An abridged plagiarism of Sir Walter Scott’s 1823 novel Quentin Durward, this chapbook follows the grotesque adventures of Scottish cavalier Quentin Durward and his romance with the beautiful Countess Isabelle.
Durward and Isabelle appears to be a flimsy few scraps of paper being held together by what looks like a piece of twine. The full title is simply Durward and Isabelle. The book is bound together with another chapbook, Mary, the Maid of the Inn, which precedes Durward and Isabelle. It appears as though the back of Mary, the Maid of the Inn, was ripped out, since there are remnants of torn paper at the last page. The paper of Durward and Isabelle is not as yellow compared to Mary, the Maid of the Inn, and the two texts are printed in different fonts. This suggests that Durward and Isabelle was likely bound to Mary, the Maid of the Inn at a later time.
The origins of this chapbook remain a mystery,
as there is no listed author. However, the publisher is listed at the bottom of
the final page as “Dean and Munday, Threadneedle-Street, London.” Mary, the
Maid of the Inn has a title page with a different publisher listed. The
cover of Mary, the Maid of the Inn does have some handwriting on it, but
it is impossible to know if this was written before or after the chapbooks were
The dimensions of the book are about 11cm x 16
cm, so it is fairly small. Durward and Isabelle is thirty-six pages
long, while the previous story is twenty-five pages, making for a total of sixty-one
pages bound together by a single piece of fraying string. The last page of Durward
and Isabelle has fallen off but is still kept with the book in the library.
The pages are very brittle and dry, and are also very frail and yellowed,
likely due to the wear and tear that the book has been subject to over the
years. The margins are decently sized while the font is relatively small but
not difficult to read. There is a surprisingly large amount of spacing between
paragraphs. The margins are uneven: there is little to no space at the top at
the top of the book, while there are much larger side margins.
While Mary, the Maid of the Inn contains
a fold-out illustration, there are no illustrations in Durward &
Isabelle. There are some words handwritten on the cover: in the top right
corner, the word “romance” is written in pencil and “1822” (the year Mary,
the Maid of the Inn was published) in ink. On the bottom of the cover,
there is a series of numbers and letters without clear meaning.
Durward and Isabelle is a chapbook that is a plagiarized and abridged version of Quentin Durward, a novel written by Sir Walter Scott published in 1823. The author of Durward and Isabelle is not known. At only thirty-six pages, the chapbook is much shorter than the original novel and brushes over many of the major plot points. While the original novel is focused on Quentin Durward and his adventures, the chapbook is more focused on Durward’s adventures that involve his relationship with Isabelle, hence the title Durward and Isabelle. The plagiarized chapbook was published by Dean and Munday, as printed on the last page of the book. Dean and Munday was a popular publishing institution established in 1810 that published many other chapbooks. The Dean and Munday families lived together and raised their children together in their home behind the shop on Threadneedle Street. Two cousins, Thomas Dean and Thomas Munday, became apprentices, then later became partners in the firm. This partnership lasted until 1838, when it was permanently dissolved (Potter 86). According to Franz Potter, “During these early years at Dean & Munday, the firm also reissued a number of well-known gothic pamphlets originally published by other booksellers” (87). Durward and Isabelle is listed as one of the one-shilling pamphlets published by Dean and Munday in a book titled The French Revolution of 1830: Being a Succinct Account of the Tyrannical Attempt of Charles X. to Overturn the French Constitution. Interestingly, Mary, the Maid of the Inn is also on this list of Dean and Munday pamphlets printed with The French Revolution of 1830, though the copy of Mary, the Maid of the Innbound with the Sadleir-Black Collection’s copy of Durward and Isabelle was published by Orlando Hodgson not Dean and Munday.
Given Sir Walter Scott’s significance, there is an abundance of
information about his original novel Quentin Durward by contrast with
the dearth of information on the plagiarized and abridged Durward and
Isabelle. In a late nineteenth-century edition of Quentin Durward edited
by Charlotte M. Yonge, Yonge includes a historical introduction in which she
writes that Scott “held that it was lawful for art to throw together historical
characters and facts with more regard to effect than to accuracy or detail, and
thus to leave a stronger impression on the mind. And there can be no doubt that
the tale he has given us has fixed on thousands of minds a strong and definite
impression of the characters of Louis XI” (14). In writing this, Yonge
identifies the significant impact that the characters of Quentin Durward
had on the public point of view.
There are other notable adaptations of Scott’s novel, including Quentin
Durward; a dramatic adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s novel, in three acts and
three scenes, by Charles Andrew Merz and Frank Wright Tuttle.This
adaptation was published in 1914 and is associated with the Yale University
Dramatic Association. There are digital copies of the original Quentin
Durward and its adaptations available on ProQuest One Literature and the
HathiTrust Library. The novel was even adapted into a film called The
Adventures of Quentin Durward, released in 1955.
Narrative Point of View
Durward and Isabelle is narrated in the third
person, and the narrator is never named nor are we given any context on how
they learned of the story. The story is told in a very straightforward fashion,
yet still manages to incorporate feelings of characters. The narration is
filled with expansive sentences, with an emphasis on depicting events and with minimal
The young and beautiful Isabelle had fled from Burgundy, to avoid being married to one of the Duke’s favourites; and whether she was really under King Louis’s protection, was not certainly known. Durward could not help conjecturing, from circumstances, that the young lady he had seen in the morning, and with whose charms he had been smitten, was, in fact, the young countess. While the knowledge of her rank and misfortunes interested him yet more strongly in her fate, it tended to damp any presumptuous hopes which love might have induced him to form. (8)
As seen here, in Durward and Isabelle the
narration is succinct and descriptive, and effectively explains the characters’
thoughts and feelings at certain moments. This can be seen when Durward deduces
that the woman he saw is the countess, and the narration presents not only what
he knows but how he feels with his subsequently lowered “hopes.”
Durward and Isabelle tells the tale of a fifteenth-century Scottish cavalier, Durward,
and Isabelle, a Countess. The story begins when Durward is met by King Louis XI
of France by chance. Durward introduces himself as a cadet of Scotland, who
came to France to seek fortune. It is later revealed that his father and
remaining family members were killed by a rivaling clan, and this caused his
mother to die of grief. Upon Durward’s introduction, the King also discovers
that he knows Durward’s uncle, Lesie, who comes to the castle to meet him and
the king. The king eventually decides to recruit this young cavalier as one of
his men, after consulting with his astronomer, Martius Galeoletti, who says
that Durward has good intentions. Durward has multiple encounters with Isabelle
throughout the beginning of the story, as she is residing at the castle where
the king lives.
One day while Durward is strolling through the garden, he comes
across a man hanging from a tree. Appalled by this circumstance, he immediately
climbs up the tree and cuts the rope, onlooking Bohemians react badly to this
action. The king’s right-hand man, Provost Marshall, takes them all prisoner.
Durward thinks he is going to be hanged along with the Bohemians but then
proceeds to defend himself, claiming he is from Scotland which is an allied
country. His life is spared.
It is revealed that the reason Isabelle is under the king’s
protection is because she fled from Burgundy after discovering that she was to
be married to one of the duke’s men. A count sent by the Duke of Burgundy
appears while searching for the ladies (Isabelle and her Aunt). The king
refuses to give them up and, after the count threatens to wage war on the
kingdom, the king decides to send Isabelle and her aunt away to Liege to be
under the protection of the bishop. The king appoints Durward in charge of
taking Lady Isabelle and her aunt to Liege with three soldiers and a guide.
Throughout their journey they encounter many men who want to claim possession
of Isabelle, including William de la Marck, a feared man from the area, and the
Duke of Orleans, who is to be wed to Isabelle’s sister but would rather marry
William de la Marck, in a fit of rage, decides to take over the city of Liege and murders the bishop in cold blood. Durward and Isabelle must escape together. During the siege, Durward presents himself to Willam de la Marck and says that if they are to be allied with France, they must not present themselves with this sort of conduct, so William de la Marck complies, and they all leave. De la Marck then threatens to return because he hears word that Isabelle is still hiding in the city. Isabelle at this point is willing to sacrifice herself to the Duke of Burgundy and decides she will offer to give up her patrimonial estates and ask permission to retire in a convent. They make it back to the Duke of Burgundy and the same day, the king decides to visit him too. The Duke of Burgundy hears about William de la Marcks violent tactics and believes that this is King Louis’ doing. He imprisons the king and plans for his execution.
After days of trials and Durward’s statement is given, the duke
determines that the king is innocent and decides they are to combine forces to
capture William de la Marck. Who will receive Isabelle’s hand in marriage
remains in question, so as incentive, the duke says that whoever is successful
in killing de la Marck wins Isabelle’s hand in marriage. Upon hearing this,
Durward searches for de la Marck, and finds him decapitated. In defeat, he
returns to the castle only to discover his uncle Lesie standing with William de
la Marck’s head, which he brought on Durward’s behalf. Durward and Isabelle are
both pleased with the arrangement and end up married together happily ever
Durward and Isabelle. London, Dean & Munday, n.d.
The French Revolution of 1830:
Being a Succinct Account of the Tyrannical Attempt of Charles X. to Overturn the French
Constitution, Etc. [With a Plate.]. Dean & Munday, 1830.
Merz, Charles Andrew, and Frank Wright Tuttle. Quentin
Durward: a Dramatic Adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s Novel, in Three Acts
and Three Scenes.New
Haven, Yale University
Dramatic Association, 1914.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks
and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
Yonge, Charlotte M.
“Introduction.” Quentin Durward, by Sir Walter Scott. Boston, Ginn & Co, 1895.
A tale of romance, resentment, and revenge, this 1804 chapbook tells the story of a noble family living in France as one brother’s evil corrupts the lives of those around him.
Maximilian and Selina, Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale can be found in two collections in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. One copy is bound inside the collection Marvellous Magazine (volume III). Pencil notes (perhaps from Sadleir himself) on the inside cover of this copy indicate that this story can also be found in a volume called The Entertainer I, also in the Sadleir-Black Collection.
The printing of Maximilian and Selina bound in The Entertainer appears identical to the version bound in Marvellous Magazine; both sharethe same frontispiece and title page. The frontispiece shows a scene in which a man is being pushed out of a tower by someone else, while a woman watches in horror from behind. Each copy of Maximilian and Selina was published by Tegg and Castleman, but no author is indicated in either volume.
Marvellous Magazine appears very old and worn; the cover and first page are entirely detached from the rest of the book. The binding is plain and cracked. The cover is spotted leather with decorative swirling gold patterning on the spine and gold dots around the edge of the binding. The paper is medium- to lightweight and yellowed, displaying relatively small text. Before each story in the collection appears a black and white frontispiece illustrating a scene from the following pages. The entire book is 512 pages long and contains seven stories: six are exactly seventy-two pages long (including Maximilian and Selina), and one is eighty. The book is rather small, measuring only 4.3 x 10.4 x 18.1 cm.
Maximilian and Selina is available in several different editions at the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. The copies in the larger volumes The Entertainer and Marvellous Magazine are identical and will be discussed first. The story was first printed in 1804 for Tegg & Castleman. Thomas Tegg was a well-known printer who lived from 1776 to 1846. According to an obituary, the bookseller struggled in his childhood and early career, but he eventually established his own successful business and began to amass his fortune printing, buying, and selling books. He was elected Sheriff of London in 1846 but did not serve in that position due to failing health. After his death, his sons continued in their father’s path. Interestingly, Tegg’s youngest son was so stricken with grief at his father’s death that he died as well shortly after, and their bodies were buried in the family plot together on the same day (The Gentleman’s Magazine 650). There is an intriguing (albeit unintended) parallel in Maximilian and Selina: the Duke of Anjou arrives at the convent just as the death knell tolls for his daughter, and he immediately dies of the shock. Their bodies are carried back to the chateau together, where the sight of his dead father and sister drive Godfrey to madness.
The 1804 version of Maximilian and Selina is available within multiple collections of stories. The two held by the University of Virginia are Marvellous Magazine and The Entertainer. Maximilian and Selina appears identical in both volumes, with the same title page and frontispiece. The other printing is for Dean & Munday in 1820. The edition printed by Dean & Munday that is housed at the University of Virginia Library is disbound and has significant brown spotting on the title page. It looks similar to the Tegg & Castleman version, but the publishing information is different and the frontispiece is in color. Also, it is only thirty-six pages instead of seventy-two. The shorter length is because this version is an abridged version of the 1804 edition. The overall plot is similar but most of the frame narrative has been cut out, several characters are entirely deleted, the sequence in which the reader learns about events is different, and in abridging the text many plot points are deleted in a confusing way, without any transitions being added. The Dean & Munday printing has a catalogue slip in it which gives some basic publishing information, a description of the physical object, and part of an assessment by scholar Frederick Frank: “A confusing patchwork of obscure and opaque plots … Complexity and lucidity are not necessarily incompatible elements of style in horror fiction, but in this chapbook, the style is so dense as to render even the basic facts of the story a matter of hazardous speculation” (The First Gothics 233). The explanation on the slip for the frontispiece does not relate to the story. The scene shown is Edward pushing Godfrey out of the tower while Elgiva screams in horror, but the slip describes “ruffians throwing a screaming boy from the top of a tower.”
Another incorrect description of the frontispiece is found in Frederick Frank’s article “Gothic Gold.” The year and publishing information match the Tegg & Castleman version, but the article says that the chapbook is thirty-six pages, like the Dean & Munday printing. The frontispiece is shown in black and white above a brief description of the book: “About to be hurled from the turret by his malicious brother, Adolphus de Monvel, Maximilian’s doom seems sealed as a pathetic mother figure murmurs an ineffectual prayer unheard in the fallen and godless universe. The scene is the chapbook’s initial spectacular incident in a series of unremitting crises” (“Gothic Gold” 309). This description mentions real characters from the story, but neither Adolphus nor Maximilian were a part of this scene, and the female figure is most likely Elgiva, Godfrey’s wife. This is also one of the last events in the chapbook, not the first.
Frank gives another critical synopsis of Maximilian and Selina in his book The First Gothics. It lists the publishing information of the unabridged 1804 version. However, this synopsis also contradicts the events of both versions of the chapbook (the Tegg & Castleman printing, and the abridged one for Dean & Munday). It is also different than the description given for the frontispiece in Frank’s “Gothic Gold.” In The First Gothics, the frontispiece is said to show ruffians throwing Godfrey off a tower, instead of Maximilian being thrown by de Monvel, his “brother.” This synopsis covers the rest of the chapbook, with references to real characters and similar plot points, but multiple inaccuracies which completely change the story.
Maximilian and Selina is mentioned more briefly in several other scholarly works (Potter History of Gothic Publishing 75, Mayo 551, Hoeveler). Mayo explains that Marvellous Magazine and similar anthologies generally featured stories of a specified length. For example, the volume of Marvellous Magazine containing Maximilian and Selina contains stories all seventy-two pages in length, save one exception. This length limit often resulted in the butchering of Gothic classics as they were edited and amended to reach a precise page count (Mayo 367). This is one possibility to account for the incoherency of the shorter Dean & Munday printing compared to the original, which was twice as long.
Narrative Point of View
The main story within Maximilian and Selina is narrated by Maximilian, the Abbott, as he recounts his life to Sancho Orlando. He uses first-person narration which focuses on his own thoughts and feelings as the plot progresses. Since Maximilian is older when he is telling this story, he occasionally inserts future knowledge. Part of the story is the packet that Maximilian wrote based on Nerina’s deathbed explanation. This part is told in the third person, with a somewhat omniscient narrator. The final section is the tale told by Guiscardo to Sancho, in first-person narration from Guiscardo’s point of view. The language is similar in all three: archaic and formal. The packet is perhaps a bit more flowery in its prose than the oral stories.
To discover who this was, became at length the predominant desire of my soul, since, could I but confront him, I knew my innocence must triumph; but where to seek for information, which Selina only could give, and had refused, almost to distraction. At length a light seemed to break on my bewildered senses, and I fancied the whole discovery lay clear before me. On revolving the whole affair, as stated by the Duke, I was forcibly struck with that part where Selina charged me with neglect during her father’s absence; at the same time praising the kindness of her eldest brother, by whose attention she was wholly sustained, whilst Edward and myself chose to amuse ourselves apart. I had once been told by Edward, that Godfrey was my foe, and I now believed it; he alone could have poisoned his sister’s mind against me, and made her notice, a long past and seemingly forgotten act of prudence, as a want of affection for her, —Wild as this idea was, it became conclusive, and I madly formed the resolution of following the Duke and his son, and of accusing the latter. (28)
This paragraph is from the section narrated in Maximilian’s point of view. By describing his past self’s inner thoughts about Selina’s change of heart, Maximilian emphasizes his own perspective. At the time, Maximilian did not have any doubts about his conviction that Godfrey was sabotaging his relationship with Selina, which is why he rashly rode out into the night to follow him. However, now knowing that it was Edward who really betrayed him, he uses words including “I fancied,” “wild,” and “madly.” The narrator’s hindsight creates the feeling of an omniscient point of view, even though it is simply Maximilian in the future, narrating retrospectively.
The story begins with a wise old abbot named Maximilian. A Spanish knight named Sancho Orlando comes to seek his advice after killing his friend in single combat. After the Abbot listens to his story, he assures the knight that his friend’s death was not his fault, and that he has no need for such guilt. The knight asks the Abbot how he came to be a monk, and the body of the tale is what the Abbot tells Sancho in reply.
Godfrey, Duke of Anjou, is a kind and generous nobleman visiting his chateau in the countryside with his children. Maximilian is the same age at that point as the Duke’s younger son, Edward, and because his uncle, the prior at a local convent, is close friends with the Duke, Maximilian spends a lot of time with his children. Godfrey, the Duke’s elder son, is friendly, noble, and admirable, while Edward is horrible, jealous, and cruel, but Maximilian does not notice Edward’s faults until too late because of their friendship. Selina, the Duke’s daughter, is beautiful and kind, and Maximilian falls in love with her, but Edward is the only one who knows of their relationship.
Three years later, the Duke leaves the chateau to visit a dear friend on his deathbed. While he is gone Godfrey is in charge, and Edward advises his friend not to let Godfrey see him with Selina, since he would disapprove. When the Duke returns, he is accompanied by Elgiva de Valmont, his friend’s daughter, who is now his ward. She is even more beautiful than Selina, with whom she becomes close friends. Maximilian’s heart already belongs to Selina, but the two brothers compete fiercely for Elgiva’s affections. Godfrey proposes to Maximilian and Edward that they should all stop pursuing her, since over time without the pressure of their attention she would form her own opinion of which brother she loved. Edward agrees readily.
A few weeks pass in relative peace. Edward asks Maximilian to find out from Selina whether Elgiva prefers him or his brother, but Maximilian refuses because that would be dishonorable when Edward had already agreed to Godfrey’s proposal. Soon after, Maximilian realizes that since no one is aware of his love for Selina, she could be courted by other suitors, and decides to ask his uncle to speak with the Duke. It is decided by his uncle and the Duke that Selina should be promised in marriage to him in several years, if they still love each other, since they are so young to make such a commitment. Maximilian is overjoyed with this outcome. Godfrey is also happy about his sister and Maximilian’s union, meaning that Edward had lied about his disapproval.
Maximilian speaks with Edward while walking home. Edward believes that Godfrey has broken their agreement and said something to Elgiva to turn her against him, but Maximilian does not think he would do that. Edward is distraught and wishes to do something to repair Elgiva’s opinion of him, but Maximilian advises him to keep his distance and not to act rashly. After this conversation, Maximilian is troubled by the situation and his friend’s conduct.
Soon after, the Duke invites Maximilian to come to his other chateau with his family, but just before they leave, Maximilian’s uncle falls ill so he stays behind. The plan is for Maximilian to spend a month with the Duke’s family at the chateau as soon as his uncle recovers, to visit his father’s estate to settle some affairs, then return to the chateau.
When she must leave without him, both Maximilian and Selina are distraught. He takes care of his uncle for over two months, then departs to join them at the chateau. However, Selina is not happy to see him. She says that she has changed her mind after so much time apart; that she has forgiven him, but they should be friends. Maximilian leaves, troubled, and speaks with Edward. He discovers that while he was away, a suitor named de Monvel visited Selina, so Maximilian asks her about him. She insists that she has loved only Maximilian, but that she cannot forgive his perjury. He is confused because he has only been faithful. Maximilian goes to his paternal home as he had planned, where he is soon visited by a stranger, Adolphus de Monvel. Adolphus had come to him to find out if he had broken his engagement to Selina, which he vehemently denies. Adolphus easily accepts this, and leaves.
Now, king Philip of France is preparing to marry, so the Duke and Godfrey go to court for the wedding. Maximilian receives a letter from the Duke saying that Selina is angry with him because she was under the impression that he was gone so long because he was in love with a peasant girl and had eloped with her. She refused to tell anyone where she heard this, but the Duke asks Maximilian to return to the chateau in a month so they can explain the truth. Maximilian convinces himself that it was Godfrey who turned Selina against him, so he goes to court to confront him. He challenges Godfrey to single combat, but Godfrey refuses the fight without due cause. The two men scuffle, and Godfrey stabs Maximilian in the chest.
Maximilian wakes up in bed in the Duke’s apartments at court, where he finds out that the Duke and Godfrey have hastened to the country on account of important news. He is worried because he has no idea what has happened. Godfrey visits while Maximilian is recovering and the two reunite as friends with all forgiven. He lies about the news that made them leave, and Maximilian later finds out that they had really received word from Edward that Selina had disappeared but they hid it from him so his anxiety would not impede his recovery. Shortly after Godfrey’s visit, they find out that Selina had run away to join a convent, in secret because she knew her father would disapprove. Now she is seriously ill and has asked the nuns at the convent to notify her father so that he could see and forgive her before she dies. The Duke, Edward, and Elgiva set out for the convent while Godfrey is still out searching for his sister, but they arrive just after she dies. The Duke immediately dies as well from grief. Godfrey is plunged into madness when he arrives back at the chateau at the precise moment when a procession is carrying the bodies of his sister and father through the gates. It is presumed that Edward and Elgiva will marry, and that Edward will become duke since the older son is indisposed.
Elgiva remarks once that Selina had died because of “hypocrisy,” so Maximilian is set upon exacting revenge upon whoever was responsible (33). He visits the chateau to question Elgiva privately, but Edward spends the whole day with Maximilian so he does not have the chance to speak with her alone. After speaking with his uncle, he decides to join the Christian army on their crusades, and he is renewed by his conviction. He fights successfully with many other knights, crusading from Constantinople from Jerusalem. They lay siege to Jerusalem and defeat the city. After the crusades are over, he joins an organization called the knights of Saint John and spends twelve years in Jerusalem.
One day, he sees a man dressed as a pilgrim being dragged to the church to perform devotions and realizes that it is Edward. Edward confesses that he has committed heinous crimes including murder and is now trying to atone for his sins. His wife is living, but she is now the mistress of king Philip. Elgiva married Godfrey, but she has died, and Edward refuses to explain further. He remains in Jerusalem for some time, and Maximilian manages to piece together some of the story. Godfrey had regained his sanity and married Elgiva, but they both died and left Edward as the guardian of their child. Edward had married a noblewoman and they had a son, but she left him to become the concubine of king Philip.
Edward leaves Jerusalem without saying goodbye. Several years later, Maximilian returns to France on business for the knights of Saint John. While there, he decides to visit the duke’s old chateau, where he finds only servants. They tell him that Edward had been dead for some time, and that his son (now the Duke) was in the country with his wife. Maximilian is confused, because he had heard from Edward that Godfrey had left an heir to the title. A few days later Edward’s son comes to visit Maximilian, saying that he had heard that someone had come to the chateau looking for his father. The new Duke explains that Godfrey had a daughter, but she had descended into madness and died, so he was now the lawful successor. Maximilian then accompanies him to his palace to meet the duchess and stays with them for a month.
Late one night, a woman knocks on his door, requesting that he come to give religious comfort to a dying servant until a confessor can arrive from a distant convent. The dying woman recognizes him as Selina’s lover because she is Nerina, Elgiva’s old servant. She tells him about Edward and Selina’s past, and Maximilian writes all of it down in a packet when he returns to his room. She dies the next morning before he can speak with her again. He learned from her that Godfrey’s daughter (named Elgiva, after her mother) was alive and well, and certainly not an imbecile as the Duke had told him. The Duke had illegally married her (his cousin) but because of their close relation it was not an official union, and he had no claim to the estate unless she died.
When the Duke enters the room, Maximilian horrifies him by immediately asking where he had hidden Elgiva. The Duke begs Maximilian not to expose him, saying that he had fallen in love with his cousin, and they had married in secret. He had been planning on suing for a dispensation and met his current wife while on his way to do so. He fell in love with her and proposed, instead of returning to Elgiva. When he broke off his engagement with her, she went insane and died of a broken heart. Maximilian pronounces him guilty of her murder, and they agree upon appropriate penance for him to perform in exchange for Maximilian’s silence. Maximilian leaves the Duke and Duchess to visit his uncle’s old convent, where he decides to join the brothers. When the prior dies two years later, Maximilian succeeds him.
Maximilian then decides to return to the chateau to find out from Nerina’s brother Conrad, the servant in charge of its care, what truly happened to Elgiva. Conrad relates that after her parents died, Edward had raised Elgiva in ignorance of her right to the estates so that she would believe that she was dependent upon him. Therefore, Nerina and Conrad did as much as they could to advance her marriage to Edward’s son, the current Duke, believing that this was the only way in which she could claim her birthright. Nerina passed away while recovering from a broken leg and when Elgiva heard the news, she went mad with grief and died. Maximilian is convinced, because Conrad has confirmed the Duke’s story.
After finishing his story, the Abbot tells Sancho that even all these years later justice can still prevail, so he plans to tell the king the whole story. He gives Sancho the packet he wrote after Nerina’s deathbed explanation containing everything that happened to him, asking Sancho to read it then come back to visit him. The Abbot believes that Elgiva is alive, and that she may now receive her rightful inheritance when the matter comes to light. Sancho takes the packet home and in it he reads the story of Maximilian and Selina once more, starting from the point where Selina, Edward, Elgiva, Godfrey, and the former Duke all left for a different chateau without Maximilian. Here, the point of view stays with Maximilian, but it’s based on his written packet, no longer on his conversation with the knight.
The family is all together at the chateau. Selina mourns Maximilian’s absence, but she cheers up in a few days. Adolphus de Monvel visits and is instantly attracted to Selina, who is completely unaware. When he confesses his feelings to her, she is flattered that he chose her over the more beautiful Elgiva, but gently denies him. However, Adolphus takes her mild denial as encouragement and continues to pursue her. The second time that he declares his affections, she tells him about her engagement. Edward overhears this and does his best to convince his sister that Maximilian is being unfaithful. He tells Selina that Maximilian has run off with a peasant girl, and she is incredibly upset. The Duke resolves to have the matter investigated, which Edward knows would expose his lies, but he does not have a chance to look into it before he and Godfrey leave for the king’s wedding. Edward hears Elgiva trying to convince Selina not to become a nun and he realizes that this would be very advantageous for him, so he persuades her over time to run away and join a convent without telling their father and helps her leave the chateau unnoticed.
Once she reaches the convent, Selina falls ill from distress since she knows that she has caused her family worry. When she explains her situation to the nuns and asks for their help, the abbess sends a messenger to the chateau to inform the Duke of his daughter’s whereabouts and her regret. He immediately sets out to see her with Elgiva and Edward. Selina writes a letter to Elgiva explaining everything and asking her to beg the Duke to forgive her. Selina and the Duke both die, and Godfrey goes mad with grief. However, after ten years he recovers and marries Elgiva. Edward is bitter and upset because he has lost his chance to have everything he wanted. Elgiva and Godfrey live happily together in the chateau with Edward and Elgiva gives birth to their daughter. One day in a rage while Elgiva and Godfrey are on a walk, Edward attempts to murder the couple. When Godfrey discovers him, Edward begs his brother to kill him, but Godfrey says that he forgives Edward and they all return to the chateau. However, Edward is even more upset by their kindness. He plans on joining the army and prepares to leave.
One night, the three of them are sitting by a window when the two brothers decide to climb a tower for a better view. When they reach the top, Edward pushes his brother off the battlements. Elgiva dies of shock when she sees his corpse. Edward is left as the guardian to the young Elgiva and marries the Duchess. After his wife leaves him for the king, he becomes penitent, and he suffers much in the name of atonement. Eventually, he passes away, still trying to pay for his sins.
After he reads the packet, Sancho is travelling when he sees his friend Guiscardo sitting by a forest, deeply upset. Guiscardo tells Sancho that he is upset because he is now a criminal and explains why. Guiscardo and his wife Maddalena visited one of Guiscardo’s castles for a reprieve but when they arrived the servants said that the new inhabitant of the neighboring property, an Italian named Prince Appiani, was infringing upon Guiscardo’s land and treating Guiscardo’s servants horribly. Soon, Appiani sent a letter apologizing for his conduct and promising to visit the next day. In person, the prince was apologetic, kind, and charming, but Maddalena seemed distressed by his visits, although she was unsure why. One day while Guiscardo was out riding with Appiani, a group of masked men come to the castle and kidnap Maddalena. Guiscardo believes that they were hired by Appiani, so he rushes into the prince’s castle and draws his sword. The prince denies any involvement and orders his servants to search for her. The two men leave together to look for her, but they are unsuccessful.
One morning a stranger comes to see Guiscardo, saying that a woman had given him a letter to deliver to Guiscardo. It is from Maddalena, telling her husband that she plans to kill herself with opium but wanted Guiscardo to know that she was imprisoned in Appiani’s castle and that the prince was the one who kidnapped her. Guiscardo immediately goes to Appiani’s castle and stabs him while he sleeps. However, Guiscardo is now consumed with guilt over having killed a helpless man. Sancho promises that after he returns from a pilgrimage, he will speak with the Pope to obtain absolution for his friend.
Barnes, James J., and Patience P. Barnes. “Tegg, Thomas (1776–1846), publisher.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 September 2004. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/27102.
Frank, Frederick S. The First Gothics: A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel. Garland Publishing, 1987.
——. “Gothic Gold: The Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, vol. 26, 1997, pp. 287–312.
Hoeveler, Diane Long. The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880. University of Wales Press, 2014.
Maximilian and Selina: Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale. London, Tegg & Castleman, 1804.
Mayo, Robert Donald. The English Novel In the Magazines, 1740–1815: With a Catalogue of 1375 Magazine Novels And Novelettes. Northwestern University Press, 1962.
Potter, Franz J. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. Macmillan UK, 2005.
——. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
“Thomas Tegg.” Collections Online | British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG48140.
“Thomas Tegg, Esq.” The Gentleman’s Magazine: and historical review. June 1846: 650.
In this 1799 gothic novel, a young woman named Cordelia struggles with her father’s abandonment of her family, tries to improve her situation, and is ultimately faced with deceit and tragedy.
Cordelia, or a Romance of Real Life by Sophia King Fortnum is presented in leather binding with a marbled paper cover, giving it an elegant and high-quality appearance. The marbled decoration of the front would have been achieved by hand, using water and oil colors to create a unique design, and shows the care that was taken into the appearance of the book.
The spine is decorated with a few thin horizontal lines and has subtle embellishments surrounding the title, in capital letters, CORDELIA. The book still gives a refined impression, but its age shows with small fractures stemming from a substantial vertical crack down the spine and faded coloring of the cover. The top and bottom right corners of the paper cover appear worn off and torn, which could indicate the possible existence of leather, or another material, corners that came off at one point in its history. The book is 11 by 18 cm and 212 pages in length.
Inside, the pages are yellowed and occasionally darkly spotted on the tops and edges, which is referred to as foxing and is common in paper as it ages. This could possibly be due to oxidization, humidity, or other factors depending on the environments and conditions impacting the paper. The ink in the book is only somewhat faded and still easy to see, but brownish stains blemish many of the pages and one blue stain bleeds through page seven onto eight.
The pages alternate between two lengths and are curled slightly on all edges, leading to pages sticking together as they’re turned. Horizontal folds split the paper into thirds, showing that the paper could have been folded before it was bound in its leather and marbled paper dressings.
Opening the novel, the title is displayed on the second page as Cordelia, or a Romance of Real Life in fanciful font, and on the third page again. The author’s name appears below the title on the third page. Throughout the novel, on the tops of pages, the title is printed as CORDELIA.
The font of the story is prominent, and the lines of text are decently spaced apart. Wide margins, consisting of a larger bottom margin and thinner top margin, also make the text easy to read. As was common in printing at the time, the letter s in Cordelia is usually printed as a “long s,” which appear similar to f, and can cause some confusion for modern readers. Many of the pages feature letters and numbers at the bottoms. These signature marks are meant to indicate to the printer how to fold the pages in the correct order before binding them. Each chapter begins with a quote relevant to the chapter and a word or few words completely capitalized. The text’s format then continues generally uniformly, which fits in with the overall high-quality impression of the book.
Cordelia, or A Romance of Real Life was published in two volumes in 1799 by the Minerva Press and is
Sophia King Fortnum’s second novel (Summers 284). Fortnum was born around 1782
to John King and Deborah Lara, though she may have been born earlier and
misconstrued her age (Brown et al.). She was of Sephardic Jewish heritage, and
her father was a moneylender and radical political actor in England with a
notorious career known as the “Jew King” (Brown et al., Baines). Her parents
divorced in 1784 or 1785 after her mother took two of the children, possibly
including Fortnum, with her to Italy to try to prevent her father’s marriage to
the dowager countess of Lanesborough, an English noblewoman, and failed (Brown
et al., Endelman). Fortnum and her sister, Charlotte Dacre, author of Zofloya
and other gothic novels, published a collection of poetry together
dedicated to their father called Trifles of Helicon in 1798 (Brown et
al.). Fortnum married Charles Fortnum and began publishing under Sophia Fortnum
instead of Sophia King in 1801 (Brown et al.).
Fortnum published other gothic novels throughout
her career, as well as poetry. She was the author of Waldorf, or the Dangers
of Philosophy, A Philosophical Tale in 1798, The Victim of Friendship in
1800, The Fatal Secret: or, Unknown Warrior. A Romance of the Twelfth
Century in 1801, and her final novel, Victor Allen: a Novel in 1802
(Summers 86). Fortnum published much of her poetry in newspapers under the name
“Sappho” and published her only verse collection in 1804: Poems, Legendary,
Pathetic and Descriptive (Brown et al.). The date of Fortnum’s death after
these publications is unknown.
According to Montague Summers’s AGothicBibliography, the Minerva Press was owned by William Lane and was the “most famous publishing house which issued Gothic romances” (ix). Cordelia also had a French translation published by C. Chanin in Paris in 1800: Cordelia, ou la Faiblesse Excusable, histoire de la vie telle qu’elle est (Summers 284). A contemporary review of Cordelia by Tobias George Smollett called the novel a “gloomy tale” that was not “very probable in its incidents” or “interesting in its progress” (235–36). Smollett’s review also stated that the novel lacked an “attractive style” and called the “morality… inconsistent with the prevailing ideas of female virtue” (236). Editions of the first and second volumes of Cordelia were published by Gale Nineteenth Century Collections Online in 2017 and are available on Amazon, though the second volume is out of print.
Point of View
Cordelia, or a Romance of Real Life, is narrated in the first person by its protagonist, Cordelia.
Cordelia recounts the events of the story in retrospect, rarely describing
specific scenes and often summarizing her own judgements on situations and
people to convey what happened. Cordelia goes on tangents about her beliefs and
judgements within the text, saying she has “digressed” multiple times after
long-winded statements of her opinions (8, 50). The wording of sentences can be
lengthy, using many colons, semicolons, and commas, but the language is not
overly ornate, and it communicates ideas clearly.
The folly and conceit of this ridiculous couple forcibly excited my contempt; I easily developed the character of Mrs. Milner, whose brain was turned by wits, and pretended Literati. They found that by humouring her caprices, and flattering her ignorance, they should reap considerable advantages from her fortune and connections. Authors and philosophers swarmed at her table like butterflies; they praised her works, drank her wine, and dedicated poems to her. Mrs. Milner was therefore well pleased, and expended her fortune almost wholly among designing parasites, Democrats, and madmen, for I believe few who visited her were exceptions to this rule; as to the little conceited Citizen, he was a particular friend and almost totally governed her. As she was, however, a woman of rank and fortune, she did not meet with her deserved portion of contempt, but was in some measure countenanced by persons of fashion, and vitiated taste: for instance, titled profligates, romantic misses, and antiquated dowagers, who joined in her follies, and attended her levees, believing they by that means improved their manners and understanding. (48–50)
The narration overall emphasizes Cordelia’s
opinions and feelings and pays less attention to action and plot. One effect of
this style of first-person narration is that there is no objective view of the
story or characters. In the above passage, Mrs. Milner’s characterization is
completely based on Cordelia’s view of her. Cordelia states that Mrs. Milner
“pretended Literati” and people praised her only to gain something from her
“rank and fortune,” declaring her own “contempt” for Mrs. Milner (48, 49). She
frames Mrs. Milner as untalented and ignorant and others’ praise as insincere,
but there is no objective point of view to confirm this. The audience can only
rely on Cordelia’s perception of herself and others to judge characters’
intelligence or morality. Throughout Cordelia, Cordelia’s impressions of
others guide the framing of the story, and when her impressions prove to be
inaccurate, as with Lioni’s character, the effect is unpredictability.
The narrative of Cordelia, or A Romance of
Real Life, Volume I is told from the first-person perspective of Cordelia,
the protagonist of the story. The novel begins with Cordelia’s rantings and
criticisms of people’s disregard of religion and virtue in place of fame and
fortune. Cordelia admits to being susceptible to these kinds of romantic
notions at one point in her life and begins to tell her backstory. Cordelia’s
family consisted of her mother, her sister Rosina, and her brother Collville.
Her mother was married early in life to Mr. Arden, Cordelia’s father, but he
soon deserted her and their children to be with a woman named Lady Lindern. Mr.
Arden and Lady Lindern lived a luxurious life while Mr. Arden’s family was left
with no prospects and infrequent visits. Cordelia describes her mother as pale,
melancholy, and perpetually in love with Mr. Arden, believing he will return to
her someday. She describes herself as “a sort of ringleader” of her siblings,
and as the story starts, her father begins to favor her because of her apparent
“genius” (20, 22). Cordelia grows to love and respect her father despite his
cruel treatment of her family. However, she also becomes more dissatisfied with
her situation after seeing how Mr. Arden and Lady Lindern live.
Cordelia and her siblings want to leave England,
but because their mother still holds onto hope that Mr. Arden will return to
her, she is determined to stay. Cordelia wants to run away, but her mother
discovers this and tells her father. Mr. Arden gives Cordelia the opportunity
to work for a wealthy writer, Mrs. Milner, and become more involved in society
as an attempt to address her unhappiness with her situation. He orders her to
hide their familial relation, and she starts to work for Mrs. Milner. She finds
Mrs. Milner silly and untalented, but Cordelia does well and begins to interact
with more writers, philosophers, and other friends of Mrs. Milner. She becomes
more like them, calling herself “vain and ridiculous” in retrospect (54). One
day, Cordelia edits one of Mrs. Milner’s essays heavily, and Mrs. Milner finds
the rewrite insulting, reprimanding her. Cordelia leaves after this, abandoning
the post her father recommended her for. When her father finds this out, he
tells her that she has lost his good opinion and is an ungrateful daughter.
Cordelia tries to appeal to Lady Lindern’s sympathy and has an outburst about
her role in destroying her family. Lady Lindern is offended and tells Mr.
Arden. Cordelia receives a letter from her father telling her it is better if
they do not see each other, and she loses all hope of bettering her situation.
Cordelia decides to run away and fantasizes
about obtaining fame and fortune. With the help of her sister, Rosina, she gets
money together and leaves home. She eventually finds somewhere to stay, but her
hostess charges her a high price and drains her funds quickly. Throughout this
time, she tries to apply for jobs with theater companies but is denied. After
many rejections and having to seek the assistance of a family friend, Mrs.
Larlston, she gets news that her application to join a theater company was
accepted. At her new job, she meets Lucinda, who she is initially wary of but
becomes close friends with. Their work for the company is physically demanding
and pays very little, and Cordelia remains unhappy with her life. They
eventually meet a man named Count Victor Lioni and his younger companion
Charles Mandani. Cordelia is suspicious of Lioni but finds Mandani agreeable
and develops feelings for him. Lucinda tells Cordelia that Lioni is a childhood
friend and later tells her that they have gotten married.
Lucinda, Lioni, Mandani, and Cordelia go on a
trip to Italy and Cordelia is unsure of Mandani’s sentiments towards her.
Cordelia asks Mandani about Lucinda and Lioni’s marriage and he sees the idea
as ridiculous, revealing to Cordelia that Lioni and Lucinda are not married and
that Mandani perceives Cordelia to have loose morals. After Cordelia clears the
confusion about her morality, Mandani makes it seem like he intends to form a
serious union with her. Cordelia confronts Lioni about the lie of his and
Lucinda’s marriage, and the Count makes an advance towards her. After
Cordelia’s poor response to this, he tells her she and Mandani are his
captives. Cordelia sends a letter to Lioni asking him to let her leave, but he
refuses and reveals that Mandani is lying to her. Lioni gives Cordelia a pile
of papers and letters, which reveal that Mandani is married. According to the
letters, Mandani loved Lioni’s sister Olivia, but at sixteen, Olivia took her
vows in a convent. Mandani wanted to marry her and convinced her to run off to
France with him and elope. Olivia’s guilt over breaking her vows caused her to
leave him and move back to a convent. Lioni forgave Mandani, but if Mandani
ever forgot Olivia and moved on with another woman, Lioni promised to kill him
on behalf of his sister.
Cordelia cannot tell Mandani she knows about his
past and marriage, and the Count gives her money to leave and have a life away
from Mandani as a gesture of friendship. Cordelia overhears Mandani say that
Olivia is dead to him, and he loves only her now, but she knows they cannot be
together because of Lioni’s threat. She plans to leave for Switzerland and live
in peaceful and comfortable solitude with Lioni’s money, but before she can make
it, she encounters armed men who attack her and tie her up. She is confused and
terrified but then wakes up in what she thinks is a madhouse. She despairs and
adds “shrieks” to the “groans of lunacy,” but “Nature” eventually rescues her
by sending her into a “happy insensibility” (212).
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, eds. “Sophia King: Life & Writing.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. <http://orlando.cambridge.org>. 09 November 2021.
Set in Scotland, England, and Italy, Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson’s 1807 chapbook is a complicated tale of vengeance, violence, and long-lost love. And there’s a ghost!
At first glance, The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is nothing more than a small, nondescript book. It is bound in a spotless cardboard cover, with no title or images on the front or back. The spine has a small red rectangle in which The Castle Spectre or Family Horrors is written in gold writing. The chapbook is about 12 centimeters wide, 20 centimeters long, and 1 centimeter thick.
Upon opening the book, it is evident that it has been rebound. The pages inside are soft, yellowed, and worn. The edges are tattered and uneven and the pages are of different sizes. The frontispiece appears to have been glued to a blank page for structural support, as it was ripped and about two inches of the page is missing from the bottom. This page contains a colorful image of two knights in front of a red castle. They are holding blue shields with gold crosses and are wearing red skirts. Behind the knights is a woman in a pink dress; she is surrounded by what appears to be sunbeams and looks as if she is floating with her arm raised. Some of the colors go beyond the edge of the picture, indicating it may have been painted with watercolor. Beneath the image is a caption that says, “GERTRUDE rising from the Rubbish before the CASTLE”. Below the caption is a note about the print company.
The title page
contains the title, written as follows: “The // Castle Spectre; // or, //
Family Horrors: // A Gothic Story.” The words are all uppercase, except for “A
Gothic Story,” which is written in a more elaborate gothic typeface. Beneath
the title is a quote by Langhorne, and then a note on the publisher: “London:
// Printed for T. and R. Hughes, // 35, Ludgate-Street.” “London” is written in
the same gothic font, while the rest is again all capitalized. Beneath this is
the publishing date: 1807. The title page has a small, rather illegible phrase
written in pencil in the upper left corner, and a large stain on the right. The
back of the title page is blank, except for a small stamp in the bottom left
corner that says, “Printed by Bewick and Clarke, Aldergates-street.” It should
be noted that the name of the author is never mentioned.
On the first page of the text, the title is again printed, but this time as The Castle Spectre. The chapbook contains thirty-eight pages, and the page sizes vary slightly. The upper and lower margins range from about 1.5 centimeters to 2.5 centimeters. “Castle Spectre” is written on the top margin of every page, and there are page numbers in the upper corners. The text is small and tight, and the inner margin is very narrow. On the left pages, the words run almost into the spine. On some pages, the text is fading and in certain instances, can be seen through from the back of the page. The pages are speckled with light stains, but none that obscure much text. The bottom margins of a few pages contain signature marks, such as B3, C, and C3. These marks indicate how the pages should be folded together, as the book was printed on one large sheet and then folded and trimmed. This binding technique also explains why the pages vary in size. There are nine blank pages at the end of the book. These pages seem newer and are larger; they were likely added to make the book slightly thicker, as it is difficult to bind such a thin book.
An index card is
loosely placed in the front of the book, containing the title and publishing
information. It appears to be written in Michael Sadleir’s handwriting and was
likely used for cataloging purposes. The note indicates that the book was
originally unbound, but then mounted on modern board and engraved. This
explains the discrepancy between the wear of the cover and that of the pages.
“Louisiana” is written on the upper left corner; Sadleir presumably got the
book from someone who lived there. A line on the bottom of the card indicates his
belief that the plot was plagiarized, as he notes the book is “a theft of title
The Castle Spectre by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson was
printed by Bewick and Clarke for T. and R. Hughes in 1807. According to Michael
Sadleir’s handwritten note, the copy in the University of Virginia
Sadleir-Black Collection was originally unbound and then rebound as a
stand-alone chapbook. It appears there is only one edition, the 1807 version,
but some other copies are bound in volumes with other chapbooks. According to
WorldCat, there are six copies of this edition located at Dartmouth Library,
Columbia University Library, and the National Library of Wales, among others.
As of 2021, there are no digital copies of the story, though GoogleBooks has
information about the title, author, and publishing company.
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is often misinterpreted
as being inspired by Matthew Gregory Lewis’s play The Castle Spectre.
Though part of the title is the same, the actual plot, characters, and setting
are entirely unrelated. The
confusion has arisen because Wilkinson published two chapbooks with similar
titles: The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story in 1807 and
The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance; Founded on the Original
Drama of M. G. Lewis in
1820. This second text, The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance,
is in fact based upon Lewis’s play (as accurately suggested by the subtitle),
with the same characters, setting, and plot. By contrast, the 1807 chapbook, The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, remains separate and unrelated except
for its similar main title.
Though the two Castle Spectre texts by
Wilkinson are entirely separate, they are frequently confused for one another.
For instance, Franz J. Potter notes in The History of Gothic Publishing
that Wilkinson “also adapted two versions of Matthew Lewis’s melodrama ‘The
Castle Spectre’ publishing The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors (2.58)
in 1807 with Thomas Hughes, and The Castle Spectre; An Ancient Baronial
Romance, Founded on the Original Drama M. G. L. (2.57) in 1820 with John
Bailey” (119). In his section on the “Family Horrors” version of
Wilkinson’s chapbook, Frederick S. Frank notes that she “transformed Lewis’s Gothic drama, The
Castle Spectre [l-219], back into a Gothic novel” (171). Franz J. Potter
similarly states that this “Family Horrors” version was “founded on Lewis’s The
Castle Spectre. A Drama in Five Acts” (Gothic Chapbooks 39). Even an
article in UVA Today makes this common error, stating “Lewis’ work was
regularly plagiarized and used in this way, as it is in ‘The Castle Spectre,
or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story,’ by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson” (McNally).
that make the claim of a link between The Castle Spectre and Matthew
Lewis’s play cite Montague Summers’s Gothic Bibliography, which lists The
Castle Spectre by Sarah Wilkinson without specifying the subtitle or a
publication date. Summers’s entry reads: “Castle Spectre, The. By Sarah Wilkinson. Founded upon Matthew
Gregory Lewis’ famous drama, The Castle Spectre, produced at Drury Lane
on Thursday, December 14th, 1797” (268). Of the libraries that own The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, many list M. G. Lewis as an author, and
these library catalogs frequently reference Summers’s Gothic Bibliography,
echoing his statement that the story is “Founded
upon Matthew Gregory Lewis’ famous drama ‘The castle spectre’.” Some
libraries note the link to Lewis’s play based upon The National Union
Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints, and this source also cites back to Summers’s Gothic
Bibliography. It is possible Summers’s entry for The Castle Spectre
was misunderstood to be about the “Family Horrors” version, when it was meant
to reference the “Baronial Romance” version, which specifically claims to be
founded upon Lewis’s play. Whatever the reason, this misunderstanding has
spurred many sources, including library catalogs, to erroneously note a
connection between the plot of Lewis’s The Castle Spectre play and
Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors chapbook.
It should also be noted that some sources
discuss a similarity between the two distinct chapbooks Wilkinson wrote under
the titles The Castle Spectre. Diane L. Hoeveler, for instance, suggests
that Wilkinson was plagiarizing herself in these two chapbooks, indicating she
believes the plots to be “virtually identical and indicate how authors as well
as publishers had no qualms about ‘borrowing’ literary texts from others as
well as themselves” (14). Hoeveler writes, “Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre:
An Ancient Baronial Romance is actually her second attempt to capitalize on
the popularity of Lewis’s 1797 drama The Castle Spectre”, naming as the
“other version” The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story
(14). Yet while it is true that Wilkinson used the same main title for two
different books, they are not “virtually identical”: the plots, characters’
names, and setting of the story have no similarities. A potential reason for
the similar titles was that Wilkinson used the phrase “Castle Spectre” precisely
because of its popularity at the time to attract readers, despite the “Family
Horrors” version being a unique story.
On a separate note, the title page of The Castle Spectre; or, Family
Horrors includes a portion of a poem by John Langhorne. It appears to be an
edited stanza from a longer poem entitled “Fable VII. The Wall-flower” from his
collection of poems, The Fables of Flora (Johnson 447). It is unclear
whether the poem was adapted by Wilkinson or the publishing company, but the
poem alludes to the idea of remembrance and telling the stories of the dead.
This theme reflects in the story of Gertrude’s death and Richard’s journey of
Narrative Point of View
Spectre is, for the most
part, narrated in the third person by an anonymous narrator who is not present
in the plot. There are a few occasions throughout the story when the narrator
speaks in first-person plural, referencing the history of the story and its
translations. The narration follows the knight, Sir Richard, throughout the
entire story, and much of the chapbook contains dialogue and interpolated tales
spoken by a variety of the characters with whom Richard interacts, such as
Douglas. The narrative focuses more on plot and less on characters’ thoughts,
and the sentences are often long and descriptive. There is a bit of insight
into Richard’s feelings, but the narrator does not discuss other characters’
emotions unless the characters reveal their feelings aloud in dialogue. There
is also an instance where Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm exchange letters, which
are printed within the text in quotation marks; both Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm
refer to themselves in the third person in their letters. At times when Elenora
(also known as Gertrude) appears as a ghost, she also refers to herself in the
third person during her tales.
The moon, emerging from a black cloud just as he entered, enabled him to ascertain he was in a grand spacious hall, in the centre of which stood a large banquetting table He seized an extinguished taper, which he with difficulty lighted by the friction of some wood he found on the hearth. He had now an opportunity to observe the place more accurately. The table was laden with viands, some in a putrid state, some mouldering to powder; and to his eager view appeared vases filled with the juice of the generous grape. In a corner of the apartment he beheld the body of a man extended in death on the floor, the boards of which were stained with congealed blood. A murder had been committed here but a short time before. The sight of this did not alarm him; he knew not fear, but emotions of pity rose in his breast, for the unfortunate object before him, and a desire to develope the mysteries of the place he was in, prevailed over ever other consideration. (6)
First-Person Plural Narration:
But we must not anticipate in our story too much, and the Scottish manuscript from whence we translate, mentions some transactions that will better appear hereafter. In the mean time we must observe that after much consultation on these transactions, Lord Mackworth advised Sir Richard to appoint a meeting with Sir Kenelm at midnight. (16)
Sample of Sir
Richard’s Third-Person Letter to Sir Kenelm Cromar:
Sir Richard, brother to Lady Gertrude, returning from the Holy Wars, finds his venerable father mouldering into dust, brought to the grave by grief for the untimely fate of a beloved daughter, whose fair fame was basely called into question, and her dear life sacrificed to lawless love. —Sir Kenelm must account for this, and inform Sir Richard what is become of a dear sister. For which purpose Sir Richard challenges Sir Kenelm to meet him, in single combat, near that castle-gate where he, Sir Kenelm, banquetting with his new bride, beheld the injured shade of Lady Gertrude, when, for a slight offence, he stabbed his cupbearer. Eight days hence, exactly at the hour of twelve, Sir Richard will be there, with two of his most trusty friends. (16)
Sample of Sir Henry
Mackworth’s Interpolated Tale:
At his return to Palestine, finding I was in confinement, his generosity and friendship made him hazard his life to rescue me from my confinement. He succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations. We continued together some time. We had but one heart, one purse, and were a pattern of friendship throughout camp and country. Clemena was often the subject of our conversation. I ventured to hint the inclination I felt for her, from his description and the picture I had seen. ‘Alas!’ said he, ‘I dare not flatter you with the least hope of success; my sister has been educated in a convent, and ever been intended by our parents for a nun, their fortune being too small to support us both in a manner suitable to our rank…’ I remonstrated with Vertolini on the cruelty of secluding a beloved sister, for life, within the dreary walls of a convent… (33).
The various types of
narration in The Castle Spectre allow for a deeper exploration of
different characters’ actions and emotions, as well as greater detail on the
setting and history of the story. The Castle Spectre utilizes several
techniques to augment suspense. On numerous occasions, the names of the
characters Richard meets are not revealed until the end of that individual’s
story, and the reveals often occur casually amidst the dialogue or narrative
with little emphasis. The reveal of the characters’ names has a great impact on
the entire plot, and the narration’s nonchalant delivery augments the suspense
and adds an element of surprise. As a result, many key details and surprises
are revealed suddenly and without foreshadowing. Though the narrator does not
touch on characters’ feelings often, the dialogue provides greater insight into
the different characters’ personalities and emotions. Because so many different
plots are embedded into the chapbook, the story is both engaging and, at times,
confusing: the chapbook is extremely fast-paced because so much action is
packed into each sentence, and in some cases it is difficult to follow the story
and to distinguish who is speaking or who characters are because the plot jumps
back and forth in time or between the different story lines. The moments of
first-person plural narration detail the story as if it were true by discussing
the sources from which the story was translated. These moments where the
narrator speaks as “we” directly to the reader, along with the detailed setting
and long rambling sentences, all conspire to make the story oral in feel, as if
being told to a friend.
Spectre follows the knight
Sir Richard over a period of several years. The story begins on a stormy night
in the Scottish Highlands. Sir Richard is traveling to his father’s castle in
the Grampian Mountains after a four-year deployment to the Holy War in
Palestine. He seeks shelter to ride out the storm, but no one will take him in.
In a flash of lightning, he sees the turret of a castle; he sounds his bugle
numerous times with no response, so he dismounts his horse and tries the door.
By chance, the door is unlocked, and Richard enters the banquet hall of the
castle. With only the moon and occasional flash of lightning to guide him, the
knight explores. The hall is filled with food and drink that appears to have
been placed there recently. In the corner of the hall lies the dead body of a
man; the floor is soaked with congealed blood. Sir Richard vows to unravel the
mystery of the catastrophe that occurred.
Sir Richard tours
the rest of the castle, which is magnificently decorated in gothic splendor. No
one is to be found and all is silent. He comes upon a great bed, and as he is
exhausted from his journey, he jumps in and falls into a deep sleep. At one
o’clock, a bell rings and Sir Richard wakes to the curtains of the bed being
ripped open. Standing at the foot of the bed bathed in blue light is a veiled
woman in a white dress. As he approaches her, the woman’s veil falls off and a
stream of blood gushes from a wound in her side. Richard looks into the woman’s
face, and it is none other than his sister! He calls to the apparition “by her
name Elenora” (though later in the story she is referred to predominantly as
Gertrude, with no explanation given for the shift in name) (7). Elenora the
apparition stands, not speaking, while holding her hand over the seemingly
fresh wound in her side. After repeated prodding, Elenora explains the story of
her brutal murder in the castle, revealing that two years after Richard left,
she married the owner of this castle, and in a fit of frenzy he stabbed her
(while she was pregnant) and left her corpse in a rubbish pile. Left to rot
without a proper Christian burial, she haunts her murderer and his new wife.
The scene that Richard came upon in the banquet hall was the remnants of their
wedding, which was ruined when Elenora appeared and terrorized the guests.
Finally, with a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning, Elenora vanishes in a
swirl of blue flame.
Shocked and overcome
with emotion, Sir Richard decides to leave and avenge his beloved sister. He
lets his horse take the reins on the way to his father’s estate and does not
realize the horse has gone down the wrong road. They come upon a cottage where
he is treated with great hospitality. The owner, Douglas, tells the story of
his childhood and time as a soldier, where he saved the life of the “worthy
nobleman, under whose banners I had enlisted” and was thus assured protection
and this cottage (11). Douglas explains that the nobleman has died and his son
is at war; he fears thar if he does not return, Sir Kenelm Cromar will take
over his estates and leave Douglas and his family to live out their days in
poverty. During this story, Douglas reveals the name of his former nobleman to
be Duncan, and Sir Richard reveals that Duncan was his father! This means that
Sir Richard is the son who has now returned home; the Douglas family rejoices.
Douglas’s story also reveals that Sir Kenelm’s first wife was Elenora (now
predominately referred to as Gertrude in the story). Upon Gertrude and Kenelm’s
marriage, Ally (Douglas’s daughter) moved into the castle where Sir Kenelm
“began to take great liberties with her” (12). Douglas says Lady Gertrude is
now missing and so is Ally. Because of Gertrude’s ghost’s daily visits, Sir
Kenelm and his new wife have moved to his hunting lodge so the castle remains
uninhabited. Sir Richard thanks Douglas and promises him a life of friendship
When he finally
arrives home, the servants rejoice at the return of their young lord. They tell
the knight all that has happened and grieve for the good young lady Gertrude
and their master Duncan. Enraged, Sir Richard vows to avenge her and lay her
body to rest in a Christian burial. He seeks out his father’s friend, Lord
Mackworth, and tells the man the story. Richard decides to challenge Sir Kenelm to
single combat, with Mackworth’s assistance. As part of their agreement,
Mackworth wants Sir Richard to marry his daughter and Sir Richard agrees. Sir
Kenelm accepts Richard’s request, mentioning that though it is illegal to fight
in this manner, he will do it anyways to honor the memory of the venerable
Duncan. Meanwhile, Kenelm sends a letter to the king, requesting that he send
men and imprison Richard before the fight occurs. Instead, the king decides the
two men will have an impartial hearing at his court and he will support
whichever cause is more just.
It is now the night
of combat, and the marshal Lord Glencairn asks if any last-minute
accommodations can be made. Richard declines, unless Sir Kenelm will admit to
murdering Gertrude and surrender to public justice. Kenelm refuses, saying that
Gertrude abandoned him for a lover, and Richard is about to stab him in rage
when suddenly, they are both commanded prisoners and summoned to the king’s
court. Before they leave with the soldiers, the clock strikes one and in a
swirl of thunder and lightning, Gertrude appears. She shares her story and
explains that three times now she has prevented Kenelm from murdering his new
wife. She requests a proper burial, asks Mackworth to protect Richard, and
vanishes in a thick blue flame amidst a crack of lightning and tremendous peal
of thunder. Richard breaks the silence and tells the soldiers to bring them to
the court, so that he can share the full story in front of the king. The
hearing occurs, and Kenelm is found guilty and sent to prison; he later has a
public trial and is condemned to death. Gertrude’s remains are recovered and
she has a proper burial; all the churches in the surrounding area hold masses
in her honor and her final wish is granted.
goes home. He keeps his house open to serve his father’s tenants, and the
neighboring nobility congratulate him on his return from the war and for
bringing Kenelm to justice. Nevertheless, Sir Richard is unhappy; he mourns the
loss of his father and sister and misses his lost love Lady Jane. The story now
shifts back many years, before Richard went to the Holy Land. He fell in love
with Mackworth’s daughter, Jane, and she waited for him to return from the war.
In the four years of his absence, Jane denied many marriage offers from wealthy
prospects, one of them being Lord Glendour. Finally, Richard returns and they
are set to marry. We learn that two years before Richard left, Mackworth’s son
went to war and never returned. They mourned his death, and Mackworth received
Richard as a son and the heir to his estates and domains. As they prepare for
the wedding at the Mackworth estate, Richard returns to his familial castle,
and in his absence, an unfortunate event occurs. One evening, Jane is kidnapped
while on a walk through the gardens. Mackworth sends news to Richard, who vows
never to return until he finds his love. He searches for weeks with no sign of
Jane, until he comes across a hut offering refreshments to travelers. The man
inside mentions that a gagged woman and man had come through just before and
were on their way to Italy. Richard chases them to the river’s edge and
resolves to follow them. For years, he traverses all of Italy, hopelessly
searching convents for his lover. He falls ill and almost dies from grief, but
dreams of Jane and vows to recover and free her.
The story jumps back
in time to Jane’s kidnapping, and it is revealed that Lord Glendour, one of
Kenelm’s friends, fell madly in love with her and kidnapped Jane to be with
her. He requests her hand in marriage, but she refuses. She tricks him into
allowing her to pass the time in a convent in Italy, where she is watched over
by the Lady Abbess and not allowed to leave. Back in the present, Richard meets
an English man in the middle of Venice. They become friends and visit the man’s
villa. Richard recognizes someone in one of the family pictures and asks the
man to share the story of why he left England. The man says the story is long,
but he has written it down for his children and will one day give Richard a
copy to read. After months of visits, Richard reads the man’s story and is
surprised by the similarities between them. The man, Wentworth, was the eldest
son of a noble house in England. He fell in love with a peasant girl Louisa,
and though he was promised to marry a noble woman Anna, he runs away with his
lover. He fakes illness and tells his father he will go to the Holy War; Louisa
goes with him, and they marry and have a son and daughter. He returns from the
war and vows to sort out his betrothal to Anna. Leaving his wife and children
in the protection of her father, he goes back to his paternal castle. He sets a
plan for his brother, William, to marry Anna instead, and it works. Elatedly,
Wentworth returns to the cottage and is devastated to find Louisa and his
infant son missing. They were tricked by a letter claiming to be from him, and
Wentworth suspects his own father to have sent it. For five years, Wentworth
and his daughter travel the world, though nothing can make him forget Louisa.
Receiving word of his father’s ill health, he returns to England. On his death
bed, Wentworth’s father reveals he sent Louisa to a convent in Italy, but she
escaped. Wentworth and his daughter go back to Italy to search for her, but he
never finds Louisa. He lives like a recluse in his villa, and this is where Richard
reenters the story.
Richard again visits
Wentworth. The man reveals he is Richard’s uncle but used a fake family name so
that he may retire in peace, away from the nobility. Richard explains that
during his search for Jane, he saw Louisa and her son in the Pyrenees.
Together, Richard and Wentworth begin their journey to the mountains to find
the long-lost wife and son. They come across a cottage that Richard had visited
before and reunite with Louisa and the son. Wentworth, now revealed to be
called Sir George, decides to return to his family home in England. Richard
promises to join them, if they can spare a few weeks for him to search for
One night on his
return to the Italian villa, Richard sees two criminals attacking a man. He
intervenes, and they admit they were hired by Count Vertolini to kill him.
Richard and the man go back to his house, so they may speak safely. The young
man then explains his story: he came from England to fight in the Holy War and
had a father and sister at home who he had not heard from in years. During the
war, he became great friends with an Italian man, Vertolini, who had a sister
named Clemena. The man falls in love with her, but is then taken prisoner in
Palestine. Four years later, Vertolini bribed the soldiers and freed his
friend, and they carry on their travels together. The Italian man reveals his
sister is promised to a convent, so she cannot be with his friend despite his
love for her. They meet the sister in Italy, where he becomes even more
enamored. Clemena admits she does not want to join the convent, but it is
necessary for her honor. Vertolini vows to save her before she takes the veil,
and the siblings try in vain to convince their father to free her. The father,
Count Vertolini, refuses the young man’s wedding proposal, and advises him to
leave Italy immediately. It is now revealed that the young man is Sir Henry
Mackworth, Lord Mackworth’s long lost son and Jane’s brother.
Back in the present,
Richard and Henry plan to rescue Clemena. While at the convent, a girl hands
the knight a note telling him to return at midnight to find something of great
importance. He listens, and that night, finds Lady Jane at the convent! She
explains her story and begs him to free her. Richard and Henry return to the convent
to demand her release, but the Lady Abbess refuses. The next day, Henry
interrupts the veiling ceremony and saves Clemena from the convent. Richard
goes back to England with Henry and Clemena, where he hurries to find
Mackworth. Together, they apply to the king and receive his royal mandate to
imprison Lord Glendour. The king sends word to the Pope, and Mackworth and Sir
Richard go back to Italy to retrieve a freed Jane. With Richard’s lover in tow,
they return to England. Wentworth lives in his castle with his family, there
are numerous weddings, Glendour dies in a convent, and Sir Richard is blessed
with years of happiness with Jane, Henry, Wentworth, and the others. They all
live happily ever after.
Frank, Frederick S. “A Gothic Romance.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, by Marshall B. Tymn, New
York City, R.R. Bowker, 1981.
Published in 1800 without identifying an author, this shilling-shocker set during the Holy Wars tells a tale of romance, murder, terror, and mystery.
impressions upon introduction to the Sadlier-Black Collection’s edition of The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. most likely will include the frail binding holding together the
forty-two time-worn pages, as well as the curious lack of a cover. Upon closer
inspection, one can find a few remnants of what seems to be tan leather stuck
to bits of dried glue along the spine of the chapbook. This suggests that the
book was once a part of a collection of works, bound together for sale by the
publisher. Once the first blank page, acting as the cover, is turned, an
intricate frontispiece is found to inhabit the reverse. The image of a man and
a woman moving away from an oncoming knight is central to the illustration, and
is surrounded by detailing of weaponry and armor. Beneath the image the
shortened title,The Mystic Tower, is revealed, instead of a caption, creating a
sense of mystery around what might be occurring in the preceding scene.
intrigue of these yellowed pages continues onto the title page where “The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance” is emblazoned in a combination of different fonts across the top half
of the page, yet there is no author to be found. Instead, there are a few
curious clues that follow, some indicating themes present in the story and
others towards the origins of the work itself. Just below the title is another
illustration, this time depicting a woman standing in the doorway of a
low-ceilinged room with a look of astonishment on her face as she looks down
upon a knight emerging from the floorboards. Following this is an excerpt from
Shakespeare’s Macbeth that reads,
“’Tis done! The scene of life will quickly close; Ambition’s vain, delusive
dreams are fled, And now I wake to darkness, guilt, and horror…..I cannot bear
it!…………….” Both the foreshadowing illustration and the ominous quote
allude to the drama that is to come throughout the novel.
Tracking down the
page, again, there is a note that mentions this book was printed in London for
“KAYGILL, at his Circulating Library, Upper Rathbone Place; MACE, New
Round-court, Strand; and ADCOCK Charles-street, Fitzroy-square; and may be had
of all other Book-sellers in Town or Country.” This indicates where other
copies of this work could be found throughout London, specifically mentioning a
few circulating libraries at which interested subscribers could obtain the book
for sixpence, as denoted in fine print below the message. At the very bottom of
the page, the printer, W. Glindon, and the location of his shop, 48,
Rupert-Street, Covenrry-Street, are listed. Though the publisher and the
location of other copies of the book are helpful hints, the author of the work
remains a mystery. The aged, brittle pages that follow hold narrowly spaced
text, signature marks that allowed the bookbinder to order the sheets
correctly, and a handful of stains from past careless readers, but no mention
of the elusive author. There are no handwritten notes, pencil marks, stains, or
tears among the pages, leaving no physical clues about this particular copy’s
journey through the ages.
The Mystic Tower has no known author, which makes it difficult for scholars to trace the work’s publication history.
The Sadlier-Black collection’s copy of this chapbook is one of three currently recorded copies, and was printed specifically for T. Kaygill “at his circulating library” by W. Glindon (“T Kaygill,” “W Glindon”). Both of these men were British printers and publishers whose careers flourished in the early 1800’s. Though no specific publication date is available for this text, it was most likely published between 1803 and 1807. These dates encompass when T. Kaygill was at the address listed on the title page of the book (39 Upper Rathbone Place, London) (“T Kaygill”).
Many of the primary
catalogues of nineteenth-century gothic works are devoid of any information on The Mystic Tower, so there is no record
of advertisements for the book or public reception of the work. Aside from
being briefly mentioned in Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography,Frederick S. Frank’s The Gothic Romance 1762–1820 holds the
most robust assessment of the book. He claims that its hurried “penny-a-line”
writing style and plot mimic John Palmer’s Mystery
of the Black Tower and ensconce
the chapbook as a typical low-brow shilling shocker (Frank 123). This criticism
leads scholars to believe that the book was not wildly popular, and was most
likely not reprinted or adapted after its original publication.
Narrative Point of View
The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. is written with a
third-person anonymous narrator whose identity is never revealed in the text.
The narrator adopts an omniscient perspective and offers insights about most of
the main characters, while mainly telling the story as if following Matilda along
her journey. Holistically, the narration is succinct, colloquial, and typically
devoid of characters’ inner thoughts. The sentences the narrator uses are very
long and littered with commas, but the language is clear and reads very
comfortably. Only occasionally does the narrator hint at how Matilda would feel
about a certain situation through well placed adjectives and emotionally
connotated verbs. The only time that the voice of the narrator changes is when
Matilda reads the letter titled “The Life of Lady Malvina Fitzwalter.” In this
interpolated tale presented as a letter, Lady Malvina is writing in the first
person and describing how she came to be in the curious position in which the
young women found her.
Sample passage of
“The baron and baroness having been appraised of her illness entered at this moment, when the former approaching the bed, Matilda started back, exclaiming ‘did you murder him?’ ‘murder whom?’ exclaimed de Malvern. ‘The dark spirit in the tower,’ returned Matilda; ‘what is all this?’ said the baroness, turning to Clara, who without delay told them all she knew. They made no comments on her information, but commending Matilda to her care, both retired. The simple narrative of Clara, sunk deep in the mind of the baron, his reflections in supportable; the many reports he had heard in spirits that wandered in the ruined tower, and about the walls of the castle, rushed on his mind and in a convulsive agony he threw himself on a couch, groaning most piteously.” (15)
In this passage,
Romaldi and Oswena are coming to check on Matilda after her encounter with the
ominous knight. She is terrified and is convinced that her parents must have
had something to do with the death of the de Malvern men for them to be haunted
by such a terrifying being. The beginning of the passage sticks solely to the
plot, describing the new baron and baroness approaching their daughter, but
quickly switches to the dialogue in which Matilda makes her accusations about
their involvement in the tragic deaths of the de Malverns. The narrator then
resurges to describe how Matilda is put to bed by Clara, and then follows Sir
Romaldi to detail the unrest he faces because of his deep-seated guilt for
facilitating the death of the former Baron and his son. The focus of the
passage is Matilda’s fear and her conversation with her parents, but when she
is not in the scene the narrator is able to shed light on the experiences of
some of the secondary characters.
Sample passage of
“Having the misfortune to lose my mother at an early age, I, the only child of lord Fitzwalter, was educated by an amiable woman with the utmost tenderness, and instructed in every branch of literature proper for a female mind.” (22)
This passage comes
at the beginning of Lady Malvina’s letter to Matilda, explaining her rather
tragic past. She speaks in the first person, using “I” frequently and
colloquially, which indicates the intimacy of the contents of the letter and
the authenticity of the story being told.
Readers are invited to sit in the shoes of Matilda during this break
from the established narrative style, since the letter reads as a direct
address, which highlights the flashback being recounted in the letter.
The story begins with Sir Romaldi, a poor knight returning
home from his tour in the Holy Wars, trudging towards his castle and stewing
over his jealousy of his relative, the rich Baron de Malvern. The Baron and his
son are still fighting in the wars, and his inner monologue reveals that if
they should die before they return from fighting, he himself would be next in
line to inherit their estate and riches. While he is secretly wishing that a
perilous fate befalls the father and son, a ghostly figure appears in his path,
murmuring a prophecy about how his grim wishes will come true. Frightened by
the eerie apparition, Sir Romaldi hurries home to meet his wife, Oswena, and
his daughter, Matilda.
The story then delves into a flashback, featuring Matilda.
One morning she was walking in the woods near the family castle, when a hunter
appears from the woods claiming that he has lost his companions and asking if
he can rest with her for a while. She agrees and the two exchange pleasantries.
It becomes apparent that the young hunter, named Percy, has taken a liking to
Matilda, and suddenly realizes that she is the daughter of Sir Romaldi. He
exclaims that he cannot be seen with her, due to some deeply ingrained fissure
between their families, but that he would like to meet Matilda again in the
secret of the night. She, again, agrees, but is deeply troubled by the fact
that he cannot meet her father, so after their first rendezvous she tells him
she will no longer come to their meeting spot. She adheres to this promise for
the next two years by not returning to their clandestine spot, but one evening
she passes by and sees Percy walking below the battlement. She realizes how
much she misses him, but it is too late because he is leaving to fight in the
Holy Wars. To remind him that her prayers are with him she gives him a crucifix
necklace and bids him goodbye.
A return to the present hones in on a conversation between
Sir Romaldi and Oswena, in which he explains the eerie apparition on his
journey home and she replies that he should have the Baron de Malvern and his
son slain to secure the prophecy that the ethereal figure foretold. After falling into a terrified stupor, he
gathers his resolve and agrees that the foul deed must be done.
Months later, a message arrives at Sir Romaldi’s castle that
the Baron and his son have died, and that he is to inherit the de Malvern
estate. The small family gathers their things and immediately moves into the
new castle. An ominous tension falls over the household as Romaldi walks in,
with the minstrels unable to play their instruments and other household
servants running in terror. As Matilda is walking around her new home with her
attendant, Clara, the servant girl explains to her that there is a suit of
armor rumored to wander the halls of the unrenovated part of the castle at
night, as well as a particular portrait whose inhabitant occasionally leaps
from it to walk to the same mysterious tower, said to house the spirits of the
castle. Matilda tries to mitigate the fears of Clara, but one night they are able
to see a light moving in the windows of the tower which reinvigorates terror in
both of the girls. They send for the family priest, who tells them they are
being superstitious and foolish, but all three are then confronted with the
large black suit of armor that the rumors foretold. Matilda rushes to her
parents to tell them of her terrifying encounters, and asks them if they had
some hand in killing the Baron or his son. They assure her that she has nothing
to worry about, but they share a moment of concern knowing that these hauntings
are very likely due to their nefariously plotted murder.
Tensions and fears settle, and Romaldi begins to bring
suitors to the castle to eventually find a match for Matilda. She, however, is
approached by a boy that gives her the crucifix she gave to Percy, with the
promise that he would return it to her shortly before he came home to ask for
her hand in marriage. When her father tells her that he intends to give her
hand to a particularly distasteful Lord she refuses and, in his anger, he has
Matilda and Clara locked in her room until the next day when she is to be wed.
Clara helps Matilda escape her arranged fate through a series of trap doors and
tunnels that lead from her room to the outside of the castle, and in the middle
of their flight they are met again by the darkly armored knight, and are
terrified but are still able to escape the walls of the castle. Matilda and
Clara hide in the nearby convent, but are quickly discovered by Romaldi, and
are sent a letter demanding their return home. The abbess helps the girls
escape to travel to another convent, but after becoming fatigued during their
journey, they come upon the benevolent and ethereal Lady Malvina. The girls are
showered with Malvina’s compassion and kindness in her hidden underground
dwelling in the forest.
One evening, Matilda is presented with a letter detailing
Lady Malvina’s mysterious history. Reading it, she discovers that as a girl
Malvina was the sole heir to a large estate, promised to be married to her
lover, Sir Egbert, and had met a distressed young woman, named Josephine, in
the woods and secretly took her into her own care. She lived in pure happiness
until her father died, after which Sir Egbert began to act coldly towards her
and Josephine left her to grieve the loss of her lover alone, which she later
discovered to be the result of an affair between her two closest companions.
She tried to go through with the marriage as planned, but at the altar
exclaimed that her friends were and love and should be married instead, despite
the great pain and sorrow it caused her. Later, when she was invited by Sir
Egbert to visit them, it was revealed that he was unhappy with the
ill-intentioned Josephine and asked for Malvina’s forgiveness. Having heard the
conversation between the former lovers and feeling enraged, Josephine storms in
and murders Sir Egbert. Suffering from such deep pain, Malvina moved into her
current subterranean apartments to protect herself from accusations that she
had killed Egbert and the cruel world that injured her so greatly. Matilda
weeps for her friend’s losses, and feels a deep connection with her as she is
the only mother figure Matilda has ever possessed.
Soon Matilda and Clara receive a letter stating that the son
of Baron de Malvern has survived his time in the war, and a foray outside with
Malvina results in the three women being discovered by Josephine’s men. They
are taken to Josephine’s court, but Matilda is cast aside, and is taken back to
the de Malvern castle. She is left by Josephine’s guard to get into the castle
herself and after sleeping outside for a couple days, she manages to sneak into
the castle, where she finds her father lying on the floor covered in blood. He
is only able to explain that he has slain himself, her mother has been
poisoned, and to apologize for his cruelty to her before he dies, and Matilda,
horror stricken, is only able to find her way to a chair before she
She awakes to Percy holding her and he reveals that he is
the son of the Baron de Malvern and rightful heir of the title and estate. He
also tells her that her father sent an assassin to kill him and his father,
though he only managed to murder the Baron, and that he sent a loyal friend to
watch over the castle, giving an explanation to the eerie suit of dark armor
Matilda had seen wandering the castle. Matilda then tells her story leading up
to the present, and concludes with her sorrow over the fate of Malvina. Percy
takes Matilda to Josephine’s castle to rescue her friend but Josephine,
surprised and overwhelmed by the invasion, stabs herself in the heart to avoid
capture. They find Malvina in the dungeon and bring her back to safety with
them, securing her innocence for Sir Egbert’s death with the king. Matilda
marries Percy to become Lady de Malvern and the two live long happy lives
together with their children. Malvina remains heavily involved in Matilda’s
life, and is able to spend her dying breath in Matilda’s arms.
“The Gothic Romance 1762–1820.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall Tymn.
R. R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–175.
The Mystic Tower; or Villainy Punished. London, W. Glindon, N.D.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune Press, 1940.
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.
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 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 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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).
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).
Point of View
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
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)
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don Algonah: the Sorceress of Montillo, published in 1802 and republished several times, is a tale of adventure, magic, violence, and a quest for unforbidden love that takes place in Madrid, Spain.
Don Algonah: Or the
Sorceress of Montillo. A Romantic Tale consists of 71 pages and is approximately 10 cm by 17.5 cm. The author
is unknown because there is no author name printed on any of the pages. At
first glance, the book appears very aged because of the missing cover and
discolored pages that are loosely hanging onto the binding. You must be careful
while looking through the book as to not accidentally fold the brittle and thin
pages. Some pages can be seen peeking out from the side because they are no
longer attached to the rest of the book. The outer edges of the book are also
discolored and shriveled. Surprisingly, none of the pages are missing and the
text is still very clear and readable.
The original front
and back cover of the book is missing, leaving a blank page on both sides. This
is most likely because this book was originally part of a pamphlet consisting
of multiple stories. It was very common for multiple stories to be printed into
one pamphlet. As a result, some booksellers thought they could make a larger
profit by selling the stories individually, so they would rip the stories out
of the pamphlet. Although both front and back covers are missing, we can still
see traces of brown, fuzzy leather with blue and gold designs on the binding.
It is very likely that the covers of the book were made of the same leather
material. There are also three small holes near the binding on every page and a
piece of string strewn between a different set of holes. The pages were
originally sewn with a needle, but someone pulled the pages apart and then
bound it back together again. The blank front page also has the word “romance”
written on the top left corner.
On page three there is a title page with the book’s full title printed at the top and a detailed black and white illustration of men sitting around a fire. There is another black and white illustration on the left page of a tall man with a knife. Both illustrations use hatching which is a technique used to create different shades. This book was probably produced very cheaply because non-colored illustrations were much cheaper. A previous owner of the book also handwrote their name on the top corner of page three.
Every page has a page
number printed on the top. Some pages also have a capital letter followed by a
number at the very bottom. The pages of a book were printed on a large sheet of
paper and the book binder would have to fold the paper with multiple pages on
the front and make and make sure the pages were in the right order. The letter
and number pair was for the book binder to make sure the pages were in order
without having to know the page numbers.
Don Algonah: Or the
Sorceress of Montillo is the second edition published by T. Hurst in 1802. The first edition
was published the same year. The book does not explicitly state who the author
is, but the bottom of the title page mentions that the book was printed for T.
Hurst and sold by J. Wallis. The authorship is unknown. Thomas Hurst was a
publisher in London during the nineteenth century. The novel does not
explicitly state who the illustrator is, but underneath the black and white
image, the names Rhodes Sculp and Craig Pinx are printed in a tiny font. There
are several other digitized books online with a similar illustration style on
the cover and the name Rhodes Sculp written underneath.
The book was printed
by J. Cundee, a British printer located at Albion Press, Ivy Lane, Paternoster
Row in London. The book was originally printed in English as a chapbook. A
chapbook is a small inexpensive booklet containing short literature. There is a
third edition printed the same year, 1802, and it is the second story in volume
I of The Marvellous Magazine and Compendium
of Prodigies. The entire magazine
comprises of four volumes and each volume consists of many gothic stories from
the nineteenth century. All four volumes were published individually between
1802 and 1804. In the version of Don
Algonah that appears in The
Marvellous Magazine, the story is the same and there is a new illustration
of an owl on the front title page.
The entire text was
digitized by the Internet Archive in 2017 with funding from University of
Illinois Urbana Champaign Alternates. The digital version includes an image of
the vignette design on the front and back cover that is missing from the copy
in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. The book has also
been reprinted multiple times in the twenty-first century. There are hardcover
and paperback copies available to be ordered online through Amazon. These newer
versions shortened the title to just Don Algonah. The space where the
author’s name is usually written, just has “Algonah
(Don, fict. name.).”
unknown whether or not the book sold well or poorly. A short snippet of the
work was included in the Georgia Courier, a weekly newspaper for Albany,
Doughtry County Georgia. On June 7, 1827 pages 13–16 of the book were printed
in two columns of the newspaper and left to be continued (Georgia Courier). Michael Kelly, a playwright who produced dozens
of works between 1797 and 1821, composed a play called Algonah, which
was performed in Drury Lane, London on April 30, 1802 (“Reminiscences of
Michael Kelly”). There are no details on the play in The Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, but it appeared the same
year as Don Algonah: Or the Sorceress of Montillo.
this book has been reprinted, digitized, and well preserved, this work has not
been referenced frequently within academic scholarship. William Whyte Watt
wrote a book published in 1932, called Shilling Shockers of the Gothic
School: A Study of Chapbook Gothic Romances. In this book, Watt analyzes
different gothic works including, Don Algonah: Or the Sorceress of Montillo (29).
Point of View
Don Algonah: the Sorceress of Montillo is narrated in the third person for the majority of the text. There are also some interpolated tales in the middle of the story when some characters, such as D’Antares and Marano, share their past experiences. In these interpolated tales, the stories are told in first-person narration. During these moments when the character is sharing his own story, the narration focuses more on how that character feels as he relives his past experiences. When the characters finish telling their stories, the narration switches back to the third-person narrative. In both the interpolated tales and the third -person narration, there is a lot of dialogue between multiple characters.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
The Inquisitors themselves saw it, and looked terrified. –“Tell what the chamber contained!” exclaimed the Suprema, “or the rack shall force it from you!” –“I know nothing of the chamber alluded to,” replied the Don, hardily. “You deny also,” said the Suprema, “any knowledge of your two wives?” –“I do,” said Algonah. A sigh was heard from the corpse of Amaranta. (66)
Sample Passage of an Interpolated Tale told by D’Antares:
“Marano, every day more enraptured with the portrait, sought for the original every where: lamenting the singularity of his fate, which precluded him from knowing if his mistress were old or young, dead or alive. Quitting Grenada in about a fortnight after this adventure, we entered the inn yard of a village in Andalusia. — Here a travelling fortune-teller, mounted on a tub, was amusing the gaping countrymen with his nostrums and gestures. Observing us to smile, he turned to us and said, ‘Senors. I know that which one or both of you would give the world to know; mark that, Senors!’ Marano immediately whispered me that the speech applied to himself, and, continued he, ‘I will have this man to sup with us when the villagers are gone.’” (10)
narration stretches across multiple plots and characters. As the passage above
indicates, this narration frequently relies on dialogue to express different
characters’ emotions. Within this overarching third-person narration, the many
personal tales told by the characters means that the narration jumps between
different characters’ storylines, which can be disorienting. During the characters’
interpolated tales, they sometimes leave open questions that will not be
answered until other characters relay their own separate experiences in the
future. The interpolated tales span across a large period of time so they feel
fast-paced, and they focus on specific characters, thus developing more
On the day of a grand
festival in Madrid, Duke d’Axala hosts a large celebration and invites every
wealthy family. Don Algonah and his daughter Aramenta arrive at the party at
midnight. Olivaro immediately notices Aramenta and expresses to his friend,
Marquis d’ Antares, his admiration for the girl. Marquis d’Antares proceeds to
tell Olivario that Aramenta’s father is forcing her to live in a convent,
leaving Olivaro in sadness.
Later that night, a
fire erupts in a saloon and Olivaro runs to the scene to find Aramenta trapped
in the building, so he saves her and carries her to a garden. When Aramenta
awakes, she confirms to Olivario that she is retiring from the world to live a
life of monastic seclusion. Before Olivaro can respond, Algonah appears and
orders Aramenta to leave with him. When Olivaro is leaving the garden, he meets
Marquis d’ Antares again, who asks Olivaro to follow him. When they both arrive
at Marquis d’ Antares home, he tells Olivaro a story.
Marquis d’ Antares
tells a story about his adventures with his close friend, Marano de Pinato. One
day, the two men were on a small boat exploring Grenda when it suddenly began
to storm. They lost sight of Grenada as the skies became dark, and they came
across a ruined Moorish castle and decided to use it for shelter. As they look
around the castle, Marano finds a dagger rusted with blood and he decides to
preserve it because he believes it is the blood of an innocent soul. When the
rain stops, they find out their boat had been destroyed by the storm. Marano
tells Marquis d’ Antares that the same agent that led them to the castle will
guide them back to Grenada. Marano says his belief in magic is confirmed by an
event that happened to him nine months ago, and he proceeds to tell Marquis d’
Antares the story.
Marano’s story begins
with him foraging for food for his comrades. During his search, he sees a lame
soldier and Marano asks him why he is straggling behind his comrades. The
soldier says that he has received a deadly blow in his heart and that Marano
was the only person who could save him. The soldier asks Marano to swear to
avenge his wound or a terrible fate will fall upon his house. Marano agrees and
the wounded soldier disappears. Marano says that the dagger they found in the
castle reminded him of this story.
The two friends wait
in the castle until the next morning to find that the castle had been partly
destroyed by a fire ordered by Philip to prevent resistance from the Moors.
Marano also finds a small portrait of a beautiful woman. He proclaims his
admiration for the woman in the portrait, and Marquis d’ Antares tells him that
the lady is wearing a Moorish dress which means she most likely died from the
cruel edict of Philip’s orders. The two men safely travel back to Grenada on
obsessed with the woman in the portrait and tries to find her everywhere. When
the two friends leave Grenada for Andalusia, they meet a fortune teller,
Rimanez. Marano shows Rimanez the portrait and asks him if the woman lives.
Rimanez says the woman is gone forever and quickly leaves, but Marano and
Marquis d’ Antares do not believe him. The two friends continue on their
journey to Tolosa, where Marano complains about superstitious activities. One
night a pale soldier appears at Marquis d’ Antares bedside and asks him to
follow him into the woods. Marquis d’ Antares agrees and the soldier orders Marquis
d’ Antares to observe something hidden in the branches of a tree. Suddenly,
Marquis d’ Antares hears two men approach the tree and the wounded soldier
disappears. The two men under the tree talk about losing a dagger to two
travellers in a Moorish castle and a dreadful deed they committed. Marquis d’
Antares hears this and jumps out of the tree and stabs one of the murderers,
Perez. The other man, Pedro, shoots Marquis d’ Antares with a pistol and
Clementia and Aramenta, find the wounded Marquis d’ Antares and takes him to
the Castle of Montillo for assistance. Marano comes to the castle and tells his
injured friend that he is the nephew of Don Algonah, the castle’s leader.
Marquis d’ Antares learns from Marano that Algonha’s first wife, Juliana, died.
He married his second wife, Lady Cleona, around the time of Philip’s
persecution of the Moors. She also died, leaving a daughter, Amaranta. Vertola,
an old stewardess living in the castle, sees Marano’s small portrait and says
that it is Lady Juliana. Vertola tells the two friends about Lady Juliana’s
suspicious death. On the day her coffin was screwed, Lucilia, Juliana’s maid,
saw Juliana kneeling in her old bedroom. Algonah caught Lucilla and carried her
to her chamber. After Lucilla told Vertola this story, he never heard from her
again. Vertola continues to talk about Algonah’s second wife. Lady Cleona was
married to Count Alvarez and had a daughter with him. Algonah was a friend of Count
Alvarez and fell in love with Cleona. The edict of Philip at the time tried to
exile Moorish families, so Don Alvarez attempted to escape to Algnoah’s castle,
disguised as a soldier. Unfortunately, Don Alvarez was murdered along the way
by assassins. Algonah then transported the Countess and her daughter to
Grenada. Shortly after, he married Lady Cleo in his castle. During the wedding
reception, the figure of a murdered Alvarez threatened Algonah. The first
daughter of Lady Cleona was sent to Grenada by Algonah, and was reported to
During Marquis d’
Antares stay at the castle, he begins to feel affection towards one of
Algonah’s daughters, Clementia. When Algonah arrives home to his castle, the
two men decide to see what was in the chambers of the castle. As Marquis d’
Antares is travelling across the stairs, he hears Algonah and the assassin,
Pedro, conducting a plan to keep the two friends at the castle for a few days
longer so that Pedro could assassinate them. The next morning, the two men
immediately leave the Castle of Montillo. Marquis d’ Antares and Marano say
their sad goodbyes and separate to leave for their individual homes.
When Marquis d’
Antares finishes his story, Olivaro tells Marquis d’ Antares that they will
free Clementia and Amaranta from Algonah. Marquis d’ Antares is excited to hear
this and he visits the palace of Count de Bellara where Aramenta is staying and
requests to speak to her. He tells her about Olivaro’s plans to marry her so
she can be free. Right after Marquis d’ Antares leaves, Algonah confuses Marquis
d’ Antares as Aramenta’s lover. He is so upset that he orders his daughter to
be sent to the convent that night. When Olivaro hears of this news he asks his
cousin Emelina to help Amarenta escape, who agrees to enter the convent to help
her cousin. Olivaro requests Amarenta to meet him in the garden for her escape.
When the day arrives for the two lovers to meet, Amarenta and Emelina meet
Olivaro in the garden. Before they could escape, Amarenta is stabbed by Pedro
hiding in the bushes. Pedro tries to escape and Olivaro chases after him.
Algonah is waiting outside the convent and accidentally stabs Pedro, mistaking
him for Olivaro. Before Algonah could plunge the sword again, Marano fires a
pistol at Algonah. Olivaro rushes back to Amaranta, where she dies in his arms.
The Inquisition appears at the murder scene and arrests everyone.
Marano tells his
story about finally finding his mistress, Seraphino, after he and Marquis d’
Antares went on their separate ways. Seraphino was a slave in a castle owned by
Lady Juliana’s brother, Solyman. Marano expresses his love to Seraphino, and he
finds out that Seraphino is Count Alvarez’s daughter who was sent to Grenada
and sold as a slave. Rimanez and Lady Cleo also arrive at Solyman’s castle and
the conjurer explains how he was hired by Algonah to kill Lady Cleona. He
pitied the lady, so he spread a rumor that she had drowned and then confined
her in a castle for all these years. Marano, Rimanez, Seraphino, and Lady Cleo
are travelling together when they find Lady Juliana locked in the eastern
chamber of the Montillo castle. Juliana explains how Algonah was the only
person who knew about the secret passage. Her maid and old stewardesses were
also locked up because they found out Algonah had buried a wax figure in her coffin.
The group then set off to Madrid.
examination, all of Algonah’s past wrongdoings are revealed. Algonah stabs
himself with a dagger and dies. During the trial, a sorceress also revealed
that the soldier who was haunting Marano was Count Alvarez, and he wanted his
remains to be buried.
After the trial ends,
Marano performs the funeral rites for the remains of Count Alvarez and buries
his daughter Amarnata beside him. Algonah’s widows get to choose which
apartments of the castle they want to live in. Clementia and Marquis d’ Antares
are reunited again and Marama is happily in love with Seraphino. After Amaranta
is respectfully buried, Emelina consents to marry Olivaro. The three friends
and their relatives live the rest of their lives in happiness.
Don Algonah: Or the
Sorceress of Montillo. A Romantic Tale. London: Printed for T. Hurst, 1802.
“Don Algonah, Or the
Sorceress of Montillo: A Romantic Tale.” Georgia Courier, 7 June 1827.
Marvellous Magazine and Compendium of Prodigies. London: Printed for
T. Hurst, 1802.
Michael Kelly, of the King’s Theatre, and Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Including a Period of
nearly Half a Century; with Original Anecdotes of Many Distinguished
Persons, Political, Literary, and Musical.” The Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, vol. 7, no. 28, 1825, pp. 475-498.
Watt, William Whyte,
1912-. Shilling Shockers of the Gothic School: a Study of Chapbook Gothic Romances. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932.
The Castle of Montabino by Sarah Wilkinson is a riveting narration of mystery and adventure in early 1800’s Italy, centralizing around two sisters’ daring escape from the clutches of their cruel uncle.
The Castle of Montabino; or the Orphan Sisters: An Original Romance is a lengthily-titled, 38-page work of gothic fiction authored by Sarah Wilkinson. Originally, the contents of the book were stored in a fragile pamphlet of pages consisting of a blue cover and backing. However, the book was later rebound, and is currently held in a cardstock-weight tan binding. The novel does not appear particularly aesthetically pleasing as the exterior is bland, lacking an intriguing cover and decorative effects. The contents of the book, however, tell a more interesting story. Within the yellowed, aged pages of Wilkinson’s story are small splotches, stains, tears, and other mysterious man-made marks. These pages, containing the actual text, are quite delicate, uneven in length, and frayed at the ends as if torn.
The first page of the text, or the introductory catalogue, is a detailed table of books printed on faded turquoise-blue parchment paper. This catalogue contains a list of the various works, including The Castle of Montabino, mentioning that they were all printed and sold by the same publisher. The full title of the book appears on the title page after this catalogue, and interestingly, the author’s name is quite inconspicuous, wedged between the full title, the publisher’s name, and a small drawing. Wilkinson is only mentioned as the author once throughout the whole course of the text.
A frontispiece precedes the title page. This is a larger, well-depicted illustration of three women who appear to be kneeling in fear within a castle. The expressions on their faces are contorted and overdramatized, indicating astonishment and fright. Under this image is a caption with the words, “The Castle of Montabino.” The second, smaller drawing is on the title page, and resembles a lightly sketched depiction of a miniature castle surrounded by a few trees. Both images are black and white, appearing relatively simple without ornate detailing or vibrant colors.
The remainder of the book is solely text, containing no other visual aids or sources which depict scenarios relevant to the plot. While the pages are saturated with words and there is not a lavish amount of white space, there is a generous amount of contrast between the paragraphs and spaces so that the reader is not overwhelmed by a mass of text. The font is large enough to easily read, comparable with 12-point font. The dimensions of the book in terms of the external length and width are 19.5 cm by 12 cm. The lengths of the pages within the book are varied as some of the pages are more worn or torn slightly more than others. Additionally, the turquoise blue introductory page and cover are significantly smaller than the yellowed pages with the contents of the text. The material on which the text is printed is a thinner version of printer paper, more aged and discolored than expected. With a tawny yellowish-tan color, the pages appear not only frail, but slightly brittle as well. A few interesting post-production marks found on some pages within the text include an inked signature on the catalogue which appears to spell the word “Montabino” in fluid cursive, along with smaller, more arbitrary pencil markings within the text containing dates and numbers.
Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson, the author of The Castle of Montabino; or the Orphan Sisters: An Original Romance, was a novelist known as one of the most prolific female gothic fiction writers of her time (Potter 109–10). She wrote and published over a hundred works of fiction, almost half of which were chapbooks. Many of her works were adaptations of previously existing novels, romances in particular (Baines). Many of Wilkinson’s pieces such as The Thatched Cottage and A Visit to London were abridgements. The Castle of Montabino, however, was her original work. Interestingly enough, Wilkinson is one of the few female authors whose names were printed and made visible within her published texts. Not only was her presence in the gothic fiction realm immense in the early nineteenth century, but some of her writings were also so popular that they were reprinted and recirculated multiple times (Baines). Some of Wilkinson’s more popular works included The History of Crazy Jane, Monkcliffe Abbey, and The Maid of Lochlin. By contrast, The Castle of Montabino, however, was not considered to be one of Wilkinson’s most notable or highly received works, and appears to have been less-known.
Wilkinson faced many difficulties in her early writing career. She was born
into a lower middle-class family, living on the border of poverty in the heart
of London. This continued on into her adult life as she was widowed, struggling
to support herself and her family with multiple odd occupations. She held a
variety of small jobs including being a schoolteacher, running a circulating
library, and taking in boarders (Potter, 110–11). Simultaneously, she was
diagnosed with breast cancer, leading her to petition the Royal Literary Fund
for aid. She cited not only these medical issues, but the difficulty of earning
a decent income as a female (Baines). Ultimately, she was fortunate enough to
receive this aid and was able to continue writing and publishing until her
interesting background and experiences are reflected in her bold,
unconventional writing. While she did fit into the framework of gothic style,
she combined typical gothic elements with more realistic aspects of daily life,
making subtle statements about societal constructs and the social position of
women (Baines). She was known to have mocked or satirized mainstream gothic
writers such as Ann Radcliffe, depicting diametrically opposing themes such as
female social liberation and freedom in her works, The Castle of Montabino
being one. Rather than catering to the higher classes, Wilkinson’s works were
aimed at the literate, lower-class population, specifically women. Not only did
she combine typical gothic tropes with the supernatural, she also focused on
the themes of female subjectivity, gender, and identity. This innovative aspect
of her writing marked her as a breakthrough female gothic fiction author
edition of TheCastle of Montabino held in the University of
Virginia Special Collections Library was published around 1810 by Dean and
Munday Publishers. In total, there are two editions and several physical copies
of these two editions held in libraries across the world. In addition to the
copies at the University of Virginia Special Collections Library, databases
indicate that the book is also at Duke University Libraries, UCLA,
Northwestern, and The British Library in London. Additionally, there is an
online edition of the text available with free access for the public through
Chawton House Libraries (WorldCat). Different library databases and collections
cite either 1809 or 1810 as the approximate time the work was printed. There is
a second edition that was published around the same time, but by S. Bailey
instead of the initial publishers, Dean and Munday. While the University of Virginia
library catalog indicates that it is published by Dean and Munday, the interior
catalogue of the text features a table of books, including TheCastle
of Montabino, as being printed and sold by S.Bailey.
details regarding the history of the publishing of The Castle of Montabino originate
with the relationship between Dean and Munday and S. Bailey, also known as
Susan Bailey. The two publishing entities were thought to have had familial
ties, providing a possible explanation for the reprinting and production of two
copies around the same time frame (“Movable Stationary”). Among many of
Wilkinson’s works, it is a common theme that most of the pieces are published
by either S. Bailey or Dean and Munday, sometimes even both. Dean and Munday as
a publication company was said to have been effective in their advertising,
cultivating a name as the largest supplier of movable children’s books and
chapbooks, fitting Wilkinson’s niche. The company primarily published fiction
chapbooks in the form of bluebooks: small, thin paper pamphlets with
turquoise-blue covers and backings, illustrated clearly through the visual
appearance of The Castle of Montabino (“Movable Stationary”).
Not only was
Wilkinson considered an influential author of her time, but she is also studied
by contemporary scholars. She is mentioned as a female gothic pioneer with her
works being cited in Franz Potter’s The History of Gothic Publishing.
She is often referred to as one of the most productive and gifted writers in
the field, introducing bold and daring concepts for her time period (Hoeveler
3–4). Wilkinson’s impact on the development of gothic fiction is also a major
focal point of discussion in Ellen Malenas Ledoux’s Social Reform in Gothic
Writing. Ledoux particularly analyzes what she calls the “working-class
gothic in The Castle of Montabino (77).
Point of View
The Castle of
Montabino is narrated in the
third-person omniscient by an anonymous narrator who is never discussed or
mentioned within the text. The narration is often convoluted and consists of
lengthy paragraphs that occasionally form tangents away from the central plot.
The narration focuses on the internal feelings and emotions of the characters
briefly during the beginning of the book through dialogue and description.
Later on, this focus shifts to a centralization around action and details of
the core events in the plot. The language utilized throughout the text is
intricate and verbose, and transitions from one event to another often blend
together. In addition, the narration is extremely hurried and events are often
grouped together, depicted as occurring back to back with no pause in between.
“Thanks be to heaven,” said the Signor, her apprehensions and suspense will now be converted to joy. “Then, turning to the servants, he said—“I think I scarce need repeat any injunctions of secresy.”— “We are faithful, and would die to prove it,” was the general reply. He asked a few questions, and being informed that the Countess had ordered breakfast not to be on table till two, he proposed retiring till that hour, and Laurinda conducted the ladies and Beatrice to their respective chambers. The sisters were so much fatigued with travelling, that they were not able to converse with their usual facility; and after a few remarks, they fell into a profound slumber, from which they did not awake till the entrance of Beatrice, who came to assist them in dressing; Laurinda having supplied her with the necessary articles for that purpose. At two they descended to the breakfast saloon; Signor Rupino and the Countess were ready to receive them, the former paid them the usual compliments, in a most elegant and flattering speech, the lady spoke not- yet she cordially pressed their hands,—heavy sighs distended her bosom, and she sobbed most piteously. The Signor apologized for the Countess’s not speaking to them; he said that their presence had awakened some bitter recollections that had overcome her. She wore a thick muslin veil, and she took great care, while eating her breakfast, that no part of her face should be seen. Before their repeat was concluded, they were joined by the two gentlemen who had always accompanied Signor Rupino and the Countess in the boat; the latter whispered something to the Countess, they retired together to one of the open balconies (15).
narrative style creates a fast-paced story due to the fleeting portrayal of
events. In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish the start of one event
and the end of another due to the fact that both the sentences and paragraphs
are long and strung out. The events are portrayed as occurring one after the
other, and the narration significantly contributes to the sudden nature of
transitions within the plot. This aspect of the narration along with some
obscured language makes it hard to identify certain contexts or intervals. In
illustrating the sister’s journey in the passage above, the narrator mentions,
“The sisters were so much fatigued with travelling, that they were not able to
converse with their usual facility; and after a few remarks, they fell into a
profound slumber, from which they did not awake till the entrance of Beatrice,
who came to assist them in dressing; Laurinda having supplied her with the
necessary articles for that purpose” (15). This sentence highlights the
quantity of condensed details within particular points of the narration,
offering an example of the culmination of ideas that are often presented in a
short period of time.
The Castle of
Montabino is a short gothic story set in Italy in the early nineteenth
century. The plot places specific focus on Emillia and Theresa, two recently
orphaned sisters faced with peril after the passing of their aunt, the
Countess. The novel begins by describing the somber mood within the castle, and
the despair experienced by the two sisters. Emillia and Theresa convey that
they do not wish to reside in the Castle at Montabino under the care of their
cold and cruel uncle, the Count. In their private apartment, they discuss their
plan to escape from the castle with the help of mysterious, unidentified
companions. These companions—three noble, well dressed men and one woman, soon arrive
at the castle by boat. They dock their boat under the window of the sisters’
apartment, confirming their role in aiding the girls with their escape. The
mysterious figures state that the two sisters are nearing imminent danger, and
that they must take action in immediately ensuring their safety.
Theresa and Emillia
agree that escaping from the castle the next day is the most suitable option,
and they begin to make the proper arrangements to do so. Subsequently, Emillia
and Theresa proceed with their normal lifestyles within the castle, engaging
with their domestic employees Susette, Cosmo, and Judith. During this time,
Judith, Emillia, and Theresa make the startling discovery that a ghost occupies
the castle, causing slight turmoil and fright. While the sisters express their
dismay at leaving their beloved employees, Susette and Judith, in the castle
with the presence of a ghost, they ultimately make their daring escape that
night. Following the instructions given to them by their mysterious friends, the
sisters travel through arched recesses and narrow tunnels, exiting the castle
and entering a desolate area filled with ruins.
cross paths with two cloaked figures. Startled, they hide behind fragments of
stone, concealing themselves to avoid discovery. During this time, they learn
the identity of the cloaked figures: a man named Gusmond and his servant Hugo.
Their sole purpose for entering the desolate area at such an odd hour was to
bury a child. The men banter about preserving secrecy and concealing the events
that were to transpire, mentioning that if anyone were to find out, the Count
would punish them harshly.
After the men leave,
Theresa and Emillia hastily arrive at their set meeting point, waiting in
anticipation for their transportation to arrive. They discuss the strange,
dreadful mystery that plagues the Castle, their relief at escaping the clutches
of the Count and their hopes to never be found by him or ever return. Shortly
after, the sisters are met by their companions and introduced to their
attendants, Signor Rupino and Beatrice. They embark upon a carriage, and ride
until dawn, taking shelter at a deserted castle for a while, restarting their
journey at dusk, and later arriving at a cottage where they again take rest.
Their travel progresses until they arrive at a villa quite distant from the
castle. It is here that the sisters learn a treacherous secret: the Count had
ordered Cosmo to poison his wife. Cosmo, unable to go through with this order,
deceived the Count and instead aided the Countess in escaping under a
Upon hearing this
news, the sisters are overjoyed, invigorated yet shocked by the thought of
seeing their aunt. Shortly after, the sisters are reunited with the Countess,
who begins to reveal the details of her story. She narrates her childhood,
mentioning the hard work and sacrifices her father made to accumulate wealth
and provide for the family. Leading up to the moment she was introduced to the
Count, she recalls the party during which she was acquainted with him. Soon
after, the Count became a frequent visitor, and made numerous proposals for the
now-Countess’ hand in marriage. They were quickly married, and she soon came to
realize his true intention, which was to gain wealth from her family through
their union. Moreover, after the untimely death of her father, the Count
refused the Countess’ request to visit her family or have any of them visit
her. He became intolerable, refusing her the luxuries of a maidservant, and
becoming increasingly cruel.
She briefly narrates
her happiness in caring for the sisters once their parents passed away, and
proceeds to reveal the night on which Cosmo assisted her in her escape. She was
drugged, proclaimed dead, and later hidden in a coffin to be transported to a
cottage in the woods a few miles from the Castle. It was after this fateful
night that she realized the Count’s evil intentions to take her fortune, and
the fortune of her nieces by first murdering her, as she was their guardian.
After her departure from the Castle and knowledge of this information, the
Countess contacted her friends for a place to stay, financial means, and safe
passage far away from the Castle. It was later on that she contacted her
mysterious allies, Beatrice and Signor Rupino, requesting them to approach her
nieces in order to affect their escape, as the Count had planned to poison them
While this unfolds,
the Count seethes with anger upon discovering the disappearance of Emillia and
Theresa. As a result, he murders Cosmo in a fit of anger while trying to
extract the truth from him. Even though Cosmo is unaware of the means of their
escape, he divulges that the Countess is still alive, sending the Count into a
rage. The Count scours the tunnels and hidden passages of Montabino, attempting
to discover what could have allowed his nieces to escape, or some clue as to
where his wife has fled. However, this search ends in his accidental stabbing
and eventual death.
Once the Count’s
death is confirmed, friends of the Countess and noblemen from the villa begin
searching all corners of the castle to uncover the treacherous secrets that the
Count may have hidden. It was then that they come across a young woman,
Harmina, who was locked away in a small, unkempt room with her daughter.
Harmina later reveals her story, discussing her working-class upbringing, her
struggles to receive her romantic and material interests, and how she came to
be acquainted with the Count. She originally attracted the attentions of
Fernando, a servant of the Count, who later introduced the two. The Count was
enraptured by her beauty, while hiding his marriage, began to have an affair
with her. He ensured that she lived in a charming villa away from the castle,
visiting her occasionally and giving her the luxuries she desired. Their affair
lasted for three to four years, and she bore him three children. However,
Harmina later became aware that he was a married man and, dismayed, revealed to
him her plan to return to her father and the rest of her family immediately.
During her escape,
she was intercepted by the Count and forced into imprisonment, where her
children were taken from her, pronounced dead under mysterious and vague
conditions, and later buried. Gusmond, the man who Emillia and Theresa
witnessed at the desolate site, confesses to murdering Harmina’s children, and
is sentenced to life imprisonment. In the end, Harmina retires to a convent,
and leaves her child in the care of the Countess who is joyfully remarried.
Theresa and Emillia, who also get married, live happily. The story ends with
the moral that those who are virtuous will be rewarded and those who are wicked
will meet with punishment.
“Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell (d. c. 1830), Writer: Oxford Dictionary of National
Biography.” (d. c. 1830), Writer | Oxford Dictionary of National
Biography, Oxford University Press, 5 Oct. 2019.
“The Castle of
Montabino; or The Orphan Sisters: an Original Romance.” WorldCat, 12 Dec.
Hoeveler, Daine L.
“Sarah Wilkinson: Female Gothic Entrepreneur.” Gothic Archive: Related
Scholarship, Marquette University, 1 Jan. 2015.
The Movable Book Society Newsletter,
May 2013 (“Vintage Pop-Up Books” with further information, accessed 30 October
Potter, Franz. “The
Romance of Real Life: Sarah Wilkinson.” The History of Gothic Publishing: 1800–1835, Palgrave UK, 2005, pp.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Castle of Montabino; or The Orphan Sisters: an Original Romance.
London, Dean and Munday, 1810.
In this 1803 chapbook, jealousy, secrecy, kidnapping, and murder erupt as Orlando pursues romance with Isabella, Octavia, and Adela—three sisters.
At first glance, this book looks very frail and worn. With
dimensions of 10.2cm x 16.5cm and a thickness of about 0.5cm, it is very small
and thin. The cover is completely blank, and it is only yellowed paper (there is
no kind of leather or hardback cover on the front). Also, there is no back
cover of the book, it is just a piece of paper with writing from the beginning
of another story.
The title of this particular gothic book has a few different
forms. Because the frail cover of the book is blank, the first place where the
title appears is on the backside of the cover. In this location, the title is Three Ghosts of the Forest. The font of
the title is relatively large, and it is fancy because the letters are outlined
in black but have no color on the inside of the letters. The only other
information on this page is the illustration as well as the artists’ names
under the illustration. On the title page, which faces the inside of the cover,
the title of the book is printed as The
Three Ghosts of the Forest, A Tale of Horror. An Original Romance. The font
here is solid black and much larger. The title page features a short four-line
poem, and some decorations are present on the title page which include black
lines separating the different parts of the title and separating the poem from
the list of publishers underneath. It also includes the city of publication,
London, and the year it was published, 1803. The decorative black line also
appears below the word “finnis” on page 34. Once again, on the first page of
the text, the title reads The Three
Ghosts of the Forest. While this book has a title printed within it several
times, it lacks an author’s name. This component does not appear anywhere
throughout the book.
The novel also contains a frontispiece illustration. It is a black and white picture of two women wearing long white dresses, and they are surrounded by trees and grass. There is no caption beneath this picture, but the shorter version of the title is written underneath it. The artists’ names, however, appear underneath the illustration.
One of the most compelling parts of this book is a piece of
patchwork that one of the original owners glued onto the back of the title
page. There must have been a rip on this page, so somebody took the liberty to
paste a fragment of a piece of paper over the rip. The patch has cursive handwriting
in ink on it, and it is amazing to think that somebody wrote that so long ago.
Other than the University of Virginia Special Collections Library stamp on the
front of the book, this is the only mark of ownership.
This book has a relatively small font just because the book
itself has such small dimensions, but it is not difficult to read the text. The
text is not particularly closely set. Surprisingly, the margins of this book
vary by page. Sometimes, as on page 5, the margins are much thinner on the right
side than on the left, although on page 27 for example the margins are
extremely crooked. As a result, the text is slanted on the page. This is a
great example of the book’s individuality; every copy probably does not have
the same margins since the printer that was used obviously printed some of the
This fragile book lacks a strong binding. The binding is
paper, and it is held together by strings. There are no decorations on the
outside of the book, and what would be the back binding is just the first few
sentences of another different story. The book’s paper is very worn and
yellowed. Many of the pages are stained with dark spots. The paper is thin and
brittle, and page 13 actually has a hole in it which impends the reader from
seeing one of the words.
book has an epigraph on the title page in the form of a short four-line poem.
This poem appears to be original to this story, and it functions to give the
reader an idea of some of the story’s themes. The narrator of the poem wants to
escape his conscience because it will not let him forget some of the worst
things he has ever done. This is relevant to the story since Orlando regrets
his crimes so deeply by the end of the book.
is little information available about the contemporary reception of The Three Ghosts of the Forest. However,
the work does appear in several modern examinations of Gothic literature. One
example of this book appearing in a twentieth-century work is Ann B. Tracy’s The Gothic
Novel 1790–1830: Plot Summaries and Index to Motifs (1981).
This resource provides a summary of the story, as well as summaries of many
other gothic stories from the same time period, all organized alphabetically
(177–81). It is interesting to note that despite the alphabetical organization,
The Three Ghosts of the Forest also
has thematic links with its surrounding stories. The summary featured before The Three Ghosts of the Forest is of a
book called Tales of the Dead that
also features ghosts. The book that is summarized after The Three Ghosts of the Forest is called Rosalind de Tracy; while this summary does not include ghosts, it
includes elements similar to The Three
Ghosts of the Forest such as marriage problems and death.
The Three Ghosts of the Forest also appears in Toni Wein’s 2002 work, British Identities, Heroic Nationalisms, and the Gothic Novel, 1764–1824.
Wein comments on the unlikeliness of Isabella being able to escape her
captivity because a servant accidentally left the door open. She also mentions
the anonymous author’s message that indulgence and absence of religion make for
a terrible person, as well as the message that wealth has too much influence on
people and that it can keep good people from seeing the wrongdoings of evil
people (161–2). Something that is extremely interesting is the fact that in
this source, the gothic book that is discussed on the next page is called Tales of the Dead, which is the exact
same book that The Three Ghosts of the
Forest was grouped with in Tracy’s work. According to Wein, Tales of the Dead also includes themes
of economic corruption (163).
The Three Ghosts of the Forest is also featured in Franz J. Potter’s The
History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835. This 2005 work provides
information regarding the publishing of many gothic books, but it only mentions
The Three Ghosts of the Forest once. Surprisingly,
this source states that the author of The
Three Ghosts of the Forest is named Alexander Thomson. No other references
of the book in other sources mention an author, and there is no author listed
anywhere within the actual book, so it is unclear where this information
originates. The History of Gothic
Publishing also states that the book was “repackaged…into blue-book format”
in 1803 (54).
There is a contemporary digital
copy of this book, which can be found with the full text on Google Books. It
features the same exact image that is on the hard copy of the book in the
Sadleir-Black Collection. It even includes the first three pages of the story The Miraculous Preservation of Androcles which
is exactly what the UVA Library’s copy includes at the end of the text. A
difference between the two copies of these books is that the online version
includes red stamps on some of the pages that say “British Museum 1560,” indicating
its unique history of ownership.
Point of View
The Three Ghosts of
the Forest includes both first- and third-person narration. The book is
narrated in the third person for most of the first twenty-two pages of the
book, and then it is narrated in the first person until the second paragraph of
page thirty-three. After that, the remaining page is narrated again in the
third person. The third-person narrator is anonymous and does not appear in the
text. The narration in the third-person sections feels very emotionless and
detached because, at some points, the narrator simply states the plot points. At
other times, though, the anonymous narrator provides the reader with the
characters’ emotions and processes of reasoning. The interpolated first-person
narrative, which begins on page twenty-two is marked by a title, “The
Confession of Orlando.” Orlando is the first-person narrator, and he gives more
insight into his own feelings and reasons for his actions while explaining his
point of view from his death bed. His narration feels very straightforward, as
he is confessing and finally providing important information to help the reader
understand the plot of the story.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
The affrighted ruffians fled, leaving the wretched Octavia, unknowing whether she would live or die, in the forest—but she died in great agony about an hour later. (16)
Sample Passage of First-Person Narration:
I was left heir to a plentiful fortune, but the indulgence I had long enjoyed now led me to associate with what are called men of spirit; but never having met with any enlightened character to warn me of my evil, to shun those men of spirit that I thought wise, but were totally living under the idea of their own self knowledge and protection, having no knowledge of God, so that I was living like a wild man of the woods. (22–23)
The third-person narration is significant to the
story because it has a way of distancing the characters from the reader. The
description of Octavia’s death is very brief and abrupt. The absence of any of
her last thoughts or wishes makes it difficult for the reader to empathize with
her or mourn her death as a character. On the other hand, Orlando’s
first-person narration allows readers to understand precisely how he is
feeling. There is a heavy emphasis on circumstances and fate versus free will
in his portion of the story. He appears to have a lack of agency which is
caused by his circumstance that he is surrounded by ungodly men. Attributing
his poor decisions to fate, he does not even consider the possibility of taking
control and seeking out godly men who can help him change his ways. Octavia,
while also lacking agency due to the fact that she is killed, does not get to
have a long first-person narrative before her death. Readers are only given the
in-depth perspective of the single male character in the story rather than also
getting the perspective of one of the many female characters. This suggests
that although both female and male characters lack agency, only the male
character is important enough—and has enough agency as a storyteller—to give a
testimony before death.
This story begins with an introduction of a few of the main
characters. The Baron Arnhalt lives in the Chateau, and he has three daughters:
Isabella, Octavia, and Adela. He plans to leave an equal share of his fortune
to each of his daughters when he dies, and if any of them were to die
unmarried, he would leave that portion to his nephew, Orlando. Orlando is also
a wealthy man, and he wishes to marry one of the three daughters. Isabella is
the oldest daughter, who has very good manners and is described as being “noble”
(A2). Octavia is the second oldest daughter; she is artful, witty, and pretty.
Adela, the youngest of the three, is described by the narrator as being very
similar to Isabella, with an almost identical personality. Their father dies
when Isabella is eighteen, and Orlando does not know which daughter he prefers
Orlando starts to visit the Chateau much more frequently
after the death of his uncle. He is able to rule out Adela as a possible suitor
because she is being educated in a convent and he has not seen her in several
years. He likes Isabella the best, but although she likes him as a person, she
does not like him romantically. Octavia, though, is in love with him, and she
wishes he would see her the way he sees Isabella.
Octavia makes friends with Orlando, and she tells Orlando
that she will try to convince Isabella to accept his offers of marriage, but
Octavia is not as innocent as she appears to be. Isabella had previously been
in love with a man named Honorio, but he started to prefer Octavia. Isabella is
such a good person that she encourages them to be together despite her love for
Soon after, Honorio and Octavia are married. Once Isabella
knows Honorio is with Octavia instead of her, she falls in love with a man who
does not have much money. Honorio is not happy being Octavia’s husband, and
they do not live together happily. Three months after their wedding, he is
accidentally killed in the forest by ruffians. He hates being with Octavia so
much that very soon after their wedding he made his will and left her basically
nothing. The story returns to the present moment when Octavia assumes that now
that she is a widow, Orlando will pursue her, but he still fancies Isabella.
One day, Orlando gets so fed up by the fact that Isabella
does not love him that he and Octavia arrange for a group of people to kidnap
her when she is outside alone to get some fresh air. Isabella finds herself in
a furnished room with heavy bars on the doors and windows to prevent her
escape. She is given anything that she wants or needs, and after a week of
being kidnapped, she has nothing to complain about other than the fact that she
wonders why she was taken away and wishes to be back at home. She also worries
about how Octavia is doing not knowing where her sister is, when in fact
Octavia is partly the reason for her kidnap. On the sixth day of her
kidnapping, a disguised man comes into the room. He tells Isabella that she can
be freed if she agrees to be his mistress, and he gives her three days to
decide. After the three days have passed, he returns, and when he speaks this
time, Isabella realizes that it is the voice of her cousin Orlando. He throws
off his disguise, and she cannot believe he did such a thing to her. She scolds
him and asks if he understands God’s laws, and after her speech, Orlando tells
her that Octavia has him under her spell and that she is the reason he did
this. He also tells Isabella that Octavia wants her to suffer and wants to take
her fortune. Isabella is devastated by this news. She tells Orlando that if all
her suffering is Octavia’s fault, she’ll return home and forget that he
kidnapped her, but he tells her she must stay and be his mistress. Orlando leaves
the room, reasoning that he will either keep her there until she dies unmarried
or convince her to marry him, so either way he can receive her fortune.
News of Isabella’s disappearance has reached Adela’s
convent. She decides to return home rather than take the veil. When Adela
returns, Orlando sees how similar she is to Isabella and develops feelings for
her. Whenever he thinks of releasing Isabella, he decides against it since
Adela, his new object of affection, would surely hate him for doing that to her
Octavia, still annoyed that Orlando does not love her,
decides to threaten to tell Adela all that he has done. Octavia and Orlando
agree to meet the next day at Orlando’s castle. Orlando then arranges for four
men to stop Octavia on her way to his castle and take her to a distant convent
and force her to take the veil. As Octavia is walking to the castle, a storm
rolls in, and as she approaches the spot where Honorio was killed, the four men
jump at her and one of them accidentally pierces her with his sword as she
tries to escape. As this happens, Honorio’s ghost appears and says that his
death had been avenged, with the same sword that killed him.
The same night, Isabella escapes from Orlando’s castle when
a servant accidentally leaves the door open. As she runs through the woods, a
robber comes out from behind a tree and takes everything she has, stabbing her
to death afterwards.
When Adela hears of the deaths of her two sisters, she has
to be carried to her bed and spends the next two weeks in a frenzied state of
mind. When Orlando hears the news, he is not shocked about Octavia, but he is
surprised to hear of Isabella’s death. Rather than dwell on depressing
thoughts, he decides to go see Adela and try to win her hand in marriage. Adela
agrees to marry him after the time of mourning has passed, not knowing of his
involvement in her sisters’ lives.
One day, after Adela visited Orlando, he was walking Adela
home just after sunset and the ghost of Octavia appeared. Octavia’s ghost tells
Orlando that his time is near and then disappears. Orlando leads a distressed
Adela to the end of the forest, but before they get out, Isabella and Honorio’s
ghosts appear as well. Honorio looks angrily at Orlando, while Adela follows
Isabella’s ghost away from Orlando. Once they arrive at the bank of a small
river, Isabella’s ghost tells Adela not to marry Orlando because he has murder
on his conscience. After that, the ghost disappears. Although she feels torn
because she loves Orlando, Adela decides never to see him again and runs home.
The next day, Orlando wakes up with a terrible sickness, and
he fears that Octavia’s ghost’s prediction is coming true. Adela only agrees to
go visit Orlando because it is his dying request. When she gets there, she’s
shocked at his sickly appearance and he starts telling her his confession of
all the evil that he has done.
He starts his story at the beginning of his life, talking
about how he was spoiled as a child and how his parents died when he was
eighteen, leaving him a fortune. He lived an indulgent life, spending most of
his inheritance and blaming his bad character on the unreligious people that he
surrounded himself with. When Adela’s father died, he figured he should marry
one of his daughters in order to gain their third of the fortune. He tells the
story of how he loved Isabella and how he and Octavia conspired to get Octavia
and Honorio together. Orlando became friends with Honorio and would always talk
to him about how great Octavia was and how awful Isabella was, leading Honorio
to marry Octavia. However, shortly after being married, Octavia told Orlando
how terrible it was being married to someone who did not actually love her, and
she requested that Orlando get rid of Honorio somehow. Orlando sent hired
ruffians to kill Honorio, but afterwards, the guilt consumed him. Octavia did
not regret it at all, and she expected to become rich by inheriting Honorio’s
fortune. Although, as we already know, he left her nearly nothing in his will. Octavia
then worried about the fact that Isabella was to marry a poor man, because she
knew he would not want Isabella to keep helping Octavia financially. For this
reason, Orlando says Octavia convinced him to kidnap Isabella. He felt very
guilty after this and after acting odd around Octavia, they both knew that they
were not on the same side anymore. One day, after Octavia left his house, an
anonymous man requested to speak to Orlando about something urgent. He told
Orlando that Octavia planned to poison him when they met the next day, so
Orlando decided to hire the same ruffians from Honorio’s death to kidnap
Octavia and take her to a convent. The ruffians return, though, to report to
him that they had accidentally killed her and that they saw Honorio’s ghost.
With both Octavia and Isabella dead, Orlando figured he could now pursue Adela
without anything getting in his way. Octavia’s ghost haunted him constantly, saying she would not rest
until he was dead.
with his story, Orlando tells Adela to be happy that she escaped a terrible
sister as well as a marriage with a terrible man. He begs God for mercy, and
Adela cries for him. Happy to receive her pity, he finally dies. At his
funeral, Adela thinks of how she wishes to escape this wicked world, so she
decides to go live in the convent, donating one third of her fortune to the
convent and the other two thirds to those she thought worthy. Whoever she
donates the final two thirds of her fortune to remains ambiguous in the text.
Franz J. The History of Gothic
Exhuming the Trade, Palgrave
The Three Ghosts of the Forest, A Tale of Horror. An
Original Romance. London, D. N. Shury, 1803.
B. The Gothic Novel 1790–1830: Plot Summaries and Index to Motifs, Lexington: University Press of
Toni. British Identities, Heroic
Nationalisms, and the Gothic Novel, 1764–1824,