Ex Libris Kirkland

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First Written 1868
Genre Fiction
Origin UK
Publisher Everyman
ISBN-10 0679417222
ISBN-13 978-0679417224
My Copy library hardback
First Read September 28, 2011

The Moonstone

I picked this up at the encouragement of an acquaintance who loves Wilkie Collins. I last read it in 2011 and my impression was that it was ... fine? Not Dickens, but enjoyable. But this year I REALLY enjoyed it. It's much funnier than I remember, and the plot is so much more satisfying than any Dickens novel. Maybe it's because I've been on a Trollope kick in 2019 that I was primed for this.

Also! This was another book that I read snippets of to Trudy when she was looking for a story, and I recounted the whole book to her in episodes as I read it. She was really into it, and she obviously thrives on this.

Noted on January 9, 2020

Besides being known as the best work of my author du jour, The Moonstone is more famous because it's the first detective novel! It was the first to set up the basic plotlines of a detective novel: the scene is set, the crime is committed, and we spend the rest of the novel following one or more detectives trying to solve the mystery.

It follows a similar epistolary* style, where the narrative author changes hands throughout the book. The best by far is the first narrator, the family's trusted servant Betteredge. He's a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, full of humble wisdom and wit, and refers every event to Robinson Crusoe. It's this kind of great character that makes Collins really work, and the overall plotting and pace is exciting and smooth, leaps and bounds better than The Woman in White.

* Note: Epistolary is totally the wrong word here. It's not made of letters, but written accounts, like testimonies or depositions. In one case a diary is used. Is there a term for that?

Noted on September 28, 2011

I can testify that they all look much about the same age—and you can decide for yourself, whether the man whom you saw was, or was not, in the prime of life. Not forty, you think? My idea too. We will say not forty. [Matt's note: I read this right before my thirty-ninth birthday!]

Quoted on February 2, 2020

Briefly answered, and thoroughly to the purpose! If the Moonstone had been in my possession, this Oriental gentleman would have murdered me, I am well aware, without a moment’s hesitation. At the same time, and barring that slight drawback, I am bound to testify that he was the perfect model of a client. He might not have respected my life. But he did what none of my own countrymen had ever done, in all my experience of them—he respected my time.

Quoted on February 2, 2020

My Aunt Ablewhite is a large, silent, fair-complexioned woman, with one noteworthy point in her character. From the hour of her birth she has never been known to do anything for herself. She has gone through life, accepting everybody’s help, and adopting everybody’s opinions. A more hopeless person, in a spiritual point of view, I have never met with—there is absolutely, in this perplexing case, no obstructive material to work upon.

Quoted on February 2, 2020

I suspected what was the matter readily enough. But it is a maxim of mine that men (being superior creatures) are bound to improve women—if they can. When a woman wants me to do anything (my daughter, or not, it doesn’t matter), I always insist on knowing why. The oftener you make them rummage their own minds for a reason, the more manageable you will find them in all the relations of life. It isn’t their fault (poor wretches!) that they act first and think afterwards; it’s the fault of the fools who humour them.

Quoted on February 2, 2020

“It seems an odd taste, sir,” I ventured to say, “for a man in your line of life.”

“If you will look about you (which most people won’t do),” says Sergeant Cuff, “you will see that the nature of a man’s tastes is, most times, as opposite as possible to the nature of a man’s business.

Quoted on February 2, 2020

And so it ends in your spoiling canvas with paints, and making a smell in the house; or in keeping tadpoles in a glass box full of dirty water, and turning everybody’s stomach in the house; or in chipping off bits of stone here, there, and everywhere, and dropping grit into all the victuals in the house; or in staining your fingers in the pursuit of photography, and doing justice without mercy on everybody’s face in the house.

Quoted on February 2, 2020

I am an average good Christian, when you don't push my Christianity too far. And all the rest of you—which is a great comfort—are, in this respect, much the same as I am.

Quoted on January 14, 2020

"What are you doing here?" I asked. "Why are you not in your proper

"I am not in my proper bed," answered the Sergeant, "because I am one of the many people in this miserable world who can't earn their money honestly and easily at the same time.

Quoted on September 28, 2011

In the twinkling of an eye, he burst in on me with his cigar-case, and came out strong on the one everlasting subject, in his neat, witty, unbelieving, French way. "Give me a light, Betteredge. Is it conceivable that a man can have smoked as long as I have without discovering that there is a complete system for the treatment of women at the bottom of his cigar-case? Follow me carefully, and I will prove it in two words. You choose a cigar, you try it, and it disappoints you. What do you do upon that? You throw it away and try another. Now observe the application! You choose a woman, you try her, and she breaks your heart. Fool! take a lesson from your cigar-case. Throw her away, and try another!"

I shook my head at that. Wonderfully clever, I dare say, but my own experience was dead against it. "In the time of the late Mrs. Betteredge," I said, "I felt pretty often inclined to try your philosophy, Mr. Franklin. But the law insists on your smoking your cigar, sir, when you have once chosen it." I pointed that observation with a wink.

Quoted on September 28, 2011

Perhaps you think you see a certain contradiction here? In that case, a word in your ear. Study your wife closely, for the next four-and-twenty hours. If your good lady doesn't exhibit something in the shape of a contradiction in that time, Heaven help you!--you have married a monster.

Quoted on September 28, 2011

Gentlefolks in general have a very awkward rock ahead in life-- the rock ahead of their own idleness. Their lives being, for the most part, passed in looking about them for something to do, it is curious to see--especially when their tastes are of what is called the intellectual sort--how often they drift blindfold into some nasty pursuit. Nine times out of ten they take to torturing something, or to spoiling something-- and they firmly believe they are improving their minds, when the plain truth is, they are only making a mess in the house. I have seen them (ladies, I am sorry to say, as well as gentlemen) go out, day after day, for example, with empty pill-boxes, and catch newts, and beetles, and spiders, and frogs, and come home and stick pins through the miserable wretches, or cut them up, without a pang of remorse, into little pieces. You see my young master, or my young mistress, poring over one of their spiders' insides with a magnifying-glass; or you meet one of their frogs walking downstairs without his head--and when you wonder what this cruel nastiness means, you are told that it means a taste in my young master or my young mistress for natural history. Sometimes, again, you see them occupied for hours together in spoiling a pretty flower with pointed instruments, out of a stupid curiosity to know what the flower is made of. Is its colour any prettier, or its scent any sweeter, when you DO know? But there! the poor souls must get through the time, you see--they must get through the time. You dabbled in nasty mud, and made pies, when you were a child; and you dabble in nasty science, and dissect spiders, and spoil flowers, when you grow up. In the one case and in the other, the secret of it is, that you have got nothing to think of in your poor empty head, and nothing to do with your poor idle hands.

Quoted on September 28, 2011

The upshot of it was, that Rosanna Spearman had been a thief, and not being of the sort that get up Companies in the City, and rob from thousands, instead of only robbing from one, the law laid hold of her, and the prison and the reformatory followed the lead of the law.

Quoted on September 28, 2011

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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