The Transatlantic Moonstone: Part XXXII

“Like the diamond itself, the novel glints ambiguously, throwing back different interpretations from its many facets.” –John Sutherland

Harper’s Weekly and All the Year Round published Wilkie Collins’ sensation novel The Moonstone simultaneously in the United Kingdom and the United States, in serial from January to August 1868. I noticed immediately that the text of the novel itself was similar, but not the exact same, in the British and American versions. Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge similarly notice that “The Moonstone took on strikingly different forms – and hence different meanings – in different markets” (207), and that as a result “the American Moonstone differed markedly from its British counterpart in All the Year Round” (234).

I will complicate Leighton and Surridge’s idea that The Moonstone took on different meanings in the British and American markets, by emphasizing that the British and American markets crafted different meanings onto The Moonstone. Molly Knox Leverenz recognizes that the American “Harper’s Weekly’s editors were not only aware of but intentionally enhancing the intratextuality of the texts and images printed within its pages” (26). I will show, based on the evidence in the original print publications of The Moonstone in the British All the Year Round and the American Harper’s Weekly, that the British version intentionally lets the story speak for itself, whereas the American version intentionally shapes readers’ interpretations of the story, especially readers’ interpretations of the message or moral, by changing the original punctuation in the last line and by strategically positioning the last chapters within the larger periodical.

Harper’s Weekly obviously wanted to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the release of the final installment of the novel, to exploit readers’ captive attention with a moral goal in mind. Tinsley’s observations that “especially when the serial was nearing its ending, on publishing days there would be quite a crowd of anxious readers waiting for the new number” makes it is easy to imagine captive readers in search of meaning in the text (Sutherland xxxviii), after “THE END”; the end of a story is, after all, usually where the author imparts a message or moral. Collins offers no explicit moral at the end of the story, and instead leaves readers to infer, or even create, meaning. I suggest that Harpers’ Weekly appreciates the role of “periodicals as a means of meaning-making in print culture” (Leverenz 25), and intentionally influences the meaning that readers extrapolate from the story, whereas All the Year Round is less suggestive.

Works Cited

Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone: Autograph Manuscript Signed. 1868. MS. Morgan Library and Museum, New York. Print.

Drew, John, and Tony Williams. Dickens Journals Online. University of Buckingham. Web. 6 October 2015.

Lanning, Katie. “Tessellating Texts: Reading The Moonstone in All the Year Round." Victorian Periodicals Review 45.1 (2012): 1-22. 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.

Leverenz, Molly Knox. “Illustrating The Moonstone in America: Harper's Weekly and Transatlantic Introspection.” American Periodicals: A Journal of History, Criticism, and Bibliography 24.1 (2014): 21-44. Print. 

Sutherland, John. Introduction. The Moonstone. By Wilkie Collins. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. vii-xxix. Print. 

Sutherland, John. A Note on Composition, Reception, and Text. The Moonstone. By Wilkie Collins. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. xxx-xxxix. Print.

Vega, Carolyn. “RE: The Moonstone Research.” Message to Kirsten Brassard. 5 October 2015. E-mail.


Kirsten Brassard