The White Cottage of the Valley

The White Cottage of the Valley

The White Cottage of the Valley; or the Mysterious Husband: an Original, Interesting Romance

Author: Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson
Publisher: R. Harrild
Publication Year: c. 1819–24
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18cm
Pages: 21
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.T32 1790 v.2 no.7


In this 1800s chapbook by Sarah Wilkinson set in the South of France, follow Emma de Villeroy as she navigates her mysterious marriage, and the truth about her bloodline.


Material History

The White Cottage of the Valley is one chapbook bound in a collection of eighteen stories. The story itself is short, only twenty-one pages as compared to the over thirty-page length of the other stories in the book, but the text is quite dense. The text is small and close-set, and the margins between each line are thin. The book measures approximately 11cm x 18cm, allowing this chapbook to hold a lot of content. The margins of the pages vary, ranging from 0.8 cm to 1.6cm. The pages are quite thin, allowing you to see the text on the other side. Each page has the shortened title of the book, The White Cottage, printed across the top. This is uniform to every story in the book, making it easy to differentiate the separate works.

Title Page of The White Cottage of the Valley

Before you begin reading the story, you are greeted with a frontispiece. The frontispiece, an illustration preceding the title page, is completely unique. Although the black outline is printed, the colors are hand painted with watercolors. You can see white space that the artist did not quite cover with color, as well as places where the colors overlap. The illustration depicts a woman clothed in red and white approaching the door of a hut where a woman and child wait. Below the illustration is a quote that relates to the part of the story the image is depicting: “Merciful Providence! Your Husband ill, & lying in that Hut.” Uniquely, the word “page” stands alone just below the quote, likely intended to list the page number where you could find this quote. However, there is no page number, and in fact this illustration does not relate at all to The White Cottage of the Valley, or to any story within this collection of chapbooks. It is possible that this was a misprint, or perhaps the story that relates to this illustration was removed from this book. The White Cottage of the Valley also does not contain page numbers, though it does include signature marks, which were used to guide bookbinders and make sure the pages were folded correctly and in the correct order. A2, B, C, and C2 appear on the first, seventh, eleventh, and thirteenth pages respectively.

The title page follows the frontispiece on the next page. The full title, The White Cottage of the Valley; or the Mysterious Husband: an Original, Interesting Romance, is printed vertically down the page, followed by the name of the author, Sarah Wilkinson. An excerpt from a poem is quoted just below, and below that the printer is listed. Finally, the price, sixpence, is printed at the very bottom of the page. The title page bleeds through almost completely to the other side of the paper, which is otherwise completely blank.

The cover of the chapbook collection follows a very popular binding technique of the time called half binding. The spine and two triangles on the corners of the front and back cover are brown leather, while the main cover is paper. The paper cover is decorated with another popular technique: marbling. This is a process in which different colors of oil paint are added to a tub of water, which the paper for the cover is then dipped in. The water forces the oil to spread, giving it a “marbled” look. The cover of this book is mostly beige, with marbling of dark blue. It is worse for wear, though, with quite a bit of the front worn off. The spine is also quite worn, with cracks appearing in the leather and tearing slightly at the top. Luckily, the book is in mostly good condition, with no large tears or extremely stained pages. 


Textual History

Sarah Wilkinson was a gothic writer active between 1799 and 1824. In that time, she penned approximately one-hundred short stories, including about thirty gothic works. The White Cottage of the Valley; or the Mysterious Husband is one of her lesser-known works. Unlike her more popular stories, which have well-documented and sometimes controversial histories, The White Cottage has very little written about it. This is likely due to the pure quantity of gothic chapbooks that Wilkinson penned, meaning only the most popular of them have been attended to by historians and literary scholars. The White Cottage has, however, been republished in the second volume of Gary Kelly’s 2002 Varieties of Female Gothic. This volume, titled Street Gothic, includes a number of gothic texts by female writers that Kelly suggests depict the change in the writing of the lower class. In the introduction to this volume, Kelly describes The White Cottage as “represent[ing] the revolution in cheap print of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century that saw the creation of a commercialised novelty literature for the lower-class and lower middle-class readers” (xxiii). This is one of the only modern works that analyzes The White Cottage, rather than simply listing it as one of Wilkinson’s texts.

As often as Wilkinson is described as prolific, she is also described as a “hack” writer (Kelly xxi, Hoeveler 3). This is due to the fact that Wilkinson was on the cusp of poverty, writing “at the lowest end of the literary market” (Kelly xxi). Indeed, she wrote so much because she had to in order to make a living, not necessarily out of love for the craft. In 1803, she wrote to Tell-Tale Magazine, issuing a “​​warning [to] every indigent woman, who is troubled with the itch of scribbling, to beware of [her] unhappy fate.” (“The Life of an Authoress, Written by Herself” 28) Obviously Wilkinson had the desire to write, self-described as an “itch of scribbling,” but it was not an easy way to make a living.

Misplaced illustration that acts as a frontispiece for The White Cottage of the Valley

Interestingly, the publisher of The White Cottage is also somewhat well-known. In 1810, Robert Harrild invented a new tool for inking typeface, called a composition roller. This was a much more efficient method than the previously used balls of hide (Anderson & McConnell). Conversely, the illustrator for the frontispiece for The White Cottage is completely unlisted and unknown. The White Cottage of the Valley originally included a frontispiece (printed in Kelly’s Varieties of Female Gothic) but this frontispiece is not present in the University of Virginia version, which may be due to Wilkinson’s lack of resources, or it is possible that there was a misprinting or a confusion when rebinding and a different frontispiece was accidentally placed there instead. All versions of the chapbook, however, have the title-page epigraph from Thomas Fitzgerald’s eighteenth-century poem “Bedlam.”

There was at least one printing of The White Cottage in the early nineteenth century, but the publication date is not precisely known because the work itself has no date listed. WorldCat and Google Books list the date as 1815, although this is likely inaccurate because the title page of The White Cottage lists Robert Harrild as residing at 20 Great Eastcheap in London at the time of printing, a location he did not move to until 1819. He moved once again in 1824, suggesting The White Cottage was likely published sometime between 1819 and 1824, not 1815 (Anderson & McConnell).

While it has never been officially said that Wilkinson pulled content from Elizabeth Meeke’s The Mysterious Husband: A Novel, there are a few obvious overlaps between the two stories. Most notably, the works share a partial title, a character named the Earl of Clarencourt (spelled Clarancourt in Meeke’s story), a theme of marrying for money rather than love, and a main character who leaves for France for the sake of his mental health. Since Meeke’s novel was published early in 1801, it is possible that Wilkinson read Meeke’s novel and incorporated ideas from it into her own chapbook. This would not be the first time Wilkinson took inspiration from another story, either: her 1820 novel, Castle of Lindenberg; or, The History of Raymond and Agnes, is heavily derived from Matthew Lewis’s popular story The Monk. This was not all that unusual at the time: Father Innocent, Abbot of the Capuchins; or, The Crimes of Cloisters (1805) and The Castle of Lindenberg; or The History of Raymond and Agnes (1798) were also borderline plagiarisms of the same popular work.


Narrative Point of View

The White Cottage of the Valley is narrated by an unnamed narrator who is never a character in the story. They narrate entirely in third person and past tense, except at the beginning of extended backstory when they momentarily switch to present tense and use “we” to refer to the narration. The narrator often acts as an omniscient storyteller, relating how the characters feel and react to each other. Through the narrator, we are given insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. The language the narrator uses is formal and antiquated.

Sample Passage: 

She instantly summoned Alise and Anetta to her presence, that she might fully apprize them of the part they had to act before the stranger could converse them, and thus frustrate her intentions.

While she is conversing with her faithful domestics, we will look back a little to the events that preceded—the distress of mind into which the amiable Emma was now plunged.

Emma de Villeroy was a native of the southern part of France; she was the only child of a very respectable medical man, a descendant of a noble family. (4)

This method of omniscient storytelling allows readers access to what the characters are thinking, enabling readers to experience events more intimately with the characters. The narration also heightens the effect of the plot unfolding in real time by suggesting that Emma’s backstory can be provided during the period of time when “she is conversing with her faithful domestics” as if Emma is talking to her servants at the exact same moment that the narration is relaying her backstory. As a result, Emma, the third-person narration, and the readers are all waiting for the rest of Emma’s story to unfold in this moment.


Summary

The White Cottage of the Valley opens with its main character Emma crying because her husband has not come home. She eventually falls into a fitful sleep until late in the night, when the gate bell rings. Emma, convinced it is her husband, quickly answers it. It is not her husband, however, but a stranger asking for shelter out of the rain. Despite her reluctance, Emma allows him in and sets him up with a bed. The next morning, when she goes down to breakfast with her children, the stranger asks which of the two is hers. Emma, alarmed by this question, lies and says only Rosalthe is hers and that Adolphus is the child of her servant, Alise.

Example page of text from The White Cottage of the Valley

Here, the narrator backs up to talk a bit about Emma’s backstory. Emma de Villeroy is the daughter of a woman who married against the will of her parents. Emma’s grandparents were so against the marriage that her parents left and never contacted them again. The years passed, and eventually both of Emma’s parents died. On his deathbed, her father bid Emma to seek out her wealthy, noble grandparents because otherwise she would be left destitute. Unfortunately, he died before he could give any information about her grandparents, leaving Emma with no way to contact either of them. In cleaning out her parents’ house, Emma subsequently found a miniature of her mother and began to wear it on a necklace under her clothes.

One day, Emma met a young man named Adolphus Montreville who had taken a liking to her late father’s library so much that he wanted to purchase the books. When the two of them met, there was an immediate spark. Adolphus was very kind to Emma in a way that betrayed his emotions, but he never made any formal declarations of his passion. Eventually, Adolphus explained that his father, a greedy Earl, wants to marry him off to an heiress for the money. Adolphus expressed that while he has feelings for Emma, he cannot marry her publicly due to his father. Therefore, he suggested a private marriage. Emma accepted his proposal, without mentioning her wealthy grandparents. The next week, the pair were married. Almost immediately, however, Adolphus Montreville was called back to England. He promised to return as soon as possible, leaving a pregnant Emma with one of her parents’ servants, Alise.

Eventually, Emma had twins, Rosalthe and Adolphus, and travelled to Paris to meet her husband, still concealing their marriage. There, the pair attended an opera and Emma noticed a wealthy couple who she immediately believed to be her grandparents due to their resemblance to her late mother. She did not mention her suspicions to her husband, however, and eventually left France for Wales without any conclusion of this matter.

Two months after settling in a white cottage in the valley in Wales, Adolphus visited and he expressed to Emma his fears that their marriage had been discovered. The following night, he promises that he will be more explicit when he returns. However, after this visit, he does not come back.

Another example page of text from The White Cottage of the Valley

This is where the beginning of the story picks up again. That night, the second one the stranger stays in the cottage, Emma and Rosalthe are kidnapped by Adolphus Montreville’s father, the Earl of Clarencourt. The earl accuses Emma of deceiving him by denying Adolphus as her son. He informs Emma that her husband is also his prisoner and gives Emma a paper urging her to sign it. The paper proposes this agreement: the earl intends to fake his son’s death so that his younger brother, Edward, can marry the heiress. Emma and her family will be banished, but Emma’s son, Adolphus, will be raised by the earl. If Emma and Adolphus Montreville do not sign this paper, they will forever be confined to Milbury castle as they are now. 

Emma refuses to sign, making the earl angry and scaring Rosalthe in her arms. As Rosalthe clings to her, she pulls out the necklace Emma wears. The earl immediately recognizes it as a miniature of the daughter of the Marquis De Aubigne. When Emma tells him it was her mother’s, he realizes his mistake. He apologizes to Emma, and she and her husband are freed. Emma goes on to meet her grandparents, who accept her eagerly and apologize for their poor treatment of her mother. Emma inherits all of her grandparents’ wealth, and her family lives happily for the rest of their lives.


Bibliography

Hoeveler, Diane L., “Sarah Wilkinson: Female Gothic Entrepreneur.” Gothic Archive: Related Scholarship, 1 January 2015, 1–20. https://epublications.marquette.edu/gothic_scholar/7

Kelly, Gary. “Introduction.” Varieties of Female Gothic, Volume 2: Street Gothic. Taylor & Francis, 2002, pp. vii–xxiii. 

“The Life of an Authoress, Written by Herself,” Tale 57 in Tell-Tale Magazine (London: Ann Lemoine, 1803), p. 28 in The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade, by Franz Potter. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. 

Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The White Cottage of the Valley: Or the Mysterious Husband: An Original, Interesting Romance. Printed and Published by R. Harrild, n.d.


Researcher: Danner Alise Rebhun

The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors

The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors

The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story

Author: Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson
Publisher: Printed for T. and R. Hughes
Publication Year: 1807
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 12cm x 20cm
Pages: 38
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.W55 Ca 1807


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!


Material History

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.

The frontispiece of The Castle Spectre, which was glued onto a blank page for support

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 and idea.”

Michael Sadleir’s cataloguing card inserted within The Castle Spectre

Textual History

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.

The title page of The Castle Spectre, which features slight pencil markings and stains

Wilkinson’s The 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).

Many sources 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 avenging her.


Narrative Point of View

The Castle 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.

Sample of Third-Person Narration:

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)

Sample of 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.


Summary

The Castle 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 and protection.

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.

Finally, Richard 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.

A sample of the body text of The Castle Spectre

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 Jane.

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.


Bibliography

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.

Hoeveler, Diane L., “Sarah Wilkinson: Female Gothic Entrepreneur” (2015). Gothic Archive: Related Scholarship. 7. https://epublications.marquette.edu/gothic_scholar/7.

Johnson, Samuel. The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper: Including the Series Edited with Prefaces, Biographical and Critical. United Kingdom, J. Johnson, 1810.

McNally, Katie. “Fearsome Ink.” UVA Today, 29 Apr. 2016, http://news.virginia.edu/content/fearsome-ink-uva-library-boasts-worlds-finest-collection-english-gothic-literature. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.

The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints. Vol. 664, London, Mansell, 1968. 754 vols.

Potter, Franz J. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.

Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune press, 1941.

Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Castle Spectre; Or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story. Printed for T. and R. Hughes, 1807.

Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell, and Lewis, M. G. (Matthew Gregory). The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance; Founded On the Original Drama of M. G. Lewis. Published by J. Bailey, Printer, 1820.


Researcher: Abby Minkin

The Round Tower

The Round Tower

The Round Tower, Or the Mysterious Witness: An Irish Legendary Tale of the Sixth Century

Author: Charlotte Frances Barrett
Publisher: Tegg and Castleman
Publication Year: 1803
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.7cm x 17.3cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.B376 R 1803


In this 1803 chapbook, Charlotte Frances Barrett (Frances Burney’s niece) writes a tale of adventure, surprise, and horror in which the righteous queen must be rescued from an evil usurper.


Material History

The Round Tower, Or the Mysterious Witness: An Irish Legendary Tale of the Sixth Century, by C. F. Barrett, is a gothic chapbook in the Sadleir-Black Collection of the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. The book is thirty-six pages, has no cover, and measures 17.3cm by 10.7cm. The front of the book is blank, save for the faint traces of ink that have bled through from the illustration next to the inside title page. Once the book is opened, an illustration of two cavaliers gesturing towards a godlike figure is observed along with the words “Vaughan delin” and “Barlow sculp” under the bottom left and right corners respectively. The illustration combines both etching and engraving and was printed from a copper plate. Additionally, the words “Round Tower” are written under the center of the illustration in a three-dimensional font. The inside title page follows the illustration and the author’s name is printed in the middle of the page in all capital letters. Beneath the author’s name is listed Barrett’s other publication: Mary Queen of Scots, Sc., and the quote, “Murder! Most foul, and Treachery most vile.” Farther down the inner title page, after the author’s name and credentials, is the publishing information and the words “Printed for Tegg and Castleman.”

The title page of The Round Tower.

The book is held together by glue binding; however, it is worn and has lost its effect, leading to the book’s fragility. The binding used to be accompanied by stitching that adhered the book to its cover as illustrated by the holes in the sides of the pages closest to the spine, but the cover has since fallen off, which contributes to the book’s tattered appearance.

The pages of the text are yellowed, have the texture of sandpaper, and are splotchy, due to a chemical reaction that has occurred between the chemicals in the paper and the environment in which the book is stored. Moreover, the pages get increasingly brown beginning at page 25, and appear more weathered than the pages at the beginning and middle of the text.

On each page, the text is centered and situated between margins that are slightly larger on the top and bottom than the left and right. Each page has the words “THE ROUND TOWER” printed in the center of the top margin and the page number in the bottom left corner right under the text. The text is small, closely set, and sophisticated with a font that appears similar to Times New Roman.

The Round Tower boasts markings made by potential previous owners. The first and second occur on page 11. In the bottom margin is a signature written in cursive, however, it has faded and is therefore illegible. At the top of page 11 in the right-hand margin, the initials LB are written in cursive, insinuating that the book was once owned by an individual before coming into the Sadleir-Black Collection. Finally, there is a blotch of blue ink two-thirds of the way down page 25.


Textual History

The Round Tower, Or the Mysterious Witness: An Irish Legendary Tale of the Sixth Century, by C. F. Barrett, was published by Tegg and Castleman in London in 1803; this appears to be the only edition and there are no digital copies. Interestingly, the book is a plagiarism of John Palmer’s popular gothic novel, The Mystery of the Black Tower (Tymn 41). This tale is set in the time period of Edward the III and depicts the life of Leonard, a young boy who earns knighthood and must embark on an adventure to save his love, Emma, from imprisonment in the Black Tower. Published in 1796, The Black Tower was influenced by Don Quixote as well as Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron and is still billed as “among the finest historical Gothic novels” (“The Mystery of the Black Tower (1796)”). Plagiarisms were very common among chapbooks at this time.

The frontispiece of The Round Tower depicting the theatrical nature of one of the supernatural scenes.

Francesca Saggini suggests that The Round Tower was also inspired by contemporary theatrical performances. Saggini characterizes Barrett as a “prolific hack … who adapted to the page several Gothic spectacles performed … at popular London venues” (120). The frontispiece of The Round Tower depicts the dramaticism of the appearance of the supernatural apparition and the animated reflections of the onlookers, thus illustrating how the gothic genre was influenced by performance yet also available to readers “at a cheap price and in the safety of their own homes” (Saggini 122). The frontispiece is also displayed in Frederick Frank’s article “Gothic Gold: The Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection”along with a description of the work that describes the book as a thrilling “Macbethian Gothic” that includes dramatized supernatural elements (18).

Charlotte Frances Barrett, author of The Round Tower, produced pamphlets between 1800 and 1810 and authored stories including, as compiled by Franz Potter: The Great Devil’s Tale; or, The Castle of Morbano included in Canterbury Tales (1802), The Mysterious Vision; or, Perfidy Punished in the New Collection of Gothic Stories (1801), a translation of The Shipwreck, or, The Adventures, Love, and Constancy, of Paul and Virginia (1800), Douglas Castle; or, The Cell of Mystery. A Scottish Tale (1803) for Arthur Neil, and Laugh when You Can; or, The Monstrous Droll Jester (1800) for Ann Lemoine (104-5n). Barrett was also the niece of Frances Burney (1752–1840), well-known author of Evelina (1778) and Cecilia (1782).

Thomas Tegg (1776–1846), who published The Round Tower, was a bookseller and publisher in London who specialized in “reprints, out-of-copyright publications, remainders, and cheap satirical prints” (“Thomas Tegg”). He also published accounts of shipwrecks that included engraved folding frontispieces (Weiss 60). Tegg and Castleman were prolific: “between 1802 and 1805, Tegg and Castleman co-published at least nineteen novelettes in collaboration with Dugdale” (Loeber and Stouthamer-Loeber 26). Potter calls Tegg “the most prominent, if not notorious, publisher of gothic chapbooks and pamphlets in the early nineteenth century” (59).


Narrative Point of View

The Round Tower is narrated by an omniscient narrator who has insight into the thoughts and actions of each character. The story is narrated in a venerable tone using lengthy sentences that are broken up by punctuation. The narration primarily focuses on the emotions of the characters and how they influence the characters’ dispositions and behaviors. Additionally, the narrator relays the tale with great expressivity by contextualizing every event in the story with dramatic and detailed descriptions.

Sample Passage:

Enraged at her firmness, Sitric seized the infant, and, drawing his poignard, he raised his arm in order to plunge it in the bosom of the latter, when, driven to desperation, she rushed on the perfidious Dane, and, wrestling the fatal weapon from him, would have plunged it in his heart, but at that moment the door of the dungeon flew open, and Cobthatch, attended by the vindictive Connora, rushed in, followed by several of the usurper’s guards. Appalled at the sudden appearance of her husband’s enemy, the poignard fell from the hand of Moriat, which Connora instantly seized, fearful (in despite of her lord’s neglect) lest in a paroxysm of despair Moriat might yet use it against his life. (19)

The narrator’s omniscience allows for multiple characters’ perspectives to be included in the relation of the book, which illustrates their motives, ambitions, and values to add nuance and intricacy to the tale. Likewise, the multitude of punctuation functions to provide the narrator with inflection and gives the impression that the book is being told as a story. The narrator’s emphasis on the characters’ feelings centers the driving force of the plot around emotion and asserts its power as a motivating force behind the characters’ actions. Furthermore, the descriptive and intensified manner in which the book is narrated creates a theatrical tone that results in an immersive quality.


Summary

Cobthatch, King of Munster, is listening to music in an attempt to calm his anxiety about the fact that he has unjustly obtained the throne by killing his uncle, Laughair. He is then notified that Maon and Moriat, the son of his murdered uncle and his wife, are still alive, and orders his associate, Sitric, to ensure their execution. However, Maon and Moriat do not know the other is alive. 

A sample page of The Round Tower illustrating the closely set text and yellowed pages.

Meanwhile, Moriat is in the mountains where she has been able to secure lodging. One day when she is mourning the loss of Maon, who she thinks is deceased, she carves his name into a nearby rock. While doing so, she is startled by a man approaching her, but then realizes it is Kildare, her loyal attendant. He recalls his experience venturing out to secure provisions and tells Moriat the story of how he discovered Maon. He recollects that he heard a groan and was convinced it was a ghost, but then realized it was Maon, who at the time had drawn his sword with the intention of committing suicide. Kildare caught the Lord before he impaled himself, and they embraced upon their reunion. Maon immediately wanted to be shown to Moriat, but Kildare convinced him the sudden shock would be too much for her to bear and convinced Maon to wait until he could deliver the news.

Upon hearing that her husband is alive, Moriat waits the entire night for his return with their child at her side, but Maon never shows. Instead, Moriat is pursued and cornered by Cobthatch’s guards, who take her to Sitric’s castle where she and her infant are detained in the dungeon. Sitric is enamored by Moriat’s beauty and wants to spare her from death at the hand of Cobthatch. He therefore goes to Cobthatch and makes up a story where he states that Moriat refused to reveal Maon’s location and therefore, he stabbed her. This satisfies the king, and he is happy to know he will not have to worry about her raising suspicion. When Sitric returns to the dungeon where Moriat is being held, he asks that in return for him sparing her life, she complies with all his future demands. She responds that she will not break her marriage vows, but that someday her son will be able to repay him. Sitric, infuriated by her lack of compliance, chains her infant to the opposite wall. He returns the following night, and when Moriat again refuses to comply, he gives her an ultimatum that if she does not obey, both her and her baby’s life will suffer the consequences.

In the meantime, Sitric’s wife, Connora, suspects that her husband is devoted to another, and devises a plan to observe him. She disguises herself and follows him to the dungeon where she overhears his conversation with Moriat, thus confirming her suspicions. Sitric returns to visit Moriat and is on the verge of stabbing her infant out of anger at her firmness, when Connora and Cobthatch enter the room. Cobthatch, enraged at discovering that Moriat is alive, demands that she and her baby be removed to the Round Tower.

While Moriat was captured, Kildare and Maon encountered troops, causing a delay in their visit to reunite with her. When they venture out the next morning, they see Sitric’s party in the distance and Kildare suggests they retire to the cottage of a loyal friend, O’Brian, until they can gather a party large enough to overpower Sitric’s army.

Once at the cottage, Kildare relates the adventures of Maon and Moriat since the death of Laughair to O’Brian. He recalls that Laughair had stayed at the castle of Cobthatch when he was murdered, and that Maon and Moriat, being accused of the crime, fled to O’Brian’s cottage. Here they were discovered, which resulted in Moriat fleeing to the mountains and Maon embarking on a ship that was said to have capsized, leading Moriat to believe him dead.

Page 11 of The Round Tower, which has a signature on the bottom of the page and initials in the upper right corner.

In an effort to rescue Moriat, Maon resolves to enter Sitric’s castle disguised as a friar and embarks on his journey. Once he arrives, Maon encounters Sitric, who relates the story of Moriat’s captivity from the perspective of her savior and offers to lead Maon to the Round Tower. The next day, as Sitric leads Maon through the passageways, he decides to kill him. Immediately before he stabs him, the ghost of Laughair appears and instructs Sitric to lead Maon safely to the dungeon, or else he would face his vengeance. Once at the door, Maon and Sitric discover Cobthatch attempting to rape Moriat, leading Sitric to stab and kill him. Sitric then accuses Maon of the murder and has him taken prisoner. Because of the death of Cobthatch, Sitric is crowned king.

Following Cobthatch’s murder, Sitric offers Moriat the freedom of her husband and child if she agrees to have sex with him. At this moment, Laughair’s ghost reappears and tells Moriat not to trust the tyrant, and she complies with his instructions and holds firm.

Later that evening, Sitric discovers that Moriat has escaped, accuses Maon of aiding her to freedom, and orders the execution of him and his child. The moment before the axe is to execute Maon, Sitric tells him that if he resigns his title to Moriat and tells him her location, Maon will be spared. He refuses and at that moment, Kildare enters the courtyard with a band of peasants and enters into combat with Sitric’s men. While Sitric is engaged in fighting, Moriat stabs him, which causes his troops to disperse.

After the death of Sitric, Kildare presents to the nobles that Maon should be king, and when asked for proof of his innocence, the ghost of Laughair appears for the final time to declare that Maon is the rightful heir of Munster, and he is crowned king.

Once Maon and Moriat are restored to the throne, Moriat retells that she escaped because the ghost of Laughair led her to the cottage where Kildare was staying. Once she arrived, Kildare had assembled an army of peasants ready to restore the true king to power.

Maon and Moriat enjoy a life full of joy and peace together, and his rule becomes known for its justice and serves as an example to other nations.


Bibliography

Barrett, Charlotte Frances. The Round Tower, Or the Mysterious Witness: An Irish Legendary Tale of the Sixth Century. London, Tegg and Castleman, 1803.

Frank, Frederick. “Gothic Gold: The Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, vol. 26, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 1997, pp. 287–312.

Loeber, Rolf, and Magda Stouthamer-Loeber. “The Publication of Irish Novels and Novelettes: A Footnote on Irish Gothic Fiction.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text, 10th ed., e Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, Cardiff, Wales, 2003, pp. 17–44. http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/romtextv2/files/2013/02/cc10_n02.pdf

Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers: 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.

Saggini, Francesca. The Gothic Novel and The Stage: Romantic Appropriations. Routledge, Taylor Et Francis Group, 2019.

“The Mystery of the Black Tower (1796).” Valancourt Books, https://www.valancourtbooks.com/the-mystery-of-the-black-tower-1796.html.

“Thomas Tegg.” Collections Online | British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG48140.

Tymn, Marshall B. Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide. R.R. Bowker, 1981.

Weiss, Harry B. Book about Chapbooks: The People’s Literature of Bygone Times. Folklore Associates, 1969.


Researcher: Delaney K. Walts

The Twin Sisters

The Twin Sisters

The Twin Sisters; or, Two Girls of Nineteen: Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia and Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Freeman Scott
Publication Year: 1827
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 9.1cm x 14.15cm
Pages: 72
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.T82 1827


Set in England and published in 1827, The Twin Sisters warns of the sexual improprieties of men, cautioning that men lead to the destruction of women, unless women are resilient in their actions.


Material History

The book containing The Twin Sisters; or, Two Girls of Nineteen: Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia and Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative by “Charlotte, one of the sisters” is a small 9.1cm by 14.15cm worn book. The book contains seventy-two pages total: pages three through forty-two detail the story of the twin sisters and the remaining thirty pages recount Orphan of the Castle: a Gothic Tale, or the Surprising History and Vicissitudes of Allan Fitz-Roberts, the Orphan Heir of the Castle of Lindisfarne by an unknown author.

The title page for The Twin Sisters. Note the white tape holding the page to the book, the tearing along the bottom edge, and the rectangular staining in the middle of the page.

This desaturated teal-colored hardcover book is discolored by light warm-brown staining. The discoloration is most exaggerated on the bottom edge of the book. The front cover has a thin crack halfway up the page, starting from the right side, tapering off until it reaches a cool dark-brown freckle near the middle of the book. This dark splotch is the most distinctive out of many, most likely unintentional, freckles splattering the cover, giving the book an aged appearance. There is also a 0.5cm in diameter distinctive stain in the upper left-hand corner, rimmed thinly with a warm dark-brown and filled with a cool-blue grey. The stain resembles a hippopotamus’s head with a small protrusion where the neck should be, giving the appearance of a small gourd.

The binding is exceedingly damaged. The book, bound similarly to modern hardcovers, has a cardboard-like substance acting as the base, wrapped in a colored paper to attach the front hardcover with the back. The desaturated orange-brown colored cardboard-like substance peaks from the corners of the book where the teal paper covering has worn through. The paper cover folds over the edges of the hardback and a rectangle of white paper, now discolored with age, pastes over it to secure it. Only severely degraded paper covers the spine. The spine is intact from the bottom until 8.2cm up from the bottom, where it is torn off completely until 11.5cm up from the bottom. A few centimeters of the paper remain attached, but only attached to the left edge of the spine. In the binding of the pages, some type of adhesive glue adhered each edge of the paper together with a thin bit of string threaded through all of the pages in three places near the center of the inner margin or gutter of the book. Each puncture falls one centimeter apart.

A sample page of The Twin Sisters.

The paper, brittle and browned from age, has the most browning along its edges. On the first page, an 8 by 3cm rectangle-shaped discoloration appears in the middle of the page. A few of the pages are ripped, but only along the bottom edge, including the first page, resulting in a brown staining its negative on the third page. A few of the odd-numbered pages are marked below the text with signature marks used by a printer; the marks appear as a combination of letters and the number 2, ranging from A2 to D2 in The Twin Sisters. The Orphan of the Castle has more damage to the paper detailing its story than The Twin Sisters. The damage evokes the interaction between watercolor paint and salt, giving the pages a speckled appearance.

When looking at a standard spread of The Twin Sisters, the thirty-four lines of text are fully justified causing the spacing between words to be on average narrower than standard. The margins are consistent at 1cm on the bottom and outside edge with the top margin 1.5cm to leave adequate room for “The Two Girls” above the text on the left page, and “Of Nineteen” above the text on the right page. All of the pages are numbered, except for the first page of The Orphan of the Castle and the first three pages of the book: the title page, the blank back of the title page, and the first page of The Twin Sisters.

Beyond a mostly illegible scrawl of what appears to be the name “Mr. Wyllis” in the top left corner of the inside of the cover, and the University of Virginia Library bookplate, there are no illustrations, marginalia, or personal marks in the book. Neither is the title of either story listed anywhere apart from the title page and the first page of each respective story. On the opening page of each story, each of the titles is shortened from their full form inscribed in the title page to just the primary title, without its subtitle.


Textual History

The title page attributes Charlotte Melford, the narrator of the story, as the author of The Twin Sisters; or, Two Girls of Nineteen: Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia and Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative; however, this is spurious, as the far-fetched story is a work of fiction. There are no other authors listed in any available copies of the book, except one WorldCat entry erroneously listing the publisher, Freeman Scott, as the author.

The copy held at the University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library was published in 1827 by Freeman Scott, with premises on the N.W. Corner of Tenth and Race Streets, Philadelphia. There was another publication of this story produced in London and “printed and sold by Dean & Munday, 35, Threadneedle Street” (as noted on its title page); this copy has been digitized and made available on Google Books, which lists the date at 1830, though this date is not shown anywhere on the scan of the book. The two copies are very similar in most regards but differ substantially in some ways. The Freeman Scott version is one of two stories in the chapbook, with the other being Orphan of the Castle, and The Twin Sisters accounts for pages 3 through 42; by contrast, the Dean and Munday edition was published alone and accounts for pages 8 through 36 of its book. The difference in page count is primarily due to what appears to be differences in margin size as well as page size; the body of the text is largely the same. There are, however, some discrepancies in the text, especially with punctuation. The two editions have very little consistency between their punctuations with over six changes between the two editions on the corresponding text of the first page of the Scott edition alone. Occasionally, there are also some changes in word choice: for instance, page six of the Scott edition uses “written” while the corresponding section of the Dean and Munday edition uses “wrote” on page nine. Or, later, in the same sentence, the Scott edition uses “house” while the Dean and Munday edition uses “home.” There are also some cases where there is an entire half of a sentence or full sentence present in the Dean and Munday edition that is missing in the Scott edition, such as the inclusion of “to go with her; my father she said, was visited by dissolute men in whose company it would be imprudent for us to mix” at the end of a sentence on page ten in the Dean and Munday edition but not the Scott edition. Perhaps most notably, the Dean and Munday edition includes an illustration of the scene where Charlotte is taken from her lodgings by the police as the frontispiece before the title page; this illustration is absent in the Scott edition.

The final page of The Twin Sisters. Note the warm brown staining, shaped like a rattle in the top right corner.

WorldCat also lists several other editions with various publication years, all attributed to Charlotte Melford. For instance, WorldCat lists an 1821 edition that is twelve pages long and was published for wholesale and retail in New York at 386, Broadway, W. Grattan Printer by S. King, and sold at his bookstore. There is only one library with this 1821 edition: the University of Iowa Library.

WorldCat lists an 1823 edition that was published for wholesale and retail in New York by W. Borradaile. This copy is one of the earliest editions and does not have the attached Orphan of the Castle story. This version is thirty-six pages long and includes an illustration.

WorldCat also identifies an edition with an unspecified publication date in the 1800s, and Jstor lists the date for this version as somewhere between 1814 and 1837. This edition was printed in London “for the booksellers, and for J. Kendrew, Colliergate, York.” In the WorldCat entry, James Kendrew is listed as one of the named persons in the book twice alongside Sophia and Charlotte, even though he never appears in the book. This copy appears to be similar to the Dean and Munday edition as the story spans pages 8 through 36 and has a front plate illustration like the Dean and Munday edition; however, this version is listed as being one centimeter smaller (19cm compared to 20cm). The University of York Library, in the United Kingdom, is the only library with a copy of this edition. There is a scan of this book on Jstor, in the form of a photograph of each page spread, showing that it is very similar to the Dean and Munday version of the book as the punctuation and general length and spacing of the book appear to be consistent. There is however a difference in the fonts on the title page and the image on the page before. The image in this University of York version is not colored and depicts the sisters together before they depart on their trip to London. The covers of both books also appear to be a warm brown color, however, the image of the University of York version is more degraded than the image of the Dean and Munday edition available on Google Books. The Kendrew edition of the book most likely contains another story after it within the same physical book, since in the Jstor scan the last page of text is on the left, leaving the right page blank, allowing for the ink from the image on the back of the page to show through. Furthermore, visually, there appear to be numerous pages left in the book.

Fourteen libraries in the world, including the University of Virginia Library, have a copy of the 1827 Scott edition of this book according to WorldCat, with thirteen of the fourteen being in the United States and the last copy being in Canada. The copy of the Scott edition that is owned by the New York Public Library was digitized on January 19th, 2007 onto Google Books where it can be read for free. This copy is the exact same, textually, as the Scott edition owned by the University of Virginia; however, the cover and physical quality are distinct, since the New York Public Library version appears to be in better physical condition and has a harder warm-brown cover as opposed to the worn discolored teal of the University of Virginia version. There is an odd speckling on the first few pages of the New York digitized version that is absent in the physical University of Virginia version.

There is also another book about the sisters called The Sisters, or, Virtue Triumphant : Being the Eventful History of Sophia & Charlotte Melford, which is depicted as authored by Charlotte and Sophia Melford and available on Google Books; other library catalogues, including McGill Library’s Chapbook Collection, New York Public Library Catalogue, and WorldCat just list Charlotte Melford as the author. According to WorldCat, The Sisters, or, Virtue Triumphant was printed by Hodgson & Co. in London at No. 10, Newgate-Street, sometime between 1822 and 1824, indicating that this story predates most but not all editions of The Twin Sisters. From the frontispiece of The Sisters depicted on a scan from the McGill Library, the story appears similar to that of The Twin Sisters in that they share the same general plot points: the smugglers in the sisters’ room dressed as women, Charlotte being taken by the constables, Charlotte and the Colonel, and Sophia being turned to the street (The Sisters 1). The McGill Library catalog entry notes the book is written by Robert Cruikshank, but he is most likely the illustrator of the images.

There are newer publications of The Twin Sisters—with Kessinger Publishing, LLC republishing The Twin Sisters in 2010 and Forgotten Books republishing it in 2018—that can be purchased on several online websites such as Amazon, eBay, and Better World Books.


Narrative Point of View

Charlotte, one of the sisters, narrates The Twin Sisters in the first-person point of view. The narration of the plot is fast paced, with many brief summaries of long periods of time, oftentimes spanning several years, but, at the same time, Charlotte imbues the story with haughty, verbose language in some instances, giving it a formal feel. The chapbook is told in the past tense, making it seem like a story Charlotte is reflecting on and sharing with the readers rather than being more present in the action. This gives the narration a detached sense, which is compounded by the formal titles that she calls every character. She refers to everyone in the book, except her aunt Emma, Sophia, and Susan by their formal names, her close friends, her husband (she calls him Colonel Woodly or colonel), and even people whom she despises. Charlotte focuses primarily on her actions and interactions with people rather than going in-depth about her thought processes or feelings. There is minimal dialogue throughout the novel, with paraphrasing of dialogue more common.

Sample Passage:

The coach went on with rapidity, and I found in a short time that we had left town, and were proceeding along a road that appeared very dreary. I became seriously alarmed, though, to speak with justice of his lordship, he did not offer to take the least unbecoming liberty. He felt my hand tremble, and bade we dismiss my fears, that we were only going a little way beyond Bayswater, and were near our journey’s end. We stopped at a neat white house, the coachman was ordered to knock, but the summons was several times repeated with violence before the door was opened; nor was that done till a female demanded in a harsh discordant voice, who was there at such an hour? And discovered Lord Morden to be the intruder. (21)

It seems as though Charlotte is trying to prop herself up with the narration, since, by using her extensive vocabulary to create a more complex twist on a simple narrative, she is showing off her intelligence and education. She was born into a lower-class family but was given a genteel education by her aunt, so she is trying to use this education to distinguish herself from these lower classes and establish her place in the upper class of her husband. Relatedly, she refers to people in higher social classes than herself in more formal ways, regardless of her personal feelings about them, and calls people at or below her social class by their informal first names, indicating that they are beneath her. Charlotte distances herself from this story throughout her narration; the writing is closed off and impersonal in most instances, not demonstrating the emotions of terror, disgust, loneliness, and joy. She seems to breeze past her emotions, mentioning a slight hand tremble and feeling “seriously alarmed” but then immediately changing the subject or focusing on the actions of the scene rather than her perceptions of it, as though they are nothing. This generates the distance between the events of the story and the narration, and also functions as a form of protective emotional detachment.


Summary

Charlotte, one of the sisters, begins The Twin Sisters with the purpose of the story: a warning to the “fairer sex” about the “delusive arts” of men (2). The Twin Sisters then briefly describes the background of the sisters’ family, detailing the tragedy of their lives and history of issues with financial support. Their mother dies in a horseback riding accident, pushing their father into a grief-fueled sickness from which he eventually dies. His death leaves the girls penniless under the guardianship of their aunt until she too dies a few years later.

The first page of The Twin Sisters. Note the warm brown staining on the bottom edge of the page from the tearing in the title page the page before.

The girls receive a letter from Mrs. Mowbray, a friendly neighbor one summer, offering one of them a job as a nanny in London to a rich family, the Aspleys. Having no real opportunities, they accept and venture on their journey to London.

They stop for the night at a crowded inn and are forced to share a room with two other female travelers, who they later discover to be male smugglers in disguise. These men come into the rooms after their late dinner while Sophia is sleeping and while Charlotte is pretending to sleep. Charlotte overhears them consider raping her and her sister before they drunkenly fall asleep. Much to Charlotte’s relief, the smugglers’ coach arrives before they have the chance to hurt either of the sisters.

The rest of their trip to London is uneventful. Upon their arrival, they are summoned by Mrs. Mowbray to meet the wealthy Lady Aspley. On the advice of Mrs. Mowbray, she chooses Sophia for the nannying position, but Charlotte remains living with Mrs. Mowbray.

Charlotte becomes apprehensive as the company Mrs. Mowbray keeps acts more rudely and obscenely than how she expected people of their supposed standings to behave. When she questions Mrs. Mowbray about it, she just calls her a “pretty innocent rustic,” stating that this behavior is normal for townsfolk (16). In an attempt to confirm her apprehensions, Charlotte tries to visit Sophia to compare their experiences. Mrs. Mowbray informs her that is impossible as Lady Aspley’s household, along with Sophia, had moved to Margate so their sick child could sea-bathe. When Charlotte tries to leave anyway, she is stopped by Mrs. Mowbray and some of her servants. They lock Charlotte in her bedroom, causing her to realize she and Sophia were betrayed by Mrs. Mowbray.

From a servant, Susan, who brings her food, Charlotte finds out that Mrs. Mowbray is a sex trafficker, or rather a “procuress who was employed by (to use [the servants] own words) very great gentlemen to ensnare young girls” (17). The servant also informs Charlotte that a man named Lord Morden paid Mrs. Mowbray to set this trap specifically for her as he had taken a fancy towards her. After this revelation, Charlotte bribes Susan to help her escape; Charlotte sneaks out of the room, but faints from fear and wakes up in the arms of Lord Morden. He asks her to give him her affection and to live with him. Charlotte declines his offer, stating she is imprisoned because of him, so why would she want to be with him. When he offers to free her from Mrs. Mowbray, she agrees to go with him as, in her mind, it was better to be content with him than to live enslaved to the “vile” Mrs. Mowbray (21).

Lord Morden then takes her to the house of his former mistress, Matilda, whose life he ruined after taking her innocence, and asks her to watch over Charlotte for a few days. Charlotte is furious as she feels imprisoned again, so she asks to leave. Matilda, partly because of her jealousy towards Charlotte and Lord Morden’s relationship and partly because of her anger towards Lord Morden, agrees to let her go.

Charlotte flees Matilda’s house and finds shelter at a boarding house where she is subsequently falsely arrested for forgery the next day. The victim of the forgery, Mr. Newton, comes to identify her, but brusquely proclaims Charlotte’s innocence. He then offers to take Charlotte back to her room at the boarding house to collect her things. In the carriage ride, he solicits her for sex as he believes her to be a prostitute. Charlotte is horrified by the offer and demands to be let out of the coach. On his refusal, she starts screaming, causing the coach to stop to make sure everything is alright. Charlotte uses this chance to escape.

Charlotte stops at a toy store to rest from her vigorous dash away from the carriage. The owner, a nice old woman named Mrs. Brent, agrees to provide her room and board. Charlotte then gets a job as an English teacher with connections from her bank. Things seem to be looking her way, until one day Charlotte runs into Sophia on a walk. Sophia tells her that she should have yielded to Lord Morden as she would be safe from the danger of the world. Sophia then goes on to share her experiences in the time they were apart and how happy she is with her place in life. Mrs. Mowbray introduced Sophia to a wealthy man named Mr. Greville. He raped her, took her on as his mistress, and is now supporting her lavish lifestyle financially.

Some time passes before her next interaction with Sophia in the form of a letter asking for a meeting. Sophia looks like a wreck; Mr. Greville found a new mistress and abandoned her, forcing her into prostitution, but she still refused to accept Charlotte’s help. She says she is content and happy with her life, that she has time to repent after she retires.

Time passes and Charlotte falls in love with Mrs. Brent’s nephew, Colonel Woodly. Despite the fact that he likes her as well, she feels the marriage is one of unequals. She will sully his reputation with marriage and his mother would never agree to it. His mother, however, overhears this conversation and agrees immediately to the union. They marry and have a successful marriage with two children.

Three years after the marriage, Mrs. Brent arrives, announcing that she found Sophia passed out in the streets and took her in. Sophia had experienced all of the degradations that came with prostitution: she was abandoned by her pimp; sick, penniless, with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Charlotte then helps care for her physically and spiritually. She now lives a very pious, peaceful life in South Wales.


Bibliography

The Twin Sisters: Or, Two Girls of Nineteen: Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia and Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative. Dean & Munday, 1830. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Twin_Sisters_Or_Two_Girls_of_Ninetee/TpjXIRLwbHMC?hl=en&gbpv=0.

The Twin Sisters: Or, Two Girls of Nineteen: Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia and Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative. F. Scott, 1827. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Twin_Sisters/PwknAAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0.

The Twin Sisters, or, Two Girls of Nineteen : Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia & Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative. London : Printed for the booksellers and for J Kendrew Colliergate York, pp. 1–17, https://jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.29959877.

The Sisters, or, Virtue Triumphant : Being the Eventful History of Sophia & Charlotte Melford. London : Printed by and for Hodgson & Co., No. 10, Newgate-Street, [1822–1824]. https://archive.org/details/McGillLibrary-PN970_R63_no_58_elf-1820/mode/2up?view=theater.


Researcher: Rylan L. Karjane

Monkcliffe Abbey

Monkcliffe Abbey

Monkcliffe Abbey: A Tale of the Fifteenth Century, To which is added, Lopez and Aranthe; or, The Suicide. By the same author

Author: Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson
Publisher: Kaygill
Publication Year: 1805
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18.5cm
Pages: 22
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .E575


Set in a secluded castle in 1517 northern England, Sarah Wilkinson’s 1805 chapbook includes romance, jealousy, friendship, and mystery.


Material History

Monkcliffe Abbey, A Tale of the Fifteenth Century, To which is added, Lopez and Aranthe; or, The Suicide. By the same author was published in 1803 by Kaygill & Adcock, and written by Sarah Wilkinson. It was printed by W. Glindon in Haymarket, London, and sold for sixpence. The extant copy was originally printed as a chapbook, but later rebound into a collection of similar stories entitled The Entertainer, vol. 4. A handwritten table of contents, including titles, authors, and publishers, is included on the front endpaper. Page numbers are not included; due to the separate origins of each story, the numbers (along with fonts, margin sizes, and layouts) restart with each new chapbook. This volume of The Entertainer contains six chapbooks and sixteen unique stories, including Canterbury Tales.


The handwritten table of contents on a blank page at the beginning of The Entertainer, vol. 4, which includes Monkcliffe Abbey.

This copy is bound in a kind of thick cardboard material, covered with paper, and decoratively mottled in black and brown, protected by a clear plastic jacket for use in the library. It measures approximately 18.5 centimeters long by 11 centimeters wide. The spine is embossed in gold with the title, The Entertainer, which appears nowhere else in the book, and with embellishments on the spine’s edges and middle. This copy was bound with twine and glue, which is now quite delicate. The edges of the cover and spine are somewhat broken in, especially on the bottom of the spine, where the cardboard cover is beginning to crack off. Inside, the paper is yellowed and thin, but not brittle. Although the paper is discolored, it is not frequently stained—some small, splattered marks appear at intervals. The paper has an almost fabric-like texture, and is delicate while maintaining flexibility. Some pages are torn and folded, likely accidentally—none are dog-eared or torn completely out. In this copy, Monkcliffe Abbey is printed in a small serif font, with margins of two centimeters at top and bottom and one centimeter on the sides. Page numbers are found on the top outside corner of each page, printed in the same serif as the prose. The story is twenty-two pages long. The title page of the Monkcliffe Abbey chapbook lists the full title, including the addition of The Suicide. Every other instance of the title’s printing abbreviates it to only Monkcliffe Abbey, both on the first page of the story and in the handwritten table of contents. The author’s name is written as “S. Wilkinson” on the title page and in the table of contents, and as “Sarah Wilkinson” on the first page of the story. The title page also includes two illustrations, a larger one representing two women discovering a monk, and a smaller one under the title, with a man, right arm raised, walking up to a woman playing a sort of lute. The larger image has created a shadow of itself on the title page opposite. In the front of the book, an address card is inserted. Formal script on the front reads “Mrs. M.T.H. Sadler,” with an address included on its bottom left corner. The back reads “Oswick the Outlaw,” which has been handwritten in blue ink.


Textual History


The first page of Monkcliffe Abbey, including altered letters— “a” to “u” in the name “Barnett.”

Monkcliffe Abbey is one of Sarah Wilkinson’s lesser-known gothic stories, frequently left unmentioned in lists of her work and life achievements. There are two copies available through the library system at the University of Virginia. One of these copies, primarily discussed here, was published by “Kaygill, etc.” in London, in 1805, and rebound into a collection of gothic novels at a later date. The other was printed across the Atlantic, by James Oram in New York City, two years later. The full novel is also available online through scans of the collection America’s Historical Imprints. This online version is the later, American printing. There does not appear to be much discrepancy between the two copies, other than the specifics of their publication and their titles: the version published in New York by James Oram is entitled Monkcliffe Abbey, or, the History of Albert, Elwina, and Adeline, while the one published in London by Kaygill uses Monkcliffe Abbey: A Tale of the Fifteenth Century instead.

Monkcliffe Abbey is very rarely mentioned, either in collections of gothic works or works by Sarah Wilkinson, who was a prolific author of the genre. One exception can be found in The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880, where Diane Hoeveler discusses the text’s use of the abbey as a gothic trope:


The title page for Monkcliffe Abbey and a second text, Lopez and Aranthe.

“Sarah Wilkinson’s ‘Monkcliffe Abbey’ (1805) is an example of a chapbook that uses the abbey in order to dwell on the usurpation theme. Very specifically dated to 1517, the action begins the year that Sir Archibald Barnett retires to the former Carthusian abbey in the north of England with his wife and two daughters Adeline and Elwina… The abbey is the setting for a traditional romance between the daughters and their suitors, one of whom is fleeing a friend turned foe who disguises himself as a cowled monk in order to inhabit one of the ‘haunted’ wings of the abbey (Wilkinson, 2009: 185). An architectural description of the abbey suggests the antiquarian investment in the theme by a writer as simple and straightforward as Wilkinson. The ruined abbey functions in this chapbook as little more than a picturesque setting, but it possesses considerably more ideological freight in a work by such a writer as Nathan Drake.” (218–19)

The story is also mentioned in Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression by Kenneth Graham, in a list of Gothic illustrations. The illustration from Monkcliffe Abbey is the same title page engraving found in its London-printed edition, of “Adeline and Elwina in the typical Gothic situation of startled discovery” (Frank 287). This illustration is reprinted in Franz Potter’s collection of gothic chapbooks, many written by Sarah Wilkinson, Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830.


Narrative Point of View

Monkcliffe Abbey is narrated in the third person, past tense, and without a framing story. The narrator is never mentioned or alluded to within the novel. The text is fairly straightforward, but sentences are lengthy and full of information. The narration focuses equally on dialogue, action description, and omniscient insight into the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings. 

Elwina presently observed that the hand writing was the same—with the paper she had found in the chapel.—she was struck with horror and astonishment, when she reflected, that, perhaps, this victim of sorrow ere now had died through grief; or, perhaps, had committed some rash deed!—But, fearful of indulging her thoughts in this dismal place,—she deposited the paper with the picture on the shelf,—and returned with emotions of sorrow. (18)

One striking aspect of this narration is its use of punctuation. Especially in the above, quite active example, the exaggerated, slicing punctuation marks create a sense of quickness, motion, and finality. Throughout the text, this visual aspect—literally slicing between sentence fragments—is seen in more active scenarios, mirroring the choppy, frightened thoughts of the characters and creating a fast-paced feel.

The time for Albert’s departure being arrived, he claimed a gift from each of the ladies. Adeline presented him with a scarf of her own work, which he instantly bound round his bosom: Elwina presenting him with a ring from her finger; and, in a faultering voice, besought him to remember her father.—There was something so tender and pathetic in her manner, that it touched the strings of Albert’s heart,—at once with pity and respect for the lovely maiden. (15)

In more tender or calm scenes, such as this second example, the use of dashes has been reduced, although not completely halted. The more flowery, emotional, and flowing language of the second example serves to slow down the scene, emphasizing the tender and soft qualities of the characters in that moment. Even though the story is narrated in the third person, the omniscience of the narrator and the careful use of punctuation creates a sense of immersion.


Summary


The frontispiece for Monkcliffe Abbey.

Monkcliffe Abbey tells the story of a family living in seclusion in a sixteenth-century abbey according to the wishes of Sir Archibald Barnett, a retired warrior, and his wife, Lady Barnett. Along with their two young daughters and a small domestic staff, they live completely shut off from the outside world; no one is allowed to enter, and those who inhabit are only allowed to travel a short distance from the grounds of the abbey. Adeline Barnett, the eldest sister, is beautiful, but obscenely vain and arrogant. The younger sister, Elwina, is fair and sweet, and her generous character outshines her physical appearance. The girls enjoy walking in the country surrounding the abbey, and on one of their walks, they discover a knight lying in a puddle of his own blood. They frantically find help at a nearby cottage, and they return to the abbey while the knight is treated. After they explain the situation to their parents, Sir Archibald leaves for the cottage, only to discover the knight to be Albert de Clerville, a family friend. He brings Albert back to the abbey to recover in peace. Once Albert is well, he tells the whole family the story of his injury. His friend, Edward Barry, held a jealous grudge over Albert for his acquaintance with the beautiful Duchess Sophia Clifford. After dueling Barry multiple times and denying the requests of Lord Clifford to marry his daughter, he left the Clifford estate. On his journey, a helmeted knight stabbed him in the heart. 

While walking home one night, Elwina is startled by the figure of a hooded monk walking slowly in front of her. After running home, she is too agitated to explain her situation, and faints. The next day, Albert and Elwina decide to explore the chapel within the abbey, when the head servant, Margaret, rushes in to declare Lady Barnett dead of “an apoplectic fit” (14). As Elwina and Adeline are talking that evening, they see guards rushing towards the abbey. Sir Archibald is arrested due to apparent treasonous acts, and is taken to jail. Albert is left to plan the funeral of Lady Barnett and to watch over the house, but once the funeral is over, he leaves.


Sample text from page 18 of Monkcliffe Abbey.

Elwina is taking a walk some time later when, distracted, she wanders into an abandoned cell block in the abbey. To her surprise, someone appears to be living in one of the cells. She heads back to the chapel, and there finds the same monk she had seen before. He calls out to her, and they run into each other, falling and hitting their heads on the stone floor. Once Elwina wakes, she finds Margaret, and they investigate the cell together. There, the supposed monk reveals himself to be the knight Edward Barry, who believes he killed Albert after stabbing him in the heart. Elwina is unsure whether Albert is dead or alive, but to her relief, Albert returns to the abbey with Sir Archibald, no longer incarcerated, who has been given the title “Earl of Monkcliffe.” Adeline gets married to an unnamed man, and once Albert realizes his feelings for Elwina, they are married as well. The story ends with Elwina and Albert staying at Monkcliffe Abbey, in “a pattern of domestic virtues” (22).


Bibliography

Baines, Paul. “Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell (d. c. 1830), Writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/45868

Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, editors. “Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. <http://orlando.cambridge.org/>. Accessed 10 November 2021.

Frank, Frederick S. “Illustrations from Early Gothic Novels.” Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression, edited by Kenneth Graham. AMS Press, 1989, pp. 270–87.

Hoeveler, Diane Long. “Ruined Abbeys: Justifying Stolen Property and the Crusade against Superstition.” The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880, University of Wales Press, 2014, pp. 197–246.

Potter, Franz J., editor. Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830. Zittaw Press, 2009. 

Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Monkcliffe Abbey, a Tale of the Fifteenth Century. Kaygill Etc., 1805.

Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Monkcliffe Abbey, or, the History of Albert, Elwina and Adeline, to which is added, Lopez and Aranthe, or, The Suicide ; also, the beautiful little tale of the Abbey of Clunedale. James Oram, 1807.


Researcher: Grace C. Webb

The Secret Oath

The Secret Oath

The Secret Oath: Or Blood-stained Dagger, a Romance

Author: Mary Anne Radcliffe
Publisher: Tegg and Castleman
Publication Year: 1802
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18cm
Pages: 68
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.E575


This story written by Mary Anne Radcliffe in 1802 follows a family left destitute after the French Revolution and their quest to start a new life. The only thing in their way is a string of murders.


Material History

The Secret Oath or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance is the second story in volume one of The Entertainer. Seven stories make up the volume, each containing seventy-two pages, except for The Secret Oath (sixty-eight pages) and Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment (four pages). Each time a new story starts, the page numbers restart, with the exception of Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment, which continues pagination from the previous story, The Secret Oath, to result in a total of seventy-two pages. Each story has seventy-two pages because it matches the method of folding used to bind books at this time. The volume is bound in brown, acid-splattered leather and has gold lettering of The Entertainer on the spine. The text block has blue speckles for decoration. The Entertainer vol. 1 measures 18cm in height, 11cm in width, and 3cm in thickness.

The cover of The Entertainer

In the front cover, there is a handwritten table of contents and a list of exact duplicates also in the Sadleir Black Collection. Overall, the pages of the book are in good condition. All the text in The Secret Oath is readable apart from a small hole with a diameter of about 0.5cm on page 61, but this does not affect the overall understanding of the text. The pages inThe Secret Oath or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance and Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment are a slightly darker brown than the rest of the stories. This discoloration is caused by different types of paper used in the volume.

The pages in The Secret Oath use a consistent font and single-spaced lines. The margins differ due to folding techniques. The left-hand pages have side margins of 1cm while the right-hand pages have side margins of 0.5cm. The top margin for a page is either 1 or 2 cm. Each page has the title The Secret Oath on the top. The margin at the bottom of all the pages is 1cm. At the bottom of some right-hand pages, there are signature marks that indicate how the book should be folded. They start with “Ii” and end with “Oo3”. On the last page of the story, the word “Frederic” is present as a catch word for the book maker to know which story goes next. Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment was added after The Secret Oath to make the section 72 pages for folding purposes.

At the start of The Secret Oath, there is a title page that reads “The // Secret Oath // or // Blood-Stained Dagger, // a Romancewith a black and white illustration of a house in front of the woods. To the left of the title page, there is another illustration depicting a character reaching for a dagger while looking at a statue of a woman and her baby. This black and white illustration of a woman bled on to the title page and can be seen in a faint brown outline.


Textual History

This edition was printed by J. H. Hart and published for Tegg and Castleman in London on November 1, 1802. There is another edition of this chapbook in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library printed by T. Plummer and published for T. Hurst in London on November 1, 1802. The chapbook has many existing editions both in libraries and as online scans. For instance, there is a version in volume one of the second edition of The Marvelous Magazine published by T. Hurst.

Handwritten table of contents in the flyleaf and endpaper of The Entertainer

The author of The Secret Oath is not present on the title page or frontispiece. However, another chapbook entitled Monkish Mysteries; Or, the Miraculous Escape: Containing the History and the Villanies of the Monk Bertrand; The Detection of His Impious Frauds, and Subsequent Repentance and Retribution includes a printed note that says: “The whole written, adjusted and compiled solely for this work, by Mrs. Mary Anne Radclife, of Wimbledon in Surrey, author of the Secret oath, or blood-stained dagger” (Radcliffe Monkish Mysteries 2). This connects Mary Anne Radclife, usually spelled “Radcliffe,” to the The Secret Oath. There is another book in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library that includes the same note connecting Mary Anne Radcliffe to The Secret Oath called The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over the Arabian Deserts, to the British Settlements in India; : Containing, Among Other Particulars, an Account of the Perils He Experienced in Those Terrific Regions, the Eccentric Humors of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses in the War With Hyder Ally, &C (Radcliffe Adventures 2).

First page of The Secret Oath

Mary Anne Radcliffe was born in 1746 to James Clayton and Sarah née Bladderwick (Grundy). Her father died when she was four, and she was educated at Bar Convent in York, England. After fourteen years of life, she married Joseph Radcliffe, age thirty-five, in an elopement and had eight children with him throughout their marriage.

Her most known works include The Female Advocate (1799), Radcliffe’s New Novelist Pocket Magazine (1802), and Memoirs… in Familiar Letters to her Female Friend (1810). Some of these works are similar to The Secret Oath in the sense that they are sensationalized stories written for cheap entertainment, but others follow a feminist perspective on life and create arguments about more serious topics such as the shrinking job market for women and the risk of prostitution. Radcliffe was advertised in newspapers as an elegant entertainment writer, and her Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine was sold for six-pence at the time of its release (“Advertisements and Newspapers” 4). This magazine, which is more like a collection of stories, includes The Secret Oath. Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine was published by Thomas Hurst.

Isobel Grundy suggests that Radcliffe requested that her name remain out of some of her pieces, but that this was not always respected. Specifically, Radcliffe’s name was put on The Female Advocate despite her wish to remain anonymous. This connected her to Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine and other chapbooks. Her publisher was also known to switch published works with a different author’s name to Radcliffe’s name after the first edition of a book had been published. For example, The Mysterious Baron (1808) was switched from Eliza Ratcliffe to Mary Anne Radcliffe after its initial print (Grundy). The reason for these changes is unknown, but it is likely that the publisher was using the similarities between Radcliffe’s name and the more famous Ann Radcliffe, author of A Sicilian Romance (1790), to catch the eye of readers. Another possibility is that Radcliffe used a false name for some books in order to remain more anonymous.

After having eight children and publishing many works focusing on topics from thrilling murders to the issues of women, Radcliffe died of a health decline in August of 1818 and is buried in Old Calton cemetery, Edinburgh (Grundy).


Narrative Point of View

The Secret Oath is narrated in third-person past tense. The narrator is omniscient and never appears as a character in the text. The narration focuses on characters’ actions and emotions and uses long sentences separated by commas for each thought. The narrator does not focus on the setting and does not use descriptive language to describe the environment. The focus is on the actions of characters in the story and the feelings of each character.

Sample Passage:

They entered the old cabriolet, and after a rude journey arrived at Maschere, where they entered an Inn, and a surgeon was sent for to dress the Marquis’s wounds. – He pronounced it impossible to proceed on the journey without endangering his patient’s life ; in consequence of which, the Marchioness hired some apartments at a farm-house, on the road to Caffagiolo, contiguous to his surgeon. De Montfort had mental as well as bodily wounds to struggle with : he con-sidered himself as the murderer of Dorville–he, who had preserved his life, and illuminated the gloom of exile with the balm of friendship. – His daughter also felt a perpetual pang in the reflection that Dorville, whom she esteemed more than any man living, had been slain by her father’s hand ! (33–4)

This excerpt demonstrates how the narrator focuses on the emotions and actions of each character over any other aspect of the story. With its third-person point of view, the narration takes away any bias that a first-person perspective would have, but this does not take away all of the suspense. Omniscient narration here gives an insight to all the characters’ feelings and experiences, which tie into the universal knowledge of the narrator, but some details are left out throughout the novel to maintain suspense. How a person is feeling is not left a secret, but their fate is unknown until an action comes to determine it. This stylistic choice keeps the story mysterious while also providing insight to each character’s interiority.


Summary

A Secret Oath or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance follows an ex-Marquis named Albert de Montfort, his wife Madame de Montfort, and his daughter Serina. The book describes how the family is forced to flee from Paris, France in 1792 during the French revolution. After fourteen years of poverty following their escape, de Montfort accepts an invitation from his deceased father’s godson, M. Dodier, to stay at his chateau until the family can get back on their feet. De Montfort is hesitant to accept because M. Dodier received the de Montfort family fortune after the death of Albert de Montfort’s father, and there is a lack of trust between the two men. Serina convinces her father to accept the invitation and the family moves to the chateau. The house is completely empty except for Aquilina and Orsano Cormazzo, the mysterious caretakers of the property.

Frontispiece for The Secret Oath depicting Serina de Montfort

One day, de Montfort comes home covered in blood after gambling with friends. He claims that he was trying to save a dying man in the woods. Law enforcement accuses him of the murder, and they discover evidence in Madame de Montfort and Serina’s rooms that also connect them to the crime. De Montfort and his family are taken to prison in a faraway town, but one by one they avoid their sentence with the help of various people. Serina’s helper saves her under the condition that she marry Argand, M. Dodier’s son. Next, Madame de Montfort is released after the murder victim is revealed to have survived. She reunites with Serina after hearing rumors of her location. De Montfort was the last to be released. On the way to find his family, the living victim of the attack, Dorville, offers to help find his wife and daughter because he feels bad that de Montfort was sent to prison for no reason. De Montfort accepts, and eventually they find Madame and Serina. De Montfort makes it clear that Serina will not be marrying Argand because he does not want the man who took his family inheritance to take his daughter too. M. Dodier kicks the family out of the chateau, and Dorville offers to let the family stay in his mansion a few cities away.

They travel through France to get to Dorville’s home. Dorville and Serina become close. While staying in an apartment overnight, Serina wakes to a man in a black mask holding a dagger above her heart. The masked man realizes he has the wrong person and claims that if she keeps this visit a secret then her father may live, but if she says anything he will kill her father and Dorville. Serina swears the secret oath, and the man gives her an ebony crucifix with the word “Remember!” carved on the back as a reminder of her promise (21).

After her visit by the mysterious man, Serina goes to a church to confess. After she divulges her oath, the abbot demands that she stay in the church for six months to pray in darkness. She has no escape from her punishment and is brought to a garden to pray. In this garden, a mysterious man helps her escape. Once the pair is over the wall, there is a fight between new attackers and Serina’s helper. Serina’s helper reigns victorious in the fight. However, Serina’s father was planning on saving her too, and when he sees the man and Serina surrounded by bodies, de Montfort attacks the man and kills him. Serina sees that her helper was Dorville. She is extremely sad but must run from the church to avoid another imprisonment.

Title page

The family adopts the false name of Berthier to protect their identity. With the help of an attorney named Cattivo, they purchase an apartment and stay out of the public eye. Since the family has no money, de Montfort uses a ring that he won while gambling as payment. Cattivo takes a liking to Serina and demands her hand in marriage. The family says no, and Cattivo threatens to blackmail the Berthiers unless Serina marries him. They still say no, so Cattivo takes de Montfort to court and accuses him of stealing the ring that was used to pay for the apartment. The ring is found to belong to a Count Cuculli, a man de Montfort used to gamble with. The count arrives at court, recognizes de Montfort as the accused “M. Berthier”, and drops all charges because he trusts de Montfort’s integrity.

After de Montfort is released from jail, he receives a note that he should go to the count’s mansion. De Montfort runs over to the mansion and finds his wife and daughter. They tell de Montfort that the count discovered a plot to hurt Serina. The count decided to keep watch over their room while de Montfort was in jail awaiting release. Men came and attacked the two ladies, but the count stabbed one attacker, who was later revealed to be M. Dodier, and saved the women. Serina and Madame de Montfort stayed with the count until de Montfort was released. They continue to stay with the count as a family.

One day, Serina is basking in the sunlight when Dorville appears and starts talking to her. He rambles about how he is married to a sickly woman and how he was manipulated by another woman named Maria. Serina is in near hysterics that he is alive, so they agree to meet the next day and talk once she has calmed down. The next day, Dorville says that he never left his home until now, so the man that de Montfort killed in the church garden was not him. However, during this time, he was forced to marry a sickly woman even though they did not love each other. Serina is crushed that Dorville is married, but de Montfort is happy that Dorville is not dead and invites him to stay with them in the count’s house.

Sample text of page 63 of The Secret Oath

After talking all night about Dorville’s journey, the two men make connections about the past. During the time de Montfort thought he was dead, Dorville visited the house of Monsieur Beaulieu, a wealthy man with a much younger wife named Maria. Dorville was seduced by Maria and almost fell for her. However, he realized that she only wanted his money. Maria was known to have many men in her life, one of note being Cattivo. He confessed that he loved Serina to get out of the relationship. After this story is told, the men figure out that Maria is the person who is responsible for the attacks on Serina. Her jealousy has made her vengeful. It is revealed that she enlisted Cattivo to kill Serina. The men decide to go to the house of Maria to confront her.

At the house, Dorville learns nothing from Maria. While they talk, de Montfort witnesses the murder of Monsieur Beaulieu, Maria’s husband. De Montfort is accused of the murder. Dorville pressures Maria to testify in court on de Montfort’s behalf, and she agrees. She clears de Montfort’s name and blames the murder on Cattivo, the attorney who sold the Montfort’s their old apartment and who is also Maria’s lover. After Monsieur Beaulieu’s death, the men bring the rest of the Montfort family to the house of Monsieur Beaulieu. The motive behind some attacks is unclear until M. Dodier shows up to the house and asks to confess his crimes. He suffers from a stab wound that was inflicted a few days ago and fears that he will die. He admits that the entire plot to kill de Montfort was based on revenge because de Montfort said that his son could not marry Serina. He attempted to kill de Montfort in the woods of the chateau, but he accidentally attacked Dorville. This left a witness to his crimes, so M. Dodier tried to eliminate Dorville again, but this time he accidentally went to Serina’s room. He was the masked man that made her swear the secret oath. Before M. Dodier could say more, he died of the stab wound the count gave him while protecting Serina. In the end, Maria tries to flee the country with Cattivo to avoid imprisonment for her murder plot, but Cattivo murders Maria because she accused him in the trial of her husband’s death. Serina and Dorville get married after Dorville’s first wife died of sickness, and the entire family moved to England in search of financial prosperity.


Bibliography

“Advertisement and Notices.” Northampton Mercury, 28 Aug. 1802, 1–4. British Library Newspapers, link.gale.com/apps/doc/GR3218890636/BNCN?u=viva_uva&sid=bookmark-BNCN&xid=a13a0781. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.

Grundy, Isobel. “Radcliffe, Mary Ann (b. c. 1746, d. in or after 1810), Writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 Sept. 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/37876. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.

Radcliffe, Mary Anne. The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over the Arabian Deserts, to the British Settlements In India; : Containing, Among Other Particulars, an Account of the Perils He Experienced In Those Terrific Regions, the Eccentric Humors of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In the War With Hyder Ally, &C. London, T. Hurst, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online,
https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u4351511. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.

——. Monkish Mysteries; Or, the Miraculous Escape: Containing the History and the Villanies of the Monk Bertrand; :The Detection of His Impious Frauds, and Subsequent Repentance and Retribution. Nottingham, T. Hurst, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u4351072. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.

——. The Secret Oath: Or Blood-stained Dagger, a Romance. London 2nd ed., vol. 1, Printed for T. Hurst, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u835942. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.

——. The Secret Oath: Or Blood-stained Dagger, a Romance. London, Tegg and Castleman, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u835019. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.


Researcher: D. Smith

The Monastery of St. Mary

The Monastery of St. Mary

The Monastery of St. Mary: Or, the White Maid of Avenel. A Scottish Tale.

Author: Emilia Grossett
Publisher: J. Bailey
Publication Year: Unknown
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.8cm x 17.4cm
Pages: 24
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .G76 M n.d.


This early nineteenth-century chapbook by Emilia Grossett is a Scottish tale featuring various encounters with the mythical White Maid of Avenel. The story is believed to be plagiarized from The Monastery by Walter Scott.


Material History

The Monastery of St. Mary by Emilia Grossett is a short text, only twenty-four pages in length. The size of the pamphlet is only 17.4 by 10.8 centimeters. The pages are yellowed with age and relatively thin. The font appears to be one that is standard to today’s texts, similar to Times New Roman. The pamphlet is not bound by any sort of cover, though pamphlets from this era were frequently bound with a leather cover or bound with other similar pamphlets together as a bunch. 

The title page for The Monastery of St. Mary

Since this copy of the pamphlet is unbound, the first thing that the viewer sees is the label that reveals that it is from the Sadleir-Black Collection at the University of Virginia. On the backside of that page is the only illustration that can be found in this pamphlet. The illustration is in color, and it shows a man in a kilt and a woman wrapped in a white sheet. The man’s brightly colored pink socks have bled through the page, and the ink can be seen on the previously mentioned cover page. The pink marking caused by the bleeding of the sock color seems irregular and is likely not visible in most other copies of this pamphlet. After the illustration comes the pamphlet’s title page, which states the full title, The Monastery of St. Mary: Or, the White Maid of Avenel. A Scottish Tale,followed by the author’s name and the publishing information. On this title page, a faint mark of the previous illustration can be seen as though it was printed onto the page like a watermark. This mark is most likely sun damage or staining, and not an intentional addition to the text.

One noticeable and possibly confusing part of the book to the untrained eye is the page numbers. The standard page numbers, which number up to twenty-four on the final page, are in the top corner of the text. There is a second set of numbers, however, that appears at the bottom of the first five odd-numbered pages. These numbers have the letter A in front of them (A2, A3, etc.) and are useless to the reader, but very important to the printer of the text. When pamphlets like these were printed in large sheets and then folded and cut into the order that they were meant to be read in, the printer used these numbers to ensure that the pages were configured correctly. 

Some final details that one might notice when looking through the pamphlet include the publishing information and the price. The price is listed on the title page as sixpence. The publishing information appears on the title page below the price, and on the final page below “The End.” This reveals that the pamphlet was published in London, despite its advertisement as a Scottish tale.


Textual History

One of the most important things to note about Emilia Grossett’s chapbook, The Monastery of St. Mary, is that it was almost certainly plagiarized from Walter Scott’s 1820 novel, The Monastery. Both the novel and the chapbook have the same characters as well as the same plotlines, except for the chapbook being a simplified version of the plot due to its brevity in length. This makes it difficult to find information about the chapbook specifically, because any mention of the character names or locations in the chapbook almost always lead to mentions of Scott’s novel.

The frontispiece for The Monastery of St. Mary

There is a beautiful frontispiece in The Monastery of St. Mary, but unfortunately the illustrator’s name is either unlisted or illegible. The illustrations of similar scenes such as one titled Halbert Glendinning’s First Invocation of The White Maid of Avenel in an 1821 London edition of Walter Scott’s The Monastery were done by a man named Richard Westall, but they are clearly not by the same illustrator as the chapbook version because Westall’s work looks much more polished and professional than the frontispiece in The Monastery of St. Mary (Font 130).

Under the caption of the frontispiece, the publisher of the chapbook is listed as “J. Bailey.” This was a publisher who operated out of London at 116 Chancery Lane. According to E. W. Pitcher, Bailey was active at that address from the years 1809 to 1815, however there is also evidence pointing to Bailey publishing before 1809 and after 1815, including this chapbook which, though undated, was presumably published after the 1820 novel that it plagiarizes (Pitcher 78, Koch 75). According to the British Museum’s archives J. Bailey was active in publishing from 1799 to 1825 when the press was eventually shared with at least one other man by the same surname, William Bailey, suspected to be his son (“J Bailey”). J. Bailey is listed as the publisher for many gothic chapbooks and pamphlets from the early nineteenth century, among other small literary works and informational handbills (Bonnets 41).

Emilia Grossett is a fairly mysterious author with not much credited work in the literary field. There are a couple texts that have her listed as the author, however, including The Spirit of The Grotto from 1799, and The Freebooter’s Wife from 1819 (Summers 56). The latter title is listed as a book, not a chapbook, published as one volume. Montague Summers’s Gothic Bibliography and several library catalogues, including WorldCat, spell the author’s surname as “Grosett” as opposed to “Grossett” as it appears on the title page of The Monastery of St. Mary. Grossett’s other known texts were not published by J. Bailey. 


Narrative Point of View

The Monastery of St. Mary is written in the third person by an anonymous narrator who is not a character in the text. The narrator mostly focuses on the dialogue and events that transpire throughout the world of the story, but they occasionally exhibit omniscience by describing the characters’ thoughts or feelings that are unvoiced in the story. The language used by the narrator is modern enough that it reads very easily, with the exception being the dialogue, which sounds a little more antiquated than the general writing style in the text. As would be expected, the text uses British spelling which is noticeable in instances such as writing “pedlar” instead of “peddler.”

Sample Passage:

Father Philip, eager to acquaint the Abbot of the discovery he had made, rode homeward as quick as his mule would carry him ; and in spite of the haste he made, the moon had risen before he reached the banks of the river, which it was necessary for him to cross to reach the Monastery. As the Monk came close to the water’s edge, he saw a female sitting under the remains of a large broken oak tree, looking on the current, and weeping most piteously ; surprised to see a female there at that time of night, yet supposing her grief arose from her wish to cross the river. Father Philip politely addressed her, and offered to carry her across on his mule. (5)

This excerpt demonstrates the narrator’s use of the third person, the description of scenery and events in the story, and insight into the characters’ (in this case Father Philip’s) thoughts and emotions in response to events or other characters in the text. This description of the internal reaction that the woman causes in the monk offers a clearer idea of how the character feels about the White Maid of Avenel than just a description of her appearance would. In the description of the woman, the narrator also offers an interpretation of her emotional state, that she is “weeping most piteously,” which seems to be the way that Father Philip perceives the woman and not necessarily just a description of what she is doing.


Summary

The Monastery of St. Mary is set on the border of Scotland, where the magnificent Monastery of St. Mary sits on the bank of a river. Simon Glendenning and his family live in the Tower of Glendearg, which is located a few miles from the monastery in a hidden glen. Despite the tower’s inaccessible nature, Simon is called to war and dies at the battle of Pinkie. His widow Elspeth surrenders her tower and is pitied by the Englishmen.

The widow of Sir Walter Avenel, whose husband was killed in the same manner as Simon Glendenning, has been forced from her home by the Englishmen and is roaming helplessly around the country with her children. They find shelter in the home of a shepherd, Martin, and his wife, Tibb, but their cattle have been killed and they will soon starve if they stay there. The group decides to take a chance and go to the Tower of Glendearg, hoping that Elspeth will welcome them due to Lady Avenel’s high status, which she does. 

Text from The Monastery of St. Mary

Lady Avenel intends to return to her mansion once the country is more peaceful, but Julian Avenel seizes possession of the mansion. Therefore, Lady Avenel stays at Glendearg where her health gradually declines due to the death of her husband. Elspeth sends Martin to fetch the priest at the monastery so that Lady Avenel can confess before she dies. The priest emerges from her chamber after a long wait and is in a foul mood. He says that he suspects the house to “be foul with heresy” (5). Elspeth is alarmed but admits that Lady Avenel often reads out of a black book. Father Phillip is horrified when he sees that it is a book of holy scriptures, which is a sin when possessed by anyone but a priest. He takes the book from them.

On his way back, the priest reaches the river and sees a woman weeping on the bank. He calls out to help her. She leaps on the back of the mule and leads it into the water, then dunks the priest in the water thrice and throws him on the bank where he lies unconscious. Once he is found, the book of scriptures is gone. His jumbled story is questioned by many people, including Father Eustace, who goes to Glendearg to enquire about the priest’s visit. 

Father Eustace is informed of a strange figure who returned the book, which he again confiscates. On his way back, the priest’s mule stops suddenly at a turn in the road and hears an unbodied female voice whispering to him. He is then thrown from his mule, unconscious, and wakes up in the dark. Upon returning to the monastery, the priest learns that a trooper had gone to confession after seeing a white woman on the path where he intended to murder Father Eustace that night. The trooper, named Cristie of the Clinthill, accepts a gold cross from the father before departing. The priest realizes that the book is once again gone. 

Days later, Halbert Glendenning goes out alone and summons the White Maid. She helps him retrieve the book, then disappears. Halbert returns to the Tower with the book, and finds a miller and his daughter, Mysie. Soon after their arrival, Cristie of the Clinthill and Sir Piercie Shafton arrive, hoping to find hospitality there since the knight is fleeing death in England. Halbert and the knight clash with one another, due to their mutual superiority complexes. 

The next day, Halbert is once again offended by Sir Piercie, and goes to summon the White Maid. She gives no advice but hands him a token to use when Sir Piercie boasts again. Upon returning to the tower Halbert is once again offended by Sir Piercie, so he presents the token. It works, and the knight is immediately calmed, but realizes Halbert’s power over him and says that it will cost the boy his life. They agree to duel in the woods the following morning. When the morning comes, they go to the site of the enchanted fountain to fight. They find in its place a neatly dug grave and shovel, which Halbert denies preparing.

They duel, and despite the knight being a more skilled fighter than Halbert, the latter stabs Sir Piercie, apparently killing him. Halbert tries to summon the White Maid, but nothing happens, and he screams curses at her for putting him in this position. Fleeing, Halbert finds a man in the valley who he drags back to the site of the duel, hoping to save the knight. They find the grave filled, but the only trace of the knight is his doublet that was laid down before the duel. The stranger, named Henry Warden, listens to the story and advises Halbert to find shelter at the castle of Julian Avenel instead of returning home. 

At the castle they find Julian accompanied by a young woman, Catherine, who is unmarried although pregnant. This offends Henry because he is a preacher, and he advises Julian to marry the woman. Julian is enraged by his advice and throws Henry in the dungeon. Halbert is locked in a bedroom to stop him from interfering. Halbert escapes his room through a window. 

Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Glendearg are alarmed that Halbert and Sir Piercie have yet to return, and they send Martin out to look for them. Martin finds the grave, the bloodstains, and the doublet. Martin returns and is telling the others what he found, when Sir Piercie walks into the apartment wearing blood-stained clothes. This leads them to believe that Halbert is dead, and Edward decides to get revenge for his brother’s death. He confines the knight to a guarded room until the grave can be searched the following morning. Father Eustace arrives at the castle and requests a private meeting with Sir Piercie, who admits that Halbert wounded him and he fell unconscious, before waking up with the realization that his wound had miraculously healed. 

The final page for The Monastery of St. Mary

It is forgotten that Mysie’s bedroom is within the larger room in which the knight is being held, and she overhears his conversation with Father Eustace. Mysie takes pity on the knight and decides to save him. She goes to the door and whispers to Edward that she is trapped. Edward opens the door and Mysie and the knight exit the apartment, undiscovered by Edward due to the lack of light in the stairwell. The knight flees with Mysie on a horse but is almost immediately seen and shot at by Edward. They manage to escape, and they eventually stop in a village to rest. Mysie disguises herself as a man. 

Meanwhile, Halbert has found an inn in which to stay and there he meets a pedlar who knows where to find the recipient of Henry Warden’s letter, Lord Moray. The two men agree to travel together the following morning, and they find themselves before the Earl of Moray. The Earl is informed that the Monastery of St. Mary is surrounded by English troops who are searching for Sir Piercie Shafton. Halbert is instructed to lead the men to the monastery and advise the two sides to wait until the Earl arrives to fight. The Earl and Sir John Foster arrive simultaneously, and the former announces that his purpose was fulfilled, since they had captured Sir Piercie. Upon closer inspection, they discover that the person they captured is in fact Mysie.

All of the troops arrive in procession at the monastery, in search of Sir Piercie. The knight advances from the crowd and says that he is leaving England with his bride, Mysie. Halbert and Mary Avenel marry and regain possession of the Castle of Avenel. They live there with Elspeth, Martin, and Tibb happily ever after. Edward joins the Monastery of St. Mary and beholds the last sight of the White Maid of Avenel, whose fountain eventually dries up and is never seen again. 


Bibliography

Koch, Angela. “‘The Absolute Horror of Horrors’ Revised: A Bibliographical Checklist of Early-Nineteenth-Century Gothic Bluebooks.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 9 (Dec 2002), pp. 45–110. 

BONNETS. 1819. The British Stage and Literary Cabinet 4, (35) (11): 41–2.

“J Bailey.” The British Museum. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/AUTH227817. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

Font, Lourdes M. “Five Scenes from a Romance: The Identification of a Nineteenth-Century Printed Cotton.” Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 22, 1987, pp. 115–132. 

Grosett, Emilia. The Freebooter’s Wife: Or, the Hag of Glenburne; A Scottish Romance. W. Mason, 1819. 

Grossett, Emilia. The Monastery of St. Mary: Or, the White Maid of Avenel. A Scottish Tale. J. Bailey, 1820.

Pitcher, E. W. “Pirates and Publishers Reconsidered: a Response to Madeline Blondel.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 75, no. 1, 1981, pp. 75–81. 

Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune press, 1941.


Researcher: Rain J. Eguiguren

The Mystic Tower

The Mystic Tower

The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A Romance.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Printed for Kaygill by W. Glindon
Publication Year: 1800
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.75cm x 17.5cm
Pages: 42
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.M894 1800


Published in 1800 without identifying an author, this shilling-shocker set during the Holy Wars tells a tale of romance, murder, terror, and mystery.


Material History

One’s first 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.

The title page for The Mystic Tower.

The peculiar 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.


Textual History

The Mystic Tower has no known author, which makes it difficult for scholars to trace the work’s publication history.

The frontispiece for the The Mystic Tower, depicting Father Austin and Matilda standing terrified by the knight.

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 third-person narration:

“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 first-person narration:

“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.


Summary

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 sample of the text, from page 13 of The Mystic Tower.

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.

The final page of The Mystic Tower.

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 faints. 

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.


Bibliography

Frank, Frederick. “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.

“T Kaygill,” British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG154036. Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

“W Glindon,” British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG159720. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.


Researcher: Olivia M. Walker

Spectre of the Turret

Spectre of the Turret

Spectre of the Turret; or Guolto Castle

Author: Isaac Crookenden
Publisher: Printed and Sold by R. Harrild
Publication Year: Unknown
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.9cm x 17.8cm
Pages: 32
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C76 Sp n.d.


This early nineteenth-century chapbook by Isaac Crookenden presents an intricate story about relationships and family, weaving together romance, violence, betrayal, and the actions of a supernatural force.


Material History

Upon first glance, Spectre of the Turret looks simple and modest. The book was recently rebound in plain dark brown cloth. There is no text indicating the title or author nor are there any illustrations or decorations on the cover or the back of the book. The exact dimensions of the book are 17.8 by 10.9 cm. After opening the book, there is a mark of ownership on the left-hand side of the inside of the cover of the book. It is a medium sized cream sticker that has a blue University of Virginia symbol with the call number of the book. Below the UVA symbol and the call number, it states the words: “The Sadleir-Black Collection” and underneath it says: “Presented by Robert K. Black.” 

The title page for Spectre of the Turret

There is one blank page when opening the book. On the front of the next page, a ghost image of a rectangle can be found. This is from the illustration bleeding through from the back of the page. The illustration is hand-colored and is still quite vivid. Since it is hand-colored, it can remain quite colorful if it is not exposed to light unlike the actual text of the story which looks faded. The picture depicts a man dressed in the outfit similar to a knight’s, and he is holding up a bloodied cloth. There is also a dagger stained with blood lying on the floor next to him. The caption appears right under the illustration and says “The Handkerchief was stained with Life’s Crimson Stream and the Dagger was encrusted with blood! – See pg. 18” On the next page, the title and author are revealed. The full title says “Spectre of the Turret; or Guolto Castle.” The title is fairly large and centered on the page, and the words of the title are done in various fonts. This was a stylistic choice that was popular at the time to make the titles seem more interesting. Written right below the title are the words: “A Romance.” Underneath these words, the name of the author is written: “By Isaac Crookenden.” Following the author’s name and written beneath, there is a quote by Shakespeare as follows: “Tremble thou wretch, who has within Thee crimes, unwhipt of justice! Hide thee thy bloody hand!” Under this, information about the publisher is written as: “London: Printed and Sold by R. Harrild, 20, Great Eastcheap.” On the title page, there is a small faded pencil marking in the upper right-hand corner of the page. The pencil marking seems to be from a bookseller to indicate the price of the book and the stock number.

This page shows the small rips at the top of the page and the only footnote in the entire text

After the back of the title page, which is left blank, the next page contains the text of the actual story. Right above where the story starts, the shortened title of the story is written: “Spectre of the Turret.” The following pages contain the text of the story. The pages are light cream in color, but they are slightly browned in some areas. There are a couple of stains but none that make the text unreadable. To the touch, the pages are not brittle, but they do show a few signs of aging. There are page numbers on the top of every page ranging from 4 to 32. The text is black in color but looks slightly faded. This is because the paper ages and, with it, the text fades as well. The font is small and closely set, but it is still quite easy to read. The margins on the sides of the book are small, but the margins on the top and bottom are much wider. This is a result of the book not being trimmed very much after it was printed. Some pages have tiny rips on the top but none that obstruct the text.

There is no table of contents page in the book. Once the actual story begins, the text is the only thing present. There are no additional illustrations or decorations. There is a footnote present on page 11 for clarification on a specific word. Each page ends with a catchword, where the first word of the next page is printed in the footer in order to ensure that the printer ordered the pages correctly. The last page in the book ends with “FINIS” after the few final lines of the story. Altogether, this copy of Spectre of the Turret is in fairly good condition as it has been recently rebound so it is intact and the pages have not shown signs of significant aging or damage.


Textual History

Spectre of the Turret was written by Isaac Crookenden. He was known as a famous plagiarizer during his career and made a significant amount of money from stealing other people’s ideas and using them in his stories. Crookenden is “probably the most notorious counterfeiter of legitimate Gothic novels” (Frank 59). Isaac Crookenden wrote many chapbooks during the early nineteenth century. Some of his other works include The Skeleton, The Mysterious Murder, and Horrible Revenge, or, The Monster of Italy!!. The date of publication of Spectre of the Turret is not listed on the Sadlier-Black Collection at the University of Virginia, and it is indicated as undated in Frederick S. Frank’s “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820” as well. The publisher listed on the chapbook is R. Harrild in London. However, multiple copies of the book at different libraries, listed on WorldCat, have stated 1815 as the publication date. One copy of the book from the Huntington Library listed O Hodgson as the publisher and the publication date as 1810. Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography supplies the date of publication for the work as around 1810. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biographylists the four publishers that Crookenden worked for as: S. Fisher, A. Neil, J. Lee, and R. Harrild as well as stating that the publication date for Spectre of the Turret was between 1810 and 1820. The speculation between the publishers and publication dates for the book might indicate that other editions were printed as well in different places, but does not conclusively determine the precise printing of this edition. 

The frontispiece for Spectre of the Turret

This work does not have a preface or introduction and does not have a prequel or sequel either. “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820” states that there are “several crude drawings” and says that “a half-dozen tower Gothics are mixed together and condensed into this garrish bluebook” (Frank 59). There have been no reprintings of this work in the later nineteenth century or twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography notes that none of Crookenden’s works were reviewed by scholars, and this text was not adapted in any form.

There are two contemporary digital copies available through Google Books. One of the digital copies says the original edition is from the British Library. These two digital copies also state the publication date as 1815 in the information about the book but not explicitly in the text. They seem slightly different from the chapbook from the Sadlier-Black Collection. The illustration has a different color scheme in the digital copies. The specific version of Spectre of the Turretfrom the Sadlier-Black Collection has an illustration with a light brown background and a man wearing a cream coat and red pants while kneeling next to a yellow chest. In the digital copies on Google Books, the illustration has a very dark background and a man wearing a royal blue coat and red pants while kneeling next to a red chest. This might be further evidence that there were other editions published of this chapbook, or that the same edition was hand-painted after publication. 

Other locations that have this book are: Harvard University, Princeton University, the Huntington Library, Pennsylvania State University, University of Oxford, British Library Reference Collections, and Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands.


Narrative Point of View

Spectre of the Turret contains two different types of narration. The majority of the story is told from a third-person point of view. However, there are also a few instances when the narrator uses first-person plural pronouns such as “we” when directly addressing the reader. The narration, as a whole, includes lengthy physical descriptions of the characters and offers brief glimpses into their minds, while also focusing on the plot and the action.

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:

A huge mass of armour was the contents, which Florielmo instantly proceeded to examine, and discovered a napkin stuffed into the hollow of the helmet, which on being unfolded, a dagger dropt out of it; the handkerchief was stained with life’s crimson stream, and the dagger was encrusted with blood! Here was a demonstration of the truth of the spectre’s awful words. Florielmo carefully concealed these bloody proofs; and making no other discovery of any importance, he closed the chest in such a manner as to elude suspicion, and waited the arrival of the man with his breakfast. The day was past by Florielmo in ruminating on his uncle’s unparalleled baseness, of his mother’s horrible fate, and of the possibility of divulging the guilty secret to the world; absorbed in these thoughts, night again overtook him. (18)

Sample Passage of Narration Using First-Person Plural and Direct Address:

We now beg the reader’s attention while we relate the misfortunes of that young man, and show how unjustly he has been accused. (11)

The two types of narrative styles affect the story in two distinct ways. The third-person point of view creates fast-paced events, placing emphasis on the action and the conversations between characters. The first-person point of view and moments of direct address emerge when there are turning points in the plot. Each instance of direct address temporarily slows down the pace of the plot, while simultaneously signifying that what follows is essential to the story. The few sentences that use direct address also portray a more personal relationship between the narrator and the characters, indicating that the narrator cares for the characters in some way or, as in the example above, that the narrator is biased in the character’s favor. 


Summary

Spectre of the Turret opens with Signor Guolto coming home to his castle on the banks of the Tagus after years of serving his country. His wife died while he was away fighting in the Spanish War, and the narrator notes that even though his wife was lower in status than him, they still had a loving marriage. He sends for his daughter who is staying at his sister’s home. His sister looked down on him for marrying someone below his status and, because of this, she did not treat Signor Guolto’s daughter very well. His daughter, Aspasia, is very happy to come home and see her father. 

A young man named Don Florielmo comes to visit Aspasia and her father. He is the son of Guolto’s dear friend who died in battle and who once wished for Aspasia and Floriellmo to get married. Florielmo’s mother had disappeared after her husband’s death. Aspasia and Florielmo are very much in love, and are ready to get married. Florielmo receives a letter from his uncle, Manuel, that half of the estate has been taken by a fire and that Florielmo is needed back at home. Florielmo tells Aspasia that he will be back shortly, but she is very sad that he is leaving so soon. A month passes by without any word from Florielmo until one day Aspasia receives a letter that says that Florielmo is breaking up with her. She is completely heartbroken. 

A man named Lord Mountguardo comes to the castle to talk to Aspasia’s father. Even though he seems nice, Aspasia feels that there is something else hidden behind his outward character. Mountguardo reveals that he wants to marry Aspasia. He tells her that he knew Florielmo, and he has heard him brag about how much Aspasia has completely fallen for him. She becomes incredibly sad after hearing this about Florielmo. 

The scene transfers from Aspasia’s father consoling her after Mountguardo’s visit to what really happened to Florielmo. Florielmo is travelling to his home and lays down to get some sleep when he suddenly wakes up, tied up in a boat. The two men in the boat bring him to his own castle, and he thinks that they are going to murder him. They bring him into the castle and keep him prisoner in a turret in one of the towers. Florielmo is very confused about what is happening and worried about what Aspasia will think. The turret is a small room that contains a bed, a bookcase full of books, and a locked wooden chest. Since there is nothing for him to do, Florielmo takes a book and starts reading. The title is “The Noble Slave” and begins with a woman named Rudolpha and her husband, Orlando, awaiting a boat from their friend Lupo to take them away from their persecutors. However, when Lupo arrives, it is clear to see that he betrayed them as three soldiers come forward and seize Orlando. They are about to hit him when Rudolpha intervenes. Florielmo is interrupted in his reading by the arrival of breakfast and a letter from his uncle, Count Manuel. The letter states that Florielmo will remain a prisoner in the turret if he doesn’t sign half of his estates away to his uncle. His uncle makes it clear that he is very desperate for the money. Florielmo says that he will never do this and would rather remain in the turret forever. Aspasia comes to his mind at this moment, and he wonders what will happen to their relationship. He feels a strange parallel between his current life and the story that he has just been reading.

Florielmo goes to sleep and starts dreaming that he is reading the book. In his dream, while he is reading, a ghost-like woman appears with a stab wound on her chest that is pouring out with blood. Florielmo wakes up in terror and sees that same woman standing in the room. She reveals herself to be his mother and that she was killed by his uncle. She urges him to look at the locked chest to discover more evidence. The woman also says that it was the servants’ fault that he was put in this turret and that the count thinks that he is prisoner in the northern tower. She continues speaking and says that he should not sign his estates away. His mother vanishes when the clock strikes midnight. Florielmo wakes up from his dream and is in shock for awhile but decides to break open the chest. He finds armour and a napkin covering a dagger stained with old blood and a bloodied handkerchief. He hides this evidence away and closes the chest before anyone comes up to his room and discovers it. 

The final page of text in Spectre of the Turret

The story changes from Florielmo’s situation to Aspasia’s. Lord Mountguardo keeps visiting to woo her. Signor Guolto likes him, but Aspasia cannot feel the same way towards him as she had with Florielmo. Her father wants her to get married before he dies, and she finally decides to go through with it to make her father happy. Everyone is preparing for the wedding when a letter from Guolto’s sister arrives saying he and Aspasia have to come see her because she’s sick. Guolto decides that Aspasia should get married before the journey to his sister. Aspasia is dreading the moment of the wedding on her wedding day. However, right before she says the words to be united in marriage to Mountguardo at the altar, a figure in white comes between them and says they cannot get married. The priest states that God has deemed that this marriage cannot go through. After this incident, Aspasia and her father do not hear anything from Mountguardo. They decide to travel to see Guolto’s sister, Lady Loveni. When they arrive at her home, she apologizes to her brother for looking down on him for the past nineteen years. The lady’s son, Don Antonio, is about to get married. He and his fiancé, Georgiana, come to his mother’s home to look after her because of her illness. Georgiana and Aspasia become instantly close friends, but Aspasia does not reveal information about loving Florielmo because she does not want to tarnish his character. Georgiana finds her crying often and is unsure why. Aspasia tells her that she will reveal everything after the wedding between Antonio and Georgiana. However, Georgiana immediately jumps to the conclusion that Aspasia loves Antonio and that she is more worthy than herself to marry Antonio. Aspasia is shocked and says that she does not love Antonio, and he also fools around way more than is to her liking. She says she found a knife of his tied to a letter and says she is going to read it. Antonio reveals that he completely forgot about the knife, and he had found it in an old castle. Aspasia suddenly screams and faints while clutching the letter. When she awakes, she says that Florielmo has been betrayed and actually still loves her. The letter is from Florielmo, and he explains that the letter he received while visiting her was a trap. 

Mountguardo suddenly arrives to talk to Aspasia and happens to take a look at the letter. Aspasia does not trust him after he spoke ill about Florielmo. Just then, a man arrives who looks like a prince. He is very pale and fatigued. To everyone’s surprise, the man is Florielmo and he reveals that Mountguardo is actually his uncle, Count Manuel. Florielmo provides the proof from the chest that Manuel is the one who killed his mother. He goes on to explain that he had to kill another with that same dagger so he could escape through a secret passage he found when leaving the turret. Because of the shame of everything brought to light, Manuel takes the dagger from Florielmo and stabs himself, and dies soon after. 

Everyone is in shock at this turn of events, but things get back to normal after some time. There is a funeral for Manuel, and Florielmo decides not to expose the crimes to everyone else because he does not want to dwell on these past incidents after the man’s death. In the end, both couples decide to get married on the same day. Aspasia and Georgiana also end up both delivering babies on the same day as well. Since it is a boy and a girl, Florielmo and Antonio decide to betroth the babies to each other for a marriage in the future.


Bibliography

Baines, Paul. “Crookenden, Isaac.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 23 Sept. 2004.

Crookenden, Isaac. Spectre of the Turret: Or, Guolto Castle. A Romance. Printed and Sold by R. Harrild, n.d.

Frank, Frederick S. “The Gothic Romance: 1762-1820.” Horror Literature: A Core  Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall B. Tymn, New York, R.R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–175.

Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. London, The Fortune Press, 1941.


Researcher: Rachel Chiramel

The Recluse of the Woods

The Recluse of the Woods

The Recluse of the Woods; Or, The Generous Warrior

Author: Unknown
Publisher: J. Roe
Publication Year: 1809
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 9.8cm x 15.5cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .R425 1809


In this circa 1809 chapbook set in the county of Sussex and featuring royalty and forbidden love, one intriguing romance revolves around an Earl’s daughter and a mysterious man’s son who lives alone in the woods. 


Material History

This particular copy of The Recluse of The Woods is especially rich in both history and mystery. At first glance, several properties of the physical appearance of the book raise questions regarding the book’s history. The binding of the book is made of plain blue paper with nothing printed on it, while also being held together by just enough stitching to keep it stable. The physical book itself is extremely thin, with its height measuring 15.5 cm and it’s width measuring 9.8 cm. Additionally, the cover of the book is completely empty and simple, signaling the inexpensive qualities of the object. Inside the book, the interior pages follow the precedent set by the exterior as the pages are very thin and worn out. The color of the pages are yellowed, representing a light cream color, however are still relatively intact without major stains. 

The title page for The Recluse of the Woods

A detailed illustration is present in the beginning of the text, showing a well-dressed man and two women greeting each other, while another man watches from the bushes afar. The illustration seems to be either hand coloring or watercoloring while still being in good condition. There’s also a castle in the background, near the upper left corner. Once again, this illustration further points to the ambiguity of The Recluse of The Woods, as there is no caption or description beneath the drawing that provides information on the meaning of the illustration. The one possible inference that can be made is that the man and two women greeting each other are colleagues, while the man watching from afar seems more suspicious and unwelcome. 

The title page prints “The Recluse of The Woods” first, followed by “Or, The Generous Warrior.” Underneath the two titles reads, “A Gothic Romance.” The mysterious qualities of the book are further exemplified by the absence of the author’s name, which is nowhere present in the chapbook. 

In terms of text within the book, all pages have closely-set text with wide margins due to the edges not being trimmed. The font is relatively small. For each page of text, the number of the page is written in the top left corner of the page, while the top of the even-page numbers read “The Recluse of” and the top of the odd-page numbers read “The Woods.” There are thirty-six pages of text total in the book. 


Textual History

While The Recluse of the Woods proves to be an interesting novel offering a unique perspective from gothic literature, the actual history of the text is quite ambiguous. A few key details about the circumstances in which The Recluse of the Woods was made are known, namely regarding the publication of the text. The novel was published in 1809 in London, printed by a man named Thomas Maiden, and the publishers were John Roe and Ann Lemoine. These three also worked together for the production of many other novels during the early nineteenth century, publishing books such as The Castle of Alvidaro and The Round Tower. Additionally, there are several copies of The Recluse of the Woods held in both the United States and England, with schools such as The University of Virginia, Yale University, and The University of Oxford each holding copies of the novel. 

While this information provides some insight into The Recluse of the Woods, the biggest mystery surrounding the novel is the identity of the author. While their identity seems to be hidden, Frederick S. Frank provides substantial information on the novel in a chapter called “The Gothic Romance,” explaining how The Recluse of the Woods was “written with Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde; or, The Recluse of the Lake in view” (139). While the author of The Recluse of the Woods seems to be absent from most databases, Charlotte Smith was well known for her novels and poems during the late eighteenth century.

The frontispiece for The Recluse of the Woods

Charlotte Smith was an English novelist and poet, born in 1749 and living until 1806. In her career spanning twenty-two years, she produced ten novels, two translations, three books of poetry, and six educational works for children (Napier). Most of her novels earned high praise throughout the duration of her career, while also drawing some debate and criticism for her writing style and views. Among her critics, some voiced their disagreement with democratic sympathies, as well as her radical attitudes toward conventional morality and her political ideas of class equality. Some of the key qualities associated with Smith’s writing were her tendency to work self-consciously and experimentally within the fiction genre. Moreover, she often focused on the celebration of nature within her books, while also frequently adopting the prototypical figure of the wanderer as a vehicle for social commentary. Smith was also a “wanderer,” of sorts, for much of her career, making sense of her attraction towards this characterization (Zimmerman).

While Charlotte Smith saw herself as a poet first and foremost, many of Smith’s novels developed the frame of the story according to Gothic and sentimental traditions. Some of her novels even contained poetic scenes, such as the novel related to The Recluse of the Woods, namely Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake. Published in 1790 in Dublin, Ireland, The Recluse of the Lake was received with mixed reviews by critics, as many saw the novel being equal in excellence to one Smith’s best-known works Emmeline, while some disregarded this notion. One particular critic directly challenges this notion, explaining, “If we compare Ethelinde with Emmeline, it will be found less full of adventure, of sudden changes of fortune, and less interesting by its humble denouement. The characters are not too prominent, nor their outlines so broad” (“Ethelinde” 57). Because the poetic scenes revolved around natural landscapes in the The Recluse of the Lake, the novel adopts a static, lingering quality exactly suited to the tone of its heroine’s introspective melancholy (Napier). While poetic scenes play an important role in The Recluse of the Lake, the novel ultimately is characterized by containing sentimental narratives with Gothic elements, similar to her three other works that she produced during the same time period, like Emmeline and Celestina (Ravin). The Recluse of the Woods harnesses the same sentimental narratives, but ultimately did not have the same critical impact or the same staying power as Charlotte Smith’s novel.


Narrative Point of View

The Recluse of The Woods is narrated in the third person by an external narrator who does not appear in the text. The narration is quite descriptive and observational, as the narrator tends to paint a picture of the scene and describe characters’ physical characteristics prior to introducing the dialogue. Also, the narrator repeatedly tells the reader about characters internal conflict and feelings throughout the novel. 

Sample Passage: 

Many other lessons were given to Eliza, by her father and the Lady Gertrude, and she was then left by them to weep for Edgar, and sigh over the hardness of her fate. About the hour of noon the shrill voice of the trumpet announced to her the approach of Lord Harold; she trembled at the sound, and as the untamed fawn flies from the approach of the passenger, she ran to her chamber, anxious to avoid all intercourse with her fellow beings. (24) 

With the presence of third-person narration in The Recluse of The Woods, characters’ feelings and thoughts are highlighted clearly, as shown through this sample passage. Key phrases like “she trembled at the sound” and “anxious to avoid” ultimately underline the fear of the character, Eliza, regarding her impending arranged marriage. Additionally, the narrator also highlights the uncomfortable elements present in this scene to heighten the anxiety-filled environment. Consequently, Eliza’s characterization becomes stronger, as her desire for a life with Edgar is contrasted with her fear of marrying Lord Harold, and both emotions are very strong. 


Summary

The novel begins in the middle of the thirteenth century at Montville Castle, a noble edifice, which lies in the county of Sussex. The Earl of Blancy, the proprietor of Montville Castle, is away in battle for the Christian Army in Palestine while his eighteen-year-old daughter Eliza lives at the castle with Lady Gertrude, a middle-aged woman who envies Eliza’s youth, beauty, and innocence. Lady Gertrude has lived with Eliza since she was eleven years old, as her mother passed away when she was young. While the castle is rich in land, there are some neighbors living nearby, one being a solitary man named Ambrose Phillips. He lives in a poor, wooded cottage area with his teenage son Edgar; both men have a young ambiance and strong appearance. No one knows anything about either of them, but they frequently encounter Eliza and Lady Gertrude on walks through the woods. 

One day, as the two groups pass each other, Eliza and Edgar share a moment of intimacy, while Lady Gertrude notices and appears unhappy with Eliza. Lady Gertrude fears a relationship forming between Eliza and Edgar, since she knows Eliza’s father would not be happy with her marrying a peasant. A few days later, the Earl returns after his long war experience, and is shocked by Eliza’s sprouting growth and beauty. Lady Gertrude tells the Earl about the neighbors the next morning, and he says they must be the poorest of his neighbors, and is suspicious of the relationship between Eliza and Edgar. 

The Earl visits Phillips with his servant Robert, who knows Phillips from past meetings. He tells the Earl that Phillips is a man in love with solitude, while also saying that Phillips has seen enough of the world to dislike it now. However, he also tells the Earl that he is a worthy man, with an entertaining personality and a good heart. Once they arrive at the cottage, they see the two men outside cutting trees, and stop immediately to listen in on their conversation. They overhear Edgar telling Phillips that he wants to be a soldier because of all the stories and books that Phillips has shared with him, but Phillips ultimately shuts this conversation down by telling Edgar he can still be a good man without becoming a soldier. Edgar even offers becoming a soldier for the Earl, but Phillips maintains his position. Once the conversation ceases, the Earl makes his presence known and invites the two to the castle for dinner. 

Once they arrive, the Earl has a great time with Phillips and Edgar, so they return repeatedly throughout the week. The Earl also particularly enjoys his time with Edgar, despite his suspicions of his interactions with his daughter. 

This is the first page of text in The Recluse of the Woods, displaying sample text as well as the two titles at the top.

One day while Lady Gertrude and Eliza are walking through the woods, Eliza demands to visit Edgar, but Lady Gertrude denies permission as a precautionary measure so as to not anger the Earl. After arguing for some time, Lady Gertrude walks away, while Eliza notices Edgar above her in a tree after a twig falls on her. After consistent pressure from Edgar, Eliza eventually agrees to kiss him, kissing until they are caught by Lady Gertrude. The two women argue for a short while before a man appears with the appearance of an aged pilgrim, clearly being elderly and fatigued. He asks to see Phillips, and Edgar takes him to see his father after Lady Gertrude and Eliza leave to return to the castle. 

Later that day, the Earl questions Lady Gertrude about past meetings between Edgar and Eliza. Lady Gertrude tells the Earl about their kiss, leaving the Earl enraged. In response, he says that he has arranged a marriage between Eliza and his old friend from battle named Lord Harold de Vanes, who is sixty-four years old. Although Lady Gertrude disagrees with this action, the Earl explains how he made this promise to Lord Harold after Lord Harold saved the Earl’s life in combat. The Earl then dispatches Lady Gertrude to go notify Eliza of this impending marriage. 

Once Eliza hears this news, she begins to weep, saying how she cannot bear to marry Lord Harold because of her love for Edgar. Although Lady Gertrude tells Eliza that she should be excited because Lord Harold is extremely wealthy, Eliza still cannot stop crying. A few moments later, Edgar and Phillips appear and tell the Earl and Eliza that they are leaving their cottage in the woods, but do not disclose why or to where they are heading. After Edgar begs the Earl to let him die at his feet, Phillips picks up Edgar and they both leave the Castle. 

The next morning, Lord Harold arrives at the castle, and immediately voices his concern to the Earl about the marriage with Eliza, lamenting that his war wounds and bald head are not attractive to a girl Eliza’s age. The Earl disagrees, but Lord Harold is still evidently distraught. When Eliza comes down to greet the Lord, she explains how she was told a past prophecy where she would be happy and fall in love with a man, but not with a man his age. Lord Harold asks her what he can do, and Eliza asks him to persuade his father to let her marry Edgar. Lord Harold agrees to this, and tells the Earl of their discussion. He specifically tells him that it is every man’s duty to guide happiness for others, and how he should let Eliza marry Edgar. 

After this exchange, the novel goes into a side note about the history of Ambrosio Phillips and his son, explaining how they are actually descendants of Sir Hildebrand De Raymond, a nobleman known for his bravery in the battle for the Christian army in Palestine. Edgar’s real name is Eudgene, and he is now the heir of the De Raymond castle. 

Back in the present moment, Edgar arrives at Montville Castle under the name of Sir Eugene de Raymond, asking for a meeting with the Earl. The Earl is shocked when he sees it to actually be Phillips and Edgar, and Eliza is overcome with happiness when the two embrace in joy. Lord Harold is similarly happy for Edgar and Eliza, as the two are finally married with Lady Gerturde performing the ceremony.


Bibliography

“Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake.” The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature, vol. 3, 1791, pp. 57–61.

Napier, Elizabeth R. “Charlotte (Turner) Smith.” British Novelists, 1660-1800, edited by Martin C. Battestin, Gale, 1985. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 39. Gale Literature Resource Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/H1200003646/LitRC?u=viva_uva&sid=LitRC&xid=cc8ebd20. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

Ravin, Kate. “Charlotte (Turner) Smith.” Eighteenth-Century British Poets: Second Series, edited by John E. Sitter, Gale, 1991. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 109. Gale Literature Resource Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/H1200003647/LitRC?u=viva_uva&sid=LitRC&xid=7e5dd560. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

The Recluse of the Woods, London, J. Roe and Ann Lemoine, 1809.

Tymn, Marshall B., editor. “The Gothic Romance.” Horror Literature: a Core Collection and Reference Guide, by Frederick S. Frank3, R.R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–178.

Zimmerman, Sarah M. “Smith [née Turner], Charlotte (1749–1806), poet and novelist.” Oxford     Dictionary of National Biography.  October 04, 2007. Oxford University Press. Date of access 27 Oct. 2020,<https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-25790>


Researcher: Kent B. Williams