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"The Moonstone is a page-turner," writes Carolyn Heilbrun. "It catches one up and unfolds its amazing story through the recountings of its several narrators, all of them enticing and singular." Wilkie Collins’s spellbinding tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired a hugely popular genre–the detective mystery. Hinging on the theft of an enormous diamond originally stolen from an Indian shrine, this riveting novel features the innovative Sergeant Cuff, the hilarious house steward Gabriel Betteridge, a lovesick housemaid, and a mysterious band of Indian jugglers.

This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the definitive 1871 edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789626340271
Publisher: Naxos Audiobooks Ltd.
Publication date: 02/01/1995
Edition description: Abridged, 3 CDs
Product dimensions: 5.57(w) x 4.88(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Steve Farmer of the English Department at Arizona State University, has also edited Wilkie Collin’s Heart and Science for this series.

Date of Birth:

December 8, 1824

Date of Death:

September 23, 1889

Place of Birth:

London, England

Place of Death:

London, England


Studied law at Lincoln¿s Inn, London

Read an Excerpt


First Period the loss of the diamond (1848) The Events related by Gabriel Betteredge, House-Steward in the service of Julia, Lady Verinder

Chapter I

In the first part of Robinson Crusoe, at page one hundred and twenty-nine, you will find it thus written:

“Now I saw, though too late, the Folly of beginning a Work before we count the Cost, and before we judge rightly of our own Strength to go through with it.”

Only yesterday, I opened my Robinson Crusoe at that place. Only this morning (May twenty-first, Eighteen hundred and fifty), came my lady’s nephew, Mr. Franklin Blake, and held a short conversation with me, as follows:—

“Betteredge,” says Mr. Franklin, “I have been to the lawyer’s about some family matters; and, among other things, we have been talking of the loss of the Indian Diamond, in my aunt’s house in Yorkshire, two years since. Mr. Bruff thinks, as I think, that the whole story ought, in the interests of truth, to be placed on record in writing—and the sooner the better.”

Not perceiving his drift yet, and thinking it always desirable for the sake of peace and quietness to be on the lawyer’s side, I said I thought so too. Mr. Franklin went on.

“In this matter of the Diamond,” he said, “the characters of innocent people have suffered under suspicion already—as you know. The memories of innocent people may suffer, hereafter, for want of a record of the facts to which those who come after us can appeal. There can be no doubt that this strange family story of ours ought to betold. And I think, Betteredge, Mr. Bruff and I together have hit on the right way of telling it.”

Very satisfactory to both of them, no doubt. But I failed to see what I myself had to do with it, so far.

“We have certain events to relate,” Mr. Franklin proceeded; “and we have certain persons concerned in those events who are capable of relating them. Starting from these plain facts, the idea is that we should all write the story of the Moonstone in turn—as far as our own personal experience extends, and no farther. We must begin by showing how the Diamond first fell into the hands of my uncle Herncastle, when he was serving in India fifty years since. This prefatory narrative I have already got by me in the form of an old family paper, which relates the necessary particulars on the authority of an eye-witness. The next thing to do is to tell how the Diamond found its way into my aunt’s house in Yorkshire, two years ago, and how it came to be lost in little more than twelve hours afterwards. Nobody knows as much as you do, Betteredge, about what went on in the house at that time. So you must take the pen in hand, and start the story.”

In those terms I was informed of what my personal concern was with the matter of the Diamond. If you are curious to know what course I took under the circumstances, I beg to inform you that I did what you would probably have done in my place. I modestly declared myself to be quite unequal to the task imposed upon me—and I privately felt, all the time, that I was quite clever enough to perform it, if I only gave my own abilities a fair chance. Mr. Franklin, I imagine, must have seen my private sentiments in my face. He declined to believe in my modesty; and he insisted on giving my abilities a fair chance.

Two hours have passed since Mr. Franklin left me. As soon as his back was turned, I went to my writing-desk to start the story. There I have sat helpless (in spite of my abilities) ever since; seeing what Robinson Crusoe saw, as quoted above—namely, the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it. Please to remember, I opened the book by accident, at that bit, only the day before I rashly undertook the business now in hand; and, allow me to ask—if that isn’t prophecy, what is?

I am not superstitious; I have read a heap of books in my time; I am a scholar in my own way. Though turned seventy, I possess an active memory, and legs to correspond. You are not to take it, if you please, as the saying of an ignorant man, when I express my opinion that such a book as Robinson Crusoe never was written, and never will be written again. I have tried that book for years—generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco—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 Crusoes with hard work in my service. On my lady’s last birthday she gave me a seventh. I took a drop too much on the strength of it; and Robinson Crusoe put me right again. Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into the bargain.

Still, this don’t look much like starting the story of the Diamond—does it? I seem to be wandering off in search of Lord knows what, Lord knows where. We will take a new sheet of paper, if you please, and begin over again, with my best respects to you.

Copyright 2001 by Wilkie Collins

Table of Contents

William Wilkie Collins: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Moonstone

Appendix A: Early Reviews of The Moonstone

  1. Geraldine Jewsbury, The Athenaeum (July 25, 1868)
  2. The Spectator (July 25, 1868)
  3. Nation (September 17, 1868)
  4. The Times (October 3, 1868)
  5. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (October 1868)
  6. Lippincott’s Magazine (December 1868)

Appendix B: Excerpts from Newspaper Accounts of the Constance Kent/Road-house Murder Case of 1860

  1. The Times (July 3, 1860 to October 2, 1865)
  2. The Sommerset and Wilts Journal (July 21, 1860)

Appendix C: Excerpts from The Times Accounts of the Major Murray/Northumberland Street Case of 1861

  1. The Times (July 13, 1861 to July 26, 1861)

Appendix D: Collins on Indians

  1. “A Sermon for Sepoys.” From Charles Dickens’s Household Words: A Weekly Journal (February 27, 1858)

Appendix E: Letters by Collins Concerning The Moonstone (the Novel and the Play)

Appendix F: The Moonstone (the Play)

Appendix G: Reviews of the Olympic Theatre Performance of Collins’s The Moonstone

  1. The Times (September 21, 1877)
  2. The Illustrated London News (September 22, 1877)
  3. The Athenaeum (September 22, 1877)
  4. The Spirit of the Times, New York (October 6, 1877)

Select Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“The very finest detective story ever written.”—Dorothy Sayers

Reading Group Guide

1. T. S. Eliot called The Moonstone “the first and the best of English detective novels.” What classic elements of mystery are present in this story, and how has the genre of detective fiction evolved from the 1860s to the present day?

2. Discuss Collins’s employment of first-hand accounts to tell the story of The Moonstone. What does each narrator bring to the story, and how skillful is the author in shifting from comedy to pathos, romance to suspense? Is it an effective method of storytelling?

3. According to his 1868 preface, Collins’s stated objective was to trace the influence of character on circumstances. Whose character exerts the strongest influence on the plot of this novel, and how?

4. Drawing on the Prologue, as well as the opinions expressed by characters including Mr. Betteredge and Mr. Murthwaite, what may be determined about Collins’s views on British imperialism? Does he support or defy racial stereotypes in his depiction of the trio of Brahmins?

5. When Penelope suggests to her father that Rosanna Spearman has fallen in love with Franklin Blake, Betteredge bursts out laughing at the “absurdity” of it. What additional examples of class distinctions are evident in The Moonstone?

6. Dorothy L. Sayers, the acclaimed detective novelist, noted that, for his time, Collins was “genuinely feminist” in his treatment of women. Do you agree?

7. Discuss the role that opium plays in The Moonstone. Is it a believable plot device? Does the fact that the author created the story while under the influence of laudanum lend credibility to his depiction of its effects?

8. Charles Dickens,longtime friend and mentor to Wilkie Collins, edited and published The Moonstone in its initial serialized form. What do these two writers have in common in terms of style, structure, and characterization? How do they differ?

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The Moonstone (Illustrated + link to download FREE audiobook + Active TOC) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
angie1984 More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So cool!,
rfplwendy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Over 100 years old and still a fantastic read!The first "detective novel" which heralded a whole new genre in fiction, long before Sherlock, Poe or even Clouseau.........Defines the term "enduring classic."
ParadisePorch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Published in serial form in 1868 and now considered the first English language detective novel, the Moonstone sets up a closed room crime: the theft of the moonstone, a precious jewel stolen decades earlier from a Hindoo (sic) statue. Although all the clues were there for the reader to use, the solution seemed to me to be a little far-fetched.Nonetheless, I found The Moonstone to be a witty and entertaining book. If you¿re a dedicated mystery fan, you owe it to yourself to read this and appreciate the origins of the genre. 4 stars
Sholanki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At the first glance this novel looks bland but the pace seems to catch up rapidly a few chapters onward. I loved the way the author fitted himself in various characters starting from the humble servant Gabriel Betteredge to the detective Sergeant Cuff and giving us different perspectives of the mystery that surrounds the moonstone. I do admit though that it is a tad bit different from the other detective novels I have read so far but it did quite make my day.
madamepince on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was prepared for how funny this book is! Miss Clack is a hoot!
Terpsichoreus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Perhaps it is not surprising that I managed to guess the 'who', if not the how of this prototype mystery. What may be somewhat of a surprise is that this recognition did not make the book tedious, nor did it become a plodding step-by-step towards inevitability like many mysteries are.Like The Virginian, this predecessor of a genre never seems to fall into the same traps as its innumerable followers. Indeed, with both these books, the focus itself becomes something entirely different than the obsession it inculcates in others.Though this book certainly contains a mystery, a set of clues and twists, and a brilliant detective, the focus is not on these but on the characters themselves. Firstly, there is the fact that the book is narrated in sections by different observers and participants. Secondly, there is the fact that the chief mover of the entire series of events is never the mystery itself, but the maddening effect that the unknowns and miscommunications have on the personal relationships surrounding the events.The characters themselves, chiefly in the case of the narrators, are such discrete and believable characters that part of the enjoyment of the book becomes an appreciation for the author's knowledge of human behavior and ability to represent wholly different mindsets without any lingering authorial voice intruding.It is not only the psychology of the characters and their movements which are represented here, but also the little shifting falsities of how they see themselves and how they are seen by others, none of which represent a truthful opinion, but all of which flow from the way people generalize one another.Collins succeeds greatly at the old authorial adage that one should show instead of tell, as innumerable details and observations build up to give us a more thorough view. He does have somewhat of an easier time of this due to his method, it may be noted. By using constant and somewhat unreliable narrators, he may be seem to be telling, but in truth these opinions represent more about the narrator than about those whom they cast their judgment upon.Also like The Virginian, Collins carries with him a strong and concise voice bred of that Victorian generation for whom Austen was the venerable master. He was also, it may be noted, a close friend to Dickens.Another pleasantry with both authors is that they retain a certain humility, such that they never seek out more lofty heights than their prose may bear up. This is the reason their stories each stand as the foundation of pulp movements, whose writers were more concerned with writing to their own ability than to reaching for far-flung achievements they might or might not be equal to.However, while those later authors attached themselves so much to archetype and rare coincidence to produce the strength of their work, the earliest hands to touch the page were fueled by human emotion and character. There is some sense of stereotypical characterization in The Moonstone, but it is tempered by extending even the joke characters a surfeit of humanity.That being said, the main joke character in this book nearly drove me down in the few chapters she stood as narrator. It was not because she was too ridiculous, not because she was annoying, nor too cliche. She was simply too accurate to a type of person I loathe to meet or to spend a free minute with; namely: the self-righteous, proselytizing old maid.This was the curious tangent which passed between this text and 'The Screwtape Letters', which I was also reading at the time. It was especially marked in comparison to the earlier narrator, who though simple, retained a charm and a welcoming humility in his various shortcomings.It always seems a shame to look at the first movement of a genre, be it Wister's, Collins', or Tolkien's, as those creators who later move to take up the torch miss the point: that independent of the magic or mystery or gunfight being the main event, what keeps and impresses the reader is the emotio
WWWDaryl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I could not put this down. It has informed every detective story I have seen or read since. I thought the morphine sequence was exaggerated and then a week later I saw a Masterpiece Theatre story based on another morphine induced memory retrieval.
leore_joanne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loved the ending. Not your classical good guys win, bad guys die, but a little bit more sophisticated. I never knew (before now) that Wilkie Collins was one of Arthur Canon Doyle's inspirations. The book is a bit slow, but that's one of the pleasures in reading victorian books - taking the time to enjoy them properly. After all, they were written at a time when they were *supposed* to be time consuming. I also didn't like the general attitude towards servants, showing them as lowly all of the time. But again, that's what you get in 19th century novels, you just have to bear with it. Other than that, I just had a wonderfull adventure :) 3.12.07
littlegeek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First rate, top drawer, loved it. Great characters, both male & female. Very accessible to modern readers.
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first detective mystery novel? Yes, and still one of the best. Wilkie Collins was a contemporary of Charles Dickens. This novel has all the aspects of a good mystery. Interesting plot (the moonstone is a stolen diamond), a series of interesting characters, blind alleys, red herrings, unexpected twists and turns, and so on and so forth.It¿s told in an interesting way ¿ first person serial. Each character tells their part of the story from the first person perspective. This is a seldom-used method of writing the novel, later to be made famous by William Faulkner in As I Lay Dying.The only thing that is a little dated is the presence of opium in the plot ¿ understandable since Collins was an addict. I suppose he was writing from personal experience. The treatment of opium seems naive, but what can you expect from the nineteenth century.Highly recommended, and much more readable than some of the Dickens¿ novels.
bzedan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
That we're given the story by several different narrators, who¿in chronological order¿were involved with the whole Moonstone affair, is a very interesting device. There's a clear voice for each section, and the whole things comes around nicely in the end.Deception, family affairs, the mystery of the East. Nice little bundle here.
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
19th Century ghost story/detective story/set in big fancy British mansion. LOVE THIS.
bikerevolution on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
God, I love Wilkie Collins. As with Woman in White, there is mystery, complicated and well-developed characters, and strong female characters. It is obvious from his writing that Collins thought much differently than his counterparts about the abilities of women. In many ways this work could be compared to Woman in White, which is one of my favorite books of all time. The tempo and narration of Moonstone is just about perfect. I definitely recommend this for anyone who likes mysteries or novels of this time period.
abbie47 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very fun! And Rachel is pretty gutsy for her time. She is an admirable heroine. The doctor's theory that explains the mystery is wacky. I had to suspend my disbelief to read the last part, but that's my only complaint.
jmchshannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As mentioned by others, this is considered the first detective novel. To me, this is a character novel first and foremost. The narrative is told by various participants and eyewitnesses to the disappearance of the diamond. From an aging servant to a spinster activist to a charming bachelor to a lawyer to a great investigator and more, the different viewpoints not only further along the mystery to the point of resolution, Mr. Collins uses them to share pointed commentary on various characteristics found in real-life. It is equal parts amusing, uncomfortable and intriguing.This is actually the second time I read this book. The first time I read it, I focused on the mystery itself. I found myself trying to solve the crime before it was resolved, which is something I never really try to do. As far as mysteries go, while it may be considered the first great detective novel, with crime shows the primary focus on television these days and the proliferation of detective thrillers in general, The Moonstone is quite an easy mystery to solve. The twists and turns which may have kept Mr. Collins' readers on the edge of their seats waiting for the publication of the next installment just do not have the same impact that they do for today's reader. We've already seen them played out in hundreds of mysteries for them to be an effective plot device anymore. This second read found me focusing on everything but the mystery, even though I did not quite remember whodunit. As I mentioned, this is as much a character novel as it is a mystery. As a character piece, this book is one of the best I've ever read. The lovable, aging but extremely loyal servant, Gabriel Betteredge, on the surface appears to be nothing but a grandfatherly type, until he starts talking about his wife and women in general, why they are the inferior sex. He talks quite bluntly about treating pretty house servants differently, patting their cheek and other rather sexist behaviors towards women. Yes, he is lovable but his opinion on women is definitely a failing.Miss Clack is another narrator who is not quite as innocent as she professes on the page. Espousing Christian virtues, Miss Clack exhibits some of the most un-Christian behavior in the book. Comparing her actions with those of the mysterious but extremely devout Hindu servants, Mr. Collins is so subtly hinting at the fact that Christianity may not be the only, or best, religion.In fact, the charm of this story is the fact that Mr. Collins suggests that English imperialism has a lasting impact on both countries and not for the better. Given the fact that the Moonstone used to be part of a Hindu idol, the suggestion as to the rightful heirs of the diamond could be debated forever. It is an interesting foreshadowing to the imperialism debate when imperialism did not truly become popular until after The Moonstone was published. To say that Mr. Collins was ahead of his time with social commentary and with detective novels is definitely an understatement! In parting, this is such an enjoyable book. From a historical perspective, this is a great way to go back to the beginning origins of the detective mystery and discover just how many of our popular, beloved detectives got their start from Sergeant Cuff. As I mentioned, the social commentary, while subtle, is definitely worth discovering. I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit with Wilkie Collins!
clq on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I tend to be slightly sceptical toward books that are considered classics, especially the ones written ages ago. I was therefore somewhat sceptical toward The Moonstone, a classic which is almost 150 years old. My scepticism was put well and truly to shame. The Moonstone is an original mystery, in every sense of the word, which is centred around a valuable diamond said to be cursed. The story is told in the form of statements written after the fact by some of the people involved in the story, recounting events as they observed them. This works extremely well. The differences in perspective adds an additional level to a story which is already great. The personality of the writers shines through in the narratives written by them, and some of the more personal observations and musings of the characters made me laugh out loud to the extent at which I got looks, on both an airplane and a train. I could go on about how great this book is, and how much I enjoyed it, but I won't. I'd just encourage you to read it. Unless you really don't like the mystery-genre, I think you'll enjoy this book. If you're lucky, you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
hazelk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an excellent book. It held me to the last with its different perspectives and the linking character of the inimitable Sergeant Cusk. The only thing I'm wondering is why it's taken my so many decades to come to it.
stephxsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Moonstone is a priceless yellow diamond stolen from its Indian temple and said to curse whoever has possession of it. When a dead uncle bequeaths the Moonstone to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday, it is promptly stolen from her own room overnight¿and everyone in the household, from esteemed guest to lowly servant, is under suspicion.The Moonstone is an incredible Victorian detective novel with a varied cast of characters, a delicious mystery, and plot twists you won¿t see coming. Collins does a fantastic job of balancing suspense throughout: just when you think things have slowed down, something happens to suck you back in. The last 100 or so pages are especially suspenseful almost to the point of being unbearable¿in a good way.While the characters hardly change throughout the course of the novel (the focus here is on the mystery and the multiple-narrative format that Collins employs to tell the story), they are interesting enough to make us curious, especially as all of them seem to be hiding something that you¿re just dying to find out. Overall, a highly recommended Victorian read, and not to be missed if you¿re a fan of Victorian literature and classic mysteries!
philippa58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this before reading The Woman in White...and while the technique of using various narrators to carry the story forward is identical, both the mechanics and the characterisations generally are more deftly drawn in The Moonstone, one of many delights being the character of Sergeant Cuff.
eleanor_eader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mr. Franklin Blake brings the moonstone - a gem of Indian origin, seeped in history, supposedly cursed ¿ to the home of Lady Verinder, and her daughter, Rachel with whom he is in love, and to whom the gemstone has been bequeathed. The next morning, the moonstone is missing, and suspicion points in a satisfying array of directions, setting the bar for every mystery novel to follow.I was delighted by the resolution of the puzzle, never having even begun to guess the circumstances, yet it followed the rules (or set the precedent for) the crime genre in being plausible within the book¿s events; there was no cheating on the author¿s part, and while the revelation was too out of left field for this reader to guess, it was satisfyingly set up and then engulfed in a sea of classic misdirection.I found this not quite as enjoyable as The Woman in White (which was rather more sensational and fun), but still a perfectly intriguing mystery with marvellous characters and a dash of that romance that Collins handles so well. It did take me an unusually long time to read, but that¿s more a slump in my reading habits than anything to do with Collins¿ book, which has great pace for one of the first mystery stories ever written.
extrajoker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
first line: "I address these lines--written in India--to my relatives in England."One night, as I was getting ready for bed, I plucked this book from my shelf and settled in to read it. I thought I'd just read a few chapters before sleeping.Several hours later, after daybreak, I had only a few scattered chapters left. While I didn't want to leave off reading, I was so tired I could hardly make sense of written words. So I slept for a while before returning to the book and devouring the last few chapters.Needless to say, I highly recommend this wonderfully gripping 19th-century British mystery to anyone with several hours to devote to it. (In other words, don't begin it at bedtime.)
miss_scarlet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was very interesting and rather suspenseful. I enjoyed it somewhat more than "The Woman in White", however, this, too, dragged on a bit.
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