The Transatlantic Moonstone: Part IX
Wilkie Collins’s best-selling novel The Moonstone (1868) was serialized simultaneously in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America. The letterpress was consistent on both sides of the Atlantic, but the material formats of Harper’s Weekly and All the Year Round differed greatly and subtly shaped the way Collins’s text could be read in each continent. Unlike Charles Dickens’s literary journal All the Year Round, Harper’s Weekly was marketed to a broad audience and included images, lively advertisements, and fun columns like “Humors [sic] of the Day” (Harpers 142). The two journals were evidently marketed towards different readerships, but both found a place for Collins’s sensational novel in their 1868 publications. This transatlantic appeal was due to both parties' careful manipulation of the material conditions of their respective texts. These manipulations helped guide their readers’ interpretations and build appeal for The Moonstone within different communities of readers.
In a recent essay (2014), Molly Knox Leverenz calls for an intratextual analysis (23) of The Moonstone within Harper’s Weekly. While doing so, she adheres to Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge’s assertions that images are not simply reflective of The Moonstone’s plot, but have important generic, thematic, and narrative significance (207). Leverenz argues that the American illustrations in and surrounding the serial parts of Collins’s novel concretize themes from the verbal text and help the text to participate in transatlantic discourses. This move was particularly important because of the jarring effects that the recent Civil War had had on American national identity (Leverenz 21). Much of Leverenz’s essay reflects upon the ways in which the American text uses images to distinguish itself in opposition to English ideology in The Moonstone (28).
Leverenz's essay emphasizes the American editor’s critical stance on English imperialism (24), but this exhibit will instead explore how Harper’s critiques the English class system as it is represented in The Moonstone, chapter XV. Harper’s uses image and formatting to counteract representations of English classism with idealized images of American unification and benevolence. This argument carries into Dickens's All the Year Round, where formatting and layout is manipulated in order to self-consciously critique English society on the same grounds. This is accomplished by juxtaposing The Moonstone with stories that explore taste and the etiquette of British dining.
Note: The images in this exhibition are designed to be explored in the order they appear (from top to bottom).
All the Year Round: A Weekly Journal 29 Feb. 1868. 265-288. Print.
Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization 29 Feb. 1868. 129-144. Print.
Leighton, Mary Elizabeth and Lisa Surridge. "The Transatlantic Moonstone: A Study of the Illustrated Serial in Harper's Weekly." Victorian Periodicals Review 42.3 (2009): 207-243. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.
Leverenz, Molly Knox. "Illustrating The Moonstone in America: Harper's Weekly and Transatlantic Introspection." American Periodicals 24.1 (2014): 21-44. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.