Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville
Publisher: John Arliss
Publication Year: 1810
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.S58 Ra 1810
In this plagiarized 1810 version of The Old Manor House by Charlotte Smith (1793), Orlando Somerville endures war, poverty, and two transatlantic voyages to be reunited with England, his lover, and a rightful inheritance.
Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville was published and printed in February of 1810 by John Arliss and authored by an unknown writer. Bound by paper and string, this 42-page pamphlet sized book makes use of a small close-set type and two-centimeter-wide margins in order to pack a full-length drama into a small number of pages. The top of each page features a double lined header with a shortened title; “Rayland Hall” is centered, while the page number is included in the top right corner. Showing its age at over 200 years old, many of the pages are marked by large spots of discoloration, and even small spots of mold.
The exterior of the book shows similar signs of wear, with no jacket or cover to be found, the paper and string binding is visibly fragmenting. The first page is blank, while its reverse side contains an illustration titled “Rayland Hall Page 10” that depicts a cavalier hurriedly blowing out a candle while another man enters the room and a woman slumps in a nearby chair. This page has become detached from the rest of the volume and is markedly less worn and significantly whiter than the other pages. On the following title page, the full title is listed with the subscript “An Original Story” and an illustration of a man who is prone, bound, and whose head is being scratched by another man lying on top of him. This illustration is captioned “Thank Heaven! the fortunes of my house revive !” and below we find a double lined division followed by “LONDON: PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY JOHN ARLISS, No. 87, Bartholomew Close.” On the top of this title page, there is a stamped marking that reads “Sophia*” that likely indicated a previous owner’s identity.
Text on the last page of the book ends a third of the way down and there is a final illustration of the exterior of a castle that is framed by an irregular cloud shape. Centered between the illustration and the bottom of the page, FINIS is typed and bolded in a larger font than the rest of the text. The lack of a back cover is congruent with the lack of a front cover, and the final page shows increased wear in relation to the other pages. The publisher, John Arliss, and his printing location are again stated under a dividing line at the bottom right corner of the final page.
The dimensions of the book are truly pamphlet sized, being only 18 x 11 centimeters. Every page save the first detached page has a similar faded white color and seven major splotches that are in the same position on each page. These major discolorations are joined by many smaller slightly darker spots. Texturally, the book is uniform in its extreme softness. Pages vary slightly in width, allowing for easy page turning. Overall, this volume shows its age but is without any major rips, tears, or any other major damage besides the first page which is detached from the rest.
Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville is a chapbook published in 1810 by John Arliss. There is no author listed for this work, and with good reason. Rayland Hall is a plagiarized and condensed account of Charlotte Smith’s four-volume novel The Old Manor House, published in 1793. Charlotte Turner Smith was a renowned female poet and novelist, and The Old Manor House was considered her most well-received work. Rayland Hall features many of the same plot points as The Old Manor House, but does differ in some ways, including the name of the main female character, who is named Juliana in Rayland Hall and named Monomia in The Old Manor House. Ironically, the phrase “AN ORIGINAL STORY” is printed on the title page of the chapbook. Because of the very short form of the 42-page chapbook, many details of The Old Manor House are omitted from Rayland Hall, but the broad strokes of Orlando’s romantic struggle, capture in America, and subsequent victorious return are matched in both works.
The chapbook lacks a preface, introduction, or any further information on how it came to be. Additionally, when researching Rayland Hall, one finds that every digital mention of Rayland Hall is derived from the context of the original work by Charlotte Smith. One name of someone responsible for creating this book does appear: that of the printer and publisher John Arliss. This edition of the chapbook provides the address of his printing shop, located in the Wandsworth neighborhood of London. From what can be surmised based on relevant early nineteenth-century literary databases, Arliss was a prolific publisher who printed many chapbooks and novels. It remains unclear what role Arliss had in the work itself, but he does remain as the sole credited person for this chapbook.
There exists another truncated version of The Old Manor House published in 2006: a 104-page version also titled Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville, edited by Ina Ferris, professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa who has also edited a full-length edition of Smith’s original The Old Manor House. This 2006 version is notably longer than the chapbook, which stands at only thirty-six pages of story, but is unfortunately out of print; it remains unclear the precise relationship between the plagiarized 1810 Rayland Hall chapbook and the newer longer 2006 Rayland Hall.
Narrative Point of View
Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville is narrated in the third person by an unnamed and extratextual narrator. The narration is succinct and to the point, and pertinent facts are simply stated for the reader. The narration easily spans a gulf of time and space to allow for the important plot points to be reached in a timely manner. This narrator does not make the reader privy to characters’ inner feelings and thoughts. The text does include some quotations from characters, but overall the plot is advanced through statements made by the narrator.
The Fluer de Lys, having received her dispatches from the Count d’Estang, proceeded with a fair wing, and in six weeks Orlando landed at Brest. The Chevalier behaved to him as a brother. He was obliged to go immediately to Paris, but he placed Orlando in the house of a merchant, whom he commissioned to supply him with every thing he wanted, and then took leave of his interesting captive, having first procured him a proper passport, giving him a certificate, and taking his parole. Orlando staid but a few days at Brest, and then set out by the diligence for St. Malo, where he was told he might get a conveyance for Guernsey or Jersey. In this he was disappointed, and he journeyed along the coast to Havre; it was almost the end of October, when he engaged a large fishing smack to land him at Southampton, and open communication between the two countries being denied; and this was done at a price that obliged him not only to give up all the ready money he possessed, but also the wardrobe he had obtained at Brest, and he landed with one shirt in his hand, and two pieces of twelve souns in his pocket. With great difficulty from want of money, and fatigue of body, he at length from want of money, and fatigue of body, he at length gained sight of the grey turrets of Rayland Hall. (23)
The narration serves the primary purpose of advancing the plot. There is little attention paid to esoteric motivations and the character development is quite shallow. This leaves the bulk of the work of advancing the plot lines to the narrator. This very explicit style of storytelling makes narrative jumps over space and time smoother and easier, and removes some of the complexity of being able to see into characters’ heads. This chapbook is only forty-two pages, after all, so the events of more than two years clearly need to be condensed greatly, and this simple and straightforward narrative style aids in conveying the plot relatively quickly.
Rayland Hall tells the story of forbidden romance between second cousins. Rayland Hall, a great mansion in southern England is occupied by a single heiress (Mrs. Rayland), her housekeepers, and her deceased sister’s daughter, Juliana. Down the road lives Mr. Somerville who is a cousin of Mrs. Rayland, but whose family had fallen out of favor after Mr. Somerville’s father married a woman living with the Raylands, and thus producing Orlando. Orlando is favored by Mrs. Rayland, and is rumored to be a candidate for her heir, as she has no children.
The narrative of the book opens on Orlando and Juliana going into town (a rare venture for Juliana) on a set of errands. As they stride through town, a rude cavalier by the name of John Blargrave makes some advance with Juliana and is rebuffed by Orlando. John being of high status takes much insult and challenges Orlando to a duel the next day. After the business in town, it is revealed that Orlando and Juliana have been conducting an affair by way of secret passage into Juliana’s tower. That evening Orlando visits Juliana, and they are disturbed by an unknown person peeking into Juliana’s room; Orlando pursues the interloper but is not able to apprehend them.
The fate of Orlando is quickly decided for him by his father: an old acquaintance of his, General Tracey, makes arrangements for Orlando to be shipped off to suppress rebellion in the American colonies rather than face a dangerous duel. Before being sent off, Orlando makes a secret visit to Juliana in her tower where he discovers a smuggler who has been working around Rayland Hall, and is the one who was seen peeping on Juliana and Orlando. They agree to keep each other’s secrets and make a pact of friendship, so that the smuggler may deliver a letter to Juliana.
On his arrival in America, Orlando is quickly captured by an indigenous band of fighters, and comes to be their friend as they spend the winter together in the wilderness trapping. Eventually, he is able to convince them of biding his release, he goes to Canada and is afforded proper station as a British officer, and placed on a ship set for England. Orlando’s ship is captured, and he only makes his way back to Rayland Hall by way of a long and difficult detour through France. Upon arriving at Rayland Hall two years after the events previously described, he finds the manor is in decrepit condition.
Orlando inquires about town and is deemed insane by most he meets, as all assumed him dead overseas after such a long absence of correspondence. He comes to learn that Mrs. Rayland has died and her estate was willed to a Dr. Hollyburn. After questioning the family attorney, he learns of his family’s new location and of the death of his father. Upon seeing his family, he is acquainted with the unsuccessful attempt that his older brother, Phillip, made to sue for Rayland Hall, as most assumed the dead Orlando to be the successor. This suit was unsuccessful, but an attorney advises Orlando to pursue it further.
Orlando learns that Juliana is in the care of a family in Hampshire. This is also the location of the wife of a fallen comrade of Orlando, so he decides to make the trip to investigate. He finds that Juliana is in the care of this very family, and warm feelings are traded between them. Desirous of an immediate marriage, they must first obtain the permission of Juliana’s aunt, as Juliana is underage.
After securing this permission, the aunt then informs Orlando of an alternate will that is hidden within Rayland Hall. Orlando obtains this will and his rights of ownership over Rayland Hall are restored. He and Juliana marry and live a happy life with Orlando Jr.
Rayland Hall; or, The Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville. London, John Arliss, 1810.
Rayland Hall; or, The Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville, edited by Ina Ferris. Zittaw Press, 2006.
Smith, Charlotte. The Old Manor House. London, F. C. and J. Rivington, 1793.
Researcher: Lucas Critzer