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The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins - LSC-Kingwood

The Moonstone: Read it online
Betteredge, the steward at the Verinder estate, treats the book Robinson Crusoe as his bible.  He says this, "such a book as Robinson Crusoe never was written, and never will be written again.  I have tried that book for years and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life.  When my spirits are bad - Robinson Crusoe. When I want advice - Robinson Crusoe.  In past times, when my wife plagued me; in present times, when I have had a drop too much - Robinson Crusoe.   I have worn out six stout Robinson Crusoe's with hard work in my service."

Wilkie Collins 

Wilkie Collins (along with Poe, Dickens, and Doyle) was the architect of the 19th century detective novel. T.S. Eliot claimed The Moonstone
, published in 1868, the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels. After reading the novel, researchers should decide on a theme and use the library's books and databases to find resources to support their premise. Use this assignment guideto get a handle on what was going on in the world during the period. The Moonstone is set in 1842.

The video (5 minutes) is a very short overview of the development of the mystery novel - from Collins to the twenty-first century.  Stop at any goes along quickly. 


Topics to Consider  

Read a little first - enjoy the book and then select the topic for your paper.  Do a little research to make sure you will have plenty to support your theme or subject. 

Librarian talk . . . About Getting Started!

As you begin, narrow your topic to a size that you can manage. Consider keywords that will help you find the information you need. These can be names of people, literary works, events, or broader identifying terms. Use these keywords for locating information in the library catalog, electronic databases, and on the internet.It is best to use a variety of formats when researching. Keywords to consider::  Wilkie Collins; Detective and Mystery Fiction Criticism; Victorian England; The Moonstone; Mystery elements; character names.

More about Choosing Keywords (30 sec.)



 The Moonstone - Hindu version

The Moonstone - English version

The Moonstone offers many themes for the researcher.  Talk with your instructor about this.  Here are a few ideas we like. 
  • Analyze the point of view of one of the first-person narrators.  How is the character portrayed? Education, class, gender, biases, principles, personal traits, humor. 
  • Compare the insights of two or more narrators.
  • Compare the detection styles of Sergeant Cuff and (Franklin Black or Matthew Bruff, solicitor)
  • Examine the social attitudes of the period. The story takes place during the high-Victorian imperialist age.
  • Examine plot construction (one of Collins' strongest points)
  • Discuss atmosphere in a detective novel
  • Compare Father Knox's Detection Writing 10 Commandments (1929) to the detection elements in The Moonstone.
  • Characterization -  Gabriel Betteredge - you might enjoy brushing up on your Robinson Crusoe. You won't go wrong writing about Collins' well-drawn characters.
  • Consider satire - the comical Miss Clack
  • Supernaturalism in the mystery - The three Indians are interesting.
  • 19th century novel of manners
  • A study of the procedural novel - Sergeant Cuff 
  • A look at class issues in the 19th century - Franklin Blake or Rachel
  • Examine means of bringing the authors own ideas and beliefs into the novel (events, characters, etc)

Finding Literary Criticism

Literary Criticism may be found in books and journals.  You will probably start your search with Reference Books.  They give you a feel for the types of criticism available.  Because they are often overviews, you might not find them appropriate to quote in your paper.


Librarian Talk . . .About Books!

Apply online for a library card. Use the barcode number from your Lone Star College ID or library card to:
1) Place a hold on a book and have it sent to the library closest to you
2) Access journal and reference databases from home, and
3) Access e-Books from eBook Collection.

  • The catalog is online.
  • Online or e-Books are available in the  eBook Collection.  Use your library card to log in.
More about...Finding Books (31 sec.)

Several titles on the works of Wilkie Collins have been placed on reserve at the Circulation Desk in the library.   Other books for your research include:

  • The Art of the Mystery Story edited by Howard Haycraft
  • Dickens Studies Annual:  Essays on Victorian Fiction  - Use the MLA database to find info in this book series.
  • Nineteenth Century Criticism, Vol
  • What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew:  From Fox Hunting to Whist - the Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England  by Daniel Pool
  • Victorian Essays:  A Symposium edited by Warren D. Anderson and Thomas D. Clareson.  Oberlin, OH:  Kent State U, 1967.
  • Wilkie Collins by Lillian Nayder. Twayne's English authors series.  New York:  Twayne  1997.
  • Wilkie Collins:  An Illustrated Guide by Andrew Gasson.  New York:  Oxford, 1998.
Librarian Talk . . . About Finding Journal and Newspaper Articles!

Electronic databases are purchased by the libraries for your research use. To find articles in newspapers and journals, letters, reference books, illustrations, photographs and more, use your updated library card to login to the following databases. If you find an interesting article that is not full-text, please give the correct bibliographic information to our Reference Librarians and they will see that you get the article. They will need full bibliographic information - and your name and address. Send your phone number as well, so they can contact you if they need to. There is some overlap of articles in the following databases. However, we encourage you to use more than one. All are excellent sources for this topic. 

HINT: For a full list of article databases, go to use your library card for login.
More about searching databases (25 sec.)
JSTOR Arts & Sciences
Search or browse the complete back issues for scholarly journal articles in literature, economics, history, social sciences, science and mathematics. The most current issue available is determined by publisher agreements and varies.
Project MUSE
Search and browse the full text of recent scholarly journals in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
Literature Resource Center
Includes articles from Reference Books such as CLC and DLB, book articles from Twayne's American Authors, and some full text journal articles.  
Academic Search Complete
Index to journals articles, most full text.  While similar to Proquest Research Library, it may have different articles.
America's Historical Newspapers 1690-2000
In the search page, use Advanced features to find articles on Wilkie Collins or The Moonstone. Use quotes around Collins' name to find articles on his work or about him.

The Internet
Librarian Talk . . . About the Internet!

The Internet will be a wonderful source of original documents. Browse the sites we have suggested below. Remember, you do want to find reputable sites. Look at:

  1. Accuracy - The information should be researched and show proof that it has been.
  2. Source - Who wrote the information? Look at the domain.  .edu .gov. org .net are valid research sources.
  3. Authority - What are the author's credentials?  (Don't quote from another college freshman's paper.)
  4. Coverage - Does the page have the information you need for your research?
  5. Objectivity - If a work is biased, use it - just make sure your professor knows YOU know. And offer both sides of issues, where applicable.
More about finding internet sources (25 sec.)
  • Wilkie Collins 150 years ago Great site for beginning your search about Wilkie Collins.  Links to bibliography, letters, photographs, and biographical information.
  • Wilkie Collins Website The most complete site for WC information.  Includes e-texts, biographical information, mailing lists, photographs, and information about London during the period.
  • Wilkie Collins Appreciation Page More of the same, but an easy way to join a Wilkie Collins discussion list.  Get a little help from Wilkie Collins fans.  There is also a link to BBC videos of Collin's works, A Woman in White and Moonstone.
  • Author's Directory Links to portraits, biography, lesson plans, and e-books. Links tend to circle, but some good information for the persistent.
  • Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens discusses the friendship of these two men, found on the Victorian Web.
  • Biography Wilkie Collins a brief biography from the Victorian Web. 
  •  E-Text for The Moonstone. Enjoy the book online.  From the Gutenberg project.
  • Shmoop, summary of The Moonstone  Let the chapter summaries help you along as you read.  They do not take the place of reading, though ;-)

Online Book Reviews

About the Victorian Period
Robert Peel establishes the Metropolitan police.     The Moonstone, was written and published during the mid-Victorian period (1860s). The story, set on the coast of Yorkshire and in London in 1848 and 1849, begins in India fifty years earlier. The Moonstone,containing many of the elements of a developing 'classic' mystery, is generally considered the first full-length and best detective story ever written. Author Wilkie Collins is referred to as the father of the English detective novel.  Like most books of the period, The Moonstone was serialized before being edited and printed as a full length novel. It was serialized in All the Year Round, the magazine of Charles Dickens, a close friend of Wilkie Collins.

    The complex tale of the Moonstone is narrated from three points of view.  This is a particularly good mechanism to allow the reader to, as the servant Betteredge claims, be the judge.  We enjoyed The Moonstone for its characterizations, humor, representation of the class system in England during the 19th century, atmosphere, and, of course, its mystery.  Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum online.  The timeline below is sketchy, but will give the user an idea of events during the Victorian age.

Dates Government British News Forensics World News
1799 Sir John Hardcastle murders 3 Brahmins and takes the moonstone during the storming of Seringapatam, India.
Before ...  Bow Street in session \1719 Robinson Crusoe by Defoe  |  1814 British invade and burn Washington  |  Jane Austen  |  London illuminated by gas (1815)  |  Beginning of the Industrial Age  |   Neoclassicism and Romanticism Art 1776 Dental ID (Revolutionary War)  |  1804 Medico-legal Institute established (U of Vienna)  |  1750 John and Henry Fielding established the Bow Street Runners, a bounty hunting police force, in London Age of Imperialism 1815-1913 in Europe  |  Napoleon abdicates  1815 Waterloo  |  Brothers Grimm fairy tales   |  Malthus Principles of Political Economy
1829  George IV reigns Duke of Wellington becomes Prime Minister  |  Catholic Emancipation Act (can hold office)  |   First Oxford Cambridge Boat Race  |  British industrial ascendance clear (80% of Europe's coal, 50% of iron, and all steam engines Sir Robert PeelRobert Peel established the Metropolitan Police, Scotland Yard being the principle station.  Called Bobbies or Peelers, they were subsidized by the government.  Very successful.  Colonization of Australia  |  Louis Braille invents finger reading for the blind  |  Balzac  
1830 William IV (brother) succeeds Writing during this period:  Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, William Thackeray  |  British votes extend to middle-class males  |  Newman Tracts for the Times |  London Bridge opened  Reform Bill   |  American police force formed in Boston, modeled after Peel's metropolitan police. Socialism becomes popular term in Britain and France

Victoria (niece) succeeds

Queen Victoria

Smallpox epidemic   |  Industrial poverty , unemployed   |    |  Railway boom in England Atlantic steamship service begins   |  Britain act passed to register births, marriages and deaths  |   Morse develops telegraph  |  Pittman's Shorthand system Britain establishes Hindustani as the lingua franca of India  |  US gag law to suppress debate on slavery issue  |  financial panic in US  |  First Opium War between Britain and China
1840 Victoria marries Albert Murders in the Rue Morgue by Poe (first detective story), Punch begins publishing  |  National temperance Society | A Christmas Carol  | First public telegraph line from Paddington to Slough  Scotland Yard Detective Police Force formed  |  Penny post started |  Detective Dept formed | Crime rate highest of century | Railway from London to Manchester  |  1840-1870 mug shots, crime scene, post mortem photos Hong Kong ceded from China  |  Can-can dance in Paris  |  Railway boom in Europe  |  Telegraph from Baltimore to Washington
1845   Thackeray, Tennyson, Trollope, Bronte's  |   | Royal Opera House | Wuthering Heights | Jane Eyre  |  First Factory Act limits working hours |  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood forms  Warren and Morton use ether in the USA as anesthetic during operations  |  British surgeon uses chloroform  Potato Famines  |  2.5 million Irish immigrate  |  Revolutions in Europe,1848  |  Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY  |  Married Women's Property Act  |  American President Zachary Polk
1848-1849 Events of Moonstone take place during these two years.
1850   Dickens, Tennyson | Population 21 million | Crimean War | Cholera epidemic  |  Britain has 39.5% of world shipping |  trade unionism begun  |  Realism Art   |  Crystal Palace in Hyde Park Telegraph cable under English Channel | Faraday discovery of electromagnetic induction  |  Pinkerton Detective Agency founded in America  |  Wells Fargo Darwin's The Origin of the Species  |   Smithsonian Institute in US  |  Moby Dick   |  The Scarlet Letter
1855   Livingston discovers Victoria Falls | Indian Mutiny  |  Great Stink - sewage in Thames  (cholera)  |  Florence Nightingale  |  Metropolitan policeMetropolitan police extended to the villages Cunard steamer crosses Atlantic in 9.5 days  |  Uncle Tom's Cabin  |  Flaubert's Madame Bovary  |  Thoreau  |  East India Company dissolved.  Control of India transferred to the crown
1860 Prince Albert dies The Woman in White (1860)   |  Industrial Expedition   | Elizabeth Barrett Browning  |  Telegraph cable under Atlantic | Steam powered subway in London  |  patent for Gatling machine gun Unification of Italy | American Civil War   |  Silas Marner  | Les Miserables  |  Lincoln becomes US president
1865   2nd reform bill | Moonstone (1868)  |  First concrete roads in Britain  |  Impressionism  |  Debtor's prisons abolished  Last public hanging | Last convict sent to Australia  |  Nobel invents dynamite Fenian rising in Ireland | Suez Canal opened   |  Red Cross  |  Alice in Wonderland  |  Impressionist movement in art  |  Mark Twain
1870   Univ Tests Act removed religious tests at Oxford and Cambridge | Trade Unions legalized | Population 26 million  |  Compulsory education introduced 1870 document authenticity - handwriting  |  Typewriter invented  |  Bell's telephone  |  Edison's phonograph  |  Repeater rifle Germany unified  |  Gilbert and Sullivan  |  Diamonds found in South Africa  |  invented  |  Barbed wire
1875 Victoria named Empress of India   Zulu wars   |  Post Impressionism   |  Secret ballot introduced Edison invents phonograph |   Bell  invents telephone Thomas Hardy  |  Tom Sawyer  |  Dostoyevsky
 1880   Disraeli and the Tories  |  Married Women's Property Act  |  Conan Doyle A Study in Scarlet, first Sherlock Holmes. First book on fingerprinting  Socialist workers in France  |  Edison's incandescent lamp  |  Pasteur immunization for anthrax 
1885 Golden Jubilee Bloody Sunday Riots | Jack the Ripper  |  Kipling  |  Stevenson  Motor cars Fall of Khartoum  |  Eiffel Tower  |  Faberge eggs  |  Karl Marx Das Kapital 
1890   Financial panic in London and Paris  | London dock strike New Scotland Yard    |  X-Rays Emily Dickinson  |  Ibsen  |  First comic strip in US  |  Freud employs 'cathartic' methods
1895 Diamond Jubilee Turbine ships built by Royal Navy    |  Wireless telegraphy from Britain to France Fingerprinting System adopted Madame Curie  |  First modern Olympic Games in Athens
1900 Victoria dies (1901) Edward VII succeeds Boer War  |  Labor Committee founded   Marconi wireless  |  Wright Brothers  |  First coast-to-coast crossing by car takes 65 days Boxer Rebellion in China  |  1902 US acquired control of the Panama Canal  |  Flatiron building on Broadway, one of first skyscrapers (20 storeys)

Finally, mystery writers today who set their historical mysteries during the Victorian period include...

Historical mysteries are very hot and there are many authors writing series and setting them in England's past. A good historical writer worries about the accuracy of the character, language, culture, and setting. Mystery readers are typically well-educated and love discovering anachronisms, though they may quit reading an author who errs too often.  Research is important. :-) There are many historical mystery writers who set their tales in the Victorian 19th century. Compare them to Collin's book which was actually written then. How do you think they hold up?
  • 1820 - Kate Ross - 4 of the best books of the period. Wonderful representation of decadent London during the early century.
  • 1840 - Ann Perry - William Monk series, set during the same period as The Moonstone, in London.  Excellent.  Thomas Pitt series 1880s, a good look at class system.
  • 1890 - Caleb Carr - The Alienist, Angel of Darkness - (American Victorian period) considered high literature.
  • 1855 - Michael Crichton - The Great Train Robbery - see the film for fun.
  • 1860 - John Dickson Carr - wrote from the 1920s - 1960s. Set several in 19th century.
  • 1860 - Amy Myers - Several good period mysteries, fun to read.  Mid to late Victorian.  Country house.
  • 1860 - Frances Selwyn - England and Bombay, India are the settings for these hard to find mysteries.
  • 1880 - Peter Lovesey -   A favorite writer.  Setting from 1880 - turn of the century.  Love the Birdey series.
  • 1890 - Robin Page - Texas writers who set their country house series in England.  Upstairs - downstairs.
Try Film (A great way to get a feel for the period and to tune your ear into the language of the 19th century.)
  • The Shooting Party - set in the later Victorian period, but a great look at life in the country house.
  • Victoria Regina - Possibly the best of the Queen Victoria films.
  • Angels and Insects - A must if you haven't seen it.
  • Jane Eyre - The  Bronte's were writing during the early 19th century.
  • Woman in White - Some consider this work by Collins superior to The Moonstone.
  • Emma, Persuasion, Sense & Sensibilities or other by Jane Austen (Regency period, just before Victoria.)
  • David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Bleak House or other by Dickens
  • Upstairs / Downstairs  -  BBC series about the class system during the late 19th century.

Librarian Talk about getting help!

Support for a successful paper is more than finding the right resources. Putting it all together takes time and effort. Sometimes it takes additional help from the librarians or tutors. Please consider the following resources if you need additional help. Remember, the expert on the assignment is your professor; use the eCollege VISTA in-class email to contact her.

More about getting help (25 sec.)

Citing Sources Using the Library MLA Style Guide | Lone Star College-Kingwood Library guide. Examples of both paper and electronic citations.

Avoiding Plagiarism | Excellent information and guide on how to avoid plagiarism from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.

University of Texas Copyright Crash Course | This helpful guide on copyright is suggested by Lone Star College-Kingwood Teaching and Learning Center.

The Learning Center | Check the TLC hours for in-house tutoring..

Page by Peggy Whitley, 2001. updated 4/2013 BB.

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