Sergeant Cuff, Rosanna Spearman, and Gabriel Betteredge — uncaptioned vignette for the "The Story. First Period." — thirteenth illustration in the Doubleday (New York) 1946 edition of The Moonstone, p. 110. 8 x 10.6 cm. [Sergeant Cuff suspects Rosanna Spearman as the thief, not simply because of her criminal background, but because her story about being ill on the previous day seems to be a fabrication to cover her going to Frizinghall.] Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

Passage Illustrated

"I beg your ladyship's pardon," said Sergeant Cuff. "Before we begin, I should like, if convenient, to have the washing-book. The stained article of dress may be an article of linen. If the search leads to nothing, I want to be able to account next for all the linen in the house, and for all the linen sent to the wash. If there is an article missing, there will be at least a presumption that it has got the paint-stain on it, and that it has been purposely made away with, yesterday or to-day, by the person owning it. Superintendent Seegrave," added the Sergeant, turning to me, "pointed the attention of the women-servants to the smear, when they all crowded into the room on Thursday morning. That may turn out, Mr. Betteredge, to have been one more of Superintendent Seegrave's many mistakes."

My lady desired me to ring the bell, and order the washing-book. She remained with us until it was produced, in case Sergeant Cuff had any further request to make of her after looking at it.

The washing-book was brought in by Rosanna Spearman. The girl had come down to breakfast that morning miserably pale and haggard, but sufficiently recovered from her illness of the previous day to do her usual work. Sergeant Cuff looked attentively at our second housemaid — at her face, when she came in; at her crooked shoulder, when she went out.

"Have you anything more to say to me?" asked my lady, still as eager as ever to be out of the Sergeant's society.

The great Cuff opened the washing-book, understood it perfectly in half a minute, and shut it up again. "I venture to trouble your ladyship with one last question," he said. "Has the young woman who brought us this book been in your employment as long as the other servants?"

"Why do you ask?" said my lady.

"The last time I saw her," answered the Sergeant, "she was in prison for theft." — "The Story. First Period. Loss of the Diamond (1848). The events related by Gabriel Betteredge, house-steward in the service of Julia, Lady Verinder," Chapter 13, p. 103-104.


The character and situation of Rosanna Spearman relate to the theme of the unforgiven criminal explored in Tom Taylor's The Ticket of Leave Man (1863) since there seems to have been a widespread prejudice that held that convicted felons could not possibly be reformed, and that criminal behaviour was deeply ingrained in the personality and could not be counteracted by kind treatment such as that offered Rosanna by Lady Julia Verinder, who of course is one of the few characters who knows about the servant's criminal record — the other is, by plausible coincidence, Sergeant Cuff. However, the astute criminal investigator suspects that Rosanna has been acting as Rachel Verinder's agent in the disappearance of the Moonstone, which she is secretly pawning to cover debts of which she is afraid to tell her mother. Thus, obliquely at least, Collins seems to be alligning himself with those social reformers such as Elizabeth Fry interested in improving the lot of incarcerated criminals, including an alternative to hard time in prison: reformatories were established in 1853 as an alternative to penitentiaries, and, after the publication of this novel, first and repeat offenders were separated (1878).

Sharp sets up the scene as an interrogation of a frightened young woman with something to hide as, questioned by Cuff as Betteredge observes the dialogue with sympathy for the ladies' maid, she nervously glances away. The problem with this scene as an elaboration on the text is that (a) Lady Julia is not present; (b) the washing-book is not in evidence; and (c) the passage into which the picture has been inserted occurs in the next chapter:

It was plain that Sergeant Cuff’s suspicions of Rosanna had been roused by something that he had found out at his examination of the servants in my room. Now, the only two servants (excepting Rosanna herself) who had remained under examination for any length of time, were my lady's own maid and the first housemaid, those two being also the women who had taken the lead in persecuting their unfortunate fellow-servant from the first. Reaching these conclusions, I looked in on them, casually as it might be, in the servants' hall, and, finding tea going forward, instantly invited myself to that meal. (For, nota bene, a drop of tea is to a woman’s tongue what a drop of oil is to a wasting lamp.) — "The Story. First Period. Loss of the Diamond (1848). The events related by Gabriel Betteredge, house-steward in the service of Julia, Lady Verinder," Chapter 14, p. 110.

Thus, the illustration seems to reflect Betteredge's reflexions on Cuff's interview with Rosanna Spearman, and is not a realisation of the actual scene in the previous chapter. Sharp seems to have revelled in this kind of pictorial-textual ambiguity, which he has exploited throughout his series by providing neither title nor caption nor quotation for any of the fifty illustrations. Significantly, this is one of the scenes that Sharp selected for the cover of the Doubleday volume. Despite Collins's obvious sympathy for Rosanna Spearman's plight and despite her appearance in a number of the original serial's illustrations, notably as a social isolate wandering the shore near the Shivering Sand in "There she was, all alone, looking out on the quicksand and the sea" (11 January 1868), she does not appear elsewhere in Sharp's illustrations, as if he is minimizing her importance in the mystery, but then the other illustrators have ignored her entirely as a social non-entity.

Relevant Illustrations Involving Rosanna Spearman from the 1868 Edition.

Above: The original serial wood-engraving in Harper's of Cuff's studying Rosanna Spearman after she has presented the washing-book, Sergeant Cuff looked attentively at our second housemaid — at her face, when she came in; at her crooked shoulder, when she went out" (22 February 1868). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Left: The first Harper's depiction of the solitary lady's maid, "There she was, all alone, looking out on the quicksand and the sea." (11 January 1868). Centre: Rosanna's infatuation with the handsome Franklin Blake is underscored by "She caught Rosanna at Mr. Franklin's dressing-table, secretly removing a rose," etc., (25 January 1868). Right: A flashback to Rosanna's odd behaviour when she encountered Franklin Blake in the billiard-room, "'He looked at the billiard-balls,' I heard her say, 'anything rather than look at me!'" (7 March 1868). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Related Materials


Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone: A Romance. with sixty-six illustrations. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. Vol. 12 (1868), 4 January through 8 August, pp. 5-503.

Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone: A Romance. All the Year Round. 1 January-8 August 1868.

_________. The Moonstone: A Novel. With many illustrations. First edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, [July] 1868.

_________. The Moonstone: A Novel. With 19 illustrations. Second edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1874.

_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. Illustrated by George Du Maurier and F. A. Fraser. London: Chatto and Windus, 1890.

_________. The Moonstone. With 19 illustrations. The Works of Wilkie Collins. New York: Peter Fenelon Collier, 1900. Volumes 6 and 7.

_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. With four illustrations by John Sloan. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908.

_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. Illustrated by A. S. Pearse. London & Glasgow: Collins, 1910, rpt. 1930.

_________. The Moonstone. Illustrated by William Sharp. New York: Doubleday, 1946.

_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. With nine illustrations by Edwin La Dell. London: Folio Society, 1951.

Karl, Frederick R. "Introduction." Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. Scarborough, Ontario: Signet, 1984. Pp. 1-21.

Leighton, Mary Elizabeth, and Lisa Surridge. "The Transatlantic Moonstone: A Study of the Illustrated Serial in Harper's Weekly." Victorian Periodicals Review Volume 42, Number 3 (Fall 2009): pp. 207-243. Accessed 1 July 2016.

Nayder, Lillian. Unequal Partners: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, & Victorian Authorship. London and Ithaca, NY: Cornll U. P., 2001.

Peters, Catherine. The King of the Inventors: A Life of Wilkie Collins. London: Minerva, 1991.

Reed, John R. "English Imperialism and the Unacknowledged crime of The Moonstone." Clio 2, 3 (June, 1973): 281-290.

Richardson, Betty. "Prisons and Prison Reform." Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia, ed. Sally Mitchell. London and New York: Garland, 1988. Pp. 638-640.

Stewart, J. I. M. "Introduction." Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966, rpt. 1973. Pp. 7-24.

Stewart, J. I. M. "A Note on Sources." Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966, rpt. 1973. Pp. 527-8.

Vann, J. Don. "The Moonstone in All the Year Round, 4 January-8 1868." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985. Pp. 48-50.

Winter, William. "Wilkie Collins." Old Friends: Being Literary Recollections of Other Days. New York: Moffat, Yard, & Co., 1909. Pp. 203-219.

Last updated 12 October 2016