The Transatlantic Moonstone: Part III

During the Victorian era, due to an increase in literacy, new print technologies, and mass marketing, a greater demand for print products such as the novel emerged (Graham and Patten 146). Literature could no longer be hoarded by the upper class, and publishers needed to create a product that would reach a larger audience (Graham and Patten 146). At the time, purchasing a novel in its entirety would have been extremely unaffordable for the majority of people, therefore a cheaper format was necessary to reach the mass market. Novels could be split into three volumes, but often even these books were far too expensive for the working class (Eliot and Nash 419). For this reason, novels began to appear in serialized editions of journals and newspapers. Rather than remaining with the elite, “higher brow” works began to circulate among the masses and became accessible to the working class (Graham and Patten 162).

What did this mean for the novel? According to Eliot and Nash, “Putting literary texts into different material forms [changed] the reader’s perception of them and…[altered] the context in which those texts [occurred]” (416). As well, the breaking of novels into pieces to be sold over many months put the reader into a position that was both “powerful” and “vulnerable” because the reader had agency over what literature was read, and in what order, but the reader was also required to consistently shell out the money to receive the next instalment (Eliot and Nash 417). I argue that publishers themselves were also in a position of power specifically over the working class because they chose which novels were to be serialized, and thus accessible on the mass market. Publishers also had the power to decide how the novels were to be presented. They decided which other texts should be included in the periodical, and where they should be placed. Certainly publishers had a particular image or audience in mind when creating their publications, which influenced how the audience interacted with the novel, and who interacted with it. I argue that the context surrounding the novel was just as important to audience perception as the actual novel-text itself.

In my research I looked at part three of The Moonstone in the January 18, 1868 editions of All the Year Round and Harper’s Weekly. I compared the two periodicals and I have come to the conclusion that, despite offering the same selections of the same story, the edition found in Harper’s Weekly was developed with the lower class in mind, in keeping with the reasoning behind the creation of serialized novels, whereas The All the Year Round appears to cater more to a higher educated class. The All the Year Round edition would not have been as accessible for a common working class reader from a literary contextual standpoint due to the format of the novel on the page and the other materials present in the serial. To prove my argument I will compare and contrast the visual format of The Moonstone as it is presented in both serials. I will also look at the literary context surrounding the novel, with particular focus on language, allusions, and writing conventions.

Works Cited

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.

Eliot, Simon, and Andrew Nash. “Mass Markets: Literature.” The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, edited by David McKitterick, Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 416-442.

Credits

Brittner, Savannah