Ravensdale: A Romance
Author: Ellen T.
Publisher: G. Purkess, Strange
Publication Year: 1847
Book Dimensions: 13.2 cm x 21 cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .T24 R 1847
Published in 1847 and written by the mysterious Ellen T., Ravensdale follows the intersecting love stories of characters across societal boundaries, while capturing love’s vivacity, disparity, and ultimate fatality.
Ravensdale: A Romance is a leather and sheep-skin bound book with a hard cover lined in navy cloth. The book’s binding is an orange hue and the cover is not comprised of distinct detail or decoration. The title of the book is engraved simplistically in the middle on the spine, and the cover is blank. The full title only appears on the title page, and the shortened title, Ravensdale, appears at the top left-hand side of each page and is the title engraved on the binding. As for the title page, the font remains simplistic and uniform to the rest of the book’s text. However, the title of the book is printed in a different, more formal font, and appears as though it was printed separately from the initial printing of the book. The rest of the title page is blank except for the bottom where the printing and publishing information is given: “1847 / London: Printed by E. Lloyd, Published by G. Purkess; Compton street, Soho; Strange Paternoster row.”
The illustrator is not acknowledged, and there are no illustrations in the introductory pages of the book. The first illustration appears on the beginning page of Chapter 1. Before Chapter 1, there is a page-long, anonymous preface unveiling to the reader the unattributed work of the author, Ellen T.
The book is decorated simply, with subtle decorative elements that add some embellishment to the book’s cheap production. There is a decorative letter at the beginning of Chapter 1, and each of the following chapters begin with a short poem. The edge of the novel is slightly rough and is speckled with burgundy paint for decorative distinction.
The cover of the book is 13.2 cm wide and 21 cm long and filled with 116 pages. These pages are filled with small, closely-set text, which makes for relatively wide margins. Ravensdale’s text is faint-black due to weathering, use, and printing; however, on some pages the text appears to be inconsistently bolded.
The pages are yellowed with the edges slightly browning from aging and storage. On some pages, there are brown speckles that appear on the corners. The book’s pages are well intact and are firm and stiff when turning the page. Some pages have oil stains due to prior handling, but the stiffness of the pages suggests a strong binding and that the book was handled somewhat infrequently.
Visually, the book lacks uniqueness. There are subtle decorative elements that give Ravensdale individuality, however outside of these elements, the book was produced simplistically and cheaply. The book has black and white illustrations that appear relatively frequently and are uncaptioned. These illustrations represent significant scenes in the chapter, the Chapter 1-page illustration displaying the two main characters standing under their favorite tree, a willow. Black and white illustrations were less expensive than colored illustrations to produce: after printing the initial black and white image, color was placed by another printing or by hand. Thus, adding color and extra detail to these illustrations was too expensive for the production of this book.
Ravensdale is a 116-page book printed and published by Edward Lloyd, George Purkess, and William Strange in London. The title page gives the printer and publisher information, revealing the novel’s publishing location of Compton Street and Paternoster-Row. The author is identified as Ellen T., withholding her last name. Ellen T. was a nineteenth-century writer who has written two other books titled Rose Sommerville: Or, A Husband’s Mystery and a Wife’s Devotion. A Romance and Eardley Hall. Rose Sommerville was published the same year as Ravensdale (1847),and Eardley Hall was published in 1850.
Ravensdale was printed by Edward Lloyd, a nineteenth-century printer who has been called “the father of the cheap press” (Humphreys). He operated a publishing empire founded on “penny bloods” and optimized on this emerging mass market. He spearheaded printing, advertising, and distributing techniques that helped with mass production of these publications. His career began with printing volumes of cheap novels, and then he shifted to printing newspapers; one of his early publications was Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, which became widely successful. His original office was located on Curtain Road in Shoreditch, but then he relocated in 1843 to 12 Salisbury Square. He published, often unlawfully, the works of famous authors, however he also published the works of smaller, underappreciated authors like Harry Hazel, Faucit Saville, Mrs. M. L. Sweetser, and B. Barker. Lloyd was notorious for aggressive advertising and for undercutting competitor’s prices, often by plagiarizing. His most famous newspaper was Lloyd’s Penny Sunday Times and People’s Police Gazette. Ellen T. was one of the smaller authors that Lloyd printed, and multiple of her works were printed by him and her poems were published in his newspapers (Humphreys).
Ravensdale was also printed and published by George Purkess and William Strange. Both companies were operated in London; George Purkess worked out of his Compton Street office, and William Strange’s office was located on 21 Paternoster-Row (Lill). Purkess was known for his dealing of cheap fiction in the 1840s, and Strange was known as a significant publisher of cheap literature for working classes, specifically in more urban areas (Anglo 81). Yet, Strange was also involved in more satirical publishing: his most famous publication was a comic journal titled Figaro in London. Strange involved himself in various activities of rebellion, like the resistance of newspaper stamps and other “taxes of knowledge,” while also linking himself to various libel and infringement of copyright cases (Bently 238). Strange and Purkess were regarded as popular figures in radical publishing movements of the 1830s. Throughout their careers, both Strange and Purkess were regarded as publishers who moved between “radical politics, literary populism and popular enlightenment” (Haywood 133). These two men exploited savvy strategies often used by prolific publishers at the time, combining both the publishing of popular, cheap penny bloods and short publications to fund new and rousing periodicals; two of their most popular being the Monthly Theatrical Review and the Girl’s and Boy’s Penny Magazine (Lill).
Ravensdale has two editions. One is the edition published in 1847 held in the University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection and in the libraries of Yale, Notre Dame, and the British Library, both digitally and physically. Another version of Ravensdale was published in The Ladies’ Journal: A Newspaper of Fashion, Literature, Music, and Variety which can be found in the British Library (Léger-St-Jean). The Ladies’ Journal was an extension of Lloyd’s newspaper that ran from April 3 to September 18, 1847. Ravensdale was one of four texts published in the extension: the other texts were Widow Mortimer. A Romance, The Pirate Queen,and The Creole. This newspaper was one of Lloyd’s unsuccessful publications and ran for a shorter period of time (Léger-St-Jean). Ellen T.’s other works were featured in Lloyd’s publications; specifically, her poems “To Christmas”and “Lines on a Birthday” were featured in The People’s Periodical and Family Library. In the 1847 edition of Ravensdale, there is an anonymous preface detailing the unappreciated nature of the author. It ends with “London, November 1847,” and expresses the talent of the author. In Ellen T.’s other novel, Rose Sommerville, another anonymous preface exists, and it portrays the methods and wants of the “Authoress.”
Narrative Point of View
Ravensdale, is narrated in third person through an anonymous character who is not interwoven within the novel’s plot. This narrator frequently uses differentiating descriptors in order to convey certain character’s dispositions. When describing the two Clavering sisters, Grace and Edith, the narrator juxtaposes each description: Edith is often described with a sense of earnestness and fragility, whereas Grace is described with sublime diction. The narrator primarily uses dialogue for plot progression, and thus does not apply large amounts of narrative authority over the description of events. However, the narrator interrupts dialogue for eloquent character description, often detailing the characters’ temperaments flamboyantly. She deploys flowery diction when choosing to describe characters, often theatrically illustrating their emotions. Yet, she sometimes decides to include generalized comments on the plot progression, which occasionally reveal a narrative presence. Additionally, in order to dramatize certain moments of emotional uncertainty, the narrator adds exclamations and rhetorical questions as if attempting to converse with the reader. On some occasions, the narrator directly engages with the reader, demanding that he regard a character’s actions in a certain way.
The reader must conceive with what transport this billet was perused, and how rapturously the young man carried it to his lips–how fondly each little word was treasured in his memory. Oh! ‘tis sweet to trace, in the letters of those we love, the soft breathings of a spirit that yearns for our return, to whom all things are as nothing while we are not. Thus felt Edward Villiers, as he read with a throbbing bosom the letter that was penned by Grace, her whom he was seeking to forget; and though her true sentiments towards him were concealed beneath the veil of feminine modesty and true of feeling, he saw sufficient to convince him that he was loved–that he had inspired her with no transitory or evanescent passion for himself, but a love that bade defiance to all obstacles that was no more easy to be extinguished than the flame that was likewise kindled in his own breast. (26–27)
This passage both demonstrates the narrator’s engagement with the reader while also exemplifying the narrator’s descriptive style. Instead of mere depiction of progressing events, this anonymous narrator interrupts pivotal moments of plot progression and connects directly with the reader. When summoning the reader’s attention, the narrator desires him to internalize the sentiments described and prompt internal reflection. She calls on the reader to look within himself and think back to a past memory where he felt the same emotion. She shifts from third-person perspective and employs first person narrative with her use of “we” and “our.” The narrator asks the reader to join her in telling this story, suggesting that personal attachment provides advantageous insight that grasps the complexity of characters and their accompanied emotions. In the latter half of this passage, the narration resumes its ordinary form, providing ornate description of the character’s state of mind and observations. She describes the emotions felt by Edward when receiving the letter from Grace, utilizing physical elements of Edward’s body to personify the extent of his love. Instead of describing intense emotion, the narrator often uses physical elements in hope of capturing the authenticity of the character’s emotions. She deploys phrases like “a throbbing bosom,” and “the flame that was likewise kindled in his own breast,” which depict the physicality of Edwards love for Grace, and this allows for a deeper clarity on the extent to which the two love each other. Ultimately, the narrator wants the reader to intensely connect with the emotions described.
Ravensdale opens with the introduction of the Clavering family, centering around the two amiable cousins of Grace and Edith, who differ in disposition, but hold the utmost strength of family companionship. Edith embodies the essence of gentility and loving nature, her soft countenance and sweetness extending through all of her relationships. Juxtaposing this nature, Grace contains wild exuberance, and carries a powerful vivacity. Arthur and Grace are both children of Ms. Manning, the sister of the countess of Clavering, and Edith the daughter of the countess. After the birth of Grace, an incurable illness imposes itself upon Ms. Manning, and she bestows a wish of the marriage between the two cousins: Arthur and Edith. Upon the death of Ms. Manning, the countess intends for her wish to come true. Edith then reaches the maturity that shows she is fit for marriage. Upon Arthur’s maturity, he travels around Europe and Edith anticipates his return. Fully aware of his destiny to marry Edith, Arthur is instantly enchanted by her sweetness and beauty, and the Claverings prepare for the highly anticipated ceremony. One of the guests at this beloved ceremony is Edward Villers, a former acquaintance of Arthur’s. Grace is given the task of properly entertaining this unknown visitor, and the two become pleasantly acquainted. In their time together, Edward suggests that Arthur’s heart contains not just Edith but another—a former lover from his travels. Yet, Grace is assured by Edward that this connection is indeed former. Edward and Grace acquire a mutual appreciation for each other and promise to see each other again.
After Edward’s return to London, we are introduced to Catherine Montravers, a governess to a wealthy woman, Mrs. Porters, and a teacher of her children, while rushing along the streets of Paris. Simply dressed, Catherine is a dark and intricate beauty with magnificent raven features. She is introduced in a state of anguish as she is stopped on the street by an admirer, Ernest Moreton, who shows a deep concern in her mental fragility and ill health. When she returns to her school room, the reader learns of her despairing solitude and afflictions with a former lover.
In London, Edward is struck by ennui, and expresses to his family and a close friend, Helen, his love for Grace and his wishes to marry her. Mrs. Villers suggests the disparity in their social standings and proposes Helen to be a better pairing for him: a dutiful, devoted, and helpful woman. Edward refuses, and exclaims his determination to marry Grace.
Edith and Arthur are married, yet Edith is struck by an apparent uneasiness about Arthur’s devotion to her. Grace’s fondness for Edward grows, and she becomes aware of her love for him and wishes to see him again. She expresses her sentiments to Edith, who appears uneasy with Grace’s decision to marry outside her class. While the two sisters converse, a letter appears by a servant addressed to Arthur, and Edith attempts to retrieve it. Instead, Grace possesses the letter and throws it into the fire.
We return to the story of Catherine, who while sitting in her school room, receives two letters from her former lover. She is afflicted by their contents and continues her melancholic suffering when Mr. Porter expresses an interest in returning to London.
Arthur, known as the Earl of Clavering, Edith, and Grace attend the Opera where they are met by Edward. Grace and Edward express their love and mutual wishes to marry, which Arthur rejects. Yet, this does not stop their dedication, and Grace conveys her intentions of disobeying Arthur’s marital wishes for her.
Meanwhile, Helen expresses her love for Edward, and Edward fabricates his ignorance towards her affections and explains that if aware, he would have asked for her hand if not already promised to Grace. He requests that she leave the Villers household with a promise to return to her if rejected by Grace. Meanwhile, Edith happens upon a letter left behind by Arthur, and believing it is intended for his mother, reads it. The letter is actually addressed to Catherine, and Edith is awakened by the bitter reality of her husband’s love for another.
In the midst of this contention, the reader is introduced to three men: Edward Moreton, Christopher Warden, and John Lawton. The three are discussing Morten’s love for Catherine, when Marie, the former lover of Christopher, enters and is described as a soft and changing beauty. She professes her love and destitution to Christopher, and he agrees to support her, but orders her and their unborn child to distance themselves from his deteriorating illness. Marie resists, insisting her devotion and desire to care for Christopher, but Lawton insists on this separation. After observing the conversation between Christopher, Lawton, and the neglected Marie, Moreton tends an emerging dislike for these two men and a restless desire to investigate their character.
When returning to the household of the Villers, Catherine hears of the disappearance of her sister, Helen, and comes to immediate aid. Convinced that Helen’s disappearance is inextricably linked to Edward, she writes him a letter impersonating Helen and asks him to meet in the middle of the night.
Consistent with the promises of Lawton, Marie is brought to the establishment of Madame Chevasse, an elderly woman with sharp eyes and cunning disposition. In evaluating and feeling assured of her cruelty, Marie refuses to stay with Madame and allow her to care for her unborn child. Lawton again insists that Christopher’s support only reaches so far, and her refusal of Madame’s care will cause a further disunion between them. Marie then agrees to Madame’s hospitality.
In anticipation of her nightly rendezvous, Catherine appears at the meeting place before its expected time, when she sees a dark figure approaching her. Arthur, her former lover, emerges from the darkness and professes his love and undying desire to provide for her every need. She is sickened by his advances and exclaims that although his status allows the exemption of punishment, his complete neglect of her warrants her reprehensibility and hatred. Arthur pushes back on her claims until Edward approaches the meeting place. Arthur hides, and Edward begins to explain, to whom he perceives as Helen, his supposed marriage to Grace. Then, Arthur jumps out from the bushes and yells that this marriage will no longer be held. Arthur describes Edward’s unworthiness of marrying his sister, and that the only way that he can redeem his character is through a duel.
Catherine finds Helen’s place of habitation, and the two again reconcile their inseparable sisterhood. Catherine councils Helen never to see Edward again, as his devotion still lies with Grace. Yet, Helen refuses and attempts to convince Catherine of his love. Catherine rejoices in their rekindled sisterhood, but she still shows apprehension for her sister’s dedication to Edward.
The reader returns to the residence of Madame Chevasse, where Lawton specifies the intended role of her caretaking, which is one of ultimately killing Marie’s unborn child. Lawton expresses that with Christopher’s life-threatening illness, he will be unable to provide a righteous life for their child. Madame Chevasse agrees to Lawton’s request, yet demands an expensive reward. She then begins this process by poisoning Marie, which leads to her ultimate death.
In response to the events of his rendezvous with Catherine and Arthur, Edward writes a letter to Grace explaining the misunderstanding. Grace receives this letter while confronted by Arthur about Edward’s character and unworthiness of her hand. Grace assures Arthur that his allegations are false. Grace and Edward meet again and reconfirm their mutual love for one another, and Edwards professes his intention to convince Arthur of his love. Meanwhile, Helen writes a letter to Edward, demonstrating her relentless devotion.
It is then that Lieutenant Marston, an acquaintance to Arthur, presents himself to Edward and conveys a message. The Lieutenant reveals Arthur’s wishes to duel Edward in his sister’s honor, with the man who prevails deciding Grace’s marital fate. The Lieutenant explains that he will be a third-party preparing Edward for this scheduled duel, and the two become acquainted.
Meanwhile, Ernest Moreton confronts Lawton and Christopher about Marie’s death, and insists that Lawton is guilty of this monstrous crime. He then announces his quest for revenge, and the conversation ends with Christopher’s desire to look upon his deceased lover.
The final rejection of Helen’s devotion by Edward sufficiently extinguishes her passion and hope towards their elopement. Coupled with Catherine’s dismissal from governess of Mrs. Porter, the two decide to live together.
As Lieutenant Marston prepares Edward for the upcoming duel, the two obtain a mutual like for each other, and the good nature of the Lieutenant’s character is acknowledged. The day of the duel comes, and it results in the life-threatening injury of Edward. Edward is rushed to the nearby cottage of Helen and Catherine, where Helen tends to him with undying devotion.
Meanwhile, Lawton and Christopher visit Marie’s corpse. Christopher is alarmed by the haunting spectacle that has taken Marie’s place and repeatedly exclaims the foolishness of his visit. Madame Chevasse and Lawton continue to hide their responsibility for her death, however Morten observes them with a skeptical eye and believes that he has caught their criminality. After this fateful visit, Christopher is never the same and the intensity of his illness brings him to his mortal ending.
Helen’s suppressed devotion towards Edward resurfaces in full force after his injury, but her relentless care is not enough, and Edward dies from his honorable duel. When notified of her lover’s death by Arthur, Grace falls into a deep sadness, an illness that removes all of her recent memories and convinces her that her marriage to Edward will still occur. In hope for this bliss to remain, the Claverings decide to entertain Grace’s absence from reality. On her imagined wedding day, Grace drowns in the river where she attempts to meet Edward, and the Claverings mourn their spirited daughter’s loss.
Meanwhile, the Lieutenant provides Catherine and Helen their first group of pupils at their shared cottage, while also developing a great appreciation and love for Helen. After frequent visits to the cottage, the good-natured Lieutenant asks for Helen’s hand in marriage, which she accepts. Finally, Catherine is visited by Ernest Moreton and his mother, who demonstrate a great respect for her character, and Ernest asks for her hand in marriage.
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T., Ellen. “To Christmas.” The People’s Periodical and Family Library, vol. I, no. 13. Edward Lloyd, 1847, pp. 205. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
Researcher: Neila Connaughton