Monday, November 02, 2009

Wilkie Collins, Serialization, and The Moonstone

Today is the kickoff of the Wilkie Collins tour, sponsered by The Classics Circuit.

Today's tour stop provides an overview of Collins and a brief look at serialized novels. Visit the Sophisticated Dorkiness blog for stop 1 on the tour.

In anticipation of this tour, I started Collins's 1868 novel The Moonstone last week. I'm about half done--finished the long first part in which Gabriel Betteridge, faithful servant to Lady Verinder, recounts his version of events. It was interesting at first but got to dragging, and I found myself getting irritated with Betteridge's constantly self-effacing and long-winded narration.

The second part, that of Miss Clack's acerbic and self-righteous testimonial, has renewed my interest in the story. I admire how Collins made the two narrators I've encountered so far sound so differently from each other, and she's such a refreshing change from Betteridge.

I've heard that the narrator of The Moonstone is one of those unreliable types, so I'm constantly second-guessing what they're saying. Since there are multiple narrators, I can only assume that it is the master himself, Franklin Blake, the character who collects the various accounts of the story together and has the last word, that is the unreliable one, but I'm still not trusting anyone and I'm not going to cheat and find out before I finish the novel.

Best bits--I'm not that far into the Miss Clack part, but the meeting of the Committee of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes-Conversion-Society was an absolute joy. In the words of Miss Clack:

We had a meeting that evening of the Select Committee of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes-Conversion-Society. The object of this excellent Charity is - as all serious people know - to rescue unredeemed fathers' trousers from the pawnbroker, and to prevent their resumption, on the part of the irreclaimable parent, by abridging them immediately to suit the proportions of the innocent son.

Here's another gem from Miss C, this time channelling Mary Bennet:

Oh, my young friends and fellow-sinners! beware of presuming to exercise your poor carnal reason. Oh, be morally tidy. Let your faith be as your stockings, and your stockings as your faith. Both ever spotless, and both ready to put on at a moment's notice!

I think I may have just found my new motto: Let your faith be as your stockings, and your stockings as your faith.


  1. That's a great quote! I think I'll add it to my blog!

  2. I can't believe I've never read any Wilkie Collins. I need to remedy that soon.

  3. I had noticed the faith & stockings quote too while reading :)

    Wait 'til you read about Miss Clack's way to help Lady Verinder :)

  4. Kay - yes, I LOL'd when I read about Miss Clack creating a mine field of tracts throughout the house. I think Collins must have had a particularly fun time in coming up with the names for the tracts. 'Satan in the Hair Brush' was my personal favorite.

  5. I loved this book, and I hope you find it satisfying as you get further into it. I really liked Betteredge and found him very funny -- as Miss Clack was as well, unintentionally funny. She seems to have no idea how ridiculous she is! I guess I just like Collins's sense of humor.

  6. I love the quotes you chose. So funny!!