Gentlefolks in general have a very awkward rock ahead in life--the rock ahead of their own idleness. Their lives being, for the most part, passed in looking about them for something to do, it is curious to see--especially when their tastes are of what is called the intellectual sort--how often they drift blindfold into some nasty pursuit. Nine times out of ten they take to torturing something, or to spoiling something--and they firmly believe they are improving their minds, when the plain truth is, they are only making a mess in the house. I have seen them (ladies, I am sorry to say, as well as gentlemen) go out, day after day, for example, with empty pill-boxes, and catch newts, and beetles, and spiders, and frogs, and come home and stick pins through the miserable wretches, or cut them up, without a pang of remorse, into little pieces. You see my young master, or my young mistress, poring over one of their spiders' insides with a magnifiying-glass; or you meet one of their frogs walking downstairs without his head--and when you wonder what this cruel nastiness means, you are told that it means a taste in my young master onr my young mistress for natural history.The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins has been described as the first British detective novel. I didn't know that was what it was when I signed up to read it with a group. Mysteries are one of my guilty pleasures and I tend to read them quickly. According to the group reading schedule, I should only be half way through the book now, but instead, I couldn't help myself and finished it. I really enjoyed the characters, several of whom contribute sections of their own in the narrative, allowing for an amusing range of voices, prejudices, and perspectives. The mystery, once it gets going, is fun to follow and keeps us puzzling away with the characters until the end. This was my introduction to the work of Wilkie Collins, and I am now looking forward to reading more of his work. My one objection to the work is that India, a place to which I have a particular atraction, does not come off very well in this novel. It's people are painted in a pretty superficial and stereotyped way. Still, that is not so unusual for the period, and I'm willing to forgive it, in exchange a chance to meet characters like Betteredge, the butler and author of the above quote, who turns to Robinson Crusoe for guidance as some pious Christians turn to the Bible, and Sergeant Cuff, the detective who fights over how best to grow roses with the gardener. Miss Clack, a relentlessly pious pamphleteer, is not to be missed. Look forward to her section!