An abridged plagiarism of Sir Walter Scott’s 1823 novel Quentin Durward, this chapbook follows the grotesque adventures of Scottish cavalier Quentin Durward and his romance with the beautiful Countess Isabelle.
Durward and Isabelle appears to be a flimsy few scraps of paper being held together by what looks like a piece of twine. The full title is simply Durward and Isabelle. The book is bound together with another chapbook, Mary, the Maid of the Inn, which precedes Durward and Isabelle. It appears as though the back of Mary, the Maid of the Inn, was ripped out, since there are remnants of torn paper at the last page. The paper of Durward and Isabelle is not as yellow compared to Mary, the Maid of the Inn, and the two texts are printed in different fonts. This suggests that Durward and Isabelle was likely bound to Mary, the Maid of the Inn at a later time.
The origins of this chapbook remain a mystery,
as there is no listed author. However, the publisher is listed at the bottom of
the final page as “Dean and Munday, Threadneedle-Street, London.” Mary, the
Maid of the Inn has a title page with a different publisher listed. The
cover of Mary, the Maid of the Inn does have some handwriting on it, but
it is impossible to know if this was written before or after the chapbooks were
The dimensions of the book are about 11cm x 16
cm, so it is fairly small. Durward and Isabelle is thirty-six pages
long, while the previous story is twenty-five pages, making for a total of sixty-one
pages bound together by a single piece of fraying string. The last page of Durward
and Isabelle has fallen off but is still kept with the book in the library.
The pages are very brittle and dry, and are also very frail and yellowed,
likely due to the wear and tear that the book has been subject to over the
years. The margins are decently sized while the font is relatively small but
not difficult to read. There is a surprisingly large amount of spacing between
paragraphs. The margins are uneven: there is little to no space at the top at
the top of the book, while there are much larger side margins.
While Mary, the Maid of the Inn contains
a fold-out illustration, there are no illustrations in Durward &
Isabelle. There are some words handwritten on the cover: in the top right
corner, the word “romance” is written in pencil and “1822” (the year Mary,
the Maid of the Inn was published) in ink. On the bottom of the cover,
there is a series of numbers and letters without clear meaning.
Durward and Isabelle is a chapbook that is a plagiarized and abridged version of Quentin Durward, a novel written by Sir Walter Scott published in 1823. The author of Durward and Isabelle is not known. At only thirty-six pages, the chapbook is much shorter than the original novel and brushes over many of the major plot points. While the original novel is focused on Quentin Durward and his adventures, the chapbook is more focused on Durward’s adventures that involve his relationship with Isabelle, hence the title Durward and Isabelle. The plagiarized chapbook was published by Dean and Munday, as printed on the last page of the book. Dean and Munday was a popular publishing institution established in 1810 that published many other chapbooks. The Dean and Munday families lived together and raised their children together in their home behind the shop on Threadneedle Street. Two cousins, Thomas Dean and Thomas Munday, became apprentices, then later became partners in the firm. This partnership lasted until 1838, when it was permanently dissolved (Potter 86). According to Franz Potter, “During these early years at Dean & Munday, the firm also reissued a number of well-known gothic pamphlets originally published by other booksellers” (87). Durward and Isabelle is listed as one of the one-shilling pamphlets published by Dean and Munday in a book titled The French Revolution of 1830: Being a Succinct Account of the Tyrannical Attempt of Charles X. to Overturn the French Constitution. Interestingly, Mary, the Maid of the Inn is also on this list of Dean and Munday pamphlets printed with The French Revolution of 1830, though the copy of Mary, the Maid of the Innbound with the Sadleir-Black Collection’s copy of Durward and Isabelle was published by Orlando Hodgson not Dean and Munday.
Given Sir Walter Scott’s significance, there is an abundance of
information about his original novel Quentin Durward by contrast with
the dearth of information on the plagiarized and abridged Durward and
Isabelle. In a late nineteenth-century edition of Quentin Durward edited
by Charlotte M. Yonge, Yonge includes a historical introduction in which she
writes that Scott “held that it was lawful for art to throw together historical
characters and facts with more regard to effect than to accuracy or detail, and
thus to leave a stronger impression on the mind. And there can be no doubt that
the tale he has given us has fixed on thousands of minds a strong and definite
impression of the characters of Louis XI” (14). In writing this, Yonge
identifies the significant impact that the characters of Quentin Durward
had on the public point of view.
There are other notable adaptations of Scott’s novel, including Quentin
Durward; a dramatic adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s novel, in three acts and
three scenes, by Charles Andrew Merz and Frank Wright Tuttle.This
adaptation was published in 1914 and is associated with the Yale University
Dramatic Association. There are digital copies of the original Quentin
Durward and its adaptations available on ProQuest One Literature and the
HathiTrust Library. The novel was even adapted into a film called The
Adventures of Quentin Durward, released in 1955.
Narrative Point of View
Durward and Isabelle is narrated in the third
person, and the narrator is never named nor are we given any context on how
they learned of the story. The story is told in a very straightforward fashion,
yet still manages to incorporate feelings of characters. The narration is
filled with expansive sentences, with an emphasis on depicting events and with minimal
The young and beautiful Isabelle had fled from Burgundy, to avoid being married to one of the Duke’s favourites; and whether she was really under King Louis’s protection, was not certainly known. Durward could not help conjecturing, from circumstances, that the young lady he had seen in the morning, and with whose charms he had been smitten, was, in fact, the young countess. While the knowledge of her rank and misfortunes interested him yet more strongly in her fate, it tended to damp any presumptuous hopes which love might have induced him to form. (8)
As seen here, in Durward and Isabelle the
narration is succinct and descriptive, and effectively explains the characters’
thoughts and feelings at certain moments. This can be seen when Durward deduces
that the woman he saw is the countess, and the narration presents not only what
he knows but how he feels with his subsequently lowered “hopes.”
Durward and Isabelle tells the tale of a fifteenth-century Scottish cavalier, Durward,
and Isabelle, a Countess. The story begins when Durward is met by King Louis XI
of France by chance. Durward introduces himself as a cadet of Scotland, who
came to France to seek fortune. It is later revealed that his father and
remaining family members were killed by a rivaling clan, and this caused his
mother to die of grief. Upon Durward’s introduction, the King also discovers
that he knows Durward’s uncle, Lesie, who comes to the castle to meet him and
the king. The king eventually decides to recruit this young cavalier as one of
his men, after consulting with his astronomer, Martius Galeoletti, who says
that Durward has good intentions. Durward has multiple encounters with Isabelle
throughout the beginning of the story, as she is residing at the castle where
the king lives.
One day while Durward is strolling through the garden, he comes
across a man hanging from a tree. Appalled by this circumstance, he immediately
climbs up the tree and cuts the rope, onlooking Bohemians react badly to this
action. The king’s right-hand man, Provost Marshall, takes them all prisoner.
Durward thinks he is going to be hanged along with the Bohemians but then
proceeds to defend himself, claiming he is from Scotland which is an allied
country. His life is spared.
It is revealed that the reason Isabelle is under the king’s
protection is because she fled from Burgundy after discovering that she was to
be married to one of the duke’s men. A count sent by the Duke of Burgundy
appears while searching for the ladies (Isabelle and her Aunt). The king
refuses to give them up and, after the count threatens to wage war on the
kingdom, the king decides to send Isabelle and her aunt away to Liege to be
under the protection of the bishop. The king appoints Durward in charge of
taking Lady Isabelle and her aunt to Liege with three soldiers and a guide.
Throughout their journey they encounter many men who want to claim possession
of Isabelle, including William de la Marck, a feared man from the area, and the
Duke of Orleans, who is to be wed to Isabelle’s sister but would rather marry
William de la Marck, in a fit of rage, decides to take over the city of Liege and murders the bishop in cold blood. Durward and Isabelle must escape together. During the siege, Durward presents himself to Willam de la Marck and says that if they are to be allied with France, they must not present themselves with this sort of conduct, so William de la Marck complies, and they all leave. De la Marck then threatens to return because he hears word that Isabelle is still hiding in the city. Isabelle at this point is willing to sacrifice herself to the Duke of Burgundy and decides she will offer to give up her patrimonial estates and ask permission to retire in a convent. They make it back to the Duke of Burgundy and the same day, the king decides to visit him too. The Duke of Burgundy hears about William de la Marcks violent tactics and believes that this is King Louis’ doing. He imprisons the king and plans for his execution.
After days of trials and Durward’s statement is given, the duke
determines that the king is innocent and decides they are to combine forces to
capture William de la Marck. Who will receive Isabelle’s hand in marriage
remains in question, so as incentive, the duke says that whoever is successful
in killing de la Marck wins Isabelle’s hand in marriage. Upon hearing this,
Durward searches for de la Marck, and finds him decapitated. In defeat, he
returns to the castle only to discover his uncle Lesie standing with William de
la Marck’s head, which he brought on Durward’s behalf. Durward and Isabelle are
both pleased with the arrangement and end up married together happily ever
Durward and Isabelle. London, Dean & Munday, n.d.
The French Revolution of 1830:
Being a Succinct Account of the Tyrannical Attempt of Charles X. to Overturn the French
Constitution, Etc. [With a Plate.]. Dean & Munday, 1830.
Merz, Charles Andrew, and Frank Wright Tuttle. Quentin
Durward: a Dramatic Adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s Novel, in Three Acts
and Three Scenes.New
Haven, Yale University
Dramatic Association, 1914.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks
and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
Yonge, Charlotte M.
“Introduction.” Quentin Durward, by Sir Walter Scott. Boston, Ginn & Co, 1895.
With its twists and turns, this transatlantic tale recounts heartbreak, love, desire, and greed. Where one end is tied, another frays, keeping readers in suspense. There is no shortage of the gothic in this text.
The cover of The Commodore’s Daughter is 21.75 cm tall and 13.5 cm wide with a spine thickness of 1.5 cm. While the cover does not have a special design, the two corners and part of the spine have a softer and lighter leather than the rest of the book’s cover, which is a rougher and darker leather. There are three stories bound within this volume and the spine is decorated with gold lettering with the titles: Lucelle. — Julia St. Pierre. — Commodore’s Daughter.
The Commodore’s Daughter, by Benjamin Barker, begins approximately two-thirds of the way into this volume. The pages are clearly in excellent shape. The title page is plain and includes the title, author, and publication information: “PUBLISHED BY E. LLOYD, 12, SALISBURY-SQUARE, FLEET-STREET, AND SOLD BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.”The next page, which starts the text of the story, also includes a detailed picture and caption, as well as the word, “complete” handwritten lightly in pencil at the top of the page. The Commodore’s Daughter was originally published as a “penny dreadful” serial, which is when small cheap portions of the story were published at regular intervals and later bound together. “No. 1,” “No. 2,” etc. appear at the bottom corners of their respective pages (outside of the border created around the text) to indicate the start of a new section of the story. Though the sections were all printed, sold, and originally purchased separately, this version is “complete” because these sections have now been bound together.
The Commodore’s Daughter is sixty-eight pages long. The text is small, always surrounded by a decorative border, and relatively easy to read with decent-sized margins. This copy of The Commodore’s Daughter also shows an error made during printing. Though the final chapter appears to be Chapter XIX, this book does not have nineteen chapters, but rather, eighteen, with one entire chapter having been skipped due to misnumbering. The book leaps from Chapter XVII to Chapter XIX, which should have been correctly numbered as Chapter XVIII. This erroneous Chapter XIX is printed on the back of the page with Chapter XVII. Interestingly, the side of the page with Chapter XVII is much more pristine and in better shape than the other side, which must have been exposed at one point to different environmental conditions.
The Commodore’s Daughter was written by Benjamin Barker—an author who was no stranger to publishing, as he released nineteen other works under his name. Two publishers produced The Commodore’s Daughter—Frederick Gleason in Boston, Massachusetts in 1846, and Edward Lloyd in London in 1847—and versions of each are housed in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction.
The Lloyd and Gleason printings of The Commodore’s Daughter contain a few key differences. For instance, the 1846 Gleason printing (which is also available on Google Books) includes the alternate title, The Dwarf of the Channel, or, The Commodore’s Daughter. While both versions contain the same story content, the Gleason’s version prints the story in columns, and this copy also lacks the illustrations present in the Lloyd version. Lloyd’s 1847 printing also initially appeared serialized as a penny dreadful.
The Lloyd printing of The Commodore’s Daughter contains a preface dated December 1847. In this preface, “the Publisher” provides context for the story’s historical significance, characters, and plot, including the backstory and setting. The final sentence of the preface reads: “The moral of the tale is unexceptionable, and as the incidents do not violate probability, and the characters are so truly drawn, the Publisher anticipates a favourable reception for the work.”
Like much of gothic literature that has faded from view, The Commodore’s Daughter has not remained widely available and the publisher’s projected “favourable reception” was short-lived, if at all. However, there are a few notable online versions. In addition to digital copies of the Gleason printing available via Google Books, Historical Texts has a digitized version of the Lloyd edition. In 2010, the British Library Historical Print Editions released a reprinting of TheCommodore’s Daughter.
Benjamin Barker has a notable publishing history. Not only did he publish nearly twenty works under his name, but he also published under the pseudonym Egbert Augustus Cowslip. One of his most well-known works under this pseudonym was Zoraida; or The witch of Naumkeag! A Tale of the Olden Time. Another of Barker’s works published under his own name, Blackbeard, or, The Pirate of Roanoke, is listed on Amazon and, as of 2021, has several reviews including one with a complaint about its historical inaccuracies, which reiterates the preface of The Commodore’s Daughter regarding the accuracy of accounts of the American Revolution.
Narrative Point of View
The Commodore’s Daughter is narrated in the third person (and occasionally with first-person plural moments) by an unnamed omniscient narrator who does not appear in the text. The narration feels relatively modern, but still contains antiquated vernacular. The paragraphs and sentences are generally lengthy. Yet, there still are inconsistencies in the style, with some paragraphs being much longer or using more eloquent vocabulary than others. The narration describes the characters and their feelings matter-of-factly (and frequently through characters’ actions), and there is very little text dedicated to introspection. The narration also contains much more description than dialogue.
Premising that the following romance is founded upon facts, with the details of which many of our readers may possibly be acquainted, and that for particular reason, we shall claim the privilege and take the liberty of introducing our principal characters under fictitious names, we now proceed to open our story as follows… (1)
By performing that this fictional story is based on facts—a common gothic trope—the narrator effectively tells the story with increased credibility (and possibly more shock value, as well). The narrator seeks to communicate a story by establishing familiarity with the characters in the book without revealing their names, thus providing an even foundation to readers and inviting everyone to enjoy the story with shared knowledge provided by the narrator from the beginning. The use of the first-person plural “we” also gives a more rounded and less singular feeling to the narration, enabling the fictional story to mimic an actual recounting of events.
In the early days of the American Revolution, before the colonies had banded together to declare their own independence, an old and cunning man by the name of Henry Hartville desired a fortune that was supposed to be inherited by a girl named Nora. Through his meticulous planning, Henry was able to trick Nora into believing that she was his daughter, all the while finding the perfect suitor for her so that Henry could obtain this wealth. The story then asks what Henry Hartville’s plan is to arrive at his goal.
An older, “deformed” man named John Ellery, frequently described in the text as a “dwarf,” has taken under his wing a “maniac” girl, Helen Morton, whose parents died years prior. John Ellery is one day met by a man carrying a letter and a black crucifix, who leaves soon after handing him these mysterious items. Despite not knowing who this man is or who the person who wrote the letter could be, Mr. Ellery accepts the commands listed out to him on the letter without any hesitation. One of those commands being to seek Nora Hartville out to keep under his wing, which the story reveals later.
Luckily, Mr. Ellery met with a ship on its way to a New England port, carrying several passengers in its cabins. Since he is able to pilot the ship, Mr. Ellery is gratefully accepted by the captain to guide it to its destination. Mr. Ellery, however, begins to take notice of a peculiar passenger whom the captain dreaded and wanted jettisoned as soon as possible. Through a careful line of questioning, Mr. Ellery finally realizes what he had hoped to find——the girl on the ship is Nora Hartville, the one the letter instructed him to keep under his wing for the next few years.
Mr. Ellery, Helen Morton, and Nora Hartville all arrive at Mr. Ellery’s home and remain there for several months in peace, as Helen and Nora become closer in what Helen describes as a sisterhood. Unfortunately, the fateful night arrives soon enough, and Miles Warton, the man who brought the letter and the crucifix to Mr. Ellery so long ago, finally comes to collect Nora Hartville for the suitor that Henry Hartville had set up for her. Miles Warton was a criminal, so Mr. Ellery knew his arrival at the cottage meant something was wrong. Prior to their meeting, Mr. Ellery heard Nora’s objections to the forced marriage, for the girl had her heart set on another man, George Wellington. Both parties soon realize that this night will not go as planned. In a shocking turn of events, Warton is killed by none other than Helen Morton, as she defends her adoptive father from being harmed by the criminal.
Through many events to follow, George Wellington, who was originally deprived of his desire to see his love, Nora Hartville, meets up with a man named Edward Hale, Helen Morton’s former lover. It is revealed that once George and Edward work together in their search for their lovers, the cruel and conniving plans of Henry Hartville can be overturned.
Yet before their arrival, another surprising figure appears: the former wife of Mr. Ellery, whose name is Julia. Long ago, Julia (the original owner of the black crucifix) held a gun to her husband’s chest in a fit of hatred and demanded that he follow the orders of whoever bears the crucifix. Now, Julia seeks forgiveness for the trouble she has caused, and the old man gracefully accepts. Seeing that Mr. Ellery accepted her apology, Julia knows she can now rest, and she breathes her last breath at her former husband’s humble cottage.
Finally having come to peace with his life, Mr. Ellery travels with his daughters and their suitors (who have found his cottage after a long search) to the ship of a well-known commodore, where it is revealed that the villainous Henry Hartville is aboard the vessel. Cornered and seeing that all his plans have been foiled, Henry Hartville takes a pistol to his head and pulls the trigger, allowing for Edward Hale and Helen Morton to fulfill their love and Nora and George Wellington to do the same. Through much pain and sorrow, Mr. Ellery finally gets to live a happy life away from shame.
The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, Explaining her Birth on an Uninhabited Island, Where she Lived till she was Sixteen Years of age; The Misfortunes and Death of her Parents, and her Surprising Release from that Desolate Place by the Duke de Lancy, to Whom she was Afterwards Married: The dreadful Calamities she Experienced After – Till she Retired to a Monastry, There to end her Wretched Days.
This mock-autobiography published around 1805 to 1810 and written by an unknown author features a haunting, a murder, a birth, and an incestuous marriage—all in a remarkably short number of pages.
The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is a chapbook bound within the second volume of The Entertainer. The elegant binding is brown calf-skin leather with a decorative marbling effect. The marbling effect was produced by the sprinkling of acidic dye onto the leather binding. The volume’s title, The Entertainer, is written in gold text on the spine of the book.
The story is framed as a fictional autobiography, with no known author. Its shortened title The Dutchess de Lancy is seen at the top of each body page. There are thirty-eight pages in the chapbook, one title page and one with an illustration. The illustration is in black and white and appears to depict Thetis kneeling and holding her baby, looking up towards the ghost of her mother. The mother is radiating light and gesturing towards a cottage in the left of the picture. Underneath the image is a quote from the story, written in cursive, “Awe struck, I cast a look of inquiry towards the Spectre. “Grieve not my Thetis,” it exclaimed [sic] The crimes of the parents are expiated by the sufferings of their unfortunate children.” The second page, opposite the illustration, is the title page.
The title page shows the full, longer title of the book. The full title, with capitalization included, is THE LIFE, SUFFERINGS, AND UNCOMMON VISSISITUDES OF THETIS, Dutchess de Lancy, Explaining her birth on an uninhabited Island, where she lived till she was sixteen years of age; THE MISFORTUNES AND DEATH OF HER PARENTS, AND HER SURPRISING RELEASE FROM THAT DESOLATE PLACE BY THE DUKE DE LANCY, TO WHOM SHE WAS AFTERWARDS MARRIED: The dreadful Calamities she experienced after – till she retired to a Monastry, there to end her wretched Days. The font size and capitalization change multiple times on the title page for emphasis. Notable characteristics include a long s, which is a stylized s that appears to look like an f. The long s is not present in the other pages of the book. Underneath the title are the printers and booksellers, along with their addresses in London, England. At the very bottom of the page is the price of the chapbook: sixpence. The title, the list of printers and booksellers, and the price are all separated by decorative dividing lines.
The pages within the chapbook have quite typical formatting. The book is just over 18 cm tall, and the outside of the pages are browning and grey-spotted. The font is small, and there are line skips between paragraphs. The pages are aging, and some are torn. There are bookbinder symbols consisting of a letter and a number to indicate the page order to the bookbinder. Evidence of prior ownership can be found before the chapbook title page, on the inside of the front cover. On the left is the name “Emma Webb” handwritten in a fading, fancy script, and on the right are notes written by Michael Sadleir. He wrote a list of all the chapbooks contained within the volume alongside their bookseller and the publishing date. The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is the first chapbook in the volume, with the bookseller J. Ker. There is no publication date written, but the other books within the volume with known publication dates were published between 1800 and 1805.
There is little information about The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy. There is no known author, editor, or illustrator for the chapbook. There is no scholarship written on the work, and it can be inferred that the chapbook was not widely sold or read. However, there is a decent amount of information on its publisher, John Ker—abbreviated J. Ker in his work. Ker started publishing in 1800 and published an estimated fifteen titles, thirteen of which were of the gothic genre (Potter 38). Multiple sources claim that he was likely the son of John Ker, the third Duke of Roxburgh, and was married to the gothic author Anne Ker (Potter 38, Steele 70). It is known that John Ker also published some of Anne Ker’s work and that her husband was indeed named John. The two also shared business and family connections, so while not proven, it is very likely that John Ker the publisher and Anne Ker’s husband are the same person (Steele 70).
John Ker published from 1800 to 1810 and collaborated with many popular booksellers. Stephen Elliot, along with Nathaniel and John Muggeridge, were the booksellers that Ker associated with the most (Potter 41). In Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, both Elliot and the Muggeridges are listed as booksellers. Two other booksellers listed in Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy are T. Evans and Kemmish. Alongside their names, their addresses are also listed. The UCLA Library and the New York Public Library both allege that since “1805–1810 marks the span of time that T. Evans and Kemmish operated from these addresses,” Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy was likely released during these five years. This period of time—1805 to 1810—aligns with the timespan when Ker was in operation.
According to WorldCat, there are five copies of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy registered in various libraries across the world. The institutions that hold a physical copy are the University of Virginia, the British Library, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the University of California, Los Angeles. The British Library digitized their copy, and it can be found via the library’s website or on Google Books. All of the libraries except the Library of Congress mention that after Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, the story Zelim and Almena follows. Zelim and Almena is unconnected plot-wise to the story of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, but the two stories seem to have been printed and sold in conjunction. Mention of Zelim and Almena can also be found in the Catalogue of the Private Library of Mr. George S. Davis, written by George Davis himself. In this document, all the books that were in Davis’s private library are documented. Davis details a copy of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy that was bound with Sterne’s Maria and Zelim and Almena. He describes the story as “very curious” (Davis 190). This is the only documented review of the chapbook.
There are a few differences between the British Library’s copy and the University of Virginia’s copy of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy. Instead of the illustration being opposite the title page at the front of the chapbook, the British Library’s version has the illustration opposite page 35. The British Library copy also has a more modern green hardback cover, in contrast to the copy at the University of Virginia, which has a spotted brown calf-skin leather cover. Despite these differences, the two copies are nearly identical, with the same font, bookbinder marks, and text on each page.
Narrative Point of View
Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is narrated in the first person by the main character, Thetis. From the beginning, it appears as if Thetis is directly addressing the reader. However, on the final page, Thetis addresses the story to the Countess de Milleray. The Countess de Milleray is not mentioned in the chapbook at any other point, only on the last page in a footnote indicated by an asterisk. Thetis’s narration is intimate, fast-paced, and descriptive. Pages 13–21 are an interpolated tale told by Thetis’s mother, Jaqueline. Jaqueline’s long, uninterrupted dialogue is notable as the reader does not get any glimpse of Thetis’s thoughts or reactions.
Sample Passage of First-Person Narration:
During your* visit to the Convent a short time time [sic.] after my seclusion, I determined to disclose to you the real reasons of a conduct apparently so absurd: I have now been an inmate of these holy walls near twenty years – about six years since, I received a few lines, written by my beloved brother on his death bed, they were tranquil, and thanks to the Almighty, resigned; and he now sleeps in peace within the cemetery of his Convent – grief had broken the heart of the most amiable of men.
*The Countess de Milleray, to whom this narrative is addressed. (36)
Sample Passage of the Interpolated Tale:
“My sisters had bound my long glossy hair in bands round my head, fastening it on the top with bunches of flowers, in the manner of the Lacedeamonien women; this gave me a very singular appearance, and being different from the other girls made my person the more remarked.” (14)
The first-person point of view narrated by Thetis allows the reader to experience a first-hand account of Thetis’s inner thoughts and feelings. The narration choice makes the chapbook more intimate and realistic. While the Countess de Milleray is never mentioned in the book except for the final page, the reader is still able to get a sense of the relationship between Thetis and the Countess. Thetis reveals very personal information about what she experiences, detailing events that would be seen as shameful by society’s standards. However, Thetis is willing to describe these events in extreme detail, confessing her every thought and action candidly. The portion of the story where Jaqueline tells an interpolated tale includes none of Thetis’s thoughts. This section is very distinct from the rest of the novel as the reader is not told how Thetis feels about her mother’s story. This change in expression of Thetis’s thoughts causes a rift between this tale and the rest of the surrounding story. It removes Thetis from the narrative and brings the entire focus onto Jaqueline, Thetis’s mother.
Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is a chapbook centered around the character, Thetis, and her eventful life. Thetis lives on a bountiful island which is deserted except for her mother and father. They tell her stories about their lives and she learns that they are on this island because of a shipwreck. One day, Thetis’s father becomes ill. Thetis is distressed and stays by his side as much as she can. When Thetis wakes up, she goes over to her father to find him no longer breathing. She looks towards her mother in confusion, as she does not understand what death means. They wrap Thetis’s father in woven grass and bury him. Thetis mourns her father’s passing.
Two years pass, and Thetis has worked through her grief. She has started to become the same joyous girl she once was. However, her mother remains somber. Thetis implores her mother to tell her why her spirits are down, and her mother agrees to tell Thetis a story. She reveals to Thetis that the man she called her father was not actually her father, but a man named Victor. She tells Thetis that her name is Jaqueline, and she is the youngest of six children in the Villenueve family from the town of Languedoc, France. They were a peasant family, but Jaqueline was spoiled more than her other siblings. She was given fancy clothes and accessories that rivaled the clothing of children from richer families, while her siblings had very little. One day, the young Marquis of the village decided to throw a coming-of-age celebration. The sixteen-year-old Jaqueline attended and caught the eye of a nobleman. They danced and flirted, and they developed sentiment towards each other. She gained the favor of both the nobleman and the Marquis, and her family was invited to fraternize with the nobility while the other peasants left.
After the party, the nobleman visited her residence and they conversed together, but were always under her mother’s supervision. One day, walking back from her grandmother’s, Thetis met the nobleman and the Marquis. They asked her if she would like to go on an outing with them. She was suspicious, so she refused and began to walk away. They started to pursue her and she ran, but they caught up to her. The nobleman lifted her in his arms and shoved her into a carriage, and they drove away.
She was taken to Paris by the nobleman, where she was given a room in a grand residence. Thetis resisted the sexual advances of the nobleman for a time, but she eventually gave in to his seduction. After many months, she became pregnant. Jaqueline was happy to have become pregnant, but the nobleman was angry. She did not see the nobleman again, and was informed by the Marquis that the nobleman is married with a wife and a son, and that he had left France for a distant settlement. When Jaqueline expressed concern for her parents, the Marquis told her that it was their fault for being punished as they were using Jaqueline to move upwards in society. Jaqueline was enraged by the nobleman and decided to get revenge. She bought tickets for a ship going to where the nobleman currently resided and was joined by her eldest sister. The beginning of the voyage was smooth, but a storm hit, and the ship sank. Jaqueline managed to survive and washed up on the island, while her sister died. Victor also washed up on the island and was the only other survivor. She went into labor, and Victor aided her. She had a baby girl, who they named Thetis. Jaqueline learned that Victor was the nobleman’s younger brother, and she told him her story.
Jaqueline finishes telling Thetis this story, and the pair go to sleep. The next day, Thetis’s mother, Jaqueline, is sick. She dies, and Thetis buries her and mourns for her. That night Thetis sleeps, but is awoken by a sigh. She sees her mother’s ghost, who beckons her to go outside. Thetis walks outside, but then faints. She is awoken by a French Duke standing over her. The Duke invites her to join him and his crew on their voyage to France. She agrees, and the two fall in love on the voyage. Once in France, the two marry, but Thetis feels uneasy. Her mother’s ghost appears to her again and tells her to beware. She is frightened, and the Duke tries to comfort her. Thetis soon becomes pregnant, and the Duke suggests that they take a trip to ease her worries.
The married couple, along with the Marquis and Marchioness de Beaufoy, visit Thetis’s mother’s village. They stay in the Chateau de Murat, welcomed by the Marquis who lives there. After a time, Thetis recounts her story to the Marquis of the Chateau de Murat and asks if he knows about her mother or the Villenueve family. The Marquis is alarmed by the question and rushes out to talk with the Marquis and Marchioness de Beaufoy and the Duke. The Marchioness enters and tells Thetis, “The crimes of the Parents shall be visited on the Children—that terrible denunciation is fulfilled” (32). She then proceeds to tell Thetis that the Duke, the man she is married to, is in fact her own brother. Thetis faints.
Thetis gives birth to a baby boy, and for three months she is bedridden. The only people she sees are the Marchioness and the attendants. After the three months have passed, Thetis feels a cold hand on her forehead while she is sleeping. It is her mother’s ghost, and she motions for Thetis to follow her and bring her child. Thetis follows the spectre into the village to a vine-covered cottage. The ghost stops, and then waves her hand towards her. Thetis looks down at her baby, who is now lifeless. “‘Grieve not, my Thetis,’ [the ghost] exclaimed, ‘the crimes of the parents are expiated by the sufferings of their unfortunate children’” (34). The ghost disappears, and Thetis remains in the same spot, grieving, until morning.
An old man exits the cottage and sees Thetis. He brings her and her dead child inside, and three women help her to sit down. Thetis tells the oldest woman her story, and the woman asks if her family name is Villenueve. Thetis says yes, and the old woman reveals that she is Jaqueline’s mother, and Thetis’s grandmother. The old man who first brought her in was her grandfather, and the two other women are her aunts. Thetis calls for the Marchioness, and she comes to the cottage. She explains to Thetis that the father of Thetis and the Duke was the nobleman who seduced Jaqueline. Thetis’s mother was Jaqueline, while the Duke’s mother was the nobleman’s wife.
The Duke is upset by his marriage to his half-sister, so he joins a convent of monks and takes his vows. Thetis likewise joins a convent and takes her vows. In the final portion of the story, Thetis addresses her writing to the Countess de Milleray. She says that she has lived in the convent for twenty years and feels her death approaching. She is writing out her story in hope of full pardon for her crime. “Thus, my dear Madam, have I opened my heart to you, and though you may not be able to esteem, yet grant your pity to the unfortunate Thetis” (36).
Set in Scotland, England, and Italy, Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson’s 1807 chapbook is a complicated tale of vengeance, violence, and long-lost love. And there’s a ghost!
At first glance, The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is nothing more than a small, nondescript book. It is bound in a spotless cardboard cover, with no title or images on the front or back. The spine has a small red rectangle in which The Castle Spectre or Family Horrors is written in gold writing. The chapbook is about 12 centimeters wide, 20 centimeters long, and 1 centimeter thick.
Upon opening the book, it is evident that it has been rebound. The pages inside are soft, yellowed, and worn. The edges are tattered and uneven and the pages are of different sizes. The frontispiece appears to have been glued to a blank page for structural support, as it was ripped and about two inches of the page is missing from the bottom. This page contains a colorful image of two knights in front of a red castle. They are holding blue shields with gold crosses and are wearing red skirts. Behind the knights is a woman in a pink dress; she is surrounded by what appears to be sunbeams and looks as if she is floating with her arm raised. Some of the colors go beyond the edge of the picture, indicating it may have been painted with watercolor. Beneath the image is a caption that says, “GERTRUDE rising from the Rubbish before the CASTLE”. Below the caption is a note about the print company.
The title page
contains the title, written as follows: “The // Castle Spectre; // or, //
Family Horrors: // A Gothic Story.” The words are all uppercase, except for “A
Gothic Story,” which is written in a more elaborate gothic typeface. Beneath
the title is a quote by Langhorne, and then a note on the publisher: “London:
// Printed for T. and R. Hughes, // 35, Ludgate-Street.” “London” is written in
the same gothic font, while the rest is again all capitalized. Beneath this is
the publishing date: 1807. The title page has a small, rather illegible phrase
written in pencil in the upper left corner, and a large stain on the right. The
back of the title page is blank, except for a small stamp in the bottom left
corner that says, “Printed by Bewick and Clarke, Aldergates-street.” It should
be noted that the name of the author is never mentioned.
On the first page of the text, the title is again printed, but this time as The Castle Spectre. The chapbook contains thirty-eight pages, and the page sizes vary slightly. The upper and lower margins range from about 1.5 centimeters to 2.5 centimeters. “Castle Spectre” is written on the top margin of every page, and there are page numbers in the upper corners. The text is small and tight, and the inner margin is very narrow. On the left pages, the words run almost into the spine. On some pages, the text is fading and in certain instances, can be seen through from the back of the page. The pages are speckled with light stains, but none that obscure much text. The bottom margins of a few pages contain signature marks, such as B3, C, and C3. These marks indicate how the pages should be folded together, as the book was printed on one large sheet and then folded and trimmed. This binding technique also explains why the pages vary in size. There are nine blank pages at the end of the book. These pages seem newer and are larger; they were likely added to make the book slightly thicker, as it is difficult to bind such a thin book.
An index card is
loosely placed in the front of the book, containing the title and publishing
information. It appears to be written in Michael Sadleir’s handwriting and was
likely used for cataloging purposes. The note indicates that the book was
originally unbound, but then mounted on modern board and engraved. This
explains the discrepancy between the wear of the cover and that of the pages.
“Louisiana” is written on the upper left corner; Sadleir presumably got the
book from someone who lived there. A line on the bottom of the card indicates his
belief that the plot was plagiarized, as he notes the book is “a theft of title
The Castle Spectre by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson was
printed by Bewick and Clarke for T. and R. Hughes in 1807. According to Michael
Sadleir’s handwritten note, the copy in the University of Virginia
Sadleir-Black Collection was originally unbound and then rebound as a
stand-alone chapbook. It appears there is only one edition, the 1807 version,
but some other copies are bound in volumes with other chapbooks. According to
WorldCat, there are six copies of this edition located at Dartmouth Library,
Columbia University Library, and the National Library of Wales, among others.
As of 2021, there are no digital copies of the story, though GoogleBooks has
information about the title, author, and publishing company.
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is often misinterpreted
as being inspired by Matthew Gregory Lewis’s play The Castle Spectre.
Though part of the title is the same, the actual plot, characters, and setting
are entirely unrelated. The
confusion has arisen because Wilkinson published two chapbooks with similar
titles: The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story in 1807 and
The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance; Founded on the Original
Drama of M. G. Lewis in
1820. This second text, The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance,
is in fact based upon Lewis’s play (as accurately suggested by the subtitle),
with the same characters, setting, and plot. By contrast, the 1807 chapbook, The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, remains separate and unrelated except
for its similar main title.
Though the two Castle Spectre texts by
Wilkinson are entirely separate, they are frequently confused for one another.
For instance, Franz J. Potter notes in The History of Gothic Publishing
that Wilkinson “also adapted two versions of Matthew Lewis’s melodrama ‘The
Castle Spectre’ publishing The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors (2.58)
in 1807 with Thomas Hughes, and The Castle Spectre; An Ancient Baronial
Romance, Founded on the Original Drama M. G. L. (2.57) in 1820 with John
Bailey” (119). In his section on the “Family Horrors” version of
Wilkinson’s chapbook, Frederick S. Frank notes that she “transformed Lewis’s Gothic drama, The
Castle Spectre [l-219], back into a Gothic novel” (171). Franz J. Potter
similarly states that this “Family Horrors” version was “founded on Lewis’s The
Castle Spectre. A Drama in Five Acts” (Gothic Chapbooks 39). Even an
article in UVA Today makes this common error, stating “Lewis’ work was
regularly plagiarized and used in this way, as it is in ‘The Castle Spectre,
or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story,’ by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson” (McNally).
that make the claim of a link between The Castle Spectre and Matthew
Lewis’s play cite Montague Summers’s Gothic Bibliography, which lists The
Castle Spectre by Sarah Wilkinson without specifying the subtitle or a
publication date. Summers’s entry reads: “Castle Spectre, The. By Sarah Wilkinson. Founded upon Matthew
Gregory Lewis’ famous drama, The Castle Spectre, produced at Drury Lane
on Thursday, December 14th, 1797” (268). Of the libraries that own The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, many list M. G. Lewis as an author, and
these library catalogs frequently reference Summers’s Gothic Bibliography,
echoing his statement that the story is “Founded
upon Matthew Gregory Lewis’ famous drama ‘The castle spectre’.” Some
libraries note the link to Lewis’s play based upon The National Union
Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints, and this source also cites back to Summers’s Gothic
Bibliography. It is possible Summers’s entry for The Castle Spectre
was misunderstood to be about the “Family Horrors” version, when it was meant
to reference the “Baronial Romance” version, which specifically claims to be
founded upon Lewis’s play. Whatever the reason, this misunderstanding has
spurred many sources, including library catalogs, to erroneously note a
connection between the plot of Lewis’s The Castle Spectre play and
Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors chapbook.
It should also be noted that some sources
discuss a similarity between the two distinct chapbooks Wilkinson wrote under
the titles The Castle Spectre. Diane L. Hoeveler, for instance, suggests
that Wilkinson was plagiarizing herself in these two chapbooks, indicating she
believes the plots to be “virtually identical and indicate how authors as well
as publishers had no qualms about ‘borrowing’ literary texts from others as
well as themselves” (14). Hoeveler writes, “Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre:
An Ancient Baronial Romance is actually her second attempt to capitalize on
the popularity of Lewis’s 1797 drama The Castle Spectre”, naming as the
“other version” The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story
(14). Yet while it is true that Wilkinson used the same main title for two
different books, they are not “virtually identical”: the plots, characters’
names, and setting of the story have no similarities. A potential reason for
the similar titles was that Wilkinson used the phrase “Castle Spectre” precisely
because of its popularity at the time to attract readers, despite the “Family
Horrors” version being a unique story.
On a separate note, the title page of The Castle Spectre; or, Family
Horrors includes a portion of a poem by John Langhorne. It appears to be an
edited stanza from a longer poem entitled “Fable VII. The Wall-flower” from his
collection of poems, The Fables of Flora (Johnson 447). It is unclear
whether the poem was adapted by Wilkinson or the publishing company, but the
poem alludes to the idea of remembrance and telling the stories of the dead.
This theme reflects in the story of Gertrude’s death and Richard’s journey of
Narrative Point of View
Spectre is, for the most
part, narrated in the third person by an anonymous narrator who is not present
in the plot. There are a few occasions throughout the story when the narrator
speaks in first-person plural, referencing the history of the story and its
translations. The narration follows the knight, Sir Richard, throughout the
entire story, and much of the chapbook contains dialogue and interpolated tales
spoken by a variety of the characters with whom Richard interacts, such as
Douglas. The narrative focuses more on plot and less on characters’ thoughts,
and the sentences are often long and descriptive. There is a bit of insight
into Richard’s feelings, but the narrator does not discuss other characters’
emotions unless the characters reveal their feelings aloud in dialogue. There
is also an instance where Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm exchange letters, which
are printed within the text in quotation marks; both Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm
refer to themselves in the third person in their letters. At times when Elenora
(also known as Gertrude) appears as a ghost, she also refers to herself in the
third person during her tales.
The moon, emerging from a black cloud just as he entered, enabled him to ascertain he was in a grand spacious hall, in the centre of which stood a large banquetting table He seized an extinguished taper, which he with difficulty lighted by the friction of some wood he found on the hearth. He had now an opportunity to observe the place more accurately. The table was laden with viands, some in a putrid state, some mouldering to powder; and to his eager view appeared vases filled with the juice of the generous grape. In a corner of the apartment he beheld the body of a man extended in death on the floor, the boards of which were stained with congealed blood. A murder had been committed here but a short time before. The sight of this did not alarm him; he knew not fear, but emotions of pity rose in his breast, for the unfortunate object before him, and a desire to develope the mysteries of the place he was in, prevailed over ever other consideration. (6)
First-Person Plural Narration:
But we must not anticipate in our story too much, and the Scottish manuscript from whence we translate, mentions some transactions that will better appear hereafter. In the mean time we must observe that after much consultation on these transactions, Lord Mackworth advised Sir Richard to appoint a meeting with Sir Kenelm at midnight. (16)
Sample of Sir
Richard’s Third-Person Letter to Sir Kenelm Cromar:
Sir Richard, brother to Lady Gertrude, returning from the Holy Wars, finds his venerable father mouldering into dust, brought to the grave by grief for the untimely fate of a beloved daughter, whose fair fame was basely called into question, and her dear life sacrificed to lawless love. —Sir Kenelm must account for this, and inform Sir Richard what is become of a dear sister. For which purpose Sir Richard challenges Sir Kenelm to meet him, in single combat, near that castle-gate where he, Sir Kenelm, banquetting with his new bride, beheld the injured shade of Lady Gertrude, when, for a slight offence, he stabbed his cupbearer. Eight days hence, exactly at the hour of twelve, Sir Richard will be there, with two of his most trusty friends. (16)
Sample of Sir Henry
Mackworth’s Interpolated Tale:
At his return to Palestine, finding I was in confinement, his generosity and friendship made him hazard his life to rescue me from my confinement. He succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations. We continued together some time. We had but one heart, one purse, and were a pattern of friendship throughout camp and country. Clemena was often the subject of our conversation. I ventured to hint the inclination I felt for her, from his description and the picture I had seen. ‘Alas!’ said he, ‘I dare not flatter you with the least hope of success; my sister has been educated in a convent, and ever been intended by our parents for a nun, their fortune being too small to support us both in a manner suitable to our rank…’ I remonstrated with Vertolini on the cruelty of secluding a beloved sister, for life, within the dreary walls of a convent… (33).
The various types of
narration in The Castle Spectre allow for a deeper exploration of
different characters’ actions and emotions, as well as greater detail on the
setting and history of the story. The Castle Spectre utilizes several
techniques to augment suspense. On numerous occasions, the names of the
characters Richard meets are not revealed until the end of that individual’s
story, and the reveals often occur casually amidst the dialogue or narrative
with little emphasis. The reveal of the characters’ names has a great impact on
the entire plot, and the narration’s nonchalant delivery augments the suspense
and adds an element of surprise. As a result, many key details and surprises
are revealed suddenly and without foreshadowing. Though the narrator does not
touch on characters’ feelings often, the dialogue provides greater insight into
the different characters’ personalities and emotions. Because so many different
plots are embedded into the chapbook, the story is both engaging and, at times,
confusing: the chapbook is extremely fast-paced because so much action is
packed into each sentence, and in some cases it is difficult to follow the story
and to distinguish who is speaking or who characters are because the plot jumps
back and forth in time or between the different story lines. The moments of
first-person plural narration detail the story as if it were true by discussing
the sources from which the story was translated. These moments where the
narrator speaks as “we” directly to the reader, along with the detailed setting
and long rambling sentences, all conspire to make the story oral in feel, as if
being told to a friend.
Spectre follows the knight
Sir Richard over a period of several years. The story begins on a stormy night
in the Scottish Highlands. Sir Richard is traveling to his father’s castle in
the Grampian Mountains after a four-year deployment to the Holy War in
Palestine. He seeks shelter to ride out the storm, but no one will take him in.
In a flash of lightning, he sees the turret of a castle; he sounds his bugle
numerous times with no response, so he dismounts his horse and tries the door.
By chance, the door is unlocked, and Richard enters the banquet hall of the
castle. With only the moon and occasional flash of lightning to guide him, the
knight explores. The hall is filled with food and drink that appears to have
been placed there recently. In the corner of the hall lies the dead body of a
man; the floor is soaked with congealed blood. Sir Richard vows to unravel the
mystery of the catastrophe that occurred.
Sir Richard tours
the rest of the castle, which is magnificently decorated in gothic splendor. No
one is to be found and all is silent. He comes upon a great bed, and as he is
exhausted from his journey, he jumps in and falls into a deep sleep. At one
o’clock, a bell rings and Sir Richard wakes to the curtains of the bed being
ripped open. Standing at the foot of the bed bathed in blue light is a veiled
woman in a white dress. As he approaches her, the woman’s veil falls off and a
stream of blood gushes from a wound in her side. Richard looks into the woman’s
face, and it is none other than his sister! He calls to the apparition “by her
name Elenora” (though later in the story she is referred to predominantly as
Gertrude, with no explanation given for the shift in name) (7). Elenora the
apparition stands, not speaking, while holding her hand over the seemingly
fresh wound in her side. After repeated prodding, Elenora explains the story of
her brutal murder in the castle, revealing that two years after Richard left,
she married the owner of this castle, and in a fit of frenzy he stabbed her
(while she was pregnant) and left her corpse in a rubbish pile. Left to rot
without a proper Christian burial, she haunts her murderer and his new wife.
The scene that Richard came upon in the banquet hall was the remnants of their
wedding, which was ruined when Elenora appeared and terrorized the guests.
Finally, with a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning, Elenora vanishes in a
swirl of blue flame.
Shocked and overcome
with emotion, Sir Richard decides to leave and avenge his beloved sister. He
lets his horse take the reins on the way to his father’s estate and does not
realize the horse has gone down the wrong road. They come upon a cottage where
he is treated with great hospitality. The owner, Douglas, tells the story of
his childhood and time as a soldier, where he saved the life of the “worthy
nobleman, under whose banners I had enlisted” and was thus assured protection
and this cottage (11). Douglas explains that the nobleman has died and his son
is at war; he fears thar if he does not return, Sir Kenelm Cromar will take
over his estates and leave Douglas and his family to live out their days in
poverty. During this story, Douglas reveals the name of his former nobleman to
be Duncan, and Sir Richard reveals that Duncan was his father! This means that
Sir Richard is the son who has now returned home; the Douglas family rejoices.
Douglas’s story also reveals that Sir Kenelm’s first wife was Elenora (now
predominately referred to as Gertrude in the story). Upon Gertrude and Kenelm’s
marriage, Ally (Douglas’s daughter) moved into the castle where Sir Kenelm
“began to take great liberties with her” (12). Douglas says Lady Gertrude is
now missing and so is Ally. Because of Gertrude’s ghost’s daily visits, Sir
Kenelm and his new wife have moved to his hunting lodge so the castle remains
uninhabited. Sir Richard thanks Douglas and promises him a life of friendship
When he finally
arrives home, the servants rejoice at the return of their young lord. They tell
the knight all that has happened and grieve for the good young lady Gertrude
and their master Duncan. Enraged, Sir Richard vows to avenge her and lay her
body to rest in a Christian burial. He seeks out his father’s friend, Lord
Mackworth, and tells the man the story. Richard decides to challenge Sir Kenelm to
single combat, with Mackworth’s assistance. As part of their agreement,
Mackworth wants Sir Richard to marry his daughter and Sir Richard agrees. Sir
Kenelm accepts Richard’s request, mentioning that though it is illegal to fight
in this manner, he will do it anyways to honor the memory of the venerable
Duncan. Meanwhile, Kenelm sends a letter to the king, requesting that he send
men and imprison Richard before the fight occurs. Instead, the king decides the
two men will have an impartial hearing at his court and he will support
whichever cause is more just.
It is now the night
of combat, and the marshal Lord Glencairn asks if any last-minute
accommodations can be made. Richard declines, unless Sir Kenelm will admit to
murdering Gertrude and surrender to public justice. Kenelm refuses, saying that
Gertrude abandoned him for a lover, and Richard is about to stab him in rage
when suddenly, they are both commanded prisoners and summoned to the king’s
court. Before they leave with the soldiers, the clock strikes one and in a
swirl of thunder and lightning, Gertrude appears. She shares her story and
explains that three times now she has prevented Kenelm from murdering his new
wife. She requests a proper burial, asks Mackworth to protect Richard, and
vanishes in a thick blue flame amidst a crack of lightning and tremendous peal
of thunder. Richard breaks the silence and tells the soldiers to bring them to
the court, so that he can share the full story in front of the king. The
hearing occurs, and Kenelm is found guilty and sent to prison; he later has a
public trial and is condemned to death. Gertrude’s remains are recovered and
she has a proper burial; all the churches in the surrounding area hold masses
in her honor and her final wish is granted.
goes home. He keeps his house open to serve his father’s tenants, and the
neighboring nobility congratulate him on his return from the war and for
bringing Kenelm to justice. Nevertheless, Sir Richard is unhappy; he mourns the
loss of his father and sister and misses his lost love Lady Jane. The story now
shifts back many years, before Richard went to the Holy Land. He fell in love
with Mackworth’s daughter, Jane, and she waited for him to return from the war.
In the four years of his absence, Jane denied many marriage offers from wealthy
prospects, one of them being Lord Glendour. Finally, Richard returns and they
are set to marry. We learn that two years before Richard left, Mackworth’s son
went to war and never returned. They mourned his death, and Mackworth received
Richard as a son and the heir to his estates and domains. As they prepare for
the wedding at the Mackworth estate, Richard returns to his familial castle,
and in his absence, an unfortunate event occurs. One evening, Jane is kidnapped
while on a walk through the gardens. Mackworth sends news to Richard, who vows
never to return until he finds his love. He searches for weeks with no sign of
Jane, until he comes across a hut offering refreshments to travelers. The man
inside mentions that a gagged woman and man had come through just before and
were on their way to Italy. Richard chases them to the river’s edge and
resolves to follow them. For years, he traverses all of Italy, hopelessly
searching convents for his lover. He falls ill and almost dies from grief, but
dreams of Jane and vows to recover and free her.
The story jumps back
in time to Jane’s kidnapping, and it is revealed that Lord Glendour, one of
Kenelm’s friends, fell madly in love with her and kidnapped Jane to be with
her. He requests her hand in marriage, but she refuses. She tricks him into
allowing her to pass the time in a convent in Italy, where she is watched over
by the Lady Abbess and not allowed to leave. Back in the present, Richard meets
an English man in the middle of Venice. They become friends and visit the man’s
villa. Richard recognizes someone in one of the family pictures and asks the
man to share the story of why he left England. The man says the story is long,
but he has written it down for his children and will one day give Richard a
copy to read. After months of visits, Richard reads the man’s story and is
surprised by the similarities between them. The man, Wentworth, was the eldest
son of a noble house in England. He fell in love with a peasant girl Louisa,
and though he was promised to marry a noble woman Anna, he runs away with his
lover. He fakes illness and tells his father he will go to the Holy War; Louisa
goes with him, and they marry and have a son and daughter. He returns from the
war and vows to sort out his betrothal to Anna. Leaving his wife and children
in the protection of her father, he goes back to his paternal castle. He sets a
plan for his brother, William, to marry Anna instead, and it works. Elatedly,
Wentworth returns to the cottage and is devastated to find Louisa and his
infant son missing. They were tricked by a letter claiming to be from him, and
Wentworth suspects his own father to have sent it. For five years, Wentworth
and his daughter travel the world, though nothing can make him forget Louisa.
Receiving word of his father’s ill health, he returns to England. On his death
bed, Wentworth’s father reveals he sent Louisa to a convent in Italy, but she
escaped. Wentworth and his daughter go back to Italy to search for her, but he
never finds Louisa. He lives like a recluse in his villa, and this is where Richard
reenters the story.
Richard again visits
Wentworth. The man reveals he is Richard’s uncle but used a fake family name so
that he may retire in peace, away from the nobility. Richard explains that
during his search for Jane, he saw Louisa and her son in the Pyrenees.
Together, Richard and Wentworth begin their journey to the mountains to find
the long-lost wife and son. They come across a cottage that Richard had visited
before and reunite with Louisa and the son. Wentworth, now revealed to be
called Sir George, decides to return to his family home in England. Richard
promises to join them, if they can spare a few weeks for him to search for
One night on his
return to the Italian villa, Richard sees two criminals attacking a man. He
intervenes, and they admit they were hired by Count Vertolini to kill him.
Richard and the man go back to his house, so they may speak safely. The young
man then explains his story: he came from England to fight in the Holy War and
had a father and sister at home who he had not heard from in years. During the
war, he became great friends with an Italian man, Vertolini, who had a sister
named Clemena. The man falls in love with her, but is then taken prisoner in
Palestine. Four years later, Vertolini bribed the soldiers and freed his
friend, and they carry on their travels together. The Italian man reveals his
sister is promised to a convent, so she cannot be with his friend despite his
love for her. They meet the sister in Italy, where he becomes even more
enamored. Clemena admits she does not want to join the convent, but it is
necessary for her honor. Vertolini vows to save her before she takes the veil,
and the siblings try in vain to convince their father to free her. The father,
Count Vertolini, refuses the young man’s wedding proposal, and advises him to
leave Italy immediately. It is now revealed that the young man is Sir Henry
Mackworth, Lord Mackworth’s long lost son and Jane’s brother.
Back in the present,
Richard and Henry plan to rescue Clemena. While at the convent, a girl hands
the knight a note telling him to return at midnight to find something of great
importance. He listens, and that night, finds Lady Jane at the convent! She
explains her story and begs him to free her. Richard and Henry return to the convent
to demand her release, but the Lady Abbess refuses. The next day, Henry
interrupts the veiling ceremony and saves Clemena from the convent. Richard
goes back to England with Henry and Clemena, where he hurries to find
Mackworth. Together, they apply to the king and receive his royal mandate to
imprison Lord Glendour. The king sends word to the Pope, and Mackworth and Sir
Richard go back to Italy to retrieve a freed Jane. With Richard’s lover in tow,
they return to England. Wentworth lives in his castle with his family, there
are numerous weddings, Glendour dies in a convent, and Sir Richard is blessed
with years of happiness with Jane, Henry, Wentworth, and the others. They all
live happily ever after.
Frank, Frederick S. “A Gothic Romance.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, by Marshall B. Tymn, New
York City, R.R. Bowker, 1981.
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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
Saggini, Francesca. The Gothic Novel and
The Stage: Romantic Appropriations. Routledge, Taylor Et Francis Group,
In this plagiarized 1810 version of The Old Manor House by Charlotte Smith (1793), Orlando Somerville endures war, poverty, and two transatlantic voyages to be reunited with England, his lover, and a rightful inheritance.
Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville was published and printed in February of 1810 by John Arliss and authored by an unknown writer. Bound by paper and string, this 42-page pamphlet sized book makes use of a small close-set type and two-centimeter-wide margins in order to pack a full-length drama into a small number of pages. The top of each page features a double lined header with a shortened title; “Rayland Hall” is centered, while the page number is included in the top right corner. Showing its age at over 200 years old, many of the pages are marked by large spots of discoloration, and even small spots of mold.
The exterior of the book shows similar signs of wear, with no jacket or cover to be found, the paper and string binding is visibly fragmenting. The first page is blank, while its reverse side contains an illustration titled “Rayland Hall Page 10” that depicts a cavalier hurriedly blowing out a candle while another man enters the room and a woman slumps in a nearby chair. This page has become detached from the rest of the volume and is markedly less worn and significantly whiter than the other pages. On the following title page, the full title is listed with the subscript “An Original Story” and an illustration of a man who is prone, bound, and whose head is being scratched by another man lying on top of him. This illustration is captioned “Thank Heaven! the fortunes of my house revive !” and below we find a double lined division followed by “LONDON: PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY JOHN ARLISS, No. 87, Bartholomew Close.” On the top of this title page, there is a stamped marking that reads “Sophia*” that likely indicated a previous owner’s identity.
Text on the last page of the book ends a third of the way down and there is a final illustration of the exterior of a castle that is framed by an irregular cloud shape. Centered between the illustration and the bottom of the page, FINIS is typed and bolded in a larger font than the rest of the text. The lack of a back cover is congruent with the lack of a front cover, and the final page shows increased wear in relation to the other pages. The publisher, John Arliss, and his printing location are again stated under a dividing line at the bottom right corner of the final page.
The dimensions of the book are truly pamphlet sized, being only 18 x 11 centimeters. Every page save the first detached page has a similar faded white color and seven major splotches that are in the same position on each page. These major discolorations are joined by many smaller slightly darker spots. Texturally, the book is uniform in its extreme softness. Pages vary slightly in width, allowing for easy page turning. Overall, this volume shows its age but is without any major rips, tears, or any other major damage besides the first page which is detached from the rest.
Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville is a chapbook published in 1810 by John Arliss. There is no author listed for this work, and with good reason. Rayland Hall is a plagiarized and condensed account of Charlotte Smith’s four-volume novel The Old Manor House, published in 1793. Charlotte Turner Smith was a renowned female poet and novelist, and The Old Manor House was considered her most well-received work. Rayland Hall features many of the same plot points as The Old Manor House, but does differ in some ways, including the name of the main female character, who is named Juliana in Rayland Hall and named Monomia in The Old Manor House. Ironically, the phrase “AN ORIGINAL STORY” is printed on the title page of the chapbook. Because of the very short form of the 42-page chapbook, many details of The Old Manor House are omitted from Rayland Hall, but the broad strokes of Orlando’s romantic struggle, capture in America, and subsequent victorious return are matched in both works.
The chapbook lacks a preface, introduction, or any further information on how it came to be. Additionally, when researching Rayland Hall, one finds that every digital mention of Rayland Hall is derived from the context of the original work by Charlotte Smith. One name of someone responsible for creating this book does appear: that of the printer and publisher John Arliss. This edition of the chapbook provides the address of his printing shop, located in the Wandsworth neighborhood of London. From what can be surmised based on relevant early nineteenth-century literary databases, Arliss was a prolific publisher who printed many chapbooks and novels. It remains unclear what role Arliss had in the work itself, but he does remain as the sole credited person for this chapbook.
There exists another truncated version of The Old Manor House published in 2006: a 104-page version also titled Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville, edited by Ina Ferris, professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa who has also edited a full-length edition of Smith’s original The Old Manor House. This 2006 version is notably longer than the chapbook, which stands at only thirty-six pages of story, but is unfortunately out of print; it remains unclear the precise relationship between the plagiarized 1810 Rayland Hall chapbook and the newer longer 2006 Rayland Hall.
Narrative Point of View
Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville is narrated in the third person by an unnamed and extratextual narrator. The narration is succinct and to the point, and pertinent facts are simply stated for the reader. The narration easily spans a gulf of time and space to allow for the important plot points to be reached in a timely manner. This narrator does not make the reader privy to characters’ inner feelings and thoughts. The text does include some quotations from characters, but overall the plot is advanced through statements made by the narrator.
The Fluer de Lys, having received her dispatches from the Count d’Estang, proceeded with a fair wing, and in six weeks Orlando landed at Brest. The Chevalier behaved to him as a brother. He was obliged to go immediately to Paris, but he placed Orlando in the house of a merchant, whom he commissioned to supply him with every thing he wanted, and then took leave of his interesting captive, having first procured him a proper passport, giving him a certificate, and taking his parole. Orlando staid but a few days at Brest, and then set out by the diligence for St. Malo, where he was told he might get a conveyance for Guernsey or Jersey. In this he was disappointed, and he journeyed along the coast to Havre; it was almost the end of October, when he engaged a large fishing smack to land him at Southampton, and open communication between the two countries being denied; and this was done at a price that obliged him not only to give up all the ready money he possessed, but also the wardrobe he had obtained at Brest, and he landed with one shirt in his hand, and two pieces of twelve souns in his pocket. With great difficulty from want of money, and fatigue of body, he at length from want of money, and fatigue of body, he at length gained sight of the grey turrets of Rayland Hall. (23)
The narration serves the primary purpose of advancing the plot. There is little attention paid to esoteric motivations and the character development is quite shallow. This leaves the bulk of the work of advancing the plot lines to the narrator. This very explicit style of storytelling makes narrative jumps over space and time smoother and easier, and removes some of the complexity of being able to see into characters’ heads. This chapbook is only forty-two pages, after all, so the events of more than two years clearly need to be condensed greatly, and this simple and straightforward narrative style aids in conveying the plot relatively quickly.
Rayland Hall tells the story of forbidden romance between second cousins. Rayland Hall, a great mansion in southern England is occupied by a single heiress (Mrs. Rayland), her housekeepers, and her deceased sister’s daughter, Juliana. Down the road lives Mr. Somerville who is a cousin of Mrs. Rayland, but whose family had fallen out of favor after Mr. Somerville’s father married a woman living with the Raylands, and thus producing Orlando. Orlando is favored by Mrs. Rayland, and is rumored to be a candidate for her heir, as she has no children.
The narrative of the book opens on Orlando and Juliana going into town (a rare venture for Juliana) on a set of errands. As they stride through town, a rude cavalier by the name of John Blargrave makes some advance with Juliana and is rebuffed by Orlando. John being of high status takes much insult and challenges Orlando to a duel the next day. After the business in town, it is revealed that Orlando and Juliana have been conducting an affair by way of secret passage into Juliana’s tower. That evening Orlando visits Juliana, and they are disturbed by an unknown person peeking into Juliana’s room; Orlando pursues the interloper but is not able to apprehend them.
The fate of Orlando is quickly decided for him by his father: an old acquaintance of his, General Tracey, makes arrangements for Orlando to be shipped off to suppress rebellion in the American colonies rather than face a dangerous duel. Before being sent off, Orlando makes a secret visit to Juliana in her tower where he discovers a smuggler who has been working around Rayland Hall, and is the one who was seen peeping on Juliana and Orlando. They agree to keep each other’s secrets and make a pact of friendship, so that the smuggler may deliver a letter to Juliana.
On his arrival in America, Orlando is quickly captured by an indigenous band of fighters, and comes to be their friend as they spend the winter together in the wilderness trapping. Eventually, he is able to convince them of biding his release, he goes to Canada and is afforded proper station as a British officer, and placed on a ship set for England. Orlando’s ship is captured, and he only makes his way back to Rayland Hall by way of a long and difficult detour through France. Upon arriving at Rayland Hall two years after the events previously described, he finds the manor is in decrepit condition.
Orlando inquires about town and is deemed insane by most he meets, as all assumed him dead overseas after such a long absence of correspondence. He comes to learn that Mrs. Rayland has died and her estate was willed to a Dr. Hollyburn. After questioning the family attorney, he learns of his family’s new location and of the death of his father. Upon seeing his family, he is acquainted with the unsuccessful attempt that his older brother, Phillip, made to sue for Rayland Hall, as most assumed the dead Orlando to be the successor. This suit was unsuccessful, but an attorney advises Orlando to pursue it further.
Orlando learns that Juliana is in the care of a family in Hampshire. This is also the location of the wife of a fallen comrade of Orlando, so he decides to make the trip to investigate. He finds that Juliana is in the care of this very family, and warm feelings are traded between them. Desirous of an immediate marriage, they must first obtain the permission of Juliana’s aunt, as Juliana is underage.
After securing this permission, the aunt then informs Orlando of an alternate will that is hidden within Rayland Hall. Orlando obtains this will and his rights of ownership over Rayland Hall are restored. He and Juliana marry and live a happy life with Orlando Jr.
Rayland Hall; or, The Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville. London, John Arliss, 1810.
Rayland Hall; or, The Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville, edited by Ina Ferris. Zittaw Press, 2006.
Smith, Charlotte. The Old Manor House. London, F. C. and J. Rivington, 1793.
Published in 1800 without identifying an author, this shilling-shocker set during the Holy Wars tells a tale of romance, murder, terror, and mystery.
impressions upon introduction to the Sadlier-Black Collection’s edition of The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. most likely will include the frail binding holding together the
forty-two time-worn pages, as well as the curious lack of a cover. Upon closer
inspection, one can find a few remnants of what seems to be tan leather stuck
to bits of dried glue along the spine of the chapbook. This suggests that the
book was once a part of a collection of works, bound together for sale by the
publisher. Once the first blank page, acting as the cover, is turned, an
intricate frontispiece is found to inhabit the reverse. The image of a man and
a woman moving away from an oncoming knight is central to the illustration, and
is surrounded by detailing of weaponry and armor. Beneath the image the
shortened title,The Mystic Tower, is revealed, instead of a caption, creating a
sense of mystery around what might be occurring in the preceding scene.
intrigue of these yellowed pages continues onto the title page where “The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance” is emblazoned in a combination of different fonts across the top half
of the page, yet there is no author to be found. Instead, there are a few
curious clues that follow, some indicating themes present in the story and
others towards the origins of the work itself. Just below the title is another
illustration, this time depicting a woman standing in the doorway of a
low-ceilinged room with a look of astonishment on her face as she looks down
upon a knight emerging from the floorboards. Following this is an excerpt from
Shakespeare’s Macbeth that reads,
“’Tis done! The scene of life will quickly close; Ambition’s vain, delusive
dreams are fled, And now I wake to darkness, guilt, and horror…..I cannot bear
it!…………….” Both the foreshadowing illustration and the ominous quote
allude to the drama that is to come throughout the novel.
Tracking down the
page, again, there is a note that mentions this book was printed in London for
“KAYGILL, at his Circulating Library, Upper Rathbone Place; MACE, New
Round-court, Strand; and ADCOCK Charles-street, Fitzroy-square; and may be had
of all other Book-sellers in Town or Country.” This indicates where other
copies of this work could be found throughout London, specifically mentioning a
few circulating libraries at which interested subscribers could obtain the book
for sixpence, as denoted in fine print below the message. At the very bottom of
the page, the printer, W. Glindon, and the location of his shop, 48,
Rupert-Street, Covenrry-Street, are listed. Though the publisher and the
location of other copies of the book are helpful hints, the author of the work
remains a mystery. The aged, brittle pages that follow hold narrowly spaced
text, signature marks that allowed the bookbinder to order the sheets
correctly, and a handful of stains from past careless readers, but no mention
of the elusive author. There are no handwritten notes, pencil marks, stains, or
tears among the pages, leaving no physical clues about this particular copy’s
journey through the ages.
The Mystic Tower has no known author, which makes it difficult for scholars to trace the work’s publication history.
The Sadlier-Black collection’s copy of this chapbook is one of three currently recorded copies, and was printed specifically for T. Kaygill “at his circulating library” by W. Glindon (“T Kaygill,” “W Glindon”). Both of these men were British printers and publishers whose careers flourished in the early 1800’s. Though no specific publication date is available for this text, it was most likely published between 1803 and 1807. These dates encompass when T. Kaygill was at the address listed on the title page of the book (39 Upper Rathbone Place, London) (“T Kaygill”).
Many of the primary
catalogues of nineteenth-century gothic works are devoid of any information on The Mystic Tower, so there is no record
of advertisements for the book or public reception of the work. Aside from
being briefly mentioned in Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography,Frederick S. Frank’s The Gothic Romance 1762–1820 holds the
most robust assessment of the book. He claims that its hurried “penny-a-line”
writing style and plot mimic John Palmer’s Mystery
of the Black Tower and ensconce
the chapbook as a typical low-brow shilling shocker (Frank 123). This criticism
leads scholars to believe that the book was not wildly popular, and was most
likely not reprinted or adapted after its original publication.
Narrative Point of View
The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. is written with a
third-person anonymous narrator whose identity is never revealed in the text.
The narrator adopts an omniscient perspective and offers insights about most of
the main characters, while mainly telling the story as if following Matilda along
her journey. Holistically, the narration is succinct, colloquial, and typically
devoid of characters’ inner thoughts. The sentences the narrator uses are very
long and littered with commas, but the language is clear and reads very
comfortably. Only occasionally does the narrator hint at how Matilda would feel
about a certain situation through well placed adjectives and emotionally
connotated verbs. The only time that the voice of the narrator changes is when
Matilda reads the letter titled “The Life of Lady Malvina Fitzwalter.” In this
interpolated tale presented as a letter, Lady Malvina is writing in the first
person and describing how she came to be in the curious position in which the
young women found her.
Sample passage of
“The baron and baroness having been appraised of her illness entered at this moment, when the former approaching the bed, Matilda started back, exclaiming ‘did you murder him?’ ‘murder whom?’ exclaimed de Malvern. ‘The dark spirit in the tower,’ returned Matilda; ‘what is all this?’ said the baroness, turning to Clara, who without delay told them all she knew. They made no comments on her information, but commending Matilda to her care, both retired. The simple narrative of Clara, sunk deep in the mind of the baron, his reflections in supportable; the many reports he had heard in spirits that wandered in the ruined tower, and about the walls of the castle, rushed on his mind and in a convulsive agony he threw himself on a couch, groaning most piteously.” (15)
In this passage,
Romaldi and Oswena are coming to check on Matilda after her encounter with the
ominous knight. She is terrified and is convinced that her parents must have
had something to do with the death of the de Malvern men for them to be haunted
by such a terrifying being. The beginning of the passage sticks solely to the
plot, describing the new baron and baroness approaching their daughter, but
quickly switches to the dialogue in which Matilda makes her accusations about
their involvement in the tragic deaths of the de Malverns. The narrator then
resurges to describe how Matilda is put to bed by Clara, and then follows Sir
Romaldi to detail the unrest he faces because of his deep-seated guilt for
facilitating the death of the former Baron and his son. The focus of the
passage is Matilda’s fear and her conversation with her parents, but when she
is not in the scene the narrator is able to shed light on the experiences of
some of the secondary characters.
Sample passage of
“Having the misfortune to lose my mother at an early age, I, the only child of lord Fitzwalter, was educated by an amiable woman with the utmost tenderness, and instructed in every branch of literature proper for a female mind.” (22)
This passage comes
at the beginning of Lady Malvina’s letter to Matilda, explaining her rather
tragic past. She speaks in the first person, using “I” frequently and
colloquially, which indicates the intimacy of the contents of the letter and
the authenticity of the story being told.
Readers are invited to sit in the shoes of Matilda during this break
from the established narrative style, since the letter reads as a direct
address, which highlights the flashback being recounted in the letter.
The story begins with Sir Romaldi, a poor knight returning
home from his tour in the Holy Wars, trudging towards his castle and stewing
over his jealousy of his relative, the rich Baron de Malvern. The Baron and his
son are still fighting in the wars, and his inner monologue reveals that if
they should die before they return from fighting, he himself would be next in
line to inherit their estate and riches. While he is secretly wishing that a
perilous fate befalls the father and son, a ghostly figure appears in his path,
murmuring a prophecy about how his grim wishes will come true. Frightened by
the eerie apparition, Sir Romaldi hurries home to meet his wife, Oswena, and
his daughter, Matilda.
The story then delves into a flashback, featuring Matilda.
One morning she was walking in the woods near the family castle, when a hunter
appears from the woods claiming that he has lost his companions and asking if
he can rest with her for a while. She agrees and the two exchange pleasantries.
It becomes apparent that the young hunter, named Percy, has taken a liking to
Matilda, and suddenly realizes that she is the daughter of Sir Romaldi. He
exclaims that he cannot be seen with her, due to some deeply ingrained fissure
between their families, but that he would like to meet Matilda again in the
secret of the night. She, again, agrees, but is deeply troubled by the fact
that he cannot meet her father, so after their first rendezvous she tells him
she will no longer come to their meeting spot. She adheres to this promise for
the next two years by not returning to their clandestine spot, but one evening
she passes by and sees Percy walking below the battlement. She realizes how
much she misses him, but it is too late because he is leaving to fight in the
Holy Wars. To remind him that her prayers are with him she gives him a crucifix
necklace and bids him goodbye.
A return to the present hones in on a conversation between
Sir Romaldi and Oswena, in which he explains the eerie apparition on his
journey home and she replies that he should have the Baron de Malvern and his
son slain to secure the prophecy that the ethereal figure foretold. After falling into a terrified stupor, he
gathers his resolve and agrees that the foul deed must be done.
Months later, a message arrives at Sir Romaldi’s castle that
the Baron and his son have died, and that he is to inherit the de Malvern
estate. The small family gathers their things and immediately moves into the
new castle. An ominous tension falls over the household as Romaldi walks in,
with the minstrels unable to play their instruments and other household
servants running in terror. As Matilda is walking around her new home with her
attendant, Clara, the servant girl explains to her that there is a suit of
armor rumored to wander the halls of the unrenovated part of the castle at
night, as well as a particular portrait whose inhabitant occasionally leaps
from it to walk to the same mysterious tower, said to house the spirits of the
castle. Matilda tries to mitigate the fears of Clara, but one night they are able
to see a light moving in the windows of the tower which reinvigorates terror in
both of the girls. They send for the family priest, who tells them they are
being superstitious and foolish, but all three are then confronted with the
large black suit of armor that the rumors foretold. Matilda rushes to her
parents to tell them of her terrifying encounters, and asks them if they had
some hand in killing the Baron or his son. They assure her that she has nothing
to worry about, but they share a moment of concern knowing that these hauntings
are very likely due to their nefariously plotted murder.
Tensions and fears settle, and Romaldi begins to bring
suitors to the castle to eventually find a match for Matilda. She, however, is
approached by a boy that gives her the crucifix she gave to Percy, with the
promise that he would return it to her shortly before he came home to ask for
her hand in marriage. When her father tells her that he intends to give her
hand to a particularly distasteful Lord she refuses and, in his anger, he has
Matilda and Clara locked in her room until the next day when she is to be wed.
Clara helps Matilda escape her arranged fate through a series of trap doors and
tunnels that lead from her room to the outside of the castle, and in the middle
of their flight they are met again by the darkly armored knight, and are
terrified but are still able to escape the walls of the castle. Matilda and
Clara hide in the nearby convent, but are quickly discovered by Romaldi, and
are sent a letter demanding their return home. The abbess helps the girls
escape to travel to another convent, but after becoming fatigued during their
journey, they come upon the benevolent and ethereal Lady Malvina. The girls are
showered with Malvina’s compassion and kindness in her hidden underground
dwelling in the forest.
One evening, Matilda is presented with a letter detailing
Lady Malvina’s mysterious history. Reading it, she discovers that as a girl
Malvina was the sole heir to a large estate, promised to be married to her
lover, Sir Egbert, and had met a distressed young woman, named Josephine, in
the woods and secretly took her into her own care. She lived in pure happiness
until her father died, after which Sir Egbert began to act coldly towards her
and Josephine left her to grieve the loss of her lover alone, which she later
discovered to be the result of an affair between her two closest companions.
She tried to go through with the marriage as planned, but at the altar
exclaimed that her friends were and love and should be married instead, despite
the great pain and sorrow it caused her. Later, when she was invited by Sir
Egbert to visit them, it was revealed that he was unhappy with the
ill-intentioned Josephine and asked for Malvina’s forgiveness. Having heard the
conversation between the former lovers and feeling enraged, Josephine storms in
and murders Sir Egbert. Suffering from such deep pain, Malvina moved into her
current subterranean apartments to protect herself from accusations that she
had killed Egbert and the cruel world that injured her so greatly. Matilda
weeps for her friend’s losses, and feels a deep connection with her as she is
the only mother figure Matilda has ever possessed.
Soon Matilda and Clara receive a letter stating that the son
of Baron de Malvern has survived his time in the war, and a foray outside with
Malvina results in the three women being discovered by Josephine’s men. They
are taken to Josephine’s court, but Matilda is cast aside, and is taken back to
the de Malvern castle. She is left by Josephine’s guard to get into the castle
herself and after sleeping outside for a couple days, she manages to sneak into
the castle, where she finds her father lying on the floor covered in blood. He
is only able to explain that he has slain himself, her mother has been
poisoned, and to apologize for his cruelty to her before he dies, and Matilda,
horror stricken, is only able to find her way to a chair before she
She awakes to Percy holding her and he reveals that he is
the son of the Baron de Malvern and rightful heir of the title and estate. He
also tells her that her father sent an assassin to kill him and his father,
though he only managed to murder the Baron, and that he sent a loyal friend to
watch over the castle, giving an explanation to the eerie suit of dark armor
Matilda had seen wandering the castle. Matilda then tells her story leading up
to the present, and concludes with her sorrow over the fate of Malvina. Percy
takes Matilda to Josephine’s castle to rescue her friend but Josephine,
surprised and overwhelmed by the invasion, stabs herself in the heart to avoid
capture. They find Malvina in the dungeon and bring her back to safety with
them, securing her innocence for Sir Egbert’s death with the king. Matilda
marries Percy to become Lady de Malvern and the two live long happy lives
together with their children. Malvina remains heavily involved in Matilda’s
life, and is able to spend her dying breath in Matilda’s arms.
“The Gothic Romance 1762–1820.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall Tymn.
R. R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–175.
The Mystic Tower; or Villainy Punished. London, W. Glindon, N.D.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune Press, 1940.
In this chapbook, discover dark family secrets and old rivalries in a tale of love, revenge, and deception set in the Italian countryside.
The full title of this book is The Alpine Wanderers; or the Vindictive Relative: A Tale, Founded on Facts. This title appears in full only on the interior title page of the book, and the partial title, The Alpine Wanderers, appears on the spine of the book. The exterior of the book is otherwise extremely plain with no other inscriptions on the cover. The author’s name, given as A. Brown, appears only on the title page and not on the cover or anywhere else in the book. It is bound in brown paper, which looks similar to cardboard. This book is about 18 cm tall and 11 cm wide. It consists of thirty-eight pages of text. This particular copy of the book was rebound by the library at some point, and several pages of thick cardstock-like paper were added to the back of the book in order to make it thicker to make the book easier to bind.
The interior of the book appears well used. The actual pages the story is printed on are very thin and soft. Most of the pages have browned with age and wear. The edges of many of the pages are torn or bent from being turned, and fingerprints have been left on a few of the pages. The text of the book is somewhat small but not tiny. Space is left above the text of the story on each page for the book’s title and the page number to be printed. The text is faded or smudged at some places in the book, and in others, the pages are so thin that the text on one side of the page shows through to the other.
On the very first page of the book, immediately preceding the title page, there is a black and white illustration depicting a fight between three men inside a house. The illustration is captioned “Alpine Wanderers.” This is an illustration of a scene that occurs on page 28 of the book. At the bottom of page 28, there is a note, “*See Frontispiece,” directing the reader to this illustration at the front of the book.
This copy of the book consists of pages appearing to be printed by two different print shops. Up until page 14 of the story, the pages have catchwords on the bottom of the pages. Catchwords are when the printer puts the first word of the next page on the bottom of the page they are setting in order to help ensure they set the pages in the correct order. Pages 15 through 38 do not have these catchwords at the bottom. The bottom of title page of the book is marked with “J. McGowen, Printer, Church Street, Blackfriars Road,” and the bottom of the last page of the story is marked with “J. Bailey, Printer, 116, Chancery Lane.” Based on this, it is likely that the title pages and the story through page 14 were printed by J. McGowen, and the rest of the book, pages 15 through 38, were printed by J. Bailey.
Very little information about The Alpine Wanderers is available from the time that it was published. The title page of this copy of The Alpine Wanderers lists the author as A. Brown. Several sources, notably including Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography, list the book without a known author, which may indicate that other editions of the book were not attributed to any author (230). There do not seem to be any other chapbooks or other similar literature attributed to an A. Brown. The publishing date for book is not certain, with some sources, such as A Gothic Bibliography, listing it as published as early as 1800 and others, such as National Union Catalog, pre-1956 imprints showing dates as late as 1820 (Summers 230, National Union Catalog 536). Most library listings use one of these two dates, and most note the uncertainty of the date. This edition was printed for J. Scales in London, and was printed by J. McGowen of Church Street, Blackfriars Road and J. Bailey of 116, Chancery Lane (Brown 3). Other copies of the book from the nineteenth century all had some variation on this publishing information if any was given. There are no known contemporary advertisements or reviews for the book.
Copies of The Alpine Wanderers appear for sale in multiple catalogues from the early twentieth century. One is a 1900–1902 copy of An Illustrated Catalogue of Old and Rare Books for Sale, with prices affixed from rare book dealers Pickering and Chatto (82). Another is from a catalogue of the 1916 estate auction of one Col. Prideaux by auctioneers Southeby, Wilkinson, & Hodge (59). In both catalogues, the book is sold as part of larger lots of chapbooks. The lot of Col. Prideaux’s chapbooks lists an alternate title for the book as The Castle of Montrose (Southeby, Wilkinson, & Hodge 59). In the text, Montrose Castle is named once at the beginning of the story as the dwelling place the main characters are fleeing at the beginning. A Montrose Castle did exist, but it was located in Scotland, while the book is specified as taking place in the Italian countryside, and Montrose Castle was destroyed several centuries before this book was published (“Montrose, Fort Hill”). Other instances could not be found of this book being referred to by this alternate title or any copy of the book with this title listed on it.
Several other libraries own copies of The Alpine Wanderers. Harvard University’s Houghton Library owns a copy that has also been digitized, and seems to be the same edition the University of Virginia owns. Harvard’s library catalog lists this copy as having a color frontispiece, which differs from the black and white frontispiece of the edition in the Sadleir-Black Collection, but the Harvard edition frontispiece is not included in the digital scan available online. Stanford University’s library also owns a copy, which their library catalog lists as including a hand colored frontispiece. Princeton University owns a copy of the book, also with a color frontispiece; its library catalog listing identifies its previous owner as Michael Sadlier. Princeton’s copy was also part of a two-volume collection of chapbooks bound together under the title Romance. The books from this collection were published mainly in or around 1810, with estimated publishing dates as early as 1800 and as late as 1826, and have a variety of different publishers and printers. It seems likely that these chapbooks were bound together at some point after their separate printing and publishing, though it is not clear when. The University of Oklahoma, the University of Nebraska, and the British Library also all own copies of The Alpine Wanderers.
Narrative Point of View
The Alpine Wanderers is predominantly narrated in third person by an anonymous narrator who is removed from the events of the story. In a few places throughout the story, such as the opening, the narrator will add first-person comments or address the reader directly. The story also includes multiple long stretches when a character spends an extended amount of time recounting their own backstory and takes over the narration in their first-person perspective. The longest of these interpolated tales is presented as a written manuscript. The storytelling focuses on character actions and interactions, with frequent lengthy sections of dialogue and long sentences describing plot, but little time spent on setting and description.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
Let us now return to St. Alver’s Cottage. The little family had just finished their evening repast when they were alarmed by a loud knocking at the Door. Alice demanded who knock’d, a voice from without replied, “A friend who has something of importance to communicate”. The door was opened, and a man entered who wore a mask. On casting his eyes round the group before him, he singled out the Count and told him “He wished to speak with him in private”. In evident agitation St. Alvers followed the stranger into another room. When they were alone the Count begged the man would inform him of his business. “You have reasons, Seignior, or am I mistaken, for concealment; Say; is it not so?” The Count paused, at length he answered “No” The stranger again said, “If not it is all well, but I had reason to believe you were in imminent danger. I am a Friend, but shall not discover who I am at present. If you are the person, destruction awaits you unless you accept of my assistance which I freely offer. -Perhaps it was not you that was alluded to, if so, I beg pardon- Seignor, I meant well. (18–19)
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration Speaking in the First Person:
Poor Mary dared not urge more, and retired in the utmost affliction. Their rural sports were almost neglected, the thoughts of the approaching departure of their beloved brothers damped the usual gaiety. I shall pass over the separation between these beloved relatives, as it can be much better conceived than described; for who has not, at some period of their lives, endured a like separation? (13)
Sample Passage of Interpolated Manuscript:
“For the satisfaction of my children, I write this, that they may know and avoid the crimes of their father, and likewise that they may claim certain estates, which, while my bitter foe lives, I dare not. At the age of twenty-two, I came into possession of a large unencumbered estate, by the death of my father, with the titles and honors annexed to the name of Lindford (for that is my real name.) My sister, yet an infant, was left under my protection. The gaieties of life with me were just began, every kind of dissipation I launched into with avidity; nor did I awake from this giddy dream, until informed by my steward, I had no longer resources, except from the mortgage of part of my estates; it was then I cast my eyes around for a wife, whose wealth would be likely to rescue me from my unpleasant situation.” (26)
The subtitle of The Alpine Wanderers declares the story “a tale, founded on facts.” The narrator attempts to present the story as events that could have occurred in real life. The narrator’s insertion of their own thoughts in first person usually serve to further the idea that this is a real story that they are recounting and commenting on by suggesting they have limited knowledge of the story at certain points or are intentionally skipping over periods of time in their retelling. There is just enough setting description for the reader to be given a general understanding of where events are taking place and for the mood of the story to be set, but there is overall a lack of physical description that again contributes to the premise that the narrator is recounting a true story secondhand rather than making a story up or speaking of a personal experience. The insertion of a long stretch of backstory via a manuscript written by a character allows for the narrator to recount an important part of a main character’s story with specific details, opinions, and emotions recounted by the character himself that helps add depth to the character and his story while giving an in-text reason that the narrator would be able to have this level of detail and insight on this section of the story.
The Alpine Wanderers opens on the Count St. Alvers and his family fleeing their castle home on a stormy night. He, his four children, and the family’s two servants had inhabited this castle for ten years, remaining almost entirely isolated from their neighbors during this time. The Count’s wife had lived with the family for some of this time, but had been a withdrawn and despondent presence in the castle and had died after a few years. The family’s flight from the castle had been instigated by a recently received letter. The Count did not reveal the contents of the letter to his children, but had been visibly distraught upon reading it.
The family travels around Italy in an erratic fashion for several days before coming to rest in a new village. Here, he and his two daughters, Olivia and Mary, will take on the appearance of average peasants while his two sons, Frederic and Robert, will be sent to England for their education. The village is also home to the Chateau of the Marchesa de Cortes, who comes to visit while the family is staying there. The Marchesa brings with her a company which includes her two young nephews, William and Henry. The two boys encounter Olivia and Mary and are quite taken with the beautiful young women. Mary rebuffs Henry’s advances while maintaining her role as a peasant, but Olivia begins to form a relationship with William, who begins to entertain the idea of marriage. He speaks to her father about the subject, but the Count rejects the proposal. The Marchesa overhears her nephew’s discussions about Olivia and also disapproves of him marrying a girl below his station.
That same night, a masked man comes to the home of the Count and his family and informs the count that he is an ally coming to warn him of imminent danger. The masked man informs the count that his family must flee for their safety and offers his assistance in finding them shelter until more permanent arrangements can be made. The Count is alarmed by this news, but believes him, so the family once again flees in the middle of the night. The masked stranger leads them to an unpleasant underground chamber and locks them inside, and the family soon realizes that they have actually been imprisoned. After being kept in this dungeon for three days, the family is visited by the Marchesa, who had assumed the suspicious behavior of the family as they tried to present as peasants had been covering some criminal activity.
Upon seeing the Marchesa, who he had yet to encounter in person, the Count recognizes her as his long-lost sister and reveals his true identity to her as the Lord Linford, an English nobleman. The Marchesa, excited to have found her brother, who she had believed to be lost in a shipwreck years ago, releases the family and brings them into her home. She explains to her brother that since they had last seen each other, she had married the Marches de Cortes, who had later died and left her his fortune and his sister’s sons as her charges. She then informs Henry and William that now that she knows the true status of Olivia and Mary, she fully supports their marriages.
It is then Lord Linford’s turn to explain where he has been since he and his sister parted. He gives the others a manuscript explaining that when he was young, his father died and left him the family fortune. The Lord quickly squandered the fortune and needed to marry a woman with money. He met his children’s mother, who was not nobility but was promised to inherit a decent amount of money from her father. Her family disapproved of the couple, so the two left the country and married without her family’s consent. This led to tensions between the Lord and his wife’s father and brother. On multiple occasions, this tension boiled over and led to physical fighting. On one occasion, Lord Lindford injured his brother-in-law, and on another, he accidentally dealt his father-in-law a fatal blow while attempting to defend himself from his brother-in-law. His brother-in-law had him arrested for the murder of his father, but Lady Lindford helped him escape. They and their children fled the country, eventually ending up in Italy, where they found the castle they were living in at the beginning of the story. While the Lord’s wife believed that her father’s death had been an accident, she still remained distant from her husband and outwardly unhappy until she eventually died. The Lord stayed in this castle until the day he received a letter warning him that the Lady’s brother had learned he was in Italy and was coming to take vengeance for his father’s death. This prompted the family’s flight from the beginning of the book.
Once the Lord has recounted his tale, his sister informs him that his brother-in-law has since died and with his final words, admitted that his father’s death had been an accident and not an intentional murder. With the Lord’s name cleared, the family is free to return to their homeland of England. Upon their arrival, they reunite with Frederic and Robert, who had already been in the country for their education. During his stay, Frederic has fallen in love with a General’s daughter. He and his love have both been fearful that the General would not approve of Frederic, but upon learning he is a Lord, the General grants Frederic his blessing to marry his daughter. The story ends with the three weddings: Frederic and the General’s daughter, Olivia and William, and Mary and Henry. The book then gives the reader a final warning that wrongdoing will receive punishment, good deeds will receive reward, and that nothing good ever comes from disobeying one’s parents.
Brown, A. The Alpine Wanderers: Or the Vindictive Relative: A Tale, Founded On Facts. London, Printed for J. Scales.
American Library Association. Committee on Resources of American Libraries. National Union Catalog Subcommittee, and Library of Congress. “The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints: a Cumulative Author List Representing Library of Congress Printed Cards And Titles Reported by Other American Libraries.” London: Mansell, 1968–1981.
Sotheby, Wilkson, & Hodge. (London, England).“Catalogue of the Very Interesting and Extensive of the Late Col. W. F. Prideaux, C.S.I of Hopeville, St. Peter’s-in-Thanet (Sold by Order of the Executor).” [Catalogues of sales]. 1914-1917. London, Sotheby, Wilkson, & Hodge, 1916. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015059847577.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. Fortune Press, 1941.
In this chapbook set in France, a love story is hindered by a villain’s lust and Machiavellian quest for power, full of abduction and murder.
Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi is embedded with a varied and interesting material history. The aforementioned title of the book appears on the first page, and later, throughout the pages on the upper margins. However, the subtitle is omitted from these subsequent pages. Interestingly, the author’s name does not appear whatsoever, even on the title page.
The chapbook is in surprisingly good condition for being over two hundred years old. The paper itself is good quality, albeit a little brown. However, the pages will not last indefinitely because the novel has been disbound, so if one were to turn the leaves the novel would loosen. Therefore, the Sadler-Black collection might rebind it in the future to prevent this from occurring. The physical dimensions of the book measure out to be 17.3 cm by 10.6 cm. The page count is thirty-eight, including a second short story titled Ogus & Cara-Khan; or the Force of Love appended at the end but not mentioned on the title page. The addition of this second story is not explained, unless perhaps both novels were a part of a larger collection of stories. Unfortunately, while the edition of the novel that is a part of the Sadler-Black library collection was previously bound, no details of the original binding are available.
The overall appearance of the book is cheap (most likely meant to be discarded like other copies), unblemished (there is a relative lack of markings for such a copy), aged (comparatively to modern publications), and of middling quality. Offset is another descriptor here–the text was conveyed (aka “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket to a printing surface, which is a common practice in printing. The body pages themselves contain minimal white space, despite the font being in a relatively small size. An interesting aspect of the font of the text is the use of the long s, an archaic form of the lowercase s, which resembles an f more than an s. It generally replaces the single s and also one of the letters s when there is a double s. This used to be a somewhat common practice but has long fallen out of fashion.
The novel begins with a frontispiece illustration, facing the title page on the right-hand, or recto page. It shows an illustrated image of a man and a woman in antiquated outfits, with the woman sitting on a chair, seemingly in grief—the man is comforting, or trying to comfort, her. They are in a room with a single window, allowing light to enter the space. This scene is not explicated in the chapbook, but could be interpreted as illustrating many parts of the text. The illustration itself is an copper-plate engraving.
Something notable is that the title page has offsetting. The technical reason for this is that there were two printing presses used as they specialized in different types of printing, one for the text and one for the illustration; these would later be combined. Due to this, different inks are used, resulting in offsetting from the oxidation, which forms a brownish rectangle.
Finally, there is one mark of ownership within the book, on the first page, for one Robert Allen. Also, on page thirty-six, there is a printer’s imprint featuring the name of the printer who printed the text—A. Kemmish. The title page contains the name of the publisher—J. Kerr.
Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi was originally published by A. Kemmish for J. Ker. Several copies were seemingly published for this book collector, about whom there is much biographical information. John Ker was the third duke of Roxburghe and lived from 1740 to 1804. There is no date of publication on Clairville Castle and no clear indication in source material of its publication date, though one WorldCat entry estimates 1805 as a potential year of publication.
Jon Ker owned an expansive personal library, which continued to grow throughout his life. He even arranged the marriage of Anna Ker into his family, who was a gothic writer herself, and may have influenced some of the additions to his large collection of books. “Roxburghe books are today the prized possessions of many of the world’s great libraries, and their collector is immortalized by the distinction of having named after him one of the most exclusive and famous of bibliographical societies, the Roxburghe Club” (Hillyard). This aligns with the inclusion of this chapbook in the Sadler-Black collection and many others throughout the U.S. and abroad.
There were no subsequent editions of Clairville Castle published; it was originally written in English, and was never translated into any other languages. There is no preface or introduction to the chapbook, and this appears consistent with the other editions of the novel, all of which were published at the same time. The text also does not appear to have any prequels or sequels in publication, although there are several chapbooks from this time period featuring similar characters and plots.
There are no contemporary reviews for the text, and so it is unknown whether it was received poorly or positively at the time of publication. The text also does not appear to have been advertised, and does not appear to have been reprinted following its original publication—the copies that exist are as follows: one in the University of Virginia library, one at the Stanford Library, one at Harvard University in the Houghton Library, one at Oxford University, one in the British Library Reference Collections, and one in Leakey’s Bookshop (which is a secondhand bookshop in Scotland). Some of these copies have been digitized recently, such as the copy the British Library houses, which was digitized on Sep 28, 2016, according to WorldCat. Also, there is a digital copy available on Google Books; this copy appears nearly identical to the one available in the University of Virginia Sadleir-Black library collection, although it does not contain a frontispiece illustration and has differing marks of ownership, such as an indiscernible signature on the title page.
This text has not been adapted, seemingly, in any fashion. There is a clear similarity in this text to other gothic novels and chapbooks of the time period; however, it does not appear to have specifically influenced any pieces of literature following its publication. Furthermore, this work seems to have been completely unattended to by academic scholarship, and this is most likely a result of the lack of popularity concerning the chapbook. It simply appears to be one of many similar gothic texts published during this time period, which were overshadowed by each other and by even more popular works in the genre.
Narrative Point of View
Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi is told by an anonymous narrator in the third person. This narration contains sentences that vary in length, but the style certainly feels antiquated and long-winded. The narrator strikes a balance between describing the actual plot of the story and the characters’ emotions towards these events throughout the chapbook. The narrator also uses dialogue sparingly, since there is much background information and action within the plot that is described without its use.
Emma had for some time enjoyed the retirement, from which she was aroused by a confused sound of voices that proceeded from below—she started up and recollecting her perilous situation, which the height of the sun beaming through the curtains painted in strong colors; she felt her apprehensions of pursuit renewed—she adjusted her dress, and tied on her straw bonnet, in order to seek her father, when he suddenly entered–he found her so apprehensive from the interval of time that they had lost at the inn, that he ventured to inform her of Albert’s arrival, and his impatience to behold her. The glow of pleasure animated her fair cheek, but was instantly succeeded by a deadly paleness. (30)
This narration succeeds in moving the plot along quickly, by utilizing long compound sentences (such as the passage above) in order to describe the events and the characters’ feelings towards them. By balancing these descriptions of the plot and the internal sentiments of the characters, the narrator is able to allow for lulls in the action of the story so that the plot does not progress too quickly. The minimal use of dialogue also highlights the importance of what the characters say, and works as a plot device in and of itself. All of these features of the narration combine to create a story that is fast paced but still leaves room for the reader to breathe when necessary.
Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi, told by a narrator in the third person, begins with a character description of a peasant named Bernard and his daughter, Emma. Although they are not wealthy, the father is a well-respected member of the community of Clairville due to his generous and benevolent nature. His daughter shares these qualities as she joins village festivities and is doted on by her father. Despite the death of Emma’s mother in years past, the two live a happy life as a family unit.
Bernard works as a bailiff under the Marquis de Clairville—until his untimely death, that is, which ushers in a general sadness as exemplified by his funeral which is attended by many, with all attendees displaying great amounts of grief. During the procession, a young Swiss man named Albert arrives at the castle, and decides to join the ceremony after learning who had died from one of the townsfolk. At the church where the funeral is being held, a group of women begin to lay flowers on the coffin of the late Marquis; one is a beautiful girl, whom Albert immediately notices and is enchanted by. He follows her down the middle aisle of the church, and sees her embracing her father, both mourning the man in the casket. Not daring to interrupt, he asks another peasant for the girl’s name, which he learns is Emma. The peasant offers Albert a bed in his cottage, and he agrees immediately, since it is near Bernard and Emma’s abode, and he plans to ask for her hand in marriage already.
The story of the late Marquis’s life is then embellished upon—his wife and infant child were ambushed by some bandits several years prior, resulting in his wife’s death and his son’s kidnapping. This drove him to great melancholy, but he remained generous at heart and treated the townspeople as his own children. Following his death, his lands and estates became those of the Baron of Morenzi, who is a much crueler man. He discards his subjects’ complaints and pays them no heed. He also carries a heavy debt, which he does not pay, instead pursuing a life of vice and leisure.
Meanwhile, Albert has gained the affections of Emma and the approval of Bernard. She reads to him often, having amassed a great collection of books, all of which impress Albert immensely. He begins to fall in love with her and she reciprocates. However, her father declines to support their proposal of marriage because he believes that they are of two distinct social classes. Promising to receive his father’s support for the match, Albert returns to his native country. Bernard then proceeds to tell Emma to relinquish all notions of this potential marriage occurring, and she submits to her father’s request.
The Baron meets Emma a little while later while roaming his lands, and immediately falls for her, planning to seduce her despite Bernard rebuking his advances. One day, a messenger from the castle arrives at Emma’s doorstep and informs her that her father has suddenly been struck ill. She hurries to the castle, only to find the Baron, who threatens her into staying with him, displaying his power over her father. She rejects him, and flees the castle, finding her father at the gates (the Baron’s steward, Du Val, had instructed him to remain there under false pretenses); both return to their cottage. Fearing the Baron’s wrath, they decide to flee to the castle of Brinon, some twenty miles away and where his late wife had labored. On the way, they stop at an inn where the landlord offers them refreshments and water for their horses.
Albert had returned to his home, to the estate of his father, the Count de Bournonville. He tells his father of Emma and begs his permission to marry her. In response, the Count tells him that he is in charge of his own destiny, and reveals that he merely adopted Albert, whose real name is Henry de Clairville. The Count’s infant son had recently died of an illness while they were travelling from France to Switzerland. When the Count and his inconsolable wife came upon the result of a bandit attack and found a dying servant coddling an infant boy, they decided that they must raise Albert as their own. They named him, then, after their late son. The assassin who killed his mother was none other than the Baron de Morenzi. Learning all of this, Albert resolves to avenge his mother and returns to France with a retinue.
During this time, Du Val attempts to capture Emma for the Baron. Finding her cottage empty, he returns to the castle and informs the Baron, who flies into a rage—both set out in pursuit of the fugitives. Albert reaches the inn in which Bernard and Emma are staying, and explains to the father all that he had recently learned. The Baron, too, arrives, and Albert confronts him with extreme anger. However, he is unarmed, unlike the Baron and his retinue, so his men restrain him and drag him to another room where they lock themselves inside. The Baron, feeling immense regret for his past actions, draws a pistol and shoots himself in the head before Du Val can stop him. Albert returns to the room and finds the lifeless body, proclaiming it to be a just death for a murderer, to the onlookers.
Bernard informs Emma, in her chamber, of what has just occurred, and offers her hand in marriage to Albert, or Henry, in his eyes. Albert’s adopted father also approves of the match wholeheartedly. With the usurper now dead, Albert becomes the new Marquis of Clairville—he also marries Emma. The people of the village rejoice at this turn of events and all ends merrily.
Set in the Italian countryside, this 1807 chapbook sees seemingly supernatural justice dealt after a deceitful and power-hungry prince murders his father, usurps the throne, and abducts his brother’s lover.
Parental Murder is anineteenth-century
chapbook written by an unknown author. When the novel is opened past its first
blank page, one is presented with an illustration on the second page, and the
title page appears on the third. The bulk of the title page is dedicated to the
novel’s full title and a brief description: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR, THE BROTHERS,
AN INTERESTING ROMANCE; IN WHICH VIRTUE AND VILLAINY ARE CONTRASTED, AND
FOLLOWED BY REWARD AND RETRIBUTION.” The title page indicates that the novel
was printed for T. and R. Hughes by printers Lewis & Hamblin. A date at the
bottom of the title page indicates that it was published in 1807.
Interestingly, the title page makes no mention of the novel’s author.
The illustration on the second page is in black-and-white,
depicting a scene from the main text. In the image, a woman clad in flowing
white robes looks down upon a man lying dead on the ground, facing upward. The
illustration is accompanied by a caption reading, “A fire-ball, impelled by the
arm of unerring Omnipotence, laid the libertine dead at my feet. Page 27.” As
suggested, this text appears in a passage on page 27.
The chapbook itself measures 11cm wide by 18cm tall.
Stitching holes in each page’s inner margins suggest that the chapbook was
originally bound, but this particular book has had its binding removed, and its
first blank page serves as a kind of cover. The book’s paper is thin, brittle,
yellowed, and very grainy—one feels pulp as they run their finger across each
page. At its edges, the paper is frayed and rough. The book appears to have
been printed on relatively cheap material, and this particular copy is
especially well-worn; several of its pages are on the brink of coming apart
from one another.
The chapbook is numbered as containing forty pages; however,
counting from the novel’s blank first page, there are actually only thirty-eight
pages. The novel’s first numbered page—page 8—appears only six pages in. Every
page number thereafter is consecutive; if these two pages are missing, they
must have been taken from before page 8. It is ultimately unclear if any pages
actually are missing; no content appears to be omitted from these first
pages. It is probable that either the two absent pages are blank or that page
counting simply begins at an unusual number.
The blank first page—while devoid of print—does contain
several ownership markings. The name “Sophia” is stamped identically three
times near the top. Underneath, a partially-legible script indicates the name
“Barbara Bounby” and the date range June 3rd to June 16th,
1810. (However, the specific days in June are somewhat unclear—the script is
blotted and individual characters become difficult to decipher.) Near the
bottom of the page, “Le” is written in a similar script with identical color.
After the main body of the text begins, the title of the
book appears only in its abbreviated form: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR,” alongside
“THE BROTHERS.” printed in the top margins of the left and right pages,
respectively. Each page in the text’s main body has thin margins. The type is
small, seriffed, and heavyset. The lines are short and tightly packed; the
pages, while small, are dense. The body of the text contains no illustrations
beyond the introductory frontispiece on the second page.
The body text is marked on two separate pages. First, on
page 22, two x-marks made in pencil surround the phrase “of his heart.” Higher
up on the same page, an (ostensibly accidental) pencil marking veers off the
top edge. On page 31, the word “Regicide!” is underlined in pen. These two
pages are the only two with obvious, visible annotations; the rest of the text
Very little information is available concerning the writing,
publication, or reception of Parental Murder. Its author is
anonymous—the only names listed in the chapbook are those of the publisher and
printer. Published in London in 1807, it was apparently released to little
fanfare: there are no records of Parental Murder being advertised or
reviewed in any periodicals of its time. Furthermore, searches for contemporary
literary criticism—or any other kind of secondary scholarship—on the chapbook
yield few references.
There are, however, indications that Parental Murder did
not go entirely unnoticed by the scholarly community. For instance: it is
listed in the expansive Gothic Bibliography by Montague Summers,
described simply as “Parental Murder. Chapbook. 1807” (457).A
slightly more detailed listing appears in Douglass Thomson’s Gothic Writers:
A Critical and Bibliographical Guide; his account includes the chapbook’s
full subtitle, its city of publication, and the names of its editors (137).
More interesting, however, is Parental Murder’s omission from Gothic
Writers’ section on modern reprintings or updated editions. In this section,
Thomson maintains a comprehensive list of reprintings, updated editions, and
other reproductions of the works he tracks. From this, we can infer that Parental
Murder was probably never reprinted or republished as a new edition.
Thomson’s finding is consistent with searches across several online catalogs:
in each case, no later editions of the chapbook appear. The available scholarly
information on the chapbook, while relatively minute, suggests that only one
edition has ever been published.
As previously noted, Parental Murder makes no
indication of its author; it does, however, include the names of its printers
and publishers. Before the body of the text, and once more at its close, the
names and address of the books’ printmakers are listed: “Printed by Lewis &
Hamblin, Paternoster-row” (Parental Murder 40). Similarly, the title
page displays the name and address of the publishers: “Printed for T. and R.
Hughes, 35, Ludgate-Hill, Corner of Stationers-Court” (Parental Murder 5).
Biographical information on these figures is scarce; Lewis, Hamblin, and R.
Hughes are all absent from searches for London printmakers or publishers active
during 1807. A brief biographical entry for T. Hughes, however, does appear.
The British Museum indicates that he was a British publisher and printmaker
located at 35 Ludgate-Hill, consistent with the information in the chapbook.
The page also indicates that this figure is “perhaps identical with T Hughes of
Stationers’ Court” (“T Hughes”). Observing that the listed address in Parental
Murder names both Ludgate-Hill and Stationers’ Court, we can confirm that
these two figures likely both refer to the same printmaker.
The British Museum also notes that T. Hughes published
several prints by George Cruikshank, a prominent illustrator of the time.
Cruikshank was widely known for his political cartoons and illustrations for
the likes of Charles Dickens, and his work remains prolific today. The
uncredited illustration preceding Parental Murder is almost certainly
unconnected to Cruikshank, however, as the chapbook’s publication in 1807predates
Cruikshank’s rise as an illustrator in 1811.
Investigating the site of Parental Murder’s printing and publication places the chapbook at the center of the bustling London publishing and printmaking industries. Paternoster-row, the address attributed to printers Lewis and Hamblin, was a nexus of printmaking and principally occupied by “stationers and text-writers” (Thornbury chapter 23). The chapbook’s publishers, T. and R. Hughes, were situated at the corner of the nearby Stationers’ Court. Stationers’ Court is a small path that departs from Ludgate Hill Street and leads to the entrance of Stationers’ Hall (see this Ordnance Survey map to view the precise streets). Stationers’ Hall housed the Stationers’ Company, a government-chartered literary authority that extensively vetted and registered British publications: “almost every publication … was required to be ‘entered at Stationers’ Hall’” (Thornbury chapter 19). In this sense, the sites of Parental Murder’s printing and publication were both mere footsteps away from the epicenter of London publishing, pinning the chapbook’s production to the literal geographic center of a flourishing literary trade.
Point of View
Parental Murder features an anonymous, third-person
narrator whose relationship to the text is left undefined. The novel’s prose is
grandiose, long-winded, and, at times, almost breathless in nature: short and
succinct sentences are often interposed with very long, grammatically complex
ones. The narration shifts freely between making matter-of-fact observations on
plot points and offering reflections on the inner thoughts, emotions, and
secret motivations of the characters.
With malicious looks, Rabano saw that all the favours he had been suing for at the side of this lovely peerless maiden were unhesitatingly granted to his brother, and with such an arch plausibility of excuse, that it was impossible to refuse without exposing his disappointment and vexation. Romano afterwards danced with her, and the whisper every where ran, “What a figure! what grace! what sweetness!” “It must be so!” exclaimed Rabano inwardly; “I must—I will have her; and Zalarra shall decide upon the measures to be pursued!” (20)
Parental Murder’s willingness to freely transition
between objective, plot-driven narration and inward, emotionally focused
musings serves primarily to align its high-octane, action-packed storyline with
a core thematic message about the supreme importance of virtue. Looking at plot
events alone, the novel’s storyline traces out a familiar dramatic arc: the
power-hungry, parricidal son whose sins catch up to him in the end. At the same
time, the insights into characters’ private thoughts and motivations help to
drive the thematic content: from these insights, it becomes clear that Romano
is to be seen as virtuous, and his brother Rabano is not. In the passage above,
Rabano’s inward exclamations of jealousy and lust serve to cement him as the
iniquitous foil to his virtuous brother. Having established this
characterization, when Romano ultimately triumphs, the narrator is able to
assert that “virtue is the only true path to greatness, love, and glory!” (40).
In this way, the intermingling narrative delivery of plot content and emotional
content is key to presenting a compelling plot while also making a clear
statement of theme.
Baretti is a powerful king who rules over an expansive dominion in
Italy. He has two sons, Rabano and Romano. Romano, the younger brother, is the
clear favorite of the two; he is revered by his parents for his virtuous
character. In contrast, Rabano is power-hungry and ruthless. He
resolves to conquer land for himself and sets his sights on the land of Ardini,
a nearby ally. Baretti sees a learning opportunity: he supplies Rabano with men
and armaments, hoping that brutal defeat will show Rabano to be incapable of
One day, Ardini’s men trespass on Baretti’s land, and Rabano
seizes the opportunity to mount a retaliatory attack. But when it becomes clear
that Rabano is interested in senseless brutality, Baretti and his men come to
Ardini’s aid; their forces combined, Rabano will certainly suffer crushing
defeat. Rabano, realizing this, develops a burning hatred for his father and
resolves to get revenge. He enlists his trusted assistant Zalarra to disguise
himself as a priest and sneak to Ardini’s camp, where Baretti is currently
staying. Zalarra finds Baretti in the camp and tells him that Rabano is
prepared to make a peace offering.
Baretti follows him to meet Rabano in an isolated dell. But when
he arrives, Rabano gives his father an ultimatum: betray Ardini and aid in the
conquest of his land, or be killed where he stands. Baretti realizes that the
peace offering was a setup and begins to fight his assailants, but he is
eventually overcome and stabbed. Baretti is buried in a prepared grave, and the
assassins return home.
The next morning, Ardini’s camp is in a state of confusion.
Without orders from Baretti, the supplementary forces will not go into
battle—condemning Ardini to certain defeat at the hands of Rabano. They enact a
short truce with Rabano while they search for Baretti—but find nothing.
Rabano takes the throne. He is shocked, however, when Zalarra
finds Baretti’s grave unearthed and the body missing. Rabano is shaken by this
discovery, but he rules as if nothing is wrong. He sends Romano on a mission to
a neighboring chief, and he plans to throw a party to celebrate his ascension
to power. Despite their strained relationship, Ardini is invited.
At the party, Ardini is accompanied by his beautiful daughter
Miranda. When Rabano sees her, he is immediately enamored and resolves to make
her his own. He asks her to dance, but she refuses. Suddenly, Romano bursts
into the party. Romano explains that the hostile neighboring chief detained
him, but he managed to escape and make his way home. Rabano promises to look
into the matter later.
Romano catches glimpse of Miranda. He asks her to dance, and she
gladly accepts. Rabano is incensed at seeing this, and he plans how he will win
Miranda’s hand. Rabano pulls Miranda and Ardini into a private apartment.
Ardini steps into a neighboring room to give them some privacy, but the door is
shut on him and he finds himself trapped. Now alone with Miranda, Rabano urges
her to marry him, but she confesses that she already loves Romano.
Unprompted, Miranda remarks that Rabano and Zalarra look
suspiciously similar to two hooded figures she saw on the night of Baretti’s
murder. That same night, she had planned a secret meeting with Romano—in the
same isolated dell where Baretti was murdered. She arrived at the dell before
the murderers, but when she heard them approaching, she hid behind a tree. She
has not mentioned anything out of fear for herself and Romano.
Rabano cautions her to keep quiet. If her story got out, Romano
could be in serious danger; he too was missing on the night of
the murder. Miranda agrees and swears to stay silent. Rabano renews his attempts at
courting her. When she refuses again, he forces her towards a hidden chamber.
Meanwhile, Ardini suspects foul play when he is not let out of the
locked room. He escapes through a window, finds Romano, and explains that he
fears for Miranda; the group heads for the castle’s private apartments. When a
guard stops them, they slay him and rush upstairs just in time to catch Rabano
forcing Miranda into the hidden chamber.
Miranda steals Rabano’s weapon and tries to stab him, but the
blade breaks in two and fails to injure him. Soldiers alerted by Zalarra
descend on the group and arrest Romano and Ardini for high treason. Until their
trial, Miranda is to be detained in the hidden apartment, where Rabano persists
in his attempts for her hand almost daily.
One night, Rabano sneaks into Miranda’s chamber while she is
asleep and plants a kiss on her lips. He prepares to rape her, but a suit of
armor steps off its pedestal and stands between them. It shouts: “Thy reign is
short! At the trial, parricide, thou shalt behold me again” (30). The
apparition scares Rabano off from his attempts to violate Miranda.
The night before the trial, Rabano and Zalarra get drunk together.
Zalarra continues to give Rabano alcohol until he passes out on the floor.
Zalarra also has an eye for Miranda; he steals the keys to her secret chamber,
sneaks in, and kisses her while she sleeps. Before he can continue, however, a
figure in black robes shouts “Regicide!” (31). The figure warns Zalarra to
repent. Zalarra flees, wakes Rabano, but decides not to tell him about what he
saw. Instead, Zalarra suggests they search the castle for any other
apparitions. While searching, they discover that Miranda has escaped from her
chamber. Their efforts to locate her are fruitless.
Secretly, Miranda was conveyed by a mysterious monk to a cottage
outside of the castle through a hidden tunnel. In the cottage, she meets a
former servant of Baretti, who promises to lead her to the chamber where the
trial will be held, so she can expose Rabano and Zalarra. On the day of the trial, Ardini is tried first; he confesses to killing guards in
pursuit of Rabano, but he expects that the detention of his daughter will
justify his conduct. Romano is tried next. A priest steps up and testifies the
dying confession of a deserting soldier named Afran, who had allegedly stumbled
upon Romano burying Baretti’s body. He had pursued Romano, but Romano escaped,
and Afran was mortally wounded in the struggle. He did, however, manage to grab
a gorget bearing Romano’s name during the fight.
Romano explains that he was present at the dell on the night of
the murder—but only to see Miranda. As he arrived, he saw a figure stab the
victim. He was unable to reach the assassins in time, so he unearthed the body
and resolved to carry it to a nearby house. The body was too heavy, however, so
he instead brought it to a nearby cave. Afran, seeing Romano carry the body,
mistook him for the assassin and attacked.
The judge is prepared to issue a death sentence for Romano when
Miranda bursts in. She presents the cloak and banner Baretti wore on the night
of his murder, which were found in Rabano’s strongbox. The courtroom descends
into chaos until the aforementioned priest announces that he has one more piece
of evidence—a piece of paper naming the murderer, given by Afran in his final
moments. Zalarra snatches the paper from him and rips it to pieces. Chaos
returns, and the priest suddenly blows a whistle. The room is instantly flooded
with soldiers, and a figure appears at the head of the courtroom.
To everyone’s surprise, the figure is Baretti himself. He explains
that he survived the assassination attempt. After being carried to the cave, he
told Afran that Rabano was guilty. Since then, Baretti has been living in the
cottage, disguised as one of his own servants.
The courtroom instantly condemns Zalarra and Rabano. The judge
assigns both fiends formidable sentences. Rabano is confined to a cell at the
top of a large tower, which eventually collapses and crushes him to death.
Romano is declared the worthy successor to Baretti, and he reigns “with
unabated splendor” (40).