In this 1799 chapbook set in England during the Middle Ages, a conflict over religion between a priest and a baron, and an enchanted suit of armor result in betrayal, exile, and magic.
Kilverstone Castle, or, The Heir Restored: A Gothic Story is the second of twelve stories, bound together in the same volume. The name of the author does not appear on any of the story’s thirty-three pages.
The cover is stained, and has completely detached from the book pages, but the binding on the side is still intact. The pages are very fragile, and the cover has detached. The book is bound with leather, and has an endband made of red thread at the top and bottom for decorative purposes.
The book’s paper is very brittle and has yellow stains covering it. The binding along the side of the book has the word “tracts” carved into it. A “tract” signifies a chapter or short story, which suggests that someone specifically chose to bind these stories together, either due to similar themes or simply to have them all in one place. The word “Prethy” is also written in elaborate cursive on the opening page, which suggests a previous owner signed their copy.
There are illustrations on the title and final page of the book, with the one on the title page depicting two men dueling in front of a woman fainting, and the one on the final page depicting a tree. The title page also contains the name of the book’s printer and publisher.
One of the most unique characteristics of this volume, however, is the typeface. The margins and type are both very small. Within the text, the letter “s” appears frequently shaped like a letter “f” (this was known as a long S or medial S), except in words that have two “s” in a row, in which case only the first “s” is a long S while the second “s” is the round s that has since become standard.
According to the WorldCat database, there are ten different editions of Kilverstone Castle. The editions slightly vary in title, with most including the phrase Kilverstone Castle, or, the Heir Restored, a Gothic Story and some also including Founded on a Fact which happened at the dawn of the Reformation.
WorldCat lists all of these editions as having been published in 1799, except for one which is listed as having been published in 1800. The edition of the text in the University of Virginia Special Collections library does not have a publishing date inscribed on it, and the call number lists publication as 1802. However, in his Gothic Bibliography, Montague Summers claims that the text was published in 1799. Franz Potter’s Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830 gives the same year (21). An edition of the text on Google Books has “1799” printed on the title page.
While the text has no known author, Kilverstone Castle was published by Ann Lemoine. Lemoine was a prolific publisher of gothic texts, and Potter states that Kilverstone Castle was the first work she published, a collaboration with Thomas Hurst. He goes on to note, “Lemoine effectively dominated the chapbook market by publishing at least 99 Gothic chapbooks over thirteen years, 28 percent of the whole number” (Gothic Chapbooks 21). Potter also says that Kilverstone Castle “capitalised on the widespread success of The Castle of Lindenberg and the continued interest in Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto” (Gothic Chapbooks 47). In The History of Gothic Publishing, Potter notes that Kilverstone Castle was one of the Gothic bluebooks available at William Booth’s Circulating Library in Norwich (70). Though no advertisements for the text have been found in newspapers from the nineteenth century, this suggests that it was not in total obscurity either.
Narrative Point of View
Kilverstone Castle uses a third-person omniscient narrator, who knows the inner thoughts of all the characters. The narrator provides a lot of description of the setting and the material objects the characters interact with. However, the narrator does not explain all characters’ thoughts and motivations. The narrator uses long sentences, and refers to aristocratic characters by their title more often than their actual name, with the exception of Mervil.
He prefaced it with the most solemn asseverations of truth, respect, and esteem for his patron. “My regard for you, my lord, makes me jealous of every injury done to your honor; and it becomes a duty in me to apprise you of every danger which besets you. Be not shocked, my friend, by a discovery in which your happiness is in imminent peril. Your Jessalind is inconstant!” (12)
The omniscient narrator not revealing each character’s motivation adds to the mystery of the story. If the narrator of this passage had been able to state that Polydore was lying about Jessalind committing adultery, significant tension during the scene in the bathhouse would have been lost. Polydore in this passage also puts more emphasis on Mervil’s title than the narration usually does, suggesting that they are not really friends. In other passages throughout the story, when the narrator describes objects in great detail, such as the onyx cross, this is done to humanize the objects and give them a role in the story.
Kilverstone Castle begins by telling the reader about Lord Audley, Baron of Kilverstone in Lincolnshire. He is a virtuous man who is getting older, but he has a son, Mervil, who will be a great successor. Audley lives before the Reformation but holds ideas contrary to those of the Church. This brings him into conflict with Father Peter, who is the Abbot of Croyland and runs the monastery in the village. Peter has many opportunities to take revenge on Audley, due to the supreme influence of the Church at the time. Father Peter goes to Lord Wentworth, in a place where Audley holds lands, with a forged order from the Monastery of St. Crowle to prosecute a claim on the estates.
Audley soon dies, and his son is called away from his travels at the news of his father’s death. The trial about his father’s lands is still happening at the King’s court, and he walks around his mansion considering it. He soon hears his ancestor’s armor rumble, and, when he walks over to it, sees a light from inside. He finds a small onyx cross and puts it on; the cross then starts to bleed, and the armor shakes.
Father Peter shows up, planning to assassinate Mervil. Peter pretends to mourn Audley, and Mervil believes him. Soon the amulet starts to bleed again. Peter is shocked, and briefly feels guilt for attempting to kill Mervil, but it soon fades. As Peter turns to leave, the dagger which he planned to kill Mervil with falls onto the floor. Mervil is shocked, and realizes the amulet was warning him about Peter’s treachery.
It is revealed that Wentworth has led a wild life, and that the churchmen manipulated him. He has made large donations to the monastery. He had gifted Father Peter’s monastery with Audley’s lands. Even with Audley dead, Peter still wants his lands. Since Mervil is so young, and Peter’s whole claim is based in forgery, Peter wants to kill Mervil before he has an heir who could challenge Peter for the Audley lands.
One day, while out hunting, Mervil meets a strange hermit. The hermit says he knows Mervil, and warns him that bad things await him.
Mervil eventually gets married to a local nobleman’s daughter, Jessalind. One day, however, his friend Polydore tells him she is being unfaithful with his friend, Ironside. Polydore tells Mervil to catch Jessalind and Ironside at the bath. Mervil goes there, and though he does not want to doubt his wife, he trusts his friend and the amulet had predicted disaster. He sees Jessalind and Ironside meet, and in a rage stabs Ironside. However, Ironside tells him that nothing was going on and that his and Jessalind’s meeting was accidental.
Mervil realizes that Polydore has lied to him, and that this was instigated by the church. As a murderer, Mervil’s lands are given to Wentworth. Mervil also reveals that Jessalind is pregnant. He decides to run into the woods and live as an unknown. Jessalind wakes up after fainting, sees Ironside dying, and calls out for her husband who has run away.
Some peasants carry Ironside to a shepherd, who says it is possible his wound is not fatal. Soon Wentworth’s officers show up at Audley’s estate after hearing what happened, and force Jessalind out. On the same night, a horrible storm is happening, and Wentworth’s officers flee the Audley castle because they think the storm was caused by evil spirits.
Jessalind befriends a shepherd who knew old Lord Audley. She is able to sell some jewels and go home to Normandy, but her father has left for a war.
The monks celebrate Mervil’s downfall, but Father Peter does not want to risk going near the enchanted armor again. Polydore, who was working for Father Peter, is now stuck with him while Peter shuts himself up in his cell.
Mervil eventually meets an old man at a shepherd’s house. He tells him everything, and the old man tells him that sometimes good things can come from bad. Eventually, Mervil tells the shepherd he is going to leave and find a place to retire and do penance. The shepherd tells him that the Hermitage of Norban is close to them, and Mervil seems to recognize the name and panics. The shepherd tells Mervil to stay the night, and his son will walk the six-hour journey with Mervil in the morning. Mervil then asks the shepherd to tell him the story of the hermit.
The hermit was from Normandy and was a member of Croyland Abbey. He did not leave the world entirely, but was famous for his ability to heal, to prophesize, and for his wisdom. He went into the mountains because he was upset at the sins of others in Croyland. Towards the end of his life, he gets a visitor, and on his deathbed, tells the herdsmen that it is his brother, and his coming means the hermit will die. He leaves a crucifix and says his heir will wear it in the seventh generation, and he will be the guardian of his friends for seven ages to come.
The amulet on Mervil’s neck is glowing once the story finishes. In the morning, he goes looking for where the hermit lived. Mervil finds the hermit’s remains, and decides to stay until he can give the hermit last rites. Mervil stays for some months in the Hermitage, with the shepherd and his sons often visiting.
Mervil eventually becomes famous, and fears he will be discovered. One night, he has a vision of Ironside’s ghost, giving him information about Jessalind. One day, a man shows up, and he realizes it is Ironside. Ironside tells him everyone believes Mervil committed suicide, and that while searching for him, a storm took out Wenthorth. Wentworth’s son refused to give Audley’s lands to the monastery. Ironside then tells him how he was tricked by Polydore, and that Father Peter poisoned Polydore because he knew Peter’s secrets. He then tells him that Jessalind is with her father in Normandy.
Ironside then tells him that Geoffrey, Wentworth’s son, is in open rebellion against the crown. He says Jessalind’s father might come with them to ask about his daughter’s possessions. Mervil says he cannot go until he has fulfilled the hermit’s last request. They leave with the hermit’s urn, and Mervil places it in the vault of his ancestors.
Mervil and Ironside eventually join up with the royal army. Ironside is shot in the arm and forced to retreat during a battle, and Mervil follows to help him. The crucifix Mervil is wearing helps to save the king when he is surrounded by rebels. Ironside dies of his wounds after asking Mervil to look after his daughter.
Mervil reaches the monastery of Crowle, and finds it in ruins. It had been destroyed by royal mandate, and all its possessions confiscated. His own mansion is mostly destroyed, except for the gallery where he first got the amulet.
A wedding is going to take place in a few days. During the wedding, Mervil’s amulet catches the eye of the bride. The bride faints, and the dagger she was going to use to stop the marriage falls out of her hair. It is revealed that the bride is Jessalind. The strange youth, referred to as the Bloody Knight, is revealed to be their son. In the end, Leo, the Bloody Knight, marries Ironside’s daughter Elvira.
Kilverstone Castle. London. Printed for Ann Lemoine. 1799.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
——. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835 : Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune press, 1941.
The Fiery Castle, or, Sorcerer Vanquished: A Romance: Relating the Wonderful Adventures of a Female Knight, in Which Is Described Her Attack on Rudamore Castle, to Release a Lovely Maid, Detained There by a Sorcerer, and Glorious Victory Over the Guardian Demons of the Gate: With Her Achievements in the Temple of Illusion, in Which She Resists the Allurements of the Spirits, Releases Her Beloved Knight From the Dungeon of Torture, and Causes the Fatal End of the Sorcerer
This fantastical 1810 chapbook follows two knights through trial and tribulation as they attempt to rescue their loved ones from the grips of a lustful sorcerer, battling spirits and demons all the while dispelling enchanting illusions.
The Fiery Castle does not have a cover, but rather a nondescript worn page,
tinted yellow with scattered mysterious brown stains, separates the reader from
the book’s title. A flip into the string-bound chapbook reveals,
unsurprisingly, more brown stains. What is a surprise, though, is the
intricately drawn illustration that was hidden beneath the nondescript outer
page: with fine lines filled in with bright pink, yellow, orange, and blue
accenting the image, the illustration depicts a dame, accompanied by a knight
posed for combat against two black demons guarding a gate engulfed in flames.
Underneath, a simple caption reads: “See p. 7.” Clearly, this action-packed
scene occurs only five pages in—as the story begins on page two.
Across from this fascinating
illustration is an even more intriguing, albeit long, title: The Fiery
Castle, or, Sorcerer Vanquished: A Romance: Relating the Wonderful Adventures
of a Female Knight, in Which Is Described Her Attack on Rudamore Castle, to Release
a Lovely Maid, Detained There by a Sorcerer, and Glorious Victory Over the
Guardian Demons of the Gate: With Her Achievements in the Temple of Illusion,
in Which She Resists the Allurements of the Spirits, Releases Her Beloved
Knight From the Dungeon of Torture, and Causes the Fatal End of the Sorcerer—its
truncated title being, The Fiery Castle, or, Sorcerer Vanquished. With
varying fonts, text sizes, forms of capitalization, and embellishments
throughout, it is entirely likely that the publisher was actively trying to
capture and retain readers’ attention with this long title. There is no author
listed on the title page or anywhere in the chapbook.
The book itself, only twenty-eight
pages in length, was printed and published in London by a W. Mason and sold for
sixpence. Past the opening illustration, there is no decor in the rest of the
book aside from a single decorative border on the first page of the story, and
a small ink and quill depiction on the thirty-second page, informing the reader
that the novel is “Finis.” Flipping through the pages, the chapbook has all the
characteristics of a standard paperback: set margins, pagination, and an
easy-to-read font. There is but one outlier within this uniformly printed text
on page 22. A small, lowercase t in “the” seems to have fallen a step below its
fellow letters, resembling a subscript of sorts. Small printing quirks like
this are perplexing, but give the text a sense of craftsmanship.
The Fiery Castle measures roughly 0.3 cm thick, standing at 18.2 cm tall and
10.9 cm wide. The brittle yet cotton-like pages are held together by a single
strand of string, with the page reading “finis” almost finished itself, as it
hangs on for dear life. This book, littered with small folds, rips, blemishes,
and tinged with what can only be described as old age, shows all the signs of
having led a thrilling and entertaining life as a shilling shocker.
The Fiery Castle, or, A Sorcerer
Vanquished is one of many gothic novels in the
Sadleir-Black Collection. This edition was published in 1810, though there
appears to be at least one earlier version which is listed as the second
edition on WorldCat. This previous edition was published in 1802 by A. Young
located at 168, High Holborn, Bloomsbury. Although this version is indicated as
the second edition, there is no specific information on whether it is
distinctly separate from the first edition. One clear distinction that can be
asserted is that although the earlier edition was simply entitled: The Fiery
Castle, or, The Sorcerer Vanquished: An original romance, the 1810 edition
in the Sadleir-Black Collection has much more detail incorporated into the
title. Both chapbooks were sold for sixpence, or half a shilling, although they
were printed eight years apart.
While the novel’s original author is
unknown, The Fiery Castle (1810) was distributed by an experienced
publisher by the name of W. Mason. Mason’s primary operations were based at No.
21 Clerkenwell Green where he “published at least fifteen gothic pamphlets” and
he habitually “summarised the entire novel on the title page” (Potter 94). This
serves to explain the variance in the titles between the 1802 and 1810
At the time of publication, the
demand for gothic pamphlets was diminishing. and in its place, a “growing
marketplace for children’s toy books” emerged (Potter 98). W. Mason, however,
published The Fiery Castle presumably because gothic publications
remained well-received by readers to some extent. His decision to publish the
novel may be attributed to its plot, as it illustrates a hybrid between the
gothic and fairytale genres. Due to evolving public sentiment, The Fiery
Castle was written in a way that swapped out the “standard gothic villain,”
incorporating instead a sorcerer that is defeated by a heroine; this
demonstrates how “the gothic was absorbed into the growing market for
children’s stories” (Potter 98). Subsequently, the chapbook’s unconventional
plot may have been another motivating factor for W. Mason’s printing of The Fiery
Many of the chapbook’s physical
details, such as its decorative borders, margin size, font, and font size
appear standard across W. Mason’s publications. Another chapbook published by
Mason, entitled The Spirit of the Spirit, which has been scanned in its
entirety and uploaded digitally to HathiTrust, resembles The Fiery Castle
almost identically. Both texts’ layouts include a single illustration on the
page next to the title, with each title page utilizing the same fonts and
borders atop of the first page of the story.
W. Mason’s 1810 printing of The
Fiery Castle appears to be the last and latest edition of the novel, with
no further editions published. The novel does not have any modern editions
available for purchase, nor are there any digital copies online. As a result,
there have been no modifications to the story since there are no new editions,
nor has the text been adapted to different mediums like film.
The Fiery Castle has very limited recognition in academic scholarship, with
Franz Potter’s mention being the only noteworthy mention of the novel. This may
be attributed to what Potter describes in Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and
Shilling Shockers as the slow yet steady shift away from gothic literature
at the time that the book was distributed. Consequently, there is limited
additional information to be discovered regarding The Fiery Castle’s
Point of View
The Fiery Castle is narrated in third-person omniscient perspective, as the
narrator provides the context for each individual character, their thoughts, as
well as details on the events that are unfolding. Seamlessly switching from one
scene to the next, the narrator concisely illustrates both the emotions and
actions that encompass each character. The narration discloses details for a
wide array of characters, ranging from the most prominent of knights to the
most minute of spirits. While the narrator does not make any outright personal
interjections regarding the crimes that unfold in the plot, there is a notable
use of adjectives within the narration that appear to appraise the characters’
The fairy appeared, and, waving her invisible wand, extinguished the torch. The altar shook to its base, and Hymen and his attendant Cupids fled in dismay; the spirit found his power subdued, and his arts fettered. All presence of mind fled, in proportion as his fears arose, of meeting with the torments with which Rudamore was prepared to afflict him, for failing in his enterprise. The female knight saw, in a mirror which the fairy held to her view, the reflection of her girdle, which displayed again, in luminous letters, its sentence of “Be virtuous and conquer!” (26)
The narration clearly dissects each
aspect of the scene, including each character or group of characters—the fairy,
Hymen and the Cupids, the spirit, the female knight—within it and their
subsequent actions. This creates a plot that is transparent, as the catalyst of
the chain of events. In this case, the narrator is correlating the chaos that
ensues to the initial arrival of the fairy and her “waving her invisible wand,”
which in turn, impedes the efforts of Rudamore’s minions. Furthermore, the
narrator recounts the emotions of the characters, thus providing context for
their specific behaviors. By thoughtfully combining emotion and action in
narration, the characters’ own portrayals are made more robust. This is
illustrated in small points throughout the narration, such as the discussion of
the spirit’s motivations for misleading the female knight. The spirit’s drive
to deception is evidently grounded in his fear of “meeting with the torments
with which Rudamore was prepared to afflict him,” which the narrator makes
known by providing context. This thorough narration allows the reader to gain
further insight into key elements of the plot, while also providing explanation
for specific character choices.
The Fiery Castle opens with the protagonist, known only as the female
knight, seeing a young man in an enchanted mirror whom she falls in love with
at first sight. Her father is a powerful sorcerer and her mother, a fairy.
Receiving their permission, bestowed a set of weapons and armour engraved with
the message: “Be Virtuous and Conquer,” and endowed with courage, she sets out
on her journey (3). In the midst of her travels, she comes across a heartbroken
knight in the forest. He informs her that his beloved Dellaret has been
kidnapped by an evil sorcerer, Rudamore. The female knight offers her services,
thus the two set out on a journey to Rudamore’s castle.
Upon their arrival, the two knights
are faced with two demons that are guarding the gate. Raising their swords, the
gate is engulfed in flames to prevent their passage, and the heartbroken knight
once again feels despondent. The female knight’s mother comes to their aid,
declaring that “with this touch of my wand, your armour becomes adamant, and
your arms are changed to gold” (6). As a result, the knights successfully
defeat the demons and traverse through the flames. Hearing the commotion,
Rudamore opens the gate to investigate, the two knights storm past him, and
Rudamore flees further into the castle.
While the knights make their way
through the castle, Rudamore summons spirits and orders them to distract the
two trespassers. He intends to capture the two knights by conjuring his “Temple
of Love and Illusion,” which will entrap their senses and distract them from
fulfilling their quest (8). This illusion appeals to all five senses and the
spirits take on tantalizing human forms meant to distract them.
The knights find their way down to
the dungeons of the castle, observing and speaking to other imprisoned knights
that are also grieving the loss of their mistresses to Rudamore’s rapine. After
venturing through these cells, the knights arrive in a chamber filled with
pillaged weapons and the robes of the women whom Rudamore has conquered on
display. As this exploration unfolds, the knights are unknowingly walking
towards the illusion and are greeted by the impressive, yet hallucinatory
Temple of Love. Each is guided by enchanting servants to their own elevated
throne of marble while a procession of servants deliver glasses of wine to
them. Just as they are about to drink the liquid, the fairy interferes with the
procession, causing the servant to spill the goblet and preventing her daughter
from consuming this laced liquor. As the liquor spills onto the ground, a hemlock
grows in its place. Realizing the foul properties of the wine, the two knights
attempt to escape the temple. To prevent this from happening, two spirits
assume the facades of each knights’ respective lovers, tempting the knights
back into the grips of the illusion.
As the knight believes he is reunited with Dellaret, he worries that her being in the temple means she has sacrificed her virginity to Rudamore. Reassuring the knight of her chastity, the imposter delves into an elaborate tale explaining that she withstood both illusion and torture, attributing this mental fortitude to “my incessant thoughts of you, and the unshaken resolution to be ever faithful to my part of the mutual vows we have made to each other” (16). Hearing this, the knight laments that he does not have the skills necessary to rescue her from the clutches of Rudamore. Pretending that heaven has suddenly bestowed her with this idea, the imposter suggests that the pair can effectually escape so long as they marry each other “at the altar of Hymen,” because Rudamore is only tempted to keep maidens captive and their marriage would allow the knight and Dellaret to ensure she would no longer fulfill his desire for chastity (21). In reality, the spirit is carrying out Rudamore’s plans to trick the knight into marrying the imposter, as Rudamore brings the true Dellaret to witness the knight’s subsequent infidelity all in the hopes of swaying her resolve.
Rudamore forces Dellaret to watch
her beloved knight marry a woman, who from her perspective resembles an old
hag, and insists that he has been endeavoring this entire time to enlighten her
about the knight’s true character as well as the superficiality of his
proclaimed love for her. Justifying the torture he has been subjecting her to,
Rudamore claims this was all done out of love. After this, he offers to make
Dellaret his wife and empress, while Dellaret, both heart-broken and cornered,
asks for a day to consider his offer.
In the meantime, the knight and the
imposter consummate their illusory marriage while the female knight is also on
the verge of marrying her own imposter at the altar of Hymen. Yet again, her
mother interferes. Extinguishing the torch at the altar, the spirit loses his
powers and flees, allowing the fairy to explain to her daughter that she was
almost seduced by a wind spirit. Shocked by the revelation, the female knight
rests at a canopy. While the female knight is sleeping, Rudamore has been
consulting his book of destiny which informs him that his inevitable demise is
approaching. Desperate for self-preservation, Rudamore also reads in the book
that the female knight’s true love had embarked on a similar quest in search of
her, and that he nears the castle. Planning to use this knight as a bargaining
chip for his life, Rudamore kidnaps the man and imprisons him in the dungeon.
This wrongdoing is manifested in the female knight’s dream, and as a result,
she awakens and rushes to rescue him.
Dellaret, wandering around
contemplating her uncertain fate and exhausted from the day’s events, collapses
by chance into her knight’s arms while he is asleep. When the two wake up, the
knight is immensely confused by Dellaret’s irate reaction at her current
circumstances. Still believing the two are happily united, Dellaret unleashes
the truth exclaiming to him, “As you have deserted me, for such an ugly and
disgustful wretch, I will abandon you” (29). She flees to Rudamore, demanding
that he imprison the knight in exchange for the right to take her virginity.
This request is immediately granted, the knight is captured and subjected to
torture by Rudamore’s spirit, while the sorcerer forces himself upon Dellaret.
The female knight discovers Rudamore
just as he is taking advantage of Dellaret. As she is about to land a fatal
blow on the evil sorcerer, Dellaret pleads to the female knight that she end
her life first. Rudamore interrupts their discourse to plead for mercy,
offering to show the female knight where her lover and her companion are being
held captive. The three go to the dungeons and are brought face to face with
the two captured knights. The female knight attempts to slay Rudamore for his
crimes, however the fairy disrupts her daughter’s attempt. The fairy informs
her daughter that this is not adequate justice unless Rudamore first confesses
his devious schemes. Furthermore, it is made known that the two men cannot be
released from their bindings without Rudamore’s spells. The sorcerer feigns
repentance and releases the men while confessing his role in the manipulation of
the knight and Dellaret. Realizing Rudamore’s evil interference, Dellaret and
her knight immediately restore their love and faith in each other. As the
couples are reunited, Rudamore takes this as an opening to flee to his
chambers. To ensure Rudamore properly receives justice, the fairy leads her
daughter to him. The female knight slays Rudamore and the companions proceed to
live peacefully in the castle, which the fairy has restored to a glorious
In this 1806 chapbook set in the Grecian Isles, an evil magician and his accomplice stop at nothing to thwart the marriage of the beautiful Princess Evelina and her true love, Prince Valentia.
The University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction contains an edition of “The Invisible Ring.” The full title of the book—“The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre”—appears only once in the whole text. This can be found on the first page of the book following the cover. The title is then referred to as simply “The Invisible Ring” atop each page of text. The name of the author is not included anywhere in the book. The most specific reference given is a brief sentence indicating that The Invisible Ring was published in England in 1806. There is one illustration in the whole book which lies on the inside cover. It depicts a woman standing alone on a small piece of land surrounded by water. She is chained to a large boulder, representing a scene from the book. The monochrome image is captioned simply “Invisible Ring.”
The book’s dimensions are 11.5 by 8 centimeters; it is 36 pages long. The binding is no longer in place, but a strip of leftover leather remains along the seam. The front and back covers are now simply reduced to paper. The quality of the paper in the book is thin and weathered; the overall appearance is worn, damaged, old, faded, and small. Many pages have small tears beginning at the edges, and several pages towards the end are even entirely detached. Each page is covered from top to bottom with closely-set text in very fine print. There is little white space leftover. At the bottom of each page is a letter followed by a number: for example, “G1.” This style of marking was used to maintain page order during printing. However, the first page begins on the letter “G,” indicating that there once may have been preceding pages of separate stories that have since been lost.
Written on the first page under the full title are the words, “Founded on the popular Aquatic Melo-Drama, as performed with universal applause at Sadler’s Wells.” Sadler’s Wells is a prominent theater and dance company in London that is still in existence today. Additionally, following the story, there is a section devoted to the full lyrics of each song mentioned in the book.
On the last two blank pages of the book, there are penciled-in notes, including a list of ten book titles such as The Invisible Ring and Blackbeard, the Notorious Pirate. Publication years are also written down next to each book title. These notes may have been taken by Michael Sadlier or another reader in an attempt to discover other books belonging to a collection of short stories with The Invisible Ring. This would also provide an explanation for the missing pages at the beginning of the book. Moreover, the notetaker hypothesized in his notes that The Invisible Ring may be related to another chapbook: “This must be a sequel to The TellTale (1805).”
The chapbook The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre was published by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine in London, 1806. This chapbook was a version of a play that was popular the same year in London. The author of the chapbook is unknown, but the playwright of The Invisible Ring was the celebrated dramatist Charles Dibdin Jr., and the music in the play was composed by William Reeve. It premiered on June 25th, 1806 at Sadler’s Wells Aquatic Theatre.
Due to little digital evidence, there are many unknowns surrounding the chapbook’s history: it is unclear whether there were multiple editions of the chapbook, if it was ever translated, if there are prequels or sequels, how it was advertised and received, or if it was ever adapted. However, although information regarding the chapbook is scarce, the play version from Sadler’s Wells has a significant digital footprint. To that point, there are no digital copies of the chapbook to be found online, but there are multiple references to the Sadler’s Wells production on GoogleBooks (Greene 4517).
The writer of the play, Charles Isaac Mungo Dibdin (1768–1833), was the first son of Charles Didbin, who was also a playwright and composer. Dibdin the younger launched his career in the theatrical world when he became the manager of Sadler’s Wells in the year 1800 (Kilburn). He took the theatre to new heights in 1804 by installing a water tank below the stage rebranding Sadler’s Wells as an aquatic theatre. The water tank was ninety feet long, twenty-four feet wide, and three feet deep (Press 223). The water was sourced from a nearby river. However, the process of changing out the water took many workers and many hours, so it was only done once every three weeks (Press 224). The aquatic theatre allowed for far more realistic productions than before, consisting of actors swimming across the stage during aquatic scenes. This included naval attack scenes in a war play as well as an oceanic setting for a play about Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. The aquatic feature was utilized in The Invisible Ring during its last scene.
At the end of The Invisible Ring chapbook, there is a list of lyrics from the songs that originate in the play. These were written by William Reeve. Reeve (1757–1815) was a composer for Sadler’s Wells for many years, owning a full eighth of the company by the year 1802 (Halliwell). He worked closely with Dibdin during this time. However, he was known for his habit of using other composers’ music in his arrangements, leading his work to be criticized by many (Halliwell).
In terms of reviews of the play, newspaper clippings from the week of the first performance of The Invisible Ring indicate that Sadler’s Wells was a popular theatre with many supporters (“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” 3). The play was likely well-received by the public as a result of its “variety of supernatural appearances performed on real water” (“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” 3). However, an incident at the theatre in 1807 marks the decline of Dibdin’s success at Sadler’s Wells. A false fire alarm was set off during a performance and the resulting stampede killed eighteen people (Kilburn). The Napoleonic Wars occuring at the same time put a further stress on the entertainment industry, eventually leading to Dibdin’s bankruptcy. He eventually sold his shares of the theatre to pay off his debt (Kilburn). The Invisible Ring along with all the notable productions of the time were likely soon forgotten.
Narrative Point of View
The Invisible Ring is narrated in the third person omniscient by an anonymous narrator who does not appear in the text. The narrator describes events concerning each character in the story, as well as each character’s internal reactions to major plot points. In addition, the narrator gives the reader insight into events that some characters are not privy to. The narration is composed of lengthy sentences with lots of punctuation.
We will leave them wandering for the present, and return to the intrepid Jeannot, who had voluntarily undertook a hazardous enterprize, in which there was very little chance of succeeding, but a very great one of losing her own life: but this she was willing to risk for the sake of her dear mistress. (15–16)
This style of narration gives the chapbook the feel of a play where the audience is directly involved in the production. Additionally, the passage shows a verbose sentence structure. The use of long sentences allows the narrator to give vivid descriptions of events and characters’ emotions. For example, the narrator uses this passage to delve into Jeannot, who is a minor character in The Invisible Ring. Though her role is small, the narrator still provides an explanation for her actions and builds her character into not just an arbitrary servant, but a loyal confidant of the princess.
The story takes place on an isle in the ancient Grecian empire. The plot is introduced with the forthcoming wedding of Prince Valentia and his beautiful betrothed, Princess Evelina. Alas, a neighboring governor named Ernulph seeks the princess for his own. He journeys to the cave of the mysterious sorcerer and magician, Alnaschar, to ask for help in his scheme to prevent Valentia and Evelina’s matrimony. There, the two form a sinister partnership.
Valentia and Evelina’s wedding day arrives. The ceremony is just beginning when an apparition of Evelina’s deceased mother appears. In reality, she is merely a guise of an evil spirit conjured by Alnaschar to create a diversion at the wedding. While she chants prophecies of warning, Ernulph, Alnaschar, and his henchman, Nervoso, kidnap Evelina. Valentia sends his captain of the guard after them, but Alnaschar escapes with Evelina through the use of a magic ring that renders its wearer invisible.
The captured Ernulph and Nervoso are taken to a prison for interrogation. When Nervoso agrees to comply with Valentia’s demands, Ernulph begins to attack him, so Valentia orders for the two to be imprisoned separately. Shortly after, a violent fight ensues between Ernulph, the captain, and Valentia. Ernulph is defeated, but Valentia mercifully gives him his freedom, hoping the act of kindness will result in friendship. However, Ernulph leaves angrier than before.
Afterwards, Valentia questions Nervoso, who confesses Ernulph’s entire scheme. He promises to steal Alnaschar’s invisible ring so that Valentia can use it to rescue Evelina, who is being held captive in Ernulph’s castle, which is guarded by impenetrable magical forces. Valentia releases Nervoso, who journeys to Alnashcar’s cave. He waits until the magician is asleep, then puts a magic ointment on his eyelids that will keep him asleep for twenty-four hours. He then steals the ring and begins the journey back to Valentia’s castle. Meanwhile, Valentia pays a visit to Evelina’s fairy godmother, Bonoma. She produces a dragon for him to use in pursuit of Evelina.
When Nervoso arrives back at the castle, Valentia is not there, so he uses the stolen ring to play tricks on Evelina’s maids, Marianetta and Jeannot. Jeannot quickly realizes that their pesterer is Nervoso with the invisibility ring. She manages to steal it off his finger and takes it for herself. Valentia returns to the castle three days later after an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Evelina with the dragon. Nervoso informs him of how he lost the ring to Jeannot. Then the two journey to the forest surrounding Ernulph’s castle to gather intel and hatch a new escape plan.
Jeannot, in the meantime, uses the advantages of the invisibility ring to bypass the magician’s enchantments and enter Enrulph’s castle in an attempt to save her beloved princess, Evelina. She finds Evelina being held captive in a room with Alnaschar and Ernulph. Due to her invisibility, the three dismiss her entrance as a gust of wind. Alnaschar begins preparations for a potion that will render Evelina unconscious, leaving her unprotected from Ernulph’s wicked intentions. But when he gives it to Evelina, the invisible Jeannot knocks the glass out of her hands. Ernulph and Alnaschar plot once more and decide on another means of tricking Evelina: an enchanted belt that will allow Alnaschar to control her will. However, Jeannot hears their plan and again destroys the belt just as Evelina is about to wear it. Amidst Ernulph and Alnaschar’s confusion, Jeannot slips the invisibility ring onto Evelina’s finger and hides behind a sofa. Realizing Evelina’s disappearance, Ernulph and Alnaschar leave the room in search of her; Jeannot uses the opportunity to escape back to Valentia’s castle.
Back at Ernulph’s castle, Evelina uses the power of the ring to secure her escape. She makes it to the forest where she encounters Valentia and Nervoso. There is a joyous reunion between Evelina and Valentia, and also between Nervoso and the invisibility ring he cannot believe to have found again. Just as they are making their exit from the forest, Ernulph, Alnaschar, and several of their attendants arrive on the scene; a battle ensues. The princess is taken again and Alnaschar draws a magical line before Valentia that he cannot cross. However, Nervoso, invisible by the ring, evades the line and follows Alnaschar in order to rescue Evelina. He finds her trapped in a tower. She must accept a marriage proposal from Ernulph or she will soon be chained to a boulder on an island where a sea monster resides. Nervoso reports back to Valentia with the news, then travels to the fairy Bonoma for more help.
Meanwhile, Evelina refuses Ernulph’s proposal, so Alnaschar and Ernulph deliver her to the island. Just as the sea monster emerges to devour her, Valentia arrives on his dragon and begins to fight the sea monster. Nervoso arrives too and discovers Ernulph and Alnaschar on the island. While Valentia and Nervoso duel with Ernulph and Alnaschar, Bonoma arrives and frees Evelina from the enchanted rock. Valentia and Nervoso defeat Ernulph and Alnaschar, who then sink into the lake.
Valentia and Evelina return to Valentia’s castle and are married the next day. Nervoso and Jeannot receive recompense for their bravery and the two get married several days later as well.
“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” The Observer, 20 July 1806, 3.
Greene, John C. “Appendix: New London Plays, 1745-1820” Theatre in Dublin, 1745–1820: A Calendar of Performances, Volume 6. Lehigh University Press, 2011, pp. 4517.
The Invisible Ring: Or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre. A Romantic Tale Founded On the Popular Aquatic Melo-drama, As Performed With Universal Applause At Sadler’s Wells. London, printed by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine, 1806.
Sometimes published with Arabian Lovers, this chapbook takes place in Germany and centers around Seraphina, a pious girl who must resist the temptation and power of a mysterious man who claims to be her promised husband.
The Magician, or
the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which is Added the
Arabian Lovers, a Tale is a
collection of two Gothic stories grouped together, referred to as The
Magician and Arabian Lovers at the tops of the pages of the
respective stories. From the outside, the book has a marbled, brown leather
binding. This marble effect was a common trend for binding books, in which a
weak acid would be used to create the marbled appearance. There are no
prominent illustrations on the front or back, but the spine of the book is
decorated in gold-leaf illustrations of wreaths and flowers as well as some
gold-leaf horizontal stripes, separating the illustrations and symbols. On the
spine, the book is referred to as The Entertainer and the number three,
potentially indicating the volume or edition number. Also, the edges of the
pages are speckled with blue ink. This is the result of a book decoration
method in which the speckles would be hand-painted onto the edges of the paper.
The book is roughly 11 centimeters wide, 17.7 centimeters long, and 2.2
Inside the book,
there are five other stories, printed with different fonts and margins than The
Magician and Arabian Lovers. The book starts with The Magician and
Arabian Lovers, followed by the five additional stories. Each of the stories
also restarts the page numbering instead of a continuous numbering throughout
all of the stories. Some of the stories have frontispieces with illustrations,
although The Magician and Arabian Lovers does not. There is even
a frontispiece in hand-painted color for one of the stories, although the rest
of the frontispieces are black-and-white. This suggests that the book was a
collection of different chapbooks, a common practice at the time. The pages of
the book are speckled with small grey bits of paper and yellowed with age.
Overall, the pages feel worn and delicate, with the paper being thin enough to
see through to the back of the page. The Magician takes up approximately
31 pages of the overall book, which is roughly 290 pages. There are also some
marks of ownership inside the book, including a handwritten table of contents
in the front in what appears to be Michael Sadleir’s handwriting. The table
lists the stories inside the book, along with publication years and potential
author names, but those are unclear. Additionally, there is a “J Phillips”
written on the half-title page for The Magician.
Focusing specifically on The Magician, the font and margins are consistent across the text. The bottom margin is wider than the top, with a fair amount of white space around the main text on each page. In terms of spacing, the words are on the tighter side and the font is also a moderate size. There is a half-title page for only The Magician before the full-title page which contains the complete title for both The Magician and Arabian Lovers. The half-title page and full-title page are formatted differently, with different line breaks in the title and fonts. There is no author printed on the full-title page, however, the title page does list the publication location and year, 1804. While there is no frontispiece for these two stories, there is a small illustration of flowers at the end of The Magician.
Overall, the book
itself externally appears to have a relatively nice, higher quality binding and
attention to detail on the outside, as seen by the marbled leather and speckled
pages. Inside the book, the quality of the paper feels cheaper and worn with
time. The book is also inconsistent with its formatting throughout the different
stories, so at one point the stories may have been separated.
In 1803, The
Magician was published by itself as part of a collection of stories in an
earlier version of The Entertainer (Frank 136). Even earlier than
that, The Magician was published under the title The Story of
Seraphina in Literary Leisure with a date in 1800 printed above it
(Clarke ii, 78). At the top of this version of The Story of Seraphina
there is a headnote from the author explaining that he found the story in “the
hand-writing of poor Delwyn” and that he did not know if the story was a German
translation or something Delwyn wrote himself. Additionally, the author
anticipates that it will be well-received since the author notes that “perhaps
it may not be unacceptable to my readers” (Clarke 78). It seems that this could
be the basis of why The Magician is referred to as a German story. However,
no author is mentioned in both of the University of Virginia’s copies and there
are no known precise German origins beyond this headnote.
As the title The
Magician: Or the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which
Is Added the Arabian Lovers, a Tale suggests, the two stories were
originally published separately in the early eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries. There are two versions of the publication at the University of
Virginia library, one of which is simply the two stories in a small chapbook.
The other version (described above) is in a collection of other stories in a
book named The Entertainer. Both versions at University of Virginia are
from 1804. Around the world, the two stories are published together in
chapbooks owned by multiple libraries, with versions appearing from 1803 and
While it is unclear
exactly at which point the two stories were first published together, the
Minerva Press certainly did so in 1804, which is the year printed on the copy
in the University of Virgina’s edition of The Entertainer. The Minerva
Press was an extremely popular Gothic publishing company created by William
Lane (Potter 15). Not only did Lane’s company publish Gothic literature, but
they also had circulating commercial libraries, which helped boost the
popularity of Gothic texts (Potter 15; Engar). However, these libraries were
still not affordable to the poorest demographics, although they certainly made
the Gothic more accessible to the general population (Potter 15). The Minerva
Press was often criticized for the cheap quality of its publications and “lack
of literary excellence” (Engar). Books printed at the Minerva Press were made
using cheap, flimsy materials and sometimes contained errors. Furthermore,
publications from the Minerva Press were often re-bound by others (Engar).
There does not seem
to be a significant presence in modern academic scholarship of The Magician.
Considering that the stories were published by the Minerva Press, this could be
due to their lower quality production and the company’s reputation (Engar).
There are, however, copies of both The Magician and Arabian Lovers available
for sale online. One paperback version lists the two stories together with the
same title as The Entertainer does, with no authors listed. This version
is sold on Amazon and was printed in 2010, although the description of the book
does note that it “is a reproduction of a book published before 1923.” There
are digital versions of archival copies of The Magician and Arabian
Lovers as a paired story from 1803available online, found on Google
Point of View
The Magician is narrated by a third-person narrator who is
not present in the plot. Early on in the story, the narrator supplies
additional details about the backgrounds and personalities of some of the minor
characters such as Bianca. The narrator often focuses on thorough descriptions
of the surroundings, especially scenes of luxury and opulence. When describing
the environment, the narration is flowery and elegant with longer sentences.
The narrator supplies Seraphina’s feelings and thoughts quite frequently,
although the mysterious man’s thoughts are kept hidden. Unlike the long-winded
descriptions, however, the narration style alternates between a choppier or
longer style depending on Seraphina’s mood and the tone of her thoughts.
Additionally, the narration provides dialogue from Seraphina’s various
This mixture of menace and submission terrified Seraphina, who found herself completely in his power, in a room most luxuriantly fur-nished, where not a single being but themselves appeared, and where every thing bespoke the uncontrouled voluptuousness of the master. In a few minutes a small table, covered with the most exquisite dainties, appeared in the recess, and Seraphina gazed in wonder. Her lover besought her to take some refreshment. She had not eaten since she quitted the hotel with her aunt in the morning, and she really wanted food. She suffered him, therefore, to persuade her, but she took merely some sweetmeats, and resolved to forbear touching salt while she staid; for, dazzling as was the magnificence with which she was surrounded, she had no wish but to escape. She felt restrained in eating too, as her strange companion still retained her fingers in his energetic grasp. At length, he prevailed on her to drink a glass of wine; wine; it was exquisite, but Seraphina was alarmed, and insisted on diluting it with water. (23–24)
third-person narration, the chilling power and demeanor of the mysterious man
is amplified. Even “surrounded” by the “magnificence” and material comforts of
the castle, Seraphina is unable to truly enjoy anything since “she had no wish
but to escape.” The third-person narration aids the story from this viewpoint,
since spending more time on the setting is the narrator’s choice, while
Seraphina is more focused on her escape and emotions for the majority of the
story. The narrator continues to describe the environment and explore Seraphina’s
thoughts as the man attempts to convince her to consent to him, both by
threatening her with his wrath and by offering her all the luxuries at his
disposal. However, Seraphina continuously feels “restrained” from enjoying any
of the material comforts surrounding her by her fear of the mysterious man,
which is evident in her paranoia in eating or drinking too much of the food he
provides her. By continuously describing the environment, the narration serves
as a reminder of how Seraphina is not only emotionally surrounded by the man’s
presence, but how she is also physically enclosed in this extravagant space,
itself a reminder of his authority. Not only does Seraphina feel restrained,
but the man physically restrains her by constantly holding her hand every time
they are together, which the narrator emphasizes by how he “still retained her
fingers in his energetic grasp” in this passage and throughout the rest of the
text. What the man truly plans for Seraphina is hidden from her and the
narration, so the fear and uncertainty she experiences becomes more palpable.
Seraphina is constantly surrounded by “the mixture of menace and submission”
the man exudes, through his threats and his physical presence in the form of
the perpetual handholding. The narration bolsters this fear by providing
insight into her feelings and continuously contrasting the luxurious
environment with the man’s unsettling, constant presence that haunts Seraphina
even when she is alone.
The story of The
Magician, or the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina begins with the yearly
fair in Francfort in 1464. The Italian Lady Bianca d’Alberto attends the fair
with her sixteen-year-old niece, Seraphina, who is also Bianca’s adoptive
daughter. Bianca’s husband, the Colonel, and his brother, Seraphina’s father,
were both serving in the army when Seraphina’s father died. The Colonel
promised his dying brother that he would adopt Seraphina and kept true to his
promise before also passing away, leaving Bianca to raise the “pious and
innocent” Seraphina (2). While in Francfort, Bianca and Seraphina go to see a
conjurer with a nefarious reputation who performs supernatural acts such as
transformations and fortune telling.
As they watch the
show, the magician, Gortz, amazes the crowd. At one point, a sudden,
unidentified voice shouts Gortz’s name, but the show continues. Gortz focuses
on Seraphina and offers to reveal her future husband. Seraphina refuses, but
Bianca pushes her to listen to Gortz. However, Seraphina believes that this
type of magic is evil and does not want to participate. At one point, Seraphina
sees a regally dressed man across the room, staring intently at her. When Gortz
makes a magic circle around a fire and tells Seraphina to enter the circle, she
hesitates, only to see an illusory version of herself get up. The fake
Seraphina enters the circle and chaos erupts, smoke and shrieks coming out of
the circle. Everybody, including Bianca, runs away, leaving Seraphina alone
with Gortz’s body when the smoke clears. She attempts to leave, at first trying
the door and then piling benches up to reach the windows, but fails.
Seraphina again sees
the noble, “majestic” man from earlier and they stare intently at each other
(13). He holds her hand, refusing to let go, and tells her that he will take
care of her. The man reveals that he’s sent the fake Seraphina with her Aunt
and that he is extremely powerful. He then gives Seraphina an ultimatum: either
become his friend and wife or face his power if she refuses. However, Seraphina
already has a childhood friend, Ferdinand, at home interested in marrying her.
The man even claims that Seraphina’s father promised her to him when he died in
the army. At this point, Seraphina faints and wakes up in his castle and the
man again appears before her. Seraphina asks the mysterious man for some time
and he gives her a week to decide, telling her that he knows what she thinks,
so she cannot deceive him. Once he leaves, a servant attends Seraphina, but she
is too scared to even cry. Eventually, she speaks aloud, asking where she can
go in the castle. The man appears before her, dressed magnificently, and takes
her around the castle. Seraphina is stunned by the many servants, jewels, and luscious
flowers they pass by. The man leads her to an empty room, still holding her
hand even as she eats. He orders for people to start dancing as entertainment.
As they watch the dancing, the man tells her that she must consent to him if
she wants to see his true self. At this point, Seraphina decides that his power
must come from an evil source and to refuse him at the end of the week.
For the rest of the
week, the man holds many exquisite events for her like plays and tournaments.
He continuously holds her hand and confesses his love throughout the week, but
Seraphina remains disgusted and fearful. Once the week finally ends, he meets
Seraphina and asks if she’ll stay with him. Seraphina refuses, saying that she
will never give in to magic and then “those sacred names” (29). Immediately, Seraphina
wakes up in a bed in Francfort with her aunt. Bianca reveals that she has just
received word from Italy that Ferdinand has finally gotten permission to marry
her and Seraphina has been sleeping the whole time after the magic show. The
story ends with a statement on how upholding virtue will ultimately result in
Clarke, Hewson. Literary
Leisure: or, The Recreations of Solomon Saunter, Esq. [Pseud.]. vol. 2, W.
Engar, Ann W.
“The Minerva Press; William Lane.” The British Literary Book Trade,
1700–1820, edited by James K. Bracken and Joel Silver, Gale, 1995. Dictionary
of Literary Biography Vol. 154. Literature Resource Center.
S. “Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Short Stories in the Magazines
(1790–1820)” Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide,
edited by Douglass H. Thomson, and Jack G. Voller, Greenwood Publishing Group
Inc., 2001: 133–146.
Potter, Franz J. The
History of Gothic Publishing, 1800-1835: Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave
“The Magician; or The Mystical Adventures of
Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which Is Added The Arabian Lovers, a Tale.”
Amazon, Minerva Press, for Lane and Newman, 2010.
The Magician: Or,
The Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which Is Added The
Arabian Lovers, a Tale.
Minerva Press, 1803. Google Books.
The Magician: Or, the Mystical Adventures of
Seraphina. a German Romance. to Which Is Added the Arabian Lovers, a Tale. London: Printed at the Minerva-Press, for
Lane and Newman, 1803. Print.
The Magician: Or
the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which Is Added the
Arabian Lovers, a Tale.
Printed at the Minerva Press, for Lane and Newman, 1804.
A tale of magic, secrets, and betrayal, Leitch Ritchie’s 1846 novel set in France features several romances that must overcome the divides created by religion and class, while trust is tested by unknown foes with sinister motives
a novel by Leitch Ritchie, published in 1846 by Simms and M’Intyre (also
written as Simms and McIntyre) of Belfast and later also London. The book
itself is 390 pages, and its font is small and closely set together. Its
margins are likewise small with the right and left margins being 1.35 cm and
the top and bottom margins being 1 cm. The book is 16.5 cm long, 10.5 cm wide,
and 3.0 cm in thickness, making it physically quite compact. This edition is
bound together as one novel, but as implied by the dedication on page five, it
has also been published in multiple volumes. There are two other editions, one
with two volumes and one with three, both of which were published in 1836. The
cover of the book is intricate, with calf leather covering the spine and
corners of the book which indicates it was half bound, and the rest of the
cover is marbled in blue and red. The leather on the front and back covers is
decorated with a floral design that was impressed using a bind-rolled floral
tool. On the spine, the design resembles a thistle, which could be a reference
to Ritchie’s homeland, Scotland, whose national flower has been the thistle
since 1249. The author is also referenced many times inside the book. His name
is embossed on the spine, is labeled on pages 3 and 4, and referenced again in
the notes at the end of the book. On page 3, his name is also accompanied by
some of the titles of his other novels and is followed by “etc. etc.”
indicating that he has written many works. There are two title pages, the first
with only with The Magician printed on it, and the second
(on page 3) with The Magician printed along with Ritchie’s
name and other works. This page is outlined in a black lined box. The other
stories referenced that were written by Ritchie include The Game of
Life, Romance of French History, and Journey to St.
Petersburgh and Moscow. Also included on this page is the publisher along
with their location along with the publication date of the novel. A note
from the author precedes the main text, and here Ritchie explains the lack of
magic in the novel, despite its title. He also explains his inspiration for
many of his characters, many of which were based on historical figures. One
last inclusion is Ritchie’s mention of the character Gilles de Retz, whom he
had previously written about three years earlier in Wanderings by the Loire,
an account of the character’s history and background.
The book is in relatively good condition,
with its spine being the only thing in slightly poor physical condition. The
spine is cracked severely but still holds the novel together, while the inside
pages look untouched. Also of consideration, the spine is tightly bound, which
might contribute to the anomaly that while from the outside it looks worn, the
inside is in good condition, as it takes effort to open the novel and in doing
so the spine is worn out at an accelerated rate.
Inside the book, one of the first things of interest is an armorial bookplate belonging to John Waldie of Hendersyde Park which is located in Ednam, Scotland, a small town near Kelso in the Scottish Borders. The bookplate also has a capital E written in the top left corner. Under the bookplate, is a blue book label that states “Novels and Romance; No. 893” indicating that this novel belonged to a large private collection of Waldie. This was most likely placed at the same time as the armorial bookplate but added second as it abuts the armorial plate so closely. Only the armorial bookplate has left an impression on the page adjacent to the back of the front cover. This is most likely because the bookplate’s paper, as opposed to the book label’s, is thicker and the ink used when printing it has transferred onto the facing page.
The interior of the book is void of any
illustrations except for an intricate drawing of the first letter in the first
chapter on page seven. The letter I (belonging to the first word of the novel,
“in”) is shaded and drawn to have flowers adorning it. The first and last two
pages of the novel (which are not in the official page count) are blank and are
thinner and more yellowed in comparison to the rest of the pages, which are
slightly brittle but in overall better condition. The pages all together are
stiff and inflexible, but this could be due to the novel’s tight binding and
resulting infrequent use.
A unique feature of this novel is that in the back it contains a receipt of purchase by Robert K. Black. It is in linen paper which was determined by holding up the receipt up to the light where the watermark “698 Linen Faced” is revealed, which describes the type and brand of paper. Some of the aspects (name, address, telephone, telegram, etc.) appear to be previously printed onto the paper, while other details look to have been added by a typewriter (including the date of purchase, the book purchased, and the buyer). The receipt comes from George Bates Rare and Interesting Books in London, and it shows that the novel was purchased by Robert Black on August 8, 1939, almost one hundred years after The Magician’s publication. This would have also been one year after Black’s purchase of Michael Sadleir’s collection in 1938 which was immediately placed at the University of Virginia. From 1938 to 1942, Black continued to add more novels into the gothic collection, one of which was The Magician. On the receipt, it can even be seen that the seller incorrectly typed many parts of the receipt. On it, the book purchased is The Nagician (which was not amended) and Ritchie’s last name was originally incorrectly spelled with a “w” at the end, which was later typed over with an e. The date of the book’s publication was also originally incorrectly typed, stating originally 1848, and the 8 was later typed over with a 6.
The Magician is
a novel written by the Scottish author Leitch Ritchie. Before its publication,
Ritchie had already written multiple novels, sketches, and short stories, some
of which include The Romance of History, France (1831)
and The Game of Life (1830). Ritchie was well known in the
literary sphere due to his numerous works and had gained merit from his short
stories (The Athenaeum 396). A year after The Magician was
published in 1836, Ritchie had even embarked on a tour for his series, Ireland,
Picturesque and Romantic; or, Heath’s Picturesque Annual for 1838,
which was well-received (Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine 684). The Magician was
published in four main editions in Ritchie’s lifetime. The original publication
was in 1836, and during that year it was distributed by two publishers: John
Macrone as well as Carey, Lea, & Blanchard. John Macrone was based in
London but passed away in 1837, a year after The Magician’s publication
(Simkin). His version was distributed in three volumes. Carey, Lea, &
Blanchard published the novel in two volumes, and this was published in the
United States, giving The Magician a larger audience. Later,
in 1846, his novel was published in one volume by Simms & M’Intyre, a
London and Belfast based publisher. Their first version was in 1846, where the
volume consisted of 390 pages and was reprinted in the “Parlour Novelist” (a
collection of fiction reprints); this is the edition held by the University of
Virginia Sadleir-Black Collection. Simms & M’Intyre’s second printing
of The Magician was in 1853 and consisted of 320 pages and was
reprinted in the “Parlour Library,” another series of fiction reprints.
In periodicals at the time, The
Magician was advertised frequently by Macrone and Simms &
M’Intyre. Its advertisements were smaller on the page than larger names at the
time, such as Charles Dickens in The Athenaeum. Ritchie’s
advertisements, in contrast, were often found among groups of novels that were
either listed in “Lately Published” or “In the Press” sections (The
Athenaeum 1021; The Literary Gazette 12). In a select
few of the advertisements, Ritchie’s work would be given more space in print in
order to describe a brief summary. Despite the different periodicals it could
be found in, such as Gentleman’s Magazine and The
Court Magazine and Belle Assemblee, the blurb was consistently “The
Magician, the scene in France, and the epoch the end of the English dominion in
the fifteenth century, connected with the favourite studies of the period,
alchemy and magic, by Mr. Leitch Ritchie” (The Court Magazine and Belle
Alongside this promotion, there were few reviews for The Magician, all of which had varying opinions on the quality of the novel. Two of the more notably detailed ones, written in The Literary Gazette and The Athenaeum delivered negative feedback. The Literary Gazette labeled The Magician as “a complete failure” and commented specifically on the striking similarities to the Bible’s tale of Isaac and Rebecca (The Literary Gazette 360). Due to this, the reviewer questioned the originality of the plot and likened parts of it to another previously published novel, Kenilworth, stating that two of The Magician’s main characters created a dynamic that was “an exaggerated copy of Leicester and Alasco” (The Literary Gazette 360). The Athenaeum’s review was less harsh, but still nowhere near positive. Though the author praised Ritchie for his earlier works, he emphasized that he has “been less successful when his canvas was more ambitiously enlarged” (396). This review harped more on the concept of the title and its relation to the book, as any magic that is described in the book is later refuted by Ritchie and revealed to be mere tricks of the eye, stating “we cannot, however, understand why Mr. Ritchie should neutralize the effect of his story, by a careful and systematic destruction of the wonders it contains” (The Athenaeum 396). This review mainly consisted of criticism regarding introducing the idea of sorcery and gramarye only to in the end dissuade his readers from believing in its existence entirely. The Magician’s more positive reviews are less prevalent and take the form of short blurbs. The Examiner referenced a small review by The Globe in which they wrote, “We congratulate Mr. Ritchie on the sensation he has produced,” and the Athenaeum quickly referenced it as a “clever and forcible romance” (The Examiner 688; The Athenaeum 625). This seems to be the extent of the positive reviews, with only a couple more sources eliciting some optimistic words in his direction. Despite this, Ritchie is often referenced in reviews or advertisements for his other works, such as in the Examiner when Wearfoot Common is noted as being by “Leitch Ritchie, Author of ‘The Magician,’” which could indicate its approval by the general public as opposed to the critics, who seemed to have taken a negative stance on its content (The Examiner 181).
Presently, The Magician has
been adapted into digital copies, most notably the Simms & M’Intyre 1846
version has been electronically reproduced by HathiTrust Digital Library in
2011. HathiTrust has also reproduced volumes one through three of the 1836
Macrone publication and volumes one and two of the Carey, Lea & Blanchard
1836 publication. The 1853 version seems to be the only one missing in their
digital library. Google Books has electronically reproduced these specific
volumes as well.
Point of View
narrated in the third person, conveying the thoughts of all of the characters
as opposed to just one. The anonymous narrator provides information about
background and history that the characters, individually or collectively, might
not know. Within this third-person narration, the narrator also occasionally
uses the first-person, particularly utilizing “we” when relaying background
knowledge. This is done sparingly, only at the beginning of chapters or in the
midst of a description. The narrator also directly addresses “the reader”
within the narration.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
The attention of the scholar [David] was now directed exclusively to the space within the circle; and after an interval which appeared painfully long, he saw a light-coloured vapor rising from the altar, which was followed by a sudden flame, illuminating for an instance the whole apartment. But the smoke and flame vanished as suddenly as they had arisen, and, at the same moment, the appearance of a man clothed in black armor stood by the table. (258)
Sample Passage of Pauline Narrating a Dream:
“I followed him, for I could not help it. He called my name, and I mounted after him into the air, higher, higher than the lark soars or the cloud rolls. The stars swept in circles above our heads, hissing through the golden air and the earth was like a star beneath our feet, only stationary and alone. Then Prelati turned round, and I saw that he was a demon of the abyss, and I flew shrieking down the fields of space, till the whole universe rang with my cries. But he seized me; he caught me by my long hair, that streamed in the wind, when suddenly his arm was struck from his body by the blow of a sword. We are now safe. Hide me, love, in thy coat, and lay the Bloody Heart next to mine. But take away the dead arm that still clings to my hair. –Faugh! it makes me shudder. Cut off the tress-there– ‘O Douglas, Douglas, Tender and true!’” (261)
Sample Passage including an Interjection and Reference to the Reader:
Soon however, his mind seemed to revert to its usual occupations. He was evidently preparing to retire for the night; and, after having opened the door of a closet, where his bed appeared to be placed, he sank down upon his knees to pray. In his prayer, which was delivered with energy and deep devotion, the student joined mentally; and as the form of supplication was not particular to the personages of our history, but common to many of those who were in that day engaged in similar pursuits, we think it well to present the reader with the following copy. (52)
The third-person narration reveals the
actions that occur in the novel as well as the motivations or reasonings behind
these actions. They also contribute to the many interpretations of the
situations that multiple characters simultaneously encounter. By presenting
each character’s experiences, the narration builds a bigger picture of the
overarching plot. The example above shows how David is conceptualizing the
resurrection of Prelati, but this is only one point of view. Later, the
narrator also presents Pauline’s thoughts in the form of the dream she had when
she fainted from the sight of Prelati. From her perspective, an impending
danger regarding Prelati, and her safety is secured by Douglas (Archibald) is
foreshadowed. While the introduction to her position and story is in the third
person, her dialogue is told in the first person. Alongside developing these
relationships among the novel’s characters, by consistently using “we” the
narrator also develops a relationship between himself and the reader. With this
relationship, he can also include new knowledge that is essential to understand
the context of the novel’s settings and characters.
The novel begins in 1497 in Paris, during the welcome parade
for the new prince, where 3000 people are waiting. A young unnamed Scottish
knight is introduced and, he enters the crowd, disappearing past the gates of
Paris. Stopping on a bridge, the knight talks to the echevin, Jacquin
Houpelande who is a member of the legislative body, introducing Scotland’s part
as an ally of Paris in the war. The French needed their help in defeating
England during the Hundred Years War. The knight stops to think about how
well-designed Paris is for the occasion, with everyone dressed up, and he
concludes that everyone is represented but the Jews, who were banished by the
edict of the past prince. He continues into the city, stopping by the
university to watch the parade, full of royals and dignitaries. In it is the
dauphin, who is betrothed to Margaret, the young princess of Scotland. While
walking further, the unnamed knight is attacked by three English students who
draw their swords, but a man, Douglas, shouts at them, and descends into the
streets followed by three other men. Douglas, and his three companions, Nigel,
Bauldy, and Andrew, defend the Scottish knight, and once the fight is over, the
knight goes to talk to his rescuers. He realizes that he knows their leader who
was his childhood friend, Archibald, as they are both from the Douglas clan
All leave to go to Archibald’s room, and upon entering,
David and Archibald begin to argue over an unlit candle about David’s choice to
become a student, which leaves him unpaid. The flame suddenly flashes up,
though David takes no notice. David leaves for the night, entering a doorway
that leads him to a tunnel under the university. Here, David’s master is
introduced, the alchemist Messire Jean, along with his master’s daughter whom
David has developed feelings towards over the years. The two men hear a noise
and a knock on the final door, which turns out to be Messire Jean’s friend
Prelati. Prelati introduces the concept of the philosopher’s stone and then
brings up Jean’s enemy Gilles de Retz, who betrayed him long ago. While they
begin to talk, David talks to the daughter who tells him her secret: she’s
Jewish. She makes him promise not to reveal what he knows as his knowledge
could kill them.
The next morning, David has a hard time dealing with the
news, so he seeks out Archibald to confess to him his secret life. They walk
through Paris and Archibald, a staunch believer in Christianity, over David’s
choice to indulge in Hermeticism. While passing people, David mentions that he
recognizes a man named Orosmandel, a famed philosopher. Archibald’s past is
explained; he came to Paris to assist Margaret, Princess of Scotland, on her
journey to meeting the Dauphin of France. On the way he saved a woman known as
Mademoiselle de Laval, who warned him that her attacker is the Black Knight and
tells him to make friends with a man named Orosmandel. The flashback ends, and
now Archie stands in the theatre recognizing her in the crowd with Orosmandel.
The next day, David explains to his roommates Nigel, Andrew,
and Bauldy, that he must leave, and they accuse him of valuing his life above
their own. Hearing this, David is stunned and leaves the apartment, along with
his education at the university. He meets with Messire Jean, who tells him to
accompany his daughter, Hagar, to Nantes. David agrees and tells Jean in his
absence to find his three friends to uptake the position of his assistant.
Around the same time, Andrew, Bauldy, and Nigel receive a visit from Archibald
who is trying to find David. They don’t know where he went, but Archibald later
receives an anonymous note telling him to meet at the inn and tavern,
Pomme-du-Pin. David and Hagar meet him, and David tells Archibald that he is
going to work for Orosmandel as his assistant. Archibald insists that he will
pursue alchemy if David can prove it is real. Hagar tells them she must leave
but tells them to wait for her. While waiting, David inquires about Archibald’s
relationship with Mademoiselle de Laval, who Archibald confesses he loves. Upon
Hagar’s absence, they resolve to travel together to Brittany. While stopped for
the night, Archibald encounters a young woman who tells him that the Damsel de
Laval is in danger and he must go to the ruinous castle nearby. There, he
overhears a plot to capture the Damsel, and he escapes as the Black Knight
Hagar is now talking to two other women, Pauline and Marie,
who want her to join their journey. Hagar insists that she must go straight to
Nantes, but Pauline will not let her leave. Marie helps Hagar escape, switching
cloaks with her, and Hagar passes the guards without suspicion. In the morning,
Marie and Hagar leave for Nantes and end up traveling alongside a parade, where
Gilles de Retz is seen. Hagar, now startled, says she is going to seek out
Rabbi Solomon, who resides in Nantes, as he will grant her safety and she will be
able to live there with her people. Marie’s betrothed, Jean, hears this and
tells her that he will oversee her travels there. He instead betrays her,
leading her to Gilles de Retz’s city apartment, locking her in to be kept
prisoner. Elsewhere, the Damsel de Laval thinks about Archibald, questioning if
he loves her for her money or if he has true intentions. She reveals that she
is Pauline, who spoke to Hagar earlier. Pauline goes to talk to Orosmandel, who
is employed by her father, and his assistant, the dwarf.
On the road to Brittany, David tells Archibald that he is worried about Hagar, and Archibald insinuates that David is falling in love with someone who is “unfit” causing David to draw his sword in her defense. The peasant girl interrupts the fight, telling them that her name is Marie, and that she is getting married. Her cousin, Lissette sings an ominous bridal song, which and Marie leaves crying. David also leaves, and he runs into the dwarf who tells him that it’s his job to escort David to La Verrieré. There, Orosmandel and Gilles, talk about their plans to sacrifice a willing virgin to the devil. They plan on sacrificing one of three girls, Gilles’ daughter Pauline, Hagar, or Marie. They contemplate sacrificing Hagar because she would be willing to save either her father or David’s life, and Marie because she left before she could consummate her marriage. Later Lissette taps on Andrew’s window, telling him that Marie is lost. Archibald runs into the woods, and there he finds the Black Knight and his men. At the same time, Nigel, Bauldy, and Andrew enter the same part of the woods, and after escaping the Black Knight, they all agree to save David, who they fear has been put into grave danger. When they arrive at Nantes, Messire Jean, whose name is Caleb, is with them, as he left Paris with the trio. All try to figure out how to infiltrate La Verrieré to find David.
David is working for Orosmandel, using his position to
figure out how to rescue Hagar. Later that night, Orosmandel sends for both David
and Pauline so they can watch him summon the ghost of Prelati. Pauline faints,
causing David to have to carry her to another room, Hagar’s prison. There,
David warns Hagar to not take anything given to her, and he leaves saying that
their religion no longer separates them as they are all equal at the gates of
Andrew finds the house of Rabbi Solomon, where he meets
Caleb. While talking, two men, Claude Montrichard and Beauchamp, enter asking
Caleb for gold so they can capture one of Gilles’ territories. They explain
that Gilles is being investigated for his perversion of nature and religion and
the government plans on arresting him. Caleb agrees to help them so long as
they promise to rescue Hagar.
Back at La Verrieré, Hagar, contemplates her feelings for David
and questions Gilles’s motives. She tries to leave, but the guard tells her
that she needs permission from the baron. Hagar goes to request it, but the
baron tells her that he cannot give freedom nor can she receive it. She
bargains that if David is set free, she won’t try to leave. David enters to
talk to Gilles, and Andrew comes in as the ambassador of Houpelande. Gilles
tells David to leave, but David refuses, saying he is there to protect Hagar.
Hagar reveals Prelati is alive, and before they all part, David tells Andrew to
meet him later that night. Andrew heads for the tower, where David tells him to
relay to Archibald that he must ally with Beauchamp and Montrichard, Prelati is
alive, and Pauline is in danger. David later discovers a trapdoor in the floor,
where Orosmandel and Prelati must have staged the summoning. He hides behind
the curtain as Orosmandel and Gilles talk about their sacrifice, determining
that Pauline must die. Later that night, David hears his name and discovers Marie
in Gilles’ arms. Gilles runs, and David helps Marie escape through the newfound
Andrew travels back to Nantes to meet with the rest of the
men, and from there they split up. Andrew and Archibald take the road with
Montrichard, while Nigel and Bauldy set forth on Houpelande’s wagon. While this
is happening, Orosmandel and Gilles set up the ritual, and since Pauline won’t
be a willing participant (which is required for the ceremony’s success), they
convince Hagar, telling her David has died, and she is sent back to her cell.
In another location, David has successfully convinced Caleb of his love for
Hagar is taken from her cell by the Orosmandel, who has told her he will take her away as he wants her for his mistress. She refuses him, claiming love for David and that Orosmandel is too old for her to love. It’s at this moment that, Orosmandel tears away his beard and cloak, revealing that he was Prelati all along. While Prelati is distracted, Caleb stabs him and is subsequently thrown into the nearby wall by Prelati. Both die, and Hagar leaves with David. In another part of the castle, Archibald rescues Pauline. The novel concludes with the anonymous narrator giving an account of what has happened since then. Archibald and Pauline marry, as do Andrew and Marie, along with Bauldy and Felicité. David and Hagar leave together to travel to far and foreign lands. Three years later, a procession is held for Gilles where he is charged for sorcery and burned for being a wizard.
“Advertisement.” The Athenaeum, no.
1348, 1853, pp. 1021.
“Advertisement. “ Examiner, no.
1499, 1836, pp. 688.
“Book Review.” Examiner, no. 2460, 1855, pp. 181-182.
‘THE BOOKS OF THE SEASON.” Tait’s Edinburgh
Magazine, vol. 4, no. 47, 1837, pp. 678–688.
“LITERARY INTELLIGENCE.” The Court Magazine
and Belle Assemblee, July 1832-Jan.1837, vol. 8, no. 2, 1836, pp. 7.
“LITERARY NOVELITIES.” The Literary Gazette
: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, no. 989,
1836, pp. 12.
“The Magician.” The Athenaeum, no. 449,
1836, pp. 396.
“The Magician.” The Literary Gazette : A
Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, no. 1011, 1836,
Ritchie, Leitch. The Magician. Belfast,
Simms & M’Intyre, 1846.