The Transatlantic Moonstone: Part XIV

                        Representations of Class and the Transatlantic Moonstone

            The 19th century saw the rise of Great Britain’s Imperialism and the Reconstruction of America, after it emerged from its bloody and destructive Civil War (1861-1865). In this period, the industrialization of printing technologies created newly affordable printed materials, which were marketed to an increasingly literate, public readership. The novel emerged as the predominant literary form of this period, which was serialised in periodicals and published in weekly and monthly editions. The April 4, 1868 journal editions of Harper’s Weekly and All the Year Round contained the second period, chapter one text of The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. Though both journals published the same chapter of Collins’ sensation and detective narrative, their material differences and forms altered the reader’s experiences and interpretations. Dickens’ periodical, All the Year Round, published literary works that aimed at a middle-class readership, but contained few illustrations and no jokes. Advertisements, Katie Lanning notes, “were minimal” (14). This left the readers with only the text to engage with, and in the April 4, 1868 edition of All the Year Round, there were no advertisements and no illustrations.   Harper’s Weekly, by contrast, was a commercialized journal, filled with bold and dramatic illustrations, advertisements, and aimed at a more diverse audience. Molly Knox Leverenz notes that the American illustrations in Harper’s Weekly significantly disrupts the idea that The Moonstone is “a purely English text” (22). The visual images in Harper’s Weekly added another dimension to the text, which shaped the reader’s perceptions and allowed for a uniquely American participation in the transatlantic text. Leverenz’s observation echoes Leighton and Surridge’s point, that; Harper’s illustrations “formed an intrinsic part of the American Moonstone” (207). For Leighton and Surridge, Harper’s illustrations created a different form, and, as a result; the illustrations allowed different meanings to emerge. Leverenz analyzes Harper’s representations of British imperialism, but this exhibit, rather, will examine All the Year Round’s and Harper’s treatment of the English class system, as it is depicted in the second period, chapter one of The Moonstone. While All the Year Round, uses literary narratives to uphold the English class system, Harper’s Weekly uses American illustrations, advertisements and jokes to portray a unified nation and an idealized American national identity, and to neutralize The Moonstone’s depictions of a class-ridden English society.