Sensation Sells: The Transatlantic Moonstone Project Part XII

        This project compares and contrasts the sensational aspects of thd March 21, 1868 printing of  America’s Harper’s Weekly and Britain’s All the Year Round. Wilkie Collins’ sensation fiction work The Moonstone was simultaneously serialized by periodicals in the United States and the United Kingdom. The serialized detective story was released on different continents under very different cultural and political conditions that are reflected in the format and content of the publications. Reading The Moonstone in the politically radical, richly illustrated American publication Harper’s Weekly is a completely different experience from the highbrow, text-heavy British version in All the Year Round. The different content ranging from gossip to advertisements deeply effects how the novel is presented.  Even the format of the publications affected the reception of the articles. While All the Year Round is approximately 8 ¾ x 6 ½ inches, “Harper’s [is] 16 ½ by 11 ½ inch[es],” contributing to the reading experience (Leighton and Surridge 209). By nearly doubling the amount of space per page of the magazine, Harper’s Weekly created room for a plethora of images to compliment the articles. These differences in marketing dictate the publishers’ intent and values towards their implied audience.

        Despite different approaches, the use of sensational elements is transatlantic. Both periodicals published sensation fiction, gossip and advertisements in a particular way in order to foster excitement. While the bigger shock value appears in Harper’s Weekly's all American big, visual format, All the Year Round is more visually reserved, reinforcing (expected) Victorian sentiment by only printing text.The magazines reflect the different cultural conditions in which they were published. The content however simultaneously subverts and reinforces Victorian sensibilities in that readers are able to live vicariously through sensational stories while adhering to societal pressures. The stories in All the Year Round and Harper’s Weekly are quite sensational, including gossip and exciting stories of romance and mystery.

        All of the similarities and differences impact how Collins’ The Moonstone is received. A different tone and mood comes with the style of writing that surrounds The Moonstone. Visual illustrations create opinions and mould how the mystery is read. The form and content of the two different periodicals portray spectacular stories, using sensationalism to shape reader response, effectively shaping how people read The Moonstone.


Mate Mackenzie