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Lawson, L.A. (1963). Wilkie Collins and The Moonstone. Am. Imago, 20(1):61-79.

(1963). American Imago, 20(1):61-79

Wilkie Collins and The Moonstone

Lewis A. Lawson

When the conditions of its composition are recalled, it is not surprising that The Moonstone (1) abounds with references to dreams. For years forced by the pain of the gout to seek relief in laudanum, Wilkie Collins was consuming it in such quantities when he dictated the novel that he later admitted not recognizing the last part as his own work. (2) As he well knew, and as he has Ezra Jennings write in the novel, the penalty of excessive opium is “the frightful dreams.” (Moon, 366) But Ezra Jennings is not the only character in the novel who dreams. Franklin Blake writes at one point, “When I did get to sleep, my waking fancies pursued me in dreams.” (Moon, 328) Both women who love Blake admit dreaming of him. Rachel Verinder, the well-born heiress, is the more restrained in her admission; she merely thinks of him by day and dreams of him by night. (Moon, 320) Rosanna Spearman, the poor servant, writing from the safety of the grave, is freer in describing her attraction to Blake; he was, she writes to him, like “a prince in a fairy story…. like a lover in a dream.” (Moon, 286) Her dreams are not always of Blake, however, for she early dreams of the quicksand in which she. ends her life. (Moon, 22) And at the time when her thoughts are turning from the frustrations of love to the solace of death, Gabriel Betteredge, the steward of the household, repeatedly describes her actions as those of a person in a dream. (Moon, 133-134) It is Ezra Jennings, the doctor's assistant who is addicted to narcotics himself, though, who utters the most important words about dreams in the novel: “an ordinary dream subordinates to itself … judgment and … will.” (Moon, 358) What Jennings says provides a basis for much of twentieth century dream psychology.

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