The First Detective Novel?
COLLINS, Wilkie The Moonstone London: Tinsley Brothers, 1868
3 vols, 8vo; Red morocco over marbled boards, gilt titled spines, marbled edges; vol I pp. viii, 315; vol II pp. [ii], 298; Vol III pp. [iv], 310; spines a little faded, a little rubbing to corners, some faint dog ears, some very faint/mild foxing to the edges of some gatherings, lightly worn copies, internally clean and bright, with the bookplates of John Martineau and Harry Bradfer-Lawrence to the front endpapers. Both copies lack the half-titles and adverts which would have conventionally been removed from the copies during the rebinding process.
This is a mixed edition set of the Moonstone. Volume 1 is a first edition, Volumes 2 & 3 are second editions from the same year.
The Moonstone is tied with the Woman in White for the most influential and popular novel in the Collins canon. It contains - and arguably popularised - many of the tropes we now associate with the detective genre. Whilst writing it, Collins was struck with an attack of rheumatic gout, which he was to battle with for the rest of his life. As a result, much of the novel was written by dictation, but his wailing so disturbed his amanuenses that several resigned in quick succession. On recovering enough to read his work, it is said that Collins didn't recognise it as his own. It probably wasn't a ghost, but no-one can prove that.
The Moonstone was snapped up by the public, and Collins outsold Dickens's work both in serialized and in novel form for the duration of its run. This may have caused some tension between the two, and may have inspired Dickens to start work on The Mystery of Edwin Drood…this, however, is (enjoyable) speculation.
I turned about, and there was Penelope flying down after me like mad. “Father!” she screamed, “come upstairs, for God’s sake! The Diamond is gone!”
“Are you out of your mind?” I asked her.