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On the Web Mon Aug 24 2009
It would be delightful to be able to read a book as its original readers did, to have the impact of the experience without knowing what would come after. Wilkie Collins's masterpiece, The Moonstone, must have seemed especially strange and new to its first readers. It was the first detective novel written in English. There are whole sections of bookstores, vast swaths of ISBNs devoted to The Moonstone's progeny. I happened to read it after the Sherlock Holmes stories, after Dracula, after Lord Peter Wimsey and Nero Wolfe and Philip Marlowe. But its first audience read it as a serial in Charles Dickens's weekly magazine All the Year Round. I suppose we could recreate this experience by reading one chapter each week and firmly putting the book away in the intervals, but I am much too impatient for that, myself.