Julia St. Pierre. A Tale of the French Revolution
Publisher: E. Lloyd
Publication Year: 1842
Book Dimensions: 14cm x 22cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .L856 1800z no.2
Published in 1842, this novel is commonly mistaken for a 1796 novel with a similar title by Helen Craik, but is actually a short plagiarized adaptation of a 1797 play by J. C. Cross.
The copy of Julia St. Pierre. A Tale of the French Revolution housed in the Sadleir-Black collection is bound in a volume between two separate novels: Lucelle; or, The Young Indian and The Commodore’s Daughter. The volume is 22 cm long, 14 cm wide, and slightly less than 2 cm thick. The binding is bumpy, textured, and fashioned from dark brown leather. It covers most of the back and front covers of the book. The cover does not include any images or identifiers. The corners and spine of the book are covered by a smooth, light brown letter, which extends about an inch onto the front and back from the spine. On the spine inscribed in gold is Julia St. Pierre, as well as shortened titles of the other two novels in the volume, written as Lucelle and Commodore’s Daughter. There are also two thin gold lines on the top and bottom of the spine. The leather is worn away at the top and bottom of the spine, and the corners are slightly bent. However, other than these minor signs of wear, the book is in excellent condition and appears fairly new. It is also very plain, as the cover is not original, and was likely bound around 1900, when the style of bookbinding was much plainer than in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The pages of the book are very thin, almost translucent. The pages are also rough to the touch. They are not yellowed by age, and are mostly in excellent condition. The exception is a few small burn marks, as well as some slight discoloration from the ink. When the book is closed, on the top and bottom as well the outside edge, the pages are covered with red flecks. This sprinkling effect was for decoration and was achieved by dipping a brush in red ink and then flicking the ink onto the pages. The pages are quite stiff and do not lie flat or turn easily, indicating it has not been heavily read.
The book’s title page has the full title and the publishing information, but has no reference to the author. In fact, nowhere in the book is the name of the author mentioned. The lack of an author may be due to the fact that this novel is a short adaptation of a play, and is therefore mostly plagiarized. By not including a specific author, the publisher avoids claiming that the work is authentically that of one of his writers, thus minimizing the risk of publishing the plagiarized work. The lack of an author also contributes to the sense of mystery that accompanies gothic novels.
Following the title page is a large illustration that is wider than a single page. It is thus folded in and bent, and seems to be comprised of two separate pages connected by an old yellowed strip of tape. The illustration is in black and white. The lines are very thin, but the picture is detailed and drawn in a simple, traditional style, and is captioned at the “Victor St. Pierre interrupts the between Charles Delmar and Henri Mourdant.” The missing word in this sentence, after “the,” suggests that the illustration was ripped and then taped back together. Throughout the novel, other smaller illustrations appear. These take up about three-quarters of a page, and are nested between chunks of text. None of these smaller illustrations are captioned.
On the first page of the novel, the full title appears at the top. On each following page, the words “Julia St. Pierre” are at the top of the page. The text of each page is surrounded by a border made of two thin lines, enclosing it in a box. These borders are consistent until about halfway through the book, when they suddenly cease to exist. The likely explanation for this is that different sections of the book were typeset by two different teams, who did not realize the inconsistency. The margins on the bottom and outer edge are slightly less than 2 cm. The margins on the top and inner edge are much smaller at less than 1 cm. The text itself is in very small print and closely spaced. The consistency of the ink varies, even among letters on the same page. There are no particular marks of ownership, such as writing in the margins or names on the inside cover. The book is overall in excellent condition and appears largely untouched.
It is extremely difficult to establish a textual history for Julia St. Pierre. The book was published anonymously in 1848, but is usually assumed to be the work of Helen Craik, a Scottish writer who lived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Craik did publish a novel called Julia de St. Pierre in 1796, and the 1848 novel is usually assumed to be a reprinting of her book. However, they are actually two completely different novels. This is evidenced by several facts, such as the slight inconsistency in the titles (Julia St. Pierre versus Julia de St. Pierre), as well as the fact that the 1848 version was published 23 years after Craik’s death. It could have simply been a reprinting with a small error in the title, but the considerable amount of time between the publishing of the two novels is unusual, and there is nothing to suggest that interest in Craik’s works peaked in the mid-nineteenth century, which seems to be the only reason the novel would have been reprinted. The strongest evidence for these being two separate novels comes from the fact that the plot and characters are completely different. Thus, despite the fact that these two novels are often catalogued as the same book, they appear quite distinct.
The little scholarly work available on Julia St. Pierre supports the idea that it is a different novel than Craik’s 1792 work.In her book, Rebellious Hearts: British Women Writers and the French Revolution, Adriana Craciun states in a footnote: “The 1848 Julia St. Pierre is actually a novella based on J. C. Cross’s dramatic spectacle Julia of Louvain; or, Monkish Cruelty, first performed at the Royal Circle Theatre in Southwark, 1797” (224n). This discrepancy between the true nature of the novel and the way it is catalogued presents considerable barriers for researching the textual history. Without an author, and with little guarantee that any information is actually referring to the selected text, it becomes difficult to construct a history of the text.
Although no information is available on the author of Julia St. Pierre, there is some available on its publishing. In his 1941 work A Gothic Bibliography, Montague Summers states that the novel was first published in London in 1842, by E. Lloyd and under the title Julia St. Pierre. A Horrible Story of the French Revolution. It was later re-issued, also by Lloyd and in London, but by the title Julia St. Pierre. A Tale of the French of the Revolution. Summers includes a note stating “it is many years since I read this tale, but if my memory serves it is identical with (or only very slightly altered from) Julia De St. Pierre, 3 vols., 1796. However I have thought it well in the circumstances to give it a separate entry” (378). This gives some insight into the general academic confusion over the nature of the text; it appears that it was referenced in relation to the earlier work by Helen Craik, and was from then on assumed to be the same book. The publisher, E. Lloyd, likely refers to Edward Lloyd. According to British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820–1880, “Edward Lloyd has been called—and rightly so—‘the father of the cheap press.’ He founded a publishing empire based on cheap fiction (the ‘penny dreadfuls’ or ‘penny bloods’) for the newly literate populace and popular periodicals for an emerging mass market. He was also among the first to introduce the new techniques of printing, advertising, and distribution necessary for the mass production of all varieties of cheap publications” (Humpherys). Julia St. Pierre was thus most likely a penny dreadful, sold to the general populace and intended to thrill and horrify. This description of Lloyd bringing Gothic novels to the masses is consistent with the belief that Julia St. Pierre is an adaptation of a successful play; Lloyd’s earliest successes were plagiarisms of Dickens, and writers and publishers often plagiarized popular plotlines in order to bring them to the masses, who otherwise would not have access to them.
Lloyd advertised Julia St. Pierre in Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper, under the classified ads. The novel was said to be sold in “Penny Weekly Numbers, illustrated with large quarto Engravings” (“New Illustrated Romances” 11). It is referenced in the March 19, March 26, and August 6 issues of Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper in 1848. Other than these three advertisements (which are virtually identical in content), no mentions of Julia St. Pierre have yet been discovered in other books or periodicals.
Narrative Point of View
Julia St. Pierre is told from the point of view of an anonymous third person objective narrator. The novel is written in past tense, and uses long, verbose sentences, with words and phrases like “solemnized the nuptials” (1). The novel consists almost entirely of dialogue, and what narration there is focuses almost entirely on the plot, and does not offer commentary or insight on the events of the novel. The narrator also does not insert themselves into the novel. However, at the beginning of the book, the narrator twice acknowledges their own existence, and the process of writing. On the first page of the novel, the narrator refers to “the morning to which the commencement of our present narrative belongs” and “the time of which we are now writing” (1). Other than these two instances, the narrator does not diverge from the novel’s overall formula of scant narration and the expository dialogue that drives the plot. Rather than revealing anything about the characters’ emotional states through an omniscient narrator, the narration describes the character’s facial expressions and how they deliver their dialogue, with words like “exclaimed,” “sighed,” and “cried” being frequently used.
Having made his way through the entrance hall, Charles Delmar took the passage which led towards the western apartments of the mansion, and on reaching the door of the room in which he had ascertained Julia was, he paused for a few moments, half afraid to present himself too abruply [sic] before her. A death-like silence, however, prevailed, and at length, mustering resolution, he gently turned the lock, and immediately stood in the presence of his betrothed. She was kneeling before a crucifix, and so absorbed in the outpouring of her heart, that she was unconscious of his being near, till he had approached within a few paces, when springing upon her feet, she rushed with a faint exclamation of mingled joy and fear into his arms.
“Dearest Julia,” he exclaimed, “I am here to save you from the villain, whose unexpected return has filled your bosom with so much grief. Rely upon my protection, and you shall yet be saved from him, who loves you not, though he is here to claim your hand in marriage.”
“Alas!” she cried, “you know not the danger you run, by thus venturing into my presence. But now he vowed vengeance, if I ever met you again and every moment I am expecting his return to insist upon my accompanying him within this hour to the convent chapel.” (7-8).
The overall effect of the novel’s narration is a distancing of the reader from the plot. By using an anonymous, third person narrator, who offers no insight into the workings of the characters’ minds, the novel creates the sense that the story being told is entirely objective. This is, perhaps, to counteract the fact that the novel draws very clear lines between good and evil, and by presenting this as an objective narration the book avoids seeming biased. In addition, the narrator’s tendency towards verbose language and long compound sentences has the potential to make the reader feel disengaged from the text. This somewhat negates the effect of the histrionic narrative style. As seen in the passage above, the narrator uses dramatic words like “villain,” “vengeance,” and “death-like silence.” The effect of such language would often be to heighten the reading experience and engage the reader, but the novel largely fails to do this due to its rambling narration. This is compounded by the fact that the narrator frequently uses the passive voice, which is by nature a more removed style of writing, and does not afford the immediacy provided by the active voice.
The novel opens by introducing the four principal characters and their collective backstory. The title character, Julia St. Pierre, is a young, beautiful, and strong-willed woman. She is to wed her fiancé and true love, Charles Delmar, on the day the book opens. Charles is also a friend of Julia’s brother, Victor St. Pierre. Previously, Julia had been unwillingly engaged to a Monsieur Henri Mordaunt, the enemy of Charles Delmar. Mordaunt clearly did not care for Julia, and his only motivation in marrying her was to make Charles miserable by preventing him from marrying Julia. Julia, for her part, despised Mordaunt. After Mordaunt’s ship sank on a sea voyage, Julia waited two years and then became engaged to Charles. However, on the very day the two of them are supposed to be married, Mordaunt reappears, alive and determined to marry Julia. He tells Julia and Victor that unless Julia marries him, he will ruin Victor. All of Victor’s property is held under the power of the Dauphin of France, with whom Mordaunt has connections. Mordaunt insists that if Julia does not marry him, he will persuade the Dauphin to turn Victor out of his house, and he will have to wander as a beggar. Charles arrives at the St. Pierre house, where this is transpiring, and he and Mordaunt are on the verge of a sword fight when Victor disarms them both and diffuses the situation. Mordaunt gives Charles an ultimatum, telling him he must renounce his claim to Julia or he will duel him, and he tells Julia they will be married that night, despite her protests. Julia and Victor seem to see no other choice but for her to marry Mordaunt, but Charles is determined to prevent it.
Charles leaves the St. Pierre house and is walking through the abbey when he overhears a conversation between Mordaunt’s servant and the father of the abbey, during which the servant (under Mordaunt’s orders) bribes the father heavily to perform the marriage ceremony between Julia and Mordaunt. Charles scales the walls of the abbey and sneaks into the chapel, determined to prevent the wedding from taking place. The wedding begins, but a fight between Julia, Mordaunt, Charles, and Victor breaks out at the altar. Hoping to get Mordaunt to change his mind, Charles, Julia, and Victor ask Mordaunt to postpone the wedding. Mordaunt agrees to postpone it till noon the next day, as long Julia stays at the abbey under the care of the mother Abbess until then, and under the condition that if she does not agree to marry him, she has to take the veil.
The next morning at the abbey, Julia goes to the Abbess for help, who sympathizes with her but says she cannot help her. Julia and Victor discuss her situation, and he tells her to refuse to marry Mordaunt, despite the fact that Mordaunt has promised to ruin him financially. At noon, Mordaunt appears and asks Julia for her decision. Julia rejects him, and he admits that he never loved her and only wanted revenge on Charles. However, he refuses to leave until the ceremony to make Julia a nun has taken place. They proceed to the chapel to perform the ceremony. Meanwhile, Charles is attempting to enter the church to stop the ceremony from being performed. The porter at the church gate reveals that the Father, conspiring with Mordaunt, has banned Charles from the abbey, and also reveals that the Father once sentenced to death a girl who said she would take the veil and then refused. The porter gives Charles a monk’s habit to disguise himself, and Charles is able to sneak into the church. The Father, the Abbess, and Mordaunt all encourage Julia to reconsider her decision, but she stands firm that she will become a nun. Mordaunt announces that he wants her left alone for half an hour so she can reconsider her decision. Everyone leaves the chapel but Julia. Charles reveals himself to her and tells her to run away with him. They are about to leave, but Mordaunt, eavesdropping, has overheard the whole exchange. Charles is dragged from the abbey, and Julia is taken to the dungeon in punishment for attempting to break her vow that she would take the veil. Her life is considered to be in danger, due to the Father’s history of executing women who refuse to take the veil.
Charles and Victor appeal to the mayor of the town regarding Julia’s situation, but the mayor refuses to believe that the Father is working with Mordaunt and is capable of murder. He also expresses a reluctance to become involved in the situation, as he does not want to involve himself in affairs of the church considering the church’s immense power. Meanwhile, Julia is languishing in the dungeon, surrounded by dead bodies. A benevolent nun visits her and tells her that the people have stormed the Bastille and the monarchy is going to fall. The revolution may put the church out of power and save Julia. Mordaunt remains loyal to the king, while Victor and Charles align themselves with the rebels. After declaring his support for the king, Mordaunt is hunted by rebels everywhere in the town. He hides out in the woods with the help of his servant, who brings him a monk’s habit so he can sneak into the church, disguised from the rebels, and marry Julia. Mordaunt leaves for the abbey, while his servant stays behind and is taken prisoner by the rebels. At the abbey, the rebels uncover Mordaunt’s disguise. Rather than be taken alive, he kills himself. News has spread of Julia’s imprisonment in the church’s dungeon, and she becomes a symbol of liberation to the rebels, who immediately free her from the dungeon when they take the church. The novel ends with Julia and Charles being married.
Craciun, Adriana. “The New Cordays: Helen Craik and British Representations of Charlotte Corday, 1793–1800.” Rebellious Hearts: British Women Writers and the French Revolution, edited by Adriana Craciun and Kari E. Lokke, Albany, State University of New York Press, 2004, pp. 193–232.
Humpherys, Anne. “Edward Lloyd.” British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820-1880, edited by Patricia Anderson and Jonathan Rose, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 106. Detroit, Michigan, Gale, 1991. Literature Resource Center.
Julia St. Pierre: A Tale of the French Revolution. London, E. Lloyd, 1842.
“New Illustrated Romances.” Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper, Issue 278, March 19, 1848, p. 11.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography, London, The Fortune Press, 1941.
Researcher: Katherine DesCamp-Renner