“In the name of the Regent of the Night whose seat is on the Antelope, whose arms embrace the four corners of the earth…Brothers, turn your faces to the south, and come to me in the streets of many noises, which leads down to the muddy river.”
The Moonstone, originally inserted right on the forehead of the four-handed Indian God (known as Vishnu) who typifies the Moon, was expropriated as booty in the British victory by John Herncastle in 1799. However, it had been haunting the conscience of John Herncastle ever since with the last words from the three Brahmins who was in charge of the Diamond swearing that his stolen property would have its vengeance yet on him and others whom the Diamond was concerned. It hence opened the story about his niece, Rachel Verinder and her family relating to the inheritance of the Diamond as an “heirloom” in 1848 after his death.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is one of the novels I am required to read prior to the start of the course about him. Apart from that, I am also recommended to read some extracted chapters of Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I have to express the gratitude of this course because through reading the two novels concerning inheritance and crimes in Victoria Era I could read in new perspectives and raise my interests in reading The Moonstone.
First of all, I find that there are similarities relating to the characteristics of the two“sleuths” in Bleak House and The Moonstone, Mr. Bucket and Sergeant Cuff respectively. They both had their own peculiarities when investigating the crime cases. For example, Mr. Bucket tended to use his forefinger as a “sidekick” to solve the crime; whereas Sergeant Cuff had an interest in humming The Last Rose of Summer and talk about the growing of garden-roses when the silver-lining seemed to reveal before his eyes:
- “Mr. Bucket has a matter of this pressing interest under his consideration, the fat forefinger seems to rise, to the dignity of a familiar demon. He puts it to his ears, and it whispers information; he puts it to his lips, and it enjoins him to secrecy; he rubs it over his nose, and it sharpens his scent; he shakes it before a guilty man, and it charms him to his destruction…” (amazing passage!)
Apart from that, these two distinctive sleuths also had easy-going and cordial attitudes to make acquaintance of the witnesses concerned, and then questioned those without being detected. For instance, when “questioning” Mrs. Yolland:
- “The great Cuff showed a wonderful patience; trying his luck drearily this way and that way, and firing shot after shot, as it were, at random, on the chance of hitting the mark. Everything to Rosanna’s credit, nothing to Rosanna’s prejudice—that was how it ended, try as he might; with Mrs. Yolland talking nineteen to the dozen, and placing the most entire confidence in him.”
As regards Mr. Bucket in Bleak House, he “questioned” Mercury (the footman of Lady Dedlock) in a friendly way to investigating the murder case of Mr. Tulkinghorn. Just praising the elegance of the Lady and Mercury’s stature, he already extracted so much useful information about the night walk of Lady Dedlock on the night of Tulkinghorn’s murder.
Secondly, there is one interesting bit that indulges me. Sergeant Cuff’s resourcefulness and observance in investigating the case was not so much emphasized to an extent; in contrast, almost every character came to contribute the plot and play an influential part of the case of theft; persons included Franklin Blake, the dear friend and cousin of Rachel (the spells of the Diamond in the opening characters), Mr. Murthwaite, the Indian traveler and explorer (the three-time failures of the Indians), Mr, Bruff, the esteemed lawyer of Sir Blake (motives of Godfrey in proposing marriage to Rachel), last but not all, Ezra Jennings, the assistant of Mr. Candy, as well as Gooseberry, the little prodigy with a pair of ill-secured eyes. Apart from that, even the female characters, Rachel, Rosanna Spearman, and Limping Lucy are also strong driving forces in unveiling the mystery of the case. Just as what Wilkie Collins mentioned at the Preface, “the attempt made here is to trace the influence of character on circumstance”, and each is trying to discover the whodunnit and “seeking the truth from darkness to light”.
Thirdly, there are similar concepts regarding social criticisms, for example, the philanthropy carrying out in society, one of which underlined the unattended concerns relating to people of the time who were willing to care about things and affairs which were distant and far away from society they were living in, but regardless of their own daily lives and conducts concerned. In Bleak House, Mrs. Jellyby enthusiastically provided economic assistance to remote areas in Africa in ignorance of her family affairs and welfare especially of her daughter; Godfrey Ablewhite and Miss Clark actively participated in and helped out with “The Mothers’ Small Clothes Conversion Society” in handling the men’s “unmentionables” rather than their own proprieties and conducts.
Fourthly, the questioning of Christian values was also clearly to be seen in Mrs. Snagsby & Chadband’s case in Bleak House, and Miss Clack & Godfrey’s in The Moonstone (Godfrey was originally a Reverend). By the way it was also mentioned in Mrs. Weller & Stiggins’s case in The Pickwick Papers in his first novel.