The Affecting History of Louisa

The Affecting History of Louisa

The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, ‘Lady of the Hay-Stack;’ So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, Near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: A. Neil
Publication Year: 1804
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10cm x 17cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.A388 1804


This 1804 chapbook, a shorter version of George Henry Glasse’s English translation of L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable, connects the life of Louisa, a deranged wanderer of Bourton, England, to her greatest loss—the social denial of her identity as the natural daughter of Francis I, Emperor of Germany.


Material History

The title page for The Affecting History of Louisa.

The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, ‘Lady of the Hay-Stack;’ So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, Near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe. If you are still here after reading this vehement title, congratulations—you have what it takes to dive into this 1804 gothic chapbook.

This “shilling shocker” is more popularly known as The Affecting History of Louisa. Though an unsung art by many, this novel does possess a special role at the University of Virginia by existing as an individualized, treasured lens of history in the Sadleir-Black Collection presented by Robert K. Black. The Sadleir-Black Collection’s version of the novel is a fragile, well-worn 10cm by 17cm. A beautiful yet dreary illustration adorns the primary page of the coverless and boundless novel. There is evidence of past stitching and binding of the pages, which possibly suggest that the novel was removed from a larger accumulation of gothic novels. 

The pages of Robert Black’s The Affecting History of Louisa are brittle, yellow, and stained, yet they hold many secrets to the publishing and history of the unique novel. Throughout a series of 36 pages (the pages are numbered; however, the numbering begins six pages in with 8, and ends with 38), there are details including catchwords (a repeated/prewritten word located on the following page of a subsequent paragraph) and signature marks (numerical/alphabetical markings) which were used to assist the bookbinders and printers and to ensure correct book assembly on their part.

The frontispiece for The Affecting History of Louisa.

The precision and care that went into the assembling of the book is also reflected in the structured form of the printed words. With 1.5 cm side margins and a 2.5 cm bottom margin, the dainty 2 mm letters with their didonesque font are able to flow across the page and make an impact through their meaning more so than through their appearance. Several of the letters do attempt to make their own statements by being unconventional compared to current norms. Throughout the novel, the character “s” is depicted in multiple forms; sometimes taking on the conventional “s” form, but also sometimes being printed as a long S that looks more like an “f.” This printing trend began to dwindle following the eighteenth century. Between the cultural switch, there were some words where the flow of calligraphy followed the shape of a modern day “s,” and several words still followed that of an “f.” The printing of this novel simply adhered to those social norms of orthography. 

Not only does the interior of this chapbook portray the textual effects of social change, but the exterior does as well. On the cover page of the novel, there is a small, handwritten “5” on the top-left corner. This handwritten “5” could represent several things: perhaps a monetary value, or perhaps a set volume in a more mass pamphlet. Either way, it is evident that this novel has had its experiences with society. The Affecting History of Louisa appears to have been worn and appreciated by previous readers. 


Textual History

The Affecting History of Louisa is a petite chapbook with an extensive title within its first pages: The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, “Lady of the Hay-Stack;” So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe. There is no author listed for this chapbook.

This image presents an advertisement for a drama by James Boaden titled The Maid of Bristol, which inspired the reiteration of its story via this chapbook. 

The initial ambiguity of the chapbook’s authorship stems from the fact that the original work was a French text titled L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable; moreover, English translations included many different titles and forms. George Henry Glasse, a scholar and clergyman, first translated this text into English as A Narrative of Facts. A second edition of Glasse’s translation appeared in 1801 as Louisa: A Narrative of Facts, Supposed to Throw Light on the Mysterious History of “The Lady of the Haystack.” This book was popular enough that it “quickly reached a third edition” (Vian and Ellis). There exists another edition of Glasse’s translation with yet another title, A Narrative of Facts: Supposed to Throw Light on the History of the Bristol-Stranger; Known by the Name of the Maid of the Hay-stack. Translated From the French, which includes an introduction signed by Philalethes. 

Glasse’s translations also inspired a three-act play called The Maid of Bristol, dramatized by James Boaden. Boaden was a dramatist whose works revolved around the gothic genre. While The Maid of Bristol is not well-known for its popularity today, the play is still accessible and available for purchase online. The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac is a shorter chapbook version of Glasse’s translation and was, in particular, “induced” by the popularity of Boaden’s play; the advertisement in this chapbook states, “Mr. Boaden having, with so much success, dramatized the following interesting Tale, under the title of ‘The Maid of Bristol,’ induced us to present the Public with the original Narrative; which we are enabled to do, from the most authentic documents” (Affecting History 6). The Affecting History of Louisa, then, arrived on the publication scene after many translations and iterations of the original French text that aims for a genuine, historically accurate account of the mystery at the center of the story: the true natural daughter of Francis I. 


Narrative Point of View

The Affecting History of Louisa is narrated from a third-person perspective. The frame narration opens and closes with an anonymous third-person narrator who presents part of Louisa’s history with an objective and occasionally empathetic tone. 

Sample of Third-Person Frame Narration:

Some few years ago, a young woman stopped at the village of Bourton, near Bristol, and begged the refreshment of a little milk, There [sic] was something so attractive in her whole appearance, as to engage the attention of all around her. (7)

This third-person frame narration also introduces two other embedded narratives. The first embedded narrative is an oral account by a man from Bristol who spoke with Louisa directly. The chapbook’s narrator explains that the “respectful gentleman in Bristol … has favoured us with some authentic memoirs” and then includes this oral account for several pages (15). The narrative demarcates the Bristol man’s oral narrative with quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph. 

Sample of Bristol Man’s Oral Narrative about Louisa: 

“I should have conceived her,” says the writer, “to be about five-and-twenty; and notwithstanding the injuries which her situation and mode of life must inevitably have occasioned in her looks, she had still a very pleasing countenance. Interesting it certainly was in a high degree; but it is not easy to say how much this impression was to be attributed to the previous knowledge of her story. She had fine, expressive, black eyes and eye-brows; her complexion was wan, but not fickly; her under jaw projected a little, and I fancied I could distinguish something of the Austrian lip; but it was not decidedly marked. Her nose had nothing particular; her hair was very dark, if not black, and in length about a year and a half’s growth, not being thick, but coming down on her forehead; her arm and hand were delicate, with small long fingers.” (9)

The Bristol man’s oral narrative ends without additional commentary from the chapbook’s frame narration. Then there is a line indicating a break in the narrative, and then an italicized description of how a French narrative was found that suggests Louisa is La Fruëlen, and that the chapbook will now include the translation of this narrative. This translated narrative is presented in the third person and focuses on La Fruëlen’s tale for the next twenty-two pages. 

Sample of Translated French Narrative of La Fruëlen’s Tale: 

When the priest came to take her from her house in Bohemia, he told her, that he was going to conduct her to a convent in France. Ignorant as she was, the little which Catharine and her mama had told her of a religious life, taught her to consider a convent as an horrible prison, from which there was no escape: and this idea had so disturbed her mind, that from the moment of her quitting her habitation in Bohemia, she had formed the project of flying, as soon as possible, from such captivity. (28)

By addressing the story with a frame narrative that includes two separately sourced tales (one an oral memoir, and one a translation from a French text), the story of Louisa becomes a type of reality or history that the reader is discovering. The frame narrative works well to connect the woman who claims to be La Fruëlen to the story of the late Emperor, as well as connecting that woman to Louisa, which ultimately connects their stories in a complete manner, defining the tragic, affecting history of Louisa. 


Summary

The first page of this chapbook.

The Affecting History of Louisa is introduced as a recent tale of woe, as the narrative begins, “Some few years ago” (7). The reader is introduced to a woman of the past, in the village of Bourton, England, who is begging for milk. She is described as being young, attractive, and elegant despite her begging state. While she is beautiful, it is evident that over the years, she has experienced hardship, sickness, exposure to the natural elements, and misery. Due to the fact that no one is aware of the nature of her origin, they call her Louisa. She is infamous for her obsessive connection to sleeping in an old haystack rather than a home. As a woman who has experienced multiple episodes of insanity, there have been multiple times when Louisa has been relocated to different hospitals and villages. Despite being relocated, she always manages to find her way back to the haystack. Louisa did not put her worth in items, but spent her days interacting with the village children and going about on her own. 

After a while in the village, she is finally relocated to the village of Bitton in Gloucestershire, England, to be supported by Miss Hannah Moore and her sisters. It seemed evident that Louisa is a foreigner, so Miss Moore attempts to find out which country she is from. Miss Hannah Moore arranges for a Bristol man to visit and speak with Louisa in different languages. First, when the man speaks French, Louisa seems confused—but when he speaks German, she becomes over-emotional. When she can finally gain her composure, she denies knowing the language. The chapbook’s third-person narrator explains that this Bristol man “favoured us with some authentic memoirs” and goes on to include several pages of the Bristol man’s account of Louisa (9). The Bristol man describes Louisa as having fine, expressive black eyes, a pale complexion, a slight jut of the jaw, dark hair, delicate features, and lips that were perhaps Austrian. The Bristol man speaks to Louisa in the way a man speaks to a child. She is not dumb, but slow. He wants to know more of Louisa’s origin. While she is very guarded, he discovers that she responds well to kindness, and he learns that she is fixated on two people called mama and papa, that she understands French, that she is amused at his German, and that she has a large mark or wound on the lower part of her head behind the ear.

This page shows the introduction to the narrative translated from French.

In the next section, the chapbook begins with italicized narration explaining that a “Narrative made its appearance on the Continent” showing “so many striking coincidences” that suggest that Louisa is actually La Fruëlen, the natural daughter of Francis I, the late Emperor of Germany (15). The narrative goes on to include the entirety of the supposed translation of this originally French narrative, which begins in 1768. The narrative first introduces the Count M. de Cobenzel, the imperial minister at Brussels. He receives a letter stating that he should not be surprised if his advice and friendship are sought after. The letter is written in French, and signed La Fruëlen from Bourdeaux. He receives other letters encouraging him to support La Fruëlen, from people such as Le Comte J. de Weissendorff from Prague and Le Comte Dietrichstein from Vienna. Cobenzel begins to write with La Fruëlen, offering his support. At the beginning of 1769, the Court of Vienna informs Versailles that La Fruëlen should be arrested and taken to Brussels to be examined by Cobenzel and the First President, M. de Neny, for being an imposter. The Court of Vienna had discovered Fruëlen’s existence because the King of Spain had received a letter encouraging him to defend her, which he then shared with the Emperor, who shared it with the Empress, who called for her arrest. 

As La Fruëlen arrives in Brussels, she is met with an unsigned letter encouraging her that there is an attempt to save her so she should not despair. Cobenzel and M. de Neny question her and her origin. They describe the woman who goes by La Fruëlen as being tall, elegantly formed, with simple and majestic brown hair, fair skin, and fine dark eyes. She also speaks French with a German accent. The two men dive into the story of her childhood. She explains how she is uncertain of her birthplace, but knows she was educated in Bohemia, and grew up in a sequestered house in the country under the care of mama, Catherine, and the priest – who opposed her learning to read and write for unstated religious reasons. She describes how a stranger in huntsmen clothes would visit periodically, and while he was a stranger to her, he seemed to know her. On one visit, she noticed a red mark on his neck, and when she questioned him about it, he explained that it was the distinction of an officer, and implied that she is the daughter of one. After their conversation, the man had to depart again, but promised to return soon. This promise was broken thereafter because he had fallen ill and could not travel. The novel goes on to explain how this is historically accurate to the life of the late Emperor. On his final visit, he leaves her with a photo of himself, the Empress, and her mother. On his departure, he makes her promise to never marry and that she will be and taken care of and happy. 

After this story, the woman called Louisa describes her departure from Bohemia. First, because she is scared to share her story in front of everyone, she conjures a grand lie that seems too good to be true. Cobenzel catches her in her lie, and she is forced to tell the truth in hopes of regaining his trust. The truth behind her departure from Bohemia is that her priest had planned for her to move to a convent, but she decided to run away instead out of fear of the stories she had heard about convents. She hid in the barn of a generous farmer who provided her with the necessities she required. She still needed to gain distance from Hamburgh, though, so she journeyed to Sweden. On this journey, she injured her head with a nasty cut and required a surgeon to heal it. She then joined a compassionate Dutch family who was journeying to Sweden as well. Once she reached Stockholm, she left the travelers and stayed in the house of a German woman. She became great friends with this woman, but one day, she overheard from her hairdresser that the imperial minister of Stockholm was wondering about an escaped girl. Her fear of poverty overcame her fear of the Convent, so she turned herself in to M. de Belgioioso. He took good care of her. He first gave her housing and money, and then he invited her into his own house for safety. Within those walls, she saw a portrait of the late Emperor Francis, and fainted. They struggled to wake her and she had a bad fever, which was almost fatal. 

The final page to this “real tale of woe.”

La Fruëlen’s story becomes tragic as she explains how her supply of financial aid was cut off suddenly, and she accumulated a great amount of debt. In order to gain support, she herself wrote the letters to the people addressed at the beginning of this explanation, including Cobenzel and the King of Spain. She claimed, however, that not all the letters were forged by her, and that several had truly been sent.

Ultimately, M. de Neny is in denial that she is in fact the daughter of the Emperor. He believes that she is truly just a merchant’s runaway daughter. M. de Neny declares that she should return to her city and face her debtors as a punishment for her lies and sins. Cobenzel disagrees, however, he is near death. The day before Cobenzel dies, he receives an anonymous letter saying not to dismiss La Fruëlen, however, the note is burned and dies with him. Four days after Cobenzel’s death, La Fruëlen is released from prison, given a little bit of money for travel, and abandoned to her wretched destiny. 

At this point, the translation of the French narrative ends and the original chapbook narration resumes. This narration explains that “poor Louisa is no more” with her death on December 19, 1801 (37). The final resolution to this tale is announced in the simple fact that Louisa was discovered under the haystack in the year 1776.


Bibliography

The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac. London, A. Neil, 1804.

Boeden, James. The Maid of Bristol: A Play in Three Acts. New York, Printed and Published by D. Longworth, 1803.

Glasse, G. H. A Narrative of Facts: Supposed to Throw Light on the History of the Bristol-Stranger; Known by the Name of the Maid of the Hay-stack. Translated From the French. Printed for Mr. H. Gardner, Mr. Bull, Mr. Lloyd, Messrs. Evans and Hazell, and Mr. Harward. 

Glasse, G. H. Louisa: A Narrative of Facts, Supposed to Throw Light on the Mysterious History of “The Lady of the Haystack.” P. Norbury, 1801, wellcomecollection.org/works/a4226rdm/items?canvas=5&langCode=eng&sierraId=b22021437.

L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable. 1785.

Vian, Alsager and Mari G. Ellis. “George Henry (1761–1809).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. July 9, 2020. Oxford University Press. https://doi-org.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/10.1093/ref:odnb/10803.


Researcher: Abigail Grace Kiss

The Invisible Ring

The Invisible Ring

The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Printed by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine, J. Roe
Publication Year: 1806
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 8cm x 11.5cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.I548 1806


In this 1806 chapbook set in the Grecian Isles, an evil magician and his accomplice stop at nothing to thwart the marriage of the beautiful Princess Evelina and her true love, Prince Valentia.


Material History

The University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction contains an edition of “The Invisible Ring.” The full title of the book—“The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre”—appears only once in the whole text. This can be found on the first page of the book following the cover. The title is then referred to as simply “The Invisible Ring” atop each page of text. The name of the author is not included anywhere in the book. The most specific reference given is a brief sentence indicating that The Invisible Ring was published in England in 1806. There is one illustration in the whole book which lies on the inside cover. It depicts a woman standing alone on a small piece of land surrounded by water. She is chained to a large boulder, representing a scene from the book. The monochrome image is captioned simply “Invisible Ring.”

The title page of The Invisible Ring

The book’s dimensions are 11.5 by 8 centimeters; it is 36 pages long. The binding is no longer in place, but a strip of leftover leather remains along the seam. The front and back covers are now simply reduced to paper. The quality of the paper in the book is thin and weathered; the overall appearance is worn, damaged, old, faded, and small. Many pages have small tears beginning at the edges, and several pages towards the end are even entirely detached. Each page is covered from top to bottom with closely-set text in very fine print. There is little white space leftover. At the bottom of each page is a letter followed by a number: for example, “G1.” This style of marking was used to maintain page order during printing. However, the first page begins on the letter “G,” indicating that there once may have been preceding pages of separate stories that have since been lost.

Written on the first page under the full title are the words, “Founded on the popular Aquatic Melo-Drama, as performed with universal applause at Sadler’s Wells.” Sadler’s Wells is a prominent theater and dance company in London that is still in existence today. Additionally, following the story, there is a section devoted to the full lyrics of each song mentioned in the book. 

On the last two blank pages of the book, there are penciled-in notes, including a list of ten book titles such as The Invisible Ring and Blackbeard, the Notorious Pirate. Publication years are also written down next to each book title. These notes may have been taken by Michael Sadlier or another reader in an attempt to discover other books belonging to a collection of short stories with The Invisible Ring. This would also provide an explanation for the missing pages at the beginning of the book. Moreover, the notetaker hypothesized in his notes that The Invisible Ring may be related to another chapbook: “This must be a sequel to The TellTale (1805).”


Textual History

The chapbook The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre was published by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine in London, 1806. This chapbook was a version of a play that was popular the same year in London. The author of the chapbook is unknown, but the playwright of The Invisible Ring was the celebrated dramatist Charles Dibdin Jr., and the music in the play was composed by William Reeve. It premiered on June 25th, 1806 at Sadler’s Wells Aquatic Theatre.

Collection of song lyrics in The Invisible Ring

Due to little digital evidence, there are many unknowns surrounding the chapbook’s history: it is unclear whether there were multiple editions of the chapbook, if it was ever translated, if there are prequels or sequels, how it was advertised and received, or if it was ever adapted. However, although information regarding the chapbook is scarce, the play version from Sadler’s Wells has a significant digital footprint. To that point, there are no digital copies of the chapbook to be found online, but there are multiple references to the Sadler’s Wells production on GoogleBooks (Greene 4517). 

The writer of the play, Charles Isaac Mungo Dibdin (1768–1833), was the first son of Charles Didbin, who was also a playwright and composer. Dibdin the younger launched his career in the theatrical world when he became the manager of Sadler’s Wells in the year 1800 (Kilburn). He took the theatre to new heights in 1804 by installing a water tank below the stage rebranding Sadler’s Wells as an aquatic theatre. The water tank was ninety feet long, twenty-four feet wide, and three feet deep (Press 223). The water was sourced from a nearby river. However, the process of changing out the water took many workers and many hours, so it was only done once every three weeks (Press 224). The aquatic theatre allowed for far more realistic productions than before, consisting of actors swimming across the stage during aquatic scenes. This included naval attack scenes in a war play as well as an oceanic setting for a play about Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. The aquatic feature was utilized in The Invisible Ring during its last scene.

Markings at the end of The Invisible Ring

At the end of The Invisible Ring chapbook, there is a list of lyrics from the songs that originate in the play. These were written by William Reeve. Reeve (1757–1815) was a composer for Sadler’s Wells for many years, owning a full eighth of the company by the year 1802 (Halliwell). He worked closely with Dibdin during this time. However, he was known for his habit of using other composers’ music in his arrangements, leading his work to be criticized by many (Halliwell).

In terms of reviews of the play, newspaper clippings from the week of the first performance of The Invisible Ring indicate that Sadler’s Wells was a popular theatre with many supporters (“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” 3). The play was likely well-received by the public as a result of its “variety of supernatural appearances performed on real water” (“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” 3). However, an incident at the theatre in 1807 marks the decline of Dibdin’s success at Sadler’s Wells. A false fire alarm was set off during a performance and the resulting stampede killed eighteen people (Kilburn). The Napoleonic Wars occuring at the same time put a further stress on the entertainment industry, eventually leading to Dibdin’s bankruptcy. He eventually sold his shares of the theatre to pay off his debt (Kilburn). The Invisible Ring along with all the notable productions of the time were likely soon forgotten.


Narrative Point of View

The Invisible Ring is narrated in the third person omniscient by an anonymous narrator who does not appear in the text. The narrator describes events concerning each character in the story, as well as each character’s internal reactions to major plot points. In addition, the narrator gives the reader insight into events that some characters are not privy to. The narration is composed of lengthy sentences with lots of punctuation.

Sample Passage: 

We will leave them wandering for the present, and return to the intrepid Jeannot, who had voluntarily undertook a hazardous enterprize, in which there was very little chance of succeeding, but a very great one of losing her own life: but this she was willing to risk for the sake of her dear mistress. (15–16)

This style of narration gives the chapbook the feel of a play where the audience is directly involved in the production. Additionally, the passage shows a verbose sentence structure. The use of long sentences allows the narrator to give vivid descriptions of events and characters’ emotions. For example, the narrator uses this passage to delve into Jeannot, who is a minor character in The Invisible Ring. Though her role is small, the narrator still provides an explanation for her actions and builds her character into not just an arbitrary servant, but a loyal confidant of the princess.


Summary

The story takes place on an isle in the ancient Grecian empire. The plot is introduced with the forthcoming wedding of Prince Valentia and his beautiful betrothed, Princess Evelina. Alas, a neighboring governor named Ernulph seeks the princess for his own. He journeys to the cave of the mysterious sorcerer and magician, Alnaschar, to ask for help in his scheme to prevent Valentia and Evelina’s matrimony. There, the two form a sinister partnership.

The frontispiece of The Invisible Ring

Valentia and Evelina’s wedding day arrives. The ceremony is just beginning when an apparition of Evelina’s deceased mother appears. In reality, she is merely a guise of an evil spirit conjured by Alnaschar to create a diversion at the wedding. While she chants prophecies of warning, Ernulph, Alnaschar, and his henchman, Nervoso, kidnap Evelina. Valentia sends his captain of the guard after them, but Alnaschar escapes with Evelina through the use of a magic ring that renders its wearer invisible. 

The captured Ernulph and Nervoso are taken to a prison for interrogation. When Nervoso agrees to comply with Valentia’s demands, Ernulph begins to attack him, so Valentia orders for the two to be imprisoned separately. Shortly after, a violent fight ensues between Ernulph, the captain, and Valentia. Ernulph is defeated, but Valentia mercifully gives him his freedom, hoping the act of kindness will result in friendship. However, Ernulph leaves angrier than before. 

Afterwards, Valentia questions Nervoso, who confesses Ernulph’s entire scheme. He promises to steal Alnaschar’s invisible ring so that Valentia can use it to rescue Evelina, who is being held captive in Ernulph’s castle, which is guarded by impenetrable magical forces. Valentia releases Nervoso, who journeys to Alnashcar’s cave. He waits until the magician is asleep, then puts a magic ointment on his eyelids that will keep him asleep for twenty-four hours. He then steals the ring and begins the journey back to Valentia’s castle. Meanwhile, Valentia pays a visit to Evelina’s fairy godmother, Bonoma. She produces a dragon for him to use in pursuit of Evelina. 

When Nervoso arrives back at the castle, Valentia is not there, so he uses the stolen ring to play tricks on Evelina’s maids, Marianetta and Jeannot. Jeannot quickly realizes that their pesterer is Nervoso with the invisibility ring. She manages to steal it off his finger and takes it for herself. Valentia returns to the castle three days later after an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Evelina with the dragon. Nervoso informs him of how he lost the ring to Jeannot. Then the two journey to the forest surrounding Ernulph’s castle to gather intel and hatch a new escape plan. 

Jeannot, in the meantime, uses the advantages of the invisibility ring to bypass the magician’s enchantments and enter Enrulph’s castle in an attempt to save her beloved princess, Evelina. She finds Evelina being held captive in a room with Alnaschar and Ernulph. Due to her invisibility, the three dismiss her entrance as a gust of wind. Alnaschar begins preparations for a potion that will render Evelina unconscious, leaving her unprotected from Ernulph’s wicked intentions. But when he gives it to Evelina, the invisible Jeannot knocks the glass out of her hands. Ernulph and Alnaschar plot once more and decide on another means of tricking Evelina: an enchanted belt that will allow Alnaschar to control her will. However, Jeannot hears their plan and again destroys the belt just as Evelina is about to wear it. Amidst Ernulph and Alnaschar’s confusion, Jeannot slips the invisibility ring onto Evelina’s finger and hides behind a sofa. Realizing Evelina’s disappearance, Ernulph and Alnaschar leave the room in search of her; Jeannot uses the opportunity to escape back to Valentia’s castle. 

Sample text from page 28 of The Invisible Ring

Back at Ernulph’s castle, Evelina uses the power of the ring to secure her escape. She makes it to the forest where she encounters Valentia and Nervoso. There is a joyous reunion between Evelina and Valentia, and also between Nervoso and the invisibility ring he cannot believe to have found again. Just as they are making their exit from the forest, Ernulph, Alnaschar, and several of their attendants arrive on the scene; a battle ensues. The princess is taken again and Alnaschar draws a magical line before Valentia that he cannot cross. However, Nervoso, invisible by the ring, evades the line and follows Alnaschar in order to rescue Evelina. He finds her trapped in a tower. She must accept a marriage proposal from Ernulph or she will soon be chained to a boulder on an island where a sea monster resides. Nervoso reports back to Valentia with the news, then travels to the fairy Bonoma for more help. 

Meanwhile, Evelina refuses Ernulph’s proposal, so Alnaschar and Ernulph deliver her to the island. Just as the sea monster emerges to devour her, Valentia arrives on his dragon and begins to fight the sea monster. Nervoso arrives too and discovers Ernulph and Alnaschar on the island. While Valentia and Nervoso duel with Ernulph and Alnaschar, Bonoma arrives and frees Evelina from the enchanted rock. Valentia and Nervoso defeat Ernulph and Alnaschar, who then sink into the lake. 

Valentia and Evelina return to Valentia’s castle and are married the next day. Nervoso and Jeannot receive recompense for their bravery and the two get married several days later as well. 


Bibliography

“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” The Observer, 20 July 1806, 3.

Greene, John C. “Appendix: New London Plays, 1745-1820” Theatre in Dublin, 1745–1820: A Calendar of Performances, Volume 6. Lehigh University Press, 2011, pp. 4517. 

Halliwell, Victoria. “Reeve, William (1757–1815), actor and composer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. September 23, 2004. Oxford University Press. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-23304

The Invisible Ring: Or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre. A Romantic Tale Founded On the Popular Aquatic Melo-drama, As Performed With Universal Applause At Sadler’s Wells. London, printed by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine, 1806.

Kilburn, Matthew. “Dibdin, Charles Isaac Mungo [known as Charles Isaac Pitt; performing name Charles Dibdin the younger] (1768–1833), theatre manager and writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. September 23, 2004. Oxford University Press. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-7586

Press, Anita L. Sadler’s Wells Theatre Under Charles Dibdin the Younger from 1800 to 1819: When Britannia Ruled the Stage. 1994. ProQuest.


Researcher: Isabella Mehrotra

Stories of the Ship

Stories of the Ship

Stories of the Ship OR, THE BRITISH SEAMEN’S PLEASING COMPANION: ILLUSTRATED IN A Series of Curious and Singular ADVENTURES

Author: Unknown
Publisher: W. Harris
Publication Year: 1807
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.5cm x 18cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .S736 1807


A collection of stories related to the sea and sailors, this 1807 chapbook includes humorous anecdotes as well as adventurous tales of heroic resilience.


Material History

Stories of the Ship is a short chapbook of thirty-six pages, written in English. The book’s dimensions are 10.5cm in width and 18cm in length.

Upon first glance, Stories of the Ship lacks a cover. The first page, before the book is opened, is completely devoid of any printed marking and allows for easy observation of the remnants of paper binding at the spine. This is typical of chapbooks in that due to their small size they were often rebound into one’s personal collection after being bought; it is probable that when sold, the book possessed a paper cover.

On the interior of the first page, the first of two illustrations within the pages of this text is found. Depicted in the foreground is a black dog and a Caucasian man gazing at one another. The man is taking refuge from the sea on the floating remnants of a wooden ship, which is exploding in the background. No other living beings, aside from the man and dog, exist in the picture. Notably, there is a slight brown discoloration in the paper under the man’s leftmost leg (from the reader’s point of view). Exactly beneath the image, very small italicized text reads: “Rarlow sculp”. Below this, in larger cursive text, the picture is captioned: “Explosion of a Dutch Ship.” Even further below, in the same small italicized text as right under the image, is a reference to the publisher that says “London. Published by W. Harris August 22nd 1807.”

The title page for Stories of the Ship

To the right is the second illustration, centered amongst various fonts and formats that fill the length of the second page. From top to bottom, the second page begins with the title, completely capitalized: “STORIES OF THE SHIP.” Succeeding the title is a semicolon that transitions the reader into the subtitle, which spans the next few lines, reading: “OR, THE BRITISH SEAMEN’S PLEASING COMPANION: ILLUSTRATED IN A Series of Curious and Singular ADVENTURES.” It should be noted that the font size of “OR, THE” is significantly smaller than that of the title, and occupies its own line. “IN A” shares these same characteristics. Both “BRITISH SEAMAN’S” and “Series of Curious and Singular” are italicized and fill their own respective lines. “PLEASING COMPANION:” and “ADVENTURES.” share the same physical characteristics as the title, but are respectively in a slightly smaller font size. Similarly, they also occupy their own lines. Following this are two sets of horizontal double lines that serve as dividers, within which is a four-line rhyme. Beneath the second divider is the aforementioned illustration, depicting in black ink what appears to be a wooden ship (in the foreground) in contact with an iceberg (in the background). Also in the foreground, to the right of the ship, are three polar bears. Even further beneath the illustration, which bears no caption, is a reference to the place of publication and sale (“London”), the publisher (“Printed for W. HARRIS, 96, High-Street, Shadwell :”), the merchants (“And sold by T. Hughes, Ludgate-Street ; Champante and Whitrow, Aldgate ; A. Cleugh, and T. Soutter, Ratcliff-Highway ; S. Elliott, High-Street, Shadwell ; Wilmot and Hill, and A. Kemmish, Borough; and J. Mackenzie, Old Bailey.”), the price (“PRICE SIX-PENCE.”), and lastly, beneath a long and flat diamond divider, the printer (T. PLUMMER, PRINTER, SEETHING-LANE. 1807.”). There is no explicit reference anywhere in these first few pages, nor anywhere else in the text, to the author.

On the next page (behind that which first mentions the title), there is a page that is blank save for “Entered at the Stamp-Office.” between a singular line right above and below. Beneath is a square outline, slightly discolored, that might have at some point been a stamp. However, there is nothing distinguishable to indicate anything more than that. As for the rest of the book, the size of the font remains constant, as do the margins, which are generally a 1.5cm indent from the outside of the page, although it is important to note that songs and poetry are more indented than the rest of the text. Page numbers appear on the top of the pages, in the outermost corners. The title of the chapbook, Stories of the Ship., is also centered, in all capital letters, at the top of every page. Pages 17 through 20 are approximately 0.75cm shorter than the rest at the bottom. There are some brown stains throughout the pages of the book, but they are very small and irregular. The book ends with “FINIS.”, and the last page of the story is also the last page of the book. At the very bottom of the page, there is another reference to the printer, T. Plummer.


Textual History

There is not substantial information on the history of Stories of the Ship. The author remains unknown; however, the publisher, printer, and booksellers are divulged on the title page. The chapbook was published on August 22nd, 1807 for William Harris and printed by Thomas Plummer, both who practiced in London. This book is likely the original and only publication and edition. There are only three copies worldwide, located at the University of Virginia, The Mariners’ Museum Library, and within the New York Public Library System. Stories of the Ship has not been digitized or reprinted since 1807; neither has it appeared in any scholarly works, which is likely due to its apparent inconsequentiality in the literature and society of its time.

The publisher, William Harris, at 96, High-Street, Shadwell, also worked as a bookbinder and was active from 1802 until 1822 (Cowie 118). Stories of the Ship seems to be the only work for which he served as publisher. The printer, Thomas Plummer, was active from 1798 until 1836 and printed many chapbooks and a couple of works related to sea fiction. The booksellers include Thomas Hughes (a. 1807–1833), Champante and Whitrow (wholesale stationers, fl. 1784–1801), Alexander Cleugh (a. 1785–1811), Thomas Soutter, S. Elliott, Wilmot and Hill, Ann Kemmish (fl. 1800), and Joseph Mackenzie (a. 1806–1807). All are located in London, and S. Elliott and Thomas Hughes are named to be some of the most frequent sellers of well-known author Anne Ker’s bluebooks. However, there is no information on the popularity or public opinion on Stories of the Ship.

The frontispiece for Stories of the Ship

There are two illustrations within the first couple pages of the book. The first, a frontispiece, is captioned by a reference to the British printmaker and engraver Inigo Barlow, reading “Rarlow sculp,” as in Barlow sculpture. Notably, the name is misspelled; however, the font and phrase match the captions of many of his other illustrations. He was active most prominently around 1790. The frontispiece image depicts a scene from the first story within the book, “Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor,” in which a Dutch ship explodes. It is likely that the author derived inspiration from an actual event that occurred earlier in the year 1807. The disaster took place in Leiden, Holland, in which a wooden ship, carrying hundreds of barrels of gunpowder, exploded, resulting in fatalities, injuries, and destruction (Reitsma 1). The incident was eventually attributed to the neglect of the crew. This scenario is very similar to the plot of “Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor,” in which not the ship but instead the protagonist is Dutch, and this ship is not in town, but rather out at sea. Another potential source of inspiration for the author is the municipality and castle of Ortenberg, which shares a name with the aforementioned Dutch sailor protagonist. Ortenberg (the town) is located not far from the Black Forest, and the castle, built in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, is located just above the town. Again, however, these connections are not certain.

There is an entry for a book entitled Songs of the Ship (for 1807), or, the British Seamen’s Cheerful Songster in John Stainer’s book cataloguing his collection of English song books. The details under this entry match the publisher, publication year, and page length of Stories of the Ship; however, the description, which reads “containing a valuable collection of the newest and most celebrated Sea-Songs, sung at all Places of public amusement, To which are added, a Collection of Toasts and Sentiments” is uncharacteristic of Stories of the Ship, which implies likelihood of an accompanying songbook by the same author (Stainer 79).


Narrative Point of View

The first (and longest) story of the chapbook Stories of the Ship has the most complex narrative point of view within the book, but is predominantly told in first person by a Dutch sailor. Despite its narrative complexity, the story is told in a concise and objective manner, as it recounts a past adventure. Though not necessarily of the same form, all other stories in this book maintain a similar condensed style. However, the stories within the book vary in narrative point of view. Sometimes identified, sometimes anonymous, the narrators speak either in first or third person as well as in either present or past tense. The third-person narrators within this book tend to be objective and omniscient, acting as observers to their narratives, while the first-person narrators are necessarily more limited in their narration even as they function as characters within the story themselves.

Sample of First-Person Narrator from “The Dolphin, a droll Story”:

The dame now grinned with passion, but Joe perceiving she quickened her pace, snatched up the rod and net, and made the best of his way, still pointing to the sign as he passed under it, with his mother at his heels. She’ll not look up for a guinea, thought I. No more she did, and hobbling on at a pretty quick pace, was soon out of sight. (16)

Sample of Third-Person Narrator from “An Irish Sailor’s Opinion of Matrimony, a laughable Tale”:

The steward (for he was captain’s steward) was of a disposition that required but little invitation, particularly from a friend. He ate heartily, drank free, and cracked his joke. (25)

Overall, the narrative style is plot- and action-based. It is also non-personal, and in this lack of emphasis on emotion, it becomes easy to focus on and follow the swift narrative style of so many of the sections. Notably, the lack of emotional emphasis exists even when the form is more personal, as occurs in the last story of the book, written in the form of a letter. Additionally, despite the disparity of content and narrative style, there is a surprising lack of confusion derived from these constant switches. This is likely because of the storytelling style and introduction of many of the narrators, as can be seen in the aforementioned excerpts. In “Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor,” the dominant narrator is introduced by another, as if the story is being passed along repeatedly, and has eventually made its way into this book. This embedded narrative style is seen in the opening of “Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor,” which reads as follows:

You know, said Ortenberg, (for that was his name), that I left Holland clandestinely. The ship in which I went, was destined to sail for Batavia; the captain was an honest fellow, and had promised to procure me a place in the counting-house of one of his friends at Java. (3)

The story begins with an implied third-person narrator; however, beyond this first sentence there is no narrative point of view other than that of the first-person narration by Ortenberg, the main character.

In other instances, there is an objective narrator that infrequently uses first person, as their role within the story is limited. Such is the case in “The Dolphin, a droll Story,” excerpted above. This casual approach to the narratives encourages an element of humor as well as insinuates that the book is perhaps meant to be read aloud.


Summary

Stories of the Ship is a collection of short stories and anecdotes; the length of each section ranges from a few lines to multiple pages. The following summaries, listed in the order they appear within the chapbook, will reflect these inconsistencies in length. Additionally, the capitalization and punctuation within titles reflect their printing in the book.

Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor

This story is told by a sailor named Ortenberg, who recalls “the Explosion of the Ship in which he was, and his miraculous preservation” (3). This ship experiences smooth sailing until an alarm is raised regarding a fire in the hold; a huge endeavor is made to extinguish the fire, but the efforts prove fruitless. There is no land or ship in sight, and general panic aboard the ship heightens. Most everyone steals away on boats, and the captain and Ortenberg attempt to chase them down in the ship, but success is again just out of reach. Shortly thereafter, the oil-casks catch fire, and it is not long before the entire ship explodes.

Upon returning to his senses, Ortenberg discovers himself to be the only survivor and laments his circumstances. He and his dog are reunited. Ortenberg then catches sight of the longboat, which had once accompanied the ship, a great distance away. As dawn rises the following day, the boat is near, and he is able to join those aboard who had escaped the ship before its calamity. Ortenberg is appointed captain of the longboat. They journey on, eventually run out of food, and are forced to resort to eating Ortenberg’s dog. Meanwhile, the people grow doubtful that land is near, and Ortenberg is given three days to discover land, or a plan of cannibalism will unfold. As a storm clears from the sky, land and a Dutch fleet are revealed. The story ends with the weary survivors being rescued and fed.

A British Seaman’s Humanity

Narrated in first-person by “a Gentleman,” this story recounts the gentleman opening a subscription at a library for a crazy old cottager who had lost her sailor lover (13). An English sailor, upon hearing her story, laments her tale in a series of metaphors comparing the woman to a ship. As the sailor departs the library, a Bond-street lounger insults him behind his back. The sailor overhears this comment and defends himself as a sailor under a commendable and honorable king, simultaneously attacking the honor of the lounger and leaving him looking like a fool.

The Dolphin, a droll Story

Told by an anonymous first-person narrator, begins with a mother chastising her son, Joe, for not catching enough fish. She proudly declares that she will do much better than he has, and will even catch a dolphin. The woman casts her line into deep and muddy water, and somehow her rod snaps. She then pulls the line in only to find that she had pulled in a stone. Having made a fool of herself (broken rod, muddy dress, and all), Joe pokes fun at her predicament.

Remarkable Instance of the Affection of a Bear for her Cubs, extracted from Commodore Phipps’ Voyage

Narrated in third-person, this tale begins with three bears, a mother and two cubs, making their way over ice towards ships nearby where a sea-horse had been killed. Feasting on the sea-horse, the bears are shot by the sailors, killing the cubs, and wounding the mother. Though in pain, the mother bear presents more meat to her cubs, hoping in vain that they are alive. They remain unmoving and she “endeavor[s] to raise them up” with no success (17). Moaning all the while, she walks away but returns repeatedly, and when she realizes they are dead, growls towards the ship, to which they respond by shooting her dead.

Adventures of Arthur Douglas, the little Scotsman, and Tom Reefem, an English Tar, an affecting Story

This story unfolds with Tom, an experienced sailor, offering aid to a despairing Arthur, who has run away from home to travel the world. Tom, taking pity on Arthur, feeds him, but not before Arthur has mistaken the returning Tom for a ghost. After eating, Arthur’s suspicions of Tom wane in favor of gratitude. Tom introduces Arthur to the captain, whose approval is contrasted by that of a London trader, who sentences Arthur to return to his parents. Arthur, despairing, is given an opportunity by the captain to work aboard his ship. He works under Tom, who he grows to love as a father, and after a few years, returns to England having become well-learned. However, just before docking, war has been declared against France, and Tom and Arthur are wounded in a fight against the French. Arthur, however, proves valiant in further engagements and is appointed midshipman by an admiral. Tom continues to accompany Arthur in his new role, and their friendship is well known.

An Irish Sailor’s Opinion of Matrimony, a laughable Tale

Narrated in third-person, this is a conversation between shipmates Patrick and Thomas. Thomas wants their captain to be married, but Patrick wholeheartedly disagrees with the notion, indicating that marriage is too confining. Thomas responds by advocating the absence of danger in marriage; Patrick refutes that indeed there is danger, most prominently in the form of jealousy, but also in marriage’s other passions and complexities.

This page shows the formatting used to separate stories and anecdotes.
Nocturnal Illumination

Also told by a third-person narrator, this anecdote describes a “finical lieutenant” asking for a light, which he calls a “nocturnal illumination” to be put out, and when he is misunderstood, he complains of the sailor’s stupidity (28). The boatswain, to whom the lieutenant speaks, translates the command into the words of a sailor, and the job is completed.

Anecdote of Admiral Haddock

In which a dying admiral leaves his son a small fortune devoid of dirty money.

Anecdote of a Sailor and Quaker

In which an English sailor attempts to instigate a Quaker to violence, to which the Quaker squeezes and shakes but does not strike the sailor into submission.

The Press-Gang

In which a gang accosts a gentleman, claiming they need him to teach their guards manners.

Extraordinary Instance of Bravery

This is a story of a hero who first sneaks aboard an enemy French ship and attempts to pull down their colors, while holding off, successfully, several attackers. He then saves a fellow countryman’s life, and shortly thereafter narrowly escapes death with a fractured leg, but continues to fight on his knees. After, he is doing well in the hospital. 

The Admiral’s Escutcheon

In which an admiral’s home is mistaken for an alehouse by a sailor, who asks for a cup of ale. The admiral then orders his servant to bring one to the sailor, and tells him that he might pay the next time he comes by.

King Charles II and the Sailor

This is a correspondence between Jack, “the best seamen in [the] navy,” headed for the gallows as a result of stealing, and King Charles Rex, who saves him from the gallows (32). 

A Sailor’s Frolic

This anecdote tells of a sailor endeavoring for “every tub [to] stand upon its own bottom” (32).

Wapping Ball

An anecdote about colliers at a ball who aim to level themselves with well-clothed sailors.

Account of the Battle of Trafalgar

A letter from a sailor by the name of Jack Handspike to his landlord regarding his experience in the Battle of Trafalgar. He begins by commending Lord Nelson but quickly transitions to the onset of the battle, during which Jack injures two of his fingers and ends up cutting them off and wrapping them so that he is able to captain a gun on the main-deck until the British victory. He then asks for several items to be bought for his wife, Sall, and reassures that although he is injured, and that he will be well recompensed for his service to the country. The letter ends with a song celebrating the death of Lord Nelson.


Bibliography

“Ann Kemmish”  The British Museum, The Trustees of the British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG235671.

“Champante and Whitrow.” The British Museum, The Trustees of the British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG155232.

“Cleugh, Alexander” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-no2017003446.

Cowie, George. The Bookbinder’s Manual: Containing a Full Description of Leather And Vellum Binding : Also, Directions for Gilding of Paper & Book-edges, And Numerous Valuable Recipes for Sprinkling, Colouring, & Marbling : Together With a Scale of Bookbinders’ Charges : a List of All the Book And Vellum Binders In London, &c., &c. 5th ed. London: William Strange, 18501859.

“Harris, William” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-no2016030213/

“Inigo Barlow.” The British Museum, The Trustees of the British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG198601.

“Hughes, Thomas”  [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-no2015023168/.

“Mackenzie, Joseph” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-no2019147675/.

“Plummer, Thomas” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-nr93018798/.

Reitsma, H.J., and A. Ponsen. “THE LEIDEN DISASTER OF 1807.” Icon, vol. 13, 2007, pp. 1–18.

“Soutter, Thomas” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-no2019147374/.

Stainer, John. Catalogue of English Song Books Forming a Portion of the Library of Sir John Stainer: With Appendices of Foreign Song Books, Collections of Carols, Books On Bells, &c. London: Printed for private circulation by Novello, Ewer, 1891.

Steele, John Gladstone. “Anne and John Ker.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text, no. 12, 2204. 

Stories of the Ship OR, THE BRITISH SEAMEN’S PLEASING COMPANION: ILLUSTRATED IN A Series of Curious and Singular ADVENTURES. William Harris, 1807.


Researcher: Lauren Smits

Clairville Castle

Clairville Castle

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi

Author: Unknown
Publisher: A. Kemmish
Publication Year: Unknown
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 17.3cm x 10.6cm 
Pages: 38
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C532 n.d.


In this chapbook set in France, a love story is hindered by a villain’s lust and Machiavellian quest for power, full of abduction and murder. 


Material History

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi is embedded with a varied and interesting material history. The aforementioned title of the book appears on the first page, and later, throughout the pages on the upper margins. However, the subtitle is omitted from these subsequent pages. Interestingly, the author’s name does not appear whatsoever, even on the title page. 

The title page for Clairville Castle

The chapbook is in surprisingly good condition for being over two hundred years old. The paper itself is good quality, albeit a little brown. However, the pages will not last indefinitely because the novel has been disbound, so if one were to turn the leaves the novel would loosen. Therefore, the Sadler-Black collection might rebind it in the future to prevent this from occurring. The physical dimensions of the book measure out to be 17.3 cm by 10.6 cm. The page count is thirty-eight, including a second short story titled Ogus & Cara-Khan; or the Force of Love appended at the end but not mentioned on the title page. The addition of this second story is not explained, unless perhaps both novels were a part of a larger collection of stories. Unfortunately, while the edition of the novel that is a part of the Sadler-Black library collection was previously bound, no details of the original binding are available. 

The overall appearance of the book is cheap (most likely meant to be discarded like other copies), unblemished (there is a relative lack of markings for such a copy), aged (comparatively to modern publications), and of middling quality. Offset is another descriptor here–the text was conveyed (aka “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket to a printing surface, which is a common practice in printing. The body pages themselves contain minimal white space, despite the font being in a relatively small size. An interesting aspect of the font of the text is the use of the long s, an archaic form of the lowercase s, which resembles an f more than an s. It generally replaces the single s and also one of the letters s when there is a double s. This used to be a somewhat common practice but has long fallen out of fashion. 

The frontispiece for Clairville Castle

The novel begins with a frontispiece illustration, facing the title page on the right-hand, or recto page. It shows an illustrated image of a man and a woman in antiquated outfits, with the woman sitting on a chair, seemingly in grief—the man is comforting, or trying to comfort, her. They are in a room with a single window, allowing light to enter the space. This scene is not explicated in the chapbook, but could be interpreted as illustrating many parts of the text. The illustration itself is an copper-plate engraving.

Something notable is that the title page has offsetting. The technical reason for this is that there were two printing presses used as they specialized in different types of printing, one for the text and one for the illustration; these would later be combined. Due to this, different inks are used, resulting in offsetting from the oxidation, which forms a brownish rectangle. 

Finally, there is one mark of ownership within the book, on the first page, for one Robert Allen. Also, on page thirty-six, there is a printer’s imprint featuring the name of the printer who printed the text—A. Kemmish. The title page contains the name of the publisher—J. Kerr. 


Textual History

The title page for the attached story, Ogus & Cara-Khan

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi was originally published by A. Kemmish for J. Ker. Several copies were seemingly published for this book collector, about whom there is much biographical information. John Ker was the third duke of Roxburghe and lived from 1740 to 1804. There is no date of publication on Clairville Castle and no clear indication in source material of its publication date, though one WorldCat entry estimates 1805 as a potential year of publication. 

Jon Ker owned an expansive personal library, which continued to grow throughout his life. He even arranged the marriage of Anna Ker into his family, who was a gothic writer herself, and may have influenced some of the additions to his large collection of books. “Roxburghe books are today the prized possessions of many of the world’s great libraries, and their collector is immortalized by the distinction of having named after him one of the most exclusive and famous of bibliographical societies, the Roxburghe Club” (Hillyard). This aligns with the inclusion of this chapbook in the Sadler-Black collection and many others throughout the U.S. and abroad. 

There were no subsequent editions of Clairville Castle published; it was originally written in English, and was never translated into any other languages. There is no preface or introduction to the chapbook, and this appears consistent with the other editions of the novel, all of which were published at the same time. The text also does not appear to have any prequels or sequels in publication, although there are several chapbooks from this time period featuring similar characters and plots. 

The final page of Ogus & Cara-Khan

There are no contemporary reviews for the text, and so it is unknown whether it was received poorly or positively at the time of publication. The text also does not appear to have been advertised, and does not appear to have been reprinted following its original publication—the copies that exist are as follows: one in the University of Virginia library, one at the Stanford Library, one at Harvard University in the Houghton Library, one at Oxford University, one in the British Library Reference Collections, and one in Leakey’s Bookshop (which is a secondhand bookshop in Scotland). Some of these copies have been digitized recently, such as the copy the British Library houses, which was digitized on Sep 28, 2016, according to WorldCat. Also, there is a digital copy available on Google Books; this copy appears nearly identical to the one available in the University of Virginia Sadleir-Black library collection, although it does not contain a frontispiece illustration and has differing marks of ownership, such as an indiscernible signature on the title page. 

This text has not been adapted, seemingly, in any fashion. There is a clear similarity in this text to other gothic novels and chapbooks of the time period; however, it does not appear to have specifically influenced any pieces of literature following its publication. Furthermore, this work seems to have been completely unattended to by academic scholarship, and this is most likely a result of the lack of popularity concerning the chapbook. It simply appears to be one of many similar gothic texts published during this time period, which were overshadowed by each other and by even more popular works in the genre. 


Narrative Point of View

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi is told by an anonymous narrator in the third person. This narration contains sentences that vary in length, but the style certainly feels antiquated and long-winded. The narrator strikes a balance between describing the actual plot of the story and the characters’ emotions towards these events throughout the chapbook. The narrator also uses dialogue sparingly, since there is much background information and action within the plot that is described without its use. 

Sample Passage:

Emma had for some time enjoyed the retirement, from which she was aroused by a  confused sound of voices that proceeded from below—she started up and recollecting her perilous situation, which the height of the sun beaming through the curtains painted in strong colors; she felt her apprehensions of pursuit renewed—she adjusted her dress, and tied on her straw bonnet, in order to seek her father, when he suddenly entered–he found her so apprehensive from the interval of time that they had lost at the inn, that he ventured to inform her of Albert’s arrival, and his impatience to behold her. The glow of pleasure animated her fair cheek, but was instantly succeeded by a deadly paleness. (30)

This narration succeeds in moving the plot along quickly, by utilizing long compound sentences (such as the passage above) in order to describe the events and the characters’ feelings towards them. By balancing these descriptions of the plot and the internal sentiments of the characters, the narrator is able to allow for lulls in the action of the story so that the plot does not progress too quickly. The minimal use of dialogue also highlights the importance of what the characters say, and works as a plot device in and of itself. All of these features of the narration combine to create a story that is fast paced but still leaves room for the reader to breathe when necessary. 


Summary

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi, told by a narrator in the third person, begins with a character description of a peasant named Bernard and his daughter, Emma. Although they are not wealthy, the father is a well-respected member of the community of Clairville due to his generous and benevolent nature. His daughter shares these qualities as she joins village festivities and is doted on by her father. Despite the death of Emma’s mother in years past, the two live a happy life as a family unit. 

This page shows an example of the text in Clairville Castle

Bernard works as a bailiff under the Marquis de Clairville—until his untimely death, that is, which ushers in a general sadness as exemplified by his funeral which is attended by many, with all attendees displaying great amounts of grief. During the procession, a young Swiss man named Albert arrives at the castle, and decides to join the ceremony after learning who had died from one of the townsfolk. At the church where the funeral is being held, a group of women begin to lay flowers on the coffin of the late Marquis; one is a beautiful girl, whom Albert immediately notices and is enchanted by. He follows her down the middle aisle of the church, and sees her embracing her father, both mourning the man in the casket. Not daring to interrupt, he asks another peasant for the girl’s name, which he learns is Emma. The peasant offers Albert a bed in his cottage, and he agrees immediately, since it is near Bernard and Emma’s abode, and he plans to ask for her hand in marriage already. 

The story of the late Marquis’s life is then embellished upon—his wife and infant child were ambushed by some bandits several years prior, resulting in his wife’s death and his son’s kidnapping. This drove him to great melancholy, but he remained generous at heart and treated the townspeople as his own children. Following his death, his lands and estates became those of the Baron of Morenzi, who is a much crueler man. He discards his subjects’ complaints and pays them no heed. He also carries a heavy debt, which he does not pay, instead pursuing a life of vice and leisure. 

Meanwhile, Albert has gained the affections of Emma and the approval of Bernard. She reads to him often, having amassed a great collection of books, all of which impress Albert immensely. He begins to fall in love with her and she reciprocates. However, her father declines to support their proposal of marriage because he believes that they are of two distinct social classes. Promising to receive his father’s support for the match, Albert returns to his native country. Bernard then proceeds to tell Emma to relinquish all notions of this potential marriage occurring, and she submits to her father’s request. 

The Baron meets Emma a little while later while roaming his lands, and immediately falls for her, planning to seduce her despite Bernard rebuking his advances. One day, a messenger from the castle arrives at Emma’s doorstep and informs her that her father has suddenly been struck ill. She hurries to the castle, only to find the Baron, who threatens her into staying with him, displaying his power over her father. She rejects him, and flees the castle, finding her father at the gates (the Baron’s steward, Du Val, had instructed him to remain there under false pretenses); both return to their cottage. Fearing the Baron’s wrath, they decide to flee to the castle of Brinon, some twenty miles away and where his late wife had labored. On the way, they stop at an inn where the landlord offers them refreshments and water for their horses. 

The final page of Clairville Castle

Albert had returned to his home, to the estate of his father, the Count de Bournonville. He tells his father of Emma and begs his permission to marry her. In response, the Count tells him that he is in charge of his own destiny, and reveals that he merely adopted Albert, whose real name is Henry de Clairville. The Count’s infant son had recently died of an illness while they were travelling from France to Switzerland. When the Count and his inconsolable wife came upon the result of a bandit attack and found a dying servant coddling an infant boy, they decided that they must raise Albert as their own. They named him, then, after their late son. The assassin who killed his mother was none other than the Baron de Morenzi. Learning all of this, Albert resolves to avenge his mother and returns to France with a retinue. 

During this time, Du Val attempts to capture Emma for the Baron. Finding her cottage empty, he returns to the castle and informs the Baron, who flies into a rage—both set out in pursuit of the fugitives. Albert reaches the inn in which Bernard and Emma are staying, and explains to the father all that he had recently learned. The Baron, too, arrives, and Albert confronts him with extreme anger. However, he is unarmed, unlike the Baron and his retinue, so his men restrain him and drag him to another room where they lock themselves inside. The Baron, feeling immense regret for his past actions, draws a pistol and shoots himself in the head before Du Val can stop him. Albert returns to the room and finds the lifeless body, proclaiming it to be a just death for a murderer, to the onlookers.  

Bernard informs Emma, in her chamber, of what has just occurred, and offers her hand in marriage to Albert, or Henry, in his eyes. Albert’s adopted father also approves of the match wholeheartedly. With the usurper now dead, Albert becomes the new Marquis of Clairville—he also marries Emma. The people of the village rejoice at this turn of events and all ends merrily. 


Bibliography

Hillyard, Brian. “Ker, John, Third Duke of Roxburghe.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September 2004. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/15452 

Steele, John Gladstone. “Anne and John Ker: New Soundings.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 12, summer 2004, www.romtext.org.uk/reports/cc12_n03/

Clairville Castle; or, The History of Albert & Emma. With the Death of the Usurper, Morenzi. London, A. Kemmish.


Researcher: Shankar Radhakrishnan

Parental Murder

Parental Murder

Parental Murder; or, the Brothers, an Interesting Romance; in which Virtue and Villainy are Contrasted, and Followed by Reward and Retribution.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: T. and R. Hughes
Publication Year: 1807
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18cm
Pages: 40
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.P345 1807


Set in the Italian countryside, this 1807 chapbook sees seemingly supernatural justice dealt after a deceitful and power-hungry prince murders his father, usurps the throne, and abducts his brother’s lover.


Material History

Parental Murder is anineteenth-century chapbook written by an unknown author. When the novel is opened past its first blank page, one is presented with an illustration on the second page, and the title page appears on the third. The bulk of the title page is dedicated to the novel’s full title and a brief description: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR, THE BROTHERS, AN INTERESTING ROMANCE; IN WHICH VIRTUE AND VILLAINY ARE CONTRASTED, AND FOLLOWED BY REWARD AND RETRIBUTION.” The title page indicates that the novel was printed for T. and R. Hughes by printers Lewis & Hamblin. A date at the bottom of the title page indicates that it was published in 1807. Interestingly, the title page makes no mention of the novel’s author.

The frontispiece for Parental Murder.

The illustration on the second page is in black-and-white, depicting a scene from the main text. In the image, a woman clad in flowing white robes looks down upon a man lying dead on the ground, facing upward. The illustration is accompanied by a caption reading, “A fire-ball, impelled by the arm of unerring Omnipotence, laid the libertine dead at my feet. Page 27.” As suggested, this text appears in a passage on page 27.

The chapbook itself measures 11cm wide by 18cm tall. Stitching holes in each page’s inner margins suggest that the chapbook was originally bound, but this particular book has had its binding removed, and its first blank page serves as a kind of cover. The book’s paper is thin, brittle, yellowed, and very grainy—one feels pulp as they run their finger across each page. At its edges, the paper is frayed and rough. The book appears to have been printed on relatively cheap material, and this particular copy is especially well-worn; several of its pages are on the brink of coming apart from one another.

The chapbook is numbered as containing forty pages; however, counting from the novel’s blank first page, there are actually only thirty-eight pages. The novel’s first numbered page—page 8—appears only six pages in. Every page number thereafter is consecutive; if these two pages are missing, they must have been taken from before page 8. It is ultimately unclear if any pages actually are missing; no content appears to be omitted from these first pages. It is probable that either the two absent pages are blank or that page counting simply begins at an unusual number.

The cover page for Parental Murder, complete with ownership markings.

The blank first page—while devoid of print—does contain several ownership markings. The name “Sophia” is stamped identically three times near the top. Underneath, a partially-legible script indicates the name “Barbara Bounby” and the date range June 3rd to June 16th, 1810. (However, the specific days in June are somewhat unclear—the script is blotted and individual characters become difficult to decipher.) Near the bottom of the page, “Le” is written in a similar script with identical color.

After the main body of the text begins, the title of the book appears only in its abbreviated form: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR,” alongside “THE BROTHERS.” printed in the top margins of the left and right pages, respectively. Each page in the text’s main body has thin margins. The type is small, seriffed, and heavyset. The lines are short and tightly packed; the pages, while small, are dense. The body of the text contains no illustrations beyond the introductory frontispiece on the second page.

The body text is marked on two separate pages. First, on page 22, two x-marks made in pencil surround the phrase “of his heart.” Higher up on the same page, an (ostensibly accidental) pencil marking veers off the top edge. On page 31, the word “Regicide!” is underlined in pen. These two pages are the only two with obvious, visible annotations; the rest of the text is unmarked.


Textual History

Very little information is available concerning the writing, publication, or reception of Parental Murder. Its author is anonymous—the only names listed in the chapbook are those of the publisher and printer. Published in London in 1807, it was apparently released to little fanfare: there are no records of Parental Murder being advertised or reviewed in any periodicals of its time. Furthermore, searches for contemporary literary criticism—or any other kind of secondary scholarship—on the chapbook yield few references.

There are, however, indications that Parental Murder did not go entirely unnoticed by the scholarly community. For instance: it is listed in the expansive Gothic Bibliography by Montague Summers, described simply as “Parental Murder. Chapbook. 1807” (457).A slightly more detailed listing appears in Douglass Thomson’s Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide; his account includes the chapbook’s full subtitle, its city of publication, and the names of its editors (137). More interesting, however, is Parental Murder’s omission from Gothic Writers’ section on modern reprintings or updated editions. In this section, Thomson maintains a comprehensive list of reprintings, updated editions, and other reproductions of the works he tracks. From this, we can infer that Parental Murder was probably never reprinted or republished as a new edition. Thomson’s finding is consistent with searches across several online catalogs: in each case, no later editions of the chapbook appear. The available scholarly information on the chapbook, while relatively minute, suggests that only one edition has ever been published.

The title page for Parental Murder.

As previously noted, Parental Murder makes no indication of its author; it does, however, include the names of its printers and publishers. Before the body of the text, and once more at its close, the names and address of the books’ printmakers are listed: “Printed by Lewis & Hamblin, Paternoster-row” (Parental Murder 40). Similarly, the title page displays the name and address of the publishers: “Printed for T. and R. Hughes, 35, Ludgate-Hill, Corner of Stationers-Court” (Parental Murder 5). Biographical information on these figures is scarce; Lewis, Hamblin, and R. Hughes are all absent from searches for London printmakers or publishers active during 1807. A brief biographical entry for T. Hughes, however, does appear. The British Museum indicates that he was a British publisher and printmaker located at 35 Ludgate-Hill, consistent with the information in the chapbook. The page also indicates that this figure is “perhaps identical with T Hughes of Stationers’ Court” (“T Hughes”). Observing that the listed address in Parental Murder names both Ludgate-Hill and Stationers’ Court, we can confirm that these two figures likely both refer to the same printmaker.

The British Museum also notes that T. Hughes published several prints by George Cruikshank, a prominent illustrator of the time. Cruikshank was widely known for his political cartoons and illustrations for the likes of Charles Dickens, and his work remains prolific today. The uncredited illustration preceding Parental Murder is almost certainly unconnected to Cruikshank, however, as the chapbook’s publication in 1807predates Cruikshank’s rise as an illustrator in 1811.

Investigating the site of Parental Murder’s printing and publication places the chapbook at the center of the bustling London publishing and printmaking industries. Paternoster-row, the address attributed to printers Lewis and Hamblin, was a nexus of printmaking and principally occupied by “stationers and text-writers” (Thornbury chapter 23). The chapbook’s publishers, T. and R. Hughes, were situated at the corner of the nearby Stationers’ Court. Stationers’ Court is a small path that departs from Ludgate Hill Street and leads to the entrance of Stationers’ Hall (see this Ordnance Survey map to view the precise streets). Stationers’ Hall housed the Stationers’ Company, a government-chartered literary authority that extensively vetted and registered British publications: “almost every publication … was required to be ‘entered at Stationers’ Hall’” (Thornbury chapter 19). In this sense, the sites of Parental Murder’s printing and publication were both mere footsteps away from the epicenter of London publishing, pinning the chapbook’s production to the literal geographic center of a flourishing literary trade.


Narrative Point of View

Parental Murder features an anonymous, third-person narrator whose relationship to the text is left undefined. The novel’s prose is grandiose, long-winded, and, at times, almost breathless in nature: short and succinct sentences are often interposed with very long, grammatically complex ones. The narration shifts freely between making matter-of-fact observations on plot points and offering reflections on the inner thoughts, emotions, and secret motivations of the characters.

Sample Passage:

With malicious looks, Rabano saw that all the favours he had been suing for at the side of this lovely peerless maiden were unhesitatingly granted to his brother, and with such an arch plausibility of excuse, that it was impossible to refuse without exposing his disappointment and vexation. Romano afterwards danced with her, and the whisper every where ran, “What a figure! what grace! what sweetness!” “It must be so!” exclaimed Rabano inwardly; “I must—I will have her; and Zalarra shall decide upon the measures to be pursued!” (20)

Parental Murder’s willingness to freely transition between objective, plot-driven narration and inward, emotionally focused musings serves primarily to align its high-octane, action-packed storyline with a core thematic message about the supreme importance of virtue. Looking at plot events alone, the novel’s storyline traces out a familiar dramatic arc: the power-hungry, parricidal son whose sins catch up to him in the end. At the same time, the insights into characters’ private thoughts and motivations help to drive the thematic content: from these insights, it becomes clear that Romano is to be seen as virtuous, and his brother Rabano is not. In the passage above, Rabano’s inward exclamations of jealousy and lust serve to cement him as the iniquitous foil to his virtuous brother. Having established this characterization, when Romano ultimately triumphs, the narrator is able to assert that “virtue is the only true path to greatness, love, and glory!” (40). In this way, the intermingling narrative delivery of plot content and emotional content is key to presenting a compelling plot while also making a clear statement of theme.


Summary

Baretti is a powerful king who rules over an expansive dominion in Italy. He has two sons, Rabano and Romano. Romano, the younger brother, is the clear favorite of the two; he is revered by his parents for his virtuous character. In contrast, Rabano is power-hungry and ruthless. He resolves to conquer land for himself and sets his sights on the land of Ardini, a nearby ally. Baretti sees a learning opportunity: he supplies Rabano with men and armaments, hoping that brutal defeat will show Rabano to be incapable of leadership.

One day, Ardini’s men trespass on Baretti’s land, and Rabano seizes the opportunity to mount a retaliatory attack. But when it becomes clear that Rabano is interested in senseless brutality, Baretti and his men come to Ardini’s aid; their forces combined, Rabano will certainly suffer crushing defeat. Rabano, realizing this, develops a burning hatred for his father and resolves to get revenge. He enlists his trusted assistant Zalarra to disguise himself as a priest and sneak to Ardini’s camp, where Baretti is currently staying. Zalarra finds Baretti in the camp and tells him that Rabano is prepared to make a peace offering.

Baretti follows him to meet Rabano in an isolated dell. But when he arrives, Rabano gives his father an ultimatum: betray Ardini and aid in the conquest of his land, or be killed where he stands. Baretti realizes that the peace offering was a setup and begins to fight his assailants, but he is eventually overcome and stabbed. Baretti is buried in a prepared grave, and the assassins return home.

The next morning, Ardini’s camp is in a state of confusion. Without orders from Baretti, the supplementary forces will not go into battle—condemning Ardini to certain defeat at the hands of Rabano. They enact a short truce with Rabano while they search for Baretti—but find nothing.

Rabano takes the throne. He is shocked, however, when Zalarra finds Baretti’s grave unearthed and the body missing. Rabano is shaken by this discovery, but he rules as if nothing is wrong. He sends Romano on a mission to a neighboring chief, and he plans to throw a party to celebrate his ascension to power. Despite their strained relationship, Ardini is invited.

At the party, Ardini is accompanied by his beautiful daughter Miranda. When Rabano sees her, he is immediately enamored and resolves to make her his own. He asks her to dance, but she refuses. Suddenly, Romano bursts into the party. Romano explains that the hostile neighboring chief detained him, but he managed to escape and make his way home. Rabano promises to look into the matter later.

Romano catches glimpse of Miranda. He asks her to dance, and she gladly accepts. Rabano is incensed at seeing this, and he plans how he will win Miranda’s hand. Rabano pulls Miranda and Ardini into a private apartment. Ardini steps into a neighboring room to give them some privacy, but the door is shut on him and he finds himself trapped. Now alone with Miranda, Rabano urges her to marry him, but she confesses that she already loves Romano.

Unprompted, Miranda remarks that Rabano and Zalarra look suspiciously similar to two hooded figures she saw on the night of Baretti’s murder. That same night, she had planned a secret meeting with Romano—in the same isolated dell where Baretti was murdered. She arrived at the dell before the murderers, but when she heard them approaching, she hid behind a tree. She has not mentioned anything out of fear for herself and Romano.

Rabano cautions her to keep quiet. If her story got out, Romano could be in serious danger; he too was missing on the night of the murder. Miranda agrees and swears to stay silent. Rabano renews his attempts at courting her. When she refuses again, he forces her towards a hidden chamber.

Meanwhile, Ardini suspects foul play when he is not let out of the locked room. He escapes through a window, finds Romano, and explains that he fears for Miranda; the group heads for the castle’s private apartments. When a guard stops them, they slay him and rush upstairs just in time to catch Rabano forcing Miranda into the hidden chamber.

Miranda steals Rabano’s weapon and tries to stab him, but the blade breaks in two and fails to injure him. Soldiers alerted by Zalarra descend on the group and arrest Romano and Ardini for high treason. Until their trial, Miranda is to be detained in the hidden apartment, where Rabano persists in his attempts for her hand almost daily.

Sample page from the body of Parental Murder, with an underline marked beneath the word “Regicide!”

One night, Rabano sneaks into Miranda’s chamber while she is asleep and plants a kiss on her lips. He prepares to rape her, but a suit of armor steps off its pedestal and stands between them. It shouts: “Thy reign is short! At the trial, parricide, thou shalt behold me again” (30). The apparition scares Rabano off from his attempts to violate Miranda.

The night before the trial, Rabano and Zalarra get drunk together. Zalarra continues to give Rabano alcohol until he passes out on the floor. Zalarra also has an eye for Miranda; he steals the keys to her secret chamber, sneaks in, and kisses her while she sleeps. Before he can continue, however, a figure in black robes shouts “Regicide!” (31). The figure warns Zalarra to repent. Zalarra flees, wakes Rabano, but decides not to tell him about what he saw. Instead, Zalarra suggests they search the castle for any other apparitions. While searching, they discover that Miranda has escaped from her chamber. Their efforts to locate her are fruitless.

Secretly, Miranda was conveyed by a mysterious monk to a cottage outside of the castle through a hidden tunnel. In the cottage, she meets a former servant of Baretti, who promises to lead her to the chamber where the trial will be held, so she can expose Rabano and Zalarra. On the day of the trial, Ardini is tried first; he confesses to killing guards in pursuit of Rabano, but he expects that the detention of his daughter will justify his conduct. Romano is tried next. A priest steps up and testifies the dying confession of a deserting soldier named Afran, who had allegedly stumbled upon Romano burying Baretti’s body. He had pursued Romano, but Romano escaped, and Afran was mortally wounded in the struggle. He did, however, manage to grab a gorget bearing Romano’s name during the fight.

Romano explains that he was present at the dell on the night of the murder—but only to see Miranda. As he arrived, he saw a figure stab the victim. He was unable to reach the assassins in time, so he unearthed the body and resolved to carry it to a nearby house. The body was too heavy, however, so he instead brought it to a nearby cave. Afran, seeing Romano carry the body, mistook him for the assassin and attacked.

The judge is prepared to issue a death sentence for Romano when Miranda bursts in. She presents the cloak and banner Baretti wore on the night of his murder, which were found in Rabano’s strongbox. The courtroom descends into chaos until the aforementioned priest announces that he has one more piece of evidence—a piece of paper naming the murderer, given by Afran in his final moments. Zalarra snatches the paper from him and rips it to pieces. Chaos returns, and the priest suddenly blows a whistle. The room is instantly flooded with soldiers, and a figure appears at the head of the courtroom.

To everyone’s surprise, the figure is Baretti himself. He explains that he survived the assassination attempt. After being carried to the cave, he told Afran that Rabano was guilty. Since then, Baretti has been living in the cottage, disguised as one of his own servants.

The courtroom instantly condemns Zalarra and Rabano. The judge assigns both fiends formidable sentences. Rabano is confined to a cell at the top of a large tower, which eventually collapses and crushes him to death. Romano is declared the worthy successor to Baretti, and he reigns “with unabated splendor” (40).


Bibliography

“George Cruikshank.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 23 Sept. 2020, www.britannica.com/biography/George-Cruikshank.

Ordnance Survey. Director General of the Ordnance Survey, Chessington, Surrey, 1953. Map. https://maps.nls.uk/view/102904585.

Parental Murder. London, T. and R. Hughes, 1807.

Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. London, Fortune Press, 1964.

Thomson, Douglass H., et al. Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide. Greenwood Press, 2002.

Thornbury, Walter. Old and New London: Volume 1. London, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878. British History Online. 27 October 2020. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol1.

“T Hughes.” British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG163433.


Researcher: Joe Kerrigan

Fatal Vows

Fatal Vows

Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk, a Romance

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Thomas Tegg
Publication Year: 1810
Language: English
Dimensions: 18.4cm x 11.3cm. 
Pages: 16
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.F368 1810


In this circa 1810 chapbook, backdropped against the outskirts of Italy, a complicated web of family, loyalty, and betrayal spirals a noble family into conspiracy and murder. 


Material History

Fatal Vows is presented in a disbound pamphlet. The pamphlet was once bound, but there is no longer a hardcover. Paste on the spine of the pamphlet and gilding on the top edge of the pages reflect its previous state. Presumably, Fatal Vows was at some point bound with other pamphlets for ease of storage and style—a common practice at the time. The pages themselves are a linen blend (with perhaps a bit of cotton) in fairly decent shape. The paper is browned by age, but not brittle. There are no significant stains and few splotches—none that obscure the text or decrease legibility. 

The title page for Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk, along with the printer’s information

Fatal Vows is 18.4 x 11.3 cm in dimension, and sixteen pages long. Along the top of the pamphlet the pages are uniformly trimmed, but all other edges are slightly irregular. This variation is presumably due to the nature in which the collection of pamphlets was bound. Commonly, pamphlets of varying sizes were trimmed to the dimensions of the largest pamphlet. Works smaller than the largest pamphlet were often missed by the blade on a few sides, leading to irregularities in page edges like Fatal Vows’.

The front page of the pamphlet, once the University of Virginia note is moved aside, reads “William Coventry // Piccadilly.” This inscription indicates that the text was likely part of a personal collection. The next two pages feature the only two illustrations in the pamphlet, one in the frontispiece and one on the title page. The frontispiece illustration is brightly colored and depicts two men standing outside of a building. The man on the right, with a red cape and green suit, is holding out a sword. The man on the left, with yellow trousers and a blue tunic, appears to be making a vow on the sword. This illustration is helpfully captioned “Rinaldo binding Montavoli by an Oath.” Below the caption is the mark of the publisher, “Pub. By T. Tegg June 1810.” 

The second illustration follows immediately after the title. At the top quarter of the page is the title, which varies between flowing cursive and block lettering (indicated by italicized and non-italicized text, respectively) reading: “Fatal Vows, // or // The False Monk, // a // Romance.” Below the title is the second illustration, depicting a man in purple leading a man in green down a staircase and into a stone room. The caption curves around the bottom of the illustration and reads “The Spirit of Montavoli’s Brother ledding him to a place of Safety.” Below the caption, once again, are three lines of the publisher’s information. The first line, “London”, indicates the city Fatal Vows was printed in. The next line repeats “Printed for Thomas Tegg, III, Cheapside June 1-1810” and the final line indicates the price: “Price Sixpence.”

Once the story itself begins, the page layout is relatively consistent. Aside from the first page, which repeats the title (interestingly adding a “the” before the title, the only point in the chapbook where this occurs) before beginning the story about halfway down the page, the margins on the page vary slightly from page to page but average out to a 2 cm outer margin, 1 cm inner margin, 2.5 cm bottom margin, and 0.5 to 0.75 cm top margin. At the top of each page, centered just above the text, is the title in all caps: FATAL VOWS. The page numbers are on the same line as the title, to the far left (for even number pages) or right (for odd number pages) edge of the text. The text itself is single-spaced. The only notable features in the story pages are the occasional letters at the bottom center of the page. Page six has a B, page nine has B3, page seventeen has a C, page nineteen has a C2, and page twenty-one has a C3. These letters serve to assist the printer in ordering the pages—pamphlets like these were generally printed on one large sheet, folded together, and then trimmed to allow for page-turning.


Textual History

Unfortunately, there is very little either known or recorded on Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk, a Romance. Both the author and illustrator are unknown. Francis Lathom has been named as the author, notably by Google Books, due to the similarities in titles between Fatal Vows and his work The Fatal Vow; Or, St. Michael’s Monastery, but this is a misattribution. Only two copies of Fatal Vows are available online: one on Google Books courtesy of the British Library (although the author is misattributed, as Francis Lathom), and one through the University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection. Fatal Vows is mentioned in a handful of catalogs listing known gothic novels, but with no opinion or further insight attached to it, with one exception.

The frontispiece for Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk

Fatal Vows has not been featured in much academic work. However, that does not mean Fatal Vows was entirely unnoted beyond the commercial sphere. Its one notable reference is an allegation that Fatal Vows is a plagiarism of, or at least very heavily influenced by, Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. In Peter Otto’s introduction to the Rare Printed Works from the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia, he notes: “Like Radcliffe’s works, Lewis’s novel inspired a host of plagiarizers, imitators and competitors. The mystery of the black convent (London: A. Neil, [n.d.]) and Fatal vows, or The false monk, a romance (London: Thomas Tegg, 1810) are two of the many chapbooks that draw heavily on The Monk.” This is the only academic work to articulate opinions on Fatal Vows, although it is cited in other works and catalogs.

There appear to be no prequels, sequels, reprints, translations, or adaptations connected to Fatal Vows. Even when published, there is no surviving (if any) mention of Fatal Vows in the ads or articles of the time. There was no announcement in the newspapers of the time and no evidence that Fatal Vows stirred any public notice or controversy.

The only name that can be reliably connected to Fatal Vows is the publisher of the novel. T. Tegg (or Thomas Tegg III) is listed on both available scans as the publisher and bookseller and is comparatively much more well documented. Tegg set himself apart from his contemporaries by both the low prices and the lower quality of the books he produced. His self-description as “the broom that swept the booksellers’ warehouses” fairly articulates his practice of reprinting successful novels, works past copyright protections, and remainders (Curwen 391). Considering the nature of the works published by Tegg, it is perhaps not unsurprising that Fatal Vows was published with little fanfare.


Narrative Point of View

Fatal Vows combines the main story told in the third person by an omniscient, detached narrator, and interpolated stories told by characters explaining things that either occurred off-page or before the story began. There is no meta-narrative of the story’s origin or any relation to the narrator, but characters often narrate their own backstories through letters and oral stories, which are narrated in the first-person voice of the relevant character. The style is fairly formal, with no contractions and winding prose. The epistolary narratives vary slightly depending on the character narrating them, ranging from powerful emoting to detached cynicism, but the overall tone is still formal and vaguely antiquated.

Example of Third-Person Narration:

Rinaldo now informed Count Montavole that Miranda was his own daughter by Serina. The Count grew very faint; to encrease his misery Rinaldo added: “Know likewise that it is a BROTHER who is the death of thee.” He had no sooner finished this speech than he was seized for the murder of the Count, and as he quitted the dungeon he put a paper into Alberto’s hands. Montavole only lived to ejaculate, “a brother ! Miranda too my daughter ! oh—” (25)

Example of Interpolated Oral Tale of Susanna’s Confession:

Unconscious of what I did, I took the dreadful oath, and went gently into Lady Leonora’s room, and changed children with her, by which means Montavole has reared up his brother’s son instead of his own. (20)

Example of Interpolated Tale of Rinaldo’s Letter:

Hereupon I was seized by two footmen in livery, who dragged me to a noble palace: I was conducted to an elegant saloon, when a nobleman, for so I learnt he was, desired me to relate the whole adventure; accordingly, I did. He then observed that I had been used ill, and in return desired his nephew to give me a diamond ring. (26)

Overall, this chapbook’s narration focuses much more internally than externally—there is little imagery or scene building, but a heavy emphasis on the actions of the characters, which drive the majority of the plot. This contrasts with the low-key delivery the narrator uses to convey plot twists or surprises, as exemplified in the first passage. Miranda being the daughter of Count Montavole is a devastating plot twist even by itself, but Rinaldo being the brother of Count Montavole is even more so. However, the verbs used to describe Rinaldo’s proclamation are low-energy (“informed” and “added” are not exactly declarations) and Montavole’s death (who, in fairness, was already on the way out) is received without much fanfare. Within the scene, the room is full of characters that would be rattled by these announcements, but their perspectives are not noted. Even the announcement of Miranda’s parentage reads like an afterthought. 

When characters themselves are narrating, more of their personality is able to shine through and influence the story. Susanna’s passage, when she explains the kidnapping she committed almost two decades ago, is full of qualitative adjectives and descriptors; Susanna is one of the kinder, moral characters in the story. This is juxtaposed against Rinaldo describing an altercation in his boyhood, where he describes his own actions with more understated neutrality.


Summary

Fatal Vows takes place on the outskirts of Italy, in a castle owned by a Count named Savini. Count Savini has two sons: Montavole and Alberto. Alberto is the youngest and is a charming and obedient son, while Montavole is morose and selfish. Montavole leaves home at an early age to pursue his own interests, breaking Count Savini’s heart. While on his travels, Montavole is attacked by bandits. His life is saved by a stranger, who identifies himself as Rinaldo and commands Montavole to repay his debt by swearing a vow of friendship and loyalty. Montavole is troubled but agrees, and Rinaldo vanishes into the night with an ominous “be careful of Saint Peter’s day” (7).

This page shows the first page of the actual story, along with one of the folding guide markings

Eventually, Montavole hears word that his father is critically ill and returns home to see him before he passes. Unfortunately, he is too late, but in their grief Montavole and Alberto reconcile and Montavole decides to settle down. Montavole marries a rich woman named Leonora, and Alberto marries his fianceé, Matilda. Montavole and Leonora are miserable, as their marriage was one for money rather than love and Leonora is afraid of Rinaldo, who Montavole now keeps company with, but Alberto and Marilda are happy and in love. However, tragedy strikes one night when Alberto is murdered. The murderer escapes into the night, and the heavily-pregnant Matilda dies of grief in labor shortly after. 

Over the next twenty years, two things of note occur. Firstly, Rinaldo is arrested after killing a man in a dispute, but escapes from jail just before his execution. Secondly, a baby girl is left on Montavole and Leonora’s doorstep with a letter in her crib. Leonora reads the letter, swoons, and decides to raise the child (now named Miranda) as her own, locking the letter away without explanation. 

At the end of these twenty years, Leonora is now on her deathbed. Montavole and their son, Alphonso, (who is in love with Miranda despite the two being kept apart by his father) have been out of the kingdom for weeks, leaving only Miranda around to tend to Leonora. Knowing her time is coming to an end, Leonora decides it is time for Miranda to know the truth about her birth. She gives Miranda a key to a cabinet that holds the mysterious letter from her crib. Leonora directs her to read the letter, burn it, and then leave the castle to join the nearby convent. Her only warning is to avoid the castle’s resident monk, Roderigo, who she finds suspicious. After Leonora dies, Miranda goes to the cabinet, but the letter is not there. She despairs, but is interrupted by a mysterious voice that tells her “You have a father living… your father is a murderer!” (13—14). Overcome with shock, Miranda faints. 

 Alphonso and Montavole return, too late to say goodbye to Leonora. Alphonso rushes to Miranda but Montavole stops him. He has betrothed Alphonso to the daughter of a man to whom he owes a significant amount of money. In exchange for Alphonso’s hand (and prestigious family name) the man will not only forgive Montavole’s debts but offer a substantial dowry. Alphonso is heartbroken but consents. 

Miranda, in the meantime, goes for a walk in the surrounding countryside to bolster her spirits. She comes across a cottage with an old woman named Susanna and her nephew, Alonzo, who is insane. Susanna tells Miranda that eighteen years ago, a woman who looked very much like her came to the cottage and died, leaving behind a baby who was taken away by a “mean-looking man” (15). Miranda concludes that she must have been the baby, but returns homes before uncovering anything else. However, as soon as she returns home Roderigo (the suspicious monk Leonora was so afraid of) seizes her and locks her in an abandoned tower. Montavole ordered her to be locked away so she could not get in the way of Alphonso’s wedding, and Roderigo tells her she will stay there for the rest of her life.

Meanwhile, with Miranda effectively out of the picture, Alphonso and Cassandra’s wedding goes off without a hitch. In the ceremony, however, Cassandra drinks a goblet of wine (provided to her by Roderigo) and dies of poisoning. There was another goblet of wine meant for Alphonso, but he disappears shortly after the ceremony and is spared from the chaos. The castle descends into an uproar. 

After a few days in the tower, Miranda discovers a key to the door and flees to Susanna’s cottage. She begs Susanna to let her stay the night before she leaves the kingdom, and Susanna readily agrees. That night, however, Montavole and Roderigo break into the cottage. Miranda tries to intervene but she is powerless to stop Montavole and Roderigo, and they murder Alonzo. Susanna comes down just in time to see his death and exclaims “Count Montavole you have killed your son, the real offspring of Leonora… you cruel man!” (19—20). Shocked, Montavole flees. Roderigo takes away the body, and Susanna confesses Alonzo’s backstory to Miranda.

Susanna used to be a servant at the castle. When Matilda died, her child had actually survived, but lord Montavole commanded her to take the child away to the cottage and raise it as her nephew. However, Susanna switched Alberto’s child (Alphonso) with Montavole’s (for no discernable motive) and took him instead. Shortly after confessing, Susanna dies of grief. Miranda returns to the castle, hoping to beg Alphonso for protection, but comes across Roderigo instead. He gives her the letter Leonora had meant to leave her and leaves the room. Miranda finally learns her origins.

Montavole was Miranda’s real father all along. Her mother, Serina, was a noblewoman with a sickly father and little money. Montavole secretly murdered her father, who had attempted to keep him away from Serina, took Serina in, and got her pregnant. He strung her along for a while, promising that once his father died they would get married, but one day Rinaldo revealed to Serina that Montavole’s father had died long ago. Moreover, he had been married to a rich woman for the past twelve months. Serina fled, selling her clothes and jewelry, but was robbed by a coachman. She made her way to Susanna’s cottage and died of grief, and baby Miranda was taken away to the castle. 

Meanwhile, Count Montavole is hiding out in one of his dungeons, having been led there by his brother’s ghost—but it is not his ghost. Alberto has been alive the entire time. Roderigo (who is revealed as Rinaldo) bursts in, in the middle of an unspecified fight with Alphonso, but switches tactics to kill Montavole. In Montavole’s final breath he realizes Miranda is also his daughter.

Miranda and Alphonso marry, and Rinaldo is put to death. A letter he wrote before his arrest reveals his own motivation. Rinaldo was actually Alberto and Montavole’s half-brother. His mother, Angelina, was seduced by Alberto and Montavole’s father (Count Savini), but he grew tired of her and abandoned her. Angelina gave birth to Rinaldo and managed to get by for a few years, but caught small-pox and lost her beauty. All her admirers abandoned her, and they were forced to sell all their furniture and move into a small apartment. They eventually ran out of money, and when Rinaldo was nineteen they were evicted. Angelina died in the streets, penniless and heartbroken, but before she passed she told Rinaldo about his father and begged him to avenge her death. 

Now it is Alberto’s turn to reveal how he survived. Count Montavole had hired an assassin to kill him, but the wound was not fatal. One of Rinaldo’s servants saved him but locked him in a dungeon in the castle, where he lived until the servant slipped up and left behind a key. The servant himself had conveniently died a few days ago. With all the mysteries explained, everyone lives happily ever after.


Bibliography

Curwen, Henry. “Thomas Tegg: Book-Auctioneering and the “Remainder Trade.” A History of Booksellers, the Old and the New 1st ed., Chatto and Windus, 1873. 

Fatal Vows: or the False Monk, a Romance. Thomas Tegg, 1810.

Fatal Vows: or the False Monk, a Romance. Thomas Tegg, 1810, Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=mDfNxphLieoC&source=gbs_navlinks_s. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

Otto, Peter. “Introduction.” Rare Printed Works from the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia. http://www.ampltd.co.uk/digital_guides/gothic_fiction/Introduction7.aspx. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.


Researcher: Brynn Jefferson

Feudal Days

Feudal Days

Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw. An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century

Author: Unknown
Publisher: J. Bailey
Publication Year: 1820s
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.5cm x 16.5cm
Pages: 28
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.F462 n.d.


Published in the 1820s by an unknown author, this chapbook set in England features a disgraced outlaw obsessed with his rival’s daughter and a religious Prior determined to right the characters on the path of piety.


Material History

Feudal Days, a simple and small book, measures 16.5cm long by 10.5cm wide and contains twenty-eight pages. The book currently has no cover; the reader first encounters a blank yellowed page. All pages in the chapbook are brittle and thin; some are slightly ripped at the edges, and the pages’ top ends are all discolored brown. A small amount of black thread loosely links these pages together, although one can observe holes on the left size of pages where thread was likely once used to tightly bind the book.

The title page for Feudal Days

Opening the book, the reader will observe a pull-out frontispiece illustration on the left side of the first page and the title page on the right side. The title page contains the full title of the chapbook: Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw. An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century. The title appears in different variations throughout other places in the text. At the top of the first page of text, it appears as Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw without the second line, and at the top of all pages of text, it reads The Noble Outlaw; (on the left page) and Or, Feudal Days (on the right side), thus reversing the order seen on the title page. An author’s name does not appear throughout the chapbook; however, the name J. Bailey appears on the title page, the last page of text, and on the final two pages. These mentions reveal that J. Bailey of 116 Chancery Lane “printed and sold” the book and also published numerous other chapbooks listed on the last two pages of this chapbook. The title page finally lists the price of the chapbook—6 pence.

Venturing past the front pages of the book, the reader will notice that the body text is closely-set and single-spaced and that many pages do not have paragraph breaks. On most pages, the margins are roughly 1cm all around; between pages 22 and 24, the bottom margin increases slightly to 2cm. Pagination on the top of pages begins on the second page of body text at page 4 and continues to the last page of body text (26). In addition to pagination, publishers have included a few extra printed markings on the bottom of pages: “A2” is printed on what would be denoted page 3; “A3” is on page 5; “A4” on page 7; “A5” on page 9; and “B” is printed on page 25. These markings, called signature marks, were printed in order to aid the accuracy in the binding of the chapbook.

Although almost all of the book contains text without any illustration, the frontispiece on the opposite page from the title page provides the singular illustration, depicting a woman stabbing a man inside a cave that is decorated with a chandelier. This frontispiece is unique in the chapbook, both because it is the only use of color and because is the only exception to the dimensions of the chapbook: it folds outward to comprise an overall width of 21cm and height of 16.5cm. This page bears the captions of “FRONTISPIECE” above and a reference to the body text below: “Nay then Ermina, cried Rudolph, ‘I will not brook delay’—when, by one bold effort she released her hand, and seizing my shining sword”. The content of this caption, while not a direct quotation, is a condensed version of dialogue recounted on page 14 of the text; additionally, this caption is printed slightly off-the-page; for this reason, exact punctuation is uncertain.

While most attributes described in this chapbook are particular to the entire batch that this book was printed in, it is finally worthwhile to point out a few characteristics that are likely unique to this particular copy in the Sadlier-Black collection. Overall, this book is devoid of most markings. The three particular marks include potential pen markings in a straight line at the top of the final page, a circular mark which may be glue or wax, and a bit of blue color that has spotted the front and back pieces of the book, which may be the remnants of a cover or binding.


Textual History

In addition to the copy of Feudal Days held by the University of Virginia, WorldCat indicates that multiple other copies exist in print form in fifteen other libraries. These copies are not concentrated in one geographic region: a copy of Feudal Days can be found at four Canadian libraries, one United Kingdom library, two Spanish libraries, and nine United States libraries (including the University of Virginia). In addition to the print forms of Feudal Days, there is also another digitized copy of the book held by New York Public Library (NYPL), which is accessible through HathiTrust and Google Books.

The frontispiece for Feudal Days, featuring misprinted margins

Multiple factors support an inference that there were multiple printings of Feudal Days when it was originally published: first, the digitized NYPL copy available on HathiTrust includes an additional cover page that the University of Virginia copy does not have. This page includes a notation that the book was “Printed and Published by S. Carvalho, 18, West Place, Nelson Street, City of London”. A few pages later, the cover page indicating that the book was printed by J. Bailey is still included, and the rest of the book looks exactly identical to the version held by the University of Virginia. S. Carvalho may have reprinted the entire book or simply added an additional cover onto the original printing by J. Bailey. Second, the date that Google Books lists for the publication of the NYPL version of Feudal Days is 1829, but the University of Virginia library catalog indicates a date range of 1820 to 1829. While this may not alone be enough to pin down potentially different printings, the WorldCat catalog record for Feudal Days notes that, according to I. Maxted’s London Book Trades, J. Bailey operated at the printed address (116 Chancery Lane) only between 1808 and 1827, not 1829 (Maxted, cited in WorldCat Catalog Record). Regardless, the wide circulation of Feudal Days in international libraries indicates that even if the book only went through one printing, it may have been printed in large volumes.

WorldCat lists three contributors to Feudal Days: J. Bailey, George Cruikshank, and Friedrich Schiller. The British Museum states that J. Bailey was a British “publisher active between 1799 and 1825,” and that he traded with William Bailey, who may have been a family member, during the latter period of his flourishing years, 1823–1824 (“J Bailey”). In addition to the list of chapbooks printed by J. Bailey in the back of Feudal Days, the British Museum also lists a few prints and pamphlets printed by him, including “The life and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte,” which was illustrated by George Cruikshank, evidence that J. Bailey collaborated with Cruikshank on multiple occasions (“Pamphlet”). George Cruikshank is thought to be the illustrator or the author of Feudal Days according to different sources. Cruikshank (1792–1878) was a fairly prominent British graphic artist; he started his career as a caricaturist and then moved to book illustration. Some of his most notable works include working with Charles Dickens on illustrations for Oliver Twist from 1837–1843 and the famous temperance comic The Bottle in 1847 (Patten). Most sources, including HathiTrust and University of Virginia library catalog, credit Cruikshank with illustrations; however, Diane Hoeveler credits Cruikshank himself with adapting Friedrich Schiller’s play Die Räuber into Feudal Days (Hoeveler 197). Finally, Friedrich Schiller (1759­–1805) was a famous German playwright, poet, and philosopher (Witte). Schiller wrote his own unfinished gothic novel, The Ghost-Seer, but the most concrete link between Schiller and Feudal Days is the assertion that Feudal Days is based off an English translation of Schiller’s German drama Die Räuber (Andriopoloulos 1–2, Hoeveler 197).

The second-to-last page of Feudal Days, featuring advertisements for other books printed and sold by J. Bailey

Die Räuber is a drama about two brothers, one of whom is cast out by the father under the influence of the evil brother and who joins a band of outlaws. Although threads of outlawdom and banditti are common to Feudal Days, it seems that the plot of Feudal Days is not an exact adaptation of Die Räuber, primarily because it is missing the element of familial rivalry (“The Robbers”). However, an opera called The Noble Outlaw may also be a source of influence for Feudal Days. The Noble Outlaw, produced in 1815 in England, is “founded upon” Beaumont and Fletcher’s opera The Pilgrim (“Noble Outlaw” Theatrical 310). The Noble Outlaw is about an outlawed robber who returns to his beloved’s residence, disguised as a pilgrim, in order to leave with her (“Noble Outlaw” Monthly 302). As a resolution of the plot, the Outlaw of the opera saves his rival’s life, and “all ends happily” (“Noble Outlaw” Theatrical 311). Similar to Die Räuber, the common thread of outlawdom is present; in addition, plot points such as breaking into a woman’s home in a disguise and saving a rival’s life as a plot resolution are common to both the opera and Feudal Days. No source exists indicating that The Noble Outlaw specifically influenced Feudal Days, but given the time proximity and the name and plot similarities, this may be the case. As evidenced by a search on HathiTrust, there are many other chapbooks with “Feudal Days” or “The Noble Outlaw” constituting part of the title. Online copies of these other chapbooks are limited, so the degree to which these related works are similar is unknown. Therefore, Feudal Days could have other influences and could have influenced other works; at the same time, these numerous titles may indicate that “Feudal Days” and “Noble Outlaw” were simply popular book titles.

Notably inaccessible is information about Feudal Days’s marketing and reception during the time period, reprintings, prequels, and sequels, and any scholarly analysis of the book after its publication. One hypothesis for the absence of such information is that Feudal Days is one in a list of many gothic chapbooks published by J. Bailey during this time period, as evidenced by the final two pages of the chapbook listing other titles (Feudal Days 26–7). Therefore, Feudal Days might not have stood out amongst its counterparts enough to warrant independent reviews or scholarship. In sum, however, the information that can be gleaned about Feudal Days does lead to several inferences regarding its relative importance. First, given the numerous copies available of the book currently, it may have been fairly popular. Second, its plot may have been influenced by multiple, mixed-media sources, including well-known theatrical works like Die Räuber or The Pilgrim. Finally, one of Feudal Days’s potential contributors, George Cruikshank, would later achieve fairly notable status later in his career.


Narrative Point of View

The present-tense section of Feudal Days is narrated by a third-person anonymous narrator who never appears in the text. This narrator relies on recounting dialogue rather than independently describing or analyzing plot. While a minority of the story is recounted by this narrator in the present tense, the text also contains flashbacks and interpolated tales, narrated by the character who experienced the flashback. The majority of the text is spent on Rodolph’s interpolated tale, in which he recounts his descent into lawlessness. This tale is narrated in the first person by Rodolph, and every paragraph opens and closes with quotation marks, to indicate that Rodolph is telling his story during continuous conversation with Father Francis. Both the anonymous narrator and Rodolph often employ long sentences, containing multiple clauses joined by semicolons and oftentimes-unclear referential pronouns. Unlike the anonymous narrator, however, Rodolph utilizes elements of description and recounts his own feelings and state of mind, rather than simply narrating the dialogue of others.

Sample Passage from Rodolph’s Interpolated Tale:

“O, Ernulf! my friend, wealth, honour, fame, are now lost to me; malignant stars have crossed my fondest hopes; Rodolph no longer bears the name of brave, but skulks an outlaw, the meanest slave of passion, who, like the prowling monster of the forest, avoids pursuit, and sheds unguarded blood.” (7)

Sample Passage of Impersonal and Anonymous Third-Person Narrator:

“Hold! (cried the Prior) God commands that ye shall not proceed, re-sheath your swords, and release your captive.” Rodolph started, and gazed with amazement on the Prior. “What man art thou, (said he) that dare oppose my will; disclose to me thy name and purpose?” – “To preach repentance, (replied the prior) and to prevent evil.” Much more the Prior said, for he found that he had gained attention.

Rodolph raised his head, and gazing on the sky, an unwonted smile played o’er his features. “Thou holy man, (he kindly said) thy exhortations wind like infant tendrils round a sinner’s heart, and have taught my soul to know what constitutes true happiness on earth; thy words have chased error from my mind.” (18)

The anonymous narrator guides the reader along through the thoughts and lives of different characters without offering any independent commentary. The only character that the narrator independently comments on is the Prior, whom the narrator repeatedly describes as virtuous. This technique of guiding the narrative with a heavy focus on transcribing dialogue makes the characters of Feudal Days appear more developed than there may otherwise be space for in a twenty-eight-page chapbook. Additionally, the oftentimes-unclear sentences may require a second or third reading of a passage. These tactics combine to make the story appear longer and more action-heavy than what may be expected for a book of its size.

Rodolph’s narration, on the other hand, provides personal and descriptive insights, showcasing broader character development and highlighting Rodolph as the protagonist of the story. Rodolph is frequently over-dramatic, utilizing exaggerated similes such as, in the passage above, “like the prowling monster of the forest” to evoke his strong feelings and emphasize the weightiness of his tumult. The Prior’s eventual ability to calm even Rodolph’s tormented mind, as shown in the sample passage, lends extra weight to the anonymous narrator’s assertion that the Prior is inarguably virtuous. Although Rodolph’s style of narration may appear disjointed from the impersonal and brief narration of the rest of the chapbook, the fact that every paragraph of his tale is offset by quotation marks renders his interpolated tale as a long-form version of the dialogue relayed by the anonymous narrator. Therefore, Rodolph’s narrative style showcases an extended version of the character development tactic utilized by the anonymous narrator and is in fact consistent with the rest of the chapbook.


Summary

Feudal Days opens with a description of the Priory of Birkenhead, which sits close to the Mersey inlet, a place where ships frequently wreck. Beyond the inlet, there lies a “bleak and dreary” waste of vegetation; the pious father of the priory (the Prior) cautions travelers to avoid the “track on the right” when navigating through the waste and take the “track on the left” (3). 

On a dark night, the Prior summons one of his men, Father Francis, to accompany him down to the water so that they can encounter any struggling travelers and give them aid. As they walk down to the water, the Prior recalls when Francis was rescued in a similar condition—on a night like this, the Prior slipped and fell walking back up to the priory, and locked eyes with Francis, also suffering on the ground and exhausted due to the weather. The Prior called the other brothers of the priory, and the two men were brought up to the priory and nursed back to health.

Back in the present, the men complete their journey down to the water; as the night gets even darker, they decide to head back to the priory. Before they can leave, they catch a glimpse of a man “in warlike form” wielding a sword, but the figure disappears (5). When they return to the priory and go to sleep, the Prior is haunted by dreams related to that figure.

The next morning, Father Francis steals away from morning prayers to sit in solitude in a sea cave on Mersey’s shore. Father Francis recalls his life before becoming a priest, when he was called Ernulf. Father Francis, in mental turmoil, recounts his parting with his lover, Angela. Father Francis killed Angela’s husband, Arden; Angela also died that night in shock, despite her love for Francis. Francis pleads with God to “forgive their murders,” when, suddenly, he sees the warlike figure from last night (6). The figure turns out to be Francis’s old friend, Rodolph. Rodolph first provides clarity to Francis’s backstory, then launches into his own story, declaring himself an “outlaw” and the “meanest slave of passion” (7).

Rodolph was fighting on behalf of the current king, King Henry, against Henry’s rival Edward and commanding other lords to join the fight. Lord Silbert had not yet joined the fight for Henry, so Rodolph resolved to convince him. Rodolph traveled to Silbert’s estate, where he was received by the Lady of Lord Silbert and their daughter, Ermina. At dinner, Rodolph was not able to convince Silbert to join the fight for Henry; in fact, Silbert believed Henry’s rival Edward had a legitimate claim to the throne. The two men began trading threats of violence against each other and Rodolph left the estate quickly.

However, once Rodolph left the estate, he started thinking about Silbert’s daughter Ermina and her charms, quickly forgetting “his king, friends, and country” (9). Unable to gain access to the estate in a conventional fashion, he sought advice from his friend Lord Redwald, and decided to enter the mansion in the disguise of a peasant. When he revealed himself to Ermina inside the mansion, she told him that he had to leave; Rodolph then kidnapped Ermina with the help of Redwald’s men and brought her to Redwald’s mansion. Silbert, about to greet Edward’s troops, realized that Ermina had been taken. He later received word that a peasant had taken Ermina and offered a reward for intelligence about her whereabouts. Rodolph’s identity and location were betrayed for the reward, and Silbert arrived with his men at Redwald’s estate to fight for Ermina’s freedom. Redwald received a fatal wound during the fight with Silbert’s army, but before he died, he conveyed knowledge of a secret passageway within his mansion that could be used as an escape, and Rodolph, his men, and Ermina left via that route.

Page 14 of the main text, depicting Rodolph and Ermina’s confrontation in the cave

Once they left the castle and found themselves in nature, Rodolph turned his attention back to Ermina, whose affections towards him had not warmed. She told Rodolph that she would not marry him until her father consented, but he resolved to marry her quickly and have her “share [his] couch tonight” despite her wishes (13). He had Ermina brought “shrieking” to his cavern, and told Ermina to swear to be his (13). Before Rodolph could rape Ermina, Ermina seized Rodolph’s own sword and plunged it into his bosom. She thanked God for preserving her honor, then fled from the area.

The next day, Rodolph came to and heard that Ermina had vanished without a trace. Walking around the area with one of his men, Edric, he saw a stranger, who asked him where to find the “lawless” Rodolph (15). Rodolph dueled with this man, killed him, and read his dispatches. According to these papers, a reward of 500 marks was placed on Rodolph’s head, his lands had been bestowed to Silbert, and his mansion had been used by the rival Edward’s troops. With that development, Rodolph ends his backstory, lamenting his new position as an outlaw. Francis states that the turn of events is beneficial, for Rodolph would have violated Ermina’s honor for a few seconds of pleasure, and invites Rodolph to join the priory for the day and give his penitence.

Meanwhile, another stranger—Lord Silbert—knocks on the door of the priory and asks to stay a night before he continues on his journey. The next morning, Silbert is guided along his journey by one of the priory’s domestics, Gaspar. The Prior watches them leave and realizes that Gaspar is leading Silbert along the wrong path to the right, contrary to the Prior’s constant warnings. On this wrong path, an armed band attacks Silbert, and he is about to die when Rodolph shows up and saves Silbert’s life. Rodolph now has Silbert at his mercy, and demands that Silbert give away Ermina to him. Silbert refuses, and then the Prior shows up to intercede. He urges Rodolph to not keep Silbert captive, and Rodolph quickly acquiesces to his exhortations. Rodolph asks Silbert for forgiveness and pledges to find Ermina for him, and Silbert quickly forgives Rodolph and thanks him for saving his life. As they are about to return to the convent, they come across the wounded Gaspar, who betrayed Silbert. The Prior tells Gaspar that he must repent, and Gaspar reveals that beneath this hill lies a secret cavern where a band of murderers, his companions, live.

Rodolph and Silbert resolve to raid this secret cavern. Once they enter the cavern, they find it fully decorated and quickly kill all of the banditti. They also free a woman who had been kneeling before the chief of the band pleading for mercy. This woman is revealed as Ermina, who was taken by this band when she fled from Rodolph. The chief of the banditti took a liking to her, and threatened to kill her unless she consented to marry him.

After the battle is over, the Prior enters the cavern with a messenger of Silbert, who tells Rodolph that if he swears allegiance to Edward and lays down his arms, he will not only be pardoned, but given a royal favor. Rodolph agrees because King Henry is dead and King Edward has the mandate of the people, and Silbert and Rodolph pledge allegiance to each other.

As the party walks back to the priory, they spot a priest, falling into the water. The priest dies soon after and is revealed as Father Francis. Despite this development, the characters of the book wrap up their story happily—Silbert gives Ermina as a gift to Rodolph and consents to their marriage, Silbert and Rodolph give Lord Redwald a proper burial, and King Edward declares that the men can destroy the robber’s cave and give the proceeds to be split amongst his followers. When the Prior dies a few years later, they all mourn “the good man’s death” together (26). 


Bibliography

Andriopoloulos, Stefan. “Occult Conspiracies: Spirits and Secrets in Schiller’s Ghost Seer.” New German Critique, vol. 35, no. 1, 2008, pp. 65­–81.

Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw: An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century. London, J. Bailey, n.d.

Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw: An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century. London, J. Bailey, 182-. HathiTrust Digital Library. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433112071521&view=1up&seq=11.

“J Bailey.” The British Museum, n.d., https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/AUTH227817.

Hoeveler, Diane L. “Prose Fiction: Zastrossi, St. Irvyne, The Assassins, The Coliseum.” The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley, edited by Michael O’Neill et al. Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 193–208.

Maxted, Ian. The London Book Trades 1775–1800: A Preliminary Checklist of Members. Dawson, 1977.

“The Noble Outlaw.” The Monthly Theatrical Reporter, vol. 1, no. 8, 1815, pp. 301–303. ProQuest.

The Noble Outlaw.” Theatrical Inquisitor, and Monthly Mirror, Feb.1813–June 1819, vol. 6, 1815, pp. 310–312. ProQuest.

“Pamphlet, Frontispiece, Print.” The British Museum, n.d. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1867-1214-1577

Patten, Robert L. “Cruikshank, George.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 25 May 2006.

“The Robbers: drama by Schiller.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 29 September 2011, https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Robbers.

Witte, William. “Friedrich Schiller: German writer.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 31 May 2007, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Friedrich-Schiller/additional-info#history.


Researcher: Lydia McVeigh

The Convent of Saint Usurla

The Convent of Saint Usurla

The Convent of Saint Usurla, or Incidents at Ottagro. An Italian Romance.

Author: Unknown, but abridged from a Sarah Wilkinson novel
Publisher: John Arliss
Publication Year: 1809
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18cm
Pages: 40
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C664 1809


In this abridged version of Sarah Wilkinson’s 1807 novel “The Fugitive Captive,” Magdalena retells the story of the peculiar circumstances in which she has been forced to escape her mysterious husband, the Count de Ottagro.


Material History

The Convent of Saint Usurla, or Incidents at Ottagro. An Italian Romance was published in London on August 22, 1809 with no named author. The full title appears only on the title page; in the header of every other page, it appears only as The Convent of Saint Usurla. It is important to note the spelling of Usurla, not Ursula, in the title. The reason for this misspelling seems to be intentional, as it appears in that form throughout the book; however, the reasoning is unknown. In addition, printing and publishing credit appears on the bottom of the frontispiece and title page, as well as the final page of the book and indicates both printer and publisher to be John Arliss at Bartholomew-Close.  

The title page for The Convent of Saint Usurla

The book is fairly small in size (18 x 11 cm) and without a cover, aside from the title page. This is consistent with the fact that it is likely from an inexpensive chapbook with several other stories. Additionally, the book is disbound. It is precariously held together by thread, evidenced by three small puncture holes on the interior of the pages which it is wound through. On one page, a small fragment of the thread pokes out. Furthermore, the pages are yellowed in an uneven quality throughout the book and scalloped around the edges. Some pages are shorter in width than others. This low quality in binding and appearance can be attributed to its nature as an economical source of entertainment for the public.   

Upon opening the book, one is met with two illustrations. There is a large (13 x 8 cm) illustration on the frontispiece and a smaller (3.5 x 5.5 cm) one on the title page. Both are black and white depictions of scenes from the book. There is a slight reverse image transfer from the large frontispiece illustration onto the adjacent title page. This is due to the differing properties in ink from the two pages. 

The remaining forty pages relay the story of The Convent of Saint Usurla. The text is closely set and fairly small with margins ranging from 1.5 to 2 cm. There are few paragraph indentations, leading to long blocks of uninterrupted text which give the page a crowded appearance. Some pages present words that are precise and clearly distinguishable, while others have ink globs and letters that appear fuzzy. This particular copy of the book has no post-production markings other than one small dark yellow rectangular stain on pages 20 and 21, most likely from a previous owner leaving a scrap of paper in the book for a long period of time. 

At the bottom of various pages, there are signature marks. In the production process, multiple pages were printed on the same large roll of paper which then needed to be folded in the correct order. These signature marks assisted the printers in the folding and binding of the text. Such signature marks appear on pages 3, 5, 15, 19, 25, 27, and 37 and are labeled B, B2, C, C3, D, D3, and E, respectively. Interestingly, each section under a particular signature mark, has a different paper and ink quality than those surrounding it. For example, the paper in signature mark section D is of a visibly lower quality than section C3. Despite the presence of these signature marks, a mistake in the folding of this copy was discovered which led to duplicate copies of pages 25 and 26.  


Textual History

In addition to the copy in the Sadlier-Black Collection at the University of Virginia, The Convent of Saint Usurla, or, Incidents at Ottagro. An Italian Romance (1809) can be found in various forms. For instance, in 2017, a copy of the chapbook was digitized to Google Books by the British National Library. It appears to be the same chapbook edition published by John Arliss, even exhibiting the same mistakes in page numbering. Additionally, the story was republished in Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830 by Franz J. Potter in 2009 with the author listed as Sarah Wilkinson. Likewise, a 2004 reprint by the Zittaw Press publishing company lists Sarah Wilkinson as the author as well. 

The reason for this ambiguity regarding the author comes from the fact that the brief chapbook story is an abridged version of the full-length novel, The Fugitive Countess or, Convent of Saint Ursula (1807) by Sarah Wilkinson. Sections of the chapbook story are pulled directly from the novel, with a few small changes. One alteration is the name change of “Ursula” in the novel, which has been printed as “Usurla” in the chapbook. Similarly, the name “Ottagio” in the novel is slightly altered to “Ottagro” in the chapbook. It is unknown if Sarah Wilkinson herself abridged her novel into the chapbook released in 1809, or if it was plagiarized by a counterfeiter, which was a common practice in the day (Frank 142). 

As aforementioned, The Fugitive Countess (1807), written by Sarah Wilkinson and published by J.P. Hughes, is a four-volume novel that expands upon the short chapbook story The Convent of Saint Usurla (1809). There do not appear to be any critical reviews of the novel or chapbook at the time of original publication; however, The Fugitive Countess is found to be advertised in newspapers. For example, the novel is mentioned under the section “New Novels, just published” in the London based newspaper Morning Post on June 12, 1807. Also, in the Morning Post, it is listed as number six in the “Popular novels/Romances” section on January 1, 1808 which indicates that it was at least marginally popular.

Despite the few mentions of the novel at the time of its release, The Fugitive Countess has received some scholarly critical analysis in recent years. In his work, The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade, Franz Potter notes a striking similarity between Clementina’s interpolated tale from The Fugitive Countess and one of Wilkinson’s previous chapbooks, The Wife of Two Husbands, which was itself an adaptation of a theater musical. He asserts that in the novel, Wilkinson, “drew from other popular themes found in Gothic novels, most notably from Eliza Parsons’s The Mysterious Warning” (128). Despite these similarities, The Fugitive Countess appears to be a legitimate, original novel that was only heavily influenced by popular Gothic works of the time, not plagiarized (History of Gothic Publishing 120).     

A signature mark is shown at the bottom of this page

Nowadays, The Fugitive Countess can be found digitized in the Corvey Collection, a massive collection of European literature from 1790–1840 (Behrendt). It can also be found in, English Language Women’s Literature of the18th & 19th Centuries published by Belser Wissenschaftlicher Dienst in 2004. This republishing of The Fugitive Countess, along with other recent republishings of its chapbook version, may be attributed to the revival of interest in Gothic chapbooks, and author Sarah Wilkinson herself in recent years, as “a case study of middling to lower-class female authorship during the early nineteenth century” (Hoeveler 184). 

A well-known chapbook author of her day, Sarah Carr Wilkinson (1779–1831) was the author of over one-hundred chapbooks, gothic novels, and abridged versions of plays, operas, and popular gothic novels—making her one of the most prolific writers of her genre (“Writing for the Spectre of Poverty” 23). Early on, Wilkinson’s writing career began with children’s books, but she soon transitioned primarily to writing short Gothic chapbooks, also called bluebooks, and full-length novels (Hughes 253). Wilkinson produced many more chapbooks, which were cheaply constructed and sold, than novels. Ultimately, chapbooks were a more profitable venture for her, and writing was her primary source of income (“Writing for the Spectre of Poverty” 23). Her most active and successful years were between 1803 and 1812, in which she received modest popularity in her genre (History of Gothic Publishing 116). Unfortunately, despite her relative popularity in the chapbook scene, Wilkinson “never had the comfort of literary or economic success” and faced a life-long struggle against poverty (“Writing for the Spectre of Poverty” 18). Her financial concerns intensified around 1820, which is exemplified in the many petitions (and denials) for financial assistance from the Royal Literary Fund (History of Gothic Publishing 113). In 1824, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, her plea for assistance was finally granted. The petition was endorsed by several of her publishers and cites, “a depression in the Book trade” as a reason for her need of assistance. This interesting inclusion indicates the waning popularity of the genre that had once sustained her. Unfortunately, Wilkinson’s health and financial situations both continued to deteriorate, culminating in 1831 when she passed away in a London workhouse (History of Gothic Publishing 113–15). 

Currently, there are varying opinions on the merit of Wilkinson as a serious author. Some of her harshest critics have gone as far as to assert that she engaged in “Gothic counterfeiting” (Frank 142). Others have called her a “‘hack’ writer” who pumped out contrived, formulaic stories for the sole purpose of making money (Hoeveler 184). On the other hand, more generous critics admit that Wilkinson wrote to sustain herself and often employed “recycled scenes and motifs” from the genre, even as some argue that her works also show an “ability to construct clear and simple story lines free from dense subplotting that often encumbered Gothic novels” and are important in that they “uniquely show the amalgamation of the bluebook and the novel” (History of Gothic Publishing 116, 130).


Narrative Point of View

The Convent of Saint Usurla is told in two alternating perspectives. Primarily, the novel is written from a third-person point of view. The narrator is unspecified, but omniscient to all of the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and actions. The chapbook is written in a fairly formal style, frequently employs long sentences, and often delves into the interiority of the protagonists. In contrast to this style of writing, the novel also has several interpolated tales inserted throughout which are written in a first-person perspective. These tales extend for many pages at a time and function to recount relevant past events. Since they are told from an individual’s perspective, they are limited to only this character’s point of view. Despite this, however, they are imbued with a great level of detail and highly specific dialogue.   

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:

On this occasion the count visited Tivoli; and having remained there a few days, escorted his daughter to the convent, to the regret of her governess, who did not give her assent to this visit. The journey was delightful to Magdalena: everything was novel, consequently pleasing to her youthful mind; and she chatted with the utmost gaiety. The count could not withhold his love and admiration; but her presence forcibly reminded him of the injury he had done to her, and the necessity of preserving his own reputation unblemished. (7–8)

This passage from near the beginning of the novel demonstrates the omniscient qualities of the third-person point of view. In this case, this narrative perspective functions to give the reader a sense of the motivations of the characters which justify their subsequent actions in the story. 

Sample Passage of First-Person Narration in an Interpolated Tale:

A few days after this I was ordered to receive Ottagro as my husband. Such was my desperation, that being left alone with the count, I, on my knees, confessed my prior marriage, and its consequences, beseeching him not to betray me, but to form some pretext for preventing our approaching union. He raised me in his arms. “You have acted,” said he, “with honorable candour, never shall your confidence be betrayed. Lenardo’s widow must be my bride. If I act in conformity to your wishes your father will seek another alliance; the next suitor may not act with the same generosity as myself. Let me, in the character of husband, be your defender from ill.” (26) 

This passage is from Clementina de Lusini’s interpolated tale in which she recounts her backstory to Magdalena. A first-person perspective is important here because the readers are not given all aspects of the story, only the parts known to Clementina, herself. Due to this, the reader does not receive all relevant information until the end when all of the stories connect together. In addition, the interpolated tale format creates a non-chronological sequence of events. These elements propel the story forward and create mystery that can only be resolved by fully completing the novel. 


Summary

The chapbook, The Convent of Saint Usurla, begins in the middle of an action-packed scene in which the protagonist, Magdalena, the Countess de Ottagro, closely escapes imminent death at the hand of her husband, the Count de Ottagro. Upon fleeing, Magdalena and her maid, Laura, take refuge in the Convent of Saint Usurla where her loving aunt Viola is the Abbess. With this, the novel goes back in time in order to tell the story of how Magdalena came to be in this situation. 

As a young girl, Magdalena lost her mother and thus received a sheltered upbringing by her father, the Count de Verona. The Count de Verona was from an esteemed family in Tivoli; however, he was a gambler and managed to gamble away all of his money, as well as Magdalena’s inheritance. Due to this, Magdalena has no dowry, and thus little prospect for a favorable marriage. To avoid this problem, the Count de Verona wants Magdalena to become a nun and sends her to the Convent of Saint Usurla for a visit. Here, Magdalena becomes close to her Aunt Viola and makes friends, coming to appreciate the convent as she considers taking the oath.

While, at the convent, Magdalena meets the Count de Ottagro, who is a wealthy nobleman and friend of her father’s. The Count takes a liking to her, though she feels impartial, and two continue to meet. Suspecting his marital intentions and questioning his character, Aunt Viola expresses her disapproval of these meetings to Magdalena’s father. In response, the Count de Verona removes Magdalena from the convent and transfers her to the Castle de Ottagro. 

At the Castle de Ottagro, Magdalena spends several weeks with her father, the Count de Ottagro, and his cold sister, Lady Jacintha. In this time, Magdalena also grows close to the Lusini family—the amiable daughter Angelina and handsome son Ernestus—who live nearby; however, this is disapproved of as a bad blood exists between the Count de Ottagro and the Lusini’s for some unknown reason. In addition, Magdalena passes her time secretly reading in the castle library, in which she is forbidden. One late night in the library, Magdalena briefly sees a mysterious woman in white, and she flees in terror. The next day, Magdalena returns to the library and finds a mysterious note, addressed to her, which warns her of some unspecified danger. 

Soon after this strange occurrence, the Count de Verona orders Magdalena to marry the Count de Ottagro. He says that by doing this, Ottagro will erase the gambling debts that he has incurred and will even give him a future loan. At first, Magdalena rejects the idea since she is suspicious of Ottagro. However, the Count de Verona threatens suicide, so she ultimately agrees. The next morning, Magdalena unhappily accepts the Count de Ottagro’s marriage proposal, and the wedding ceremony is set for two weeks’ time. 

The frontispiece for The Convent of Saint Usurla

In the interim, one-night Magdalena spots the Count de Ottagro and his sister, Lady Jacintha, carrying a covered basket to the library. There, the two open a hidden trapdoor and descend. Now, Magdalena is highly wary of her groom-to-be and suspects that there is a secret prisoner in the library. Nevertheless, she proceeds with the marriage. 

A few weeks later, on a night in which the Count de Ottagro is out of town and Lady Jacintha is sick, Magdalena returns to the library and opens the trap door. She descends down a staircase and a long passage where she then reaches a locked door. Disappointed, Magdalena starts to return to the surface; however, Lady Jacintha’s maid Thomasine finds her. Magdalena fears that Thomasine will turn her in, but instead she unlocks the door to reveal the secret. Inside, there is a small child and a dying woman who is identified as Clementina de Lusini—the first wife of the Count de Ottagro.  

At this point, the dying Clementina de Lusini retells the story of how she came to be imprisoned in the library dungeon in the Castle de Ottagro. As a teen, Clementina fell in love with Lenardo di Orizzi, the son of her father’s arch nemesis. She was forbidden to marry him, but the two secretly eloped. Soon, their elopement was discovered by Lenardo’s family and because of this, he was sent far away to war where he was killed in action. After this devastating tragedy, Clementina discovered that she was pregnant. Fortunately, her family was scheduled to go on a long trip without her, during which she gave birth to a baby boy. She called him Lenardo and gives him to her doctor and his wife to raise. The doctor and his family, including young Lenardo, then moved to England.  

Ignorant to all of the events that had taken place, Clementina’s family returned from their trip with a friend, the Count de Ottagro. Thinking her lover to be dead, Clementina married the Count de Ottagro, but before long, her guilty conscience prompted her to tell the Count of everything that had occurred. Surprisingly, the Count de Ottagro accepted her admission, but over time grew resentful and unkind. After some time, Clementina became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl, Adeline, but the Count de Ottagro remained unhappy, as he wanted a male heir. 

After several years, Clementina visited her family’s mansion, where she found Lenardo, her lover, to be alive and well. Apparently, he was not sent away to war, but imprisoned by his father for his indiscretion and declared dead to the world. Upon the recent death of his father, he was freed. However happy, Clementina was also greatly troubled at this news, as she had already remarried.

Almost immediately, the Count de Ottagro discovered that Lenardo was alive, and he and Clementina have met. With this knowledge, he accused Clementina of plotting to murder him and took her to the dungeon under his library. There she found Lenardo and her maid, Drusilla, who was imprisoned as an accomplice to Clementina’s perceived betrayal. In a rage, Ottagro murdered Lenardo and Drusilla, and Clementina was devastated. The Count de Ottagro realized that he cannot free Clementina as she could expose him; however, he also does not want to kill her. As a result, he faked her and their daughter’s deaths and imprisons them in the library dungeon where they have been for the last five years. Soon after relaying this story, Clementina dies. 

Soon after this wild discovery, the Count de Ottagro grows suspicious that Magdalena has uncovered his secret. Under pressure, she admits. The Count threatens Magdalena, but ultimately swears her to secrecy. Two years pass by with this arrangement, when one-night Magdalena sees the Count de Ottagro smuggle a teen boy into the library dungeon. She secretly enters the dungeon and discovers that it is Clementina’s son, Lenardo. Lenardo tells her that he was raised in England by his adopted family, but upon growing older was told of his true past. On hearing this, he vowed to take revenge on Ottagro and started heading for Italy. However, all of this time, the Count de Ottagro kept tabs on the boy, so he was intercepted on his journey and imprisoned. With the help of Magdalena, Lenardo manages to escape and arrives safely at the Lusini home. The Count de Ottagro discovers this and, furious, he nearly kills Magdelena. However, Magdalena escapes and flees to the Convent to take refuge. This is where the various timelines of the novel converge.  

Fearing exposure, the Count de Ottagro rapidly flees the castle when his carriage crashes and he dies. Magdelena is now free from the evil Count de Ottagro and she and the handsome Lusini son, Ernestus, get married. 


Bibliography

Behrendt, Stephen C. “European Literature, 1790–1840: The Corvey Collection.” Gale Primary Sources: Nineteenth Century Collections Online. https://go-gale-com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/ps/aboutThisCollection?userGroupName=viva_uva&inPS=true&mCode=4UVC&prodId=NCCO

The Convent of Saint Usurla, or, Incidents at Ottagro. An Italian Romance. London, John Arliss, 1809. 

Frank, Frederick S.. Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide, edited by Douglass H. Thomson, and Jack G. Voller, Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central. 

Hoeveler, Diane Long. “More Gothic Gold: the Sadleir-Black chapbook collection at the University of Virginia library.” Papers on Language & Literature, vol. 46, no. 2, 2010, pp. 164–193. 

Hughes, William. Historical Dictionary of Gothic Literature, Scarecrow Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/lib/uva/detail.action?docID=1144297

“Multiple Classified Ads.” Morning Post [London], Issue 11322, June 12, 1807, p. 2. Gale Primary Sources: British Library Newspapers.

“Multiple Classified Ads.” Morning Post [London], Issue 11503, Jan. 1, 1808, p. 4. Gale Primary Sources: British Library Newspapers.

Potter, Franz. The History of Gothic Publishing, 18001835: Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Potter, Franz. ‘Writing for the Spectre of Poverty: Exhuming Sarah Wilkinson’s Bluebooks and Novels.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text, issue 11, 2003, pp. 17–34.

Wilkinson, Sarah. The Fugitive Countess or, Convent of Saint Ursula. London, J.P. Hughes, 1807.


Researcher: Samantha K. Venables

Mary, the Maid of the Inn

Mary, the Maid of the Inn

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.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Orlando Hodgson
Publication Year: 1822
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 6.5cm x 10.8cm
Pages: 24
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.


Material History

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.

The fold-out illustration and title page for 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.

Existing front cover of Mary, the Maid of the Inn with markings

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.


Textual History

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).

Robert Southey’s original poem, appended to Mary, the Maid of the Inn

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
Year: Unknown
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
Year: 1828
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.
Year: 1850
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.

Two-page spread from Mary, the Maid of the Inn

Sample Passage:

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.


Summary

Subsequent title page of Mary, the Maid of the Inn

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.


Bibliography

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

Roxalana

Roxalana

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother. An Historic Tale

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Ann Lemoine and J. Roe
Publication Year: 1806
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11.5cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .R736 1806


Published in 1806 by an unknown author, Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother is tragic tale of family disputes and an undying jealousy leading to a family’s demise.


Material History

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother. An Historic Tale is a gothic text in English originally published in London by an unknown author. The text comes in the form of a chapbook with no indication of the title on the cover page, however we do know it was published in 1806 and “by and for J. Roe.” As the book was gifted to the Sadlier-Black Collection, there is no concrete history of the potential author or the context in which it was written. The title appears often, most notable on the inside of the cover page and again on the second page. Its first appearance is under a black and white illustration depicting the inside of a living room and a woman who we can assume to be the stepmother. The illustration is carefully drawn with meticulous lines shaping the room and person within. The second page portrays the title in large, spacious lettering in black ink with still no indication of the author. The title appears again at the top of every page as Roxalana.

These pages capture the illustration and title page for the opening of the chapbook

The chapbook itself is only 36 pages long with a length of 11.5 cm, its size is quite a bit smaller than the average hand. The condition of the text is extremely fragile with the first and last page hardly retaining their attachment to the rest of the pages. The paper is very thin and brittle, banded simply together with no distinct border. The faint binding remnants reflect a somewhat thicker cardboard material decorated with once brown and gold details. The only stylistic elements on the cover page is the faint impression of the illustration on the inside cover. We can easily observe the delicate nature of the chapbook, with the yellowing brown pages and pages threatening to fall out. Its worn state indicates its usage and its light weight contributed to its easy, cheap exchange. As the illustration is also in black and white, we can expect this book to have cost a small amount of money.

When analyzing the inside of the book, we can see the font is precise and aligned to allow greater space on the inner margins of the pages as opposed to the outer margins. Despite this, there is not a lot of blank space as the words have assumed a large portion of the compact page. The font initially seems small, however it still allows for easy reading without an overcrowding of words. There are no other illustrations within the chapbook save for the illustration on the inside of the cover page. In exploring potential signs to indicate prior ownership, there are no visible marks in the text nor on the cover pages; there are no stamps, stains, or names besides “I. Roe.” Staying true to making the most of out of the available space, the ending of the book finishes on the second side of the last page. Despite the compact size, the story covers a large amount of geographical space within the Middle East; this contrast seems to give the physicality of the chapbook another dimension.


Textual History

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother, An Historic Tale was published in 1806 by John Roe and Ann Lemoine and printed by Thomas Maiden in London. The author of the text is unknown and there are no concrete sources definitely tracing a potential author. John Roe and Ann Lemoine were book publishers in the late eighteenth century; both partook in bookselling and often worked alongside Thomas Maiden to publish numerous texts. However, because of the sheer number of books these three collectively worked on, there is still no positive inclination towards one particular author of Roxalana. Despite this ambiguity, there are a few avenues that can provide for greater contextualization of the story.

One of the inside pages containing text of Roxalana

This text is a chapbook published in English. There are no prefaces, introductions, prequels, or sequels to further guide the direction of the narrative. In approaching Roxalana through a historical lens, however, the character is indeed based off of a real historical figure in the 1500s, Aleksandra Lisovska or Hurrem Sultan in Turkish. Roxalana was a Slavic woman who was sold into the slave market at a young age to an acquaintance of Sultan Suleiman. Soon thereafter, she entered the harem and eventually became the legal wife of the sultan, a feat considered quite extraordinary. She bore him five sons and amounted a great deal of power over the course of her relationship. In grappling with Roxalana from this perspective, the reader can see the realistic aspects of the story as it derives from a nonfiction narrative (Parry).

An earlier version of Roxalana appeared in The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer in 1769 as The History of Mustapha and Roxalana. The content of the story mirrors the 1806 version despite the changes in details and writing. In the 1769 story, a major difference in the plot is the father killing one of the sons rather than servants proceeding with the murder.

Another version appears in The British Moralist; or, Young Gentleman and Lady’s Polite Preceptor, a two-volume collection of “novels, tales, fables, visions, dreams, allegories” published in 1771. The collection’s title page lists several authors and then further indicates the inclusion of other “Celebrated Moderns.” Within this collection, Roxalana appears in The Merciless Mother-in-law; or, The History of Mustapha and Roxalana; a story similar to the 1806 version and the authorship listed as“from Dr. Robertson’s Charles the Fifth” (276). Dr. William Robertson was a Scottish minister and Principal of the University of Edinburgh, his work History of Charles the Fifth is part of a larger volume of works. His work A History of the Middle Ages: Describing the Progress of Society in Europe from the Subversion of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the sixteenth century extensively covers historical and geographical details, such as a deeper look into the Ottoman Empire, omitted from other versions.

The multiple versions in addition to the 1806 printing indicate that there was a market for this story. The various places Roxalana can be located also implies that the audience ranged from those who could only afford chapbooks to those who had the money to purchase Dr. Robertson’s historical books. There are no reviews of the story that can readily be found in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century newspapers, however Roxalana reflects a longer tradition of European fascination with the Middle East.


Narrative Point of View

Roxalana, or the Stepmother is narrated from a third-person point of view. The narrator remains anonymous and never self-identifies through any means throughout the story. The narrator uses simple yet regal language; the plot is not overly detailed, however the specific vocabulary used reflects royal aura of the main ruling family. Further, the narrator is very exact in tone as the story unfolds and the audience is invited to read the story as if it were true. This echoes in the latter half of the title—An Historic Tale—as the narrator contextualizes the tale by providing historic details and geographical mobility. While the narrator does not provide excessive details, the narration still offers interiority of the multiple characters in a transparent, thorough way.

Sample Passage:

Roxalana being now raised in a co-partnership in the empire, and absolute mistress of the Sultan’s will, took upon her the administration of affairs; and soon made those that composed the Ottoman court, feel the powerful effects of her hatred or good-will. Her aversion for Mustapha increased with the report of his virtues, and her blind tenderness for Bajazet with the knowledge of his vices. She even thought it her duty to repair his visible defects, by the procession of an empire, and that a dignity of that high nature was alone capable of justifying her ill-grounded preference. As for Selim, a blended mixture of vice and good qualities composed his character; and if he sympathised in any thing with Bajazet, it was only in their desire of reigning. (8)

In this passage, the style of the narrator is evident, displaying evocations of empire and a regal atmosphere. While the focus is on Roxalana’s thoughts, the narrator also codes Mustapha, Bajazet, and Selim by explaining just enough for the audience to understand their respective characters. Another significant feature of the narrative style is how the narrator is able to adopt a classic oral storytelling voice.  


Summary

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother, An Historic Tale centers on a royal Turkish family in the Ottoman Empire period. The story opens up with a discussion of women and their feminine charm, specifically how women can manipulate their charm to be powerful enough to rule over men and societies.

The first page with the beginning of Roxalana

The narrator then introduces the family through this sentiment by bringing in Solyman, the current Sultan, and characterizing him as a just, respected ruler. Solyman had a Georgian wife, who passed away, with whom he had his first son, Mustapha. Solyman continues to have affairs with other women and a particularly powerful relationship with one Turkish servant, Roxalana. The story describes Roxalana as an evil stepmother capable of severe malevolence and intensely wicked in intention and actions. Together, Roxalana and Solyman have four boys and one daughter: Mahomet, Selim, Bajazet, Zeangir, and Cameria.

Solyman’s prized possession is his first son Mustapha and it is through this love that Mustapaha eventually marries and becomes a respected Prince of Amazia, a neighboring region. Roxalana utterly despises Mustapha and desires her son, Bajazet, to be the successor after Solyman’s death. To execute such a role, she realizes the importance of formally wedding Solyman and thus deceives a religious figure into blessing the matrimony of the pair; she then unleashes her limitless cruelty in securing her son’s position as Sultan. Bajazet and Selim take after their mother’s temperament while Zeangir imitates Mustapha’s renowned demeanor, prompting him to join Mustapha. During Zeangir’s stay with Mustapha they fall into battle with the Sophi of Persia and his army, resulting in Mustapha’s win over the Sophi. Mustapha’s grace extends to even the war prisoners, creating an almost peaceful, mediated space between the rivaling forces. Zeangir assumes power over one of Persia’s territories and falls in love with the Sophi’s daughter, Perselia. Zeangir confides in Mustapha about his love for Perselia and eventually, with Mustapha’s permission, leaves to pursue her after she returns to her home in Tauris. There, Zeangir meets with an anxious Perselia to profess his love and further intensify his goal of marrying her. Perselia responds by indicating the inappropriateness of their private conduct (regarding different sexes) and encourages him to offer a truce with the Sophi, who similarly wants an end to the conflict. Zeangir realizes the critical nature of securing this truce in wanting to marry Perselia, thus he quickly leaves and returns to Mustapha.

Mustapha accepts the news willingly and secretly, unbeknownst to Solyman, sends an offer to the Sophi through a servant, Achmet, who later proves to be disloyal. Throughout this unfolding, Roxalana continues to wreak havoc by inducing paranoia in Solyman regarding his sons and taking steps to ensure the destruction of Mustapha. Solyman discovers the offer Mustapha makes and through Roxalana’s authoritative influence becomes enraged over his son’s actions. He then issues for the kidnapping of Perselia and summons his sons in Amazia to return to his palace. Roxalana continues to scheme and employs Rustan, the husband of her daughter, as her loyal ally in carrying out her horrors. When Bajazet falls in love with the captive Perselia, Roxalana and Rustan deceptively create traps for the other men to fall into: they prevent Bajazet from seeing Perselia (whom Roxalana despises), distract Zeangir by letting him meet with Perselia, and convince Solyman of his ultimate demise due to Mustapha wanting to overthrow him. Roxalana creates a lie regarding Mustapha’s desire to replace Solyman and elicits terror in Solyman.

This page shows the closing of the chapbook

Solyman, fearing replacement, orders Rustan and his men to murder Mustapha in order to retain his position as Sultan. Rustan and his men pursue Mustapha, who has realized his stepmother’s evil character, and succeed in murdering him despite Mustapha’s fighting stance. Zeangir, whom Perselia warned about the cruelty in Roxalana and Rustan, discovers he is too late and rushes to the bloody scene of his dead brother. Zeangir and many army men endure great agony in seeing the death of their beloved leader and mobilize to discover the cause. Zeangir then faces his father and accuses him of submitting to Roxalana’s influence and his own weaknesses. Zeangir then stabs himself in the breast and dies while Solyman finally realizes the truth of the situation.

Despite Solyman acknowledging the truth, he still persists in obeying Roxalana’s wishes and mourns her greatly after her natural death two years later. Prior to her death, Roxalana and Rustan force Solyman to consent to the death of Mustapha’s wife and child. Perselia returns to her father and is followed by Bajazet, who is still strongly in love with her in spite of Perselia’s disgust towards him. Solyman, overcome with grief and guilt, orders for the murder of Bajazet in the same fashion Mustapha had been murdered. Solyman eventually passes away with old age and Selim assumes the role of the next Sultan, a role portrayed as respected and fair. 


Bibliography

“The History of Mustapha and Roxalana.” The London Magazine or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, vol 38, 1769.  https://books.google.com/books?id=RxUrAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA345&lpg=PA345&dq=roxalana+or+the+step-mother&source=bl&ots=U_Wbsu68Zk&sig=ACfU3U3MgAbpB7t8EGLD9roeELty0juQqA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjyqIHc357lAhVyiOAKHb0gBQsQ6AEwA3oECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=roxalana%20or%20the%20step-mother&f=false

The Merciless Mother-in-law; or, The History of Mustapha and Roxalana.” The British Moralist; or, Young Gentleman and Lady’s Polite Preceptor. London. 1771, https://books.google.com/books?id=7KQ_AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA275&lpg=PA275&dq=the+merciless+mother+in+law+mustapha&source=bl&ots=lUz0QVB9SY&sig=ACfU3U3ijflLtapqlNzwqR0ef1zPs9g0uw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwit_IH84p7lAhXIV98KHUWcAuAQ6AEwA3oECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Parry, V.J. “Süleyman the Magnificent.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 16 May 2019, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Suleyman-the-Magnificent.

Robertson, William. “General History of Europe During the Reign of The Emperor Charles V.” History of the Middle Ages. London. 1850.

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother. An Historic Tale. London, I. Roe, 1806.


Researcher: Iqra Khalid Razzaq