The School for Friends: A Domestic Tale
Author: Charlotte Dacre
Publisher: Thomas Tegg
Publication Year: Unknown
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18.2cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .D33 S 1800z
Unlike her more graphic gothic works, this Charlotte Dacre chapbook (most likely published in the early 1800s) is relatively tame—though it still features deception and romance gone awry.
The School for Friends: A Domestic Tale is a chapbook written by Charlotte Dacre. This chapbook does not leave many hints as to its origins or purpose of use. There are no insignias, autographs, or marks of ownership on any part of the book. In addition, it contains no traces of library use. The only clue of the book’s origin is the address of the bookseller printed on the title page. The book was sold by publisher and printer Thomas Tegg from his warehouse on 111 Cheapside Street in London. While the book has no clear ownership, physical examination of the book reveals several unique traits.
The outside of the book is plain at first glance; however, further observation uncovers the complexity and individuality of the cover. The cover of the book is 18.2cm x 11.0cm. The book is encased with paper-covered boards, and is adorned with a circular tear the size of a quarter in the middle of the front cover. The paper coating has a primarily brown marbled print with scattered striations of yellow, white, red, and black. The marbled print of the chapbook was done by hand and is specific to this piece. Other than the marbled boards, there are no images or text found on the outside of the book. However, additional intriguing elements of the text lie between the covers.
The chapbook is twenty-eight pages in length and contains no missing pages. The front leaves of the text are followed by two colored images depicting two of the more dramatic scenes of the story. There is no contextual text from the story present with the illustrations. The only writing included with both pieces is the credit to the artist, Thomas Rowlandson. The first image is entitled as the “Frontispiece” and can be found facing the title page. The second image adorns the title page complete with the full title of the book, the author, the publisher, and the address of the bookseller. The images in this chapbook of The School for Friends: A Domestic Tale are unique to this book in an important way. All printed copies of the text from this publisher were stamped with the same black image background and text; however, the color of each illustration was hand-painted and individual to each chapbook. One can observe the slight bleeding and varying intensities of the colors within the two images, further revealing their handmade origin.
The text-containing pages also hold unique traits. The pages following the two decorative images are filled with plain, black text. The text is small and comparable to an approximate size 9 font. The exterior and lower margins are 1.1 cm, relatively large in proportion to the dimensions of the entire book. The ink is faded in some places, and the pages are tinted yellow with shadowy coffee-colored staining throughout. The brittle paper feels as though it would crack if bent. Within the text, there are a few pages that appear to have been wrinkled at the time of printing. The folds add to the peculiarity of this chapbook. Although the pages are aged and discolored, even wrinkled in some places, the dilapidation of the pages does not obstruct the readability of the text.
This book falls into the category of inexpensive construction and short length characteristic of other chapbooks. In accordance with its intended purpose, the physical condition of the book is well-worn and cheap feeling. The chapbook’s used but relatively good condition is a hint that the text was repeatedly read. However, the short length lends itself to a short reading time. After examining the lack of apparent ownership, physical condition, page length, and readability of the text, one can infer that the text was created with many unique qualities and was designed to be read by many different individuals after its original production.
The School for Friends: A Domestic Tale is a chapbook written by Charlotte Dacre, not to be confused with the play, The School for Friends by Miss Chambers. The two works have no relation to one another, aside from their titles. Charlotte Dacre is a well-known gothic author, with many works credited to her, the most famous including Zofloya, The Libertine, The Passions, Confessions of the Nun of St. Omer, and Hours of Solitude. These novels are graphic and sexual, heavily focused on women characters. However, this chapbook does not include any graphic depictions or powerful female characters, thus separating it from Dacre’s other works. Charlotte Dacre wrote under the pseudonym Rosa Matilda at the beginning of her career, which is believed to be derived from the demon character, Matilda, in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (Price 249). Even more bizarre, Charlotte Dacre’s legal name is actually Charlotte K. Byrne; Dacre is believed to be another pseudonym she adopted later in her writing career (Price 249). Because the text credits Dacre as the author, it is reasonable to assume that the text was written later in her life. Aside from the novels she wrote, little else is known about her life or this text attributed to her.
Throughout the few biographies and documentation of the little-known life of Charlotte Dacre, there is no evidence of her writing not only this chapbook, but any chapbook. There is no indication or record of Dacre ever writing any short stories. However, the chapbook is indeed accredited to her and has at least six known existing prints. Special collection libraries at Princeton University, Yale University, Harvard University, University of Florida, and the National Library of Scotland all contain copies of this chapbook. Almost all the information these libraries list is identical to the information of the copy held at the University of Virginia Library. However, the edition found at Yale University notes the dimensions of the illustrations to be 19cm, differing from the 18cm dimensions specified in all other copies. In addition, the copy at Yale also gives the publication year of 1810, a contrast to the unspecified publication date in 1800 that the other libraries list. Observing the information provided from the multiple copies reveals that they all share the same publisher, Thomas Tegg, and illustrator, Thomas Rowlandson.
Examining the publisher of the text reveals further information about the history of the chapbook. Fortunately, records show that “the market for Gothic chapbooks was controlled by several publishing houses in London, including…Thomas Tegg” (Porter 513–14). Found on the second page of the text is the very name “Thomas Tegg” along with the location of his shop. Tegg had one of the most popular chapbook retailers in his warehouse on 111 Cheapside and was responsible for the distribution of countless chapbooks throughout London. Around 1807, Tegg partnered with a well-known illustrator, Thomas Rowlandson, who was known for his superior artistic talent and satirical sense of humor within his work (Stephens 142; Grego 70). Rowlandson began to draw illustrations for the chapbooks that Tegg published. The names of these two men are found not only within this chapbook, but on many chapbooks printed in London around the early 1800’s. Unfortunately, while most of Rowlandson’s known works have been compiled into several volumes, none document the illustrations found within The School for Friends: A Domestic Tale. The massive amount of works published by Tegg and the absence of any record of the text’s illustrations by Rowland further the obscure history of this chapbook.
However, obscure origins are not unique in the case of chapbooks. This is because of the very purpose of chapbooks—they were created to be cheap avenues for lower- and middle-class people to read the famous, and expensive, texts of the time period. In order to do so, the chapbooks were often summaries of other novels, simply including the most horrific aspects of the original. Within chapbooks, “there were numerous examples of plagiarisms, abridgements, and extractions (title and principal characters remaining the same) of popular Gothic novels” (Porter 513). In fact, Dacre herself was a victim of this plagiaristic aspect as, “many of the most popular chapbooks were redactions of minor Gothic novels such as Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya the Moor” (Porter 513–14). Because of the obscurity of the text’s history and the absence of historical mention, several hypotheses can be formed. One thought is that this chapbook was not a well-received or successfully marketed work by Charlotte Dacre, explaining the few found texts and the absence of any reviews or articles of this piece. Another possibility is that Dacre never wrote this chapbook. This piece, like many other chapbooks, could be a copy or short story extracted from one of her more well-known novels or works of poetry.
Narrative Point of View
The narrator of Dacre’s The School for Friends: A Domestic Tale is unidentified in the text. The narrator is never mentioned within the story, nor is his existence recognized within the plot. The narrator is all-knowing and has proficient insight into the histories, personalities, and backgrounds of each of the characters. Descriptions of physical appearance are rare; when description is present, it is that of the setting or character personality. The extent of physical description of characters is the occasional remark of “handsomeness.” The narration is written in the past tense, thus reading like the recount of a story from long ago. The narrator often utilizes sentences that are paragraph length, and quotation marks are almost non-existent in the text. In addition, the writing is matter-of-fact and brushes over unessential details. The narrative is suggestive of a summary of a longer novel.
On the eleventh day, when he was dining with a jovial party, and, for the first time, got intoxicated, he left the house of his friends at twelve o’clock, with the intention of going home, but on his way met one of those unfortunate women that infest the town, who accosted him in a mild tone of voice, at the same time laying hold of his arm ; he being heated with wine, in a harsh manner upbraided her for pursuing such a wretched life ; but the artful creature soon won him over to her purpose. She brought him to her lodgings, and in her perceived a very handsome woman most magnificently dressed.
About four o’clock in the morning he left her, having given her all his ready cash. But what a different took place; he was now quite sober, and ashamed of what had passed. When arrived at his lodgings, he stood as if afraid to knock, and when the door was opened, he blushed, thinking that the servant looked at him and knew his faults. On entering his chamber he thought how much better it would have been had he not listened to the voice of the charmer. All the time he was in bed he was disturbed with frightful dreams, and he did not arise till awakened in the morning by his father, who told for him the future to keep sober. (11)
The narrative point of view in this text functions to retell the story in both a removed and deliberate manner, causing the story to be more realistic. While the narrator is familiar with the thoughts of the characters, the narrator avoids telling this story under the influence of his own emotions or opinions. This detachment serves to increase the reliability of the narrator because the reader can trust that no aspects of the story are skewed in their presentation because of the notions of the narrator. The narrator’s ability to reveal the thoughts occurring in the minds of the characters and to recount extensive knowledge of their past affirms the trust of the reader. The absence of quotes in the above passage is indicative of the entire text. The intentional absence of quotes lends itself to the primarily detached style of narration, but it also serves to emphasize the rare passages enclosed by quotes.
The primary examples are the letters in the text. The letters are always enclosed in quotes to accentuate the authenticity of the writing, quite a rare occurrence in this text. The narrator uses these quoted letters sent from one character to another to confirm the accuracy of the story he is presenting. With these techniques, the detached yet intentional style of narration leads the text to be more believable.
The story begins with Mr. Wilkinson and his family living in a valley of Cumberland. Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson spoil their young son, Henry, and refuse to send him to school. One night, Mr. Wilkinson visits with his old friend, Mr. Blanford, who quickly convinces Mr. Wilkinson to send his son to live with his family, during which time he will educate Henry along with his two children, Frederic and Matilda, who are Henry’s age.
Henry had been living with the Blanford’s in Cumberland for ten years and had become like another sibling of the family. Suddenly, he receives a visit from his father informing him that his mother has died. Henry moves back home with his father. After two years, Mr. Wilkinson decides to take his son on a trip to London. The evening before Henry leaves, he sees a beautiful girl and learns only that her name is Caroline. The next evening, the Blanford’s host a going away party for Henry and the mysterious girl arrives with Mr. Braveman, Mr. Wilkinson’s old companion. Henry realizes she is Mr. Braveman’s daughter. During the party, Matilda and Frederic say goodbye to Henry—he promises that he will write often.
Upon arrival in London, Henry is unimpressed with the stormy atmosphere and crowded streets. The attractions of city life distract Henry from keeping his promise to write to Matilda, Frederic, and his other friends back home. One morning, Henry suddenly remembers his promise when his father hands him a package of letters. The first two letters are short greetings from Mr. Blanford and Frederic. The final letter is from Matilda. In the letter, Matilda reproaches Henry for having forgotten his friends at home, and she highlights the worry that Henry has heaped upon the family by not writing to them since his departure. She also talks about spending time with Caroline and reveals that Frederic has fallen in love with her.
Henry feels horrible for not writing. However, his friends soon arrive and convince him to go out, and Henry decides to delay his replies for a few days. Henry goes ten days with the letters unanswered when a drunken night with a prostitute brings him back to his senses and spurs him to respond to the letters. He begins to write his replies when Frederic suddenly arrives at his apartment. He informs Henry that all is well at home, but reiterates how disappointed Matilda is about not hearing from Henry. Henry finishes his replies and hopes that they will make amends for his absent mind.
Later that evening, Henry decides to take Frederic out to meet one of his new friends, George Sterling. Sterling is a notorious liar and cheat; however, Henry is naïve to his stained reputation. Upon their meeting, Frederic is immediately suspicious of George Sterling. Frederic leaves the next morning to visit the Colonel and is deployed to the army a few days later.
Mr. Wilkinson soon grows tired of London and decides to return to Cumberland. As Henry and Mr. Wilkinson are about to depart, George stops by to say goodbye. Henry politely invites George to visit Cumberland. George immediately accepts the invitation and declares that he will visit soon. On the way to Cumberland, Mr. Wilkinson informs Henry that he disapproves of George, but Henry refuses to listen to his father’s warnings.
Upon arriving home, Henry makes amends with his friends for not writing. However, he waits a month before he decides to visit Caroline again upon an invitation from her father. He begins to make regular visits to the Braveman household on the false pretense of conversing with Mr. Braveman. His real purpose in visiting is to see Caroline. One morning, Mr. Braveman invites Henry to his home to celebrate Caroline’s birthday. As soon as they see one another that night, they kiss.
The next day, George Sterling suddenly arrives at the Wilkinson home and declares that he is staying for several months. When Henry arrives home and learns of George’s plans, he is frustrated because he must now entertain his friend rather than visit his lover. Henry goes a week without visiting Caroline when Mr. Braveman inquires of his absence. Henry explains that his friend had suddenly come into town. Mr. Braveman invites both George and Henry to his home. Henry is upset because he does not want George to intrude on his meetings with Caroline. Upon seeing Caroline, George decides to charm Caroline, even after he learns Henry is in love with her. From then on, Henry is unable to visit Caroline alone, even though Caroline despises George. George soon decides to visit on his own every morning when Henry is busy with his studies. George senses that he is getting nowhere with Caroline, and he devises a plan. He lies to Caroline and tells her that when Henry is not visiting her, he is seeing other women. In the same manner, he tells Henry that a young man had called upon Caroline and that she was interested in this suitor. Caroline and Henry believe the deception and begin to hate one another.
George detects Caroline’s detest of Henry, and he decides to visit Caroline alone for his final attempt at charming her. He attempts to make her come to London with him. He suddenly grabs her around the waist and she screams. About this time, Henry decides to make amends with Caroline and interrupts the attack causing George to flee. Henry catches Caroline and they fall back in love with each other.
However, the haughty ways Henry had learned in the city cause him to be cold to Caroline after they confess their love for on another. He accepts an invitation to travel abroad for several years without giving a thought about Caroline. Henry meets a woman during his travels and forgets about Caroline. Caroline also attracts a gentleman, but she never accepts his advances.
Because of the many years Henry is gone, Caroline is convinced things are over between the two of them. She decides to write a letter to Henry detailing that she had loved him in the past but no longer loves him. Henry responds to the letter with the same sentiments.
Soon after Henry responds to Caroline’s letter, he receives a letter from Matilda informing him that Frederic has died in battle. The news spurs Henry to leave his mistress and travel back to London. Before he can arrive, his father suddenly dies.
Before he died, Frederic had formed a strong bond with a fellow soldier named William Wosley. William travels to Cumberland in obedience to a vow he had made to Frederic before his death. When he arrives at Cumberland, Matilda sees him and instantly falls in love.
Soon after, Henry returns home to join his friends in Cumberland. When he arrives, he sees Mr. Braveman and enquires about Caroline. He learns that she is not well and rushes to see her. When Caroline sees Henry, she immediately recovers. They embrace and apologize to one another for their letters. They reunite and soon after are married alongside Matilda and William Wosley.
Dacre, Charlotte. The School for Friends: A Domestic Tale. London, Thomas Tegg.
Grego, Joseph. Rowlandson the Caracticurist, Vol. 2, London, Chatto and Windus, 1880. www.gutenberg.org/files/45981/45981-h/45981-h.htm
Porter, Franz J. “Gothic Chapbook.” The Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature, Vol. 1, edited by Frederick Burwick, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 513–15.
Price, Fiona. “Dacre, Charlotte.” Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, Vol. 1, edited by Christopher J. Murray, New York, Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004, pp. 249–51.
Stephens, F. G. “THOMAS ROWLANDSON, THE HUMOURIST.” The Portfolio: An Artistic Periodical, Vol. 22, (Jan. 1891): 141–48.
Researcher: Lauren Brook Knight