During the nineteenth century particularly during the Victorian era, an increase in the amount of serialized novels reached an all-time high. Many of these pieces were published in installments in literary magazines. According to Law and Patten due to technological advances of the time there was an increase of publishers looking for “publications that would appeal to larger audiences and institute a steady demand for new products” (146). Specifically, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins was simultaneously published both in Britain where the piece originated, plus in America in serialized format. Each section was published on the same date in both places. Law and Patten propose that the rise of Victoria to the crown in Britain came with economic advantages that gave rise to literary newspapers and magazines (146).
Why is this important? This rise in serialized book consumption was emblematic in a change in how novels were to be read and consumed by the larger public. According to Law and Patten, the success of the serial had to do with “speed and economy” (147). It was now quicker and cheaper for the larger public to get a hold of literature that in the past was seen as for the higher class. Law and Patten say that serials also provided “more dispersed channels through which serials could be distributed” being available at a multitude of different shops and services (147). Thus Law and Patten assert that this gave the serial an advantage by providing “the reader and immediacy of access to written information that traditional booksellers could not” (147).
In Britain, The Moonstone was published in All the Year Round, a British literary magazine created by Charles Dickens, whereas in America it was serialized in Harper's Weekly literary magazine. Published in these divided up sections over the course of 1868 both magazines however presented The Moonstone in very different formats from each other. Specifically Harper’s Weekly published their version with illustrations while All the Year Round did not. Also in stark contrast which is representative of the different audiences they were tailoring too, each has commentaries, advertisements and writings with different social and political contexts.
Specifically this section looks at the publications of The Moonstone on February 22, 1868. Unlike other sections of both periodicals, the February 22, 1868 editions are void of included advertisements on the same pages of the story, however they are still within pages around it and contribute to the reading of their context and meaning towards the greater text. However, there still remains a significant amount of written contributions and images that both include which differ from each other. Katie Lanning suggests that The Moonstone “takes on new meaning when considered in relation to other texts in the pages of All the Year Round” (1). Subsequently the same can be extended to Harper’s Weekly as well. This suggests the argument that the primary text becomes changed due to the context and juxtaposition within the given periodicals. Therefore, The Moonstone is reflected as two different texts which are emphasized differently within the context of the February 22, 1868 volumes, the All the Year Round version of The Moonstone places precedence on the higher class in Britain, whereas Harper’s Weekly illustrates an uneasiness to class structures through a questioning of what is fair and just in the shadow of the American Civil War.
All the Year Round, 22 February 1868, pp. 252.
Law, Graham, and Robert L. Patten. “The Serial Revolution.” The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, edited by David McKitterick, Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 144-171.
LANNING, Katie. “2011 VanArsdel Prize Essay Tessellating Texts: Reading "The Moonstone in All the Year Round".” Victorian Periodicals Review, vol. 45, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1–22. JSTOR.