The Horrors of the Secluded Castle

The Horrors of the Secluded Castle: Or Virtue Triumphant; Containing an Interesting Narrative of the Captivity of Anna, the Fair Orphan: Including Also an Account of Many Important Circumstances That Occurred During Her Confinement. Founded Partly on Fact

Author: Unknown
Publisher: T. & R. Hughes
Publication Year: 1807
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.5cm x 17.5cm
Pages: 38
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.H675 1807

Material History

The thirty-eight-page chapbook titled The Horrors of the Secluded Castle is just barely held together by hand-sewn binding. Its full title, The Horrors of the Secluded Castle: Or Virtue Triumphant; Containing an Interesting Narrative of the Captivity of Anna, the Fair Orphan: Including Also an Account of Many Important Circumstances That Occurred During Her Confinement. Founded Partly on Fact is not brief. Accordingly, it appears in its entirety only once in the book: on the title page.

The title page makes no mention of an author, and no evidence can be found elsewhere on the book as to who authored The Horrors of the Secluded Castle. One set of names, T. & R. Hughes, is listed on the title page but only as the persons for whom the book was printed. Interestingly, Hughes’s name also appears on the frontispiece opposite the title page, as the publisher of the book in 1807. “Published” here is spelled with the long s, which appears like an f, evidencing that the book makes use of that long s spelling throughout. The frontispiece also includes a black and white illustration of a woman dressed in a long draping dress, candle in hand, approaching a crucifixion. A description beneath reads “T. Oastler sculpsit” and references page twenty-seven. The illustration’s outlines are impressed into the title page, indicating that the paper is thin and of cheap quality. In many places, the pages are yellowed and discolored with speckles, revealing the book’s age and wear.

Each individual page is filled almost entirely by text and paragraph breaks are infrequent. In many places, the print appears on the page diagonally and the margins are irregular and slanted. The printer, B. Clarke, is credited twice, once at the beginning and also at the end of The Horrors of the Secluded Castle, with the location “Well-Street, Cripplegate” listed after his name each time. At various points in the book, Clarke’s print signatures appear on the bottom of the pages to aid in the physical construction of the book. Signed as unique letters and number combinations, these marks were used to fold large pieces of printed paper into book-sized pages.

There is no cover to The Horrors of the Secluded Castle, suggesting at some point it was removed from a larger gothic collection. The leather spine that once bound the collection from which this chapbook was removed is fragmented but still visible in some places. Small gold designs that decorated the binding are hardly intact. On each page, the markings of holes from a previous binding are also detectable.

Details particular to this edition of The Horrors of the Secluded Castle include marks of ownership and evidence of use. On the right corner of the title page, a handwritten signature has been added. In the same script, the year 1808 has been written just above the line indicating the book was printed for T. & R. Hughes. A misprinting specific to this edition is found on page thirty-five: a crease on the page during the printing process caused the text to be misaligned and some words have mistakenly been double printed. The wear of individual pages suggest that this particular copy has been well read. On page twenty-seven, the one referenced in the frontispiece illustration, lines from where the corner has been folded over are most noticeable.

Textual History

The Horrors of the Secluded Castle is only found in five libraries worldwide: University of Virginia, Yale University, Louisiana State University, University of Texas at Austin, and University of Oxford. The edition in the Sadlier-Black collection at the University of Virginia is the same edition held in all other libraries worldwide. All were published in 1807 in London by T. and R. Hughes and include a frontispiece engraved and signed by T. Castler.

According to The National Union Catalog of Pre-1956 Imprints, University of Virginia, University of Texas at Austin, and Yale University have had their copies since at least 1973 when the catalog was published. There is no mention of a copy at Louisiana State University in the catalog (255: 290). A later volume from the National Union Catalog offers more information on the University of Texas at Austin’s edition of The Horrors of the Secluded Castle. The title is mentioned under a listing for Cordelia, or, The heiress of Raymond Castle, a romance. Three books—The Black Valley, The life and extraordinary adventures of Lucy Amelia Gordon, and The Horrors of the Secluded Castle—are recorded as being bound with Cordelia (512: 390).The catalog entry also reports “T. and R. Hughes” as the publisher of Cordelia, the same publisher as The Horrors of the Secluded Castle (512: 390).

T. and R. Hughes is the abbreviated name of the publishers Thomas Hughes and Robert Hughes. Thomas Hughes was a prominent publisher in London from 1802 to 1814. Little is known about Robert Hughes outside of his partnership with Thomas Hughes. From 1807 to 1809, the pair published “twenty-three traceable chapbook titles” (Van De Walle 1197). Each of the chapbooks they published during that two-year period—including both Cordelia and The Horrors of the Secluded Castle—include a frontispiece with an engraving (Van De Walle 1197).

Typically, these short Gothic chapbooks, or shilling shockers, were cheaper quality printings. However, Kwinten Van De Walle argues that the ones produced by T. and R. Hughes were made superior by frontispieces “executed in a manner on par with illustrations included in more conventional illustrated books.” In Horrors of the Secluded Castle for example, the illustration includes the caption “see page 27.” Such “visual-textual engagement” in the frontispiece, notes Van De Wall, is “more intricate and complex than that generally adopted in chapbook illustrations” (1197).

The frontispiece in The Horrors of the Secluded Castle is described by Van De Walle as an “exception” from the “usual sense of drama of the bluebook frontispieces.” The scene of Anna, the protagonist, exploring the hidden recesses of the castle by the light of her candle in is different than frontispieces in most Gothic illustrations which “feature spirits and spectres … corpses and death … violent confrontations … and female characters in peril” (1197). These depictions of “female characters’ ordeals and terrors” in the frontispiece of Gothic novels offer an “alternative” to “their eventual and often rushed happy endings” (Van De Walle 1206).

Van de Walle also notes that the scene depicted in the frontispiece of The Horrors of the Secluded Castle demonstrates the novel’s “Radcliffean form,” which relies on secluded spaces, abandoned castles, and mysterious terror. Ann Radcliffe defined a Gothic style built on “suspense and mystery” rather than the usual “action-driven” plot. The Horrors of the Secluded Castle, in a way very similar to Radcliffe’s novel The Mysteries of Udolpho, relies on the isolation of the castle to build uncertainty, as the illustration suggests. Both novels also revolve around a female protagonist discovering hidden alcoves and finding danger through various encounters with the unknown (Van de Walle 1998).

Other reviews of The Horrors of the Secluded Castle also point out similarities and possible imitations of other Gothic novels. In The First Gothics, The Horrors of the Secluded Castle is labeled an “extremely complex imitation of Clara Reeve’s Old English Baron” with an “overworked plot” and with “repetitious characters” (Frank 157–8). Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide also claims the novel to be a copy of Old English Baron (136). Much like Radcliffe’s strategies in The Mysteries of Udolpho, Old English Baron established “Gothic literature’s primal haunted chamber or forbidden compartment” (Frank 309). Certainly, these elements of the Gothic are central in The Horrors of the Secluded Castle.

The Horror Literature Book offers the most unfavorable review of The Horrors of the Secluded Castle, criticizing its use of a repetitive and “laborious formula for terrifying.” The criticism continues by noting, “the single worthwhile aspect of this subliterary and subliterate shilling shocker is its enticing title” (86). Its full title, The Horrors of the Secluded Castle: Or Virtue Triumphant; Containing an Interesting Narrative of the Captivity of Anna, the Fair Orphan: Including Also an Account of Many Important Circumstances That Occurred During Her Confinement. Founded Partly on Fact, is compelling. Franz J. Potter points out that often the title was “the most important selling point” of a Gothic chapbook and an opportunity to excite the reader’s interest (158). A double barrel title such as this one allowed the author to reveal “the love interest, the location, or the horrible elements found within its pages” all at once (Potter 158).

There is no information available as to the author of The Horrors of the Secluded Castle. There appears to be no mentions of the title in nineteenth-century English periodicals either. According to Frederick S. Frank, no modern reprintings of the novel exist (157–8).

Narrative Point of View

The Horrors of the Secluded Castle is narrated in the third person point of view. The narrator is anonymous and never appears in the novel. The narration style is long-winded and formal. The vocabulary is antiquated, and sentences are circulatory and not frequently straight-forward. The thoughts and feelings of all characters are revealed by the narrator throughout, but they are minimally developed.

Sample Passage:

“As the carriage departed, she waved her hands to her amiable friends, who watched it till it was out of sight. On the road Anna spoke but little; her mind was fully occupied in tracing back the pleasant hours she had passed in the bosom of Mr. Gordon’s family. From them she had, in addition to the many proofs of her esteem, received some valuable tokens of remembrance: from Lewis also she possessed a trifle, which, though simple and unadorned, had more beauty and charms in her eyes than the costly one of his adopted parent […] it was a ring composed of his own hair, which he had plaited in an engenious manner. She had given him, in compliance to his entreaties, a lock of her own beautiful tresses, which he converted to the same purpose. On this little gift she exhausted all her endearments, all her fondness, and she would not have parted with it for Peru’s mines.” (The Horrors of the Secluded Castle 17)

The third-person point of view achieves a detached narration of the events that unfold in The Horrors of the Secluded Castle. The narrator does not hold any biases towards characters and allows them to develop almost entirely through their dialogue. In the passage above phrases such as “in addition to the many proofs of her esteem” and “in compliance to his entreaties” create a formal and archaic narrative style. These additions also reduce the clarity of the narration by creating winding sentences that bring an added level of suspense and confusion to the gothic text. The anonymous narrator recites the events with a focus on action and minimal attention to the character’s personal feelings, achieving a sense of factual storytelling. The third-person point of view enhances the sense that the events in the novel really did happen or are “based partly on fact,” as is mentioned in the full title.


Set in sixteenth-century northern England, The Horrors of the Secluded Castle follows Anna, the novel’s protagonist, through a series of adventures and unfortunate events. After her father’s death, Anna is forced to live with her uncle, Lord Antley, in Glenden Castle. Lord Antley is known to be a cruel and dishonorable man. He took siege of Glenden Castle from the highly respected Lord Donald and is assumed to have murdered both Lord Donald and his infant son in the process.

Lord Antley sends two men to retrieve Anna and her maid Janette and assist them in their travels to Glenden Castle. Their journey does not go according to plan. The two men Lord Antley hired attempt to steal the jewels Anna has with her. Just as they do, a man emerges from the woods and kills them, protecting Anna and Janette. He introduces himself as Lewis and invites them to his cottage. There they meet Mr. Gordon, Lewis’s widowed father. Jannette and Anna take comfort in their cottage for several days. During that time Lewis and Anna develop a passionate affection for one another. While they are there, Mr. Gordon reveals to Lewis that he is not his biological father. He tells Lewis he found him as a baby, abandoned in a basket on the river with a label reading “Lewis” around his neck. Mr. Gordon adopted Lewis and raised him as his own son.

Meanwhile, Lord Antley worries about why Anna has not yet arrived at the castle, fearing his plan to steal her inheritance is ruined. The moment he learns their location, he sends his men to collect Anna but she finds it difficult to leave. Mr. Gordon is kind, and she and Lewis are in love, but she is forced to go. When Anna arrives at Glenden Castle, she is given a dark and isolated bedroom. She wakes up on her first night and notices an open trap door in her room but decides to ignore it. Then, Lord Antley introduces Anna to his friend Sir George Lindsey and requests that she marry him. She refuses because he is known to be an insulting and dishonorable man. As punishment, Lord Antley imprisons her in the castle and orders that Janette leave the next morning. Anna attempts to escape that night with Janette. They sneak through the castle looking for an exit. All of a sudden they notice a cloaked figure at the end of the hallway and determine it to be Lord Antley. It is not clear why Lord Antley is there or cloaked, but the scare causes them to call off their escape. 

Confined to her bedroom, Anna carries out her days in complete isolation. One day, she discovers a secret cavity in her room hiding behind a hung tapestry. Inside the small recess is an altar and a prayer book with the name “Lord Donald.” That night she watches the trap door in her room open and close again. When she wakes, she looks closely at the full-length portrait hanging in her room and notices it is moving. The painting slides back, and four masked and armed men emerge from where the painting had been, step into Anna’s room, and kidnap her.

Meanwhile, Lewis travels to Spain where he joins a boat headed for Gibraltar. His ship is overtaken, however, and Lewis ends up enslaved by the Dey of the Algiers. Lewis manages to earn his freedom by informing the Dey leader, Soliman, that two of the other slaves are plotting murder against the Dey. Soliman is so grateful that he removes Lewis from his bondage and proceeds to ask for his help with a personal favor. Soliman tells Lewis about a woman he loves that he cannot understand because she does not speak his language. Soliman asks Lewis to help him communicate with her since he understands both languages. Lewis agrees and goes with Soliman to meet the woman. He immediately recognizes her to be Anna and embraces her. Suspicious of their connection, Soliman imprisons Lewis in a dungeon. Then, Lewis reveals his whole story to Soliman, from being abandoned as a baby to having his love, Anna, taken from him. Soliman takes pity on Lewis and allows him to return to England with Anna.

On the boat Anna explains to Lewis how she arrived in the Ottoman Empire with the Dey. After being kidnapped, she was taken to a cottage to await the arrival of Sir George Lindsey. While she waited, a baronet helped her escape, instructing her to get onboard another boat headed for Spain. Sir George Lindsey eventually caught up with her and killed the baronet. Anna joins Sir George Lindsey on his ship which is soon attacked by the Dey of Algiers. Anna is presented to Soliman and joins a group of several women at his disposal. Anna describes hourly visits where he stopped at nothing to gain her affection.

Anna and Lewis safely return to England and make their way home to Mr. Gordon’s cottage. On the way, they pass a man in the forest lying on the ground and close to death. Before dying, he confesses that he is the one responsible for the murder of Lord Donald and his son. He says when Lord Antley took siege of Glenden Castle, he was ordered to carry out the murder of Lord Donald and his infant. The man admits that he could not allow himself to murder Lord Donald or the baby. Instead, he sent the infant in a basket down the river and hid Lord Donald in one of the castle’s vaults, bringing him enough food to sustain himself. Lewis realizes he is the infant who was sent down the river and Lord Donald is his biological father! Lewis decides he must go to Glenden Castle to see if his father is still alive after so many years in hiding. When he arrives, he finds his father alive and well, and they are finally reunited. Glenden Castle is rightfully returned to the hands of Lord Donald again. Lewis, Anna, Janette, and Mr. Gordon join Lord Donald to enjoy the rest of their days there, and Anna soon gives birth to a son by Lewis.


Frank, Frederick S. The First Gothics: A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel. Garland Pub, 1987.

Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide. United Kingdom, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001.

The Horrors of the Secluded Castle: Or Virtue Triumphant; Containing an Interesting Narrative of the Captivity of Anna, the Fair Orphan: Including Also an Account of Many Important Circumstances That Occurred During Her Confinement. Founded Partly on Fact. London, T. and R. Hughes, 1807. 

The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints: a cumulative author list representing Library of Congress printed cards and titles reported by other American libraries, volume 255. London, Mansell, 1973.

The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints: a cumulative author list representing Library of Congress printed cards and titles reported by other American libraries, volume 512.London, Mansell, 1977.

Potter, Franz J.“Horror in Gothic Chapbooks.” The Palgrave Handbook to Horror Literature, edited by Kevin Corstorphine and Laura R. Kremmel. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, pp.155–163.

Tymn, Marshall B. Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide. R. R. Bowker Company, 1981.

Researcher: Anne Young

How to cite this page:

MLA: “The Horrors of the Secluded Castle.” Project Gothic, University of Virginia, 2024,