It's time for another one of my bad cover art posts! In case you missed it, I've done one of these on Jane Eyre and one on Pride and Prejudice. These are surprisingly hard to do because, despite some of the awful examples I've found, most cover art is thoughtful and beautiful (or at least unremarkable). I felt this way with a lot of The Moonstone covers below–they weren't nearly up to par with the sheer horror of the other two novels, but I found juuuust enough crazy ones to scrape together a post. If anyone knows of any 19th century (or even late 18th- or early 20th-century) novels with plenty of messed up book jackets, tell me.
In case you don't know The Moonstone, it's an 1868 novel by my favorite Victorian author, Wilkie Collins (who was Dickens's BFF and heterosexual life-partner). The Moonstone is largely considered to be the first detective novel and Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot certainly owe a lot to this work. Very roughly, here's the plot [SPOILERS]:
Horrible Imperialist in India steals the Moonstone, the sacred diamond of a Hindu religious sect, and takes it back to England because of WESTERN GREEEEEED. Three Hindu priests dedicate their lives to tracking the diamond down and stealing it back. Evil Imperialist dies, leaves the Moonstone to his niece, Rachel, who is bouncing between two suitors (the roguish Franklin Blake and the obviously named Godfrey Ablewhite, the good guy). The Hindu priests are seen lurking around the house, and sho' 'nough, the diamond is stolen.
Everyone's like, "OMG, EVIL INDIANS" but Rachel is like, "Nope, it was my fucking boyfriend Franklin who stole the diamond. Peace out, assholes, I'm going to go be pissed off somewhere else for the rest of the damn book, y'all can sort this shit." And Franklin's like, "Whaaaaaaaaa? Baby, I never stole NOTHIN'." So he's super fucking confused and calls in THE GENTLEMAN DETECTIVE, Inspector Cuff, and they totally solve the mystery, and the resolution is cracked out like nothing I've ever seen be cracked out before.
The night the diamond was stolen, Franklin Blake had just quit smoking and had been given a drink spiked with opium for the lolz, because people in the 19th century were DICKS. The combination of the two made him sleepwalk and put him in a highly suggestible state, so Godfrey Ablewhite (OMG, IT WAS THE 'GOOD GUY' ALL ALONG!!!) made our somnambulist friend break into Rachel's bedroom and steal the Moonstone and Godfrey totally made off with it, and Rachel saw the whole thing and that's why she was pissed at Franklin, even though he can't remember any of this. So then the Indians catch up with Godfrey and murder his ass reaaaaal good, and take back the Moonstone and go back to India and EVERYONE LIVES HAPPILY EVER AFTER, except Godfrey, who is dead, and maybe Rachel, who just lost her enormous jewel inheritance.
Also, there's some shit with quicksand, and a girl with a limp, and another girl with a hunchback, and some Indian fortune-telling, and an Evangelical old biddy, and suicide, and some frantic late-night nightgown sewing, and this book is your one-stop shopping for sensationalism, and it's the BEST BOOK THAT EVER WAS.
Okay, so to get to the covers:
First, let's talk about LAZY covers, shall we?
This book is a sensation novel with a dramatic quicksand subplot, and your covers are making me YAWN.
A diamond in an oyster shell, because reasons.
We get to my other big pet peeve about Victorian literary covers: THE VICTORIAN LADY
It's a woman, innit? I suppose they intend that to be Rachel, who is ABSENT for most of the book. Glad you're working so hard to capture the essence of the novel. "Eh, slap a chick in a bustle on there, it'll be fine."
A woman in REGENCY clothing, wearing a pearl necklace.
"It's a woman . . . she's wearing a pearl necklace, which is kind of like a diamond brooch . . . let's call it a day!" -the Art Department.
Then, of course, we have this lovely cover WHERE SHE'S NOT EVEN WEARING CHEST JEWELRY. And she appears to be married, which Rachel is not. At first I thought that they were referencing a scene where Rachel had given Franklin a rose to wear in his buttonhole, but that's not even a rose she's holding.
Y'all, this cover makes the story look like it's full of sappy shit.
Love the Tim Burton-designed corset, though.
SPECTRAL BOSOM STONES
(the one on the right has a hairdo like Mom in Futurama)
The Moonstone: a Novel of Cutlery
The Moonstone: there's a room in it
And, also: streets
The Moonstone, with an Introduction by T.S. Eliot, and illustrations by Dr. Seuss
The Moonstone: The Tale of a Door-Knocker
The Moonstone: Eviiiil Indians Make Predatory Motions Toward Some Serious Cleavage
Coming this fall to ABC: the three Brahmin are Charlie's Angels, starring the four-armed God of the Moon as Charlie.
"What ho, old chum, are you sinking in quicksand? Couldn't possibly help! I've got a tophat on, don't you know."
I forgot the part where Rachel was a bonny highland lass from the 1600s.
The Moonstone: The Teenage Romance Werewolf Negligee Edition
Because disembodied, floating body parts make everything better. It looks like an episode of Scooby Doo up in hurr. (Also, I'm aware that this is not a book cover. It's still awful)
That time that 18th-century woman inspected the ceiling while giving herself a mammogram in front of 1950s businessmen.
Actually, that whole "We're ALWAYS watching you" feeling is pretty accurate.
Wait a minute . . . is that's supposed to be . . . Buddha? Eh, all those Eastern-type gods are interchangable!
Now for my honorable-mention covers:
The one that depicts the incredibly touching and vaguely Sapphic relationship between two disabled women in the book.
The one with Drusilla Clack, who is possibly the most hilarious character in all of Victorian literature. To these two covers, I salute you.