Mary, the Maid of the Inn: or the Secrets of the Ruins; A Melancholy and Interesting Narrative; shewing the singular way in which she discovered her lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer; with an account of his Trial, Conviction, and Execution: Together with her madness and forlorn wanderings, until she is found frozen to death: to which is added, the celebrated recitation.
Publisher: Orlando Hodgson
Publication Year: 1822
Book Dimensions: 6.5cm x 10.8cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .M353 n.d.
Featuring themes of superstition, mental illness and moral dilemmas, this 1822 chapbook—adapted from a popular Robert Southey poem—follows Mary as she uncovers the terrible crimes of her betrothed and goes mad.
Found in the Sadleir-Black Collection at the University of Virginia is a copy of Mary, the Maid of the Inn: or the Secrets of the Ruins; A Melancholy and Interesting Narrative; shewing the singular way in which she discovered her lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer; with an account of his Trial, Conviction, and Execution: Together with her madness and forlorn wanderings, until she is found frozen to death: to which is added, the celebrated recitation. On the following page the title appears simply as Mary, the Maid of the Inn: or the Secrets of the Ruins. Throughout the book at the header of every page the title is shortened again and printed only as Mary, the Maid of the Inn.
This 24-page chapbook measures 6.5 cm by 10.8 cm and is coverless, with the thread-bound spine exposed. The title page lists the publishing location as London and the publisher as Orlando Hodgson, Maiden Lane. No author is listed throughout the text.
Of particular note is the fold-out color illustration at the front, preceding the title page, which when extended, measures 21.2 cm by 16.4 cm. In this image, a female figure, presumably Mary, stands in the foreground of an exterior setting, expressing horror upon observing in the background two gentlemen carrying a limp body. The illustration is captioned with the shortened title, Mary the Maid of the Inn and some illegible writing underneath that seems to have been cut off in the printing process. The image appears to have been printed lopsided on the page. The folding lines on the illustration page are made so that the image folds in on itself and fits the size of the chapbook, thus it is protected from view when the book is closed.
The interior pages of the text feature a small font, with margins ranging from 1 to 1.4 cm in size. The text is justified and appears in noticeably long paragraphs, leaving very little white space in between.
The chapbook features minimal handwriting. Most notable is the date “1822”written in calligraphy on the blank front (on the opposing side of the illustration)—this is likely the date of publication. Other handwritings include the word “Romance”written in pencil (presumably by someone else) on the front page as well as some number-letter combinations – perhaps old library call numbers which appear to be in the same handwriting as the date.
At the bottom of page 23, the words “Plummer and Brewis, Printers, Love Lane, Eastcheap” appear. The following page, which is not numbered, recites Robert Southey’s popular poem Mary, the Maid of the Inn otherwise known simply as Mary. The recitation appears in a smaller font than the rest of the book and is set in two columns with a bordering line between.
This chapbook features an additional story after the recitation of Mary, the Maid of the Inn called Durward and Isabelle. This story has no title page (though there is evidence it may have been ripped out) and lists no author. The paper seems to be a lighter color and the format of this additional text differs from Mary, the Maid of the Inn, suggesting it was bound to the original at a later date, baring no evidence that it is in any way related to the first. It is bound by thread, is half detached from Mary the Maid of the Inn, and along the spine is attached what appears to be matted hair—possibly part of the original binding. Remnants of the original book cover also appear on the spine.
Overall, this copy of Mary the Maid of the Inn appears frail, though remarkably intact. It is only its binding to Durward and Isabelle which appears to be failing and remains attached only by a single thread.
Mary, the Maid of the Inn first appeared as a ballad published in a newspaper by the celebrated poet laureate and author Robert Southey at the turn of the nineteenth century. Following the initial printing, the poem was republished in many other periodicals and newspapers. It was so popular that it was adapted and mass-produced into chapbooks from multiple printers and publishers and even dramatized into plays. There is no evidence that Southey himself ever wrote any version of these adaptations. More likely, one chapbook publisher produced it and many others copied the storyline to their liking. Southey posits that perhaps the poem’s popularity is due to the meter used throughout, which he adapted from “Mr Lewis’s Alonzo and Imogene” (“Poetical Works” 404). He is, of course, here referring to the celebrated gothic author, Matthew Lewis. According to Southey, the idea for the poem transpired after a schoolboy told him a story that was said to be true and was also recorded in ‘Dr Plot’s “History of Staffordshire”’ (“Poetical Works” 404).
During his active years as a poet, Southey made clear his support for the French Revolution and socialism through works such as Joan of Arc (Carnall). At one stage, he even considered emigrating to the United States of America to start a pantisocracy—a society where everyone is equal in social status and responsibility (Carnall).
While the Sadleir-Black Collection holds at least three other mid-nineteenth-century chapbook copies of this narrative, none are exactly the same and all have different publishers. The long titles have slight variations and none of the narratives are entirely consistent, with many altered details such as character names and places. This, along with the variety of publishers and editions, suggests that unlike the poem, the longer narrative of Mary, the Maid of the Inn was not written by Southey.
This particular edition published by Orlando Hodgson in 1822 is also unique in its inclusion of original poetry throughout the text. Although all three copies have different publishers, one of the other copies includes an almost identical fold-out color illustration both done by the same illustrator, John Lewis Marks, recognizable by the matching signature on each image. There is little information available on this illustrator, although some of his works appear in the National Portrait Gallery. All three copies include appendices of Southey’s original poem, which in this edition appears on the final page headed “Recitation.”
The play held in the Sadlier-Black collection titled The Innkeeper’s Daughter: A Melo-Drama, in Two Acts presents an even looser adaptation of the poem, whereby the characters have different names, the setting is completely different with a German theme with German character names and German phrases throughout (Soane).
Other adaptations of Robert Southey’s poem, Mary, the Maid of the Inn, held in the Sadleir-Black Collection:
The History of Mary, the Maid of the Inn: A Melancholy and Affecting Narrative: Detailing her Unfortunate Attachment, her Singular Courage, and Showing the Miraculous Manner in which she Discovers her Lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer: with an Account of his Trial and Execution; and also Describing the Forlorn Wanderings of the Unfortunate Mary, who Became a Wretched Maniac, and was found Frozen to Death on her Mother’s Grave. From the Celebrated Poem by Robert Southey which is here also added.
Publisher: Thomas Richardson
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: DA539 .L56 1837 no.6
The Innkeeper’s Daughter: A Melo-Drama, in Two Acts.
Publisher: Neal & Mackenzie, 201 Chestnut Street
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PS630 .C52 R4 1828 no.5
Mary, the Maid of the Inn, or the Murder at the Abbey.
Publisher: J. Johnson, 15a, Kirkgate.
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PR5464 .M37 1850x
Narrative Point of View
Although Mary, the Maid of the Inn is primarily written in the third person, there are some instances when the narrator uses personal pronouns that indicate a first-person perspective. The identity of the narrator, however, remains a mystery. The narrative seems rushed; while the narrator spends a lot of time describing the characters, a lot less time is spent describing the action. There is an excessive use of semicolons, creating very long sentences, many of which make up entire paragraphs. The structure of dialogue is inconsistent; in some sections, the dialogue is contained in quotation marks which are repeated at the beginning of each line on which the dialogue continues, where in other parts the dialogue is written more like a script, with the character stated before the dialogue and no quotation marks. Throughout the narrative, the narrator refers to the characters with different names. For example, John Simpson is also referred to as “Mr Simpson,” “Goodman Simpson,” “Master Simpson,” and simply “Simpson” in different sections of the text.
KATHLEEN, the cherished rib of mine host of the Wheatsheaf, was a masculine, sour looking female, robust and corpulent, with a ruddy complexion, borrowed from the brandy bottle, and carotty hair; a woman, with whom good humour had long since shaken hands, and parted; indeed, it is strongly suspected that she left her whole stock of it, which never was much, with the parson the day she became a wife; yet to be frequenters of her house, she was all complaisance and subserviency; and acted towards them with an overstrained civility, bordering on meanness. (5)
This excerpt exemplifies the lengthy, colorful, descriptive language used throughout the text, prioritizing description of character over narrative action. The narrator here uses many commas and semicolons rather than any periods, which increases the pace of the narrative. Kathleen’s name, much like the other characters introduced in the text, is printed in all caps. Moreover, the narrator uses the pronoun “mine” in a passage that otherwise reads as third-person narration, suggesting some narrative intimacy with the characters. At once, the narrator’s assessment of Kathleen is rather savage.
Mary, the Maid of the Inn opens with a description of an Inn in northern England named Wheatsheaf. The innkeeper is John Simpson, who, though he appears to run the inn, comes second in command to his wife, Kathleen Simpson, who is masculine and sour looking. Their only daughter, Mary, is alluring in her beauty and she is betrothed to Richard Jarvis, who although handsome and seemingly respectable, is known to many others as having an “idle turn” and being “dissolute in his morals” (8).
One stormy night, two horsemen come to Wheatsheaf seeking shelter. They are welcomed in and treated with special care due to their gentlemanly appearance. Once settled, Mrs. Simpson entertains the gentlemen with the history of the deserted monk abbey not far from the inn. She tells them stories she has heard of ghosts frequenting the abbey. One of the gentlemen knows the stories but both gentlemen remain sceptical on the truth behind them. Mrs. Simpson tells them that though nobody ventures there after dark for fear of spotting a ghost, her daughter Mary frequents the abbey at all hours of the day and night, seemingly fearless and courageous. After supper, Mary enters the room to serve punch to the gentlemen and they comment on her beauty. The gentlemen ask Mary to prove her courage, challenging her to venture to the deserted abbey, collect a branch from the alder tree that grows there, and return it to them. They wager her courage for another bowl of punch and a new bonnet for Mary. Mrs. Simpson insists that she obliges and Mary, with no choice, readies herself.
Meanwhile, Jarvis waits at his home for his friend Nicholls, intending to commit a highway robbery that same evening. While he is waiting, Jarvis feels some guilt and hesitation in his intentions and expresses this to Nicholls but eventually Jarvis succumbs to Nicholls’s influence. They go to an alleyway where they know their victim will pass with a plentiful bounty. When Squire Hearty passes on his horse, they accost him, demanding money. He resists their efforts drunkenly. One of the men pulls out a pistol and the other cuts Squire Hearty’s horse’s reins. He is overpowered. As they drag his body from the horse, the pistol fires, killing Squire Hearty instantly. The men soon decide to carry the body to the deserted abbey.
Meanwhile, Mary arrives at the abbey to collect the branch when she is overcome with a “deadly weight” and ponders what the meaning of it could be (21). Nevertheless, she plucks the branch from the alder, but hears a voice that frightens her. She listens carefully and realises there are two voices, and wonders whether these might really be the voices of ghosts. She is determined not to believe it and, continuing to listen. she discerns that they are two men’s voices. She then spies a head and hears footsteps. Hiding behind a pillar, she sees two men carrying a body between them and she shrieks and collapses to the ground. The men flee at the sound of her scream, having no idea where it has come from. Upon recovering, Mary sees that one of the men has dropped his top hat. She collects it, thinking it may be a useful clue and returns to the inn in shock of what she has seen. As she tells Mrs. Simpson and the two gentlemen what happened, Jarvis shows up at the Inn, enquiring after her. She tells him she has witnessed two murderers disposing of a body but that she has a top hat, which might help identify them. She realises there might be a name in the lining of the top hat. She rushes to check the lining and reads aloud the name “Richard Jarvis.” With no way to escape, Jarvis is detained by the two gentlemen and sent to trial.
At the trial, Mary grapples with her affection for Jarvis and her moral obligation. Eventually, in tears, she testifies against Jarvis and Nicholls, which results in their guilty charge and sentencing to death by hanging. Mary is horrified by the outcome, shrieks in court, and collapses. Once recovered, she looks at Jarvis and starts laughing hysterically. She yells to the judge, “Wretch, hang me up too for I am his murderer.” She then starts attacking people nearest to her with her fists and is eventually restrained in a straightjacket. Her father, Mr Simpson, is greatly affected by her performance and retires to his bed where he eventually dies. Wheatsheaf falls into disrepair, debt accumulates, and Mrs. Simpson eventually kills herself. Mary’s “disorder” stabilises into a “fixed and gloomy melancholy” (23). She lives in the wild off wild fruits and the charity of others. Her body withers away; her beauty disappears. She is eventually found frozen to death in the snow.
Carnall, Geoffrey. “Southey, Robert (1774–1843), poet and reviewer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. January 06, 2011. Oxford University Press. Date of access 28 Oct. 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/26056
The History of Mary, the Maid of the Inn: A Melancholy and Affecting Narrative: Detailing her Unfortunate Attachment, her Singular Courage, and Showing the Miraculous Manner in which she Discovers her Lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer: with an Account of his Trial and Execution; and also Describing the Forlorn Wanderings of the Unfortunate Mary, who Became a Wretched Maniac, and was found Frozen to Death on her Mother’s Grave. From the Celebrated Poem by Robert Southey which is here also added. Thomas Richardson. Derby.
“John Lewis Marks (circa 1796-1855), Publisher and printmaker.” National Portrait Gallery, https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp16780/john-lewis-marks. Accessed 21 November 2019.
Mary, the Maid of the Inn, or the Murder at the Abbey. J. Johnson, 15a, Kirkgate. 1850.
Southey, Robert. Poems by Robert Southey. 2nd ed., Bristol. 1797. Eighteenth Century Collections Online.
Mary, the Maid of the Inn: or the Secrets of the Ruins; A Melancholy and Interesting Narrative; shewing the singular way in which she discovered her lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer; with an account of his Trial, Conviction, and Execution: Together with her madness and forlorn wanderings, until she is found frozen to death: to which is added, the celebrated recitation. London, Orlando Hodgson, 1822.
The Poetical Works of Robert Southey with a Memoir. New York. 1837. HathiTrust Digital Library.
Soane, George. The Innkeeper’s Daughter: A Melo-Drama, in Two Acts. Neal & Mackenzie, 201 Chestnut Street. Philadelphia. 1828.
Researcher: Jo Terry