“The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins:

Often said to be the first detective novel ever (though agreement on this is hardly unanimous), it is also said to be Wilkie Collins’s best book, along with his “The Woman in White”. It is an epistolary novel, meaning it is composed of a series of documents (letters, newspaper articles, journal entries, official reports and the like). This was a very popular literary device at the time, and very effective if done right. This work is constructed from testimonials penned by various characters in the story describing important things they’ve seen and noticed about the theft and the curious circumstances and events surrounding it.
The “Moonstone” of the title is a very large diamond stolen from the forehead of the Hindu moon-god, Chandra, by an officer in the British army, Colonel Herncastle, in the siege of Seringapatam. Of course the stolen gem has a curse associated with it. Herncastle is considered the black sheep in his family and is routinely shunned by both society and his own relatives. Whether as a gesture of good will or an act of petty revenge, at his death he wills the hexed stone to his niece, Rachel Verinder, on her 18th birthday. Immediately some Indian priests, the hereditary guardians of the stone, show up at the family residence on the day of her party and the stone goes missing that very evening. Of course these Hindus are the primary suspects initially.

The first couple hundred pages are composed of a narrative by the head servant of the household where the birthday party took place, Gabriel Betteredge. In it we are familiarized with the basic facts of the mystery. In the morning after the party, when the jewel is found missing, Rachel’s cousin, Franklin Blake, calls in the police, but, curiously, Rachel refuses to cooperate with the police’s inquiries. Of course each subsequent narrative only serves to deepen the mystery. Later on in the book we find that Rachel Verinder actually saw Franklin Blake steal into her room in the dead of night to abstract the prized diamond from the cupboard where she hid it, so Rachel’s refusal to be interviewed by the detectives was not an indication that she was trying to perpetrate a fraud, rather she was attempting to shield her cousin from scandal.

The second narrative was written by a poor relation and a zealous Christian. Of course Collins goes out of his way to represent her as an obnoxious fool. This makes sense when we recall that Collins was a high level Mason, as was his mentor Charles Dickens. Clearly the social engineering being done by these secret societies has been going on for a very long time by now since “The Moonstone” was published in 1868. There are also many attempts to amend public attitudes about various fundamental prejudices throughout his work. One of the most obvious attempts along this line focus on the local physician, Mr. Thomas Candy, and his medical assistant, Ezra Jennings. Though Jennings is a swarthy half cast and therefore made a negative impression on people anywhere he went in England, he was portrayed as the only competent medical man who assisted his employer when he got deathly ill after catching a chill on his way home after Rachel’s party. The two other British doctors who attended him nearly killed him, but Ezra was able to bring him back to life with his medical knowledge and common sense. After Mr. Candy recovers from his attack he is not the same man as before as he has lost much of his memory and medical knowledge during his fever, and Jennings, per force, basically takes over his (vastly diminished) practice afterwards once Mr. Candy’s wealthier clients have lost their faith in him and went on to patronize other local doctors.

In the course of the story it is revealed that Mr. Candy took the liberty of doing something of questionable ethics by secretly giving Mr. Franklin Blake a dose of Laudanum after Mr. Blake cast aspersions on his profession at the party. This was done in an effort to prove that Mr Blake’s comment at the gathering that medicine was basically the same as “groping in the dark” was spoken in ignorance. Mr Blake complained of sleeplessness from giving up the practice of smoking, and the laudanum was to prove to Mr. Blake that medicine often provided the most practical solution to physical complaints. Ezra hears his employer confess to this prank while he is rambling on in a delirium as he was attending him in his sick bed. It then becomes obvious that Mr. Blake, who was in his mind obsessing over the safety of the gem, took the gem out of the cabinet, intending to put it in some safer place while in an opium induced trance. They now have solved the mystery of who stole the gem and why, but the mystery remained concerning its present whereabouts.

As it turns out the solution to what became of the gem rested in the theory that when one did something that strays from normal habits while under the influence of certain drugs, even if they are done unconsciously in a state of blackout, they are best recalled while under the effects of that same substance. An experiment, proposed by Ezra Jennings, to reproduce, as close as possible Mr Blake’s experiences after the party, was initiated in hopes of finding out what became of the stone. Of course this relied on Mr Blake being supplied with another dose of laudanum. I’ve already revealed too much about this story so I’ll say no more about the ultimate solution to this literary enigma.

I myself can attest to the truth of this phenomenon. As you know if you’ve been reading my posts for a while, the people behind that television show went to great lengths for years to place me in close proximity to hard drugs and hard drug users. It should come as no surprise to anyone that a combination of having these drugs easily available and the generally depressing circumstances of my life due to my being exploited without pay since I was a child by those media people, resulted in my using these drugs. While high I liked to stay busy and I produced a lot of art. When I had the epiphany that these TV people intentionally led me to drugs and were making it difficult for me to quit (I was routinely treated with the most shocking rudeness and inhospitality imaginable whenever I showed up at 12 step meetings), I determined to quit entirely on my own. It wasn’t easy since I was on so many different drugs, but truly wanting something can make difficult goals more easily attainable so I was able to do it. However I found I could no longer draw so well anymore. I knew that if I got a little high it would all come back to me, but considering all the trouble I had to go through to get those vices out of my life I wasn’t exactly eager to flirt with that morass of misery again. The fact I don’t draw anymore is why I’m reading so much these days, and also why I started to try and learn how to write.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s