Text Box: EN 4223 Seminar 3 – Moonstone
William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), born in London, the son of landscape painter William Collins, and godson of another painter, David Wilkie.  Apprenticed to the tea trade but got bored with it.  Studied to be a lawyer (hence his interest in the ins and outs of property and marriage laws?), but his real interest was writing.  He met Dickens in 1851 and collaborated with him, contributing to Dickens’ magazine Household Words, as well as to the magazine All the Year Round.  Had a friendly rivalry with Dickens, both of them competing for the mantle of THE popular novelist of the mid-Victorian period – Dickens was 12 years older, and died in 1870, after which his reputation only increased, whereas Collins’ literary reputation languished.  Was interested in theatre and wrote a number of plays (the main character in his novel No Name takes to the theatre for a living when her MC world and expectations are destroyed, and there are theatrical or melodramatic elements in parts of his writings).  Other writer friends included George Meredith, Oscar Wilde and Thomas Hardy.
             Best-known novel is probably Woman in White (1860), a gothic/detective thriller about identity theft and the “spectral” position of women in marriage and society.  No Name (1862) similarly about the legal gray area/gaps which result in the loss of a young girl’s respectable MC status and property, and her shadowy attempts to wreak revenge.  Moonstone published 1868.
I.   Detective and Social Novel
             Similarities between detective and social novels (and Moonstone in some ways is both):
i.   MC world: detective novel, as one dealing with loss of property, is almost always concerned with the same MC world as the social novel.  In the majority of Victorian detective, even the criminal/villain is MC.
ii.   Marriage as common plot element: prospective marriage, or consequences of marriage, seen as central and definitive.  (In social novel, it defines one’s identity/life; in some detective novels, it determines the disposition of one’s property)
iii.   Both are arguably about “ways of knowing”: Social novel seeks to know social manners/values (including the process of making mistakes and realizing this), while detective novel is concerned about the fundamental process of gathering information, verifying it – and perhaps the ultimate unknowability of some things.
iv.   Ostensibly about “policing the status quo”: the moral-social conservatism of the social novel, compared to the legal policing of the MC world and its property.
v.   Potentially, both share an inward-looking chronotope (follows from point i. above).
 
             But there are also ways in which the detective novel subverts the social novel – its apparent similarity and collusion with (policing of) MC world is something more insidious, entering in order to expose and destabilize.
Novel obviously about a crime (the actual theft of the diamond), but is also about much more than that (and intentionally so? Note that the diamond isn’t technically stolen, but misplaced and as it were mis-found).  As the novel says, “If Mr Godfrey Ablewhite chose to keep the Diamond, he might do so with perfect impunity” (p. 507) – admittedly this view is Godfrey’s, filtered through Luker through Sergeant Cuff through Franklin Blake (to whom he writes); nevertheless it suggests the ambiguity regarding the “crime” of the diamond.
1.           Deliberate displacement of the theft?  If so, in order to call our attention to social conditions?  In a sense, every crime/detective novel is a social novel – the French leftist thinker Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said “property is theft,” and if so, then every theft reflects the structures of property which enabled and/or inspired it in the first place.  The crime in a detective novel inevitably connects to other events, structures, secrets, which enable or inspire the central crime.  
             In Moonstone, the central crime (the loss of the diamond) points in a signifying chain to numerous other things: specifically, Herncastle’s original theft of the diamond and probably murder; Godfrey’s purloining of his guardian’s fortune; his mistress’s threat to cause a scandal unless he makes a settlement on her after he seeks to break off with her and marry someone else (i.e. blackmail), which precipitates Godfrey’s desperate action; Luker lending money to Godfrey and other desperate people at 50% interest per annum; Franklin’s own financial irresponsibility, which makes him constantly borrow money he doesn’t/can’t pay back – a kind of theft? (and contributing to the ruin of a French restaurateur, p 375); the British colonial “theft” of India’s resources; the Muslim plundering of Hindu sites and treasures in the Moghul period; Hinduism, its caste system (Brahmins) and pujas and its inexorable demands on its followers (a kind of theft of their lives and freedoms); the inequalities of 19th C British society (Godfrey wants to marry any woman of property, because the wife’s property becomes her husband’s under British law of that time – also the premise of Woman in White; also class inequality, evident in the maid Rosanna’s perception of the gulf between her and Franklin – “you’re only a housemaid – what do you mean by attempting to speak to Me?” p. 364, which leads to misunderstanding and tragedy; and Rosanna had once been a thief herself, p. 347; also the poor street urchin that the 3 Brahmins pick up as a prop for their act and spiritual channel); the Brahmins’ murder of Godfrey, even if their recovery of the diamond cannot be called a crime; etc.
2.           Detective/social novel reflects inherent anxiety about the instability of Victorian society:
a.           foregrounding of property (the novel is named for the diamond), and moreover property of a particular sort (outrageously valuable, inaccessible to the bulk of people, “cursed,” yet also completely mobile – the contrast is with the landed property which dominates English/European society up to around the middle of the 18th C).  Diamond, behind its romanticized curse, is a socio-economic curse – it represents the wealth that alienates individual from individual, family member from family member.  Together with the tempting/corrupting and alienable nature of the diamond, come other versions of alienable wealth – money-lending (note pervasiveness – it’s not just Godfrey, but Franklin too who borrows money), banking (the Ablewhite family), trusts/wills (Godfrey’s ward), etc.  Even as the temptations and inequitable distribution of wealth increase, there is a corresponding moral crisis in Victorian society – most clearly seen in Godfrey (with his double-life, mistress, purloining his ward’s estate), but even in Franklin’s rather dissolute nature, Herncastle’s rapacious behaviour, even in Gabriel Betteredge’s elevation of Robinson Crusoe to Bible-like status (RC, like other Defoe novels, have often been read as the manifestoes-in-fiction of the new financial society).  Pervasiveness of lying (Rosanna, Rachel, Cuff, Gabriel – “the father of lies is the Devil,” says Gabriel, p. 140), and spying (“Prying, and peeping, and listening are the natural occupations of people situated as we are,” p. 160).  Alienable property, together with declining morals, leads to an anxiety about the protection of property – hence the need to elevate the detective figure (Cuff), but the acknowledgement of his limitations (doesn’t actually “solve” the case, although he is instrumental in finally identifying the thief; also, the significance of the bizarre, unexpected and over-elaborate nature of the diamond’s loss – not just to entice readers, but also to baffle rationality and law-enforcement.
a.           Another source of anxiety in the novel is the presence of “others,” and their relationship to the dominant MC.  All Victorian novels are to varying degrees interested in social heterogeneity (think WC in novels by Disraeli, Gaskell, Dickens etc, and their juxtaposition with the lives of the MC), but geopolitical fiction brings in a wider range of social heterogeneity, and makes the role of the “other” instrumental in the novel’s plots and themes (rather than merely as part of the social canvass/background).  
The greater degree of social interaction might be described in terms of space, and action/causality: in terms of space, Moonstone shows a constant blurring of the space of WC and MC characters.  In contrast, think, e.g., of Wuthering Heights, where houses and discrete spaces mark the boundaries of different class identities: Thrushcross Grange for the proper (i.e. non-labouring) MC landlords, Wuthering Heights for the yeoman class (a blurring of the demarcation between working and landowning classes – and which thus facilitates the greater freedom and role played by trusted servants like Nellie Dean and Joseph).  Or Middlemarch, where the scenes of rural WC life are fairly discretely separated from those showing MC life.  Moonstone shows fairly early a close relationship between employer-employee (in Gabriel Betteredge’s relationship with Lady Verinder, which crosses from the professional into the personal – his daughter Penelope “taken care of, under my good mistress’s own eye” p. 12, the suggestion of a strong emotional bond, maybe even something more, in the relationship between Gabriel and Lady Verinder – their spouses both dying within a short while of each other, and explicitly conjoined in Gabriel’s narrative p. 12, Gabriel has “fallen a good deal latterly into the late Sir John’s way of always agreeing with my lady” p. 23).  Also in Gabriel’s unconventional relationship with the unconventional Franklin (calls him “our nice boy,” p. 16).  And in the figure of Colonel John Herncastle, “one of the greatest blackguards that ever lived,” who after his army career and return to England is “seen carousing and amusing himself among the lowest people in the lowest slums of London” (pp. 32, 34).
 These close relationships are reinforced by the blurring of class spaces: the “slumming gentry” (Herncastle, but later also Godfrey Ablewhite in disguise) who go into improper, working-class spaces; the army (and specifically, the rapacious army in India) as a kind of paradigm for riotous, carnivalesque spaces that blur boundaries (secular-sacred, white-native, officer-soldier, soldier-outlaw): 
We were each attached to a party sent out by the general’s orders to prevent the plunder and confusion which followed our conquest.  The camp-followers committed deplorable excesses: and, worse still, the soldiers found their way, by an unguarded door, into the treasury of the Palace, and loaded themselves with gold and jewels.  It was in the court outside the treasury that my cousin and I met, to enforce the laws of discipline on our own soldiers.  Herncastle’s fiery temper had been, as I could plainly see, exasperated to a kind of frenzy by the terrible slaughter through which we had passed.  He was very unfit, in my opinion, to perform the duty that had been entrusted to him. (p. 4)
 
             Franklin also represents the blurring of identities which come with (what we might today call) a “cosmopolitan” outlook and upbringing, blurring the “German, French, Italian and English” natures in one body (pp. 46-47).  (Seems to embody the debate about parochial “Englishness” versus a more “modern” and “progressive” mindset which “regards Europe as being…one great confederation,” as Matthew Arnold puts it in his lecture/essay “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time,” published in 1864, four years before Moonstone).    Like the soldier, the “foreign” Englishman is an alienated and estranged zone, no longer fully understandable/trustworthy because no longer fully English.  The same might be said for the explorer Murthwaite, who calls himself a “semi-savage person” and whose behaviour and sympathies seem to lie at least partially with the Indians.
             The English manor house also becomes, not the sanctuary of the landed MC, but the space that is crossed and violated by the “others”: Rosanna is constantly violating class and personal boundaries by intruding on Franklin – Gabriel says she “constantly put herself in Mr Franklin’s way” (p. 63), improper on 2 accounts (in terms of gender roles, and class): she goes to his dressing table to switch roses, confronts him in the billiard room (upper class male sanctuary) with her inappropriate feelings for him, and takes his nightgown to protect him.  (There is a suggestion that his is not merely presumption on her part: could also be the increasingly artificial and intolerable nature of MC exclusion.  Gabriel says “plain as she was, there was jus ta dash of something that wasn’t like a housemaid, and that was like a lady, about her” p. 24 – increasing difficulty of defining “ladyship”).  She is not the only one: Franklin inappropriately kisses Penelope when he first comes home, and her bias for him makes her do transgressive things like spying on Godfrey and Rachel (“I waited behind the holly to see how they cam back” p. 70).  Then there are the foreigners: Gabriel worries about “our quiet English house suddenly invaded by a devilish Indian Diamond,” (p. 36), but the diamond also brings the invasion of the 3 Indians – as lurking, shadowy, disguised, supernatural/clairvoyant presences (p. 52).
 
             Action/causality: blurring of classes is also seen in the greater degree with which the servant classes become involved in the action of the novel: again, Wuthering Heights (and Nellie Dean) is a yardstick, evincing a greater degree of servant involvement than many other Victorian novels (Nellie is the main narrator, and also one of Catherine’s main companions).  Gabriel belongs to the same tradition or mold as Nellie – trusted servant who blurs the boundaries between master and servant, except that where Nellie only occupies this position in the strange society of WH and largely for Cath and Heathcliff, (Edgar and the TG society treat her as a servant), Gabriel’s position is confirmed not just by Lady V but also others like Franklin, Rachel and even Cuff.  Gabriel thus plays a significant part in the action – as narrator he plays a large part in ordering events, deciding what to tell and what to omit (e.g. at start of chpt VIII, p. 53), influencing the reader’s opinions, acting as a kind of detective.  But the most significant servant intrusion into the novel’s action is probably Rosanna’s stealing of the evidence, and (working to the opposite effect) Jenning’s role in solving part of the mystery – the fate of Franklin, the MC protagonist, rests so much in the actions, motives and capabilities of these marginal social characters.
II.   Insidious Detective, Janus-Faced Chronotope
If the detective (aspect/element, not just the figure) thus brings in a note of anxiety into the Victorian social novel, pointing to all the potential fissures and problems in the comfortable and self-indulgent MC view of its own world, one significant way it does this is in chronotopic terms.  We might say that the detective element is essentially double-faced (janus-faced), on the one hand seeming to tie in with the social novel’s chronotope, but on the other hand also suggesting an alternative one (that disrupts the MC chronotope and its values).
             We can see the janus-faced quality of the detective element in the basic question of which group (servants or masters) is suspected of stealing the diamond?  Seegrave throws all suspicion on the servants, which is the proper and conservative thing to do.  Cuff does a radical thing, suggesting “an even dealing between them [servants] and their betters” (p. 120).  He actually suspects complicity between a servant (Rosanna) and a mistress (Rachel).  Having 2 detectives figures the duplicity of detection: is it a servant and reinforcement of MC dominance (as Seegrave sees it), or independent, subversive (as Cuff seems to embody)?
1.   Detective chronotope: in general, the detective novel embodies a “secretive” chronotope.  The detective often inhabits secret places (through disguise, concealment, spying, misdirection – eg Cuff tells Gabriel to let on that he is using Gabriel’s (locked) room, when he is actually out spying on Rosanna).  The detective figure also projects this zone of secrecy by not confiding in others: Cuff doesn’t (indeed cannot) tell Gabriel that his suspicions fall on Rachel.  As a result, time is also affected: detective chronotope marked by delays and deferrals, a refusal or inability to reveal/disclose things in their “due” or expected time (we only find out who actually took the diamond, and what happens to it, right at the end of the novel).  Also impacts narrative: since things cannot be disclosed “in season,” narrative also becomes choppy, with things that Gabriel can’t see, or through his recreation of his then-ignorance, and with bits being supplied piecemeal by many others (Miss Clack, Bruff, Franklin, Jennings, Cuff).
             This can be contrasted to a number of (by no means all) Victorian social novels, which tend to follow a linear chronology (although of course all fiction must summarise and skip – nevertheless most social novels go “in order,” from earlier events to later, much as they would “really occur.”  In spatial terms, social novels also tend to occupy public/social spaces – not just “parlors and salons,” as Bakhtin observes, but similarly public (if not always MC) spaces such as eating houses, factories, picnics, schools, churches, shops, busy streets.
2.   Doubling the detective: detective fiction’s ideological-narrative overlap with the gothic (both are literatures of subversion, moved by capitalism’s inner unease), seen (among other things) in the use of the double and doubling.  (Doubling, doppelgangers and similar devices show unexpected and shocking correspondences in market/capitalist society, to show the hidden/inner correspondences beneath social manners).  Not only are there 2 main detective figures (Seegrave and Cuff), but symbolic doubling with other detective-like figures: Godfrey (who is secretive, uses disguises), and a number of figures searching for the truth (Franklin, Gabriel, even Jennings who uses “scientific” means of deduction/detection).  Gabriel is strangely torn between his loyalty to Lady Verinder’s family, and his reluctant but compelling affinity with Cuff (“In spite of myself, however, I felt an interest that there was no resisting” p. 165; “It is very disgraceful, but it is not the less true, that I had another attack of the detective-fever” p. 171).
             Doubling/proliferation of detectives may show a number of things: the limitations of policing (since, with all these efforts, the diamond still gets stolen twice, and Godfrey is murdered), and thus the ultimate failure of reason and knowledge in modern society; the “disembodiment” of the detective (becomes depersonalized, a mere function of capitalist society, the flunky of MC values, and thus a function that is replicated endlessly – Agent Smith again).  
But perhaps most sinister is the doubling of detective and villain, to suggest a profound moral blurring and ambivalence.  Theory of the detective acknowledges his strange affinities to the villain: both are bound in an almost intimate cycle of dependency (no detective without villain; and villainy is defined in contrast to detection), both are functions of capital, both employ similar tactics and occupy similar spaces.  Cuff shows some classic detective characteristics: he breeds lies and deceit, albeit in a “good” cause: not only not telling Gabriel that he suspects Rachel, but also getting Lady V to lie (to delay Rachel’s departure for Frizinghall, but “not to mention Me as being the cause of putting off her journey,” p. 148).  (When Lady V later accuses Cuff of causing Rosanna’s death, Cuff replies “I am no more answerable for this distressing calamity, my lady, than you are” p. 177 – or perhaps they both are, since he is only her agent.  Lady V represents the incomplete conscience of the MC, willing to give people like Rosanna a job, but not a place in their society).  If Godfrey depends on the diamond to salvage his fortunes, Cuff is also working “for” the diamond (its return to the MC owners who pay him – long after he is dismissed from the case, he comes back to help Franklin due to his “grateful remembrance of the late Lady Verinder’s liberality to me” p. 487 – the compelling and long hand of capital.  Like Godfrey, Cuff is something of an actor (with his air of expecting something more from people, his apparently aimless questions, his “usual roundabout manner” p. 139, all with the ulterior motive of getting people to reveal/betray/uncover).  
Other, smaller symbolic doublings: Franklin and Rosanna, despite the implausible romance, are implicated in a relationship of lying for the other (Rosanna conceals the matter of Franklin’s nightgown, while he refuses to tell Cuff what Rosanna says to him).  Similarly, Rachel is in a similar relationship with Franklin: she refuses to say anything that will implicate him, but in the process she becomes associated with the theft of the diamond (and also, like Rosanna and Franklin, abets the real thief by withholding information that might have helped clear up the mystery).  Murthwaite might be considered something of the detective on the trail of the (mystery of the) 3 Indians – Cuff says “there isn’t a doubt on Mr Murthwaite’s mind, that they cam eto this place to steal the Moonstone” p. 165.  Yet he shares qualities with them, not just a common language, but also a sympathy for their plight, and for the “lovely” and “plaintive” ritual he observes them performing in India at the end of the novel.  Significance of names: “Seegrave” strangely suggests Rosanna’s act of consigning both the box, and her own body, to a sea grave; Cuff’s obsession with roses of course suggests Rosanna’s name; “Ablewhite” suggests the superiority and rectitude of the white man, yet he dons a disguise with a “swarthy complexion” that immediately suggests an affinity or possible mistaken identity with his racial-cultural opposites and rivals, the Indians (p. 482, 498).  “Verinder” contains a suggestion of “India”?  (even sounds like an Indian name?).  Constant blurring of oppositions/camps/sides, a subversive suggestion of the arbitrary and untenable nature of differentiations, in capitalist society.
3.   Detective and capital: yet another part of the blurring of identities and zones which characterizes the detective aspect of Moonstone is the parallelism between Cuff and the diamond.  Each is an external force which intrudes into the safe MC world of the Verinder household and immediately highlights rifts and divisions, turning respectable citizens into liars.  The diamond is thought of as being cursed because it divides Herncastle from the rest of his family; it later drives a wedge between Franklin and Rachel, Godfrey and the rest of the family, etc.  But Cuff does the same thing: Lady V explicitly says “I have a presentiment that he is bringing trouble and misery with him into the house” p. 118.  Both Cuff and the diamond are introduced by Franklin, actions that he will both regret.  Both the diamond and Cuff bring just about universal revulsion to those around them.  After Rosanna’s death, Lady V says of Cuff, “give that wretch his money – and release me from the sight of him” p. 177, which underscores Cuff’s financial motivation, but also his agency as being closely tied to MC wealth.  Irony is that it is not the “other” (Indians, servants, or strange hybrid characters like Murthwaite or Jennings) who bring danger to the MC world, but the very elements introduced by the MC (through the agency of Franklin), and which ostensibly belong to or serve that world, which precipitate its downfall.
             By the end of part one (“First Period”) of the narrative, it is already clear that the detective element, introduced ostensibly as a means of policing the “outside” and protectively sealing the MC world, has instead subverted it entirely.  It supplants the social linear-public chronotope with the detective fragmentary-secretive one.  In a variety of ways, it destabilizes relations within the MC, and between the MC and WC.  It exposes the ideological problems and instabilities of property and capital.
             
             Detective element might be seen as a geopolitics of capitalism and market society: its introduction into the social novel turns the social picture inside-out, exposing the “filled earth” of capital relations.  The MC social novel artificially expands the MC world (marriage, social relations, MC values) so that it seems to occupy more space than it actually does – WC and their concerns, when they do appear (e.g. Dickens’ Hard Times), seem to be no more than an appendix or attachment to the MC families and their issues.  The detective element as it were deflates the MC world-view, turning it inside-out to reveal its skeins and warp/woof, showing its (otherwise invisible) connections and dependencies on the function, lives and operations of the “other” elements surrounding the MC world.  As such, the social picture is suddenly fleshed out and made fuller – not, it is true, with the minutiae of details of a big social canvas (the world of Moonstone is still rather confined in terms of numbers of people and scope of action), but full of the problems, struggles, instabilities of a “modern” society.
III.   MC society vs “Modern” world: Inside and Outside
The 2 might be seen as flip sides of each other: the MC social order is its own self-portrait (drawn up by MC writers for MC readers), and interprets everything (the universe of things, the globe, history, humanity) from a very limited set of MC social concerns/relations.  Modernity, in contrast, is the undeniable pressure of socio-historical change – changing role and place of the WC (Rosanna’s “lady” like quality, the flirtation between Franklin and Penelope, Gabriel’s suggested intimacy with Lady V), increasing ubiquitous nature of various “others,” the powerfully abstracting/reductive/blurring force of capital, the colony/wide world, technologies (telegraph, shipping, the “experimental chemistry” which Herncastle is interested in, pharmacological developments) – which appears to threaten the cosy MC world.
             Moonstone shows, like an M C Escher sketch, the MC society ending where the Modern World begins, the Modern world starting to pull out and distort the MC society which it nevertheless resembles and originates from.
             At the boundary of the two – of “inside” and “outside,” older confined society and emerging wide world – is the shifting sand, a typical geopolitical symbol and topos.  Geographically, the place where the Verinder society ends and the wide world is about to begin.  But access to that wide world is not yet fully open – tellingly, the sands swallow up truth (the nightgown), and also represent the swallowing up of intolerable social/class problems for which there is not yet a stable solution: Rosanna, referring to her impending suicide in the sands, says “I know a better way of relieving my mind” p. 164.  Sands is like M. Arnold’s liminal modernity in “Grand Chartreuse”: “Wandering between two world, one dead,/The other powerless to be born,”