The Invisible Ring

The Invisible Ring

The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Printed by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine, J. Roe
Publication Year: 1806
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 8cm x 11.5cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.I548 1806


In this 1806 chapbook set in the Grecian Isles, an evil magician and his accomplice stop at nothing to thwart the marriage of the beautiful Princess Evelina and her true love, Prince Valentia.


Material History

The University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction contains an edition of “The Invisible Ring.” The full title of the book—“The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre”—appears only once in the whole text. This can be found on the first page of the book following the cover. The title is then referred to as simply “The Invisible Ring” atop each page of text. The name of the author is not included anywhere in the book. The most specific reference given is a brief sentence indicating that The Invisible Ring was published in England in 1806. There is one illustration in the whole book which lies on the inside cover. It depicts a woman standing alone on a small piece of land surrounded by water. She is chained to a large boulder, representing a scene from the book. The monochrome image is captioned simply “Invisible Ring.”

The title page of The Invisible Ring

The book’s dimensions are 11.5 by 8 centimeters; it is 36 pages long. The binding is no longer in place, but a strip of leftover leather remains along the seam. The front and back covers are now simply reduced to paper. The quality of the paper in the book is thin and weathered; the overall appearance is worn, damaged, old, faded, and small. Many pages have small tears beginning at the edges, and several pages towards the end are even entirely detached. Each page is covered from top to bottom with closely-set text in very fine print. There is little white space leftover. At the bottom of each page is a letter followed by a number: for example, “G1.” This style of marking was used to maintain page order during printing. However, the first page begins on the letter “G,” indicating that there once may have been preceding pages of separate stories that have since been lost.

Written on the first page under the full title are the words, “Founded on the popular Aquatic Melo-Drama, as performed with universal applause at Sadler’s Wells.” Sadler’s Wells is a prominent theater and dance company in London that is still in existence today. Additionally, following the story, there is a section devoted to the full lyrics of each song mentioned in the book. 

On the last two blank pages of the book, there are penciled-in notes, including a list of ten book titles such as The Invisible Ring and Blackbeard, the Notorious Pirate. Publication years are also written down next to each book title. These notes may have been taken by Michael Sadlier or another reader in an attempt to discover other books belonging to a collection of short stories with The Invisible Ring. This would also provide an explanation for the missing pages at the beginning of the book. Moreover, the notetaker hypothesized in his notes that The Invisible Ring may be related to another chapbook: “This must be a sequel to The TellTale (1805).”


Textual History

The chapbook The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre was published by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine in London, 1806. This chapbook was a version of a play that was popular the same year in London. The author of the chapbook is unknown, but the playwright of The Invisible Ring was the celebrated dramatist Charles Dibdin Jr., and the music in the play was composed by William Reeve. It premiered on June 25th, 1806 at Sadler’s Wells Aquatic Theatre.

Collection of song lyrics in The Invisible Ring

Due to little digital evidence, there are many unknowns surrounding the chapbook’s history: it is unclear whether there were multiple editions of the chapbook, if it was ever translated, if there are prequels or sequels, how it was advertised and received, or if it was ever adapted. However, although information regarding the chapbook is scarce, the play version from Sadler’s Wells has a significant digital footprint. To that point, there are no digital copies of the chapbook to be found online, but there are multiple references to the Sadler’s Wells production on GoogleBooks (Greene 4517). 

The writer of the play, Charles Isaac Mungo Dibdin (1768–1833), was the first son of Charles Didbin, who was also a playwright and composer. Dibdin the younger launched his career in the theatrical world when he became the manager of Sadler’s Wells in the year 1800 (Kilburn). He took the theatre to new heights in 1804 by installing a water tank below the stage rebranding Sadler’s Wells as an aquatic theatre. The water tank was ninety feet long, twenty-four feet wide, and three feet deep (Press 223). The water was sourced from a nearby river. However, the process of changing out the water took many workers and many hours, so it was only done once every three weeks (Press 224). The aquatic theatre allowed for far more realistic productions than before, consisting of actors swimming across the stage during aquatic scenes. This included naval attack scenes in a war play as well as an oceanic setting for a play about Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. The aquatic feature was utilized in The Invisible Ring during its last scene.

Markings at the end of The Invisible Ring

At the end of The Invisible Ring chapbook, there is a list of lyrics from the songs that originate in the play. These were written by William Reeve. Reeve (1757–1815) was a composer for Sadler’s Wells for many years, owning a full eighth of the company by the year 1802 (Halliwell). He worked closely with Dibdin during this time. However, he was known for his habit of using other composers’ music in his arrangements, leading his work to be criticized by many (Halliwell).

In terms of reviews of the play, newspaper clippings from the week of the first performance of The Invisible Ring indicate that Sadler’s Wells was a popular theatre with many supporters (“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” 3). The play was likely well-received by the public as a result of its “variety of supernatural appearances performed on real water” (“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” 3). However, an incident at the theatre in 1807 marks the decline of Dibdin’s success at Sadler’s Wells. A false fire alarm was set off during a performance and the resulting stampede killed eighteen people (Kilburn). The Napoleonic Wars occuring at the same time put a further stress on the entertainment industry, eventually leading to Dibdin’s bankruptcy. He eventually sold his shares of the theatre to pay off his debt (Kilburn). The Invisible Ring along with all the notable productions of the time were likely soon forgotten.


Narrative Point of View

The Invisible Ring is narrated in the third person omniscient by an anonymous narrator who does not appear in the text. The narrator describes events concerning each character in the story, as well as each character’s internal reactions to major plot points. In addition, the narrator gives the reader insight into events that some characters are not privy to. The narration is composed of lengthy sentences with lots of punctuation.

Sample Passage: 

We will leave them wandering for the present, and return to the intrepid Jeannot, who had voluntarily undertook a hazardous enterprize, in which there was very little chance of succeeding, but a very great one of losing her own life: but this she was willing to risk for the sake of her dear mistress. (15–16)

This style of narration gives the chapbook the feel of a play where the audience is directly involved in the production. Additionally, the passage shows a verbose sentence structure. The use of long sentences allows the narrator to give vivid descriptions of events and characters’ emotions. For example, the narrator uses this passage to delve into Jeannot, who is a minor character in The Invisible Ring. Though her role is small, the narrator still provides an explanation for her actions and builds her character into not just an arbitrary servant, but a loyal confidant of the princess.


Summary

The story takes place on an isle in the ancient Grecian empire. The plot is introduced with the forthcoming wedding of Prince Valentia and his beautiful betrothed, Princess Evelina. Alas, a neighboring governor named Ernulph seeks the princess for his own. He journeys to the cave of the mysterious sorcerer and magician, Alnaschar, to ask for help in his scheme to prevent Valentia and Evelina’s matrimony. There, the two form a sinister partnership.

The frontispiece of The Invisible Ring

Valentia and Evelina’s wedding day arrives. The ceremony is just beginning when an apparition of Evelina’s deceased mother appears. In reality, she is merely a guise of an evil spirit conjured by Alnaschar to create a diversion at the wedding. While she chants prophecies of warning, Ernulph, Alnaschar, and his henchman, Nervoso, kidnap Evelina. Valentia sends his captain of the guard after them, but Alnaschar escapes with Evelina through the use of a magic ring that renders its wearer invisible. 

The captured Ernulph and Nervoso are taken to a prison for interrogation. When Nervoso agrees to comply with Valentia’s demands, Ernulph begins to attack him, so Valentia orders for the two to be imprisoned separately. Shortly after, a violent fight ensues between Ernulph, the captain, and Valentia. Ernulph is defeated, but Valentia mercifully gives him his freedom, hoping the act of kindness will result in friendship. However, Ernulph leaves angrier than before. 

Afterwards, Valentia questions Nervoso, who confesses Ernulph’s entire scheme. He promises to steal Alnaschar’s invisible ring so that Valentia can use it to rescue Evelina, who is being held captive in Ernulph’s castle, which is guarded by impenetrable magical forces. Valentia releases Nervoso, who journeys to Alnashcar’s cave. He waits until the magician is asleep, then puts a magic ointment on his eyelids that will keep him asleep for twenty-four hours. He then steals the ring and begins the journey back to Valentia’s castle. Meanwhile, Valentia pays a visit to Evelina’s fairy godmother, Bonoma. She produces a dragon for him to use in pursuit of Evelina. 

When Nervoso arrives back at the castle, Valentia is not there, so he uses the stolen ring to play tricks on Evelina’s maids, Marianetta and Jeannot. Jeannot quickly realizes that their pesterer is Nervoso with the invisibility ring. She manages to steal it off his finger and takes it for herself. Valentia returns to the castle three days later after an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Evelina with the dragon. Nervoso informs him of how he lost the ring to Jeannot. Then the two journey to the forest surrounding Ernulph’s castle to gather intel and hatch a new escape plan. 

Jeannot, in the meantime, uses the advantages of the invisibility ring to bypass the magician’s enchantments and enter Enrulph’s castle in an attempt to save her beloved princess, Evelina. She finds Evelina being held captive in a room with Alnaschar and Ernulph. Due to her invisibility, the three dismiss her entrance as a gust of wind. Alnaschar begins preparations for a potion that will render Evelina unconscious, leaving her unprotected from Ernulph’s wicked intentions. But when he gives it to Evelina, the invisible Jeannot knocks the glass out of her hands. Ernulph and Alnaschar plot once more and decide on another means of tricking Evelina: an enchanted belt that will allow Alnaschar to control her will. However, Jeannot hears their plan and again destroys the belt just as Evelina is about to wear it. Amidst Ernulph and Alnaschar’s confusion, Jeannot slips the invisibility ring onto Evelina’s finger and hides behind a sofa. Realizing Evelina’s disappearance, Ernulph and Alnaschar leave the room in search of her; Jeannot uses the opportunity to escape back to Valentia’s castle. 

Sample text from page 28 of The Invisible Ring

Back at Ernulph’s castle, Evelina uses the power of the ring to secure her escape. She makes it to the forest where she encounters Valentia and Nervoso. There is a joyous reunion between Evelina and Valentia, and also between Nervoso and the invisibility ring he cannot believe to have found again. Just as they are making their exit from the forest, Ernulph, Alnaschar, and several of their attendants arrive on the scene; a battle ensues. The princess is taken again and Alnaschar draws a magical line before Valentia that he cannot cross. However, Nervoso, invisible by the ring, evades the line and follows Alnaschar in order to rescue Evelina. He finds her trapped in a tower. She must accept a marriage proposal from Ernulph or she will soon be chained to a boulder on an island where a sea monster resides. Nervoso reports back to Valentia with the news, then travels to the fairy Bonoma for more help. 

Meanwhile, Evelina refuses Ernulph’s proposal, so Alnaschar and Ernulph deliver her to the island. Just as the sea monster emerges to devour her, Valentia arrives on his dragon and begins to fight the sea monster. Nervoso arrives too and discovers Ernulph and Alnaschar on the island. While Valentia and Nervoso duel with Ernulph and Alnaschar, Bonoma arrives and frees Evelina from the enchanted rock. Valentia and Nervoso defeat Ernulph and Alnaschar, who then sink into the lake. 

Valentia and Evelina return to Valentia’s castle and are married the next day. Nervoso and Jeannot receive recompense for their bravery and the two get married several days later as well. 


Bibliography

“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” The Observer, 20 July 1806, 3.

Greene, John C. “Appendix: New London Plays, 1745-1820” Theatre in Dublin, 1745–1820: A Calendar of Performances, Volume 6. Lehigh University Press, 2011, pp. 4517. 

Halliwell, Victoria. “Reeve, William (1757–1815), actor and composer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. September 23, 2004. Oxford University Press. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-23304

The Invisible Ring: Or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre. A Romantic Tale Founded On the Popular Aquatic Melo-drama, As Performed With Universal Applause At Sadler’s Wells. London, printed by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine, 1806.

Kilburn, Matthew. “Dibdin, Charles Isaac Mungo [known as Charles Isaac Pitt; performing name Charles Dibdin the younger] (1768–1833), theatre manager and writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. September 23, 2004. Oxford University Press. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-7586

Press, Anita L. Sadler’s Wells Theatre Under Charles Dibdin the Younger from 1800 to 1819: When Britannia Ruled the Stage. 1994. ProQuest.


Researcher: Isabella Mehrotra

Clairville Castle

Clairville Castle

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi

Author: Unknown
Publisher: A. Kemmish
Publication Year: Unknown
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 17.3cm x 10.6cm 
Pages: 38
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C532 n.d.


In this chapbook set in France, a love story is hindered by a villain’s lust and Machiavellian quest for power, full of abduction and murder. 


Material History

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi is embedded with a varied and interesting material history. The aforementioned title of the book appears on the first page, and later, throughout the pages on the upper margins. However, the subtitle is omitted from these subsequent pages. Interestingly, the author’s name does not appear whatsoever, even on the title page. 

The title page for Clairville Castle

The chapbook is in surprisingly good condition for being over two hundred years old. The paper itself is good quality, albeit a little brown. However, the pages will not last indefinitely because the novel has been disbound, so if one were to turn the leaves the novel would loosen. Therefore, the Sadler-Black collection might rebind it in the future to prevent this from occurring. The physical dimensions of the book measure out to be 17.3 cm by 10.6 cm. The page count is thirty-eight, including a second short story titled Ogus & Cara-Khan; or the Force of Love appended at the end but not mentioned on the title page. The addition of this second story is not explained, unless perhaps both novels were a part of a larger collection of stories. Unfortunately, while the edition of the novel that is a part of the Sadler-Black library collection was previously bound, no details of the original binding are available. 

The overall appearance of the book is cheap (most likely meant to be discarded like other copies), unblemished (there is a relative lack of markings for such a copy), aged (comparatively to modern publications), and of middling quality. Offset is another descriptor here–the text was conveyed (aka “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket to a printing surface, which is a common practice in printing. The body pages themselves contain minimal white space, despite the font being in a relatively small size. An interesting aspect of the font of the text is the use of the long s, an archaic form of the lowercase s, which resembles an f more than an s. It generally replaces the single s and also one of the letters s when there is a double s. This used to be a somewhat common practice but has long fallen out of fashion. 

The frontispiece for Clairville Castle

The novel begins with a frontispiece illustration, facing the title page on the right-hand, or recto page. It shows an illustrated image of a man and a woman in antiquated outfits, with the woman sitting on a chair, seemingly in grief—the man is comforting, or trying to comfort, her. They are in a room with a single window, allowing light to enter the space. This scene is not explicated in the chapbook, but could be interpreted as illustrating many parts of the text. The illustration itself is an copper-plate engraving.

Something notable is that the title page has offsetting. The technical reason for this is that there were two printing presses used as they specialized in different types of printing, one for the text and one for the illustration; these would later be combined. Due to this, different inks are used, resulting in offsetting from the oxidation, which forms a brownish rectangle. 

Finally, there is one mark of ownership within the book, on the first page, for one Robert Allen. Also, on page thirty-six, there is a printer’s imprint featuring the name of the printer who printed the text—A. Kemmish. The title page contains the name of the publisher—J. Kerr. 


Textual History

The title page for the attached story, Ogus & Cara-Khan

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi was originally published by A. Kemmish for J. Ker. Several copies were seemingly published for this book collector, about whom there is much biographical information. John Ker was the third duke of Roxburghe and lived from 1740 to 1804. There is no date of publication on Clairville Castle and no clear indication in source material of its publication date, though one WorldCat entry estimates 1805 as a potential year of publication. 

Jon Ker owned an expansive personal library, which continued to grow throughout his life. He even arranged the marriage of Anna Ker into his family, who was a gothic writer herself, and may have influenced some of the additions to his large collection of books. “Roxburghe books are today the prized possessions of many of the world’s great libraries, and their collector is immortalized by the distinction of having named after him one of the most exclusive and famous of bibliographical societies, the Roxburghe Club” (Hillyard). This aligns with the inclusion of this chapbook in the Sadler-Black collection and many others throughout the U.S. and abroad. 

There were no subsequent editions of Clairville Castle published; it was originally written in English, and was never translated into any other languages. There is no preface or introduction to the chapbook, and this appears consistent with the other editions of the novel, all of which were published at the same time. The text also does not appear to have any prequels or sequels in publication, although there are several chapbooks from this time period featuring similar characters and plots. 

The final page of Ogus & Cara-Khan

There are no contemporary reviews for the text, and so it is unknown whether it was received poorly or positively at the time of publication. The text also does not appear to have been advertised, and does not appear to have been reprinted following its original publication—the copies that exist are as follows: one in the University of Virginia library, one at the Stanford Library, one at Harvard University in the Houghton Library, one at Oxford University, one in the British Library Reference Collections, and one in Leakey’s Bookshop (which is a secondhand bookshop in Scotland). Some of these copies have been digitized recently, such as the copy the British Library houses, which was digitized on Sep 28, 2016, according to WorldCat. Also, there is a digital copy available on Google Books; this copy appears nearly identical to the one available in the University of Virginia Sadleir-Black library collection, although it does not contain a frontispiece illustration and has differing marks of ownership, such as an indiscernible signature on the title page. 

This text has not been adapted, seemingly, in any fashion. There is a clear similarity in this text to other gothic novels and chapbooks of the time period; however, it does not appear to have specifically influenced any pieces of literature following its publication. Furthermore, this work seems to have been completely unattended to by academic scholarship, and this is most likely a result of the lack of popularity concerning the chapbook. It simply appears to be one of many similar gothic texts published during this time period, which were overshadowed by each other and by even more popular works in the genre. 


Narrative Point of View

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi is told by an anonymous narrator in the third person. This narration contains sentences that vary in length, but the style certainly feels antiquated and long-winded. The narrator strikes a balance between describing the actual plot of the story and the characters’ emotions towards these events throughout the chapbook. The narrator also uses dialogue sparingly, since there is much background information and action within the plot that is described without its use. 

Sample Passage:

Emma had for some time enjoyed the retirement, from which she was aroused by a  confused sound of voices that proceeded from below—she started up and recollecting her perilous situation, which the height of the sun beaming through the curtains painted in strong colors; she felt her apprehensions of pursuit renewed—she adjusted her dress, and tied on her straw bonnet, in order to seek her father, when he suddenly entered–he found her so apprehensive from the interval of time that they had lost at the inn, that he ventured to inform her of Albert’s arrival, and his impatience to behold her. The glow of pleasure animated her fair cheek, but was instantly succeeded by a deadly paleness. (30)

This narration succeeds in moving the plot along quickly, by utilizing long compound sentences (such as the passage above) in order to describe the events and the characters’ feelings towards them. By balancing these descriptions of the plot and the internal sentiments of the characters, the narrator is able to allow for lulls in the action of the story so that the plot does not progress too quickly. The minimal use of dialogue also highlights the importance of what the characters say, and works as a plot device in and of itself. All of these features of the narration combine to create a story that is fast paced but still leaves room for the reader to breathe when necessary. 


Summary

Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi, told by a narrator in the third person, begins with a character description of a peasant named Bernard and his daughter, Emma. Although they are not wealthy, the father is a well-respected member of the community of Clairville due to his generous and benevolent nature. His daughter shares these qualities as she joins village festivities and is doted on by her father. Despite the death of Emma’s mother in years past, the two live a happy life as a family unit. 

This page shows an example of the text in Clairville Castle

Bernard works as a bailiff under the Marquis de Clairville—until his untimely death, that is, which ushers in a general sadness as exemplified by his funeral which is attended by many, with all attendees displaying great amounts of grief. During the procession, a young Swiss man named Albert arrives at the castle, and decides to join the ceremony after learning who had died from one of the townsfolk. At the church where the funeral is being held, a group of women begin to lay flowers on the coffin of the late Marquis; one is a beautiful girl, whom Albert immediately notices and is enchanted by. He follows her down the middle aisle of the church, and sees her embracing her father, both mourning the man in the casket. Not daring to interrupt, he asks another peasant for the girl’s name, which he learns is Emma. The peasant offers Albert a bed in his cottage, and he agrees immediately, since it is near Bernard and Emma’s abode, and he plans to ask for her hand in marriage already. 

The story of the late Marquis’s life is then embellished upon—his wife and infant child were ambushed by some bandits several years prior, resulting in his wife’s death and his son’s kidnapping. This drove him to great melancholy, but he remained generous at heart and treated the townspeople as his own children. Following his death, his lands and estates became those of the Baron of Morenzi, who is a much crueler man. He discards his subjects’ complaints and pays them no heed. He also carries a heavy debt, which he does not pay, instead pursuing a life of vice and leisure. 

Meanwhile, Albert has gained the affections of Emma and the approval of Bernard. She reads to him often, having amassed a great collection of books, all of which impress Albert immensely. He begins to fall in love with her and she reciprocates. However, her father declines to support their proposal of marriage because he believes that they are of two distinct social classes. Promising to receive his father’s support for the match, Albert returns to his native country. Bernard then proceeds to tell Emma to relinquish all notions of this potential marriage occurring, and she submits to her father’s request. 

The Baron meets Emma a little while later while roaming his lands, and immediately falls for her, planning to seduce her despite Bernard rebuking his advances. One day, a messenger from the castle arrives at Emma’s doorstep and informs her that her father has suddenly been struck ill. She hurries to the castle, only to find the Baron, who threatens her into staying with him, displaying his power over her father. She rejects him, and flees the castle, finding her father at the gates (the Baron’s steward, Du Val, had instructed him to remain there under false pretenses); both return to their cottage. Fearing the Baron’s wrath, they decide to flee to the castle of Brinon, some twenty miles away and where his late wife had labored. On the way, they stop at an inn where the landlord offers them refreshments and water for their horses. 

The final page of Clairville Castle

Albert had returned to his home, to the estate of his father, the Count de Bournonville. He tells his father of Emma and begs his permission to marry her. In response, the Count tells him that he is in charge of his own destiny, and reveals that he merely adopted Albert, whose real name is Henry de Clairville. The Count’s infant son had recently died of an illness while they were travelling from France to Switzerland. When the Count and his inconsolable wife came upon the result of a bandit attack and found a dying servant coddling an infant boy, they decided that they must raise Albert as their own. They named him, then, after their late son. The assassin who killed his mother was none other than the Baron de Morenzi. Learning all of this, Albert resolves to avenge his mother and returns to France with a retinue. 

During this time, Du Val attempts to capture Emma for the Baron. Finding her cottage empty, he returns to the castle and informs the Baron, who flies into a rage—both set out in pursuit of the fugitives. Albert reaches the inn in which Bernard and Emma are staying, and explains to the father all that he had recently learned. The Baron, too, arrives, and Albert confronts him with extreme anger. However, he is unarmed, unlike the Baron and his retinue, so his men restrain him and drag him to another room where they lock themselves inside. The Baron, feeling immense regret for his past actions, draws a pistol and shoots himself in the head before Du Val can stop him. Albert returns to the room and finds the lifeless body, proclaiming it to be a just death for a murderer, to the onlookers.  

Bernard informs Emma, in her chamber, of what has just occurred, and offers her hand in marriage to Albert, or Henry, in his eyes. Albert’s adopted father also approves of the match wholeheartedly. With the usurper now dead, Albert becomes the new Marquis of Clairville—he also marries Emma. The people of the village rejoice at this turn of events and all ends merrily. 


Bibliography

Hillyard, Brian. “Ker, John, Third Duke of Roxburghe.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September 2004. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/15452 

Steele, John Gladstone. “Anne and John Ker: New Soundings.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 12, summer 2004, www.romtext.org.uk/reports/cc12_n03/

Clairville Castle; or, The History of Albert & Emma. With the Death of the Usurper, Morenzi. London, A. Kemmish.


Researcher: Shankar Radhakrishnan

Fatal Vows

Fatal Vows

Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk, a Romance

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Thomas Tegg
Publication Year: 1810
Language: English
Dimensions: 18.4cm x 11.3cm. 
Pages: 16
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.F368 1810


In this circa 1810 chapbook, backdropped against the outskirts of Italy, a complicated web of family, loyalty, and betrayal spirals a noble family into conspiracy and murder. 


Material History

Fatal Vows is presented in a disbound pamphlet. The pamphlet was once bound, but there is no longer a hardcover. Paste on the spine of the pamphlet and gilding on the top edge of the pages reflect its previous state. Presumably, Fatal Vows was at some point bound with other pamphlets for ease of storage and style—a common practice at the time. The pages themselves are a linen blend (with perhaps a bit of cotton) in fairly decent shape. The paper is browned by age, but not brittle. There are no significant stains and few splotches—none that obscure the text or decrease legibility. 

The title page for Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk, along with the printer’s information

Fatal Vows is 18.4 x 11.3 cm in dimension, and sixteen pages long. Along the top of the pamphlet the pages are uniformly trimmed, but all other edges are slightly irregular. This variation is presumably due to the nature in which the collection of pamphlets was bound. Commonly, pamphlets of varying sizes were trimmed to the dimensions of the largest pamphlet. Works smaller than the largest pamphlet were often missed by the blade on a few sides, leading to irregularities in page edges like Fatal Vows’.

The front page of the pamphlet, once the University of Virginia note is moved aside, reads “William Coventry // Piccadilly.” This inscription indicates that the text was likely part of a personal collection. The next two pages feature the only two illustrations in the pamphlet, one in the frontispiece and one on the title page. The frontispiece illustration is brightly colored and depicts two men standing outside of a building. The man on the right, with a red cape and green suit, is holding out a sword. The man on the left, with yellow trousers and a blue tunic, appears to be making a vow on the sword. This illustration is helpfully captioned “Rinaldo binding Montavoli by an Oath.” Below the caption is the mark of the publisher, “Pub. By T. Tegg June 1810.” 

The second illustration follows immediately after the title. At the top quarter of the page is the title, which varies between flowing cursive and block lettering (indicated by italicized and non-italicized text, respectively) reading: “Fatal Vows, // or // The False Monk, // a // Romance.” Below the title is the second illustration, depicting a man in purple leading a man in green down a staircase and into a stone room. The caption curves around the bottom of the illustration and reads “The Spirit of Montavoli’s Brother ledding him to a place of Safety.” Below the caption, once again, are three lines of the publisher’s information. The first line, “London”, indicates the city Fatal Vows was printed in. The next line repeats “Printed for Thomas Tegg, III, Cheapside June 1-1810” and the final line indicates the price: “Price Sixpence.”

Once the story itself begins, the page layout is relatively consistent. Aside from the first page, which repeats the title (interestingly adding a “the” before the title, the only point in the chapbook where this occurs) before beginning the story about halfway down the page, the margins on the page vary slightly from page to page but average out to a 2 cm outer margin, 1 cm inner margin, 2.5 cm bottom margin, and 0.5 to 0.75 cm top margin. At the top of each page, centered just above the text, is the title in all caps: FATAL VOWS. The page numbers are on the same line as the title, to the far left (for even number pages) or right (for odd number pages) edge of the text. The text itself is single-spaced. The only notable features in the story pages are the occasional letters at the bottom center of the page. Page six has a B, page nine has B3, page seventeen has a C, page nineteen has a C2, and page twenty-one has a C3. These letters serve to assist the printer in ordering the pages—pamphlets like these were generally printed on one large sheet, folded together, and then trimmed to allow for page-turning.


Textual History

Unfortunately, there is very little either known or recorded on Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk, a Romance. Both the author and illustrator are unknown. Francis Lathom has been named as the author, notably by Google Books, due to the similarities in titles between Fatal Vows and his work The Fatal Vow; Or, St. Michael’s Monastery, but this is a misattribution. Only two copies of Fatal Vows are available online: one on Google Books courtesy of the British Library (although the author is misattributed, as Francis Lathom), and one through the University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection. Fatal Vows is mentioned in a handful of catalogs listing known gothic novels, but with no opinion or further insight attached to it, with one exception.

The frontispiece for Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk

Fatal Vows has not been featured in much academic work. However, that does not mean Fatal Vows was entirely unnoted beyond the commercial sphere. Its one notable reference is an allegation that Fatal Vows is a plagiarism of, or at least very heavily influenced by, Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. In Peter Otto’s introduction to the Rare Printed Works from the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia, he notes: “Like Radcliffe’s works, Lewis’s novel inspired a host of plagiarizers, imitators and competitors. The mystery of the black convent (London: A. Neil, [n.d.]) and Fatal vows, or The false monk, a romance (London: Thomas Tegg, 1810) are two of the many chapbooks that draw heavily on The Monk.” This is the only academic work to articulate opinions on Fatal Vows, although it is cited in other works and catalogs.

There appear to be no prequels, sequels, reprints, translations, or adaptations connected to Fatal Vows. Even when published, there is no surviving (if any) mention of Fatal Vows in the ads or articles of the time. There was no announcement in the newspapers of the time and no evidence that Fatal Vows stirred any public notice or controversy.

The only name that can be reliably connected to Fatal Vows is the publisher of the novel. T. Tegg (or Thomas Tegg III) is listed on both available scans as the publisher and bookseller and is comparatively much more well documented. Tegg set himself apart from his contemporaries by both the low prices and the lower quality of the books he produced. His self-description as “the broom that swept the booksellers’ warehouses” fairly articulates his practice of reprinting successful novels, works past copyright protections, and remainders (Curwen 391). Considering the nature of the works published by Tegg, it is perhaps not unsurprising that Fatal Vows was published with little fanfare.


Narrative Point of View

Fatal Vows combines the main story told in the third person by an omniscient, detached narrator, and interpolated stories told by characters explaining things that either occurred off-page or before the story began. There is no meta-narrative of the story’s origin or any relation to the narrator, but characters often narrate their own backstories through letters and oral stories, which are narrated in the first-person voice of the relevant character. The style is fairly formal, with no contractions and winding prose. The epistolary narratives vary slightly depending on the character narrating them, ranging from powerful emoting to detached cynicism, but the overall tone is still formal and vaguely antiquated.

Example of Third-Person Narration:

Rinaldo now informed Count Montavole that Miranda was his own daughter by Serina. The Count grew very faint; to encrease his misery Rinaldo added: “Know likewise that it is a BROTHER who is the death of thee.” He had no sooner finished this speech than he was seized for the murder of the Count, and as he quitted the dungeon he put a paper into Alberto’s hands. Montavole only lived to ejaculate, “a brother ! Miranda too my daughter ! oh—” (25)

Example of Interpolated Oral Tale of Susanna’s Confession:

Unconscious of what I did, I took the dreadful oath, and went gently into Lady Leonora’s room, and changed children with her, by which means Montavole has reared up his brother’s son instead of his own. (20)

Example of Interpolated Tale of Rinaldo’s Letter:

Hereupon I was seized by two footmen in livery, who dragged me to a noble palace: I was conducted to an elegant saloon, when a nobleman, for so I learnt he was, desired me to relate the whole adventure; accordingly, I did. He then observed that I had been used ill, and in return desired his nephew to give me a diamond ring. (26)

Overall, this chapbook’s narration focuses much more internally than externally—there is little imagery or scene building, but a heavy emphasis on the actions of the characters, which drive the majority of the plot. This contrasts with the low-key delivery the narrator uses to convey plot twists or surprises, as exemplified in the first passage. Miranda being the daughter of Count Montavole is a devastating plot twist even by itself, but Rinaldo being the brother of Count Montavole is even more so. However, the verbs used to describe Rinaldo’s proclamation are low-energy (“informed” and “added” are not exactly declarations) and Montavole’s death (who, in fairness, was already on the way out) is received without much fanfare. Within the scene, the room is full of characters that would be rattled by these announcements, but their perspectives are not noted. Even the announcement of Miranda’s parentage reads like an afterthought. 

When characters themselves are narrating, more of their personality is able to shine through and influence the story. Susanna’s passage, when she explains the kidnapping she committed almost two decades ago, is full of qualitative adjectives and descriptors; Susanna is one of the kinder, moral characters in the story. This is juxtaposed against Rinaldo describing an altercation in his boyhood, where he describes his own actions with more understated neutrality.


Summary

Fatal Vows takes place on the outskirts of Italy, in a castle owned by a Count named Savini. Count Savini has two sons: Montavole and Alberto. Alberto is the youngest and is a charming and obedient son, while Montavole is morose and selfish. Montavole leaves home at an early age to pursue his own interests, breaking Count Savini’s heart. While on his travels, Montavole is attacked by bandits. His life is saved by a stranger, who identifies himself as Rinaldo and commands Montavole to repay his debt by swearing a vow of friendship and loyalty. Montavole is troubled but agrees, and Rinaldo vanishes into the night with an ominous “be careful of Saint Peter’s day” (7).

This page shows the first page of the actual story, along with one of the folding guide markings

Eventually, Montavole hears word that his father is critically ill and returns home to see him before he passes. Unfortunately, he is too late, but in their grief Montavole and Alberto reconcile and Montavole decides to settle down. Montavole marries a rich woman named Leonora, and Alberto marries his fianceé, Matilda. Montavole and Leonora are miserable, as their marriage was one for money rather than love and Leonora is afraid of Rinaldo, who Montavole now keeps company with, but Alberto and Marilda are happy and in love. However, tragedy strikes one night when Alberto is murdered. The murderer escapes into the night, and the heavily-pregnant Matilda dies of grief in labor shortly after. 

Over the next twenty years, two things of note occur. Firstly, Rinaldo is arrested after killing a man in a dispute, but escapes from jail just before his execution. Secondly, a baby girl is left on Montavole and Leonora’s doorstep with a letter in her crib. Leonora reads the letter, swoons, and decides to raise the child (now named Miranda) as her own, locking the letter away without explanation. 

At the end of these twenty years, Leonora is now on her deathbed. Montavole and their son, Alphonso, (who is in love with Miranda despite the two being kept apart by his father) have been out of the kingdom for weeks, leaving only Miranda around to tend to Leonora. Knowing her time is coming to an end, Leonora decides it is time for Miranda to know the truth about her birth. She gives Miranda a key to a cabinet that holds the mysterious letter from her crib. Leonora directs her to read the letter, burn it, and then leave the castle to join the nearby convent. Her only warning is to avoid the castle’s resident monk, Roderigo, who she finds suspicious. After Leonora dies, Miranda goes to the cabinet, but the letter is not there. She despairs, but is interrupted by a mysterious voice that tells her “You have a father living… your father is a murderer!” (13—14). Overcome with shock, Miranda faints. 

 Alphonso and Montavole return, too late to say goodbye to Leonora. Alphonso rushes to Miranda but Montavole stops him. He has betrothed Alphonso to the daughter of a man to whom he owes a significant amount of money. In exchange for Alphonso’s hand (and prestigious family name) the man will not only forgive Montavole’s debts but offer a substantial dowry. Alphonso is heartbroken but consents. 

Miranda, in the meantime, goes for a walk in the surrounding countryside to bolster her spirits. She comes across a cottage with an old woman named Susanna and her nephew, Alonzo, who is insane. Susanna tells Miranda that eighteen years ago, a woman who looked very much like her came to the cottage and died, leaving behind a baby who was taken away by a “mean-looking man” (15). Miranda concludes that she must have been the baby, but returns homes before uncovering anything else. However, as soon as she returns home Roderigo (the suspicious monk Leonora was so afraid of) seizes her and locks her in an abandoned tower. Montavole ordered her to be locked away so she could not get in the way of Alphonso’s wedding, and Roderigo tells her she will stay there for the rest of her life.

Meanwhile, with Miranda effectively out of the picture, Alphonso and Cassandra’s wedding goes off without a hitch. In the ceremony, however, Cassandra drinks a goblet of wine (provided to her by Roderigo) and dies of poisoning. There was another goblet of wine meant for Alphonso, but he disappears shortly after the ceremony and is spared from the chaos. The castle descends into an uproar. 

After a few days in the tower, Miranda discovers a key to the door and flees to Susanna’s cottage. She begs Susanna to let her stay the night before she leaves the kingdom, and Susanna readily agrees. That night, however, Montavole and Roderigo break into the cottage. Miranda tries to intervene but she is powerless to stop Montavole and Roderigo, and they murder Alonzo. Susanna comes down just in time to see his death and exclaims “Count Montavole you have killed your son, the real offspring of Leonora… you cruel man!” (19—20). Shocked, Montavole flees. Roderigo takes away the body, and Susanna confesses Alonzo’s backstory to Miranda.

Susanna used to be a servant at the castle. When Matilda died, her child had actually survived, but lord Montavole commanded her to take the child away to the cottage and raise it as her nephew. However, Susanna switched Alberto’s child (Alphonso) with Montavole’s (for no discernable motive) and took him instead. Shortly after confessing, Susanna dies of grief. Miranda returns to the castle, hoping to beg Alphonso for protection, but comes across Roderigo instead. He gives her the letter Leonora had meant to leave her and leaves the room. Miranda finally learns her origins.

Montavole was Miranda’s real father all along. Her mother, Serina, was a noblewoman with a sickly father and little money. Montavole secretly murdered her father, who had attempted to keep him away from Serina, took Serina in, and got her pregnant. He strung her along for a while, promising that once his father died they would get married, but one day Rinaldo revealed to Serina that Montavole’s father had died long ago. Moreover, he had been married to a rich woman for the past twelve months. Serina fled, selling her clothes and jewelry, but was robbed by a coachman. She made her way to Susanna’s cottage and died of grief, and baby Miranda was taken away to the castle. 

Meanwhile, Count Montavole is hiding out in one of his dungeons, having been led there by his brother’s ghost—but it is not his ghost. Alberto has been alive the entire time. Roderigo (who is revealed as Rinaldo) bursts in, in the middle of an unspecified fight with Alphonso, but switches tactics to kill Montavole. In Montavole’s final breath he realizes Miranda is also his daughter.

Miranda and Alphonso marry, and Rinaldo is put to death. A letter he wrote before his arrest reveals his own motivation. Rinaldo was actually Alberto and Montavole’s half-brother. His mother, Angelina, was seduced by Alberto and Montavole’s father (Count Savini), but he grew tired of her and abandoned her. Angelina gave birth to Rinaldo and managed to get by for a few years, but caught small-pox and lost her beauty. All her admirers abandoned her, and they were forced to sell all their furniture and move into a small apartment. They eventually ran out of money, and when Rinaldo was nineteen they were evicted. Angelina died in the streets, penniless and heartbroken, but before she passed she told Rinaldo about his father and begged him to avenge her death. 

Now it is Alberto’s turn to reveal how he survived. Count Montavole had hired an assassin to kill him, but the wound was not fatal. One of Rinaldo’s servants saved him but locked him in a dungeon in the castle, where he lived until the servant slipped up and left behind a key. The servant himself had conveniently died a few days ago. With all the mysteries explained, everyone lives happily ever after.


Bibliography

Curwen, Henry. “Thomas Tegg: Book-Auctioneering and the “Remainder Trade.” A History of Booksellers, the Old and the New 1st ed., Chatto and Windus, 1873. 

Fatal Vows: or the False Monk, a Romance. Thomas Tegg, 1810.

Fatal Vows: or the False Monk, a Romance. Thomas Tegg, 1810, Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=mDfNxphLieoC&source=gbs_navlinks_s. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

Otto, Peter. “Introduction.” Rare Printed Works from the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia. http://www.ampltd.co.uk/digital_guides/gothic_fiction/Introduction7.aspx. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.


Researcher: Brynn Jefferson

Lucretia

Lucretia

Lucretia; or, The Robbers of the Hyrcanean Forest: A Romance

Author: Frederic Chamberlain
Publisher: J. Lee
Publication Year: Unknown
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.2cm x 17.3cm
Pages: 19
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C43 L n.d.


In this chapbook by Frederic Chamberlain, a beautiful young lady is rescued from a group of murderous banditti by her father.


Material History

The physical text of Lucretia is small, only 10.2 x 17.3cm, and contains only 19 pages relating to the titular story—the remaining 11 pages are devoted to an unrelated story titled The Libertine. The text appears to have been ripped from a larger book or removed from a binding of some sort, which left navy blue residue with gold leaf on the spine. The paper pages are thick, yellowing, and quite soft, and are held together by the exposed thread binding. On the blank front cover page some previous owner has written the word “adventure” in cursive. While it may have been Sadleir, who donated the story to the collection, a handwriting analysis has not been done to confirm this.

The title page for Lucretia.

Upon opening the slim volume, the reader is greeted with an illustration of one of the scenes of the book, titled “Lucretia rescued from the Embraces of the Robber, by her Father.” On the opposite side is information about the writer and publisher of the novel, as well as the price. The full title of the work is printed here as well—Lucretia, or the Robbers of the Hyrcanean Forest: A Romance. It is written by Frederic Chamberlain, published in London by J. Lee at Half Moon Street, Bishopsgate, and “sold by all the booksellers.” This page also lists the price of the work: sixpence. The unrelated story, The Libertine, which follows Lucretia is not mentioned on this title page.

Page 3 is blank, but page 4 is where the main text of the story begins. Centered at the top of the page is “Lucretia,” in bolded text. Page numbers are in the outer corners of the pages. The main body of the text is extremely plain—there are no illustrations, and no additions to the pages beyond the page numbers. The text is typed, and there are no irregularities in the printing beyond a fading due to age. The font is similar to the modern Times New Roman, but seems to be slightly smaller than most modern books, and would probably be classified as a 10 or 11point font today.

The lines are fairly close to each other, with not a lot of white space in between, but the margins on the pages are actually quite large. On page 9 they measured 1 cm on each side, 1.5 cm on top, and 2.5 cm on bottom. When Lucretia ends, the text simply stops on page 19, and on page 20 the title of the next work, The Libertine, is bolded and placed at the top of the page above the text. In some places within the chapbook, the text is slightly faded, but never to the point of being illegible. It seems likely to be the result of age rather than a misprinting, as the rest of the book is fairly uniform in its print style.

Overall, despite its age this chapbook appears to be in pretty good condition, with only minor wear and tear that can be attributed to its age. The addition of the extra story in the back is most likely due to the way the books were constructed. Chapbooks were printed on a large sheet of paper that was then folded to create the book, and sometimes there would be extra pages at the end that the main body of text didn’t fill. In that case the publishers would put a short story on those remaining pages so as to not to lose money on wasted materials.


Textual History

Lucretia was written by Frederic Chamberlain, a relatively unknown author who appears to have not been very prolific in his writing, publishing only two chapbooks through J. Lee in London at Half Moon Street, Bishopsgate: Lucretia and Edward and Eleonora. Lucretia appears to have been relatively unpopular in its time, with no critical reviews appearing anywhere. It also appears to have had a limited printing run, since according to WorldCat, the only surviving copy is the one located in the University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction.

This is the first page of the second story contained within the same chapbook as Lucretia, called The Libertine.

While there are no surviving references to Lucretia from the time when it was published, it is listed in Gothic Writers with some other gothic chapbooks. The book notes that it is “A typical Räuberroman or robber romance. This type of Gothic derives originally from Friedrich Schiller’s 1781 drama Die Räuber [The Robbers]” (Frank 133). There are no glaring similarities between the plot of Frank Schiller’s drama and Lucretia, so it is likely that Chamberlain was inspired by the genre and wrote a chapbook, rather than stealing a plot and putting it in chapbook form, which was a fairly common practice at the time.

One of the challenges of seeking out information about Chamberlain is that he appears to have written as a hobby rather than full time, as he is credited with writing only two chapbooks. However, he also contributed to one other book called The Cuckold’s Chronicle ; or New bon ton : being a selection of modern and ancient popular trials for crim. con. This book is held at the Harvard Law School Library, and the description in their library catalogue notes that it was published/printed by Joseph Lee in 1808­–1812. This is presumably the same J. Lee that published Chamberlain’s chapbooks. The Cuckold’s Chronicle was initially used as the title for a book compiling court cases dealing with adultery, cuckoldry, etc., that was first published in London in 1793 and then republished in Boston in 1798, with no author being credited for either work. The University of Virginia holds copies of both, and the content appears to be practically identical, with the 1793 copy being “PRINTED FOR H. LEMOIN, BISHOPS-GATE CHURCHYARD” and the 1798 copy being “PRINTED FOR THOSE TO CHOOSE TO PURCHASE” (Lemoin 1, Choose to Purchase 1).

The version printed by J. Lee was probably a cheap reprint of the original after it had gone out of print. What is interesting about this copy is that the “author” is listed as Joseph Lee, but the description in Harvard’s library catalog also includes an “attribution” section, which says “by Frederic Chamberlain, Esq. late of the Temple. Embellished with superb engravings. To be continued every fortnight.” After emailing Harvard to determine the purpose of the “attribution” section, Research Librarian Deanna Barmakian confirmed that Frederic Chamberlain was the actual author, and Joseph Lee was simply the printer/publisher. The fact that Chamberlain is listed as “Esq. late of the Temple,” gives another clue to his identity; as Ms. Barmakian suggested, it most likely indicates Chamberlain’s membership at the Inns of Court, or the professional associations for barristers in England. While the Inner Temple Admissions Database does not show Chamberlain as having been a member, it is probable that he was at one point a lawyer and a member of the Inns of Court, perhaps in the Middle Temple. This would also explain why he would author a book about court cases, which was a large departure from his gothic chapbooks. Unfortunately, no information about his legal career is known.


Narrative Point of View

Lucretia is narrated in the third person by an omniscient narrator who will sometimes directly address the reader when communicating characters’ emotions, or while changing from one storyline to another. The narration keeps the long sentences and flowery writing of a more antiquated writing style. While there is a fair amount of action within the story, it is narrated rather dryly, and the narrator instead chooses to focus on the characters’ inner motivations and reasonings.

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:

We must now leave our heroine, and particularize the situation of the distressed duke and his amiable wife, who, almost distracted, had searched the principal avenues that led to the forests but in vain. Night had now thrown her sable curtain over the whole face of the earth; not a luminary was to be seen; and the afflicted duchess could take no repose: At the peep of dawn, the duke, with his faithful servant, Osmin, mounted their horses, and proceeded to the thickest part of the forest, but a contrary way to that by which Lucretia was borne. Having searched nearly the whole of the day, and not meeting a human soul, they became fatigued, and, tying their horses to the branches of a small tree, retired a short distance from each other to rest their weary limbs, when sleep closed their eyes for a temporary time. During their repose the horses broke their reins, and sought after better pasturage. Soon after the duke was awakened by the sonorous noise of Osmin, who lay stretched out on his grassy couch, and dreamt he saw the fair Lucretia amidst myriads of scorpions, and at other times on the eve of falling over craggy and horrid precipices, into a deep gulp of stagnated water, filled with reptiles and monsters, whose mouths opened wide to receive those whom accident or misfortune led thither. Thus the mind is disturbed when any object or circumstance arrests its particular attention. (7)

Due to the dry narration style and the insistence on explaining aspects of the plot that are unnecessary, like the fact that the duke and Osmin go the wrong way, there is often a lack of suspense for the reader. While there are some descriptive adjectives, the narration is generally not expressive enough to create a complete picture of the environment, indicating that the scenery is relatively unimportant beyond the broad strokes of “forest,” “castle,” etc. The narrative style serves to distinguish the reader from the characters by giving the reader information the characters do not have, even while informing readers of what the characters are feeling. Overall, the story is presented in a very factual manner, and the narration does not ask the reader to do much work in figuring out what is going on, or why it is happening.


Summary

The story begins with an unnamed nobleman retiring to a modest life after squandering his fortune, something that his wife Eliza has been warning him about for years. He has an eighteen-year-old daughter named Lucretia, who is tremendously beautiful and has a talent for art and music. One day, Lucretia is outside sketching when a bandit approaches and attempts to woo her. A pistol shot from the woods startles her into swooning, and the bandit takes advantage of this and carries her away to an ancient castle, where she wakes up just as they arrive. She puts up a fight, but is subdued by a number of new banditti, and is then escorted into the main room of the castle. The banditti leave in search of more treasure as Lucretia laments her situation.

Partially hidden below the UVA insert is the word “adventure” in cursive, possible written by Sadleir, or another previous owner.

At this point, the story ceases to focus on Lucretia and switches over to focus on the previously unnamed nobleman, who is now called the Duke. He and his wife are concerned about their missing daughter, and at the dawn of the next day the Duke and his faithful servant Osmin leave to look for Lucretia. After having no luck for much of the day, they decide to take a short rest, at which point their horses escape and Osmin dreams about Lucretia being attacked by scorpions and monsters. Unable to travel any further, they decide to climb a tall tree, and by doing so are able to see the top of the castle where the banditti reside. Coincidentally, when they descend the tree, they are attacked by members of the same group of banditti that attacked Lucretia. Since their weapons are on their missing horses, they are forced to surrender, and are taken to the same castle where Lucretia is being held. Osmin, however, has managed to obtain the same cloak the robbers are wearing, and disguises himself to slip away before being taken into the castle.

The story again switches back to Lucretia—the chief of the banditti, Rufanus, has been soliciting her constantly, but she refuses him every time. After multiple refusals, Rufanus attempts to rape her, but is stopped by the second in command of the banditti, Dupardo, who secretly desires Lucretia for himself. Alfando, the third in command of the banditti, calls Rufanus and Dupardo away before a physical altercation breaks out between them, and Lucretia is left shaken. Rufanus enters the main hall to find that the Duke has been captured and that his servant Osmin has escaped. He orders that the Duke be thrown in the dungeon. After finding out that the banditti have brought back no treasure, he tells them to leave tomorrow morning, at which point he plans to rape Lucretia when no one is around to help her or hear her scream.

This page shows a typical example of the long paragraphs present in the text of Lucretia.

During the night, Lucretia discovers that there is a trapdoor in the room where she is being kept that opens up into her father’s dungeon. They reunite and talk about their misfortunes for the whole night, the Duke becoming increasingly disheartened as he learns more about their situation. They hear footsteps and the Duke returns to his dungeon. Rufanus checks to make sure Lucretia has not escaped, and then sends all of his banditti, except for Dupardo and Alfando, out to raid the villa of a Marchioness. She had left only a steward and his wife there to guard it, but luckily Osmin had arrived earlier and alerted the police, who are now keeping watch on the villa themselves. When the banditti attempt to rob the villa, they are met with the police force. All of the banditti are killed except for one, who they hope will give them information about Lucretia and her father. Unfortunately, he is too injured for speech, and must be nursed back to health before he is able to communicate the location of the castle and the current situation related to Lucretia.

While this is happening, Rufanus keeps going after Lucretia, but is continually rebuffed by Dupardo. The Duke laments his ostentatious lifestyle, and thinks that if he had just followed the advice of his wife none of this would be happening right now. Rufanus becomes irritated at the delay of the banditti and dispatches Alfando to discover what has happened. Alfando returns having found out nothing, so Dupardo leaves and discovers that all of the banditti have been killed. Rufanus is enraged, but tells Dupardo that he should leave and get some provisions in case they are trapped in the castle for a while. He intends to rape Lucretia while Dupardo is gone, but unbeknownst to him Dupardo plans to pick up poisons with the provisions so he can kill the chief and get Lucretia for himself.

The frontispiece for Lucretia.

While Dupardo is away, Rufanus convinces Alfando to help him get rid of Dupardo. Upon Dupardo’s return, Alfando attempts to shoot Dupardo with two pistols, but one does not fire while the other simply grazes Dupardo. Rufanus then stabs Dupardo, who dies. Elated, Rufanus prepares to celebrate with the poisoned provisions, and wants Alfando and Lucretia to join him. During his absence, Lucretia has found a sword and two pistols, which she gives to her father. She claims to be ill, but Rufanus insists they eat in her room anyway. She gets the unpoisoned part of the food by luck, while Rufanus and Alfando eat the poisoned parts, quickly falling ill. Alfando falls over first, and Rufanus uses this chance to once again attempt to rape Lucretia, but the Duke comes through the trapdoor and shoots him. As he lies dying, Rufanus repents of his life of violence, and tells the story of how he killed the last chief of the banditti to gain his position.

With all of the banditti now dead, Lucretia and her father are able to leave the castle. Osmin and the police have been following the wounded banditti back to the castle, and arrive just in time to meet the freed family. The castle is explored and the treasure divided up amongst all of the men. A room is discovered with the skeletons of Rufanus’s previous female victims, which causes Lucretia to faint into the arms of the police chief, with whom she subsequently falls in love. Everyone returns home to Lucretia’s mother, the Duchess, and the police chief receives the castle that previously belonged to the banditti. He and Lucretia marry, and it is said that ever after he spends his time hunting down banditti, becoming the bane of their existence.


Bibliography

Barmakian, Deanna. “Re: Who is the author of ‘The Cuckold’s chronicle; or New bon ton : being a selection of modern and ancient popular trials for crim.’” Message to Dorothea LeBeau. 27 Oct. 2020. Email.

Burn, Richard. The Justice of the Peace, and Parish Officer. The Twenty-fifth Edition, Vol. II. London, A. Strahan, 1830.

Chamberlain, Frederic. Lucretia, or the Robbers of the Hyrcanean Forest: A Romance. London, J. Lee, n.d.

The Cuckold’s Chronicle: Being Select Trials for Adultery, Incest, Imbecillity, Ravishment, &C. … . printed for H. Lemoin, Bishopsgate Church-Yard, 1793.

The Cuckold’s Chronicle: Being Select Trials for Adultry, Incest, Imbecility, Ravishment, &C. Volume I. Printed for those who choose to purchase, 1798.

Frank, Frederick S.. Gothic Writers : A Critical and Bibliographical Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated, 2001.

The Inner Temple. “The Inner Temple Admissions Database.” The Inner Temple Admissions Database: Search Page, http://www.innertemplearchives.org.uk/search.asp#name, Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

Rider, Claire. “The Inner Temple.” The Inns Of Court And Inns Of Chancery And Their Records, Vol. XXIV No. 101, British Records Association, 1999, https://www.innertemple.org.uk/who-we-are/history/historical-articles/the-inns-of-court-and-inns-of-chancery-and-their-records/.


Researcher: Dorothea Starr LeBeau

Feudal Days

Feudal Days

Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw. An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century

Author: Unknown
Publisher: J. Bailey
Publication Year: 1820s
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.5cm x 16.5cm
Pages: 28
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.F462 n.d.


Published in the 1820s by an unknown author, this chapbook set in England features a disgraced outlaw obsessed with his rival’s daughter and a religious Prior determined to right the characters on the path of piety.


Material History

Feudal Days, a simple and small book, measures 16.5cm long by 10.5cm wide and contains twenty-eight pages. The book currently has no cover; the reader first encounters a blank yellowed page. All pages in the chapbook are brittle and thin; some are slightly ripped at the edges, and the pages’ top ends are all discolored brown. A small amount of black thread loosely links these pages together, although one can observe holes on the left size of pages where thread was likely once used to tightly bind the book.

The title page for Feudal Days

Opening the book, the reader will observe a pull-out frontispiece illustration on the left side of the first page and the title page on the right side. The title page contains the full title of the chapbook: Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw. An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century. The title appears in different variations throughout other places in the text. At the top of the first page of text, it appears as Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw without the second line, and at the top of all pages of text, it reads The Noble Outlaw; (on the left page) and Or, Feudal Days (on the right side), thus reversing the order seen on the title page. An author’s name does not appear throughout the chapbook; however, the name J. Bailey appears on the title page, the last page of text, and on the final two pages. These mentions reveal that J. Bailey of 116 Chancery Lane “printed and sold” the book and also published numerous other chapbooks listed on the last two pages of this chapbook. The title page finally lists the price of the chapbook—6 pence.

Venturing past the front pages of the book, the reader will notice that the body text is closely-set and single-spaced and that many pages do not have paragraph breaks. On most pages, the margins are roughly 1cm all around; between pages 22 and 24, the bottom margin increases slightly to 2cm. Pagination on the top of pages begins on the second page of body text at page 4 and continues to the last page of body text (26). In addition to pagination, publishers have included a few extra printed markings on the bottom of pages: “A2” is printed on what would be denoted page 3; “A3” is on page 5; “A4” on page 7; “A5” on page 9; and “B” is printed on page 25. These markings, called signature marks, were printed in order to aid the accuracy in the binding of the chapbook.

Although almost all of the book contains text without any illustration, the frontispiece on the opposite page from the title page provides the singular illustration, depicting a woman stabbing a man inside a cave that is decorated with a chandelier. This frontispiece is unique in the chapbook, both because it is the only use of color and because is the only exception to the dimensions of the chapbook: it folds outward to comprise an overall width of 21cm and height of 16.5cm. This page bears the captions of “FRONTISPIECE” above and a reference to the body text below: “Nay then Ermina, cried Rudolph, ‘I will not brook delay’—when, by one bold effort she released her hand, and seizing my shining sword”. The content of this caption, while not a direct quotation, is a condensed version of dialogue recounted on page 14 of the text; additionally, this caption is printed slightly off-the-page; for this reason, exact punctuation is uncertain.

While most attributes described in this chapbook are particular to the entire batch that this book was printed in, it is finally worthwhile to point out a few characteristics that are likely unique to this particular copy in the Sadlier-Black collection. Overall, this book is devoid of most markings. The three particular marks include potential pen markings in a straight line at the top of the final page, a circular mark which may be glue or wax, and a bit of blue color that has spotted the front and back pieces of the book, which may be the remnants of a cover or binding.


Textual History

In addition to the copy of Feudal Days held by the University of Virginia, WorldCat indicates that multiple other copies exist in print form in fifteen other libraries. These copies are not concentrated in one geographic region: a copy of Feudal Days can be found at four Canadian libraries, one United Kingdom library, two Spanish libraries, and nine United States libraries (including the University of Virginia). In addition to the print forms of Feudal Days, there is also another digitized copy of the book held by New York Public Library (NYPL), which is accessible through HathiTrust and Google Books.

The frontispiece for Feudal Days, featuring misprinted margins

Multiple factors support an inference that there were multiple printings of Feudal Days when it was originally published: first, the digitized NYPL copy available on HathiTrust includes an additional cover page that the University of Virginia copy does not have. This page includes a notation that the book was “Printed and Published by S. Carvalho, 18, West Place, Nelson Street, City of London”. A few pages later, the cover page indicating that the book was printed by J. Bailey is still included, and the rest of the book looks exactly identical to the version held by the University of Virginia. S. Carvalho may have reprinted the entire book or simply added an additional cover onto the original printing by J. Bailey. Second, the date that Google Books lists for the publication of the NYPL version of Feudal Days is 1829, but the University of Virginia library catalog indicates a date range of 1820 to 1829. While this may not alone be enough to pin down potentially different printings, the WorldCat catalog record for Feudal Days notes that, according to I. Maxted’s London Book Trades, J. Bailey operated at the printed address (116 Chancery Lane) only between 1808 and 1827, not 1829 (Maxted, cited in WorldCat Catalog Record). Regardless, the wide circulation of Feudal Days in international libraries indicates that even if the book only went through one printing, it may have been printed in large volumes.

WorldCat lists three contributors to Feudal Days: J. Bailey, George Cruikshank, and Friedrich Schiller. The British Museum states that J. Bailey was a British “publisher active between 1799 and 1825,” and that he traded with William Bailey, who may have been a family member, during the latter period of his flourishing years, 1823–1824 (“J Bailey”). In addition to the list of chapbooks printed by J. Bailey in the back of Feudal Days, the British Museum also lists a few prints and pamphlets printed by him, including “The life and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte,” which was illustrated by George Cruikshank, evidence that J. Bailey collaborated with Cruikshank on multiple occasions (“Pamphlet”). George Cruikshank is thought to be the illustrator or the author of Feudal Days according to different sources. Cruikshank (1792–1878) was a fairly prominent British graphic artist; he started his career as a caricaturist and then moved to book illustration. Some of his most notable works include working with Charles Dickens on illustrations for Oliver Twist from 1837–1843 and the famous temperance comic The Bottle in 1847 (Patten). Most sources, including HathiTrust and University of Virginia library catalog, credit Cruikshank with illustrations; however, Diane Hoeveler credits Cruikshank himself with adapting Friedrich Schiller’s play Die Räuber into Feudal Days (Hoeveler 197). Finally, Friedrich Schiller (1759­–1805) was a famous German playwright, poet, and philosopher (Witte). Schiller wrote his own unfinished gothic novel, The Ghost-Seer, but the most concrete link between Schiller and Feudal Days is the assertion that Feudal Days is based off an English translation of Schiller’s German drama Die Räuber (Andriopoloulos 1–2, Hoeveler 197).

The second-to-last page of Feudal Days, featuring advertisements for other books printed and sold by J. Bailey

Die Räuber is a drama about two brothers, one of whom is cast out by the father under the influence of the evil brother and who joins a band of outlaws. Although threads of outlawdom and banditti are common to Feudal Days, it seems that the plot of Feudal Days is not an exact adaptation of Die Räuber, primarily because it is missing the element of familial rivalry (“The Robbers”). However, an opera called The Noble Outlaw may also be a source of influence for Feudal Days. The Noble Outlaw, produced in 1815 in England, is “founded upon” Beaumont and Fletcher’s opera The Pilgrim (“Noble Outlaw” Theatrical 310). The Noble Outlaw is about an outlawed robber who returns to his beloved’s residence, disguised as a pilgrim, in order to leave with her (“Noble Outlaw” Monthly 302). As a resolution of the plot, the Outlaw of the opera saves his rival’s life, and “all ends happily” (“Noble Outlaw” Theatrical 311). Similar to Die Räuber, the common thread of outlawdom is present; in addition, plot points such as breaking into a woman’s home in a disguise and saving a rival’s life as a plot resolution are common to both the opera and Feudal Days. No source exists indicating that The Noble Outlaw specifically influenced Feudal Days, but given the time proximity and the name and plot similarities, this may be the case. As evidenced by a search on HathiTrust, there are many other chapbooks with “Feudal Days” or “The Noble Outlaw” constituting part of the title. Online copies of these other chapbooks are limited, so the degree to which these related works are similar is unknown. Therefore, Feudal Days could have other influences and could have influenced other works; at the same time, these numerous titles may indicate that “Feudal Days” and “Noble Outlaw” were simply popular book titles.

Notably inaccessible is information about Feudal Days’s marketing and reception during the time period, reprintings, prequels, and sequels, and any scholarly analysis of the book after its publication. One hypothesis for the absence of such information is that Feudal Days is one in a list of many gothic chapbooks published by J. Bailey during this time period, as evidenced by the final two pages of the chapbook listing other titles (Feudal Days 26–7). Therefore, Feudal Days might not have stood out amongst its counterparts enough to warrant independent reviews or scholarship. In sum, however, the information that can be gleaned about Feudal Days does lead to several inferences regarding its relative importance. First, given the numerous copies available of the book currently, it may have been fairly popular. Second, its plot may have been influenced by multiple, mixed-media sources, including well-known theatrical works like Die Räuber or The Pilgrim. Finally, one of Feudal Days’s potential contributors, George Cruikshank, would later achieve fairly notable status later in his career.


Narrative Point of View

The present-tense section of Feudal Days is narrated by a third-person anonymous narrator who never appears in the text. This narrator relies on recounting dialogue rather than independently describing or analyzing plot. While a minority of the story is recounted by this narrator in the present tense, the text also contains flashbacks and interpolated tales, narrated by the character who experienced the flashback. The majority of the text is spent on Rodolph’s interpolated tale, in which he recounts his descent into lawlessness. This tale is narrated in the first person by Rodolph, and every paragraph opens and closes with quotation marks, to indicate that Rodolph is telling his story during continuous conversation with Father Francis. Both the anonymous narrator and Rodolph often employ long sentences, containing multiple clauses joined by semicolons and oftentimes-unclear referential pronouns. Unlike the anonymous narrator, however, Rodolph utilizes elements of description and recounts his own feelings and state of mind, rather than simply narrating the dialogue of others.

Sample Passage from Rodolph’s Interpolated Tale:

“O, Ernulf! my friend, wealth, honour, fame, are now lost to me; malignant stars have crossed my fondest hopes; Rodolph no longer bears the name of brave, but skulks an outlaw, the meanest slave of passion, who, like the prowling monster of the forest, avoids pursuit, and sheds unguarded blood.” (7)

Sample Passage of Impersonal and Anonymous Third-Person Narrator:

“Hold! (cried the Prior) God commands that ye shall not proceed, re-sheath your swords, and release your captive.” Rodolph started, and gazed with amazement on the Prior. “What man art thou, (said he) that dare oppose my will; disclose to me thy name and purpose?” – “To preach repentance, (replied the prior) and to prevent evil.” Much more the Prior said, for he found that he had gained attention.

Rodolph raised his head, and gazing on the sky, an unwonted smile played o’er his features. “Thou holy man, (he kindly said) thy exhortations wind like infant tendrils round a sinner’s heart, and have taught my soul to know what constitutes true happiness on earth; thy words have chased error from my mind.” (18)

The anonymous narrator guides the reader along through the thoughts and lives of different characters without offering any independent commentary. The only character that the narrator independently comments on is the Prior, whom the narrator repeatedly describes as virtuous. This technique of guiding the narrative with a heavy focus on transcribing dialogue makes the characters of Feudal Days appear more developed than there may otherwise be space for in a twenty-eight-page chapbook. Additionally, the oftentimes-unclear sentences may require a second or third reading of a passage. These tactics combine to make the story appear longer and more action-heavy than what may be expected for a book of its size.

Rodolph’s narration, on the other hand, provides personal and descriptive insights, showcasing broader character development and highlighting Rodolph as the protagonist of the story. Rodolph is frequently over-dramatic, utilizing exaggerated similes such as, in the passage above, “like the prowling monster of the forest” to evoke his strong feelings and emphasize the weightiness of his tumult. The Prior’s eventual ability to calm even Rodolph’s tormented mind, as shown in the sample passage, lends extra weight to the anonymous narrator’s assertion that the Prior is inarguably virtuous. Although Rodolph’s style of narration may appear disjointed from the impersonal and brief narration of the rest of the chapbook, the fact that every paragraph of his tale is offset by quotation marks renders his interpolated tale as a long-form version of the dialogue relayed by the anonymous narrator. Therefore, Rodolph’s narrative style showcases an extended version of the character development tactic utilized by the anonymous narrator and is in fact consistent with the rest of the chapbook.


Summary

Feudal Days opens with a description of the Priory of Birkenhead, which sits close to the Mersey inlet, a place where ships frequently wreck. Beyond the inlet, there lies a “bleak and dreary” waste of vegetation; the pious father of the priory (the Prior) cautions travelers to avoid the “track on the right” when navigating through the waste and take the “track on the left” (3). 

On a dark night, the Prior summons one of his men, Father Francis, to accompany him down to the water so that they can encounter any struggling travelers and give them aid. As they walk down to the water, the Prior recalls when Francis was rescued in a similar condition—on a night like this, the Prior slipped and fell walking back up to the priory, and locked eyes with Francis, also suffering on the ground and exhausted due to the weather. The Prior called the other brothers of the priory, and the two men were brought up to the priory and nursed back to health.

Back in the present, the men complete their journey down to the water; as the night gets even darker, they decide to head back to the priory. Before they can leave, they catch a glimpse of a man “in warlike form” wielding a sword, but the figure disappears (5). When they return to the priory and go to sleep, the Prior is haunted by dreams related to that figure.

The next morning, Father Francis steals away from morning prayers to sit in solitude in a sea cave on Mersey’s shore. Father Francis recalls his life before becoming a priest, when he was called Ernulf. Father Francis, in mental turmoil, recounts his parting with his lover, Angela. Father Francis killed Angela’s husband, Arden; Angela also died that night in shock, despite her love for Francis. Francis pleads with God to “forgive their murders,” when, suddenly, he sees the warlike figure from last night (6). The figure turns out to be Francis’s old friend, Rodolph. Rodolph first provides clarity to Francis’s backstory, then launches into his own story, declaring himself an “outlaw” and the “meanest slave of passion” (7).

Rodolph was fighting on behalf of the current king, King Henry, against Henry’s rival Edward and commanding other lords to join the fight. Lord Silbert had not yet joined the fight for Henry, so Rodolph resolved to convince him. Rodolph traveled to Silbert’s estate, where he was received by the Lady of Lord Silbert and their daughter, Ermina. At dinner, Rodolph was not able to convince Silbert to join the fight for Henry; in fact, Silbert believed Henry’s rival Edward had a legitimate claim to the throne. The two men began trading threats of violence against each other and Rodolph left the estate quickly.

However, once Rodolph left the estate, he started thinking about Silbert’s daughter Ermina and her charms, quickly forgetting “his king, friends, and country” (9). Unable to gain access to the estate in a conventional fashion, he sought advice from his friend Lord Redwald, and decided to enter the mansion in the disguise of a peasant. When he revealed himself to Ermina inside the mansion, she told him that he had to leave; Rodolph then kidnapped Ermina with the help of Redwald’s men and brought her to Redwald’s mansion. Silbert, about to greet Edward’s troops, realized that Ermina had been taken. He later received word that a peasant had taken Ermina and offered a reward for intelligence about her whereabouts. Rodolph’s identity and location were betrayed for the reward, and Silbert arrived with his men at Redwald’s estate to fight for Ermina’s freedom. Redwald received a fatal wound during the fight with Silbert’s army, but before he died, he conveyed knowledge of a secret passageway within his mansion that could be used as an escape, and Rodolph, his men, and Ermina left via that route.

Page 14 of the main text, depicting Rodolph and Ermina’s confrontation in the cave

Once they left the castle and found themselves in nature, Rodolph turned his attention back to Ermina, whose affections towards him had not warmed. She told Rodolph that she would not marry him until her father consented, but he resolved to marry her quickly and have her “share [his] couch tonight” despite her wishes (13). He had Ermina brought “shrieking” to his cavern, and told Ermina to swear to be his (13). Before Rodolph could rape Ermina, Ermina seized Rodolph’s own sword and plunged it into his bosom. She thanked God for preserving her honor, then fled from the area.

The next day, Rodolph came to and heard that Ermina had vanished without a trace. Walking around the area with one of his men, Edric, he saw a stranger, who asked him where to find the “lawless” Rodolph (15). Rodolph dueled with this man, killed him, and read his dispatches. According to these papers, a reward of 500 marks was placed on Rodolph’s head, his lands had been bestowed to Silbert, and his mansion had been used by the rival Edward’s troops. With that development, Rodolph ends his backstory, lamenting his new position as an outlaw. Francis states that the turn of events is beneficial, for Rodolph would have violated Ermina’s honor for a few seconds of pleasure, and invites Rodolph to join the priory for the day and give his penitence.

Meanwhile, another stranger—Lord Silbert—knocks on the door of the priory and asks to stay a night before he continues on his journey. The next morning, Silbert is guided along his journey by one of the priory’s domestics, Gaspar. The Prior watches them leave and realizes that Gaspar is leading Silbert along the wrong path to the right, contrary to the Prior’s constant warnings. On this wrong path, an armed band attacks Silbert, and he is about to die when Rodolph shows up and saves Silbert’s life. Rodolph now has Silbert at his mercy, and demands that Silbert give away Ermina to him. Silbert refuses, and then the Prior shows up to intercede. He urges Rodolph to not keep Silbert captive, and Rodolph quickly acquiesces to his exhortations. Rodolph asks Silbert for forgiveness and pledges to find Ermina for him, and Silbert quickly forgives Rodolph and thanks him for saving his life. As they are about to return to the convent, they come across the wounded Gaspar, who betrayed Silbert. The Prior tells Gaspar that he must repent, and Gaspar reveals that beneath this hill lies a secret cavern where a band of murderers, his companions, live.

Rodolph and Silbert resolve to raid this secret cavern. Once they enter the cavern, they find it fully decorated and quickly kill all of the banditti. They also free a woman who had been kneeling before the chief of the band pleading for mercy. This woman is revealed as Ermina, who was taken by this band when she fled from Rodolph. The chief of the banditti took a liking to her, and threatened to kill her unless she consented to marry him.

After the battle is over, the Prior enters the cavern with a messenger of Silbert, who tells Rodolph that if he swears allegiance to Edward and lays down his arms, he will not only be pardoned, but given a royal favor. Rodolph agrees because King Henry is dead and King Edward has the mandate of the people, and Silbert and Rodolph pledge allegiance to each other.

As the party walks back to the priory, they spot a priest, falling into the water. The priest dies soon after and is revealed as Father Francis. Despite this development, the characters of the book wrap up their story happily—Silbert gives Ermina as a gift to Rodolph and consents to their marriage, Silbert and Rodolph give Lord Redwald a proper burial, and King Edward declares that the men can destroy the robber’s cave and give the proceeds to be split amongst his followers. When the Prior dies a few years later, they all mourn “the good man’s death” together (26). 


Bibliography

Andriopoloulos, Stefan. “Occult Conspiracies: Spirits and Secrets in Schiller’s Ghost Seer.” New German Critique, vol. 35, no. 1, 2008, pp. 65­–81.

Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw: An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century. London, J. Bailey, n.d.

Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw: An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century. London, J. Bailey, 182-. HathiTrust Digital Library. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433112071521&view=1up&seq=11.

“J Bailey.” The British Museum, n.d., https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/AUTH227817.

Hoeveler, Diane L. “Prose Fiction: Zastrossi, St. Irvyne, The Assassins, The Coliseum.” The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley, edited by Michael O’Neill et al. Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 193–208.

Maxted, Ian. The London Book Trades 1775–1800: A Preliminary Checklist of Members. Dawson, 1977.

“The Noble Outlaw.” The Monthly Theatrical Reporter, vol. 1, no. 8, 1815, pp. 301–303. ProQuest.

The Noble Outlaw.” Theatrical Inquisitor, and Monthly Mirror, Feb.1813–June 1819, vol. 6, 1815, pp. 310–312. ProQuest.

“Pamphlet, Frontispiece, Print.” The British Museum, n.d. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1867-1214-1577

Patten, Robert L. “Cruikshank, George.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 25 May 2006.

“The Robbers: drama by Schiller.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 29 September 2011, https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Robbers.

Witte, William. “Friedrich Schiller: German writer.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 31 May 2007, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Friedrich-Schiller/additional-info#history.


Researcher: Lydia McVeigh

Angelina; Or, The Mystery of St. Mark’s Abbey

Angelina; Or, The Mystery of St. Mark’s Abbey

Angelina; Or, The Mystery of St. Mark’s Abbey. A Tale of Other Days

Author: Thomas Peckett Prest
Publisher: Edward Lloyd
Publication Year: 1841
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 14 x 21.5 cm
Pages: 236
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .P74 An 1841


Angelina is one of Thomas Peckett Prest’s serialized works from 1841 that centers around murder, mystery, and forbidden love.


Material History

The novel, having come out in serialized parts, was likely assembled by a G. Sharpe, whose name is handwritten on this page prior to the title page. The book was probably popular at the time and its ownership most likely transferred, leading this writing to be crossed out.

Angelina: Or, the Mystery of St. Mark’s Abbey. A Tale of Other Days by Thomas Peckett Prest was published in 1841 in serialized parts. Releasing the novel in parts lowered the cost of producing the book as a whole. Each section would have been sold using an image on the first page of the part as an incentive to purchase it. For this reason, each page with an image has a corresponding label at the bottom of the page to signify its order among the parts. The parts were presumably compiled by a G. Sharpe, whose signature appears on the blank pages prior to the assembled novel’s frontispiece and title page. Along with his signature is the date handwritten as follows: July 16, 1841. However, the name and date are crossed out, implying that this edition had multiple owners.

The book is bound in a cloth detailed with an artificially ingrained texture. Sharpe chose to use leather on the edges of the cover and the binding of the spine which has kept the exterior of the book in great condition for its age. The pages are speckled with red thinned out paint which was a common aesthetic for nineteenth-century books. The book is in very good condition due to the binding that Sharpe chose for the book. However, the pages have become slightly yellow and brittle with age. There are some pages that were saturated by a substance as well as a few torn pages that have been mended by the Special Collections archivists. The book was easily elegant in its day, as can be seen through the careful measures taken by Sharpe in binding it. The worn quality of Angelina demonstrates its popularity when Prest was at the prime of his career.

The detail in the images of Angelina are impressive compared to other texts of its days, displaying aesthetic visions specific to the author. Images during the Gothic period of literature were produced through making woodblock prints. Such prints were created by physically carving into wood to create the desired image. They would have been lined up with the text and inked during the printing process. At the beginning of the book, opposite the title page, is a frontispiece, which is the largest image in the book and the only image that possesses a quote. It reads, “They soon entered a spacious and lofty cavern, round which were piled on immense number of casks, chests, bales of goods, while arms and ammunition were there in abundance.” This sentence describes the setting most important to the narration in Angelina.

The frontispiece was created by a woodblock print, meaning that the artist carved wood with precision to create such images. This is the only image in the novel that has a quote beneath it which describes the setting central to the novel. Across from the frontispiece is the title page that includes the full title and a list of Prest’s other works below his name.

As to the type itself, the font size is much smaller than is usually seen today. The margins are typical in size, yet there is no inner margin which is a current stylistic feature for books. The images are placed every four pages on the front of the right page since it was released as parts rather than an entire novel. The images are a page and a half in size, featuring artistry of woodblock printed images that are hard to come by anymore.


Textual History

Angelina: Or, the Mystery at St. Mark’s Abbey was published in 1841 by Edward Lloyd of London. Lloyd regulated many newspapers, the most successful of them being Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper and The Penny Sunday Times and People’s Police Gazette; Angelina was published in the latter. He gained the nickname “father of the cheap press” as he sought to bring exciting literary works to the lower classes. Lloyd played a part in history through assisting the rise of the serial novel in which a new part would appear in successive weekly editions of a newspaper. Angelina, in particular, is one of many of Prest’s successful serial novels that appeared courtesy of Lloyd and his work as a newspaper proprietor. Journalist Anne Humphrey’s states that “perhaps half of Lloyd’s penny bloods” were written by Prest, who was “one of his most prolific and most successful authors”. The significance of the serial novel and the success of Angelina are both referenced in the preface of the novel Angelina.

This page of Angelina is missing letters in many places.

Interestingly, the edition of the novel housed in the Sadleir-Black Collection does not include a preface at all, though a preface does appear in other editions. The preface can be found online through a scanned edition published courtesy of the New York Public Library on Google Books. 

The preface functions as both a historical reference as well as an advertisement. The first paragraph of the preface discusses the popularity of Angelina upon its release in the “penny” press, which led its pieces to later be compiled into a novel format. The author of the preface informs the readers that Angelina’s pieces were originally published in The Penny Sunday Times and People’s Police Gazette

Prest appears most frequently in scholarly works related to his involvement with the serial novels of the penny press. Prest’s work in particular falls under the category of penny dreadfuls, or the terror genre of the penny press. This nineteenth-century phenomena began through its reproduction of eighteenth century gothic fiction via cheap means. Currently, only one of Prest’s works, The String of Pearls is more widely recognized as a significant and impactful part of this literature.

Though there is a lack of information on Prest himself, the author obviously sought to promote himself through an advertisement which is the second half of the preface. The phrase “New and Entirely Original Tale of Romance and Pathos” along with Prest’s upcoming works Emily Fitzomord; Or, The Deserted One and The Death Grasp; Or, A Father’s Curse emphasize the importance in self-promotion for both Lloyd and Prest.

Despite their combined efforts, Prest experienced a success limited to his day and age as only one of his characters is truly known today. However, Angelina, being one of Prest’s earlier works, most likely influenced the author’s writing style and, therefore, his subsequent works. In particular, the elements of terror in Angelina were just the beginning of Prest’s concepts that would appear in The String of Pearls. The latter work was adapted for the theatre which debuted in March of 1847 and is the basis for the modern-day movie adaptation Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (“Sweeney Todd”). While Angelina can be found in modern day print published by HardPress and accessible via Kindle. Its current lack of reviews allude to the lack of popularity Prest receives today. The String of Pearls, on the other hand, can be readily found in print and in theatrical adaptation.


Narrative Point of View

Angelina: Or, The Mystery of St. Mark’s Abbey is told through third-person omniscient narration. The narrator does not play an active role in the storyline; however, they hardly makes himself known until the end of the novel, when the backstories of characters are finally revealed. At this point, they speak directly to the reader before divulging events of the past that have remained hidden. Overall, the narration is very detailed and elaborative, yet the narrator remains detached in their descriptions of events and emotions. The narrator follows the protagonist, Angelina, until she becomes separated from her loved ones, which happens frequently in the novel. When Angelina gets kidnapped, the narrator proves their omniscient perspective in cycling through each scenario for Angelina, her Uncle Woodfield, and her lover Hugh Clifford.

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration: 

Saint Mark’s Abbey had evidently been a splendid edifice, but it had been left to decay for many years, and few persons in the place would venture to approach it after night-fall, for, like most old buildings, it was reported to be haunted, and many appalling legends were related by the old gossips, as they sat trembling before their blazing fire on a winter evening, concerning the dreadful crimes which had been perpetrated within its mouldering walls. The more reasonable, and less superstitious portion of the community, however, accounted for the noises that had been heard to issue at various periods from the gothic pile, in a far more probable way; and it was strongly suspected that the abbey was, in fact, the retreat of a gang of robbers or smugglers—more particularly the latter, and although the proper authorities had hitherto failed in making any satisfactory discovery, it was still hoped that they would succeed ere long in doing so, and in setting all doubts upon the subject at rest. (2)

In this passage, the narrator is describing the setting most central to the novel, St. Mark’s Abbey, or what is left of it. The description of the abbey is done through focusing on the conditions surrounding the ruins, which sets the tone for the setting itself. The narrator uses their omniscience to impart the emotions of the surrounding peoples who keep their distance from the ruins, regardless of what they believe. The narrator first relays the more superstitious group of people who have heard rumors of terrible crimes being committed within its now decaying walls. After this, the narrator describes the more realistic option, which foreshadows the end of the novel when it is revealed that Angelina’s mother, Matilda, and her mother’s cousin, Emmeline, are still alive. The narrator’s knowledge of both scenarios reflects their omniscience.

Sample Passage of Direct Address:

We will now proceed to detail the particulars of the “strange eventful history” connected with the principle characters in our narrative, and with which the reader is, no doubt, anxious to be made acquainted. (215)

This passage occurs at the end of the novel, just before the backstories are revealed. The narrator uses the pronoun “we” to describe who is telling the story, an intimacy that is reinforced by the inclusion of the word “our” later in the sentence. Interestingly, the narrator, who usually sets the mood though their lengthy descriptions, here decides to directly address the readers. By saying that the reader is “no doubt, anxious to be made acquainted,” the narrator breaks the fourth wall, reminding the reader of the fictive nature of the content in making a clear cut between the present and the past.


Summary

The novel begins with the protagonist, Angelina, who is accompanied by her cousin, Lauren Woodfield. While in the deserted ruins of St. Mark’s Abbey, the young ladies see the apparition of a woman that warns Angelina not to return there for her own safety. However, Angelina’s brave spirit only causes her to become increasingly curious as she sees another apparition while exploring a nearby cavern during a storm. This apparition is a handsome man that plays the flute and appears later in Angelina’s dreams. Upon waking from this dream, Angelina returns to the cave, this time finding a door leading to a gallery. Coincidentally, this gallery belongs to St. Mark’s Abbey. To her surprise, Angelina finds she is not alone when she sees the villainous Baron de Morton and his servant Rufus. The pair are quietly discussing a terrible secret. Angelina accidently reveals herself to the Baron, who becomes frightened upon believing her to be a ghost related to his dark deeds. The narrator here divulges the Baron’s history, most importantly stating the interesting nature of his brother’s disappearance followed by his marriage to a widowed baroness. Angelina then overhears a conversation between Rufus and the Baron, in which they speak about Angelina and proclaim that she must die. Angelina returns home shaken.

The cover of the book is cloth detailed with an artificially ingrained texture.

The first apparition of the woman returns, this time visiting Angelina’s uncle, Arthur Woodfield, with whom she lives. The apparition speaks to him privately, causing Arthur to be stern during an unexpected meeting with the Baron when he shows up at the Woodfield’s. Afterwards, the Baron leaves obviously upset and Arthur refuses to talk to his family about either the Baron or the woman. The only insight he gives them is through the promise he forces Angelina to make: she can never return to the Abbey.

Despite her promise, Angelina returns many weeks later, this time discovering a sliding picture frame that conceals a room similar to Angelina’s dreams. She witnesses a woman running about the ruins but she refuses to speak and runs away instead. Upon searching the premises, she is startled upon finding a chest containing bones. Angelina resolves to leave but runs into the Baron, who is frightened of her, initially believing her to be a ghost. Suddenly, the Baron grabs her arm and attempts to end her life, just as she had experienced in her dreams. The flute-playing apparition appears and saves her from the Baron, revealing himself to actually be a young man. Without introducing himself, he makes it obvious that he wants to protect Angelina. The next night, Angelina hears a sweet melody coming from beyond her window; she looks out to see the stranger once again. 

The next day, Angelina is wandering outside, contemplating her feelings toward the mysterious stranger, when he appears and admits his feelings towards her, presenting her with a miniature of himself. That evening, while exploring the cavern, she sees the handsome stranger with some smugglers. Angelina is captured and taken aboard a ship by a different group of bandits. They eventually reach land, where she discovers she has been captured under the designs of the Baron, who questions her of her origins and her parents; Angelina knows none of her descent beyond the Woodfields. Bridget, who resents being married to one of the bandits, takes care of Angelina. It is only after Angelina attempts to make her solo escape that Bridget opens up to her. The castle where Angelina is being held captive has a dark history including the possible murder of the Baron’s brother who mysteriously disappeared; this information is striking to Angelina as she has felt a cold arm on her every night as she sleeps. Bridget then hints towards the portrait on the wall, behind which is a doorway that leads to a room where Angelina can overhearing the Baron’s conversation with Rufus. The Baron states that his suspicions have been confirmed and Angelina must be executed; Rufus  tells him to wait. Shaken by these comments, Angelina puts her faith in Bridget, who sacrifices herself to save Angelina. 

Returning to the Woodfields, the narrator reveals that the female apparition is actually a woman known as Kate of the Ruins who is friends with the mysterious stranger and smuggler, Hugh Clifford, or Angelina’s mysterious stranger. After Kate seeks out Arthur, Hugh reveals his plans to rescue her; Bridget aids them. Kate speaks to Angelina, warning her against reciprocating the flirtatious nature of her relationship with Hugh. Later that night, Angelina wakes to see yet another apparition giving her a kiss on the cheek, which Kate attributes to her imagination. However, Bridget had mentioned that Kate of the Ruins was in touch with the supernatural and had bewitched the grounds of St. Mark’s Abbey. 

The next day Angelina and her uncle return home, only to hear a knock on the door and find Hugh, wounded. The Woodfields take care of him and Laura senses the romantic tension between Angelina and Hugh. Despite Kate’s warning, the affections between the pair only intensify until Arthur catches them during a rendezvous. Arthur reprimands them both and is backed up by the sudden appearance of Kate, who reminds them of the conversations she had with each of them. Their forced separation leads to despair for all parties involved. Angelina’s aunt and cousin question Arthur’s decision; he responds ambiguously, expressing empathy yet stating that the pair cannot be. Kate makes Angelina promise not to become involved with Hugh, revealing that she is speaking on behalf of Angelina’s deceased mother. The sight of her mother baffles her as it is the same apparition who kissed her on the cheek earlier. Angelina’s depressive state convinces Arthur to send Angelina to stay with Mrs. Montmorency, a distant relative whose daughter, Charlotte, is around the same age as Angelina. 

This image shows Angelina’s surprise in observing the apparition of her mother. This is the beginning of the seventeenth part of this serially published novel. Small woodblock images are placed at the beginning of each part as incentive to buy and read it.

A few months later, Angelina looks out the window to see that Hugh has found her. The pair argue about their fate due to his persistence in finding her, but they are interrupted by ruffians who kidnap them. Ruthven takes Angelina to an underground dungeon in which she hears the moans of someone suffering; the Baron shows her that it is Bridget and she passes out. When Angelina comes to in a nice room, the Baron enters, proceeding to profess his love for her but is steadily refused; he attempts to bribe her with Hugh’s freedom and refrains from kissing her when he looks upon the painting behind her in fear. Angelina is reunited with Bridget, who has healed and is to be contained with her. Bridget goes on to tell her story, which is very similar to Angelina’s; however, in this case, it was Bridget’s parents who forbid their relationship, believing the façade that Rufus showed them. She married Rufus against her will, after which they eventually ended up at the old Grey Tower. It was then that Rufus left, returning with Angelina in tow. When it was discovered that Bridget helped Angelina escape, she is tortured and nearly dies of starvation. Bridget then discloses information about Ophelia de Morton, the woman in the portrait, whom she says that Angelina resembles. She speaks of the mysterious death of Ophelia’s husband, Baron Edward de Morton. Shortly after, the baroness married Edward’s brother since she was carrying his child. The baroness, referred to as the “Lady of White,” was brought to the old Grey Tower, where she bore a stillborn child, although there is said to be some doubt about its fate. It is said that this Lady’s musical talents, once heard in the tower, can still be heard from the ruins of St. Mark’s Abbey. After this bonding experience, Bridget and Angelina are forced onto a boat.

Meanwhile, Ms. Montmorency and Charlotte look for Angelina and write to Mr. Woodfield about her disappearance after they find blood near her miniature of Hugh. Mr. Woodfield persists on seeing the baroness Orillia, Baron de Morton’s wife, to demand the Baron’s location, explaining the situation to her. She is flustered as he catches her in the middle of an affair and is uncompromising as she thinks that Angelina is replacing her in the eyes of her husband. Mr. Woodfield responds by hinting at having more noble blood than she does. The baroness feels vengeful towards Angelina and sends for the Marquis Florendos, whom she has grown fond of, so he can assassinate them. 

Mr. Woodfield leaves knowing he must get justice for both himself and the baroness to protect his niece. He becomes suspicious of the help from Kate of the Ruins, but she changes his mind in revealing her knowledge of his true identity, Sir Eustace Arlingham, and produces a treasure which he had left in the ruins of the Abbey years ago. The pair proceed to talk about his long-deceased sister Emmeline, who she reveals herself to be. She admits to him that Angelina is not her child and that Angelina’s mother, baroness Matilda de Morton, is alive. Furthermore, she states that Hugh is her child but he has yet to find out. Emmeline explains that her and Matilda have been watching over Angelina and assures him of her own innocence. He believes her and follows her to the vaults in which Matilda has been living.

Returning to Hugh’s circumstances, he is being held captive and losing hope for his lover, Angelina. He is saved by Winston, a former crew member of his, who is sent to attend to him. The pair leave together, explaining the reasoning behind Bridget and Angelina’s sudden leave from the old Grey Tower.

The ship carrying Bridget and Angelina wrecks, and the pair miraculously end up at the fisherman’s hut where Hugh and Winston are taking shelter. They all return home the day after Emmeline’s confession, but before their lineage can be exposed, the baroness Matilda enters, giving in to Angelina’s cries for her mother.

The narrator goes on to tell the story of the family Arlingham, which was of wealthy and noble descent. Lady Emmelina and Sir Eustace are the children of Sir Edward Arlighman and the baroness Arlingham. The four of them lived in a castle with their cousin, the orphan child of the baroness’ sister. After the sudden death of the baroness, Sir Edward passed away, leaving Eustace in charge of himself, his sister, and their cousin. Eustace and Matilda both found lovers who got along with one another as well as Emmeline. One day, the five of them witness a shipwreck which leads to their meeting of Sir Vincent Rosenford and his two companions. Upon seeing Vincent, Eustace’s wife shudders at him and begins to go mad. Sir Vincent and one of his companions, Lord Dalton, make frequent visits, and Lord Dalton eventually asks for Emmeline’s hand. Eustace urges her to marry him and she eventually gives in. However, after a short period, she elopes with Sir Vincent. As a result, Eustace’s wife gets deathly sick but has one last period of reason in which she admits that Sir Vincent was her first love and that they had an affair after his repeated visits and persistence with her. With this confession, she passes away. Eustace’s bad luck continues as Emmeline’s story is viewed as scandalous, causing him to lose his title in the court. Before he can receive a prison sentence, he escapes on a ship headed to Flanders, where he recreates his identity and eventually remarries. One day, he finds a baby at his door with a note from Emmeline to take care of her child, which she wanted to name Angelina.

Returning to present day, Emmeline apologizes to Eustace and points out that he should not have forced her into marriage. She then explains that her marriage with Lord Dalton became a good one, and that she actually bore his child, contrary to rumors. However, Lord Vincent Rosenford followed her and confessed his love, becoming cynical upon her denial of him. He told her that she should not deny him and proceeded to kidnap her while she is on a walk one evening. Emmeline expresses the anguish she felt as she was forced upon a ship that was then destroyed by a storm. It was not until after this event that she met Captain Clifford, who saved her and her infant son from drowning. Captain Clifford then became a smuggler, but he continued to look after Emmeline’s child. Emmeline recalls that he made a vow to be another parent to the child regardless of circumstance. Emmeline had then attempted to return home only to hear of Eustace’s scandals, which she emphasizes are now irrelevant. Shortly after, Emmeline returned to Captain Clifford and was introduced to his wife, who also takes pity on her. Emmeline also sought out her cousin’s current husband, the Baron de Morton, brother of her prior husband. To her shock, he informed her that the baroness has passed away. Unfortunately, it was upon her return to the Cliffords in which she was kidnapped, this time by Rufus and some ruffians; she was taken to the old Grey Tower. Upon her escape, she returned to the Cliffords to find that his wife has passed away, causing him to return to sea with her child, Hugh. Luckily, having possession of some money allowed Emmeline to return to a place that Captain Clifford had shown her, which was connected to the ruins of an old abbey, which the readers know as St. Mark’s Abbey. To her astonishment, Emmeline finds the baroness Matilda there. Emmeline then stops her narrative there, requesting that the baroness herself iterate the rest of the story. After the baroness refuses, Emmeline continues, telling of the cruel manner in which Matilda’s second husband treated her.

After forcing a secret marriage in the middle of the night, the baron stole her away to the old Grey Tower, in which she bore him a baby girl. Matilda was told that her baby was a stillborn; however, she felt that the baron was somehow responsible not only for the fate of their child, but for the mysterious disappearance of her first husband. After Matilda healed, she sought out her old nurse, explaining the situation to her. She instead found the daughter of her nurse, who was told by her husband of the deliverance of a baby to their neighbors. Matilda ran next door, looked upon the baby, and instantly recognized her as her own. The baroness also recognized a mark of companionship on her daughter’s arm, signifying that it was Bridget’s parents who saved baby Angelina. Matilda resolved then to live in the abbey, following the same line of thought as Emmeline in seeking shelter in the supposedly haunted place. In this way, Matilda and Emmeline were reunited. Captain Clifford returned, informing Matilda that her child was being attended to by a nearby nurse. The women related to him their plan of being covert in order to deliver retribution. Emmeline then relates that it was her who delivered the baby to Eustace so that he would care for the child. Emmeline recalls having been worried about the locket which she had left with Angelina; Eustace recalls his curiosity about it initially. 

The storyline ends here as Emmeline concludes by coming back to her warnings to Eustace, Hugh, and Angelina, which can be understood as prevented due to its ill-timing as this was before the true nature of their births were revealed. The book finishes with a conclusion that doles out poetic justice. Sir Eustace Arlingham seeks justice via the court for himself, his sister, and their cousin. The king pities them and returns to them their respective riches and titles, having heard some news of the baron’s death along with his confessions of treason. Emmeline is reunited with her husband, and Hugh with his true parents. Orillia shamefully runs off with the Marquis Florendos after hearing word of her husband’s death. Angelina and Hugh get married and are surprised when they are approached by Bridget, who was miraculously cured. These three live together in their castle near the Woodfields and the Daltons. Angelina’s cousin, Laura, finds a gentleman whom she marries. Lady de Morton revives the abbey and the narrator explains the use of Emmeline’s scare tactics, such as the chest of bones, to ward of any early discovery of the pair’s plot. The author ends with “Thus, then, do we end ‘This round unvarnished tale’”—referring to the cyclic tropes of the novel and of life in general (236).


Bibliography

Humpherys, Anne. “Edward Lloyd.” British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820-1880, edited by Patricia Anderson and Jonathan Rose, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 106. Detroit, Michigan, Gale, 1991. Literature Resource Center.

“Preface” to Angelina; or, The Mystery of St. Mark’s Abbey. A Tale of Other Days by Thomas Prest. London, Edward Lloyd, 1841 via Google Books.<https://books.google.com/booksid=UQUoAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>

Prest, Thomas. Angelina; or, The Mystery of St. Mark’s Abbey. A Tale of Other Days. London, Edward Lloyd, 1841.

“Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.pbs.org/kqed/demonbarber/penny/index.html.


Researcher: Samara Rubenstein

Roxalana

Roxalana

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother. An Historic Tale

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Ann Lemoine and J. Roe
Publication Year: 1806
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11.5cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .R736 1806


Published in 1806 by an unknown author, Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother is tragic tale of family disputes and an undying jealousy leading to a family’s demise.


Material History

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother. An Historic Tale is a gothic text in English originally published in London by an unknown author. The text comes in the form of a chapbook with no indication of the title on the cover page, however we do know it was published in 1806 and “by and for J. Roe.” As the book was gifted to the Sadlier-Black Collection, there is no concrete history of the potential author or the context in which it was written. The title appears often, most notable on the inside of the cover page and again on the second page. Its first appearance is under a black and white illustration depicting the inside of a living room and a woman who we can assume to be the stepmother. The illustration is carefully drawn with meticulous lines shaping the room and person within. The second page portrays the title in large, spacious lettering in black ink with still no indication of the author. The title appears again at the top of every page as Roxalana.

These pages capture the illustration and title page for the opening of the chapbook

The chapbook itself is only 36 pages long with a length of 11.5 cm, its size is quite a bit smaller than the average hand. The condition of the text is extremely fragile with the first and last page hardly retaining their attachment to the rest of the pages. The paper is very thin and brittle, banded simply together with no distinct border. The faint binding remnants reflect a somewhat thicker cardboard material decorated with once brown and gold details. The only stylistic elements on the cover page is the faint impression of the illustration on the inside cover. We can easily observe the delicate nature of the chapbook, with the yellowing brown pages and pages threatening to fall out. Its worn state indicates its usage and its light weight contributed to its easy, cheap exchange. As the illustration is also in black and white, we can expect this book to have cost a small amount of money.

When analyzing the inside of the book, we can see the font is precise and aligned to allow greater space on the inner margins of the pages as opposed to the outer margins. Despite this, there is not a lot of blank space as the words have assumed a large portion of the compact page. The font initially seems small, however it still allows for easy reading without an overcrowding of words. There are no other illustrations within the chapbook save for the illustration on the inside of the cover page. In exploring potential signs to indicate prior ownership, there are no visible marks in the text nor on the cover pages; there are no stamps, stains, or names besides “I. Roe.” Staying true to making the most of out of the available space, the ending of the book finishes on the second side of the last page. Despite the compact size, the story covers a large amount of geographical space within the Middle East; this contrast seems to give the physicality of the chapbook another dimension.


Textual History

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother, An Historic Tale was published in 1806 by John Roe and Ann Lemoine and printed by Thomas Maiden in London. The author of the text is unknown and there are no concrete sources definitely tracing a potential author. John Roe and Ann Lemoine were book publishers in the late eighteenth century; both partook in bookselling and often worked alongside Thomas Maiden to publish numerous texts. However, because of the sheer number of books these three collectively worked on, there is still no positive inclination towards one particular author of Roxalana. Despite this ambiguity, there are a few avenues that can provide for greater contextualization of the story.

One of the inside pages containing text of Roxalana

This text is a chapbook published in English. There are no prefaces, introductions, prequels, or sequels to further guide the direction of the narrative. In approaching Roxalana through a historical lens, however, the character is indeed based off of a real historical figure in the 1500s, Aleksandra Lisovska or Hurrem Sultan in Turkish. Roxalana was a Slavic woman who was sold into the slave market at a young age to an acquaintance of Sultan Suleiman. Soon thereafter, she entered the harem and eventually became the legal wife of the sultan, a feat considered quite extraordinary. She bore him five sons and amounted a great deal of power over the course of her relationship. In grappling with Roxalana from this perspective, the reader can see the realistic aspects of the story as it derives from a nonfiction narrative (Parry).

An earlier version of Roxalana appeared in The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer in 1769 as The History of Mustapha and Roxalana. The content of the story mirrors the 1806 version despite the changes in details and writing. In the 1769 story, a major difference in the plot is the father killing one of the sons rather than servants proceeding with the murder.

Another version appears in The British Moralist; or, Young Gentleman and Lady’s Polite Preceptor, a two-volume collection of “novels, tales, fables, visions, dreams, allegories” published in 1771. The collection’s title page lists several authors and then further indicates the inclusion of other “Celebrated Moderns.” Within this collection, Roxalana appears in The Merciless Mother-in-law; or, The History of Mustapha and Roxalana; a story similar to the 1806 version and the authorship listed as“from Dr. Robertson’s Charles the Fifth” (276). Dr. William Robertson was a Scottish minister and Principal of the University of Edinburgh, his work History of Charles the Fifth is part of a larger volume of works. His work A History of the Middle Ages: Describing the Progress of Society in Europe from the Subversion of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the sixteenth century extensively covers historical and geographical details, such as a deeper look into the Ottoman Empire, omitted from other versions.

The multiple versions in addition to the 1806 printing indicate that there was a market for this story. The various places Roxalana can be located also implies that the audience ranged from those who could only afford chapbooks to those who had the money to purchase Dr. Robertson’s historical books. There are no reviews of the story that can readily be found in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century newspapers, however Roxalana reflects a longer tradition of European fascination with the Middle East.


Narrative Point of View

Roxalana, or the Stepmother is narrated from a third-person point of view. The narrator remains anonymous and never self-identifies through any means throughout the story. The narrator uses simple yet regal language; the plot is not overly detailed, however the specific vocabulary used reflects royal aura of the main ruling family. Further, the narrator is very exact in tone as the story unfolds and the audience is invited to read the story as if it were true. This echoes in the latter half of the title—An Historic Tale—as the narrator contextualizes the tale by providing historic details and geographical mobility. While the narrator does not provide excessive details, the narration still offers interiority of the multiple characters in a transparent, thorough way.

Sample Passage:

Roxalana being now raised in a co-partnership in the empire, and absolute mistress of the Sultan’s will, took upon her the administration of affairs; and soon made those that composed the Ottoman court, feel the powerful effects of her hatred or good-will. Her aversion for Mustapha increased with the report of his virtues, and her blind tenderness for Bajazet with the knowledge of his vices. She even thought it her duty to repair his visible defects, by the procession of an empire, and that a dignity of that high nature was alone capable of justifying her ill-grounded preference. As for Selim, a blended mixture of vice and good qualities composed his character; and if he sympathised in any thing with Bajazet, it was only in their desire of reigning. (8)

In this passage, the style of the narrator is evident, displaying evocations of empire and a regal atmosphere. While the focus is on Roxalana’s thoughts, the narrator also codes Mustapha, Bajazet, and Selim by explaining just enough for the audience to understand their respective characters. Another significant feature of the narrative style is how the narrator is able to adopt a classic oral storytelling voice.  


Summary

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother, An Historic Tale centers on a royal Turkish family in the Ottoman Empire period. The story opens up with a discussion of women and their feminine charm, specifically how women can manipulate their charm to be powerful enough to rule over men and societies.

The first page with the beginning of Roxalana

The narrator then introduces the family through this sentiment by bringing in Solyman, the current Sultan, and characterizing him as a just, respected ruler. Solyman had a Georgian wife, who passed away, with whom he had his first son, Mustapha. Solyman continues to have affairs with other women and a particularly powerful relationship with one Turkish servant, Roxalana. The story describes Roxalana as an evil stepmother capable of severe malevolence and intensely wicked in intention and actions. Together, Roxalana and Solyman have four boys and one daughter: Mahomet, Selim, Bajazet, Zeangir, and Cameria.

Solyman’s prized possession is his first son Mustapha and it is through this love that Mustapaha eventually marries and becomes a respected Prince of Amazia, a neighboring region. Roxalana utterly despises Mustapha and desires her son, Bajazet, to be the successor after Solyman’s death. To execute such a role, she realizes the importance of formally wedding Solyman and thus deceives a religious figure into blessing the matrimony of the pair; she then unleashes her limitless cruelty in securing her son’s position as Sultan. Bajazet and Selim take after their mother’s temperament while Zeangir imitates Mustapha’s renowned demeanor, prompting him to join Mustapha. During Zeangir’s stay with Mustapha they fall into battle with the Sophi of Persia and his army, resulting in Mustapha’s win over the Sophi. Mustapha’s grace extends to even the war prisoners, creating an almost peaceful, mediated space between the rivaling forces. Zeangir assumes power over one of Persia’s territories and falls in love with the Sophi’s daughter, Perselia. Zeangir confides in Mustapha about his love for Perselia and eventually, with Mustapha’s permission, leaves to pursue her after she returns to her home in Tauris. There, Zeangir meets with an anxious Perselia to profess his love and further intensify his goal of marrying her. Perselia responds by indicating the inappropriateness of their private conduct (regarding different sexes) and encourages him to offer a truce with the Sophi, who similarly wants an end to the conflict. Zeangir realizes the critical nature of securing this truce in wanting to marry Perselia, thus he quickly leaves and returns to Mustapha.

Mustapha accepts the news willingly and secretly, unbeknownst to Solyman, sends an offer to the Sophi through a servant, Achmet, who later proves to be disloyal. Throughout this unfolding, Roxalana continues to wreak havoc by inducing paranoia in Solyman regarding his sons and taking steps to ensure the destruction of Mustapha. Solyman discovers the offer Mustapha makes and through Roxalana’s authoritative influence becomes enraged over his son’s actions. He then issues for the kidnapping of Perselia and summons his sons in Amazia to return to his palace. Roxalana continues to scheme and employs Rustan, the husband of her daughter, as her loyal ally in carrying out her horrors. When Bajazet falls in love with the captive Perselia, Roxalana and Rustan deceptively create traps for the other men to fall into: they prevent Bajazet from seeing Perselia (whom Roxalana despises), distract Zeangir by letting him meet with Perselia, and convince Solyman of his ultimate demise due to Mustapha wanting to overthrow him. Roxalana creates a lie regarding Mustapha’s desire to replace Solyman and elicits terror in Solyman.

This page shows the closing of the chapbook

Solyman, fearing replacement, orders Rustan and his men to murder Mustapha in order to retain his position as Sultan. Rustan and his men pursue Mustapha, who has realized his stepmother’s evil character, and succeed in murdering him despite Mustapha’s fighting stance. Zeangir, whom Perselia warned about the cruelty in Roxalana and Rustan, discovers he is too late and rushes to the bloody scene of his dead brother. Zeangir and many army men endure great agony in seeing the death of their beloved leader and mobilize to discover the cause. Zeangir then faces his father and accuses him of submitting to Roxalana’s influence and his own weaknesses. Zeangir then stabs himself in the breast and dies while Solyman finally realizes the truth of the situation.

Despite Solyman acknowledging the truth, he still persists in obeying Roxalana’s wishes and mourns her greatly after her natural death two years later. Prior to her death, Roxalana and Rustan force Solyman to consent to the death of Mustapha’s wife and child. Perselia returns to her father and is followed by Bajazet, who is still strongly in love with her in spite of Perselia’s disgust towards him. Solyman, overcome with grief and guilt, orders for the murder of Bajazet in the same fashion Mustapha had been murdered. Solyman eventually passes away with old age and Selim assumes the role of the next Sultan, a role portrayed as respected and fair. 


Bibliography

“The History of Mustapha and Roxalana.” The London Magazine or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, vol 38, 1769.  https://books.google.com/books?id=RxUrAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA345&lpg=PA345&dq=roxalana+or+the+step-mother&source=bl&ots=U_Wbsu68Zk&sig=ACfU3U3MgAbpB7t8EGLD9roeELty0juQqA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjyqIHc357lAhVyiOAKHb0gBQsQ6AEwA3oECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=roxalana%20or%20the%20step-mother&f=false

The Merciless Mother-in-law; or, The History of Mustapha and Roxalana.” The British Moralist; or, Young Gentleman and Lady’s Polite Preceptor. London. 1771, https://books.google.com/books?id=7KQ_AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA275&lpg=PA275&dq=the+merciless+mother+in+law+mustapha&source=bl&ots=lUz0QVB9SY&sig=ACfU3U3ijflLtapqlNzwqR0ef1zPs9g0uw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwit_IH84p7lAhXIV98KHUWcAuAQ6AEwA3oECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Parry, V.J. “Süleyman the Magnificent.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 16 May 2019, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Suleyman-the-Magnificent.

Robertson, William. “General History of Europe During the Reign of The Emperor Charles V.” History of the Middle Ages. London. 1850.

Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother. An Historic Tale. London, I. Roe, 1806.


Researcher: Iqra Khalid Razzaq

The Castle of Montabino

The Castle of Montabino

The Castle of Montabino; or the Orphan Sisters: An Original Romance

Author: Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson
Publisher: Dean and Munday
Publication Year: 1810
Language: English
Book Dimensions:  12 cm x 19.5 cm
Pages: 38
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.W55 C 1810


The Castle of Montabino by Sarah Wilkinson is a riveting narration of mystery and adventure in early 1800’s Italy, centralizing around two sisters’ daring escape from the clutches of their cruel uncle.


Material History

The Castle of Montabino; or the Orphan Sisters: An Original Romance is a lengthily-titled, 38-page work of gothic fiction authored by Sarah Wilkinson. Originally, the contents of the book were stored in a fragile pamphlet of pages consisting of a blue cover and backing.  However, the book was later rebound, and is currently held in a cardstock-weight tan binding. The novel does not appear particularly aesthetically pleasing as the exterior is bland, lacking an intriguing cover and decorative effects. The contents of the book, however, tell a more interesting story. Within the yellowed, aged pages of Wilkinson’s story are small splotches, stains, tears, and other mysterious man-made marks. These pages, containing the actual text, are quite delicate, uneven in length, and frayed at the ends as if torn.

This page shows the bluebook cover, and a catalogue of books printed and sold by the publisher

The first page of the text, or the introductory catalogue, is a detailed table of books printed on faded turquoise-blue parchment paper. This catalogue contains a list of the various works, including The Castle of Montabino, mentioning that they were all printed and sold by the same publisher. The full title of the book appears on the title page after this catalogue, and interestingly, the author’s name is quite inconspicuous, wedged between the full title, the publisher’s name, and a small drawing. Wilkinson is only mentioned as the author once throughout the whole course of the text.

A frontispiece precedes the title page. This is a larger, well-depicted illustration of three women who appear to be kneeling in fear within a castle. The expressions on their faces are contorted and overdramatized, indicating astonishment and fright. Under this image is a caption with the words, “The Castle of Montabino.” The second, smaller drawing is on the title page, and resembles a lightly sketched depiction of a miniature castle surrounded by a few trees. Both images are black and white, appearing relatively simple without ornate detailing or vibrant colors.

The remainder of the book is solely text, containing no other visual aids or sources which depict scenarios relevant to the plot. While the pages are saturated with words and there is not a lavish amount of white space, there is a generous amount of contrast between the paragraphs and spaces so that the reader is not overwhelmed by a mass of text. The font is large enough to easily read, comparable with 12-point font. The dimensions of the book in terms of the external length and width are 19.5 cm by 12 cm. The lengths of the pages within the book are varied as some of the pages are more worn or torn slightly more than others. Additionally, the turquoise blue introductory page and cover are significantly smaller than the yellowed pages with the contents of the text. The material on which the text is printed is a thinner version of printer paper, more aged and discolored than expected. With a tawny yellowish-tan color, the pages appear not only frail, but slightly brittle as well. A few interesting post-production marks found on some pages within the text include an inked signature on the catalogue which appears to spell the word “Montabino” in fluid cursive, along with smaller, more arbitrary pencil markings within the text containing dates and numbers.


Textual History

Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson, the author of The Castle of Montabino; or the Orphan Sisters: An Original Romance, was a novelist known as one of the most prolific female gothic fiction writers of her time (Potter 109–10). She wrote and published over a hundred works of fiction, almost half of which were chapbooks. Many of her works were adaptations of previously existing novels, romances in particular (Baines). Many of Wilkinson’s pieces such as The Thatched Cottage and A Visit to London were abridgements. The Castle of Montabino, however, was her original work. Interestingly enough, Wilkinson is one of the few female authors whose names were printed and made visible within her published texts. Not only was her presence in the gothic fiction realm immense in the early nineteenth century, but some of her writings were also so popular that they were reprinted and recirculated multiple times (Baines). Some of Wilkinson’s more popular works included The History of Crazy Jane, Monkcliffe Abbey, and The Maid of Lochlin. By contrast, The Castle of Montabino, however, was not considered to be one of Wilkinson’s most notable or highly received works, and appears to have been less-known. 

Title page for The Castle of Montabino

Unfortunately, Wilkinson faced many difficulties in her early writing career. She was born into a lower middle-class family, living on the border of poverty in the heart of London. This continued on into her adult life as she was widowed, struggling to support herself and her family with multiple odd occupations. She held a variety of small jobs including being a schoolteacher, running a circulating library, and taking in boarders (Potter, 110–11). Simultaneously, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, leading her to petition the Royal Literary Fund for aid. She cited not only these medical issues, but the difficulty of earning a decent income as a female (Baines). Ultimately, she was fortunate enough to receive this aid and was able to continue writing and publishing until her death. 

Wilkinson’s interesting background and experiences are reflected in her bold, unconventional writing. While she did fit into the framework of gothic style, she combined typical gothic elements with more realistic aspects of daily life, making subtle statements about societal constructs and the social position of women (Baines). She was known to have mocked or satirized mainstream gothic writers such as Ann Radcliffe, depicting diametrically opposing themes such as female social liberation and freedom in her works, The Castle of Montabino being one. Rather than catering to the higher classes, Wilkinson’s works were aimed at the literate, lower-class population, specifically women. Not only did she combine typical gothic tropes with the supernatural, she also focused on the themes of female subjectivity, gender, and identity. This innovative aspect of her writing marked her as a breakthrough female gothic fiction author (Hoeveler, 3–4).

The particular edition of The Castle of Montabino held in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library was published around 1810 by Dean and Munday Publishers. In total, there are two editions and several physical copies of these two editions held in libraries across the world. In addition to the copies at the University of Virginia Special Collections Library, databases indicate that the book is also at Duke University Libraries, UCLA, Northwestern, and The British Library in London. Additionally, there is an online edition of the text available with free access for the public through Chawton House Libraries (WorldCat). Different library databases and collections cite either 1809 or 1810 as the approximate time the work was printed. There is a second edition that was published around the same time, but by S. Bailey instead of the initial publishers, Dean and Munday. While the University of Virginia library catalog indicates that it is published by Dean and Munday, the interior catalogue of the text features a table of books, including The Castle of Montabino, as being printed and sold by S.Bailey.

This page shows the shortened title of the book, and an image of three women who appear to be hunched over, fearfully looking towards a dark, cloaked figure standing in an archway

The intriguing details regarding the history of the publishing of The Castle of Montabino originate with the relationship between Dean and Munday and S. Bailey, also known as Susan Bailey. The two publishing entities were thought to have had familial ties, providing a possible explanation for the reprinting and production of two copies around the same time frame (“Movable Stationary”). Among many of Wilkinson’s works, it is a common theme that most of the pieces are published by either S. Bailey or Dean and Munday, sometimes even both. Dean and Munday as a publication company was said to have been effective in their advertising, cultivating a name as the largest supplier of movable children’s books and chapbooks, fitting Wilkinson’s niche. The company primarily published fiction chapbooks in the form of bluebooks: small, thin paper pamphlets with turquoise-blue covers and backings, illustrated clearly through the visual appearance of The Castle of Montabino (“Movable Stationary”).

Not only was Wilkinson considered an influential author of her time, but she is also studied by contemporary scholars. She is mentioned as a female gothic pioneer with her works being cited in Franz Potter’s The History of Gothic Publishing. She is often referred to as one of the most productive and gifted writers in the field, introducing bold and daring concepts for her time period (Hoeveler 3–4). Wilkinson’s impact on the development of gothic fiction is also a major focal point of discussion in Ellen Malenas Ledoux’s Social Reform in Gothic Writing. Ledoux particularly analyzes what she calls the “working-class gothic in The Castle of Montabino (77).


Narrative Point of View

The Castle of Montabino is narrated in the third-person omniscient by an anonymous narrator who is never discussed or mentioned within the text. The narration is often convoluted and consists of lengthy paragraphs that occasionally form tangents away from the central plot. The narration focuses on the internal feelings and emotions of the characters briefly during the beginning of the book through dialogue and description. Later on, this focus shifts to a centralization around action and details of the core events in the plot. The language utilized throughout the text is intricate and verbose, and transitions from one event to another often blend together. In addition, the narration is extremely hurried and events are often grouped together, depicted as occurring back to back with no pause in between.

Sample Passage:

“Thanks be to heaven,” said the Signor, her apprehensions and suspense will now be converted to joy. “Then, turning to the servants, he said—“I think I scarce need repeat any injunctions of secresy.”— “We are faithful, and would die to prove it,” was the general reply. He asked a few questions, and being informed that the Countess had ordered breakfast not to be on table till two, he proposed retiring till that hour, and Laurinda conducted the ladies and Beatrice to their respective chambers. The sisters were so much fatigued with travelling, that they were not able to converse with their usual facility; and after a few remarks, they fell into a profound slumber, from which they did not awake till the entrance of Beatrice, who came to assist them in dressing; Laurinda having supplied her with the necessary articles for that purpose. At two they descended to the breakfast saloon; Signor Rupino and the Countess were ready to receive them, the former paid them the usual compliments, in a most elegant and flattering speech, the lady spoke not- yet she cordially pressed their hands,—heavy sighs distended her bosom, and she sobbed most piteously. The Signor apologized for the Countess’s not speaking to them; he said that their presence had awakened some bitter recollections that had overcome her. She wore a thick muslin veil, and she took great care, while eating her breakfast, that no part of her face should be seen. Before their repeat was concluded, they were joined by the two gentlemen who had always accompanied Signor Rupino and the Countess in the boat; the latter whispered something to the Countess, they retired together to one of the open balconies (15).

This particular narrative style creates a fast-paced story due to the fleeting portrayal of events. In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish the start of one event and the end of another due to the fact that both the sentences and paragraphs are long and strung out. The events are portrayed as occurring one after the other, and the narration significantly contributes to the sudden nature of transitions within the plot. This aspect of the narration along with some obscured language makes it hard to identify certain contexts or intervals. In illustrating the sister’s journey in the passage above, the narrator mentions, “The sisters were so much fatigued with travelling, that they were not able to converse with their usual facility; and after a few remarks, they fell into a profound slumber, from which they did not awake till the entrance of Beatrice, who came to assist them in dressing; Laurinda having supplied her with the necessary articles for that purpose” (15). This sentence highlights the quantity of condensed details within particular points of the narration, offering an example of the culmination of ideas that are often presented in a short period of time.


Summary

The Castle of Montabino is a short gothic story set in Italy in the early nineteenth century. The plot places specific focus on Emillia and Theresa, two recently orphaned sisters faced with peril after the passing of their aunt, the Countess. The novel begins by describing the somber mood within the castle, and the despair experienced by the two sisters. Emillia and Theresa convey that they do not wish to reside in the Castle at Montabino under the care of their cold and cruel uncle, the Count. In their private apartment, they discuss their plan to escape from the castle with the help of mysterious, unidentified companions. These companions—three noble, well dressed men and one woman, soon arrive at the castle by boat. They dock their boat under the window of the sisters’ apartment, confirming their role in aiding the girls with their escape. The mysterious figures state that the two sisters are nearing imminent danger, and that they must take action in immediately ensuring their safety.

Theresa and Emillia agree that escaping from the castle the next day is the most suitable option, and they begin to make the proper arrangements to do so. Subsequently, Emillia and Theresa proceed with their normal lifestyles within the castle, engaging with their domestic employees Susette, Cosmo, and Judith. During this time, Judith, Emillia, and Theresa make the startling discovery that a ghost occupies the castle, causing slight turmoil and fright. While the sisters express their dismay at leaving their beloved employees, Susette and Judith, in the castle with the presence of a ghost, they ultimately make their daring escape that night. Following the instructions given to them by their mysterious friends, the sisters travel through arched recesses and narrow tunnels, exiting the castle and entering a desolate area filled with ruins.

Unfortunately, they cross paths with two cloaked figures. Startled, they hide behind fragments of stone, concealing themselves to avoid discovery. During this time, they learn the identity of the cloaked figures: a man named Gusmond and his servant Hugo. Their sole purpose for entering the desolate area at such an odd hour was to bury a child. The men banter about preserving secrecy and concealing the events that were to transpire, mentioning that if anyone were to find out, the Count would punish them harshly.

A page of sample text for The Castle of Montabino

After the men leave, Theresa and Emillia hastily arrive at their set meeting point, waiting in anticipation for their transportation to arrive. They discuss the strange, dreadful mystery that plagues the Castle, their relief at escaping the clutches of the Count and their hopes to never be found by him or ever return. Shortly after, the sisters are met by their companions and introduced to their attendants, Signor Rupino and Beatrice. They embark upon a carriage, and ride until dawn, taking shelter at a deserted castle for a while, restarting their journey at dusk, and later arriving at a cottage where they again take rest. Their travel progresses until they arrive at a villa quite distant from the castle. It is here that the sisters learn a treacherous secret: the Count had ordered Cosmo to poison his wife. Cosmo, unable to go through with this order, deceived the Count and instead aided the Countess in escaping under a guise. 

Upon hearing this news, the sisters are overjoyed, invigorated yet shocked by the thought of seeing their aunt. Shortly after, the sisters are reunited with the Countess, who begins to reveal the details of her story. She narrates her childhood, mentioning the hard work and sacrifices her father made to accumulate wealth and provide for the family. Leading up to the moment she was introduced to the Count, she recalls the party during which she was acquainted with him. Soon after, the Count became a frequent visitor, and made numerous proposals for the now-Countess’ hand in marriage. They were quickly married, and she soon came to realize his true intention, which was to gain wealth from her family through their union. Moreover, after the untimely death of her father, the Count refused the Countess’ request to visit her family or have any of them visit her. He became intolerable, refusing her the luxuries of a maidservant, and becoming increasingly cruel.

She briefly narrates her happiness in caring for the sisters once their parents passed away, and proceeds to reveal the night on which Cosmo assisted her in her escape. She was drugged, proclaimed dead, and later hidden in a coffin to be transported to a cottage in the woods a few miles from the Castle. It was after this fateful night that she realized the Count’s evil intentions to take her fortune, and the fortune of her nieces by first murdering her, as she was their guardian. After her departure from the Castle and knowledge of this information, the Countess contacted her friends for a place to stay, financial means, and safe passage far away from the Castle. It was later on that she contacted her mysterious allies, Beatrice and Signor Rupino, requesting them to approach her nieces in order to affect their escape, as the Count had planned to poison them as well.

While this unfolds, the Count seethes with anger upon discovering the disappearance of Emillia and Theresa. As a result, he murders Cosmo in a fit of anger while trying to extract the truth from him. Even though Cosmo is unaware of the means of their escape, he divulges that the Countess is still alive, sending the Count into a rage. The Count scours the tunnels and hidden passages of Montabino, attempting to discover what could have allowed his nieces to escape, or some clue as to where his wife has fled. However, this search ends in his accidental stabbing and eventual death.

Once the Count’s death is confirmed, friends of the Countess and noblemen from the villa begin searching all corners of the castle to uncover the treacherous secrets that the Count may have hidden. It was then that they come across a young woman, Harmina, who was locked away in a small, unkempt room with her daughter. Harmina later reveals her story, discussing her working-class upbringing, her struggles to receive her romantic and material interests, and how she came to be acquainted with the Count. She originally attracted the attentions of Fernando, a servant of the Count, who later introduced the two. The Count was enraptured by her beauty, while hiding his marriage, began to have an affair with her. He ensured that she lived in a charming villa away from the castle, visiting her occasionally and giving her the luxuries she desired. Their affair lasted for three to four years, and she bore him three children. However, Harmina later became aware that he was a married man and, dismayed, revealed to him her plan to return to her father and the rest of her family immediately.

During her escape, she was intercepted by the Count and forced into imprisonment, where her children were taken from her, pronounced dead under mysterious and vague conditions, and later buried. Gusmond, the man who Emillia and Theresa witnessed at the desolate site, confesses to murdering Harmina’s children, and is sentenced to life imprisonment. In the end, Harmina retires to a convent, and leaves her child in the care of the Countess who is joyfully remarried. Theresa and Emillia, who also get married, live happily. The story ends with the moral that those who are virtuous will be rewarded and those who are wicked will meet with punishment.


Bibliography

Baines, Paul. “Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell (d. c. 1830), Writer: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.” (d. c. 1830), Writer | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 5 Oct. 2019.

“The Castle of Montabino; or The Orphan Sisters: an Original Romance.” WorldCat, 12 Dec. 2018.

Hoeveler, Daine L. “Sarah Wilkinson: Female Gothic Entrepreneur.” Gothic Archive: Related Scholarship, Marquette University, 1 Jan. 2015.

“Movable Stationary,” The Movable Book Society Newsletter, May 2013 (“Vintage Pop-Up Books” with further information, accessed 30 October 2019).

Potter, Franz. “The Romance of Real Life: Sarah Wilkinson.” The History of Gothic Publishing: 1800–1835, Palgrave UK, 2005, pp. 109–30.

Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Castle of Montabino; or The Orphan Sisters: an Original Romance. London, Dean and Munday, 1810.


Researcher: Medhaa Banaji

Fisher’s Cheerful Companion

Fisher’s Cheerful Companion

Fisher’s Cheerful Companion to Promote Laughter; Being a Humorous Collection of Interesting Stories for a Winter’s Evening Fireside; or Amusement for Summer, in a Shady Retreat.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: S. Fisher
Publication Year: 1800
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10cm x 18cm
Pages: 48
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.F468 1800


This chapbook printed in 1800 by S. Fisher contains thirteen humorous yet captivating short stories set in cities across Europe. The stories touch on a variety of themes—from romance to murder—and are sure to provide for an entertaining read.


Material History

Upon first glance, Fisher’s Cheerful Companion to Promote Laughter is a small, unassuming book comprised of 48 delicate pages. There is no binding on the book, although it appears as though there was one at some point in time as the edges are slightly frayed with pieces of material hanging off of them. The book itself is quite small, only being 10 cm in width and 18 cm in height. It is also very delicate since there is no binding, and it must be handled with care.

When initially opening the book, the first thing you see is the title page on the right-hand side. Since the title is unusually long, it ends up covering half of the whole page. This book contains thirteen different short stories, so below the title all thirteen of the stories’ titles are listed out. These stories include: The Three Dexterous Thieves, The Wishes, The Widgeon, The Lucky Disaster, The Hunch-back’d Minstrels, The Conjurer, The Fortunate Peasant, The Two Rogues, The Humorous Miller, The Adventures of Scaramouch, The Unfortunate Spaniard, The Ghost, and Mutual Confidence on the Wedding Night. Below these titles is a simple quote: “If you wish for to pass a dull hour away, Purchase this Cheerful Companion I pray.” There is nothing that indicates who the author is, however further below this quote it says that it is printed and sold by S. Fisher. The book was published in the year 1800 in London at No.10, St. John’s Lane, Clerkenwell, and was also sold by T. Hurst, No. 32, Paternoster Row. In addition to the publication information, a line with the text “Price Sixpence” is placed in the bottom right corner.

The frontispiece and title page for Fisher’s Cheerful Companion

Facing this first page is a well-maintained black and white frontispiece which happens to be the only illustration in the entire book. The illustration depicts a scene from the first story of this book— The Three Dexterous Thieves—and contains the quote that it is portraying: “Unhappy wretches! You will certainly come to the same end with me (Page 6).” Above this illustration, very small font reads: “London. Pub Jan.1.1800, by S. Fisher,” which is a repetition of the publication information on the adjacent page.

While the pages themselves are dainty, they are also made out of a fairly thick cotton-like material. The pages are yellowed and stained and seem to be quite worn and weathered throughout the years. Some of the margins are crooked, and the text is printed at an angle, which is the most evident on the first page of the first story. Throughout the book it is apparent that some of the text has bled or been smudged. Additionally, some of the text is faded or heavily bolded in patches. While the book may seem short, the text is very small and closely set with a medium sized margin. At the bottom of a few pages there is a single capital letter which exists as an aid during the original binding of the book to determine how to fold the pages. Each story begins with the title surrounded by separating lines and begins right after the other story is finished, rather than being printed on the next page. At the top of each of the pages is the name of the current story. Another interesting thing to note about this book is that a “long s” is used throughout the book, which was a style used during this time period. It appears to mimic handwriting, and the s’s in the middle of a word more closely resemble f’s.


Textual History

There is not much known about the history of the text Fisher’s Cheerful Companion, or its printer, Simon Fisher. The book was originally published in London in 1800, with another edition that came out shortly after in 1801. The first edition contained 48 pages, while the second edition contained only 42 pages total. Each edition has a different frontispiece, with the first one containing an illustration from the story “The Three Dexterous Thieves” and the second one with an illustration from “The Hunch-back’d Minstrels.” Simon Fisher’s smaller-scale printing business specialized in publishing “bluebooks,” which are short works of gothic fiction that were common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Potter 44). Fisher’s Cheerful Companion was only published in English with no translated versions of it. This book was also sold by a T. Hurst who is mentioned on the opening title page of the book. Fisher also published other gothic texts, including The Life and Singular Memoirs, of Matilda (1802), The Black Castle (1803), The True and Affecting History of the Duchess of C**** (1803), The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance (1828), Castle of Wolfenbach (1824), and Children Of The Abbey (1824) (see Potter 167–77; Summers 268, 274).

Currently, there are numerous digital copies of Fisher’s Cheerful Companion, and many other electronic reproductions and microfilms. Specifically, the first edition of the book was digitized in Eighteenth Century Collections Online. There is a digital copy of the second edition available on Google Books. Aside from the many digital copies, there also are hard copies published in 2010 by Gale that can be found on Amazon or Ebay. Nabu Press also published a reprint of the book in 2011. Aside from these limited findings, there is not much else that is known about this book, or Simon Fisher.


Narrative Point of View

Fisher’s Cheerful Companion is narrated in third-person by an unknown narrator who never appears in the text itself. The narration does not have a lot of insight into the minds of the characters, and focuses a lot on the flow of events. This is displayed in run-on sentences and a fast-paced plot, quickly moving from one action to the next. While the sentences can be lengthy, there is a choppy sort of feel to it. Additionally, the narration also provides a moral, of sorts, for each story.

Sample Passage:

Scaramouch being arrived at Rome in the month of December, where the north wind is felt more severely than in any other place in Italy; and having only a little silk cloak, which covered him behind (his father having driven him from Naples because he made too free with his fingers), began to consider how he should defend himself from cold and hunger, whom he looked upon as his greatest enemies. (35)

In this passage and throughout the book, the narration appears like a long stream of thoughts, strung together. By doing so, it makes the book much more captivating and difficult to put it down. One sentence seems to go on forever and eases into the next, which is enough to put someone in a sort of trance while reading it. While this is effective in this sense, at times it can become hard to follow, and often sidetracks before returning back to the plot. These tangents, however, only strengthen effect of the stories, appearing as if someone were just rambling on and on. Frequently, this narration feels as though it is intended to be read aloud.


Summary

Fisher’s Cheerful Companion contains thirteen separate stories:

This page shows the beginning of the first story, as well as the crooked margins

The Three Dexterous Thieves

Two brothers Hamet and Berard, and their accomplice Travers are described as rogues and are said to be in the business of kidnapping and pilfering. When walking through the woods one day, Hamet and Berard decide to show their talents in thieving. Hamet steals and replaces the eggs from underneath a magpie, without disturbing the bird. While doing so, Berard unbuttons Hamet’s pants without Hamet knowing. Travers is so astonished by both of these acts that he claims he cannot keep up with them and renounces thieving forever. He goes back to live in his village with his wife, and saves enough money to buy a hog for Christmas.

Soon enough, Hamet and Berard come to Travers’s village to reunite with their old friend. Travers leaves to work in the fields right as the brothers come to visit, and his wife relays this information to them. Before they leave, they notice the hog and decide to steal it and eat it when the night falls.  Travers returns and upon hearing of the brothers’ visit, he hides the hog. When night falls, the two brothers arrive and discover that the hog has been moved. Travers hears a noise and leaves to go check on his stables. Upon hearing him leave, Berard mimics his voice and calls out to Travers’ wife asking where the hog went. His wife, Mary, responds and tells him exactly where it is, and the two brothers successfully steal the hog. Travers soon returns and hears of their antics and quickly sets off after them. He soon comes upon Berard carrying the hog, and mimics Hamet’s voice to steal the hog back. Upon discovering Travers’s antics when Berard catches up to Hamet, Berard disguises himself as Mary and runs back to Travers’s home.

Once again, Berard tricks Travers into giving him the pork by claiming he heard something in the stables and demanded Travers go investigate. Once Travers discovers he has been tricked again, he runs for the forest where he assumes they will escape to. He sees a light and discovers Hamet and Berard cooking the meat. Travers then strips himself naked and climbs into a tree to pretend to be a hanging corpse. Once they return, Travers screams at them which scares them off, and then victoriously reclaims his hog. He and his wife start cooking the hog in a cauldron to eat. Before long, both of them drift off to sleep and the two brothers return. They climb onto the roof and use a long stick to pierce pieces of the pork in the cauldron to steal. Travers’ awakes to catch them in the act and realizes that he cannot keep doing this so he invites them in to eat the pork together and reconnect.

The Wishes

The duke d’Offona regularly disguises himself and walks around the city so that he learns of the commoner’s grievances and can address them. On one particular night when he is walking around the city, he runs into three soldiers and joins them for a drink. After a while of drinking and singing, they decide to go around and each say what they think would make them happiest for the rest of their lives. The first one says that he wishes to have “the sum of one thousand crowns” (9). The second wishes to be a captain of one of the duke’s guards. The third says that he wishes to spend a night with the duke’s wife. Finally, the duke says that his wish is to be the duke so that he can grant each of the soldiers’ wishes. Once they are finished, the duke finds out each of the soldiers’ names and sends for them the very next day. The duke asks each of the soldiers’ wishes again. He graciously grants the wishes of the first two soldiers. However, when it comes to the third soldier, the duke says that he cannot grant him his wish, but he can introduce him to his wife. The story ends with the last soldier wishing that he had a different wish.

The Widgeon

This page shows the transition between two separate stories

The two main characters in this story are Jack Sawwell, a carpenter, and his wife, Mrs. Anne. Jack gives his wife money to buy dinner for them, and she goes to the market to buy what she thinks is a wild duck, when it is in fact a widgeon. When Mrs. Anne serves the widgeon to Jack—who has hunted widgeons in the past—he immediately identifies it as a widgeon and not a duck. Mrs. Anne starts arguing with Jack, insisting it is a duck. The argument quickly transpires into a physical fight between husband and wife. Jack is the victor, and Mrs. Anne goes back to being a passive obedient wife. At dinner the next night, Mrs. Anne brings up the matter of the duck again, and another flight quickly ensues. Jack claims that Mrs. Anne enjoys arguing just for the sake of arguing. When Mrs. Anne hurls a large plate at Jack’s head, the plate smashes into a set of china, shattering it. Soon the neighbors arrive, startled by the load noises, and the fight dissipates. For every night from now on, a fight breaks out between the couple over the duck. 

The Lucky Disaster

Monsier Mignard is a widowed apothecary with one daughter named Susan. Susan marries a physician who is the son of one of Monsier Mignard’s friends, Dr. Eloy. Monsier Mignard brings in a woman named Agnes to council Susan. Susan quickly realizes that the man she married is not a very promising husband, and her attention is drawn to a man named Gorillon who comes from a lower-income family. Agnes supports Susan’s relationship with Gorillon and helps them to meet secretly with each other. When her father is out of town, Susan invites Gorillon over. While Gorillon is waiting in Monsier Mignard’s chamber for Susan—who is meeting with unexpected visitors—he becomes thirsty and drinks a glass of what appears to be water. Little does he know, Monsier Mignard has just made this narcotic water which puts whoever consumes it in a profound sleep. Once Gorillon drinks this, he falls into a deep death-like sleep. Susan and Agnes come into the room and encounter his lifeless body. They think he is dead, and try to decide what to do with his body. Agnes looks around and discovers a large wooden box from a gunsmith’s shop in the middle of the street which they decide to place the body in. At this time, the gunsmith remembers that his men had left the box out in the street and goes back with them to put it away. The men are too tired to realize that the box became significantly heavier, and they place the box in the kitchen.

At three in the morning, Gorillion wakes up and escapes from the box. This wakes the people in the house up, and they soon discover Gorillon and think he is a thief. The police come and interrogate him; however, Gorillon refuses to mention Susan for fear that their relationship will be discovered, so he is thrown into a dungeon. His case soon spreads across the city and Agnes and Susan hear about it. Monsier Mignard also returns from his trip and complains about how his narcotic water is missing. Agnes puts the pieces together, and Agnes and Susan explain the situation to the gunsmith allowing for Gorillon’s release. The gunsmith happens to be friends with Monsier Mignard, and talks with him to allow for Gorillon and Susans marriage.

The Hunch-back’d Minstrels

A hunchbacked man lives in a castle near a small town. He is a very ugly man, but he has amassed quite a bit of wealth. There is one woman in the town that catches his eye, and he requests her hand in marriage. Even though she is repulsed by him, because of his wealth, she cannot say no and they are married. Around Christmas, three hunchbacked minstrels show up at the castle. They start making fun of the hunchbacked man, but he takes it surprisingly well and invites them in to eat. When they are leaving, the local man warns the minstrels to never come back again or he shall kill them. They leave and the man leaves as well, walking toward the country.

His wife then calls out to the minstrels who are leaving and tells them to come back. They entertain her until her husband returns and knocks on the door. The wife panics and tells the three men to hide in three empty trunks that are in the room. After her husband leaves again, the wife opens the trunks to find that all three men have suffocated and died. She spots a countryman passing and asks him if he can help her dispose of a body in exchange for money as long as he does not say anything. She shows him the first body, which he throws in a river. Then when he returns, she shows him the next, which the countryman believes is the same one as before that has returned from the river. He takes this second body down to the river and is shocked when he returns and sees the body for a third time. The wife claims it must be a sorcerer, and the man ties a stone around the body’s neck so that it cannot escape again. When the man is returning from throwing a body in the river for a third time, he runs into the husband who is returning from the country. He thinks that the hunchbacked husband is the same body that keeps appearing back in the castle, so he kills him and throws him in a sack and into the river. When the countryman returns and tells the wife of his encounter, she realizes what has transpired and is delighted that her husband is dead. She pays the countryman the sum of money that she promised, and he goes on his way.

The Conjurer

Robin is a poor old villager and will do anything to become wealthy and to taste luxurious food and liquors. He comes up with a plan to move to a part of the country where no one knows him and say he is a conjurer, which is a well-respected profession. Robin sets off on his journey and soon arrives at the gates of Tony Simpleton, a well-known man of great wealth. Tony’s servants had recently stolen his wife’s diamond ring and his wife was determined to figure out what had happened to it, so she turned to the conjurer for his aid. Robin tells her that he can find the ring after three days, but he needs to be fed luxurious foods and a place to stay during his search. She complies and Robin is fed the best meal of his life. The next day, Robin feasts again and drinks to his heart’s content. One by one, on each day Robin is there, each of the three servants that had taken part in stealing the ring go up to see if Robin has discovered their secret. Robin is drunk every time they see him and they all misinterpret his drunken words and are soon convinced Robin knows their secret.

On the last morning, the three servants go up to Robin and give him the ring, pleading for mercy. Robin is thrilled by his luck and pretends to have known all along. He says he will keep their secret, so he forces one of the turkeys in the yard to eat the ring. He informs the lady where the ring is, and tells them to kill the one that he fed the ring. The ring is recovered and the lady is in awe with the conjurer and insists that he stay another night to meet Tony who returns from his travels the next day. Tony immediately thinks Robin is an imposter and threatens to have him kicked out. The lady insists that he put Robin’s powers to a test before he is kicked out. Tony captures a small robin in a handkerchief and asks Robin to tell him what is in the handkerchief. Robin knows he cannot say what is in it and exclaims his name and his misfortunes. Since his name—Robin—is what is actually in the handkerchief, Tony invites him to stay longer and grants all of his wishes.

The Fortunate Peasant

A king travels across the country in disguise and converses with regular people. One day, he comes upon a peasant who instantly recognizes the king despite his disguise. The peasant claims he does not recognize him and the king continues talking to him. The peasant tells him how much money he makes—eight-pence—and the king questions how he spends his money. The peasant tells him he spends two-pence on himself and his wife, two-pence to pay debts, two-pence he lends, and another two-pence he gives away. The king wants to be of service to him, but makes him promise not to tell anyone of their conversation until he sees the king’s face again. The next day the king sends off some men to solve this problem of how the peasant spends his money, and promises them a reward if they explain it correctly to them. One of these men goes to try to find the peasant and ask him what the explanation is. Once he finds him, he bribes him with a handful of gold and gets the explanation out of the peasant. The message is relayed to the king and even though the king knows the peasant broke his promise, he still gives the man his reward. The next day he goes out to see the peasant again and asks him why he broke his promise. The peasant says the he did in fact see the face of the king again on the pieces of gold, so he was allowed to say what they discussed. The king is pleased with this answer and appoints the peasant to be prime minister.

The Two Rogues

Squire Hedgedich is riding his horse across the fields belonging to a farmer named Hobnail. Hedgeditch comes up to an open gate next to Hobnail, which Hobnail closes, and stops Hedgeditch in his tracks. Out of anger, Hedgeditch hits Hobnail across the shoulders. Hobnail complains about this to an attorney from London named Goosequill who talks him into pressing charges for battery. Goosequill needs to travel to the court of assizes, and decides to buy a horse from an innkeeper to take him there. The innkeeper realizes that Goosequill knows nothing about horses and sells him the weakest horse he owns. The horse cannot carry him very far and collapses underneath him. Goosequill gets to the next inn where he buys another more fit horse, leaving the weaker horse at that inn. He eventually makes it and ends up winning the case for Hobnail. Goosequill returns to retrieve his weak horse that has become much stronger since being in the care of this other innkeeper. However, the horse still cannot carry him back to London. Goosequill sends the horse to London for an easy journey back, and soon gets to London himself by different means. Once in London, he gets back on his horse and rides to the inn where he was sold the horse, pretending that he just got back from the long journey. The innkeeper is shocked that the horse was able to carry him that far and offers to buy the horse back. Goosequill says he will only sell the horse at a high price which the innkeeper cannot afford. Goosequill leaves and then immediately sends his servant Tom to the innkeeper to attempt to buy his horse. Tom and the innkeeper agree on the high price and Tom pays half of it saying he will pay the rest the next day. However, the next morning Goosequill says he needs to leave immediately on his horse. The innkeeper says he sold the horse, and gives Goosequill the money.

The Wedding Night

On a newlywed couple’s wedding night, as the couple lies in bed, the man says that he will tell her a secret of his. He says that before he met her four years ago, he had a child with another woman. He says that if she allows him, he can send for the child to come home. The wife responds with her own story of how she had a child herself and will send for her child to come home if he allows it. The husband runs outside and starts yelling like a madman. This wakes the mother and father-in-law. The mother-in-law goes to check on the daughter and asks what the daughter said to have caused her husband to yell like that. Meanwhile, the curious father-in-law listens at the door. The daughter tells her what happened, and the mother yells at her, telling her daughter she should not have said that and that she herself has had multiple children before she married her husband. The father-in-law hears this at the door and goes to talk to the wallowing husband; they share their common misfortunes with each other.

The Humorous Miller

An evil lord who enjoys tormenting people learns about an astrologist named Mumbletext who everyone thought to be a practitioner of black magic. The lord calls for Mumbletext and tells him to answer four questions or he will tell everyone that he is an imposter. The four questions that the lord asks him to answer are: where is the middle of the world, how much am I worth, what do I think, and what do I believe. The lord says he has to answer these questions or confess that he is a cheat. Mumbletext buys more time by asking for an extra day to answer so that he can consult the planets. On his way back, he bumps into a clever miller who offers to disguise himself as Mumbletext to answer the lord’s questions for him. The next day, the miller disguises himself as Mumbletext and goes up to the lord. The miller says that he can show the lord where the middle of the earth is since it is not far from his house. The miller shows him the exact spot in a field where the middle of the earth is. The lord cannot disprove it so he asks each of the other questions to which the miller has a clever response. The lord is impressed by these answers and is thoroughly entertained so he says that the miller is welcomed into his house any time and will remit Mumbletext’s punishment.

The Adventures of Scaramouch

Scaramouch comes to Rome in the middle of the winter with no money and no food. He begs in front of a snuff-merchant’s shop and asks people for a pinch of the snuff when they leave the store. He collects a full bottle of this during the day and resells it at night. A Swiss guard comes into the shop, and when he is leaving Scaramouch attempts to take some snuff from him. The guard hits him with a halberd and leaves him bruised. Scaramouch leaves Rome, fearing for his life and goes to a town called Civita-Vecchia. There he encounters two slaves counting up money that they have earned, and pretends that they stole from him. He is able to convince the judge that it is his money, and leaves a richer man. He then sets off for another town called Lombardy and hires a valet. They stop at an inn where Scaramouch eats and drinks too much and passes out soon after. The valet steals all of Scaramouch’s belongings, leaving him with nothing. Scaramouch arrives at another town and is immediately jumped by a man who mistakenly thinks that he is a runaway slave. Once the mistake is realized, Scaramouch leaves and realizes he can’t keep living this way and he needs a new way to make money.

The Unfortunate Spaniard

This page shows the conclusion of the book

A Spaniard named Diego decides to travel to France for a vacation. He dresses very extravagantly, and is laughed at and called a madman everywhere he goes in Paris. Crowds start to form around him and slowly become more hostile with people throwing dirt and pushing him around. Diego rushes into the first open house that he can see, however the people surrounded the house and started throwing stones at him. Everywhere he goes, Diego is greeted by more angry people, and the mob gets worse and worse. Two women begin fighting and Diego sees this as a distraction for the crowd and he sprints to a church. Everyone in the church beings to laugh at him. Diego is eventually saved by his landlord and returns home to Spain, determined to tell everyone not to visit France.

The Ghost

A young count of the Hobenloe family is sent to Paris to improve his manners. His house mate is another young man from a noble family and the young Hobenloe begins to learn a lot very quickly from this man. The young count soon dies and gives his new friend the money that he has inherited. Two English noblemen arrive at the same house that they were staying, and stay in a room adjacent to where the dead body is being held. The room is small, so the two men must share a bed. During the night, one of the Englishmen heard people talking in the kitchen and went to join them. When he returns to his room, he goes into the wrong room and gets into bed with the dead body. He notices how cold the body is and starts asking it questions, assuming it to be his friend. A servant enters the room carrying a coffin. The man jumps up, realizing his mistake. However, the servant thinks that it is the dead body jumping up and runs out of the room to get more people. Meanwhile the Englishman returns to his room in shock. A priest comes with holy water to deal with what they think is a ghost, and everyone regards him as a saint for the body doesn’t move again. The friend of the count who died goes to get the inheritance money, and is mistaken for the count by a banker and his wife. The friend decides to impersonate the dead count, so when the banker goes to visit the house where the count resided, he is shocked to learn of the count’s death. The people in the house and the banker both think that they have seen a ghost.


Bibliography

Fisher’s Cheerful Companion to Promote Laughter; Being a Humorous Collection of Interesting Stories for a Winter’s Evening Fireside; or Amusement for Summer, in a Shady Retreat. London, S. Fisher, 1800.

“Fisher’s Cheerful Companion to Promote Laughter;” Google Books, Google, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Fisher_s_Cheerful_Companion_to_Promote_L/KaBbAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0&kptab=overview.

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

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


Researcher: Eliza Eddy

The Spectre Mother

The Spectre Mother

The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower

Author: John Mitchell
Publisher: Dean & Munday
Publication Year: 1800
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.7cm x 18cm
Pages: 30
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.M537 S 1800


This 1800 chapbook by John Mitchell begins with a mysterious murder within Rovido castle and explores revenge, true love, and crime as the ghost of the slain woman visits characters in the story.


Material History

The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower is a short novel of 30 pages. It measures 18 centimeters in length and 10.7 centimeters in width. There is no cover attached to the book. The pamphlet was likely torn out of a larger collection of short Gothic chapbooks that were sold individually to maximize profits for the bookseller. On the spine are remnants of its leather binding and the adhesion used to keep the binding attached. The book was sewn together and threads are still visible sticking out between its pages.

The title page with accompanying illustration and a visible marking

The title page is instantly visible due to the lack of cover and is the reader’s first impression of the chapbook. It has a colored ink sketch of a scene within the book that covers about a third of the page. Below the ink drawing is a quote from a scene on page 12. The quote reads, “I cannot step by that child, said Moresco.” The colors yellow, green, red, and blue dominate the watercolor drawing, causing the illustration to stand out distinctly on the weathered, slightly browned title page. Above the ink drawing at the top of the page is the title of the book. It is printed in several different fonts with swooping lines surrounding the title, creating a pleasant and artistic look. Below the title is printed, “By the author of Midnight Horrors, Female Pilgrim.” The bottom of the title page contains the publisher information. The book was published in London and was printed and sold by Dean & Munday at 35 Threadneedle Street. At the top left corner of the title page is a pencil-written note that says “Ghosts.” The note was likely written by a bookseller to categorize the novel and label it for readers interested in ghost stories.

There are no decorations or illustrations within the text of the book. The paper is thin and delicate. The pages are soft like cotton and the fibers of the paper are clearly visible. Each page is a yellow-brown color that gives the novel an aged look.

The page numbers are at the top corner of each page and there are letters at the bottom of several pages throughout the book. These letters, “B, B3, C, C3,” were printed to assist the person responsible for binding the book. The pages were all printed out on large sheets of paper that had to be folded and oriented in a certain way to create the finished product. This was common practice at the time, and the method was used until around 1900.

The book has an overall elegant and classic look. Its average size ensures that the font and type in the novel are not too small. There is not a lot of empty, white space within the text and the margins are of average size so the pages do not feel cluttered. The sentence structure used by the author, John Mitchell, is varied and the paragraph sizes are fairly consistent throughout the book.


Textual History

There is limited information to be found about The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower and its author, John Mitchell. It left little to no impression on British journals, though another more popular story by Mitchell—The Female Pilgrim—was reviewed several times. The Spectre Mother was originally published by Dean & Munday in London in 1800. Subsequent editions were published in 1820 and 1823. The 1820 edition was also printed by Dean & Munday and the 1823 edition by an American publisher, W. Borradaile, based in New York. In addition to Gothic novels, Dean & Munday also published historical and children’s books, like The History of Germany, and the German Empire, and The Butterfly’s Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast.

The printers, Dean and Munday, are listed at the bottom of the chapbook’s final page

There seem to be a few versions of the 1800 edition of The Spectre Mother available today. Some contain two watercolor ink illustrations, while others contain only one on the title page. A digital copy of this edition can be found on the Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery. The 1820 edition of the story printed by Dean & Munday is identical to the first edition and changes no aspects of the original story, though it does include an additional watercolor and ink frontispiece opposite the title page. A digital copy of this edition can be found on Google Books. The later edition of The Spectre Mother was published in May of 1823 by W. Borradaile in New York City, which proves that there was enough interest in the story for it to be marketable in the United States. The title page of this edition contains the publisher information as well as the fact that it was sold “wholesale and retail, at his book-store, 130 Fulton-Street.” This version was printed as a pamphlet and threaded together with a red paper cover displaying prices for various chapbooks. The copy was advertised to cost 12.5 cents. It contains the exact story of the first edition, but has a different watercolor illustration, title page, and layout within the pamphlet. Its pages are slightly larger and the paragraphs are formatted differently.

Two works of John Mitchell’s are featured within The Spectre Bridegroom and Other Horrors edited by Robert Reginald and Douglas Menville. This anthology of reprinted horror and ghost stories was originally published in 1976 and includes The Spectre Mother and Midnight Horrors: Or the Bandit’s Daughter. They are both attributed to an anonymous author rather than John Mitchell. Another edition of the book was published in 2006.

There is little information available about John Mitchell, the author of The Spectre Mother. He wrote several other stories, including The Female Pilgrim and Midnight Horrors: Or the Bandit’s Daughter. While no reviews of The Spectre Mother were found, The Female Pilgrim received mixed reviews, one of which stated that the story was “an unequal imitation of the celebrated Pilgrim’s Progress, which is, perhaps, inimitable” (Griffiths 219). This could be similar to the case of The Spectre Mother, as many lesser known chapbooks were imitations of works of previous authors.

The Spectre Mother is listed in Franz Potter’s The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. Potter states that the author was “confined by the restrictions of the bluebook” and therefore the reader is immediately immersed in the “contrived, gloomy atmosphere, often by forcing the location, such as a castle, to reflect the antagonist” (72). Following this analysis is a sample of the text from the first paragraph of the story, exemplifying the mysterious and ominous tone of the first several pages of the book. The author, however, is again stated as unknown and there is no mention of John Mitchell within the book.


Narrative Point of View

The narrator of The Spectre Mother is unknown and utilizes third-person narration. The narrator unveils the emotions of each character and shares their thoughts and concerns while also driving the plot forward. The story is narrated with ample descriptions that highlight the actions and eccentricities of each character. The sentences are long and the language evokes strong images and feelings.

Sample Passage:

The dark spirit of Moresco shrank from the presence of innocence thus forcibly delineated, and wanted courage to perpetrate a deed so horrible; but at the moment, the mother moved in her sleep, and with instinctive fondness pressed the babe closer to her bosom, as though to save it from the blow that hovered over it. —The transient beam of benevolence that had broken on the guilty soul of Moresco, vanished before his apprehensions of personal safety, and his thirst of gold; and with a nervous and well-aimed blow, he pierced her virtuous heart, who had never known even a thought injurious to his welfare or his happiness. —One faint and quivering sigh alone told the departure of the pure spirit from its mortal habitation! (8)

The style of narration in The Spectre Mother provides the reader with enough insight into the characters to understand their motivations and thoughts, but not too much to give away key plot points. In the beginning of the text, the narrator explains Moresco’s conflicting feelings about murdering Julia and her child, yet the reason that he was tasked with this mission is not disclosed until later in the story. The narrator uses the emotions of the characters to add to the dark melancholy tone of the story. Angela’s feelings of solitude and gloominess are described in detail by the narrator and they set the mood for her encounter with the ghost of Julia. As Angela tries to sleep, for instance, the narrator exposes that “she mused with terror and curiosity of the incidents of the night” and that “her distressed mind wandered to a no less painful, though a far different subject of meditation” (12).

These descriptions also bring to light the distinctions amongst the characters. While Angela pines for the life she lost when she was taken by banditti, and later worries about the safety of Julia’s baby, Moresco is primarily concerned with pleasing his boss and making money. The narrator also uses long, descriptive sentences to depict how characters react to surprises and supernatural visits. This configuration draws the reader in and builds tension as the narration follows the actions of the characters. Additionally, the narrator’s language—utilizing adjectives and adverbs frequently while describing the settings—evokes a strong sense of visuality.


Summary

The Spectre Mother: Or The Haunted Tower begins with the clock of Rovido castle striking midnight. A man emerges from the shadows of the dark halls and sneaks to the inhabited area of the castle. He carries a lantern and a concealed weapon as he makes his way through the castle, pausing frequently to quiet his guilty mind and ensure no one is awake. He enters a secret door and ascends a flight of steps to a gloomy gallery. The novel now exposes him to be a murderer as he removes a marble statue, presses a hidden panel behind it, and enters the chamber of his intended victims.

The opening scene in Chapter One of The Spectre Mother

Moresco finds the woman he plans to kill, sleeping with her baby in her arms. He watches her sleep and experiences a moment of hesitation before stabbing her. She lets out a final sigh and dies. He points the knife at the baby and it smiles at him. Moresco snatches the child and is about to kill it when a blue light flashes and he sees the pale figure of the mother standing in front of him. She points to the corpse and bloody letters form over the body’s head. They read, “Let the life of the innocent be spared, to plead for the guilty soul of the murderer” (9).

Moresco drops the dagger and sinks to the floor in terror. He holds the child and vows to protect the infant. The spirit vanishes and he flees from the castle. He decides that he will not inform his employer that he failed to kill the child, and instead throws its bloody clothes into the river. He returns home and tells his wife, Angela, to take the child and raise it as her own. He angrily refuses to tell her who the mother is and she relents to abate his temper. Moresco makes her swear to keep it a secret. She recounts to him that earlier that night, the flames of the candles were extinguished and she heard a soft and dismal sigh in her ear. Moresco lashes out over this news and declines to address it. They go off to bed.

It is revealed that Angela Modeni was orphaned and destitute at an early age. The Marchioness di Montmorenci took her in and provided her with an education. When she was twenty years old, the Marquis di Montmorenci returned home from traveling abroad. They both had feelings for one another and he expressed his openly to Angela. She felt guilty about depriving the marchioness of a daughter in law of equal birth for her son, so she resisted his affections. When the marchioness found out about her son’s interest in her, she had Angela removed and induced her to secretly move to a distant convent. En route to the convent, Angela and her attendants were surrounded by banditti. Two of them, Ludovico and Moresco, were drawn to Angela immediately.

Moresco was the youngest son of a Neapolitan nobleman and was to inherit an estate, but his extravagant lifestyle caused him to lose everything. He desperately tried to win back his inheritance, but did so dishonorably. This resulted in him being forced to leave Naples. He met Ludovico’s men and joined their group and rose in their ranks to second-in-command.

Upon meeting Angela, Moresco wanted her for himself. He convinced her to rely on him to help her escape the banditti, and she reluctantly agreed. In order to appear more deserving of her favor, he proposed to her. Angela accepted and they got married and moved to a dilapidated tower in a deserted area in Italy. Soon after, Moresco started working for a man named Count Ruvello. The Count was third in line to inherit a family member’s fortune, after the man’s wife and child. Once the man tragically died in battle, the Count discovered his proximity to the man’s fortune. Greedily, he could not resist the temptation of wealth, and consequently hired Moresco to murder Julia and her child.

The day after the murder, Moresco wakes up, dresses as a friar, and leaves to meet with Count Ruvello. The Count begins to question him about the absence of the child’s body. Moresco becomes frantic as he believes he hears Julia’s sigh in the room, but the Count hears nothing. Moresco makes an excuse for the child’s missing body and explains that he dropped it in the river. The Count offers him a reward and asks Moresco to stay for a few days.

Angela wakes up soon after Moresco’s departure. Though she hates when he is around, she is lonely in the gloomy ruin when he is not there. She takes comfort in the baby and stays close to it. Late that night, a flash of lightning wakes her up. She goes to where the baby is sleeping and is greeted by a bleeding form surrounded by pale blue vapor. Angela is terrified and watches as it glides towards the bed and bends over the sleeping baby. It turns to Angela, raises one hand towards heaven and points the other toward the wound. It motions for Angela to follow, which she does not comply with. Then, a surprising enthusiasm takes over Angela and she grows courageous. She believes that she is being selected for something important. Angela picks up the sleeping baby and follows the spirit.

This page describes the first visit from the ghost of Julia

The ghost glides in silence to the end of the apartment, a concealed door flies open, and they make their way through a dark passage. The spirit pauses, turns to Angela, sighs, and sinks into the ground. Where it disappears, there is now a chasm. Angela experiences an irresistible force compelling her to descend the ruined steps down into the abyss. After doing so, a loud rumbling sound above her head causes her to look up and she sees the chasm close above her. Shadowy hands beckon her forward and she musters the courage to continue through the underground chambers. The ghost that brought her down is now standing by an altar of black marble stained with blood and adorned with human bones. It beckons her forward and motions to a crack in the marble containing a bloody dagger. The ghost points one hand to her bosom and the other she points to the weapon and traces the name of Moresco carved on the hilt. The spirit tells her to save the innocent from the guilty, explains that the Count hired Moresco to commit the murder, and says that she must restore to the child the inheritance that he has taken away from her. The ghost tells Angela not to fear acting with firmness as her virtue will produce her happiness.

Angela wakes up on a small bank near her house, ready to obey the spirit’s request. On Angela’s return home, it begins to rain and she decides to approach a building to ask for shelter for the night. No one answers her call. Angela, tired and desperate, ascends a staircase nearby and takes cover in a gallery and soon falls asleep. The baby crawls away from her and cries until a man finds it.

Angela wakes up and panics when she realizes the child is missing. She searches the area until she finds the baby resting on a couch in a nearby room. The man reenters, and she is shocked to discover that it is Di Montmorenci. They have a joyful reunion until he sees her wedding ring and is reminded of her unavailability. He throws himself on the floor and she begins to calm him, explaining the situation she is in. She decides to leave out Moresco’s involvement in the story but feels conflicted. She does not know how to carry out the mission that the spirit set for her without exposing the Count and endangering the life of Moresco. Angela requests to speak with a holy monk about the important matter, and move with the child to a convent temporarily. She confesses everything to Father Bernada, who urges the necessity of bringing the Count Ruvello to justice, while only revealing Moresco’s guilt if necessary.

The next morning, Angela and the baby leave for the convent, much to Di Montmorenci’s sadness. During their stay, Angela’s attachment to the baby grows stronger and stronger. She then receives a letter from Father Bernado. He and a party of officials went to Count Ruvello’s home to confront him. The Count and Moresco were seated together upon their arrival. After inquiring about Moresco’s religious dress, the Count instantly implicated Moresco in order to divert suspicion away from himself. Both men were confined to guarded rooms, where Moresco committed suicide. Count Ruvello was brought to trial, found guilty, and banished. Father Bernado tells Angela that the child must be returned to her family home for her existence to be universally acknowledged. Since there is no guardian for the child, Angela can take on that role. He tells her that he recounted her actions to the Pope, and the Pope decided to bestow two thousand crowns on her for her misfortunes.

Di Montmorenci visits Angela at her new home with the child and they get married after her twelve months of widowhood are complete. Father Bernado officiates the wedding and the couple soon sets off for Venice, where Angela is received with respect and esteem due to her new rank.


Bibliography

Griffiths, Ralph. Monthly Review, or, Literary Journal, 1752-1825, Vol. 27, Hurst, Robinson, and Co., 1762.

Mitchell, John. “The Spectre Mother, or, The Haunted Tower.” Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery, https://cdm16014.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4014coll9/id/18519.

Mitchell, John. The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower. London. Dean & Munday, 1800.

Mitchell, John. The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower. New York City. W. Borradaile, 1823.

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

Reginald, Robert, and Douglas Menville, editors. The Spectre Bridegroom and Other Horrors. Wildside Press, 2006.


Researcher: Ruby G. Peters