Female Intrepidity

Female Intrepidity, or The Heroic Matron, A Tale

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Thomas Tegg
Publication Year: c. 1830
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18cm
Pages: 28
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.F443 1830z

In this c. 1830 chapbook set in France and featuring murder and a ghost, several romances revolve around the tensions between Catholics and Protestants.

Material History

Little is known about the nineteenth-century chapbook Female Intrepidity. The author of the work is not listed anywhere within the book, however the names of the publisher, Thomas Tegg, and the printing company, Plummer and Brewis, are printed on the title page and the final page of the novel, respectively. The office in which Female Intrepidity was printed was located in Westcheap, London, as is also shown on the final page of the novel.

On the book’s spine, which is bound in leather and decorated with thin gold-embossed lines on the top and bottom, the title reads Female Intrepidity, written also in gold, capital letters, in a serif font. However, on both the title page and the first page of Chapter One of the book, two different titles are used. On the title page, the work is called Female Intrepidity, or the Heroic Matron, A Tale. On the following page, above the text of the first chapter, the title reads Female Intrepidity; or the Dangers of Superstition, a Tale of Modern Times. Additionally, the title as seen printed on the spine, Female Intrepidity is printed at the top of every page. The reason for this printing of various titles is unknown; it may have been a marketing ploy, it may be that numerous editions of the book were printed and later editions received new titles, or it may be for some other undetermined reason.

Frontispiece and title page for Female Intrepidity

The title page and the page that precedes it are both decorated with colored engravings. The first engraving, which is labeled “Frontispiece” in script below the image, shows a woman in a bright yellow dress in the midst of an attempted stabbing of the young child that sits beneath her, while a man is shown bursting through the door, grabbing her arms to restrain her. The engraving on the title page shows a man and woman conversing by lamplight. The name of the engraver is written underneath the second image: “Engraved by T. Rowlandson Esq, London.” Also listed below the second engraving is “Price Sixpence,” indicating the price each copy was sold for.

Printer notes in the bottom margins

The material condition of the book is very good considering the book’s age. As was previously mentioned, the book is bound in leather, and additionally there are triangular pieces of leather protecting the corners of the cover. The covers of the book are decorated with red and blue marbled paper. The technique of marbling was a popular method for covering books in the nineteenth-century, and every unique cover was marbled by hand, meaning no two copies looked the same. The paper on which the text is printed is thick and rough, and the pages are covered with faint brown stains. There are also traces left on the pages, presumably by the book’s readers. On page 19, a note is written in pencil in the right-hand margin that appears to read “walter,” two lines of text adjacent to the note are bracketed off, and a box is drawn around the word “Voulere.” The type itself is relatively small and closely set, and the pages have standard margins: 1.5cm on the sides and 2cm on the top and bottom. The pages are numbered in the top-outside corners, and additional numbering is included on the bottoms of some pages in order to instruct the printing company on the correct order in which the pages should be bound. These numbers are printed in middles of the bottom margins and read B, B2, and B3 on the first pages of text and C, C2, C3 on later pages of text. The entire book measures to be 11cm wide by 18cm tall.

Textual History       

Though void of an attributable author, the nineteenth-century chapbook Female Intrepidity is entrenched in a rich history. The work itself made no evident impact on the pages of nineteenth-century British newspapers or periodicals, neither as a topic of literary criticism nor as a published advertisement, but the agents responsible for its printing and assembly were highly active during the era. Thomas Tegg, the book’s publisher, Plummer and Brewis, the firm at which the book was printed, and Thomas Rowlandson, the book’s illustrator, were important figures of the literature and arts worlds of London in the early 1800s.

Thomas Tegg was born in 1776, and, following a trying childhood, started his professional career at a printing office in Sheffield. Subsequently, he moved to London to work as an apprentice at the office of “well-known publishers,” the Messrs. Arch of Cornhill. He opened his own shop in Cheapside, London, where he amassed a significant fortune by purchasing books and reselling them at a higher price. His shop soon became one of the “biggest operations in London,” and Tegg became an important public figure. In 1843, he was elected Sheriff of London, though his declining health barred him from filling the role, and, in turn, he established the “Tegg Scholarship” at the City of London School, and donated a large collection of books to the institution as well. Tegg made such an impact on his contemporary London community, in fact, that the character “Twigg” in Thomas Hood’s Tylney Hall is said to be based on Tegg (“Obituary” 650–51).

Although Tegg was a seemingly civic-minded individual, some aspects of his business practices were apparently dishonest and fraudulent. At the height of his career, Tegg focused largely on the printing and selling of gothic novels and chapbooks, and works attributed to Tegg were imprinted with a number of different names, including “Tegg and Bewick,” “Tegg and Castleman,” “T. Hurst,” “Tegg and Co.,” and finally “Thomas Tegg.” Modern scholars identify the use of various titles and names among publishers as a ploy used to make profit. Publishers of the day drew from common storehouse material and used different names in order to suggest that they were printing new editions. Each firm could bolster its profits by “pirating” works that had not previously appeared in the chapbook format. This piracy practice was used widely among publishers of the day, and it allowed Tegg to amass the larger part of his fortune (Pitcher 75). Given that Tegg participated in such practices, it would be reasonable to posit that Female Intrepidity was adapted from a longer gothic novel and reprinted under a new title and as a chapbook as a way to make a profit, though no primary source evidence can confirm this theory.

Printer information is included at the bottom of the final page of Female Intrepidity

The printing office that printed and assembled Female Intrepidity was also very active in the early nineteenth century. The firm, Plummer and Brewis, was most active between 1810 and 1830 and printed works from a wide variety of genres including gothic works, prayers and devotions, catechisms, literary criticism, and works of illustration, poetry, and fiction. Among the most important works published by the firm is “Public characters of all nations; consisting of biographical accounts of nearly three thousand eminent contemporaries,” which is displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by the Drawings and Prints Department.

Thomas Rowlandson, the artist responsible for the two engravings that decorate the title page of Female Intrepidity, was perhaps the most renowned among the individuals responsible for the production of Female Intrepidity. Rowlandson was born in London in 1757, and in his adolescence he was accepted as a student at the Royal Academy where he was unique as a draftsman among many students who were practicing painting in oils. His work focused mainly on political commentary and satire through caricature in the vein of William Hogarth, a celebrated artist of the day. During his professional career, Rowlandson was most consistently employed by the publisher Rudolph Ackermann. Ackermann’s firm, The Repository of Arts, was made famous for its production of fine color-plate books such as Loyal Volunteers of London and Environs for which Rowlandson drew the illustrations. From 1806 to 1821, Rowlandson was also consistently employed by Thomas Tegg in his production of Caricature Magazine as well as in collaboration for projects such as Female Intrepidity (Hayes).

Today, Rowlandson’s work is lauded as a source of invaluable insight into nineteenth-century British politics. After Rowlandson’s death, critics praised Rowlandson for the ways in which his illustrations successfully captured the feelings and emotions of the day better than any written work could, and stated that there was “so much truth in his delineations of human character” that “no artist has appeared in this country who could be considered his superior or even his equal” (“Rowlandson the Caricaturist” 52). Furthermore, some artists compared Rowlandson to Hogarth, who was one of the most prolific caricaturists of the age, by saying that Rowlandson “left behind him a record of his time which … was much wealthier in matter than Hogarth’s works” (Stephens 141). The illustrations that Rowlandson produced for the frontispiece of Female Intrepidity are unique in that they are not aligned with works most typical to Rowlandson as they are not examples of caricature or political satire.

Five copies of Female Intrepidity can be found in various libraries throughout the United States. A single copy is held by each the University of Virginia, The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Princeton University, the New York Public Library, and the Morgan Library and Museum. There is also a digital copy of the chapbook held by HathiTrust Digital Library.

Narrative Point of View

The plot of Female Intrepidity is told through the voice of a third-person omniscient narrator. The narrator supplies ample description concerning characters’ appearances, thoughts, and feelings, and is direct and deliberate in description of plot. The narration follows the story of the protagonist, Maud, exclusively throughout the book and does not shift to follow the actions and circumstances of characters not with Maud. The narrator never appears as a character in the work.

Sample Passage:

The woman now wished her a good night, and glad was Maud to be left alone. She immediately lulled her boy to sleep, while she sat on the side of the bed to watch over him; for although she had received a formal welcome, yet apprehension whispered in her ear that all was not safe. Nature, however, overcame her, and she was suddenly lost to all but the visionary chimeras of a disturbed mind. (13)

The above selection typifies the narrator’s style as it reveals Maud’s inner thoughts and feelings and focuses on Maud exclusively. The narrator describes Maud’s devotion to her son, Louis, which is a theme throughout the story, as the storyteller details with deliberation the pains that Maud takes to ensure Louis’ comfort and safety. Significantly, the narrator’s description of Maud’s feelings serves to propel the plot forward. The narrator states that Maud is wrought with worry and apprehension over the preciosity of her situation, which serves to foreshadow to the reader that a conflict is forthcoming. In this sense, through this third-person narration so heavily focused on Maud, her interior state actually functions as its own production of the plot.

The narrator’s exclusive focus on Maud’s thoughts and feelings also serves to connect the reader to Maud as opposed to other characters. Although there are examples in which the narrator describes the thoughts and feelings of Maud’s enemies and companions throughout the story, the narrator’s focus on Maud helps to develop her character more extensively, and allows the reader to best connect with her struggles and her triumphs as the plot progresses. Thus, the narrator’s focus on Maud helps to establish her as an admirable protagonist whose endeavors are paramount.  


The opening page of Female Intrepidity

The Ribemonts are a young family of three living in Paris, France. The family consists of a father, Ribemont, a mother, Maud, and their son, Louis. Ribemont and Maud are devout Catholics, Maud having converted before her marriage to Ribemont, and the two are intent on raising their son as a strict Catholic as well. When Louis is only six months old, Ribemont receives a letter from the church calling him away from his family to fulfill his religious duty. Maud is distraught, but bids Ribemont farewell and promises to raise their son as a Catholic.

Soon after Ribemont leaves, Louis starts to play with a knife. In turn, he accidentally cuts his mother’s crucifix from her neck and, in the same stroke, slices her chest. Maud is alarmed, and in examining her necklace, three drops of blood fall from the crucifix onto Louis’s forehead. Maud is terrified, and resolves to take the knife and kill Louis, who she believes is a heathen. Ribemont runs in and seizes Maud before she can act. Maud explains what happened, and, in regaining her senses and realizing Ribemont may want to finish the deed, she pleads Louis’s innocence. Ribemont relinquishes Louis to Maud, disgusted. He then reveals that he had lied about the contents of the letter, and that the reason he had to flee was because he had led a group of Catholics in an attempt to burn down a hotel frequented by Protestant travelers. Many of his accomplices had already been guillotined, and he explained he had to flee for his own safety. Ribemont then leaves his wife and child and vanishes into hiding.

In order to protect the identity of herself and Louis, Maud changes her name, and moves with her son to the countryside where they live in peace and solitude for many years. Thus, the two are jarred when they hear a knock on the door, and Maud opens it to welcome in a man who professes to have been sent by Ribemont. The man’s name is Durelette, and he informs Maud that Ribemont is dead. Maud is grief-stricken, but collects herself and invites Durelette to stay in their home.

Maud and Durelette become close companions in the following days, and Maud expresses to him that she wishes to take Louis to meet her family. Durelette eagerly offers to be their guide, and in the same breath professes his love to Maud. Maud politely rejects Durelette’s advances as she is still devoted to Ribemont. Following Maud’s refusal, Durelette says that it was Ribemont’s dying wish to test Maud’s faithfulness, and Durelette was simply acting to fulfill that wish.       

Maud, Louis, and Durelette set out on the long journey. On the third night of the voyage Durelette admits that he is lost, and a heavy rain drives them to take shelter. The travelers go to sleep in a cavern, and when Maud wakes up she finds Durelette standing over Louis, poised to drive a dagger into his heart. Durelette, seething with anger, reveals he is not in fact a friend of Ribemont’s, and that Louis’s death would be the consequence of Maud’s refusal. Maud desperately concedes that she will marry Durelette if he should let Louis go, which he does. Durelette then sends Louis out of the cave and plans to rape Maud, when Maud pulls out a dagger and stabs Durelette in the heart.

Maud and Louis flee the cave only to encounter two soldiers seeking to capture the travelers. Maud isolates one of the officers and kills him with the same dagger she used to kill Durelette. She then strips the man of his clothes and armor and puts them on herself so as to impersonate the fallen soldier. She and Louis flee on horseback. The two ride for days until they come across a lodging offered by an old woman. That night, Maud overhears a conversation between the old woman and three soldiers who come to the cottage that reveals that she and Louis are being held captive. Maud quickly gathers up Louis and initiates their escape. She finds a trapdoor that leads her through weaving underground passageways to another door, behind which she hears the moaning of “a wretched and forsaken girl” (14). Two soldiers come down to retrieve the girl, named Sisera, from her cell, and Maud follows them, undetected, to investigate. The two men, one named Genlis and the other named Topin, bring the girl to another chamber, and the girl says to them, “I will suffer death and tortures before I will comply with your base request” (15). Furious, Genlis orders Topin to tie the girl up and cut off her breast. Horrified, Maud leaps from the shadows to protect the girl. Genlis is furious, and orders that Topin execute both the girl and Maud, whose disguise leads Genlis to believe that she is an English soldier. Maud then rips open her blouse to reveal her breasts, thus revealing her true gender, and announces that she is Ribemont’s wife. At the mention of Ribemont’s name both Topin and Genlis are awestruck. Genlis quickly accuses her of lying about her relationship to Ribemont, but spares her life because she is a woman. Maud, now completely confident in her control of the situation, unties Sisera, and, threatening to kill any man who tries to bar her course, leaves the dungeon to seek help from her friend Monsieur Canton. She arrives at Canton’s palace, and the Monsieur summons Genlis on Maud’s behalf. Genlis agrees to relinquish Sisera the following night, but the night comes and passes with no sight of Sisera, and soon it is clear that Genlis fled with Sisera in his possession.

Two months pass and the Monsieur’s men are unsuccessful in their attempts to locate Sisera. Maud is on a walk through the gardens with the Monsieur, deep in thought concerning Sisera’s situation, when the Monsieur professes his love for Maud. He explains that he had married his wife, a Protestant, and she had given birth to a daughter. His wife spent her life in a depression as her parents had disowned her for marrying a Catholic, and her sadness soon drove her to death. Her dying wish was that her daughter be raised as a Protestant, which the Monsieur had striven to do for the five years of his daughter’s life, but he now believed that his daughter would benefit from a mother, namely Maud. Maud reluctantly refuses the Monsieur’s entreaty, having pledged loyalty to Ribemont.

The “Story of Sisera Fitz-Orban” contains an interpolated tale of Sisera’s history

Days later, Maud decides to go looking for Sisera herself. Monsieur Canton supports her in her quest. He vows to take care of Louis in her absence, to raise him as a Catholic per Maud’s request, and he offers her a servant, Philip, to aid her in her voyage. Maud and Philip make the first stop on their quest at the cottage in which Sisera had been imprisoned. They find, hanging from one of the ropes used to bind Sisera, a detailed account of her history written by Sisera herself. The history reveals that Sisera had been born into a very wealthy family, and that Genlis was a guest in her father’s house. Genlis wanted desperately to be Sisera’s husband but was thwarted by her father as Sisera and her family are Protestant and Genlis is a Catholic. Meanwhile, Sisera’s cousin Edmund Walker came to visit the family, and Sisera and Edmund fell deeply in love. Sisera’s father eagerly granted Edmund his daughter’s hand in marriage. Genlis was furious upon hearing this news, and in his rage he murdered Sisera’s father and kidnapped Sisera.

Maud and Philip continue their journey, which is proving to be long and treacherous. They resort to hiring a guide to lead them through the woods. Not soon after the travelers had set off, the guide stabs Philip with a dagger and three officers seize Maud and take her to Genlis. Genlis ties Maud up in a chamber and makes ready for her execution. While those in the chamber prepare, Maud feels a cold, dead hand grasp hers, and the preparations cease when Maud and Genlis hear a low, loud groan. Genlis tries to ignore the noise and is about to strike Maud through the heart with a knife when another loud groan echoes through the chamber. Following this second noise, Genlis’s hair stands on end and he begins to quake. A voice shouts, “Take this, and this thou fiend-like murderer!” and Genlis falls over, dead (23). A glowing, youthful-looking figure then appears to Maud across the room. In the meantime, Philip rushes in and frees Maud, who hurries to embrace the figure who saved her life. Upon closer examination, Maud recognizes the figure to be Sisera, and the two share a passionate embrace. Philip, Maud, Sisera, and Durcas, who had been Sisera’s keeper in her most recent prison, flee Genlis’s cottage and rent rooms at a nearby inn. Sisera then recounts the rest of her story.

Genlis took Sisera to a new prison to hide her from Monsieur Canton’s men. In the new prison, Sisera appealed to Durcas, her keeper, who agreed to help Sisera escape no matter the cost. They succeeded, and in their escape the two overheard Genlis’s plan to capture and kill Maud. Sisera was determined to save Maud, so she dressed as a boy to blend in with Genlis’s officers until she found the right moment to intercede.      

Maud and Sisera, who share their room in the inn, are awakened the next morning by Durcas. Durcas is distraught over her position as a servant to Genlis and wishes to come clean about her role. She explains that her parents had died young, leaving her a large inheritance. She then foolishly married a dishonest man who stole her fortune and abandoned her. She agreed to be Genlis’s servant in return for the shelter of his house. Her duty to Genlis was to keep watch over Genlis’s prisoners, and before Sisera, she had kept watch over Edmund Walker, whom Genlis had taken captive. Upon hearing Durcas utter this name, Sisera faints in Maud’s arms. Durcas goes on to explain that she wished to protect Edmund, and when Genlis ordered him dead she set him free to save his life. Thus Durcas ends her tale, and Maud asks to what wretched man had she been married. Durcas replies that she had been married to Durelette, the very same who had tried to rape Maud and to kill Louis.

The travelers then move on to Calais where they find a house together, and Maud writes to Monsieur Canton sending for Louis. Louis, now twenty years old, has fallen deeply in love with Monsieur Canton’s daughter, Felicia, and decides he must profess his love before leaving for Calais. Felicia reciprocates, and Monsieur Canton is delighted to give the two his blessing. Felicia, Louis, and Edmund, who had been staying at Monsieur Canton’s house, leave for Calais. Edmund and Sisera unite with overwhelming joy, as do Maud and Louis, but Maud is not at all pleased that her son is engaged to a Protestant.

Maud is unable to sleep the following night, tossing and turning over the issue of her son’s engagement. As she lies awake, the form of an ugly old woman appears to her. Maud recognizes the spirit to be that of Genlis’s mother. The spirit professes her anger with Maud and Sisera over the death of her son, and she warns that Maud’s death is imminent.

The next day, Maud and Louis go to the prison in order to visit Topin, who stands accused of killing “Lord ——,” a respected Catholic figure. Before they arrive to the prison, Maud vows to bless Felicia and Louis’s marriage, having been shaken by the events of the night before. The two reach the cell of the murderous prisoner, who quickly reveals that he is in fact Ribemont. Upon realizing that her husband stands guilty of murdering a Catholic, Maud dies from grief. Louis leaves the prison, and finds out later that his father is dead as well, by way of execution. In conclusion, Louis and Felicia are married, followed by Sisera and Edmund.


Female Intrepidity: Or the Heroic Matron, A Tale. London, Tegg, c. 1830.

Hayes, John. “Rowlandson, Thomas (1757–1827).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008

 “Obituary—THOMAS TEGG, ESQ.” The Gentleman’s Magazine: and historical review (June 1846): 650–51.

Pitcher, E.W. “Pirates and Publishers Reconsidered: A Response to Madeline Blondel.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 75 (Jan 1981): 75–81.

“Rowlandson the Caricaturist.” The Bookworm: An illustrated treasury of old-time literature (Jan 1889): 49–53.

Stephens, F.G. “THOMAS ROWLANDSON, THE HUMOURIST.” The Portfolio: an artistic periodical, vol. 22 (Jan 1891): 141–48

Researcher: Kate Snyder