the stage in 1877, but the production ran only two months.

Literary significance & criticism

The book is widely regarded as the precursor of the modern mystery and suspense novels. T. S. Eliot called it "the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels". It contains a number of ideas which became common tropes of the genre: a large number of suspects, red herrings, an English country house, investigation by talented amateurs, and two police officers who represent the 'local bungler' and the skilled, professional, Scotland Yard detective.

The Moonstone represents Collins's only complete reprisal of the popular "multi-narration" method that he had previously utilised to great effect in The Woman in White. The technique again works to Collins's credit: the sections by Gabriel Betteredge (steward to the Verinder household) and Miss Clack (a poor relative and religious crank) offer both humour and pathos through their contrast with the testimony of other narrators, at the same time as constructing and advancing the novel's plot.

One of the things that made The Moonstone such a success was its sensationalist depiction of opium addiction. Unbeknownst to his readership, Collins was writing from personal experience. In his later years, Collins grew severely addicted to laudanum and as a result suffered from paranoid delusions, the most notable being his conviction that he was constantly accompanied by a doppelganger he dubbed "Ghost Wilkie".

It was Collins's last great success, coming at the end of an extraordinarily productive period which saw four successive novels become best-sellers. After The Moonstone he wrote novels containing more overt social commentary, which did not achieve the same audience.

The Moonstone's portrayal of three mysterious Indians who play an integral role in its plot is unparalleled in contemporary fiction.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Moonstone" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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