Somerset Castle; or the Father and Daughter. A Tragic Tale. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. To which is added, Ghost and no Ghost; or The Dungeon
Publisher: Ann Lemoine and J. Roe
Publication Year: 1804
Book Dimensions: 11.5cm x 18cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .S648 1804
Published with Ghost and No Ghost, this 1804 chapbook tells how a young couple’s forbidden love leads them down a path of death and despair, ending with the demise of some characters as well as the prosperity of others.
Somerset Castle is the first story within Somerset Castle; or the Father and Daughter. A Tragic Tale. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. To which is added, Ghost and no Ghost; or The Dungeon, published in 1804 by IRoe and Ann Lemoine. This full title is printed on the fourth page of the book, but a shortened version is printed two pages earlier: Somerset Castle; or the Father and Daughter. This shorter title is printed on the original exterior of a pamphlet in which these stories were published. Now with a new binding, the old cover page becomes the second page. Also on the title page and underneath the publisher information, the price of the novel is revealed to be a sixpence, indicating it was made very cheaply. No author is mentioned for Somerset Castle or Ghost and no Ghost on any page within the book.
The book’s new binding is a tan colored paper over boards, which gives it a more sturdy feeling. On the spine, the words Somerset Castle / 1804 appear in gold lettering over a maroon strip of fabric. Because the original pamphlet that these stories were published in was quite thin (only 28 pages), the book binder elected to place additional blank pages around the original ones to make the book thicker and therefore easier to bind. One new page is placed before the original cover; the final page with text is followed by eight pages of added paper; then, the original back cover appears, followed by one more newly added page. In total, the new binding of this book includes 38 pages front and back. The original pamphlet pages are made of a darker colored, more visibly worn paper, and the newer pages are made of white cotton that is thicker than the originals, producing a new book that is double the size of the original. These newer pages also have no writing or markings of any sort on them, revealing that they were not used for note taking but result from a choice made by the book binder.
The binding of the book measures 11.5 centimeters wide and 18 centimeters tall. When looking at one of the original pages with text, the font appears rather small with closely set margins and page numbers that are printed on the top outside corners of each page. The first story, Somerset Castle, is printed on the pages numbered 5 through 29, and the second story, Ghost and no Ghost, appears on pages 30 through 38. In addition to page numbers at the top, some pages have numberings on the bottom in the middle of the page, such as A1, A2, B1, etc. These numbers serve to aid the book binder when printing the pages. Starting out with a large grid of pages printed on one sheet, the book binder would have to fold the pages until the grid was turned into the shape of a book; these numbers were printed strategically on the original grid to ultimately progress in a logical manner when the pages were folded. This technique allowed the book binder to be certain that the pages of the final product had been folded in the correct order.
On the inside cover of the original pamphlet, the novel’s only image appears. A scene of a woman and a child is depicted; they appear to be in a cave containing objects of death, such as a coffin and a skull. Surrounded by architectural decorations continued from the picture above, the title Somerset Castle is printed with the phrase page 22 to indicate the events of this scene occur on page 22. Underneath the title, the words Alais Sc. are printed, revealing the name of the artist of the image. There are no images within the novel that reference the story of Ghost and no Ghost.
Revealing elements of the novel’s history, pages 11 and 12 in the Somerset Castle story have a stain of some liquid. In Ghost and no Ghost on pages 31 and 33, there is tearing on the bottom of the pages, and on pages 33 through 38, there is a hole that continues through the bottom corner of these pages. Two small pencil markings are also found near the back of the book. The number “402” or “702” is written on the last page of text of Ghost and no Ghost near the printing of finis. While this number may have meant something to a previous owner, the meaning is unknown now. On the back of the original pamphlet’s cover, the letters L. and E. are written in pencil, possibly noting the initials of one of this book’s previous owners. Even though this book lacks many personal written additions from previous owners, the condition of the original pages shows that the pamphlet was well used and appreciated in its past life.
Somerset Castle and Ghost and No Ghost were published anonymously by Ann Lemoine and J. Roe in 1804. Because the authorship is unknown to this day, the two stories could have been written by the same author or different ones. Ann Lemoine was a very famous publisher of the time and worked closely with J. Roe. Lemoine began publishing in 1795 after her husband was imprisoned, and over the course of the next twenty-five years, she published over four hundred chapbooks (Bearden-White 299). Thomas Maiden printed Somerset Castle as well as many other chapbooks for Ann Lemoine. By 1796, Maiden was Lemoine’s primary printer, helping her give her chapbooks a more consistent and expensive appearance (Bearden-White 310).
Other than the copy of Somerset Castle in the Sadleir-Black Collection at the University of Virginia, there are four copies in collections around the world. Yale University and The University of Illinois both have copies of the 1804 publication in their libraries. The National Library of Wales and the British Library also have copies. The British Library’s copy is slightly different from the version in the Sadleir-Black Collection. At the end of the British Library’s copy, there is a second illustration with the title, Subterraneous Passage, and a date of July 23, 1804 underneath. This additional page suggests that Somerset Castle and Ghost and no Ghost were at one time printed in a collection that also included Sarah Wilkinson’s story, Subterraneous Passage. Many of Wilkinson’s stories were also published by Ann Lemoine and J.Roe, and because the publishing date of the two is so close, it is possibly the two were printed together at one point (Wilkinson; Bearden-White 299, 316).
Although little is known about this text, some scholarly work does reference the story and the illustration it contains. A Gothic Bibliography cites Somerset Castle and Ghost and No Ghost exactly the same as the Sadleir-Black Collection, including the lack of an author, both stories printed together, and with a date of 1804 (Summers 509). The Women’s Print History Project has an entry for this chapbook with the publication date as 1800. In Angela Koch’s article entitled “‘The Absolute Horror of Horrors’ Revised,” she includes this chapbook as part of a list of nineteenth-century gothic bluebooks, mentioning the copy in the University of Virginia and Yale libraries. As part of a collection of gothic images, Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression by Kenneth W. Graham includes a photo of the frontispiece with a description of “the skull, the rib cage, and carelessly tossed sarcophagus” that help develop the gothic mood of the story. This reference only cites a title of Somerset Castle; or, The Father and Daughter with no mention of the second story in the chapbook, suggesting the two were not always published together (Graham 271).
When looking for contemporary references to this story, there is not much information that has survived to today. This lack of knowledge about its reception among readers can tell us that this story was not immensely popular or appreciated by its contemporary readers.
Narrative Point of View
Somerset Castle is narrated in the third person omniscient style by an unknown narrator who never appears in the text. Switching from the story of Harriet to the story of the father back at the castle, the narrator has knowledge of both stories, informing the reader of events in both as they become necessary. The narrator writes in a refined tone, using language that is respectful of the family in the text. Only referring to the main character as “Lady Harriet” and the father as “Earl” or “Lord Somerset,” the narrator keeps a feeling of sophistication throughout the story. Through the use of many exclamation points and vivid descriptions of the characters’ feelings, the narration style easily conveys the emotions of the characters and how their emotions change throughout the story.
VIRTUE and discretion, while they require that young persons should maintain a strict guard against the dangerous influence of passions, impose obligations equally strong upon parents. The foibles of youth, a season incapable of reflection, and denied the grand lesson of experience, ought to be corrected with a gentle hand. The authority of a father, they tell us, is an image of that of the Divine Being upon earth. Surely then man cannot, in his imperfect state, make a more near approach to the dignity of that Being, than by restraining every idea that borders upon rigour, than by giving an unbounded scope to the dictates of lenity and benevolence. Besides, the soothing remonstrances of a father or mother, leave more deep impression on the hearts of children, than, threats and severity; severity, which by rendering them desperate, frequently hurries them from one fault, which might be soon repaired into another, ‘till they are at length lost in a labyrinth of infamy and guilt.
Of these truths the story of Lady Harriet Somerset exhibits a striking instance… (5)
The narration in this paragraph highlights the cautionary tone that continues throughout the story. Beginning with these instructions to preserve “virtue and discretion” and to be conscious of the actions of “a father or mother,” the narrator foreshadows the story’s morals. The narrator also includes the readers in an “us,” implying that these lessons are applicable to all and that every reader should be aware of how these elements of character and influences of religion play out in their lives. The narrator’s reference to the power of the “Divine Being” also connects to the moral instruction exemplified through the lives of these characters. This introduction easily transitions to the presence of judgements about the characters’ actions that appear later in the story.
The story begins with a backstory of the main character, Lady Harriet of Somerset. Lady Harriet was born to a mother who idolized her, but unfortunately her mother died when Harriet was just a child. Since then, Harriet’s father, the Earl of Somerset, has taken on the role of raising her. The loving relationship previously shared between Harriet and her mother is not reflected in her relationship with her father. The Earl only speaks to Harriet in a rigid tone, focusing solely on her education and setting high expectations for her academically and socially.
When Harriet grows up, she begins to like one of the merchants’ sons who comes around the castle often, Charles Belford. Belford is handsome but not from a rich family like Harriet. Due to his family’s status, Harriet expects her father to not approve of their love, so she keeps her love for him secret. Unknown to her, Belford also has strong feelings of love for her, but he is scared to reveal them. One day while no one is around in the garden, Belford is professing his love out loud, and Harriet happens to be sitting near him in the garden where he cannot see, hearing his whole confession. She decides to reveal herself and her love for him, but because of their different statuses, they both know they cannot be together. Soon the couple begins to regret their confessions as they realize the consequences they could face if their families found out. Their solution to this problem is to keep seeing each other but only in secret. These secret meetings escalate quickly; soon they cannot resist having sex. After this, both Harriet and Belford consider killing themselves, but since Harriet already thinks she is pregnant, she stops them both from committing suicide for the sake of their child. Harriet hopes she can tell her father without him being too upset, but after overhearing one of his conversations where he condemns other women for being in her position, she decides to leave town without telling him.
After trying to get help from Belford’s uncle with no success, the couple goes to a clergyman for help. The clergyman, Doctor Willis, brings in the Earl of Somerset and tells him of Harriet’s pregnancy and relationship with Belford. The Earl is angered by her confession and goes to stab Belford, but Harriet steps in front of him, making her father put down his sword. The Earl tells Harriet he is not her father anymore so she must leave the castle. In response to his words, Harriet almost faints, so the Earl allows her to come back to the castle. While on their way there, the Doctor is suspicious of the Earl’s intentions for bringing her and Belford back to the castle, so he gives them a letter to a woman he knows in Norwich and tells them to escape to the woman’s house. They find out her name is Mrs. Crofts, but she does not like the couple. After only a few days, Harriet and Belford are forced to leave her house as well. By this time, Harriet is about to have her child, so the couple finds a cottage on a farm to settle in. This farm is owned by a nice man named Norris who hears their story and decides to treat Belford like a son by not making him do hard labor.
Back in Somerset, the Earl is trying to forget his daughter and focus on his ambition. His sister is there comforting him and helping take his mind off of her. On the farm, Harriet has a baby boy, named Charles. The family’s situation is good for a while until Norris gets sick. With Norris unable to run the farm, his son Richard takes over and makes Belford do physical, harsh work to earn his stay. Even after Harriet goes to Richard and begs him to be kinder to her husband, Richard does not change his mind. When it becomes clear that this work is killing Belford, Harriet goes to tell Norris of her situation. Norris gets very angry at Richard for the way he has been acting, saying Richard will die in poverty for what he has done. After this confrontation with Richard, Norris dies. Belford has to keep working hard on the farm, and one day he pushes too far. Harriet finds Belford where he is dying, and he tells her that she should go to her father and ask him to pardon her after he dies. Harriet leaves to get help, but one of the servants comes to tell her Belford has died and Richard has said she cannot stay there anymore. Leaving the farm with her son, Harriet has nowhere to go. She comes to a cottage and writes a letter to her father telling him what has happened and asking for forgiveness.
In Somerset, her father has become sad without his daughter, thinking about her often. His sister receives Harriet’s letter, but she does not show it to the Earl because she wants him to move on. The sister leaves the castle soon after. The Earl confesses to Doctor Willis that he would forgive his daughter now and treat her husband like a son. Still wandering without a home, Harriet is forced to beg for food, now thinking her father will not forgive her because he has not returned the letter. One day, she sits down to rest and begins to hear voices. With nowhere left to go, Harriet thinks death is surrounding her, so she considers killing herself and her son. When she grabs her son to kill him, she snaps out of her trance and focuses on getting out of this place. She runs to where the voices have been coming from and finds a dying man calling out to her. Quickly, Harriet finds some water for this man. Once he has drank the water, she realizes this man is Richard. Richard tells her his farm was taken from him and as he was escaping from the farm, a gang of robbers attacked him and left him with nothing. Now, he wants to ask her for forgiveness, but he dies before she can respond.
Harriet continues to wander the street for food, asking God if her son will forever be cursed like she is. In a village, she finds a woman who will give her a pen and paper to write to her father again. She is on her deathbed, but she cannot think about dying until she knows her son will be taken care of. When the Earl receives this letter, he immediately sets out to find his daughter and help her. Harriet does not give up hope that her father will come, and the woman who gave her the paper is taking care of her. Harriet prays to God that he will let her see her father before she dies. She writes one last letter to her father in case she cannot stay alive telling him to love and take care of her son. Just before her father arrives, Harriet dies with her son in her arms. When the Earl comes, he is devastated to see his daughter dead. As they continue to live their lives, the Earl’s grief never goes away, but he dedicates himself to religion and his grandson. He raises his grandson with love and kindness, and when Charles grows up, he establishes a hospital over the site where his mother died to take care of women who are less fortunate. Much later, Charles dies as a model of virtue and benevolence.
Bearden-White, Roy. “A History of Guilty Pleasure: Chapbooks and the Lemoines.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 103, no. 3, Sept. 2009, pp. 283–318. doi:10.1086/pbsa.103.3.24293816.
Graham, Kenneth W. Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression. AMS Press, 1989.
Koch, A. ‘“The Absolute Horror of Horrors’ Revised: A Bibliographical Checklist of Early-Nineteenth-Century Gothic Bluebooks’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 9 (Dec 2002). http://www.romtext.org.uk/reports/cc09_n03/
Somerset Castle: Or the Father and Daughter. A Tragic Tale … To Which Is Added, Ghost and No Ghost: Or, the Dungeon. London, Printed by T. Maiden, for Ann Lemoine, and J. Roe, 1804.
“Somerset Castle; or the Father and Daughter. A Tragic Tale. If You Have Tears, Prepare to Shed Them Now. To Which Is Added, Ghost and No Ghost; or, the Dungeon.” Edited by Kandice Sharren, The Women’s Print History Project , dhil.lib.sfu.ca/wphp/title/13465.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune press, 1941.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Subterraneous Passage; or, Gothic Cell. A Romance. London: J. Roe, Ann Lemoine, 1803.
Researcher: Mason Wilson