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.
A tale of romance, resentment, and revenge, this 1804 chapbook tells the story of a noble family living in France as one brother’s evil corrupts the lives of those around him.
Maximilian and Selina, Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale can be found in two collections in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. One copy is bound inside the collection Marvellous Magazine (volume III). Pencil notes (perhaps from Sadleir himself) on the inside cover of this copy indicate that this story can also be found in a volume called The Entertainer I, also in the Sadleir-Black Collection.
The printing of Maximilian and Selina bound in The Entertainer appears identical to the version bound in Marvellous Magazine; both sharethe same frontispiece and title page. The frontispiece shows a scene in which a man is being pushed out of a tower by someone else, while a woman watches in horror from behind. Each copy of Maximilian and Selina was published by Tegg and Castleman, but no author is indicated in either volume.
Marvellous Magazine appears very old and worn; the cover and first page are entirely detached from the rest of the book. The binding is plain and cracked. The cover is spotted leather with decorative swirling gold patterning on the spine and gold dots around the edge of the binding. The paper is medium- to lightweight and yellowed, displaying relatively small text. Before each story in the collection appears a black and white frontispiece illustrating a scene from the following pages. The entire book is 512 pages long and contains seven stories: six are exactly seventy-two pages long (including Maximilian and Selina), and one is eighty. The book is rather small, measuring only 4.3 x 10.4 x 18.1 cm.
Maximilian and Selina is available in several different editions at the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. The copies in the larger volumes The Entertainer and Marvellous Magazine are identical and will be discussed first. The story was first printed in 1804 for Tegg & Castleman. Thomas Tegg was a well-known printer who lived from 1776 to 1846. According to an obituary, the bookseller struggled in his childhood and early career, but he eventually established his own successful business and began to amass his fortune printing, buying, and selling books. He was elected Sheriff of London in 1846 but did not serve in that position due to failing health. After his death, his sons continued in their father’s path. Interestingly, Tegg’s youngest son was so stricken with grief at his father’s death that he died as well shortly after, and their bodies were buried in the family plot together on the same day (The Gentleman’s Magazine 650). There is an intriguing (albeit unintended) parallel in Maximilian and Selina: the Duke of Anjou arrives at the convent just as the death knell tolls for his daughter, and he immediately dies of the shock. Their bodies are carried back to the chateau together, where the sight of his dead father and sister drive Godfrey to madness.
The 1804 version of Maximilian and Selina is available within multiple collections of stories. The two held by the University of Virginia are Marvellous Magazine and The Entertainer. Maximilian and Selina appears identical in both volumes, with the same title page and frontispiece. The other printing is for Dean & Munday in 1820. The edition printed by Dean & Munday that is housed at the University of Virginia Library is disbound and has significant brown spotting on the title page. It looks similar to the Tegg & Castleman version, but the publishing information is different and the frontispiece is in color. Also, it is only thirty-six pages instead of seventy-two. The shorter length is because this version is an abridged version of the 1804 edition. The overall plot is similar but most of the frame narrative has been cut out, several characters are entirely deleted, the sequence in which the reader learns about events is different, and in abridging the text many plot points are deleted in a confusing way, without any transitions being added. The Dean & Munday printing has a catalogue slip in it which gives some basic publishing information, a description of the physical object, and part of an assessment by scholar Frederick Frank: “A confusing patchwork of obscure and opaque plots … Complexity and lucidity are not necessarily incompatible elements of style in horror fiction, but in this chapbook, the style is so dense as to render even the basic facts of the story a matter of hazardous speculation” (The First Gothics 233). The explanation on the slip for the frontispiece does not relate to the story. The scene shown is Edward pushing Godfrey out of the tower while Elgiva screams in horror, but the slip describes “ruffians throwing a screaming boy from the top of a tower.”
Another incorrect description of the frontispiece is found in Frederick Frank’s article “Gothic Gold.” The year and publishing information match the Tegg & Castleman version, but the article says that the chapbook is thirty-six pages, like the Dean & Munday printing. The frontispiece is shown in black and white above a brief description of the book: “About to be hurled from the turret by his malicious brother, Adolphus de Monvel, Maximilian’s doom seems sealed as a pathetic mother figure murmurs an ineffectual prayer unheard in the fallen and godless universe. The scene is the chapbook’s initial spectacular incident in a series of unremitting crises” (“Gothic Gold” 309). This description mentions real characters from the story, but neither Adolphus nor Maximilian were a part of this scene, and the female figure is most likely Elgiva, Godfrey’s wife. This is also one of the last events in the chapbook, not the first.
Frank gives another critical synopsis of Maximilian and Selina in his book The First Gothics. It lists the publishing information of the unabridged 1804 version. However, this synopsis also contradicts the events of both versions of the chapbook (the Tegg & Castleman printing, and the abridged one for Dean & Munday). It is also different than the description given for the frontispiece in Frank’s “Gothic Gold.” In The First Gothics, the frontispiece is said to show ruffians throwing Godfrey off a tower, instead of Maximilian being thrown by de Monvel, his “brother.” This synopsis covers the rest of the chapbook, with references to real characters and similar plot points, but multiple inaccuracies which completely change the story.
Maximilian and Selina is mentioned more briefly in several other scholarly works (Potter History of Gothic Publishing 75, Mayo 551, Hoeveler). Mayo explains that Marvellous Magazine and similar anthologies generally featured stories of a specified length. For example, the volume of Marvellous Magazine containing Maximilian and Selina contains stories all seventy-two pages in length, save one exception. This length limit often resulted in the butchering of Gothic classics as they were edited and amended to reach a precise page count (Mayo 367). This is one possibility to account for the incoherency of the shorter Dean & Munday printing compared to the original, which was twice as long.
Narrative Point of View
The main story within Maximilian and Selina is narrated by Maximilian, the Abbott, as he recounts his life to Sancho Orlando. He uses first-person narration which focuses on his own thoughts and feelings as the plot progresses. Since Maximilian is older when he is telling this story, he occasionally inserts future knowledge. Part of the story is the packet that Maximilian wrote based on Nerina’s deathbed explanation. This part is told in the third person, with a somewhat omniscient narrator. The final section is the tale told by Guiscardo to Sancho, in first-person narration from Guiscardo’s point of view. The language is similar in all three: archaic and formal. The packet is perhaps a bit more flowery in its prose than the oral stories.
To discover who this was, became at length the predominant desire of my soul, since, could I but confront him, I knew my innocence must triumph; but where to seek for information, which Selina only could give, and had refused, almost to distraction. At length a light seemed to break on my bewildered senses, and I fancied the whole discovery lay clear before me. On revolving the whole affair, as stated by the Duke, I was forcibly struck with that part where Selina charged me with neglect during her father’s absence; at the same time praising the kindness of her eldest brother, by whose attention she was wholly sustained, whilst Edward and myself chose to amuse ourselves apart. I had once been told by Edward, that Godfrey was my foe, and I now believed it; he alone could have poisoned his sister’s mind against me, and made her notice, a long past and seemingly forgotten act of prudence, as a want of affection for her, —Wild as this idea was, it became conclusive, and I madly formed the resolution of following the Duke and his son, and of accusing the latter. (28)
This paragraph is from the section narrated in Maximilian’s point of view. By describing his past self’s inner thoughts about Selina’s change of heart, Maximilian emphasizes his own perspective. At the time, Maximilian did not have any doubts about his conviction that Godfrey was sabotaging his relationship with Selina, which is why he rashly rode out into the night to follow him. However, now knowing that it was Edward who really betrayed him, he uses words including “I fancied,” “wild,” and “madly.” The narrator’s hindsight creates the feeling of an omniscient point of view, even though it is simply Maximilian in the future, narrating retrospectively.
The story begins with a wise old abbot named Maximilian. A Spanish knight named Sancho Orlando comes to seek his advice after killing his friend in single combat. After the Abbot listens to his story, he assures the knight that his friend’s death was not his fault, and that he has no need for such guilt. The knight asks the Abbot how he came to be a monk, and the body of the tale is what the Abbot tells Sancho in reply.
Godfrey, Duke of Anjou, is a kind and generous nobleman visiting his chateau in the countryside with his children. Maximilian is the same age at that point as the Duke’s younger son, Edward, and because his uncle, the prior at a local convent, is close friends with the Duke, Maximilian spends a lot of time with his children. Godfrey, the Duke’s elder son, is friendly, noble, and admirable, while Edward is horrible, jealous, and cruel, but Maximilian does not notice Edward’s faults until too late because of their friendship. Selina, the Duke’s daughter, is beautiful and kind, and Maximilian falls in love with her, but Edward is the only one who knows of their relationship.
Three years later, the Duke leaves the chateau to visit a dear friend on his deathbed. While he is gone Godfrey is in charge, and Edward advises his friend not to let Godfrey see him with Selina, since he would disapprove. When the Duke returns, he is accompanied by Elgiva de Valmont, his friend’s daughter, who is now his ward. She is even more beautiful than Selina, with whom she becomes close friends. Maximilian’s heart already belongs to Selina, but the two brothers compete fiercely for Elgiva’s affections. Godfrey proposes to Maximilian and Edward that they should all stop pursuing her, since over time without the pressure of their attention she would form her own opinion of which brother she loved. Edward agrees readily.
A few weeks pass in relative peace. Edward asks Maximilian to find out from Selina whether Elgiva prefers him or his brother, but Maximilian refuses because that would be dishonorable when Edward had already agreed to Godfrey’s proposal. Soon after, Maximilian realizes that since no one is aware of his love for Selina, she could be courted by other suitors, and decides to ask his uncle to speak with the Duke. It is decided by his uncle and the Duke that Selina should be promised in marriage to him in several years, if they still love each other, since they are so young to make such a commitment. Maximilian is overjoyed with this outcome. Godfrey is also happy about his sister and Maximilian’s union, meaning that Edward had lied about his disapproval.
Maximilian speaks with Edward while walking home. Edward believes that Godfrey has broken their agreement and said something to Elgiva to turn her against him, but Maximilian does not think he would do that. Edward is distraught and wishes to do something to repair Elgiva’s opinion of him, but Maximilian advises him to keep his distance and not to act rashly. After this conversation, Maximilian is troubled by the situation and his friend’s conduct.
Soon after, the Duke invites Maximilian to come to his other chateau with his family, but just before they leave, Maximilian’s uncle falls ill so he stays behind. The plan is for Maximilian to spend a month with the Duke’s family at the chateau as soon as his uncle recovers, to visit his father’s estate to settle some affairs, then return to the chateau.
When she must leave without him, both Maximilian and Selina are distraught. He takes care of his uncle for over two months, then departs to join them at the chateau. However, Selina is not happy to see him. She says that she has changed her mind after so much time apart; that she has forgiven him, but they should be friends. Maximilian leaves, troubled, and speaks with Edward. He discovers that while he was away, a suitor named de Monvel visited Selina, so Maximilian asks her about him. She insists that she has loved only Maximilian, but that she cannot forgive his perjury. He is confused because he has only been faithful. Maximilian goes to his paternal home as he had planned, where he is soon visited by a stranger, Adolphus de Monvel. Adolphus had come to him to find out if he had broken his engagement to Selina, which he vehemently denies. Adolphus easily accepts this, and leaves.
Now, king Philip of France is preparing to marry, so the Duke and Godfrey go to court for the wedding. Maximilian receives a letter from the Duke saying that Selina is angry with him because she was under the impression that he was gone so long because he was in love with a peasant girl and had eloped with her. She refused to tell anyone where she heard this, but the Duke asks Maximilian to return to the chateau in a month so they can explain the truth. Maximilian convinces himself that it was Godfrey who turned Selina against him, so he goes to court to confront him. He challenges Godfrey to single combat, but Godfrey refuses the fight without due cause. The two men scuffle, and Godfrey stabs Maximilian in the chest.
Maximilian wakes up in bed in the Duke’s apartments at court, where he finds out that the Duke and Godfrey have hastened to the country on account of important news. He is worried because he has no idea what has happened. Godfrey visits while Maximilian is recovering and the two reunite as friends with all forgiven. He lies about the news that made them leave, and Maximilian later finds out that they had really received word from Edward that Selina had disappeared but they hid it from him so his anxiety would not impede his recovery. Shortly after Godfrey’s visit, they find out that Selina had run away to join a convent, in secret because she knew her father would disapprove. Now she is seriously ill and has asked the nuns at the convent to notify her father so that he could see and forgive her before she dies. The Duke, Edward, and Elgiva set out for the convent while Godfrey is still out searching for his sister, but they arrive just after she dies. The Duke immediately dies as well from grief. Godfrey is plunged into madness when he arrives back at the chateau at the precise moment when a procession is carrying the bodies of his sister and father through the gates. It is presumed that Edward and Elgiva will marry, and that Edward will become duke since the older son is indisposed.
Elgiva remarks once that Selina had died because of “hypocrisy,” so Maximilian is set upon exacting revenge upon whoever was responsible (33). He visits the chateau to question Elgiva privately, but Edward spends the whole day with Maximilian so he does not have the chance to speak with her alone. After speaking with his uncle, he decides to join the Christian army on their crusades, and he is renewed by his conviction. He fights successfully with many other knights, crusading from Constantinople from Jerusalem. They lay siege to Jerusalem and defeat the city. After the crusades are over, he joins an organization called the knights of Saint John and spends twelve years in Jerusalem.
One day, he sees a man dressed as a pilgrim being dragged to the church to perform devotions and realizes that it is Edward. Edward confesses that he has committed heinous crimes including murder and is now trying to atone for his sins. His wife is living, but she is now the mistress of king Philip. Elgiva married Godfrey, but she has died, and Edward refuses to explain further. He remains in Jerusalem for some time, and Maximilian manages to piece together some of the story. Godfrey had regained his sanity and married Elgiva, but they both died and left Edward as the guardian of their child. Edward had married a noblewoman and they had a son, but she left him to become the concubine of king Philip.
Edward leaves Jerusalem without saying goodbye. Several years later, Maximilian returns to France on business for the knights of Saint John. While there, he decides to visit the duke’s old chateau, where he finds only servants. They tell him that Edward had been dead for some time, and that his son (now the Duke) was in the country with his wife. Maximilian is confused, because he had heard from Edward that Godfrey had left an heir to the title. A few days later Edward’s son comes to visit Maximilian, saying that he had heard that someone had come to the chateau looking for his father. The new Duke explains that Godfrey had a daughter, but she had descended into madness and died, so he was now the lawful successor. Maximilian then accompanies him to his palace to meet the duchess and stays with them for a month.
Late one night, a woman knocks on his door, requesting that he come to give religious comfort to a dying servant until a confessor can arrive from a distant convent. The dying woman recognizes him as Selina’s lover because she is Nerina, Elgiva’s old servant. She tells him about Edward and Selina’s past, and Maximilian writes all of it down in a packet when he returns to his room. She dies the next morning before he can speak with her again. He learned from her that Godfrey’s daughter (named Elgiva, after her mother) was alive and well, and certainly not an imbecile as the Duke had told him. The Duke had illegally married her (his cousin) but because of their close relation it was not an official union, and he had no claim to the estate unless she died.
When the Duke enters the room, Maximilian horrifies him by immediately asking where he had hidden Elgiva. The Duke begs Maximilian not to expose him, saying that he had fallen in love with his cousin, and they had married in secret. He had been planning on suing for a dispensation and met his current wife while on his way to do so. He fell in love with her and proposed, instead of returning to Elgiva. When he broke off his engagement with her, she went insane and died of a broken heart. Maximilian pronounces him guilty of her murder, and they agree upon appropriate penance for him to perform in exchange for Maximilian’s silence. Maximilian leaves the Duke and Duchess to visit his uncle’s old convent, where he decides to join the brothers. When the prior dies two years later, Maximilian succeeds him.
Maximilian then decides to return to the chateau to find out from Nerina’s brother Conrad, the servant in charge of its care, what truly happened to Elgiva. Conrad relates that after her parents died, Edward had raised Elgiva in ignorance of her right to the estates so that she would believe that she was dependent upon him. Therefore, Nerina and Conrad did as much as they could to advance her marriage to Edward’s son, the current Duke, believing that this was the only way in which she could claim her birthright. Nerina passed away while recovering from a broken leg and when Elgiva heard the news, she went mad with grief and died. Maximilian is convinced, because Conrad has confirmed the Duke’s story.
After finishing his story, the Abbot tells Sancho that even all these years later justice can still prevail, so he plans to tell the king the whole story. He gives Sancho the packet he wrote after Nerina’s deathbed explanation containing everything that happened to him, asking Sancho to read it then come back to visit him. The Abbot believes that Elgiva is alive, and that she may now receive her rightful inheritance when the matter comes to light. Sancho takes the packet home and in it he reads the story of Maximilian and Selina once more, starting from the point where Selina, Edward, Elgiva, Godfrey, and the former Duke all left for a different chateau without Maximilian. Here, the point of view stays with Maximilian, but it’s based on his written packet, no longer on his conversation with the knight.
The family is all together at the chateau. Selina mourns Maximilian’s absence, but she cheers up in a few days. Adolphus de Monvel visits and is instantly attracted to Selina, who is completely unaware. When he confesses his feelings to her, she is flattered that he chose her over the more beautiful Elgiva, but gently denies him. However, Adolphus takes her mild denial as encouragement and continues to pursue her. The second time that he declares his affections, she tells him about her engagement. Edward overhears this and does his best to convince his sister that Maximilian is being unfaithful. He tells Selina that Maximilian has run off with a peasant girl, and she is incredibly upset. The Duke resolves to have the matter investigated, which Edward knows would expose his lies, but he does not have a chance to look into it before he and Godfrey leave for the king’s wedding. Edward hears Elgiva trying to convince Selina not to become a nun and he realizes that this would be very advantageous for him, so he persuades her over time to run away and join a convent without telling their father and helps her leave the chateau unnoticed.
Once she reaches the convent, Selina falls ill from distress since she knows that she has caused her family worry. When she explains her situation to the nuns and asks for their help, the abbess sends a messenger to the chateau to inform the Duke of his daughter’s whereabouts and her regret. He immediately sets out to see her with Elgiva and Edward. Selina writes a letter to Elgiva explaining everything and asking her to beg the Duke to forgive her. Selina and the Duke both die, and Godfrey goes mad with grief. However, after ten years he recovers and marries Elgiva. Edward is bitter and upset because he has lost his chance to have everything he wanted. Elgiva and Godfrey live happily together in the chateau with Edward and Elgiva gives birth to their daughter. One day in a rage while Elgiva and Godfrey are on a walk, Edward attempts to murder the couple. When Godfrey discovers him, Edward begs his brother to kill him, but Godfrey says that he forgives Edward and they all return to the chateau. However, Edward is even more upset by their kindness. He plans on joining the army and prepares to leave.
One night, the three of them are sitting by a window when the two brothers decide to climb a tower for a better view. When they reach the top, Edward pushes his brother off the battlements. Elgiva dies of shock when she sees his corpse. Edward is left as the guardian to the young Elgiva and marries the Duchess. After his wife leaves him for the king, he becomes penitent, and he suffers much in the name of atonement. Eventually, he passes away, still trying to pay for his sins.
After he reads the packet, Sancho is travelling when he sees his friend Guiscardo sitting by a forest, deeply upset. Guiscardo tells Sancho that he is upset because he is now a criminal and explains why. Guiscardo and his wife Maddalena visited one of Guiscardo’s castles for a reprieve but when they arrived the servants said that the new inhabitant of the neighboring property, an Italian named Prince Appiani, was infringing upon Guiscardo’s land and treating Guiscardo’s servants horribly. Soon, Appiani sent a letter apologizing for his conduct and promising to visit the next day. In person, the prince was apologetic, kind, and charming, but Maddalena seemed distressed by his visits, although she was unsure why. One day while Guiscardo was out riding with Appiani, a group of masked men come to the castle and kidnap Maddalena. Guiscardo believes that they were hired by Appiani, so he rushes into the prince’s castle and draws his sword. The prince denies any involvement and orders his servants to search for her. The two men leave together to look for her, but they are unsuccessful.
One morning a stranger comes to see Guiscardo, saying that a woman had given him a letter to deliver to Guiscardo. It is from Maddalena, telling her husband that she plans to kill herself with opium but wanted Guiscardo to know that she was imprisoned in Appiani’s castle and that the prince was the one who kidnapped her. Guiscardo immediately goes to Appiani’s castle and stabs him while he sleeps. However, Guiscardo is now consumed with guilt over having killed a helpless man. Sancho promises that after he returns from a pilgrimage, he will speak with the Pope to obtain absolution for his friend.
Barnes, James J., and Patience P. Barnes. “Tegg, Thomas (1776–1846), publisher.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 September 2004. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/27102.
Frank, Frederick S. The First Gothics: A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel. Garland Publishing, 1987.
——. “Gothic Gold: The Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, vol. 26, 1997, pp. 287–312.
Hoeveler, Diane Long. The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880. University of Wales Press, 2014.
Maximilian and Selina: Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale. London, Tegg & Castleman, 1804.
Mayo, Robert Donald. The English Novel In the Magazines, 1740–1815: With a Catalogue of 1375 Magazine Novels And Novelettes. Northwestern University Press, 1962.
Potter, Franz J. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. Macmillan UK, 2005.
——. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
“Thomas Tegg.” Collections Online | British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG48140.
“Thomas Tegg, Esq.” The Gentleman’s Magazine: and historical review. June 1846: 650.
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).
A story of love and tragedy, this 1805 chapbook features plagiarized excerpts from Charlotte Smith’s 1789 novel Ethelinde.
The Affecting History of Caroline, or the Distressed Widow: A True
Tale is the fourth gothic story in a collection of four volumes. In the back of
the front cover of the collection, there is a note written in pencil that
states “4 Vol,” denoting there are four rebound volumes in the set. Notably,
none of the volumes have an author listed at the front.
The chapbook collection consists
of a front and back cover made of chipped, faded red-dyed paper, with the spine
of the book dyed green and highlighted by a black outline on the front and
back. Both sides are blank, leaving a polished but plain look. From the top of
the spine, there is a gold fabric label printed with the word, “ROMANCES”
bordered by a series of decorative black lines and dots arranged symmetrically.
Including the cover, the book is approximately 18 cm long, 10.5cm wide, and
1.4cm thick. Inside, the pages are evenly cut, but yellowed and worn.
Although the pages are very thin
and easy to flip through, their texture is rough like sandpaper. Without any
spots or signs of damage other than age, the book is in fairly good
The title page features the main
title, The Affecting History of Caroline,
settled at the top half of the page in large fine black font. The alternative
title, Distressed Widow, is italicized.
Underneath, outlined by a thin
horizontal line, is the subtitle, A True
Tale. The footer of the title page includes publishing information:
“London, published by S. Carvalho, 19 Castle Calley, White Chapel.” This is
followed by the chapbook’s individual sale price: sixpence. Then, at the very
bottom, there appears to be a misaligned line of text that cuts off past the
margins, plausibly additional publishing information.
Positioned at the center of the
title page is a small printed illustration of a woman in a red dress holding a
baby in a blanket. The illustration is painted over in watercolors, which gives
the image a glossy texture that stands out from the rest of the pages. There is
no caption for the illustration, but it is implied that the woman pictured is
the titular “Distressed Widow.”
Furthermore, there is a
frontispiece that consists of a full color spread of a woman and young girl
standing on a paved road while a smiling man appears to lead them to a
carriage. Similar to the title page illustration, this picture was hand-painted
in watercolor, which gives the page additional heavy weight in comparison to
other pages. The twentieth (and final) page of the story includes a printed
illustration of various household items at the bottom, such as two bowls.
Pagination of Caroline does not begin until page 4,
and the chapbook is twenty pages long. Every left page of the open book
includes the abbreviated title Caroline
in the header, with the page number listed above it. The markers for printing
sections B and C are located on pages three and fifteen, respectively, in the
center of the footer. These sections denote to the publisher when to fold the
pages so that the book is bound in the right order. The pagination continues to
another story, titled The Negro: An
Affecting Tale, which then closes its respective volume. Each of the four
rebound volumes has its own pagination, so they are not continuous among one another.
The Affecting History of Caroline: or, The Distressed Widow was
published in 1805. This twenty-five-page chapbook entered the Sadleir-Black
Gothic Collection at the University of Virginia as one of four chapbooks
rebound into a single volume, yet a digital copy of the chapbook as its own
isolated volume, with a front and back cover, is publicly available through
Duke University Library and HathiTrust.
There are few differences between
the University of Virginia and Duke copies of the text. One that stands out is
the alignment of the title page. Whereas the print of University of Virginia’s
copy is slightly tilted and thus parts of the text cut off at the bottom
margins, the print is fully aligned, listing details on publishing information,
“E. Billing, Printer, 187, Bermondsey Street.” Furthermore, the Duke copy has a
marbled cover, whereas the University of Virginia’s rebound copy uses a paper
cover. Otherwise, the pagination, font, publication date, and publishing
company are all the same. Furthermore, neither copy lists an author anywhere in
According to WorldCat, S.
Carvalho, the publishing company, was located in London and published other
novels between 1805 and 1831. Their other works followed a similar subject as The
Affecting History of Caroline: a woman’s reflection on her life, such as in
The Lady’s Revenge: a Tale Founded on
Facts (1817) and The History of Miss
Patty Proud (1820). Yet, throughout S. Carvalho’s legacy, there were no
other reprints of Caroline, nor any
known translations. However, in 2015, two publishing companies dedicated to
revitalizing old books, BiblioBazaar and FB&C Limited, reprinted the
original text in a new paperback edition. FB&C Limited would go on to
publish a hardcover edition of The
Affecting History of Caroline in 2018.
The Affecting History of Caroline is actually an excerpted
plagiarism of a Charlotte Smith novel, Ethelinde,
or the Recluse of the Lake, published in 1789. From the years 1789–1792,
multiple serialized magazines such as TheEuropean Magazine and London Review and Walker’s Hibernian
Magazine published an excerpt of Ethelinde
under the title, The Affecting History of
Caroline Montgomery. This story aligns almost exactly with The Affecting History of Caroline. In TheEuropean
Magazine, The Affecting History of
Caroline Montgomery was released in two parts, just one month apart from
each other. The first sixteen pages of the 1805 version of The Affecting History of Caroline match the first part of The Affecting History of Caroline Montgomery
word-for-word; there are plot variations in the second half of the two stories.
Perhaps what is most interesting is that all magazines cite the acclaimed author
Charlotte Smith and Ethelinde as the
source of their release of The Affecting History of Caroline Montgomery, bur
the 1805 version of The Affecting
History of Caroline does not make
To verify this link, one can
observe the stark similarities between The
Affecting History of Caroline, and an excerpt from Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde. The text of The Affecting History of Caroline from pages 1–16 aligns almost word-for-word with chapter
16 of Ethelinde (Smith 128–55). Differences
between the texts include formatting preferences, such as Ethelinde
using the long S that looks closer to an f, as well as spelling changes like
how The Affecting History of Caroline
uses “mamma” whereas Ethelinde spells
the same word as “mama.” The most stark difference is the textual context: in Ethelinde, Caroline Montgomery tells her
tale to the titular character, Ethelinde; in The Affecting History of Caroline, mentions of Ethelinde are
completely removed. This change is understandable, for if the intent of The Affecting History Caroline was to
present the plagiarized text as an original story, then any evidence of being
associated with plot elements from the world of Ethelinde needed to be
removed. Attempts at erasing ties to Ethelinde
are most noticeable following page 16 of The
Affecting History of Caroline. From just pages 16–18 of The Affecting History of Caroline, over
ten paragraphs of Ethelinde are skipped over, but these cuts are
presented as a seamless transition between not only paragraphs but sentences as
well (Smith 155–61). There are also noticeable changes in phrasing, such as the
line “Lord Pevensey took this opportunity of departing,” versus the line from Ethelinde, “Lord Pevensey took that
opportunity to depart” (Affecting History of Caroline 16, Smith 155).
It is not surprising that someone
would want to plagiarize Charlotte’s Smith’s work, for she was an illustrious
novelist during her time. From 1784 to 1806, Smith used her writing to support
her large family of twelve children as a single mother. She is known for
influencing the Romantic era, particularly for writing with an emphasis on
nature and human emotions. Although there are no reviews of The Affecting
History of Caroline, scholarship
does attend to Ethelinde (see Hawkins).
With this context in mind, it is understandable how the illegitimate chapbook The Affecting History of Caroline was
classified as a “Romance” when rebound, as it sits at the intersection of
gothic, romance, and Romantic literature.
Narrative Point of View
The Affecting History of Caroline is narrated in the first-person
singular voice of the titular character, Caroline, who delineates the events of
her childhood and upbringing. In The Affecting History of Caroline, the narrator focuses less on
descriptive language and more on singular plot-relevant events, however, this
pattern deviates in moments of intense emotion, such as when Caroline falls in
love. The sentence structure is dense, but direct, which allows for a clear
narrative to unfold. At times the narrator mentions the second person “you,” as
if retelling the story of her life to an unnamed individual.
I will not detain you with relating the various expedients for accommodation, which were in the course of the first month proposed by the relations of the family, who knew the tenderness the late lord Pevensey had for my mother; that he considered her as his wife, and that her conduct could not have been more unexceptionable had she really been so. Still lingering in France, and still visiting a house into which his cruelty had introduced great misery, the proceeding of lord Pevensey wore a very extraordinary appearance. My mother now continued almost entirely to her room; and Montgomery concealed from her his uneasiness at what he remarked; but to me he spoke more freely, and told me he was very sure his lordship had other designs that he suffered immediately to appear. In a few days the truth of this conjecture became evident. (15)
The narrator, Caroline, uses an
individualized first-person point of view to create an intimate and engaging
voice. Referring to an unnamed “you” implies the narration is directed at an
audience outside of Caroline’s world—hence, the story becomes an attempt at
reaching out to this world. The differentiation between “late lord” and “lord”
Pevensey establishes a clarity in the narrative that stands out from other
gothic works that utilize confusion and chaos as a tool for narration. This
easy-to-follow narration is ideal when communicating to an audience unfamiliar
with these past events, suggesting the implied audience is a stranger to
Caroline’s life and irrelevant to her past. Furthermore, the characters around
Caroline are characterized primarily by their actions in relation to Caroline,
such as the mother “continued almost entirely to her room,” and Montgomery, who
“spoke more freely,” rather than through a direct description of inward
thoughts or feelings. Interestingly, even their conversations only seem to
happen in summarized instances, with no direct dialogue. This means even the
conversations Caroline has every day are ultimately translated by Caroline’s
perspective, first, before being narrated. This limited point of view creates a
story tailored to Caroline’s perspective on her life, with all of her potential
bias, allowing for a deeper understanding of Caroline as a character.
The story of The Affecting
History of Caroline begins and
ends in Scotland. The titular character retells her life story from childhood
into adulthood with all of the trials and tribulations she faced along the way.
The first tragedy in Caroline’s life is the loss of her father, a Scottish
nobleman. He died as a casualty in a military campaign for Scotland’s
independence from Britain. At the time of his death, Caroline was an infant,
and her mother became a young single mother without anyone to support them. So,
they begin the story struggling in poverty with just the remaining money left
by Caroline’s father. Although the war her father fought in eventually ended,
she along with the rest of the Scottish community continued to struggle to
rebuild stability. Despite this, Caroline’s mother soon finds out that in
Caroline’s grandfather’s will, no money was allocated to her. Soon afterwards,
Caroline’s grandfather also passes away, but he only left money for Caroline’s
uncle from England. The death of the grandfather spurs Caroline’s mother to
migrate to England in hope of seeking assistance from her brother. At first,
Caroline’s uncle appears to be welcoming and kind to his sister and niece.
However, his wife is much more reserved, and repeatedly tells her husband not
to be so hospitable to Caroline and her mother. Although the husband agrees to
pay for a small home in London for Caroline and her mother to stay in, he soon
becomes too influenced by his wife and limits the funds for Caroline’s small
family, and so the girl and her mother must continue to struggle through
Caroline’s mother has no one to
comfort her, and so she also continues to grieve for her deceased husband. It
is in this state that she comes across a gentleman one day, named Pevensey, who
falls in love with her at first sight while she walks through town with
Caroline. The man orders a carriage to take Caroline and her mother home, and
then insists on accompanying them in the carriage. On the carriage ride home,
Pevensey admits that he is from the same noble lineage of Caroline’s father,
and this is how he knew of the widow beforehand. What was once curiosity,
however, has now turned into infatuation, and so he begins courting Caroline’s
Their romance appears to go quite
smoothly until Pevensey admits that he is actually already married. Granted, it
is an arranged marriage to a woman he despises, and no longer lives with, yet,
they are still married under the law. After revealing this, the man proposes to
have Caroline and her mother live with him, where they would no longer have to
live in a shabby home and instead build a family together. This proposal causes
Caroline’s uncle and auntie to see Caroline’s mother with a new form of respect,
and so they are receptive to the nobleman. Caroline’s mother, however, is still
haunted by the loss of her husband, and the fact that they can never truly be
married, so she deliberates before ultimately agreeing to fully love the man
and live with him.
Caroline and her mother adjust
well to their new lifestyle. Her mother gains a bit more peace of mind now that
she no longer feels like her brother’s burden, and Caroline is able to live a
more enriching childhood and gain a stellar education. Unfortunately, their joy
is soon cut short when the nobleman dies from disease while on a business trip.
Even worse, all of his property rights and wealth were passed on to his
brother, leaving Caroline and her mother in poverty once again. However, this
time, they are not alone. A friend of Pevensey, Mr. Montgomery, takes them
under his wing so that they no longer have to suffer. At this time, Caroline
falls in love with Mr. Montgomery. In a bittersweet display of love, they get
married the night before her mother also passes away from illness.
Then, finally, Caroline’s luck starts to turn for the better. Her husband wins a duel against Pevensey’s brother, who finally agrees to respect Caroline’s right to her step-father’s inheritance as retribution. In another turn of events, war returns to Caroline’s life via the conflict between France and England. Montgomery enlists in the English regiment, and Caroline leaves with him so that they are not separated. Eventually, though, they are separated as Montgomery gets more involved in the war. Meanwhile, Caroline becomes pregnant and eventually gives birth to a son. They do not reunite until the war finally ends, and then retire together to live with their new family in Paris.
Their marriage remains true and
fulfilling until Montgomery dies from illness, leaving Caroline as a single
mother, just as her mother once was. She decides to raise her son back in
Scotland, where they are able to spend the rest of their lives in peace.
Hartley, Cathy. A Historical Dictionary of British Women.
London: Europa Publications, 2005.
Hawkins, Anne. Romantic Women Writers Reviewed, Taylor
& Francis, Vol 5, Issue 2, 2020, pp.40–41.
Smith, Charlotte. Ethelinde, Or The Recluse of the Lake. T.
“The Affecting History of Caroline Montgomery.” The European Magazine, and London Review, 1790, pp. 353–58, 457–62.
“The Affecting History of
Caroline Montgomery.” Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, Or, Compendium of Entertaining
Knowledge, vol.1, 1790, pp. 38–40
The Affecting History of Caroline; or, The Distressed Widow. A True
Tale. London, S. Carvalho, 1805.
The Affecting History of Caroline; or, The Distressed Widow. A True Tale. BiblioBazaar, 2015.
The Affecting History of Caroline; or, The Distressed Widow. A True
Tale. FB&C Limited, 2015.
In this 1800s chapbook by Sarah Wilkinson set in the South of France, follow Emma de Villeroy as she navigates her mysterious marriage, and the truth about her bloodline.
The White Cottage of the Valley is one chapbook bound in a collection of eighteen stories. The story itself is short, only twenty-one pages as compared to the over thirty-page length of the other stories in the book, but the text is quite dense. The text is small and close-set, and the margins between each line are thin. The book measures approximately 11cm x 18cm, allowing this chapbook to hold a lot of content. The margins of the pages vary, ranging from 0.8 cm to 1.6cm. The pages are quite thin, allowing you to see the text on the other side. Each page has the shortened title of the book, The White Cottage, printed across the top. This is uniform to every story in the book, making it easy to differentiate the separate works.
Before you begin reading the story, you are greeted with a frontispiece. The frontispiece, an illustration preceding the title page, is completely unique. Although the black outline is printed, the colors are hand painted with watercolors. You can see white space that the artist did not quite cover with color, as well as places where the colors overlap. The illustration depicts a woman clothed in red and white approaching the door of a hut where a woman and child wait. Below the illustration is a quote that relates to the part of the story the image is depicting: “Merciful Providence! Your Husband ill, & lying in that Hut.” Uniquely, the word “page” stands alone just below the quote, likely intended to list the page number where you could find this quote. However, there is no page number, and in fact this illustration does not relate at all to The White Cottage of the Valley, or to any story within this collection of chapbooks. It is possible that this was a misprint, or perhaps the story that relates to this illustration was removed from this book. The White Cottage of the Valley also does not contain page numbers, though it does include signature marks, which were used to guide bookbinders and make sure the pages were folded correctly and in the correct order. A2, B, C, and C2 appear on the first, seventh, eleventh, and thirteenth pages respectively.
The title page follows the frontispiece on the next page. The full title, The White Cottage of the Valley; or the Mysterious Husband: an Original, Interesting Romance,is printed vertically down the page, followed by the name of the author, Sarah Wilkinson. An excerpt from a poem is quoted just below, and below that the printer is listed. Finally, the price, sixpence, is printed at the very bottom of the page. The title page bleeds through almost completely to the other side of the paper, which is otherwise completely blank.
The cover of the chapbook collection follows a very popular binding technique of the time called half binding. The spine and two triangles on the corners of the front and back cover are brown leather, while the main cover is paper. The paper cover is decorated with another popular technique: marbling. This is a process in which different colors of oil paint are added to a tub of water, which the paper for the cover is then dipped in. The water forces the oil to spread, giving it a “marbled” look. The cover of this book is mostly beige, with marbling of dark blue. It is worse for wear, though, with quite a bit of the front worn off. The spine is also quite worn, with cracks appearing in the leather and tearing slightly at the top. Luckily, the book is in mostly good condition, with no large tears or extremely stained pages.
Sarah Wilkinson was a gothic writer active between 1799 and 1824. In that time, she penned approximately one-hundred short stories, including about thirty gothic works. The White Cottage of the Valley; or the Mysterious Husband is one of her lesser-known works. Unlike her more popular stories, which have well-documented and sometimes controversial histories, The White Cottage has very little written about it. This is likely due to the pure quantity of gothic chapbooks that Wilkinson penned, meaning only the most popular of them have been attended to by historians and literary scholars. The White Cottage has, however, been republished in the second volume of Gary Kelly’s 2002 Varieties of Female Gothic. This volume, titled Street Gothic, includes a number of gothic texts by female writers that Kelly suggests depict the change in the writing of the lower class. In the introduction to this volume, Kelly describes The White Cottage as “represent[ing] the revolution in cheap print of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century that saw the creation of a commercialised novelty literature for the lower-class and lower middle-class readers” (xxiii). This is one of the only modern works that analyzes The White Cottage, rather than simply listing it as one of Wilkinson’s texts.
As often as Wilkinson is described as prolific, she is also described as a “hack” writer (Kelly xxi, Hoeveler 3). This is due to the fact that Wilkinson was on the cusp of poverty, writing “at the lowest end of the literary market” (Kelly xxi). Indeed, she wrote so much because she had to in order to make a living, not necessarily out of love for the craft. In 1803, she wrote to Tell-Tale Magazine, issuing a “warning [to] every indigent woman, who is troubled with the itch of scribbling, to beware of [her] unhappy fate.” (“The Life of an Authoress, Written by Herself” 28) Obviously Wilkinson had the desire to write, self-described as an “itch of scribbling,” but it was not an easy way to make a living.
Interestingly, the publisher of The White Cottage is also somewhat well-known. In 1810, Robert Harrild invented a new tool for inking typeface, called a composition roller. This was a much more efficient method than the previously used balls of hide (Anderson & McConnell). Conversely, the illustrator for the frontispiece for The White Cottage is completely unlisted and unknown. The White Cottage of the Valley originally included a frontispiece (printed in Kelly’s Varieties of Female Gothic) but this frontispiece is not present in the University of Virginia version, which may be due to Wilkinson’s lack of resources, or it is possible that there was a misprinting or a confusion when rebinding and a different frontispiece was accidentally placed there instead. All versions of the chapbook, however, have the title-page epigraph from Thomas Fitzgerald’s eighteenth-century poem “Bedlam.”
There was at least one printing of The White Cottage in the early nineteenth century, but the publication date is not precisely known because the work itself has no date listed. WorldCat and Google Books list the date as 1815, although this is likely inaccurate because the title page of The White Cottage lists Robert Harrild as residing at 20 Great Eastcheap in London at the time of printing, a location he did not move to until 1819. He moved once again in 1824, suggesting The White Cottage was likely published sometime between 1819 and 1824, not 1815 (Anderson & McConnell).
While it has never been officially said that Wilkinson pulled content from Elizabeth Meeke’s The Mysterious Husband: A Novel, there are a few obvious overlaps between the two stories. Most notably, the works share a partial title, a character named the Earl of Clarencourt (spelled Clarancourt in Meeke’s story), a theme of marrying for money rather than love, and a main character who leaves for France for the sake of his mental health. Since Meeke’s novel was published early in 1801, it is possible that Wilkinson read Meeke’s novel and incorporated ideas from it into her own chapbook. This would not be the first time Wilkinson took inspiration from another story, either: her 1820 novel, Castle of Lindenberg; or, The History of Raymond and Agnes, is heavily derived from Matthew Lewis’s popular story The Monk. This was not all that unusual at the time: Father Innocent, Abbot of the Capuchins; or, The Crimes of Cloisters (1805) and The Castle of Lindenberg; or The History of Raymond and Agnes (1798) were also borderline plagiarisms of the same popular work.
Narrative Point of View
The White Cottage of the Valley is narrated by an unnamed narrator who is never a character in the story. They narrate entirely in third person and past tense, except at the beginning of extended backstory when they momentarily switch to present tense and use “we” to refer to the narration. The narrator often acts as an omniscient storyteller, relating how the characters feel and react to each other. Through the narrator, we are given insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. The language the narrator uses is formal and antiquated.
She instantly summoned Alise and Anetta to her presence, that she might fully apprize them of the part they had to act before the stranger could converse them, and thus frustrate her intentions.
While she is conversing with her faithful domestics, we will look back a little to the events that preceded—the distress of mind into which the amiable Emma was now plunged.
Emma de Villeroy was a native of the southern part of France; she was the only child of a very respectable medical man, a descendant of a noble family. (4)
This method of omniscient storytelling allows readers access to what the characters are thinking, enabling readers to experience events more intimately with the characters. The narration also heightens the effect of the plot unfolding in real time by suggesting that Emma’s backstory can be provided during the period of time when “she is conversing with her faithful domestics” as if Emma is talking to her servants at the exact same moment that the narration is relaying her backstory. As a result, Emma, the third-person narration, and the readers are all waiting for the rest of Emma’s story to unfold in this moment.
The White Cottage of the Valley opens with its main character Emma crying because her husband has not come home. She eventually falls into a fitful sleep until late in the night, when the gate bell rings. Emma, convinced it is her husband, quickly answers it. It is not her husband, however, but a stranger asking for shelter out of the rain. Despite her reluctance, Emma allows him in and sets him up with a bed. The next morning, when she goes down to breakfast with her children, the stranger asks which of the two is hers. Emma, alarmed by this question, lies and says only Rosalthe is hers and that Adolphus is the child of her servant, Alise.
Here, the narrator backs up to talk a bit about Emma’s backstory. Emma de Villeroy is the daughter of a woman who married against the will of her parents. Emma’s grandparents were so against the marriage that her parents left and never contacted them again. The years passed, and eventually both of Emma’s parents died. On his deathbed, her father bid Emma to seek out her wealthy, noble grandparents because otherwise she would be left destitute. Unfortunately, he died before he could give any information about her grandparents, leaving Emma with no way to contact either of them. In cleaning out her parents’ house, Emma subsequently found a miniature of her mother and began to wear it on a necklace under her clothes.
One day, Emma met a young man named Adolphus Montreville who had taken a liking to her late father’s library so much that he wanted to purchase the books. When the two of them met, there was an immediate spark. Adolphus was very kind to Emma in a way that betrayed his emotions, but he never made any formal declarations of his passion. Eventually, Adolphus explained that his father, a greedy Earl, wants to marry him off to an heiress for the money. Adolphus expressed that while he has feelings for Emma, he cannot marry her publicly due to his father. Therefore, he suggested a private marriage. Emma accepted his proposal, without mentioning her wealthy grandparents. The next week, the pair were married. Almost immediately, however, Adolphus Montreville was called back to England. He promised to return as soon as possible, leaving a pregnant Emma with one of her parents’ servants, Alise.
Eventually, Emma had twins, Rosalthe and Adolphus, and travelled to Paris to meet her husband, still concealing their marriage. There, the pair attended an opera and Emma noticed a wealthy couple who she immediately believed to be her grandparents due to their resemblance to her late mother. She did not mention her suspicions to her husband, however, and eventually left France for Wales without any conclusion of this matter.
Two months after settling in a white cottage in the valley in Wales, Adolphus visited and he expressed to Emma his fears that their marriage had been discovered. The following night, he promises that he will be more explicit when he returns. However, after this visit, he does not come back.
This is where the beginning of the story picks up again. That night, the second one the stranger stays in the cottage, Emma and Rosalthe are kidnapped by Adolphus Montreville’s father, the Earl of Clarencourt. The earl accuses Emma of deceiving him by denying Adolphus as her son. He informs Emma that her husband is also his prisoner and gives Emma a paper urging her to sign it. The paper proposes this agreement: the earl intends to fake his son’s death so that his younger brother, Edward, can marry the heiress. Emma and her family will be banished, but Emma’s son, Adolphus, will be raised by the earl. If Emma and Adolphus Montreville do not sign this paper, they will forever be confined to Milbury castle as they are now.
Emma refuses to sign, making the earl angry and scaring Rosalthe in her arms. As Rosalthe clings to her, she pulls out the necklace Emma wears. The earl immediately recognizes it as a miniature of the daughter of the Marquis De Aubigne. When Emma tells him it was her mother’s, he realizes his mistake. He apologizes to Emma, and she and her husband are freed. Emma goes on to meet her grandparents, who accept her eagerly and apologize for their poor treatment of her mother. Emma inherits all of her grandparents’ wealth, and her family lives happily for the rest of their lives.
Kelly, Gary. “Introduction.” Varieties of Female Gothic, Volume 2: Street Gothic. Taylor & Francis, 2002, pp. vii–xxiii.
“The Life of an Authoress, Written by Herself,” Tale 57 in Tell-Tale Magazine (London: Ann Lemoine, 1803), p. 28 in The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade, by Franz Potter. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The White Cottage of the Valley: Or the Mysterious Husband: An Original, Interesting Romance. Printed and Published by R. Harrild, n.d.
Set in England and published in 1827, The Twin Sisters warns of the sexual improprieties of men, cautioning that men lead to the destruction of women, unless women are resilient in their actions.
The book containing The Twin Sisters; or, Two Girls of Nineteen: Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia and Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative by “Charlotte, one of the sisters” is a small 9.1cm by 14.15cm worn book. The book contains seventy-two pages total: pages three through forty-two detail the story of the twin sisters and the remaining thirty pages recount Orphan of the Castle: a Gothic Tale, or the Surprising History and Vicissitudes of Allan Fitz-Roberts, the Orphan Heir of the Castle of Lindisfarne by an unknown author.
This desaturated teal-colored hardcover book is discolored by light warm-brown staining. The discoloration is most exaggerated on the bottom edge of the book. The front cover has a thin crack halfway up the page, starting from the right side, tapering off until it reaches a cool dark-brown freckle near the middle of the book. This dark splotch is the most distinctive out of many, most likely unintentional, freckles splattering the cover, giving the book an aged appearance. There is also a 0.5cm in diameter distinctive stain in the upper left-hand corner, rimmed thinly with a warm dark-brown and filled with a cool-blue grey. The stain resembles a hippopotamus’s head with a small protrusion where the neck should be, giving the appearance of a small gourd.
The binding is exceedingly damaged. The book, bound similarly to modern hardcovers, has a cardboard-like substance acting as the base, wrapped in a colored paper to attach the front hardcover with the back. The desaturated orange-brown colored cardboard-like substance peaks from the corners of the book where the teal paper covering has worn through. The paper cover folds over the edges of the hardback and a rectangle of white paper, now discolored with age, pastes over it to secure it. Only severely degraded paper covers the spine. The spine is intact from the bottom until 8.2cm up from the bottom, where it is torn off completely until 11.5cm up from the bottom. A few centimeters of the paper remain attached, but only attached to the left edge of the spine. In the binding of the pages, some type of adhesive glue adhered each edge of the paper together with a thin bit of string threaded through all of the pages in three places near the center of the inner margin or gutter of the book. Each puncture falls one centimeter apart.
The paper, brittle and browned from age, has the most browning along its edges. On the first page, an 8 by 3cm rectangle-shaped discoloration appears in the middle of the page. A few of the pages are ripped, but only along the bottom edge, including the first page, resulting in a brown staining its negative on the third page. A few of the odd-numbered pages are marked below the text with signature marks used by a printer; the marks appear as a combination of letters and the number 2, ranging from A2 to D2 in The Twin Sisters. The Orphan of the Castle has more damage to the paper detailing its story than The Twin Sisters. The damage evokes the interaction between watercolor paint and salt, giving the pages a speckled appearance.
When looking at a standard spread of The Twin Sisters, the thirty-four lines of text are fully justified causing the spacing between words to be on average narrower than standard. The margins are consistent at 1cm on the bottom and outside edge with the top margin 1.5cm to leave adequate room for “The Two Girls” above the text on the left page, and “Of Nineteen” above the text on the right page. All of the pages are numbered, except for the first page of The Orphan of the Castle and the first three pages of the book: the title page, the blank back of the title page, and the first page of The Twin Sisters.
Beyond a mostly illegible scrawl of what appears to be the name “Mr. Wyllis” in the top left corner of the inside of the cover, and the University of Virginia Library bookplate, there are no illustrations, marginalia, or personal marks in the book. Neither is the title of either story listed anywhere apart from the title page and the first page of each respective story. On the opening page of each story, each of the titles is shortened from their full form inscribed in the title page to just the primary title, without its subtitle.
The title page attributes Charlotte Melford, the narrator of the story, as the author of The Twin Sisters; or, Two Girls of Nineteen: Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia and Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative; however, this is spurious, as the far-fetched story is a work of fiction. There are no other authors listed in any available copies of the book, except one WorldCat entry erroneously listing the publisher, Freeman Scott, as the author.
The copy held at the University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library was published in 1827 by Freeman Scott, with premises on the N.W. Corner of Tenth and Race Streets, Philadelphia. There was another publication of this story produced in London and “printed and sold by Dean & Munday, 35, Threadneedle Street” (as noted on its title page); this copy has been digitized and made available on Google Books, which lists the date at 1830, though this date is not shown anywhere on the scan of the book. The two copies are very similar in most regards but differ substantially in some ways. The Freeman Scott version is one of two stories in the chapbook, with the other being Orphan of the Castle, and The Twin Sisters accounts for pages 3 through 42; by contrast, the Dean and Munday edition was published alone and accounts for pages 8 through 36 of its book. The difference in page count is primarily due to what appears to be differences in margin size as well as page size; the body of the text is largely the same. There are, however, some discrepancies in the text, especially with punctuation. The two editions have very little consistency between their punctuations with over six changes between the two editions on the corresponding text of the first page of the Scott edition alone. Occasionally, there are also some changes in word choice: for instance, page six of the Scott edition uses “written” while the corresponding section of the Dean and Munday edition uses “wrote” on page nine. Or, later, in the same sentence, the Scott edition uses “house” while the Dean and Munday edition uses “home.” There are also some cases where there is an entire half of a sentence or full sentence present in the Dean and Munday edition that is missing in the Scott edition, such as the inclusion of “to go with her; my father she said, was visited by dissolute men in whose company it would be imprudent for us to mix” at the end of a sentence on page ten in the Dean and Munday edition but not the Scott edition. Perhaps most notably, the Dean and Munday edition includes an illustration of the scene where Charlotte is taken from her lodgings by the police as the frontispiece before the title page; this illustration is absent in the Scott edition.
WorldCat also lists several other editions with various publication years, all attributed to Charlotte Melford. For instance, WorldCat lists an 1821 edition that is twelve pages long and was published for wholesale and retail in New York at 386, Broadway, W. Grattan Printer by S. King, and sold at his bookstore. There is only one library with this 1821 edition: the University of Iowa Library.
WorldCat lists an 1823 edition that was published for wholesale and retail in New York by W. Borradaile. This copy is one of the earliest editions and does not have the attached Orphan of the Castle story. This version is thirty-six pages long and includes an illustration.
WorldCat also identifies an edition with an unspecified publication date in the 1800s, and Jstor lists the date for this version as somewhere between 1814 and 1837. This edition was printed in London “for the booksellers, and for J. Kendrew, Colliergate, York.” In the WorldCat entry, James Kendrew is listed as one of the named persons in the book twice alongside Sophia and Charlotte, even though he never appears in the book. This copy appears to be similar to the Dean and Munday edition as the story spans pages 8 through 36 and has a front plate illustration like the Dean and Munday edition; however, this version is listed as being one centimeter smaller (19cm compared to 20cm). The University of York Library, in the United Kingdom, is the only library with a copy of this edition. There is a scan of this book on Jstor, in the form of a photograph of each page spread, showing that it is very similar to the Dean and Munday version of the book as the punctuation and general length and spacing of the book appear to be consistent. There is however a difference in the fonts on the title page and the image on the page before. The image in this University of York version is not colored and depicts the sisters together before they depart on their trip to London. The covers of both books also appear to be a warm brown color, however, the image of the University of York version is more degraded than the image of the Dean and Munday edition available on Google Books. The Kendrew edition of the book most likely contains another story after it within the same physical book, since in the Jstor scan the last page of text is on the left, leaving the right page blank, allowing for the ink from the image on the back of the page to show through. Furthermore, visually, there appear to be numerous pages left in the book.
Fourteen libraries in the world, including the University of Virginia Library, have a copy of the 1827 Scott edition of this book according to WorldCat, with thirteen of the fourteen being in the United States and the last copy being in Canada. The copy of the Scott edition that is owned by the New York Public Library was digitized on January 19th, 2007 onto Google Books where it can be read for free. This copy is the exact same, textually, as the Scott edition owned by the University of Virginia; however, the cover and physical quality are distinct, since the New York Public Library version appears to be in better physical condition and has a harder warm-brown cover as opposed to the worn discolored teal of the University of Virginia version. There is an odd speckling on the first few pages of the New York digitized version that is absent in the physical University of Virginia version.
There is also another book about the sisters called The Sisters, or, Virtue Triumphant : Being the Eventful History of Sophia & Charlotte Melford, which is depicted as authored by Charlotte and Sophia Melford and available on Google Books; other library catalogues, including McGill Library’s Chapbook Collection, New York Public Library Catalogue, and WorldCat just list Charlotte Melford as the author. According to WorldCat, The Sisters, or, Virtue Triumphant was printed by Hodgson & Co. in London at No. 10, Newgate-Street, sometime between 1822 and 1824, indicating that this story predates most but not all editions of The Twin Sisters. From the frontispiece of The Sisters depicted on a scan from the McGill Library, the story appears similar to that of The Twin Sisters in that they share the same general plot points: the smugglers in the sisters’ room dressed as women, Charlotte being taken by the constables, Charlotte and the Colonel, and Sophia being turned to the street (The Sisters 1). The McGill Library catalog entry notes the book is written by Robert Cruikshank, but he is most likely the illustrator of the images.
There are newer publications of The Twin Sisters—with Kessinger Publishing, LLC republishing The Twin Sisters in 2010 and Forgotten Books republishing it in 2018—that can be purchased on several online websites such as Amazon, eBay, and Better World Books.
Narrative Point of View
Charlotte, one of the sisters, narrates The Twin Sisters in the first-person point of view. The narration of the plot is fast paced, with many brief summaries of long periods of time, oftentimes spanning several years, but, at the same time, Charlotte imbues the story with haughty, verbose language in some instances, giving it a formal feel. The chapbook is told in the past tense, making it seem like a story Charlotte is reflecting on and sharing with the readers rather than being more present in the action. This gives the narration a detached sense, which is compounded by the formal titles that she calls every character. She refers to everyone in the book, except her aunt Emma, Sophia, and Susan by their formal names, her close friends, her husband (she calls him Colonel Woodly or colonel), and even people whom she despises. Charlotte focuses primarily on her actions and interactions with people rather than going in-depth about her thought processes or feelings. There is minimal dialogue throughout the novel, with paraphrasing of dialogue more common.
The coach went on with rapidity, and I found in a short time that we had left town, and were proceeding along a road that appeared very dreary. I became seriously alarmed, though, to speak with justice of his lordship, he did not offer to take the least unbecoming liberty. He felt my hand tremble, and bade we dismiss my fears, that we were only going a little way beyond Bayswater, and were near our journey’s end. We stopped at a neat white house, the coachman was ordered to knock, but the summons was several times repeated with violence before the door was opened; nor was that done till a female demanded in a harsh discordant voice, who was there at such an hour? And discovered Lord Morden to be the intruder. (21)
It seems as though Charlotte is trying to prop herself up with the narration, since, by using her extensive vocabulary to create a more complex twist on a simple narrative, she is showing off her intelligence and education. She was born into a lower-class family but was given a genteel education by her aunt, so she is trying to use this education to distinguish herself from these lower classes and establish her place in the upper class of her husband. Relatedly, she refers to people in higher social classes than herself in more formal ways, regardless of her personal feelings about them, and calls people at or below her social class by their informal first names, indicating that they are beneath her. Charlotte distances herself from this story throughout her narration; the writing is closed off and impersonal in most instances, not demonstrating the emotions of terror, disgust, loneliness, and joy. She seems to breeze past her emotions, mentioning a slight hand tremble and feeling “seriously alarmed” but then immediately changing the subject or focusing on the actions of the scene rather than her perceptions of it, as though they are nothing. This generates the distance between the events of the story and the narration, and also functions as a form of protective emotional detachment.
Charlotte, one of the sisters, begins The Twin Sisters with the purpose of the story: a warning to the “fairer sex” about the “delusive arts” of men (2). The Twin Sisters then briefly describes the background of the sisters’ family, detailing the tragedy of their lives and history of issues with financial support. Their mother dies in a horseback riding accident, pushing their father into a grief-fueled sickness from which he eventually dies. His death leaves the girls penniless under the guardianship of their aunt until she too dies a few years later.
The girls receive a letter from Mrs. Mowbray, a friendly neighbor one summer, offering one of them a job as a nanny in London to a rich family, the Aspleys. Having no real opportunities, they accept and venture on their journey to London.
They stop for the night at a crowded inn and are forced to share a room with two other female travelers, who they later discover to be male smugglers in disguise. These men come into the rooms after their late dinner while Sophia is sleeping and while Charlotte is pretending to sleep. Charlotte overhears them consider raping her and her sister before they drunkenly fall asleep. Much to Charlotte’s relief, the smugglers’ coach arrives before they have the chance to hurt either of the sisters.
The rest of their trip to London is uneventful. Upon their arrival, they are summoned by Mrs. Mowbray to meet the wealthy Lady Aspley. On the advice of Mrs. Mowbray, she chooses Sophia for the nannying position, but Charlotte remains living with Mrs. Mowbray.
Charlotte becomes apprehensive as the company Mrs. Mowbray keeps acts more rudely and obscenely than how she expected people of their supposed standings to behave. When she questions Mrs. Mowbray about it, she just calls her a “pretty innocent rustic,” stating that this behavior is normal for townsfolk (16). In an attempt to confirm her apprehensions, Charlotte tries to visit Sophia to compare their experiences. Mrs. Mowbray informs her that is impossible as Lady Aspley’s household, along with Sophia, had moved to Margate so their sick child could sea-bathe. When Charlotte tries to leave anyway, she is stopped by Mrs. Mowbray and some of her servants. They lock Charlotte in her bedroom, causing her to realize she and Sophia were betrayed by Mrs. Mowbray.
From a servant, Susan, who brings her food, Charlotte finds out that Mrs. Mowbray is a sex trafficker, or rather a “procuress who was employed by (to use [the servants] own words) very great gentlemen to ensnare young girls” (17). The servant also informs Charlotte that a man named Lord Morden paid Mrs. Mowbray to set this trap specifically for her as he had taken a fancy towards her. After this revelation, Charlotte bribes Susan to help her escape; Charlotte sneaks out of the room, but faints from fear and wakes up in the arms of Lord Morden. He asks her to give him her affection and to live with him. Charlotte declines his offer, stating she is imprisoned because of him, so why would she want to be with him. When he offers to free her from Mrs. Mowbray, she agrees to go with him as, in her mind, it was better to be content with him than to live enslaved to the “vile” Mrs. Mowbray (21).
Lord Morden then takes her to the house of his former mistress, Matilda, whose life he ruined after taking her innocence, and asks her to watch over Charlotte for a few days. Charlotte is furious as she feels imprisoned again, so she asks to leave. Matilda, partly because of her jealousy towards Charlotte and Lord Morden’s relationship and partly because of her anger towards Lord Morden, agrees to let her go.
Charlotte flees Matilda’s house and finds shelter at a boarding house where she is subsequently falsely arrested for forgery the next day. The victim of the forgery, Mr. Newton, comes to identify her, but brusquely proclaims Charlotte’s innocence. He then offers to take Charlotte back to her room at the boarding house to collect her things. In the carriage ride, he solicits her for sex as he believes her to be a prostitute. Charlotte is horrified by the offer and demands to be let out of the coach. On his refusal, she starts screaming, causing the coach to stop to make sure everything is alright. Charlotte uses this chance to escape.
Charlotte stops at a toy store to rest from her vigorous dash away from the carriage. The owner, a nice old woman named Mrs. Brent, agrees to provide her room and board. Charlotte then gets a job as an English teacher with connections from her bank. Things seem to be looking her way, until one day Charlotte runs into Sophia on a walk. Sophia tells her that she should have yielded to Lord Morden as she would be safe from the danger of the world. Sophia then goes on to share her experiences in the time they were apart and how happy she is with her place in life. Mrs. Mowbray introduced Sophia to a wealthy man named Mr. Greville. He raped her, took her on as his mistress, and is now supporting her lavish lifestyle financially.
Some time passes before her next interaction with Sophia in the form of a letter asking for a meeting. Sophia looks like a wreck; Mr. Greville found a new mistress and abandoned her, forcing her into prostitution, but she still refused to accept Charlotte’s help. She says she is content and happy with her life, that she has time to repent after she retires.
Time passes and Charlotte falls in love with Mrs. Brent’s nephew, Colonel Woodly. Despite the fact that he likes her as well, she feels the marriage is one of unequals. She will sully his reputation with marriage and his mother would never agree to it. His mother, however, overhears this conversation and agrees immediately to the union. They marry and have a successful marriage with two children.
Three years after the marriage, Mrs. Brent arrives, announcing that she found Sophia passed out in the streets and took her in. Sophia had experienced all of the degradations that came with prostitution: she was abandoned by her pimp; sick, penniless, with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Charlotte then helps care for her physically and spiritually. She now lives a very pious, peaceful life in South Wales.
The Twin Sisters, or, Two Girls of Nineteen : Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia & Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative. London : Printed for the booksellers and for J Kendrew Colliergate York, pp. 1–17, https://jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.29959877.
Set in a secluded castle in 1517 northern England, Sarah Wilkinson’s 1805 chapbook includes romance, jealousy, friendship, and mystery.
Monkcliffe Abbey, A Tale of the Fifteenth Century, To which is added, Lopez and Aranthe; or, The Suicide. By the same author was published in 1803 by Kaygill & Adcock, and written by Sarah Wilkinson. It was printed by W. Glindon in Haymarket, London, and sold for sixpence. The extant copy was originally printed as a chapbook, but later rebound into a collection of similar stories entitled The Entertainer, vol. 4. A handwritten table of contents, including titles, authors, and publishers, is included on the front endpaper. Page numbers are not included; due to the separate origins of each story, the numbers (along with fonts, margin sizes, and layouts) restart with each new chapbook. This volume of The Entertainer contains six chapbooks and sixteen unique stories, including Canterbury Tales.
This copy is bound in a kind of thick cardboard material, covered with paper, and decoratively mottled in black and brown, protected by a clear plastic jacket for use in the library. It measures approximately 18.5 centimeters long by 11 centimeters wide. The spine is embossed in gold with the title, The Entertainer, which appears nowhere else in the book, and with embellishments on the spine’s edges and middle. This copy was bound with twine and glue, which is now quite delicate. The edges of the cover and spine are somewhat broken in, especially on the bottom of the spine, where the cardboard cover is beginning to crack off. Inside, the paper is yellowed and thin, but not brittle. Although the paper is discolored, it is not frequently stained—some small, splattered marks appear at intervals. The paper has an almost fabric-like texture, and is delicate while maintaining flexibility. Some pages are torn and folded, likely accidentally—none are dog-eared or torn completely out. In this copy, Monkcliffe Abbey is printed in a small serif font, with margins of two centimeters at top and bottom and one centimeter on the sides. Page numbers are found on the top outside corner of each page, printed in the same serif as the prose. The story is twenty-two pages long. The title page of the Monkcliffe Abbey chapbook lists the full title, including the addition of The Suicide. Every other instance of the title’s printing abbreviates it to only Monkcliffe Abbey, both on the first page of the story and in the handwritten table of contents. The author’s name is written as “S. Wilkinson” on the title page and in the table of contents, and as “Sarah Wilkinson” on the first page of the story. The title page also includes two illustrations, a larger one representing two women discovering a monk, and a smaller one under the title, with a man, right arm raised, walking up to a woman playing a sort of lute. The larger image has created a shadow of itself on the title page opposite. In the front of the book, an address card is inserted. Formal script on the front reads “Mrs. M.T.H. Sadler,” with an address included on its bottom left corner. The back reads “Oswick the Outlaw,” which has been handwritten in blue ink.
Monkcliffe Abbey is one of Sarah Wilkinson’s lesser-known gothic stories, frequently left unmentioned in lists of her work and life achievements. There are two copies available through the library system at the University of Virginia. One of these copies, primarily discussed here, was published by “Kaygill, etc.” in London, in 1805, and rebound into a collection of gothic novels at a later date. The other was printed across the Atlantic, by James Oram in New York City, two years later. The full novel is also available online through scans of the collection America’s Historical Imprints. This online version is the later, American printing. There does not appear to be much discrepancy between the two copies, other than the specifics of their publication and their titles: the version published in New York by James Oram is entitled Monkcliffe Abbey, or, the History of Albert, Elwina, and Adeline, while the one published in London by Kaygill uses Monkcliffe Abbey: A Tale of the Fifteenth Century instead.
Monkcliffe Abbey is very rarely mentioned, either in collections of gothic works or works by Sarah Wilkinson, who was a prolific author of the genre. One exception can be found in The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880, where Diane Hoeveler discusses the text’s use of the abbey as a gothic trope:
“Sarah Wilkinson’s ‘Monkcliffe Abbey’ (1805) is an example of a chapbook that uses the abbey in order to dwell on the usurpation theme. Very specifically dated to 1517, the action begins the year that Sir Archibald Barnett retires to the former Carthusian abbey in the north of England with his wife and two daughters Adeline and Elwina… The abbey is the setting for a traditional romance between the daughters and their suitors, one of whom is fleeing a friend turned foe who disguises himself as a cowled monk in order to inhabit one of the ‘haunted’ wings of the abbey (Wilkinson, 2009: 185). An architectural description of the abbey suggests the antiquarian investment in the theme by a writer as simple and straightforward as Wilkinson. The ruined abbey functions in this chapbook as little more than a picturesque setting, but it possesses considerably more ideological freight in a work by such a writer as Nathan Drake.” (218–19)
The story is also mentioned in Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression by Kenneth Graham, in a list of Gothic illustrations. The illustration from Monkcliffe Abbey is the same title page engraving found in its London-printed edition, of “Adeline and Elwina in the typical Gothic situation of startled discovery” (Frank 287). This illustration is reprinted in Franz Potter’s collection of gothic chapbooks, many written by Sarah Wilkinson, Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830.
Narrative Point of View
Monkcliffe Abbey is narrated in the third person, past tense, and without a framing story. The narrator is never mentioned or alluded to within the novel. The text is fairly straightforward, but sentences are lengthy and full of information. The narration focuses equally on dialogue, action description, and omniscient insight into the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings.
Elwina presently observed that the hand writing was the same—with the paper she had found in the chapel.—she was struck with horror and astonishment, when she reflected, that, perhaps, this victim of sorrow ere now had died through grief; or, perhaps, had committed some rash deed!—But, fearful of indulging her thoughts in this dismal place,—she deposited the paper with the picture on the shelf,—and returned with emotions of sorrow. (18)
One striking aspect of this narration is its use of punctuation. Especially in the above, quite active example, the exaggerated, slicing punctuation marks create a sense of quickness, motion, and finality. Throughout the text, this visual aspect—literally slicing between sentence fragments—is seen in more active scenarios, mirroring the choppy, frightened thoughts of the characters and creating a fast-paced feel.
The time for Albert’s departure being arrived, he claimed a gift from each of the ladies. Adeline presented him with a scarf of her own work, which he instantly bound round his bosom: Elwina presenting him with a ring from her finger; and, in a faultering voice, besought him to remember her father.—There was something so tender and pathetic in her manner, that it touched the strings of Albert’s heart,—at once with pity and respect for the lovely maiden. (15)
In more tender or calm scenes, such as this second example, the use of dashes has been reduced, although not completely halted. The more flowery, emotional, and flowing language of the second example serves to slow down the scene, emphasizing the tender and soft qualities of the characters in that moment. Even though the story is narrated in the third person, the omniscience of the narrator and the careful use of punctuation creates a sense of immersion.
Monkcliffe Abbey tells the story of a family living in seclusion in a sixteenth-century abbey according to the wishes of Sir Archibald Barnett, a retired warrior, and his wife, Lady Barnett. Along with their two young daughters and a small domestic staff, they live completely shut off from the outside world; no one is allowed to enter, and those who inhabit are only allowed to travel a short distance from the grounds of the abbey. Adeline Barnett, the eldest sister, is beautiful, but obscenely vain and arrogant. The younger sister, Elwina, is fair and sweet, and her generous character outshines her physical appearance. The girls enjoy walking in the country surrounding the abbey, and on one of their walks, they discover a knight lying in a puddle of his own blood. They frantically find help at a nearby cottage, and they return to the abbey while the knight is treated. After they explain the situation to their parents, Sir Archibald leaves for the cottage, only to discover the knight to be Albert de Clerville, a family friend. He brings Albert back to the abbey to recover in peace. Once Albert is well, he tells the whole family the story of his injury. His friend, Edward Barry, held a jealous grudge over Albert for his acquaintance with the beautiful Duchess Sophia Clifford. After dueling Barry multiple times and denying the requests of Lord Clifford to marry his daughter, he left the Clifford estate. On his journey, a helmeted knight stabbed him in the heart.
While walking home one night, Elwina is startled by the figure of a hooded monk walking slowly in front of her. After running home, she is too agitated to explain her situation, and faints. The next day, Albert and Elwina decide to explore the chapel within the abbey, when the head servant, Margaret, rushes in to declare Lady Barnett dead of “an apoplectic fit” (14). As Elwina and Adeline are talking that evening, they see guards rushing towards the abbey. Sir Archibald is arrested due to apparent treasonous acts, and is taken to jail. Albert is left to plan the funeral of Lady Barnett and to watch over the house, but once the funeral is over, he leaves.
Elwina is taking a walk some time later when, distracted, she wanders into an abandoned cell block in the abbey. To her surprise, someone appears to be living in one of the cells. She heads back to the chapel, and there finds the same monk she had seen before. He calls out to her, and they run into each other, falling and hitting their heads on the stone floor. Once Elwina wakes, she finds Margaret, and they investigate the cell together. There, the supposed monk reveals himself to be the knight Edward Barry, who believes he killed Albert after stabbing him in the heart. Elwina is unsure whether Albert is dead or alive, but to her relief, Albert returns to the abbey with Sir Archibald, no longer incarcerated, who has been given the title “Earl of Monkcliffe.” Adeline gets married to an unnamed man, and once Albert realizes his feelings for Elwina, they are married as well. The story ends with Elwina and Albert staying at Monkcliffe Abbey, in “a pattern of domestic virtues” (22).
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, editors. “Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. <http://orlando.cambridge.org/>. Accessed 10 November 2021.
Frank, Frederick S. “Illustrations from Early Gothic Novels.” Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression, edited by Kenneth Graham. AMS Press, 1989, pp. 270–87.
Hoeveler, Diane Long. “Ruined Abbeys: Justifying Stolen Property and the Crusade against Superstition.” The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880, University of Wales Press, 2014, pp. 197–246.
Potter, Franz J., editor. Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830. Zittaw Press, 2009.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Monkcliffe Abbey, a Tale of the Fifteenth Century. Kaygill Etc., 1805.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Monkcliffe Abbey, or, the History of Albert, Elwina and Adeline, to which is added, Lopez and Aranthe, or, The Suicide ; also, the beautiful little tale of the Abbey of Clunedale. James Oram, 1807.
This story written by Mary Anne Radcliffe in 1802 follows a family left destitute after the French Revolution and their quest to start a new life. The only thing in their way is a string of murders.
The Secret Oath
or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance is the second story in volume one of The Entertainer. Seven
stories make up the volume, each containing seventy-two pages, except for The
Secret Oath (sixty-eight pages) and Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment
(four pages). Each time a new story starts, the page numbers restart, with the
exception of Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment, which
continues pagination from the previous story, The Secret Oath, to result
in a total of seventy-two pages. Each story has seventy-two pages
because it matches the method of folding used to bind books at this time. The
volume is bound in brown, acid-splattered leather and has gold lettering of The
Entertainer on the spine. The text block has blue speckles for decoration. The
Entertainer vol. 1 measures 18cm in height, 11cm in width, and 3cm in
In the front cover,
there is a handwritten table of contents and a list of exact duplicates also in
the Sadleir Black Collection. Overall, the pages of the book are in good
condition. All the text in The Secret Oath is readable apart from a
small hole with a diameter of about 0.5cm on page 61, but this does not affect
the overall understanding of the text. The pages inThe Secret Oath
or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance and Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of
Disappointment are a slightly darker brown than the rest of the stories.
This discoloration is caused by different types of paper used in the volume.
The pages in The
Secret Oath use a consistent font and single-spaced lines. The margins
differ due to folding techniques. The left-hand pages have side margins of 1cm
while the right-hand pages have side margins of 0.5cm. The top margin for a
page is either 1 or 2 cm. Each page has the title The Secret Oath on the
top. The margin at the bottom of all the pages is 1cm. At the bottom of some
right-hand pages, there are signature marks that indicate how the book should
be folded. They start with “Ii” and end with “Oo3”. On the last page of the
story, the word “Frederic” is present as a catch word for the book maker to
know which story goes next. Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment
was added after The Secret Oath to make the section 72 pages for
At the start of The
Secret Oath, there is a title page that reads “The // Secret Oath // or //
Blood-Stained Dagger, // a Romance” with a black and white illustration
of a house in front of the woods. To the left of the title page, there is
another illustration depicting a character reaching for a dagger while looking
at a statue of a woman and her baby. This black and white illustration of a
woman bled on to the title page and can be seen in a faint brown outline.
This edition was
printed by J. H. Hart and published for Tegg and Castleman in London on
November 1, 1802. There is another edition of this chapbook in the University of
Virginia Special Collections Library printed by T. Plummer and published for T.
Hurst in London on November 1, 1802. The chapbook has many existing editions
both in libraries and as online scans. For instance, there is a version in
volume one of the second edition of The Marvelous Magazine published by
The author of The Secret Oath is not present on the title page or frontispiece. However, another chapbook entitled Monkish Mysteries; Or, the Miraculous Escape: Containing the History and the Villanies of the Monk Bertrand; The Detection of His Impious Frauds, and Subsequent Repentance and Retribution includes a printed note that says: “The whole written, adjusted and compiled solely for this work, by Mrs. Mary Anne Radclife, of Wimbledon in Surrey, author of the Secret oath, or blood-stained dagger” (Radcliffe Monkish Mysteries 2). This connects Mary Anne Radclife, usually spelled “Radcliffe,” to the The Secret Oath. There is another book in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library that includes the same note connecting Mary Anne Radcliffe to TheSecret Oath called The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over the Arabian Deserts, to the British Settlements in India; : Containing, Among Other Particulars, an Account of the Perils He Experienced in Those Terrific Regions, the Eccentric Humors of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses in the War With Hyder Ally, &C (Radcliffe Adventures 2).
Mary Anne Radcliffe was born in 1746 to James Clayton and Sarah née Bladderwick (Grundy). Her father died when she was four, and she was educated at Bar Convent in York, England. After fourteen years of life, she married Joseph Radcliffe, age thirty-five, in an elopement and had eight children with him throughout their marriage.
Her most known works include The Female Advocate (1799), Radcliffe’s New Novelist Pocket Magazine (1802), and Memoirs… in Familiar Letters to her Female Friend (1810). Some of these works are similar to The Secret Oath in the sense that they are sensationalized stories written for cheap entertainment, but others follow a feminist perspective on life and create arguments about more serious topics such as the shrinking job market for women and the risk of prostitution. Radcliffe was advertised in newspapers as an elegant entertainment writer, and her Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine was sold for six-pence at the time of its release (“Advertisements and Newspapers” 4). This magazine, which is more like a collection of stories, includes The Secret Oath. Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine was published by Thomas Hurst.
Grundy suggests that Radcliffe requested that her name remain out of some of
her pieces, but that this was not always respected. Specifically, Radcliffe’s
name was put on The Female Advocate despite her wish to remain
anonymous. This connected her to Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine and
other chapbooks. Her publisher was also known to switch published works
with a different author’s name to Radcliffe’s name after the first edition of a
book had been published. For example, The Mysterious Baron (1808) was
switched from Eliza Ratcliffe to Mary Anne Radcliffe after its initial print
(Grundy). The reason for these changes is unknown, but it is likely that the
publisher was using the similarities between Radcliffe’s name and the more
famous Ann Radcliffe, author of A Sicilian Romance (1790), to catch the
eye of readers. Another possibility is that Radcliffe used a false name for
some books in order to remain more anonymous.
having eight children and publishing many works focusing on topics from
thrilling murders to the issues of women, Radcliffe died of a health decline in
August of 1818 and is buried in Old Calton cemetery, Edinburgh (Grundy).
Narrative Point of View
The Secret Oath is narrated in third-person past tense. The
narrator is omniscient and never appears as a character in the text. The
narration focuses on characters’ actions and emotions and uses long sentences
separated by commas for each thought. The narrator does not focus on the
setting and does not use descriptive language to describe the environment. The
focus is on the actions of characters in the story and the feelings of each
They entered the old cabriolet, and after a rude journey arrived at Maschere, where they entered an Inn, and a surgeon was sent for to dress the Marquis’s wounds. – He pronounced it impossible to proceed on the journey without endangering his patient’s life ; in consequence of which, the Marchioness hired some apartments at a farm-house, on the road to Caffagiolo, contiguous to his surgeon. De Montfort had mental as well as bodily wounds to struggle with : he con-sidered himself as the murderer of Dorville–he, who had preserved his life, and illuminated the gloom of exile with the balm of friendship. – His daughter also felt a perpetual pang in the reflection that Dorville, whom she esteemed more than any man living, had been slain by her father’s hand ! (33–4)
demonstrates how the narrator focuses on the emotions and actions of each
character over any other aspect of the story. With its third-person point of
view, the narration takes away any bias that a first-person perspective would
have, but this does not take away all of the suspense. Omniscient narration
here gives an insight to all the characters’ feelings and experiences, which
tie into the universal knowledge of the narrator, but some details are left out
throughout the novel to maintain suspense. How a person is feeling is not left
a secret, but their fate is unknown until an action comes to determine it. This
stylistic choice keeps the story mysterious while also providing insight to
each character’s interiority.
A Secret Oath or
Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance follows an ex-Marquis
named Albert de Montfort, his wife Madame de Montfort, and his daughter Serina.
The book describes how the family is forced to flee from Paris, France in 1792
during the French revolution. After fourteen years of poverty following their
escape, de Montfort accepts an invitation from his deceased father’s godson, M.
Dodier, to stay at his chateau until the family can get back on their feet. De
Montfort is hesitant to accept because M. Dodier received the de Montfort
family fortune after the death of Albert de Montfort’s father, and there is a
lack of trust between the two men. Serina convinces her father to accept the
invitation and the family moves to the chateau. The house is completely empty
except for Aquilina and Orsano Cormazzo, the mysterious caretakers of the
One day, de
Montfort comes home covered in blood after gambling with friends. He claims
that he was trying to save a dying man in the woods. Law enforcement accuses
him of the murder, and they discover evidence in Madame de Montfort and
Serina’s rooms that also connect them to the crime. De Montfort and his family
are taken to prison in a faraway town, but one by one they avoid their sentence
with the help of various people. Serina’s helper saves her under the condition
that she marry Argand, M. Dodier’s son. Next, Madame de Montfort is released
after the murder victim is revealed to have survived. She reunites with Serina
after hearing rumors of her location. De Montfort was the last to be released.
On the way to find his family, the living victim of the attack, Dorville,
offers to help find his wife and daughter because he feels bad that de Montfort
was sent to prison for no reason. De Montfort accepts, and eventually they find
Madame and Serina. De Montfort makes it clear that Serina will not be marrying
Argand because he does not want the man who took his family inheritance to take
his daughter too. M. Dodier kicks the family out of the chateau, and Dorville
offers to let the family stay in his mansion a few cities away.
through France to get to Dorville’s home. Dorville and Serina become close.
While staying in an apartment overnight, Serina wakes to a man in a black mask
holding a dagger above her heart. The masked man realizes he has the wrong
person and claims that if she keeps this visit a secret then her father may
live, but if she says anything he will kill her father and Dorville. Serina
swears the secret oath, and the man gives her an ebony crucifix with the word
“Remember!” carved on the back as a reminder of her promise (21).
After her visit by the mysterious man, Serina
goes to a church to confess. After she divulges her oath, the abbot demands
that she stay in the church for six months to pray in darkness. She has no
escape from her punishment and is brought to a garden to pray. In this garden,
a mysterious man helps her escape. Once the pair is over the wall, there is a
fight between new attackers and Serina’s helper. Serina’s helper reigns
victorious in the fight. However, Serina’s father was planning on saving her
too, and when he sees the man and Serina surrounded by bodies, de Montfort
attacks the man and kills him. Serina sees that her helper was Dorville. She is
extremely sad but must run from the church to avoid another imprisonment.
The family adopts the false name of Berthier to
protect their identity. With the help of an attorney named Cattivo, they
purchase an apartment and stay out of the public eye. Since the family has no
money, de Montfort uses a ring that he won while gambling as payment. Cattivo
takes a liking to Serina and demands her hand in marriage. The family says no,
and Cattivo threatens to blackmail the Berthiers unless Serina marries him.
They still say no, so Cattivo takes de Montfort to court and accuses him of
stealing the ring that was used to pay for the apartment. The ring is found to
belong to a Count Cuculli, a man de Montfort used to gamble with. The count
arrives at court, recognizes de Montfort as the accused “M. Berthier”, and
drops all charges because he trusts de Montfort’s integrity.
After de Montfort is released from jail, he
receives a note that he should go to the count’s mansion. De Montfort runs over
to the mansion and finds his wife and daughter. They tell de Montfort that the
count discovered a plot to hurt Serina. The count decided to keep watch over
their room while de Montfort was in jail awaiting release. Men came and
attacked the two ladies, but the count stabbed one attacker, who was later
revealed to be M. Dodier, and saved the women. Serina and Madame de Montfort
stayed with the count until de Montfort was released. They continue to stay
with the count as a family.
One day, Serina is basking in the sunlight when
Dorville appears and starts talking to her. He rambles about how he is married
to a sickly woman and how he was manipulated by another woman named Maria.
Serina is in near hysterics that he is alive, so they agree to meet the next
day and talk once she has calmed down. The next day, Dorville says that he
never left his home until now, so the man that de Montfort killed in the church
garden was not him. However, during this time, he was forced to marry a sickly
woman even though they did not love each other. Serina is crushed that Dorville
is married, but de Montfort is happy that Dorville is not dead and invites him
to stay with them in the count’s house.
After talking all night about Dorville’s
journey, the two men make connections about the past. During the time de
Montfort thought he was dead, Dorville visited the house of Monsieur Beaulieu,
a wealthy man with a much younger wife named Maria. Dorville was seduced by
Maria and almost fell for her. However, he realized that she only wanted his
money. Maria was known to have many men in her life, one of note being Cattivo.
He confessed that he loved Serina to get out of the relationship. After this
story is told, the men figure out that Maria is the person who is responsible
for the attacks on Serina. Her jealousy has made her vengeful. It is revealed
that she enlisted Cattivo to kill Serina. The men decide to go to the house of
Maria to confront her.
At the house, Dorville learns nothing from Maria. While they talk,
de Montfort witnesses the murder of Monsieur Beaulieu, Maria’s husband. De
Montfort is accused of the murder. Dorville pressures Maria to testify in court
on de Montfort’s behalf, and she agrees. She clears de Montfort’s name and
blames the murder on Cattivo, the attorney who sold the Montfort’s their old
apartment and who is also Maria’s lover. After Monsieur Beaulieu’s death, the
men bring the rest of the Montfort family to the house of Monsieur Beaulieu.
The motive behind some attacks is unclear until M. Dodier shows up to the house
and asks to confess his crimes. He suffers from a stab wound that was inflicted
a few days ago and fears that he will die. He admits that the entire plot to kill
de Montfort was based on revenge because de Montfort said that his son could
not marry Serina. He attempted to kill de Montfort in the woods of the chateau,
but he accidentally attacked Dorville. This left a witness to his crimes, so M.
Dodier tried to eliminate Dorville again, but this time he accidentally went to
Serina’s room. He was the masked man that made her swear the secret oath.
Before M. Dodier could say more, he died of the stab wound the count gave him
while protecting Serina. In the end, Maria tries to flee the country with
Cattivo to avoid imprisonment for her murder plot, but Cattivo murders Maria
because she accused him in the trial of her husband’s death. Serina and
Dorville get married after Dorville’s first wife died of sickness, and the
entire family moved to England in search of financial prosperity.
Grundy, Isobel. “Radcliffe, Mary Ann (b. c. 1746, d. in or after 1810), Writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 Sept. 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/37876. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.
Radcliffe, Mary Anne. The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over the Arabian Deserts, to the British Settlements In India; : Containing, Among Other Particulars, an Account of the Perils He Experienced In Those Terrific Regions, the Eccentric Humors of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In the War With Hyder Ally, &C. London, T. Hurst, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u4351511. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.
——. Monkish Mysteries; Or, the Miraculous Escape: Containing the History and the Villanies of the Monk Bertrand; :The Detection of His Impious Frauds, and Subsequent Repentance and Retribution. Nottingham, T. Hurst, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u4351072. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.
In this 1811 book by English author George Moore, an envious husband wreaks havoc until finally learning to trust his family and control his passions.
The gothic novel, Tales of the Passions; The Married Man; An
English Tale: In Which is Attempted an Illustration of the Passion of Jealousy
in Its Effects on the Human Mind, was written by English author George
Moore. Its full title stands as such, but either Moore or his publisher
shortened the full title to Tales of the
Passions in certain places within the novel. For example, the first title
page, located after a single blank page at the beginning of the book, simply
uses Tales of the Passions as its
title. The title page also includes the author’s name, written as George Moore,
and publishing information, including the name of the publishers, G. Wilkie and
J. Robinson, and where it was printed in London, which was Paternoster Row. It
also lists the publication date of 1811. This title page is followed by an
uncut page, meaning that for this particular novel the top of the page remains
folded and unbroken. Because large pages were folded to create a bound book, it
was common practice for manufacturers to sell books uncut. This means that the
pages remained folded over at either the top or side of the novel, which made
printing cheaper and thus made novels more affordable to the common consumer.
When readers bought the books, they could either have had the books taken to a
binder who would cleanly cut the novel, or they could cut it themselves, which
is apparently what the reader of this particular copy of the novel did, since this
person never ended up slicing open the page in question.
This uncut page reads “Tale II:
Jealousy” with the word “Jealousy” printed far beneath Tale II and further
separated by a small, floral symbol. This page is also printed in a slightly
more intricate font than the title page. Such a font seems to be suggestive of
handwritten cursive due to the ways the letters curve and flow. Following this
page is the second title page with the novel’s full title. Interestingly, the
font size of different sections of the title change; for example, the “Married
Man” portion of the title is quite large relative to the size of the other
text, but the “In which it is attempted” is quite small. Furthermore, Tales of the Passions is also engraved
in cursive on the spine of the novel below the surname Moore. Two lines also
bracket this combination, separating it from a numerical 2, indicating the
volume number, written several inches further down the spine.
Aside from the pages the reader cut
to consume the novel, it otherwise largely remains unchanged; thus, it is
paper-bound with a plain hard cover and unevenly cut pages such that they stick
out irregularly on the novel’s side. Aside from the ragged nature of the pages,
it appears strikingly similar to the way hardback books look today with their
book jackets removed. The cover is a plain navy blue color with a tan binding,
and both the binding and the cover of the novel are made out of paper. It
should be noted that at the time, books were originally sold simply like this;
not only were the pages sealed at the top or side like aforementioned, but they
were also unevenly cut, as they were thus cheaper to print, causing them to
also be more inexpensive. However, if an individual had enough wealth, he or
she might go to a binder and have the novel rebound in leather and the pages
cut evenly. Neither happened with this copy.
The state of the book is in
relatively good condition. It is largely unmarked save for a couple of light
stains on some of the pages, most of which are inexplicable save for one page
that appears to be stained with what looks like ink splotches. There is also
what appears to be perhaps indirect ink stains or charcoal visible on the
bottom edges of the pages of the novel when the book is closed. Other notable
physical alterations of the book include the presence of a small insect on page
243. It is unknown what species of insect it is without the aid of an
entomologist, but more tantalizing is the consideration of how long it has been
inside the book: whether it was preserved accidentally by the original owners
or trapped in its afterlife in the archive.
The pages themselves are lightly
tanned by age, but do not seem to be exceptionally delicate due to the fact
that the paper the manufacturer used is sturdy and thick. There are no
illustrations throughout the text, and no written comments either; indeed, the
only visible signs of it being read before are the aforementioned stains. The
set of the page includes large amounts of white space and copious margins with
large text set far apart. Thus, while the novel itself is long at around 400
pages, the structure of the print accounts for much of the relative length of
of the Passions was written by
George Moore, published by G. Wilkie and
J. Robinson, and printed by S. Hamilton. The publishers, G. Wilkie and J
Robinson, were involved with a variety of novels, including renditions of
Shakespeare’s plays (Murphy 347–48). There is little information available
about the author, George Moore, which contrasts with the informal, welcoming
tone of his preface, where he directly discusses his reasoning for why he wrote
the novel as well as explaining the different plot choices he decided to keep
in the final version. Moore also included a dedication where he discloses that
he is independent from patrons as well as noting how important independence is
to him on a personal level. Furthermore, he also dedicates the novel to his
mother. It should be noted that in regards to Moore’s own obscurity, there is a
significant confounding variable: a far more famous Irish writer from later in
the nineteenth century shares his name exactly. Thus while many results do
appear when searching for the name George Moore, they all appear to be about
this other writer.
There is some evidence that Tales of the Passions, while never truly
popular at any point of history, received some recognition when it was
initially published. For example, the novel is listed in a British periodical
where new British novel releases were listed for the year, although it is only
listed by name and without summary in a list with hundreds of name-only
releases (“List of New Works” 514). More notably, there are also records of two
articles written in the early nineteenth century that focus on Moore’s work. A
literary journal called Monthly Review reviewed
Tales of the Passion: Jealousy in
1812.The review provides insight
into how Moore’s writing style and plot may have been similarly received by the
general public. The article’s author sums up the way Moore writes perfectly:
“without climbing to the eminences of his profession, he walks much above the
plain of ordinary novelists” (Tay 388). Furthermore, the article goes on to
mention that the story was made too complex by “unintelligible relationships
between subordinate personages,” and that the West Indies plotline was
“improbable, difficult to remember, and not essential to the catastrophe” (Tay 388).
His next section of the review focuses on the lack of realism in Moore’s
flowery prose of the novel, giving the specific example of Osmond’s speech when
he is ill and near death. The reviewer notes how the fact that Osmond’s speech
patterns do not change even then weakens the effect of Osmond’s illness because
sick minds are more “concise” and “abrupt” (Tay 390). The article then argues
that the focus of Felix’s jealousy should have been concentrated on one person,
and that the reader should have been led to believe the wife was cheating as
well to give Felix’s character more moral standing and depth.
There is also another review in Monthly Review about Moore’s Tales of the Passions, but this one
focuses on the first volume of the series, originally published in 1808 and focusing on the passion of revenge. This
reviewer structures his article in a similar way to the review of the second
volume, as both begin by recommending various changes they feel would make the
novel more powerful. Both of the reviews make note of the fact that Joanna
Baillie’s Plays on the Passions
inspired Mooreto write his novel,
but this second review goes into far more depth about the subject. It even goes
so far as to include an entire statement that Moore released regarding the
topic, where he discusses how the idea of focusing a work on various passions
was an engaging one, and how he enjoyed Baillie’s work so much he decided to
write his own “moral tale” about domestic life focused on a single passion (Meri
262). The reviewer then goes on to discuss the plotline of the first volume,
and concludes by noting that while Moore “evidently possesses powers which are
calculated to raise him to distinction in this walk of literature,” his work is
“not polished nor accurate” and he has “palpable violations of grammar and of
propriety” (Meri 266).
Another possible influence for Moore’s writing of the novel comes from a quote he includes in the title page of Tales of the Passions: Jealousy, where he added a section from what he titles as Collins’s “Ode on the Passions,” but in actuality is part of William Collins’s “The Passions: An Ode for Music.”
Exulting, trembling, raging, fainting, Possest beyond the Muse’s painting, By turns they felt the glowing mind, Disturb’d, delighted, raised, refined: ‘Till once, ’tis said, when all were fired, Fill’d with fury, rapt, inspired […] Each, for Madness ruled the hour, Would prove his own expressive power.
Unlike Baillie’s plays, it is
impossible to know precisely how this poem might have inspired the text or
whether Moore decided to include some verses that fit well with his novel’s
thematic purpose and plotline.
Other than the two
nineteenth-century reviews and one mention in a periodical, Moore and his work
are not well-documented on either the Internet or in print form. There are
digital editions of both volumes of Tales
of the Passions available, on Google books. Yet they appear to
have had only one run of publishing in the nineteenth century. The novel also
lacks adaptations to various other forms of media. Combined with the two
reviews that concentrated on the mediocrity of his novels, such a lukewarm
response to Moore’s works have likely contributed to the fact there has been a
near-complete absence of scholarly attention on Tales of the Passions.
Point of View
of the Passions: Jealousy is
narrated in the third person. This third-person narration focuses on the
thoughts and feelings of the main character, Felix Earlvin, hinting at a
third-person limited point of view, although this framework is complicated by
the fact the narrator occasionally also discusses thoughts and events Earvin is
not aware of. Because Earlvin’s mindset is the one that directs the novel the
vast majority of the time, the narration thus hovers between limited and
omniscient third-person narration. Due to the fact that the novel explicitly
explores the idea of jealousy as an emotion, there are many and repetitive
examples of Earlvin thinking about the way he feels and how he is acting, and
the plot and action are often interrupted by these episodes of reverie and
meditation on his actions. The writing style itself often uses simple and
uncomplicated language, but the sentences can be long and complicated by many
phrases, creating runon sentences that can be difficult to follow.
But Onslow heard him not, while Earlvin kneeling, by the side of his wife, pressed his lips to her cold and pallid cheek in silent agony. In a short time two or three persons arrived at the spot, and the driver informed them of the circumstances which had happened. From the appearance of Mrs. Earlvin, they supposed surgical assistance could be of little service, and therefore prepared to secure him who had wounded her, as the first and principal duty incumbent upon them. The instant, however, they attempted to move him, he was roused from a torpid state of suffering to the most violent emotions of anguish and despair. He repelled their efforts with a power and resolution they had much difficulty to overcome. He called on the names of his children and declared himself the murderer of their mother. He entreated, he implored, that he might not be removed from her side and struggled to release himself with convulsive energy. At length he sunk on the ground incapable of farther resistance, and was conveyed to a small house near the road-side, insensible to the vulgar and cruel upbraidings of those by whom he was surrounded. (394)
The narrative style of Tales of the Passions: Jealousy is
interesting in that the writing articulates some complex thematic ideas.
However, the power of Moore’s writing is often undermined through the presence
of seemingly unintentional runon or awkward sentences. Furthermore, the
narrator often repeats his key ideas in the text in the same language every
time, making his central theme seem triter each time he repeats it. As for
Moore’s choice to focus his writing on telling the story from Felix’s
perspective while also occasionally including the thoughts of other characters,
such a framework is convenient because the shifts occur when the narrator needs
to explain a plot point that would otherwise be difficult to explain from
simply Felix’s point of view. Such a method of storytelling is also important
when considering the fact that Tales of
the Passions: Jealousy functions in large part as a mystery, so the shifts
in point of view not only allow the narrator to reveal new information but also
add a flair of dramatic irony.
of the Passions: Jealousy
focuses on an Englishman named Felix Earlvin. Earlvin is a moderately wealthy
nobleman whose kind heart permits him to marry a woman far below his rank.
Nevertheless, his wife, Julia, is extremely well tempered and kind, and for
several years they have lived happily in the countryside with their children.
Felix and Julia’s marriage is generally peaceful, but Felix has one fatal flaw:
he becomes jealous very easily, which, combined with his fear of discussing his
thoughts and secrets with other people, can lead to conflict and chaos. Julia
is aware of this personality trait, but has, up to the point when the novel
starts, been easily able to dispel his jealous fears.
at the beginning of the novel an event occurs that becomes a catalyst for
problems in their marriage. Felix is on his daily evening walk when he hears
his wife’s name. He follows the sound and finds a dilapidated hovel with an old
woman and a well-dressed young man inside. He sees the old woman clearly but
the young man is hidden in shadow. Felix is instantly suspicious, but vows to
return to the hut the next day to talk to the woman alone because he is unarmed
and could not take the man on if it turned into a fight. That night, he shares
dinner with his wife and his neighbor, Mr. Osmond, and Felix is able to largely
act normal until he happens to read an article in the newspaper after dinner
about a couple that was going to get divorced because the wife was unfaithful,
a problem compounded by the fact that the couple has children. Julia, when she
hears of the case, initially says she thinks the wife still deserves pity, but
because of the scene Felix had witnessed in the forest, he has an outburst at
her, which causes his wife to nearly cry and remain quiet and dejected for the
rest of the night. Felix is stressed and starts to feel ill; they are forced to
call Dr. Sulfit. This doctor is greedy and selfish, and throughout the novel he
overcharges characters for his medicine or makes up illnesses in order to
receive more benefits. However, he also often moves the plot along, as he does
in this scene, where he discusses how he saw a finely dressed stranger
wandering around their property on a nice horse, and that this stranger passed
the house several times and then disappeared without speaking to anyone. Felix
then asks the doctor whether he has also seen any old women, a fact that Julia
seems very alarmed by, but the doctor says he has not seen anyone.
Nevertheless, Felix continues to be agitated by what he has seen, and he ends
up traveling back to the hovel after he has fully recovered only to learn from
a neighboring farmer that the hovel had not been lived in for years and it has
thus been demolished a couple days ago.
At this point, the novel transitions
to the backstory of Felix’s grandfather, Abel. Abel had been a poor orphan who
a farmer adopted in order to use him for menial labor, though he was also very
intelligent. Abel grew to admire and desire wealth because the farmer would
regularly favor his children over Abel by giving them all the material goods
they desired while leaving Abel with nothing. When he left the farmer’s abusive
household for London, Abel worked hard to accumulate wealth, and eventually
became an accountant with a sizable income, which, due to the fact Abel loved
money and would never spend it on anything other than necessities, he was able
to amass a sizeable fortune. He also married his employer’s daughter out of
desire to further increase his status. His wife dies within two years, but she
gives him a son that Abel adores because he dreams of passing on his wealth to
his progeny and becoming more officially part of the elite circle. His
father-in-law dies and leaves him substantial sums of money, and he also
becomes increasingly richer from things like trade, speculations, and contracts
with companies. Thus, he raises his son like an aristocrat, sending him to Eton
and Oxford and giving him the best private tutors and education possible.
However, this education does little because his son is naturally unintelligent.
He is also noted to be a nice person, but one easily taken advantage of. This
becomes a problem when Abel’s son goes abroad because he quickly becomes
corrupted and increasingly greedy and prideful. One of Abel’s friends suggests
marriage, a solution also convenient for the friend because he has only
moderate wealth and a daughter of marriageable age. This daughter proves to be
a greedy and controlling person, and she quickly becomes the unofficial leader
of the household, controlling the finances and allowing her husband to be the
laughingstock of their friends. When they give birth to Felix, he becomes his
grandfather’s last hope for passing on his vision of preserving his household’s
name. He teaches Felix to resent his father’s weakness and his mother’s
transgressions, and leads him to fear being in a marriage like his parents’.
Thus, Felix values morality more than wealth, and although Julia’s father, Mr.
Roseville, is an unprincipled, immoral gambler, Julia herself is intelligent
and honorable. They end up courting for two years because Felix wavers over
whether he wants to marry her due to her father’s sinful nature, but when her
father dies, he decides to marry her and they retire to his largest estate,
which is located in the countryside in a little English town called
Back in the present, Felix continues
to be disturbed about the scene he saw in the woods, but he also realizes he is
being cruel to his family. He ends up seeking advice from his neighbor, Osmond,
again. Osmond is raising a teenage girl named Caroline Almond, even though they
are ostensibly not related. She is intelligent and accomplished but he does not
allow her to go very far from him. During their conversation, Osmond hints at
the possibility of Julia duping Felix, and he also discusses how he became celibate
to avoid what he calls “female manners” (60). Several days later, Felix returns
from his walk to find Julia at her desk reading a letter that appears to reduce
her to tears, which reinforces his fears.
The next time the doctor visits, he
tells a story about how Caroline accidentally ended up falling into a lake on
Osmond’s property and was saved by the son of another noble, Sir William. The
son, Herbert William, took her back to the house, but Caroline remained
distressed. Julia asked the doctor if she could see Julia since Osmond is away.
When Julia arrives at the Osmond residence, Osmond has already returned, but he
acts cold to Herbert as well as Caroline, whom he chides for being careless.
Indeed, rather than appearing to be worried, he is irate about the obligation
he now has to pay back to the William family. When Julia queries Caroline about
his behavior, she confesses she wants them to be closer, but she had previously
attempted to close the gap between them and he continued to be apathetic to her.
Herbert is clearly fond of Caroline, but Osmond’s antipathy forces him to leave
quickly. Julia also likes Caroline, and she invites her to the Earlvin
household, but Caroline tells her it is likely impossible for her to visit
because of Osmond’s restrictions upon her.
The next large incident in Felix and
Julia’s life occurs when Herbert visits the household when Felix is there.
After he leaves, Julia innocently praises his virtues to Felix, which causes
Felix to feel lonely and jealous. During a visit with Osmond, Felix learns that
Caroline will be unable to visit because the two are going to London
indefinitely. Osmond also insinuates that Herbert is dangerous and that his
popularity in the village is limited to only women, and that Julia’s virtue
could fall to him. The doctor, who is present to see Caroline, mentions how he
had just seen Herbert going to the Earlvin residence for what Herbert called
“urgent business” (111). Felix becomes furious because it seems to him as
though Julia attempted to get him out of the house to see the young man, who he
views as superior in youth and novelty to him. After Felix leaves, Osmond’s
purpose is also revealed: he lusts after Felix’s wife, but he always believed
it was hopeless because their marriage appeared very resilient. However, one
day he happened upon Felix’s penchant for petty jealousy and now uses it to
attempt to drive them apart so he can have Julia.
Meanwhile, Felix attempts to think
of ways to avoid Herbert and Julia coming in contact with each other. He
finally comes to the conclusion that if he, like Osmond, went to London with
Julia and his children, he could get Julia away from Herbert in the
countryside. Julia is initially wary of this proposal but ultimately agrees to
go. However, when Felix returns from his evening walk, he finds his wife
conversing once again with Herbert. Of course, he is thrown back into complete
disarray. Luckily, Julia realizes Felix’s problem stems from jealousy and she
explains to him that Herbert is loves Caroline and wanted advice from Julia.
This statement nearly causes Felix to confess his jealous fears to her, but he
ends up deciding it would cause her added injury and does not do so.
They begin their travels to London
and end up stopping in a small inn along the way. The inn is small enough it is
difficult to fit Felix’s entire party of servants, and the innkeeper ends up
attempting to kick out a paying customer from the inn. Felix stops him and ends
up talking to the older man, a failed poet named Selville who has endured great
hardship but has become a more moral person because of it. When they arrive in
London, they find Osmond is having a party that evening. The party is difficult
for Felix; he overhears men talking about his wife and becomes increasingly
infuriated. He goes to sit with Julia and implies he wants to leave, but she
appears to be greatly enjoying interacting with everyone. One person in
particular, Mr. Onslow, a wealthy man from West India who Osmond ostensibly
wants Caroline to marry, disturbs Felix with his conduct towards Julia, as the
two act far too friendly for his comfort. Felix becomes ruder and ruder, and
ends up spoiling the atmosphere.
Julia and Felix argue once again
when they return to their London lodgings, but end up forgiving each other until
Julia gets a letter about a masquerade ball from Onslow. Felix tells her she
should not go, and she agrees but stipulates he should go instead, telling him
he should have some fun. Felix is initially compliant but begins to worry why
she might want him gone. During the party, Caroline asks him to set up a
meeting between her and Julia, and he agrees to do so. He is then dragged away
by a person he describes as an “obi woman,” who acts like a seer or magical
being (244). She asks him if he wants his future worries told, and believing
she is in jest, he agrees, and she mysteriously answers with “look to your
wife” (246). Afterwards, he overhears Onslow and this woman arguing. The woman
removes her mask, and Felix recognizes her as the woman he saw in the woods.
When Felix returns to their
accommodations, he is surprised and incensed that Herbert came from the
countryside to meet with Julia. Julia explains he came to see Caroline away
from Osmond. The next day, someone Felix met at Osmond’s party, Mr. Parrot,
also comes to meet with Felix. He had promised to find information about Onslow
for Felix, and he reveals the person Felix saw was Onslow’s mother. She was
briefly romantically involved with Mr. Wellsford, and although he decides not
to marry her he later adopts her son. He moves to Jamaica after inheriting a
plantation. He gets married twice, once to a frivolous woman who leaves him and
takes his first-born daughter away from him, and again to a woman who gives him
another daughter but quickly dies from disease. His second daughter goes to
England to avoid greater illness, but before Wellsford can settle his
plantations and go to England to be with his daughter, he hears word she has
died. His loneliness over his lost children prompts him to adopt Onslow as his
own son. Mr. Parrot also reveals Onslow and Julia had previously met each
other, but yet they had acted like strangers at the party. Indeed, the man the
doctor saw in front of the house and Felix saw inside the hovel was in fact
Onslow, and the two had apparently met while Felix was out. Felix is terrified
and extremely jealous, and while Parrot attempts to reassure him, he is too far
Julia goes to Osmond’s house to see
Caroline, leaving Felix jealous. When Julia arrives, she first meets with Osmond.
During their conversation, Osmond confesses he is wants to enter a relationship
with her. She becomes terrified, and attempts to leave but Osmond stops her.
Osmond accosts her verbally, telling her it is her fault Felix is becoming
abusive because of the fact she had a visitor she did not tell her husband
about even though she knew he would be jealous, implying he knew Onslow visited
her several months prior. Onslow coincidentally arrives and saves Julia. In his
carriage, Julia initially wants to return to Caroline, but Onslow insists they
continue on their way. She also asks to go straight home, but he insists on
riding through a park to aid her recovery of her spirits. Felix, on his way to
Osmond’s place, sees Onslow and Julia in the coach together, which causes his
jealousy to reach new heights. When he talks to Osmond, Osmond convinces him to
go to a tavern instead of returning home, where he would hear the truth about
his intentions from Julia, and also further convinces Felix to hold on to his suspicions
by saying Julia wants to stop the marriage between Caroline and Osmond but not
explaining her reasoning behind it.
The next chapter delves into more
backstory, explaining that Osmond is Wellsford’s second wife’s brother and
thus, in order to execute the will, Onslow had to meet with Osmond, which is
why he went to Monmouthshire in the first place. Onslow also explains that
Wellsford’s first wife eloped with Roseville, who was a ship captain, in order
to leave for England, and that Julia is in actuality Wellsford’s first
daughter. When Onslow explains these circumstances to Osmond upon his visit,
Osmond pretends it is his first time hearing it, even though in actuality he
heard Roseville confess the story on his sickbed. He advises Onslow to meet with
Julia secretly to tell her the truth about her life. He explains this to Onslow
by saying that even though Felix is a good person, he is easily jealous so it
would be better to not let him know about the visit, and that perhaps hearing
about Roseville, who Felix detested, would also inflame his anger. He also asks
that Onslow not let anyone know he is involved because it might cause more
problems. Onslow agrees on both accounts, and lets Julia know by letter he is
coming to visit. Julia sets up the time for when Felix is gone for similar
reasons to the ones Osmond gave. Onslow’s mother was there because she wanted
to receive better clothes from him in order to travel to Bristol, and they
moved into the hovel because the weather turned for the worse, and thus
everything had a logical reason behind it.
On his way to the tavern, Felix
happens upon Selville, the poet he met in the inn on the way to London, and he
is in such great despair he rambles loosely about jealousy and then asks
Selville to accompany him to the tavern. Selville is so worried about Felix he
agrees, but his presence does little to prevent Osmond from convincing a
drunken Felix to vow to leave his wife and challenge Onslow to a duel to the
death. Osmond then returns to the main area of the inn to ask Selville to
deliver Felix’s dueling letter to Onslow, which Selville debates doing. He
ultimately decides to carry it out but to discuss it with Felix in the morning
when he is not intoxicated.
Osmond returns to his London home
questioning whether it was morally correct of him to carry out his plan. When
he arrives at his home, he finds Dr. Sulfit there, who tells him Herbert is in
London in order to see Caroline. Osmond asks his servants to bring Caroline to
him, but he learns she has left for the Earlvin’s household, causing him to
worry that the two will find each other and elope. He thus sends the doctor in
order to find Caroline and bring her back.
Felix continues to obsess over his
impending duel with Onslow, and fetches a pistol and horse to attempt to find
him. He sees a carriage and wonders whether it holds Onslow and Julia, and when
finds that it does, he is furious. Julia is so terrified that there is a man
with a gun she falls against Onslow, which makes Felix even more enraged to the
point he prepares to shoot himself in the temple and commit suicide. However,
Julia looks back upon him, recognizes him, and then appears to recoil,
something that makes him so angry he aims the pistol towards the carriage. His
wife starts to run to him in order to embrace him, but he ends up shooting her
instead and appears to kill her. He instantly is in the agony of remorse and
refuses to leave her body. However, she is not dead and she quickly gets
medical attention. The surgeons call for all people who have medical
experience, and they come across Dr. Sulfit, who explains he is looking for
someone in order to help his friend. During the doctor’s explanation, Onslow
realizes Osmond must have been tricking all of them and he goes with the doctor
in order to find him and challenge him to a duel himself to compensate for the
betrayal. Osmond accepts the duel, but Onslow easily shoots him, although he is
not killed and only badly wounded.
Julia and Osmond slowly recover from
their wounds, while Selville attempts to comfort Felix in his misery over his
violent actions. Osmond, in an attempt to repent his sins, calls Caroline and
Selville to his bedside the next morning to explain his life. He too had a
frivolous, extravagant mother who caused their father to lose his riches and
fortune, and because he was the favorite of his mother, he became a greedy,
weak man. Osmond lived for a time in the Indies close to his wife and her
husband, Wellsford. However, he moved back to England in order to attempt to
gain a larger fortune, which he did by investing Wellsford’s properties. Thus,
when the woman taking care of Wellsford’s second child said a fever had taken
ahold of the girl and would likely kill her, he told Wellsford the girl was
dead both because he did not want his shady dealings discovered, as Wellsford
was unlikely to return to England if his daughter died, and because he thought
she would anyway. However, she did not, and he instead took her in as a weak
form of retribution. Thus, Julia and Caroline are revealed to be in fact
Julia recovers in about a month, and
she forgives Felix for nearly killing her and instead embraces him together
with their children. Felix now feels unworthy of their love, but he slowly
attempts to right his wrongs by treating them correctly for the rest of his
life. Osmond moves to Lisbon to attempt to recover, but he grows continually
weaker, and without anyone who loves him, he dies in only a few months. Herbert
and Caroline get married, which cools Herbert’s passions slightly and makes him
more mature. Felix and Julia stay together and grow old watching their children
grow up. From his transgressions, Felix realizes the importance of his duties
he has to his family, as well as how important it is to control passion in
order to maintain happiness.
“List of New Works.” The British Review, and London Critical
Journal, No. 1 (Jan. 1811): 514.
Meri. “ART. VII. Tales of the Passions; in which is Attempted an Illustration of their Effects on the Human Mind.” Monthly Review, Vol. 57 (Nov. 1808): 262–66.
Moore, George. Tales of the Passions; The Married Man; An English Tale: In Which is
Attempted an Illustration of the Passion of Jealousy in Its Effects on the
Human Mind. London,\ G.
Wilkie and J. Robinson, 1811.
Murphy, Andrew. Shakespeare in Print: A History and Chronology of Shakespeare
Publishing. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Tay, Jr. “ART. VI. Tales of the
Passion; in which is attempted an Illustration of their Effects on the Human
Mind: each Tale comprized in one Volume, and forming the Subject of a single
Passion.” Monthly Review, Vol.67 (Apr. 1812): 388–90.
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.