- Sep 2020
there was a hole in Mr. Franklin’s pocket that nothing would sew up. Wherever he went, the lively, easy way of him made him welcome.
It seems that Collins is almost, but not quite, setting Mr. Franklin up to be the Victorian "rake" stereotype.
(From wikipedia: "In a historical context, a rake (short for rakehell, analogous to "hellraiser") was a man who was habituated to immoral conduct, particularly womanising. Often, a rake was also prodigal, wasting his (usually inherited) fortune on gambling, wine, women and song, and incurring lavish debts in the process.")
I say almost because, even though this description is classic "rake" behavior, the narrator seems invested in seeing the good in Mr. Franklin, and the narrative seems to be somewhat invested in redeeming him (unless that's just to throw us off). Overall, I find it interesting that this novel seems to simultaneously present stereotypical and tropey characters, but at the same time complicate them and present their contradictions and complexities.
Crowds at the performance with the legs. Ditto at the performance with the tongue
When I've read critiques by Victorian critics of popular novels, they often criticized novels for being too sensationalist (speaking to a general Victorian uneasiness with the body and the erotic). However, I see this novel as being extremely unapologetically sensationalist and of the body. I think that is highlighted here where a powerful dance, communication of the body, is held up on the same level as a speech. In fact, Collins takes it one step further by tying the speech itself directly to the body part that performs it, erasing the divide between the intellectual and the erotic/sensationalist.
Including the family, they were twenty-four in all. It was a noble sight to see, when they were settled in their places round the dinner-table
I really enjoy the "dinner party mystery" trope, and am super excited to see it here. I found this scene as a whole to be extremely entertaining and humorous, and I think the campiness of the characters and the painful awkwardness of the dialogue heightened the drama and the wacky vibe of the novel. (sidenote: it reminds me of the game Clue). I also imagine that Victorian readers found this scene to be extremely entertaining and relatable, especially upper-class women who frequently hosted dinner parties.
The constant repetition of "my lady," heavily emphasized throughout this passage and consistent in the rest of the novel so far, speaks to the interesting and complex domestic politics of the Victorian household. There is a dynamic of mutual ownership and possession in the domestic master/servant relationship that Collins is bringing to light here, which is significant in the context of a novel examining the subject of possession in a more literal and tangible sense with the diamond.