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.
Angelina is one of Thomas Peckett Prest’s serialized works from 1841 that centers around murder, mystery, and forbidden love.
Angelina: Or, the Mystery of St. Mark’s Abbey. A Tale of Other Days by Thomas Peckett Prest was published in 1841 in serialized parts. Releasing the novel in parts lowered the cost of producing the book as a whole. Each section would have been sold using an image on the first page of the part as an incentive to purchase it. For this reason, each page with an image has a corresponding label at the bottom of the page to signify its order among the parts. The parts were presumably compiled by a G. Sharpe, whose signature appears on the blank pages prior to the assembled novel’s frontispiece and title page. Along with his signature is the date handwritten as follows: July 16, 1841. However, the name and date are crossed out, implying that this edition had multiple owners.
The book is bound in a cloth detailed with an artificially ingrained texture. Sharpe chose to use leather on the edges of the cover and the binding of the spine which has kept the exterior of the book in great condition for its age. The pages are speckled with red thinned out paint which was a common aesthetic for nineteenth-century books. The book is in very good condition due to the binding that Sharpe chose for the book. However, the pages have become slightly yellow and brittle with age. There are some pages that were saturated by a substance as well as a few torn pages that have been mended by the Special Collections archivists. The book was easily elegant in its day, as can be seen through the careful measures taken by Sharpe in binding it. The worn quality of Angelina demonstrates its popularity when Prest was at the prime of his career.
The detail in the images of Angelina are impressive compared to other texts of its days, displaying aesthetic visions specific to the author. Images during the Gothic period of literature were produced through making woodblock prints. Such prints were created by physically carving into wood to create the desired image. They would have been lined up with the text and inked during the printing process. At the beginning of the book, opposite the title page, is a frontispiece, which is the largest image in the book and the only image that possesses a quote. It reads, “They soon entered a spacious and lofty cavern, round which were piled on immense number of casks, chests, bales of goods, while arms and ammunition were there in abundance.” This sentence describes the setting most important to the narration in Angelina.
As to the type itself, the font size is much smaller than is usually seen today. The margins are typical in size, yet there is no inner margin which is a current stylistic feature for books. The images are placed every four pages on the front of the right page since it was released as parts rather than an entire novel. The images are a page and a half in size, featuring artistry of woodblock printed images that are hard to come by anymore.
Angelina: Or, the Mystery at St. Mark’s Abbey was published in 1841 by Edward Lloyd of London. Lloyd regulated many newspapers, the most successful of them being Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper and The Penny Sunday TimesandPeople’s Police Gazette; Angelina was published in the latter. He gained the nickname “father of the cheap press” as he sought to bring exciting literary works to the lower classes. Lloyd played a part in history through assisting the rise of the serial novel in which a new part would appear in successive weekly editions of a newspaper. Angelina, in particular, is one of many of Prest’s successful serial novels that appeared courtesy of Lloyd and his work as a newspaper proprietor. Journalist Anne Humphrey’s states that “perhaps half of Lloyd’s penny bloods” were written by Prest, who was “one of his most prolific and most successful authors”. The significance of the serial novel and the success of Angelina are both referenced in the preface of the novel Angelina.
Interestingly, the edition of the novel housed in the Sadleir-Black Collection does not include a preface at all, though a preface does appear in other editions. The preface can be found online through a scanned edition published courtesy of the New York Public Library on Google Books.
The preface functions as both a historical reference as well as an advertisement. The first paragraph of the preface discusses the popularity of Angelina upon its release in the “penny” press, which led its pieces to later be compiled into a novel format. The author of the preface informs the readers that Angelina’s pieces were originally published in The Penny Sunday TimesandPeople’s Police Gazette.
Prest appears most frequently in scholarly works related to his involvement with the serial novels of the penny press. Prest’s work in particular falls under the category of penny dreadfuls, or the terror genre of the penny press. This nineteenth-century phenomena began through its reproduction of eighteenth century gothic fiction via cheap means. Currently, only one of Prest’s works, The String of Pearls is more widely recognized as a significant and impactful part of this literature.
Though there is a lack of information on Prest himself, the author obviously sought to promote himself through an advertisement which is the second half of the preface. The phrase “New and Entirely Original Tale of Romance and Pathos” along with Prest’s upcoming works Emily Fitzomord; Or, The Deserted One and The Death Grasp; Or, A Father’s Curse emphasize the importance in self-promotion for both Lloyd and Prest.
Despite their combined efforts, Prest experienced a success limited to his day and age as only one of his characters is truly known today. However, Angelina, being one of Prest’s earlier works, most likely influenced the author’s writing style and, therefore, his subsequent works. In particular, the elements of terror in Angelina were just the beginning of Prest’s concepts that would appear in The String of Pearls. The latter work was adapted for the theatre which debuted in March of 1847 and is the basis for the modern-day movie adaptation Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (“Sweeney Todd”). While Angelina can be found in modern day print published by HardPress and accessible via Kindle. Its current lack of reviews allude to the lack of popularity Prest receives today. The String of Pearls, on the other hand, can be readily found in print and in theatrical adaptation.
Narrative Point of View
Angelina: Or, The Mystery of St. Mark’s Abbey is told through third-person omniscient narration. The narrator does not play an active role in the storyline; however, they hardly makes himself known until the end of the novel, when the backstories of characters are finally revealed. At this point, they speak directly to the reader before divulging events of the past that have remained hidden. Overall, the narration is very detailed and elaborative, yet the narrator remains detached in their descriptions of events and emotions. The narrator follows the protagonist, Angelina, until she becomes separated from her loved ones, which happens frequently in the novel. When Angelina gets kidnapped, the narrator proves their omniscient perspective in cycling through each scenario for Angelina, her Uncle Woodfield, and her lover Hugh Clifford.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
Saint Mark’s Abbey had evidently been a splendid edifice, but it had been left to decay for many years, and few persons in the place would venture to approach it after night-fall, for, like most old buildings, it was reported to be haunted, and many appalling legends were related by the old gossips, as they sat trembling before their blazing fire on a winter evening, concerning the dreadful crimes which had been perpetrated within its mouldering walls. The more reasonable, and less superstitious portion of the community, however, accounted for the noises that had been heard to issue at various periods from the gothic pile, in a far more probable way; and it was strongly suspected that the abbey was, in fact, the retreat of a gang of robbers or smugglers—more particularly the latter, and although the proper authorities had hitherto failed in making any satisfactory discovery, it was still hoped that they would succeed ere long in doing so, and in setting all doubts upon the subject at rest. (2)
In this passage, the narrator is describing the setting most central to the novel, St. Mark’s Abbey, or what is left of it. The description of the abbey is done through focusing on the conditions surrounding the ruins, which sets the tone for the setting itself. The narrator uses their omniscience to impart the emotions of the surrounding peoples who keep their distance from the ruins, regardless of what they believe. The narrator first relays the more superstitious group of people who have heard rumors of terrible crimes being committed within its now decaying walls. After this, the narrator describes the more realistic option, which foreshadows the end of the novel when it is revealed that Angelina’s mother, Matilda, and her mother’s cousin, Emmeline, are still alive. The narrator’s knowledge of both scenarios reflects their omniscience.
Sample Passage of Direct Address:
We will now proceed to detail the particulars of the “strange eventful history” connected with the principle characters in our narrative, and with which the reader is, no doubt, anxious to be made acquainted. (215)
This passage occurs at the end of the novel, just before the backstories are revealed. The narrator uses the pronoun “we” to describe who is telling the story, an intimacy that is reinforced by the inclusion of the word “our” later in the sentence. Interestingly, the narrator, who usually sets the mood though their lengthy descriptions, here decides to directly address the readers. By saying that the reader is “no doubt, anxious to be made acquainted,” the narrator breaks the fourth wall, reminding the reader of the fictive nature of the content in making a clear cut between the present and the past.
The novel begins with the protagonist, Angelina, who is accompanied by her cousin, Lauren Woodfield. While in the deserted ruins of St. Mark’s Abbey, the young ladies see the apparition of a woman that warns Angelina not to return there for her own safety. However, Angelina’s brave spirit only causes her to become increasingly curious as she sees another apparition while exploring a nearby cavern during a storm. This apparition is a handsome man that plays the flute and appears later in Angelina’s dreams. Upon waking from this dream, Angelina returns to the cave, this time finding a door leading to a gallery. Coincidentally, this gallery belongs to St. Mark’s Abbey. To her surprise, Angelina finds she is not alone when she sees the villainous Baron de Morton and his servant Rufus. The pair are quietly discussing a terrible secret. Angelina accidently reveals herself to the Baron, who becomes frightened upon believing her to be a ghost related to his dark deeds. The narrator here divulges the Baron’s history, most importantly stating the interesting nature of his brother’s disappearance followed by his marriage to a widowed baroness. Angelina then overhears a conversation between Rufus and the Baron, in which they speak about Angelina and proclaim that she must die. Angelina returns home shaken.
The first apparition of the woman returns, this time visiting Angelina’s uncle, Arthur Woodfield, with whom she lives. The apparition speaks to him privately, causing Arthur to be stern during an unexpected meeting with the Baron when he shows up at the Woodfield’s. Afterwards, the Baron leaves obviously upset and Arthur refuses to talk to his family about either the Baron or the woman. The only insight he gives them is through the promise he forces Angelina to make: she can never return to the Abbey.
Despite her promise, Angelina returns many weeks later, this time discovering a sliding picture frame that conceals a room similar to Angelina’s dreams. She witnesses a woman running about the ruins but she refuses to speak and runs away instead. Upon searching the premises, she is startled upon finding a chest containing bones. Angelina resolves to leave but runs into the Baron, who is frightened of her, initially believing her to be a ghost. Suddenly, the Baron grabs her arm and attempts to end her life, just as she had experienced in her dreams. The flute-playing apparition appears and saves her from the Baron, revealing himself to actually be a young man. Without introducing himself, he makes it obvious that he wants to protect Angelina. The next night, Angelina hears a sweet melody coming from beyond her window; she looks out to see the stranger once again.
The next day, Angelina is wandering outside, contemplating her feelings toward the mysterious stranger, when he appears and admits his feelings towards her, presenting her with a miniature of himself. That evening, while exploring the cavern, she sees the handsome stranger with some smugglers. Angelina is captured and taken aboard a ship by a different group of bandits. They eventually reach land, where she discovers she has been captured under the designs of the Baron, who questions her of her origins and her parents; Angelina knows none of her descent beyond the Woodfields. Bridget, who resents being married to one of the bandits, takes care of Angelina. It is only after Angelina attempts to make her solo escape that Bridget opens up to her. The castle where Angelina is being held captive has a dark history including the possible murder of the Baron’s brother who mysteriously disappeared; this information is striking to Angelina as she has felt a cold arm on her every night as she sleeps. Bridget then hints towards the portrait on the wall, behind which is a doorway that leads to a room where Angelina can overhearing the Baron’s conversation with Rufus. The Baron states that his suspicions have been confirmed and Angelina must be executed; Rufus tells him to wait. Shaken by these comments, Angelina puts her faith in Bridget, who sacrifices herself to save Angelina.
Returning to the Woodfields, the narrator reveals that the female apparition is actually a woman known as Kate of the Ruins who is friends with the mysterious stranger and smuggler, Hugh Clifford, or Angelina’s mysterious stranger. After Kate seeks out Arthur, Hugh reveals his plans to rescue her; Bridget aids them. Kate speaks to Angelina, warning her against reciprocating the flirtatious nature of her relationship with Hugh. Later that night, Angelina wakes to see yet another apparition giving her a kiss on the cheek, which Kate attributes to her imagination. However, Bridget had mentioned that Kate of the Ruins was in touch with the supernatural and had bewitched the grounds of St. Mark’s Abbey.
The next day Angelina and her uncle return home, only to hear a knock on the door and find Hugh, wounded. The Woodfields take care of him and Laura senses the romantic tension between Angelina and Hugh. Despite Kate’s warning, the affections between the pair only intensify until Arthur catches them during a rendezvous. Arthur reprimands them both and is backed up by the sudden appearance of Kate, who reminds them of the conversations she had with each of them. Their forced separation leads to despair for all parties involved. Angelina’s aunt and cousin question Arthur’s decision; he responds ambiguously, expressing empathy yet stating that the pair cannot be. Kate makes Angelina promise not to become involved with Hugh, revealing that she is speaking on behalf of Angelina’s deceased mother. The sight of her mother baffles her as it is the same apparition who kissed her on the cheek earlier. Angelina’s depressive state convinces Arthur to send Angelina to stay with Mrs. Montmorency, a distant relative whose daughter, Charlotte, is around the same age as Angelina.
A few months later, Angelina looks out the window to see that Hugh has found her. The pair argue about their fate due to his persistence in finding her, but they are interrupted by ruffians who kidnap them. Ruthven takes Angelina to an underground dungeon in which she hears the moans of someone suffering; the Baron shows her that it is Bridget and she passes out. When Angelina comes to in a nice room, the Baron enters, proceeding to profess his love for her but is steadily refused; he attempts to bribe her with Hugh’s freedom and refrains from kissing her when he looks upon the painting behind her in fear. Angelina is reunited with Bridget, who has healed and is to be contained with her. Bridget goes on to tell her story, which is very similar to Angelina’s; however, in this case, it was Bridget’s parents who forbid their relationship, believing the façade that Rufus showed them. She married Rufus against her will, after which they eventually ended up at the old Grey Tower. It was then that Rufus left, returning with Angelina in tow. When it was discovered that Bridget helped Angelina escape, she is tortured and nearly dies of starvation. Bridget then discloses information about Ophelia de Morton, the woman in the portrait, whom she says that Angelina resembles. She speaks of the mysterious death of Ophelia’s husband, Baron Edward de Morton. Shortly after, the baroness married Edward’s brother since she was carrying his child. The baroness, referred to as the “Lady of White,” was brought to the old Grey Tower, where she bore a stillborn child, although there is said to be some doubt about its fate. It is said that this Lady’s musical talents, once heard in the tower, can still be heard from the ruins of St. Mark’s Abbey. After this bonding experience, Bridget and Angelina are forced onto a boat.
Meanwhile, Ms. Montmorency and Charlotte look for Angelina and write to Mr. Woodfield about her disappearance after they find blood near her miniature of Hugh. Mr. Woodfield persists on seeing the baroness Orillia, Baron de Morton’s wife, to demand the Baron’s location, explaining the situation to her. She is flustered as he catches her in the middle of an affair and is uncompromising as she thinks that Angelina is replacing her in the eyes of her husband. Mr. Woodfield responds by hinting at having more noble blood than she does. The baroness feels vengeful towards Angelina and sends for the Marquis Florendos, whom she has grown fond of, so he can assassinate them.
Mr. Woodfield leaves knowing he must get justice for both himself and the baroness to protect his niece. He becomes suspicious of the help from Kate of the Ruins, but she changes his mind in revealing her knowledge of his true identity, Sir Eustace Arlingham, and produces a treasure which he had left in the ruins of the Abbey years ago. The pair proceed to talk about his long-deceased sister Emmeline, who she reveals herself to be. She admits to him that Angelina is not her child and that Angelina’s mother, baroness Matilda de Morton, is alive. Furthermore, she states that Hugh is her child but he has yet to find out. Emmeline explains that her and Matilda have been watching over Angelina and assures him of her own innocence. He believes her and follows her to the vaults in which Matilda has been living.
Returning to Hugh’s circumstances, he is being held captive and losing hope for his lover, Angelina. He is saved by Winston, a former crew member of his, who is sent to attend to him. The pair leave together, explaining the reasoning behind Bridget and Angelina’s sudden leave from the old Grey Tower.
The ship carrying Bridget and Angelina wrecks, and the pair miraculously end up at the fisherman’s hut where Hugh and Winston are taking shelter. They all return home the day after Emmeline’s confession, but before their lineage can be exposed, the baroness Matilda enters, giving in to Angelina’s cries for her mother.
The narrator goes on to tell the story of the family Arlingham, which was of wealthy and noble descent. Lady Emmelina and Sir Eustace are the children of Sir Edward Arlighman and the baroness Arlingham. The four of them lived in a castle with their cousin, the orphan child of the baroness’ sister. After the sudden death of the baroness, Sir Edward passed away, leaving Eustace in charge of himself, his sister, and their cousin. Eustace and Matilda both found lovers who got along with one another as well as Emmeline. One day, the five of them witness a shipwreck which leads to their meeting of Sir Vincent Rosenford and his two companions. Upon seeing Vincent, Eustace’s wife shudders at him and begins to go mad. Sir Vincent and one of his companions, Lord Dalton, make frequent visits, and Lord Dalton eventually asks for Emmeline’s hand. Eustace urges her to marry him and she eventually gives in. However, after a short period, she elopes with Sir Vincent. As a result, Eustace’s wife gets deathly sick but has one last period of reason in which she admits that Sir Vincent was her first love and that they had an affair after his repeated visits and persistence with her. With this confession, she passes away. Eustace’s bad luck continues as Emmeline’s story is viewed as scandalous, causing him to lose his title in the court. Before he can receive a prison sentence, he escapes on a ship headed to Flanders, where he recreates his identity and eventually remarries. One day, he finds a baby at his door with a note from Emmeline to take care of her child, which she wanted to name Angelina.
Returning to present day, Emmeline apologizes to Eustace and points out that he should not have forced her into marriage. She then explains that her marriage with Lord Dalton became a good one, and that she actually bore his child, contrary to rumors. However, Lord Vincent Rosenford followed her and confessed his love, becoming cynical upon her denial of him. He told her that she should not deny him and proceeded to kidnap her while she is on a walk one evening. Emmeline expresses the anguish she felt as she was forced upon a ship that was then destroyed by a storm. It was not until after this event that she met Captain Clifford, who saved her and her infant son from drowning. Captain Clifford then became a smuggler, but he continued to look after Emmeline’s child. Emmeline recalls that he made a vow to be another parent to the child regardless of circumstance. Emmeline had then attempted to return home only to hear of Eustace’s scandals, which she emphasizes are now irrelevant. Shortly after, Emmeline returned to Captain Clifford and was introduced to his wife, who also takes pity on her. Emmeline also sought out her cousin’s current husband, the Baron de Morton, brother of her prior husband. To her shock, he informed her that the baroness has passed away. Unfortunately, it was upon her return to the Cliffords in which she was kidnapped, this time by Rufus and some ruffians; she was taken to the old Grey Tower. Upon her escape, she returned to the Cliffords to find that his wife has passed away, causing him to return to sea with her child, Hugh. Luckily, having possession of some money allowed Emmeline to return to a place that Captain Clifford had shown her, which was connected to the ruins of an old abbey, which the readers know as St. Mark’s Abbey. To her astonishment, Emmeline finds the baroness Matilda there. Emmeline then stops her narrative there, requesting that the baroness herself iterate the rest of the story. After the baroness refuses, Emmeline continues, telling of the cruel manner in which Matilda’s second husband treated her.
After forcing a secret marriage in the middle of the night, the baron stole her away to the old Grey Tower, in which she bore him a baby girl. Matilda was told that her baby was a stillborn; however, she felt that the baron was somehow responsible not only for the fate of their child, but for the mysterious disappearance of her first husband. After Matilda healed, she sought out her old nurse, explaining the situation to her. She instead found the daughter of her nurse, who was told by her husband of the deliverance of a baby to their neighbors. Matilda ran next door, looked upon the baby, and instantly recognized her as her own. The baroness also recognized a mark of companionship on her daughter’s arm, signifying that it was Bridget’s parents who saved baby Angelina. Matilda resolved then to live in the abbey, following the same line of thought as Emmeline in seeking shelter in the supposedly haunted place. In this way, Matilda and Emmeline were reunited. Captain Clifford returned, informing Matilda that her child was being attended to by a nearby nurse. The women related to him their plan of being covert in order to deliver retribution. Emmeline then relates that it was her who delivered the baby to Eustace so that he would care for the child. Emmeline recalls having been worried about the locket which she had left with Angelina; Eustace recalls his curiosity about it initially.
The storyline ends here as Emmeline concludes by coming back to her warnings to Eustace, Hugh, and Angelina, which can be understood as prevented due to its ill-timing as this was before the true nature of their births were revealed. The book finishes with a conclusion that doles out poetic justice. Sir Eustace Arlingham seeks justice via the court for himself, his sister, and their cousin. The king pities them and returns to them their respective riches and titles, having heard some news of the baron’s death along with his confessions of treason. Emmeline is reunited with her husband, and Hugh with his true parents. Orillia shamefully runs off with the Marquis Florendos after hearing word of her husband’s death. Angelina and Hugh get married and are surprised when they are approached by Bridget, who was miraculously cured. These three live together in their castle near the Woodfields and the Daltons. Angelina’s cousin, Laura, finds a gentleman whom she marries. Lady de Morton revives the abbey and the narrator explains the use of Emmeline’s scare tactics, such as the chest of bones, to ward of any early discovery of the pair’s plot. The author ends with “Thus, then, do we end ‘This round unvarnished tale’”—referring to the cyclic tropes of the novel and of life in general (236).
Humpherys, Anne. “Edward Lloyd.” British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820-1880, edited by Patricia Anderson and Jonathan Rose, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 106. Detroit, Michigan, Gale, 1991. Literature Resource Center.
A tale of love, murder, and regret, this 1846 novel by Ellen T. revolves around an innocent, beautiful girl marrying a man who has a very dark past.
The exterior of Rose Sommerville is very simple yet classic, with a dark brown leather binding and a light brown cloth cover. There are no decorations or words on the cover—the title and author can be found on the binding, indented into the leather and painted over with gold. On the edges of the pages of the book, there are speckled red flecks of paint as an added decorative element. This novel is 21.5 cm by 14 cm and 172 pages long. The pages themselves are fairly thin and frail, showing a large amount of yellowing and wear. The book reveals its true age through the pages themselves, as the binding and cover does not show much wear.
Upon opening the novel, there are two blank pages and then a title page, which features the full title of the book, Rose Sommerville; or A Husband’s Mystery and A Wife’s Devotion, the author, and some additional information about the novel. The author’s name is not fully spelled out, but instead has an abbreviated last name, written as “Ellen T.” Underneath her name in smaller font it says, “Authoress of …” with a list of her other prominent works. On the bottom of the title page is the publishing information: this novel was printed and published in London by E. Lloyd: 12, Salisbury Square, Fleet-street in 1847. The novel begins with a brief preface written by someone other than the author, which reveals that this text was released weekly in separate parts and is now being bound together. This is evident because at the bottom of the first page there is a “No. 1” written, revealing that this begins the first part. At the bottom of the 9th page there is a No. 2, showing that this begins the second part. The novel has 22 parts in total. In pencil on the first page of the preface, “1847” is written, and these pencil notes are also found on the last page of the novel.
The first chapter begins with an illustration in all black ink that looks like a line drawing. This illustration shows a very beautiful woman kissing a man, and another man behind the couple looking upset and holding a dagger. After this illustration, the novel begins. These black ink illustrations are dispersed throughout the novel, either in the middle of text or on their own page. No captions accompany the illustrations, however the illustrations typically depict the event that is occurring on the page. The artist of these illustrations is not named anywhere in the novel. The text in this novel is written in a very small font and closely set together; there is very little white space per page. The wear of the novel can be seen in the text, as many sections are difficult to read due to fading of the ink or stains on the page.
On the last page of the novel, there is writing in pencil that looks like a signature. Upon close examination, the signature seems to say “Mr. Morlen.” Also on this page there is a “10” written in pencil after the last line and at the top of this page the numbers “9876” and “1/2 64” are written. These markings were most likely left by a former owner of this novel.
Rose Sommerville was published in sections in the newspaper The People’s Periodical and Family Library from October 10, 1846 to October 2, 1847. It was published by Edward Lloyd in London, England. Edward Lloyd had a myriad of periodicals that he published during this time such as The Daily Chronicle and Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper—he was one of the nineteenth century’s leading newspaper proprietors of cheap fiction available to the masses (“Léger-St-Jean). The cheap works of fiction that he published were often called “penny bloods.” Lloyd brought literature to the masses, catering to the new market of people who were now literate but not wealthy.
Rose Sommerville begins with a “Preface” written by an unknown author who speaks on behalf of Ellen T., thanking the readers for reading her publications week after week and formally saying goodbye to them, for now. The preface also gives a small summary of what the book is going to entail, describing briefly the main character, Rose, and the fact that she will go through many struggles. The first chapter begins with a statement in the first person which functions as a narratorial interjection, using “I,” but the storytelling voice is primarily in the third-person omniscient throughout the novel. After the end of the plot, there is a horizontal black line and then a paragraph in which the speaker, using the first-person plural pronoun “we,” thanks the readers again for reading, and announces that this is the end of the novel.
There is a notice for Rose Somerville found in the July 23, 1853, issue of Reynold’s Miscellany of Romance, General Literature, Science, and Art written by George W. M. Reynolds that states that the New York booksellers Stringer and Townsend have printed and published Rose Sommerville; Or, A Husband’s Mystery and credited Reynolds to be the author. Reynolds claims that he never wrote this text and would like to take all legal action against these publishers to punish them for this claim (416). He does not, however, attribute the work to its rightful author, Ellen T., for it seems as though he does not know the true author.
There are many different titles of Rose Sommerville: some copies are simply titled Rose Sommerville, while others are titled Rose Sommerville; Or, A Husband’s Mystery, Rose Sommerville: or, A Husband’s Mystery and A Wife’s Devotion: A Romance, and Rose Sommerville: or, the Double Crime (Summers 488). Ellen T. also authored Ravensdale: A Romance, which was published in 1847 by G. Purkess, but printed by Edward Lloyd. Her other known works of fiction are Eardley Hall: A Tale, which was published in 1850 by Edward Lloyd, and Emily Percy: or, The Heiress of Sackville: A Romance, which was published by G. Purkess in 1845. She also published two poems in The People’s Periodical and Family Library: “Lines on a Birthday” and “To Christmas.” The abbreviation of her last name most likely made it difficult to keep a good documentation of her works.
One can purchase a paperback copy of Rose Sommerville online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble—these copies were published by Gale and The British Library. There are also numerous digital copies found on the internet of this novel, which are all images of paperbacks digitized into a PDF form. There are also dozens of libraries worldwide that own this novel with varying years of publication.
Narrative Point of View
Rose Sommerville is narrated by a third-person, omniscient narrator who never appears in the text. The narrator gives insight into the thoughts and feelings of the characters in the story, and often jumps back and forth between settings to show what multiple characters are doing at once. The narrator also occasionally interrupts the text and uses the pronouns “I” and “we,” either to make a comment or act as though the narrator personally knows these characters. So even though the narrator is not a character in the story, they are able to use the “I” pronoun to insert their own opinions. The narrator focuses on both plot and feelings of the characters, often taking breaks from long sections of dialogue to discuss the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings about the subject.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
Albert meant to be, and judged he was, acting kindly towards Rose; but, with all his knowledge, he knew little of a woman’s heart, and her fond devotion to one she loves. His lot deemed a dull and gloomy one; his thoughts and feelings were all tinged by a sombre hue, and unfit, he thought, to be shared by such a young and light-hearted girl as Rose. (26)
Sample Passage of a Narratorial Interjection:
Rose Sommerville, sweet, fairy, bright-eyed Rose Sommerville—I think I see her still tripping across the lawn with the light buoyant step of early youth—earth surely never held a fairer creature than Rose; the sweet smile that played around her dimpled mouth possessed all the soft beauty of infancy, her light auburn tresses waved luxuriantly around her fait and sunny brow, and for figure never did I see a more sweet and graceful form. (1)
Through the use of the third-person omniscient narration, the narrator is able to bring more depth and personality into each character—the reader is able not only to see their actions, but also to witness their thoughts behind those actions. Through this, the reader is able to fully understand many characters in the novel, because so many aspects of their interiority and motivations are revealed through their thoughts. The fact that this narration gives the narrator the ability to switch quickly from setting to setting gives the reader a breadth of knowledge about what each character is doing at once, instead of being confined to one character and their surroundings. The added use of the first-person interjections dispersed throughout the novel also brings more insight into what the narrator thinks about specific characters, especially Rose, as shown through the passage above. The insertion of the narrator’s opinions tells the reader how to feel about some characters and situations, and the reader can either agree or disagree. For example, the narrator thinks very highly of Rose, whether or not the reader feels accordingly.
Rose Sommerville is breathtakingly beautiful. She is of humble birth, and she possesses such gentleness and innocence that it is as if she has never known sorrow in her life. In the summer, her family would take people into their house to live with them temporarily. This year, their visitor is Albert Moreland: a very solemn, tall, and melancholy man. Rose, contrary to the fact that he is her exact opposite in demeanor, immediately fell in love with him. At the end of the summer, Albert asks her father for her hand in marriage and he obliges. Even though they are both deeply in love with each other, Albert looks extremely nervous at the wedding.
Rose soon meets Albert’s sister, Marian, and they form a deep friendship. In the weeks after their marriage, Rose notices that Albert is acting increasingly strange—even repeatedly shouting the name “Florence” in his sleep. Rose decides to ask Marian who Florence is, for she worries that Albert is cheating on her. Marian begrudgingly relays the story to soothe Rose’s worries. Albert and Marian had a stepbrother who they both had a very close relationship with and loved deeply. Albert and Charles decided one summer that they wanted to travel through Europe together. While they were in Italy, they both fell in love with the same woman, who was in a relationship with both of them, unbeknownst to the other. According to Marian, Charles walked in on Albert and Florence together and, in a fit of rage, stabbed Florence. Marian received the details of this story through a letter. However, upon asking Edward, Marian’s husband, about the event, Edward claims that he read the same letter and it was actually Albert who stabbed Florence, not Charles. Rose is extremely distressed and does not know what to believe.
Edward and Rose start forming a stronger and stronger friendship as the next few days go by—it seems as though Edward has feelings for Rose. Rose accompanies Marian, Edward, and Edward’s best friend, Henry Melville, to the opera. Henry immediately tells Edward how beautiful he finds Rose, and that angers Edward because he claims it is disrespectful to his brother-in-law to say such things about his wife. Rose likes Henry very much, and they form a friendship, amicably conversing for most of the ball the following night. Edward decides that Rose must know Henry’s true intentions, from Edward’s point of view, so he tells Rose that Henry told Edward he was in love with Rose and wanted to be with her. This surprises Rose but causes her to cooly distance herself from Henry. Henry immediately notices this and confronts Edward about it—Edward defends his actions and tells him to stay away from Rose. This interaction causes Henry and Edward to have a rivalry.
Albert has been keeping to himself as Rose goes on all of these social events, even though Rose would much rather him with her. He has been acting more melancholy and paranoid than usual, and it is affecting Rose negatively. Albert notices this and suggests that Rose visit her family in the country for a few weeks. Around this time, Rose realizes she is pregnant with Albert’s child. Rose obliges to Albert’s wishes and returns to her home in the country. When she arrives, she learns that her brother, Henry, is to marry her childhood friend, Agnes.
Meanwhile, Marian has been conspiring to figure out where Charles is, and she has found out: he is still in Italy. She also notices Albert sending a mystery letter to Italy but says nothing of it. While Rose is gone, Marian speaks to Lucy, Henry Melville’s sweet sister, about how she suspects that Rose is in love with Edward. Lucy denies the idea, but Marian is very mad and wants to expose her. Rose writes to Edward, sending him back the document detailing Florence and her death because she did not want to read it. Her letter arrives when Marian and Lucy are in the house, and it solidifies Marian’s beliefs.
While everyone is at a ball, Albert is alone in his office and very distraught, speaking out loud about regret and death. He feels horrible about something he has done in his past, and regrets marrying Rose because he cannot make her as happy as she deserves. At the ball, Lucy confronts Edward about the contents of the letter and he tells her he cannot reveal any information concerning the letter, which makes her mad. The next day, Henry overhears Fairford, Mortimer, and Edward talking about Rose—specifically the conversation entails Edward boasting about how he is going to win her over and seduce her. Henry is furious and bursts through the door, scolding and threatening Edward.
Miles away in the country, Rose receives two letters: one from Albert and one from Lucy. The letter from Lucy asks her the contents of the letter she sent Edward which she knows she cannot reveal and the letter from Albert is distanced and slightly cold which makes her very upset. Henry and Agnes get married in a beautiful ceremony, but Mrs. Sommerville is increasingly worried for Rose. Rose returns home and receives a warm welcome from Albert which makes her very happy. Very shortly after she returns, Edward comes over to visit. As they are having a conversation, Edward is overcome with passion and kisses Rose, who is shocked and pulls away, but not before Henry and Marian come through the door and see them. Marian immediately runs and tells Albert, who is extremely sad and angered. Rose comes in to talk to Albert and explain her innocence but no one believes her. Albert says that Rose must leave at once and if she refuses to leave then he will leave and never come back—she has one day to come to her decision. Albert and Marian retreat to a different room and weep together. Rose becomes hysterical, screaming that she is innocent and weeping. She soon becomes extremely ill, and they fear that she is in danger of dying. Lucy stays by her bed the whole night and Rose gives birth to a stillborn son.
Henry is very angry at Edward’s actions and proposes a duel which he accepts. The duel takes place in a secluded valley, where the two men who were once best friends fires guns at each other. Edward receives a fatal wound and Henry receives only a gunshot to the arm. Marian receives news that Edward has been shot and immediately rushes to him. On his death bed, Edward tells Marian the true story of what happened between him and Rose, proving her innocence. Marian then tells everyone of Rose’s innocence. Soon Rose awakens in a much better state, and Albert comes in to express his apologies—he stays by her side for the next few days, vowing never to separate from her again.
Three years have now passed, and Marian has married Fairford, Agnes and Henry have two children, and Lucy has married Mortimer. Rose is a changed woman, having taken on many of Albert’s somber traits—her cheerful demeanor and endearing innocence are gone. Rose and Albert decide to travel to Naples, where they stay in the house of Donna Rosalina, an old friend of Albert’s. Her young nephew, Charles, is very sweet and forms a strong friendship with Rose throughout their time in Naples. Very quickly, Albert’s health begins declining. As he is about to die, Albert tells Charles that he is his father and Florence is his mother; they both weep and embrace. Soon after, Albert says his tearful goodbye to Rose and dies. Donna Rosalina then tells the true story of Albert and Florence to Rose and Charles: Albert was the one who walked in on Florence and Charles together and tried to kill Florence, but Charles dove to protect her and Albert accidentally killed Charles. This event changed Albert forever, as he has just killed his kin and his best friend. After Albert’s death, Rose’s health begins to decline more and more, and she soon peacefully dies with her one wish: to be reunited with Albert. Everyone at home is deeply upset at the news of Rose and Albert’s death, but they soon move on and all lived very happy lives.
Ellen T. “Lines on a Birthday.” The People’s Periodical and Family Library, vol. I, no. 13, 1847, p. 205. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
Ellen T.. Rose Sommerville: or, A husband’s Mystery and a Wife’s Devotion: A Romance. London, Edward Lloyd, 1847.
Ellen T. “To Christmas.” The People’s Periodical and Family Library, vol. I, no. 13, 1847, p. 205. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.
Léger-St-Jean, Marie. Price One Penny: A Database of Cheap Literature, 1837–1860. [29 June 2019]. Faculty of English, Cambridge.
Reynold’s Miscellany of Romance, General Literature, Science, and Art [London], Vol. 10, Iss. 263, (Jul 23, 1853): 416.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune Press, 1941.