Should The Moonstone have been in England at all?

Yes, I’m reading Wilkie Collins at the moment. I have to say that after the Russian Revolution and all that went with it, it’s a pleasant change to read something with plot, characters and dialogue; and as I’ve not read anything like as much Collins as I feel I ought to have done, this is proving a real treat.

The book does start, however, with what to me is something of a moral dilemma. We see how The Moonstone – an exceptional diamond stolen from the forehead of a Hindu god statue during the Indian Mutiny – comes into the possession of an English family, and I have to say, I’m not happy about it. This may have a lot to do with my recently undertaking a short course in Antiquities and Art Crime, but it does seem a curiously criminal thing to do. Of course, Collins attempts to justify this in his preface by explaining that such theft was not without precedent:

“The magnificent stone which adorns the top of the Russian Imperial Sceptre was once the eye of an Indian idol; the famous Koh-i-Noor is also supposed to have been one of the sacred gems of India.”

This, however, does not go to make the theft – any of the thefts for that matter – justifiable. So I was pleased to see the successors of the temple watchers continuing their quest to have the Moonstone returned.

One thing that Collins does do, and which is something of an oft-repeated trope, is to suggest that the stone is cursed, and will remain so until it is returned to its rightful home. I am sure that readers will recall the fabled Curse of Tutankhamun, fuelled by Lord Carnarvon’s apparently mysterious and ill-timed death soon after the tomb was found; not forgetting the so-called “cursed” crystal skulls. It seems to be something that although it may or may not exist, it is certainly believed – and Collins puts it to very good use indeed, although not being that far along in the story, I’m not going to discuss how it plays out.

So, the question is, should the Moonstone have even been in England at all? As a clearly looted treasure, I do not believe that it should have been, and it should have been restored to its original home at the earliest opportunity. But having said that, if the Moonstone had been so restored, this wouldn’t be much of a novel, would it?

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