Paul and Virginia

Paul and Virginia

The History of Paul and Virginia; or the Shipwreck

Author: Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre
Publisher: T. Maiden, Ann Lemoine
Publication Year: 1802
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.8 x 17.8
Pages: 48
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.S36 H 1802


This chapbook, set on the island of Mauritius, tells the forbidden love story of two best friends. The author, Bernardin, lived on this island for a short period and part of this story was inspired by an actual shipwreck he witnessed there.


Material History

The volume is 17.8 cm long, 10.8 cm wide. The book lacks a cover and the pages are held together by a half-worn binding spine. The first page is blank and does not include any information like the author’s name or title of the book. This shows that the book had a cover once but was torn off over time. There is a big sticker on the upper left of the first page indicating that the book is the property of the Sadleir-Black Collection. The last page of the book also acts as the last page of the story. There is a relatively larger “FINIS.” printed at the bottom center of the final page. Also printed at the very bottom of this page is “Printed by T. Maiden Sherbourne Lane,” indicating the exact location where the book was produced.

The title page for Paul and Virginia

The book does not include any chapters. From beginning to end, the text is continuous and not interrupted by any titles or subtitles which explains why there is not a table of contents page at the beginning of the book.

Turning the pages requires full attention because they are very light and delicate. The first two pages have noticeable discoloration from age. Other pages have some brown and yellow spots resembling fingerprints, but they are mostly in a good condition. Also, on a few pages, there are some deformations in letters that make the reading challenging but not impossible.

At the top of the first page, there is a shortened title of the book, “Paul and Virginia.” This frontispiece page contains an illustration from one of the most thrilling incidents of the book. We see the devastated face of Paul and his companion mourning near Virginia’s dead body. Also, in the background, there is a sinking ship that gives some clue regarding how this incident might have occurred. Below the illustration, there is a caption: “The corpse of Virginia discovered upon the beach” and a page number (41) indicating where in the story this event occurs.

The title page follows, containing the full title of the book, “The History of Paul and Virginia or the Shipwreck.” The title is written with bold and varying font sizes. Some letters have extra inks on them which gives a spillover feeling. The title is followed by the author’s name which is the first and only time it appears. After the author’s name, there is a shipwreck illustration which is a similar version of the frontispiece. At the bottom of the page, the publication details are included which gives information about the publication location, the printer’s name, address of the publication facility, and the publication date. At the very bottom of the page, the price of the book included as “[Price Six-Pence.]”


Textual History

This chapbook is an abridgement of a much longer novel originally published in French by Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. Paul and Virginia was first published in 1788 as the fourth volume of Studies of Nature in the French language with the original title of Paul et Virginie. The book was translated to English in 1789, for the first time by Daniel Malthus as Paul and Mary: An Indian Story, published in London. The novel is considered the first extensive exotic novel in France, and nineteenth-century authors quoted the book many times. Even though Bernardin’s most famous work is Paul and Virginia, he published many other books as a volume of Studies of Nature. As a result, he became a very popular literary figure during the French Revolution. The king granted him the administration of “Garden of the King” in July 1972 as a result of his literary accomplishments. After the revolution, Bernardin served as a professor of republican morality in the Ecole Normale Supérievre (Cook).

This page includes a letter attributed to the novel’s main character Virginia

It is believed that, in 1777, Bernardin read selections from Paul and Virginia before its publication in the salon of Suzanne Necker (Cook). Hence, there is a good possibility that Bernardin started to work on his novel over ten years before its publication date. He finished the luxury quarto editing of the novel in 1806. This edition had gorgeous illustrations and designs but did not sell as much as expected. Cook notes that Paul and Virginia “has never been out of print.”

The story of Paul and Virginia is based on an island. A New York Times article, “The First Idea of Paul and Virginia,” explains that Bernardin was designated as an engineer on Madagascar in charge of the road construction team. After over five months of an exhausting voyage, he learned that he had been called in to manage the slave trade. He refused to go to Madagascar and remained instead on the Isle of France. He could not make any friends there because of his political opinions and lived in a solitary state with his only friend, a dog. He spent most of his time studying botany and natural history, and witnessed the wreck of a St. Gérant ship while he was living there. Everyone in the ship died except seven sailors. The Times article explains that the captain of the ship refused to take off his clothes and swim to the shore even though he had the opportunity. It is suggested that Bernardin watched all the incidents from the shore and that this story inspired the author greatly. When Bernardin wrote Paul et Virginie, he changed very few details of this incident.

Paul and Virginia was performed as an opera many times in Europe and North America, including the 1806 production Paul and Virginia: A Musical Entertainment, in Two Acts written by James Cobb. Even though the main scenario of the book was not changed, Cobb added some new characters to the script that do not appear in the book. Another notable opera adaptation was written by well-known French composer Victor Masse. Another New York Times article, “Affairs in France,” gives important details about how Bernardin’s character of Virginia was shaped. According to this article, in regards to the captain who went down with the shipwreck, “It would not be appropriate for a man of his position and dignity to arrive on shore entirely naked; besides he also has valuable state papers.” By contrast, Bernardin’s fictional Virginia was on the same ship and she actually swam to shore almost entirely naked. Virginia was not actually drowned because of her modesty, but the captain was.


Narrative Point of View

The History of Paul and Virginia is narrated in third person by an anonymous narrator with an omniscient point of view. The novel is written in the past tense without using flourished language. The narrator does not dive into the characters’ psychology; instead, the narrator uses simple expressive sentences to describe characters’ internal features and emotions. The story is told by using many flashbacks via Virginia’s letters to her mother which helps the novel to be more dramatic.

Sample Passage:

In this manner lived those children of nature. No care had troubled their peace, no intemperance had corrupted their blood, no misplaced passion had depraved their hearts. Love, innocence, and piety, possessed their souls: and those intellectual graces unfolded themselves in their features, their attitudes, and their motions. Still in the morning of life, they had all its blooming freshness: and surely such in the garden of Eden appeared our first parents, when coming from the hands of God, they first saw, and approached each other, and conversed together, like brother and sister. Virginia was gentle, modest, and confiding as Eve; and Paul, like Adam, united the stature of manhood with the simplicity of a child. (19)

In the novel, characters generally express themselves with dialogue, however, from time to time the narrator intervenes to portray their relationship in a wider context. The narration in this passage accounts for the intensity of Virginia and Paul’s affection for each other. The narrator justifies why it is morally and even Biblically right for Paul and Virginia to be together by emphasizing the innocence and purity of their relationship and aligning their romantic relationship with the bond of siblings, both of which are encompassed here by the comparison with Adam and Eve.


Summary

The novel starts with a long description of the island of Mauritius. The island is described as having a pleasant unbounded landscape that gives the feeling of having uninterrupted solitude to those who live there. The story of Paul and Virginia starts with the narration of an old man. He begins the story by telling important parts of Monsieur de la Tour’s life.

The opening page for Paul and Virginia

Monsieur de la Tour is a soldier in the French army. He decides to seek his fortune on the island of Mauritius and arrives there in 1726. He brings Madame la Tour with him to settle down and live a peaceful life. Monsieur and Madame de la Tour come from two different social classes. She belongs to a rich and noble family, while he belongs to an ordinary family without high social status. Even though her parents do not approve of this marriage, they marry without obtaining her parents’ permission. Soon, Monsieur de la Tour travels to Madagascar to purchase a few slaves to help him establish a plantation on the island. After landing in Madagascar, he becomes very ill and, after a while, he dies.

Madame de la Tour lives on the island on her own and learns that she is pregnant. She becomes friends with a young woman named Margaret who was abandoned by her husband when he learned she was pregnant. Margaret gives birth to a boy and Madame de la Tour gives him the name of Paul. After a short while, Madame de la Tour gives birth to a girl. This time, at the request of Madame, Margaret gives her the name of Virginia. The similar destiny of Madame and Margaret provides them with a strong friendship and they start to raise their children together. Paul and Virginia spend all their time together as if they are brother and sister.

After Paul and Virginia enter their teenage years, they begin to see each other as more than a friend. They start to express their emotions to each other with poetic descriptions. Even though both of them know there are sexual and romantic feelings between them, neither of them dares to advance their friendship to a romantic relationship at first. Virginia has a difficult time keeping her affection for Paul to herself. Madame de la Tour understands her daughter’s uneasiness and tells her that God placed them on earth to test their virtue and she will be rewarded after if she can be virtuous in this life. Virginia misinterprets her mother’s advice to be that it is not right to have a romantic relationship with Paul. Hence, she refuses to respond to Paul’s affection for her.

In the meantime, Margaret asks Madame about why do not they let their children marry since they have a strong attachment for each other. Madame de la Tour says that they are too young and poor to start a family together. She believes that they would not live a happy life until Paul comes of age to provide for his family by his labor. Virginia’s aunt wants her niece to return to France in order to give Virginia a proper education and help her to marry a nobleman. She also promises to leave all her fortune to Virginia. Madame de la Tour thinks this would be a good opportunity to separate Paul and Virginia until they come to an age where they can build a happy marriage. Virginia sees her mother’s request as a duty and decides to go to France.

The final page for Paul and Virginia

One and a half years passes and, finally, a letter arrives for Madame de la Tour. Virginia says that even though she received a very good education on various subjects, she is still not happy to be so far away. Her aunt forces her to renounce the name of “la Tour” which she refuses to do out of respect to her father. In the meantime, Paul dreams about going to France, to be near Virginia and make a great fortune by serving the king. He believes that then Virginia’s aunt will allow them to get married.

After a while, Virginia sends her mother a letter about her aunt’s ill-treatment of her because of her request to marry Paul. The aunt disinherits Virginia and sends back her to Mauritius during hurricane season. Upon Virginia’s arrival on the island, a terrific hurricane appears. As a result, the ship is torn apart. Even though sailors tell Virginia to take her clothes off to be able to swim, she refuses to do so. She stays in the ship and drowns as Paul watches. After Virginia’s death, Paul’s health starts to decline rapidly. He becomes severely ill and dies two months later.


Bibliography

“Affairs in France.” The New York Times, 26 Nov. 1876, https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1876/11/26/84623906.pdf

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Jacques-Henri. The History of Paul and Virginia; or the Shipwreck. T. Maiden and Ann Lemoine, 1802.

Cobb, J. Paul and Virginia: A musical entertainment in two acts. 1806.

Cook, Malcolm. “Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre.” Writers of the French Enlightenment I, edited by Samia I. Spencer, Gale, 2005. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 313. Gale, Literature Resource Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/H1200012581/LitRC?u=viva_uva&sid=LitRC&xid=8404413d

“The First Idea of Paul and Virginia.” The New York Times, 8 No. 1874.
https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1874/11/08/105199480.pdf


Researcher: Ali Atabay

The Mystic Tower

The Mystic Tower

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

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


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


Material History

One’s first impressions upon introduction to the Sadlier-Black Collection’s edition of The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A Romance. most likely will include the frail binding holding together the forty-two time-worn pages, as well as the curious lack of a cover. Upon closer inspection, one can find a few remnants of what seems to be tan leather stuck to bits of dried glue along the spine of the chapbook. This suggests that the book was once a part of a collection of works, bound together for sale by the publisher. Once the first blank page, acting as the cover, is turned, an intricate frontispiece is found to inhabit the reverse. The image of a man and a woman moving away from an oncoming knight is central to the illustration, and is surrounded by detailing of weaponry and armor. Beneath the image the shortened title, The Mystic Tower, is revealed, instead of a caption, creating a sense of mystery around what might be occurring in the preceding scene.

The title page for The Mystic Tower.

The peculiar intrigue of these yellowed pages continues onto the title page where “The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A Romance” is emblazoned in a combination of different fonts across the top half of the page, yet there is no author to be found. Instead, there are a few curious clues that follow, some indicating themes present in the story and others towards the origins of the work itself. Just below the title is another illustration, this time depicting a woman standing in the doorway of a low-ceilinged room with a look of astonishment on her face as she looks down upon a knight emerging from the floorboards. Following this is an excerpt from Shakespeare’s Macbeth that reads, “’Tis done! The scene of life will quickly close; Ambition’s vain, delusive dreams are fled, And now I wake to darkness, guilt, and horror…..I cannot bear it!…………….” Both the foreshadowing illustration and the ominous quote allude to the drama that is to come throughout the novel.

Tracking down the page, again, there is a note that mentions this book was printed in London for “KAYGILL, at his Circulating Library, Upper Rathbone Place; MACE, New Round-court, Strand; and ADCOCK Charles-street, Fitzroy-square; and may be had of all other Book-sellers in Town or Country.” This indicates where other copies of this work could be found throughout London, specifically mentioning a few circulating libraries at which interested subscribers could obtain the book for sixpence, as denoted in fine print below the message. At the very bottom of the page, the printer, W. Glindon, and the location of his shop, 48, Rupert-Street, Covenrry-Street, are listed. Though the publisher and the location of other copies of the book are helpful hints, the author of the work remains a mystery. The aged, brittle pages that follow hold narrowly spaced text, signature marks that allowed the bookbinder to order the sheets correctly, and a handful of stains from past careless readers, but no mention of the elusive author. There are no handwritten notes, pencil marks, stains, or tears among the pages, leaving no physical clues about this particular copy’s journey through the ages.


Textual History

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

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

The Sadlier-Black collection’s copy of this chapbook is one of three currently recorded copies, and was printed specifically for T. Kaygill “at his circulating library” by W. Glindon (“T Kaygill,” “W Glindon”). Both of these men were British printers and publishers whose careers flourished in the early 1800’s. Though no specific publication date is available for this text, it was most likely published between 1803 and 1807. These dates encompass when T. Kaygill was at the address listed on the title page of the book (39 Upper Rathbone Place, London) (“T Kaygill”).

Many of the primary catalogues of nineteenth-century gothic works are devoid of any information on The Mystic Tower, so there is no record of advertisements for the book or public reception of the work. Aside from being briefly mentioned in Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography,Frederick S. Frank’s The Gothic Romance 1762–1820 holds the most robust assessment of the book. He claims that its hurried “penny-a-line” writing style and plot mimic John Palmer’s Mystery of the Black Tower and ensconce the chapbook as a typical low-brow shilling shocker (Frank 123). This criticism leads scholars to believe that the book was not wildly popular, and was most likely not reprinted or adapted after its original publication.


Narrative Point of View

The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A Romance. is written with a third-person anonymous narrator whose identity is never revealed in the text. The narrator adopts an omniscient perspective and offers insights about most of the main characters, while mainly telling the story as if following Matilda along her journey. Holistically, the narration is succinct, colloquial, and typically devoid of characters’ inner thoughts. The sentences the narrator uses are very long and littered with commas, but the language is clear and reads very comfortably. Only occasionally does the narrator hint at how Matilda would feel about a certain situation through well placed adjectives and emotionally connotated verbs. The only time that the voice of the narrator changes is when Matilda reads the letter titled “The Life of Lady Malvina Fitzwalter.” In this interpolated tale presented as a letter, Lady Malvina is writing in the first person and describing how she came to be in the curious position in which the young women found her.

Sample passage of third-person narration:

“The baron and baroness having been appraised of her illness entered at this moment, when the former approaching the bed, Matilda started back, exclaiming ‘did you murder him?’ ‘murder whom?’ exclaimed de Malvern. ‘The dark spirit in the tower,’ returned Matilda; ‘what is all this?’ said the baroness, turning to Clara, who without delay told them all she knew. They made no comments on her information, but commending Matilda to her care, both retired. The simple narrative of Clara, sunk deep in the mind of the baron, his reflections in supportable; the many reports he had heard in spirits that wandered in the ruined tower, and about the walls of the castle, rushed on his mind and in a convulsive agony he threw himself on a couch, groaning most piteously.” (15)

In this passage, Romaldi and Oswena are coming to check on Matilda after her encounter with the ominous knight. She is terrified and is convinced that her parents must have had something to do with the death of the de Malvern men for them to be haunted by such a terrifying being. The beginning of the passage sticks solely to the plot, describing the new baron and baroness approaching their daughter, but quickly switches to the dialogue in which Matilda makes her accusations about their involvement in the tragic deaths of the de Malverns. The narrator then resurges to describe how Matilda is put to bed by Clara, and then follows Sir Romaldi to detail the unrest he faces because of his deep-seated guilt for facilitating the death of the former Baron and his son. The focus of the passage is Matilda’s fear and her conversation with her parents, but when she is not in the scene the narrator is able to shed light on the experiences of some of the secondary characters.

Sample passage of first-person narration:

“Having the misfortune to lose my mother at an early age, I, the only child of lord Fitzwalter, was educated by an amiable woman with the utmost tenderness, and instructed in every branch of literature proper for a female mind.” (22)

This passage comes at the beginning of Lady Malvina’s letter to Matilda, explaining her rather tragic past. She speaks in the first person, using “I” frequently and colloquially, which indicates the intimacy of the contents of the letter and the authenticity of the story being told.  Readers are invited to sit in the shoes of Matilda during this break from the established narrative style, since the letter reads as a direct address, which highlights the flashback being recounted in the letter.


Summary

The story begins with Sir Romaldi, a poor knight returning home from his tour in the Holy Wars, trudging towards his castle and stewing over his jealousy of his relative, the rich Baron de Malvern. The Baron and his son are still fighting in the wars, and his inner monologue reveals that if they should die before they return from fighting, he himself would be next in line to inherit their estate and riches. While he is secretly wishing that a perilous fate befalls the father and son, a ghostly figure appears in his path, murmuring a prophecy about how his grim wishes will come true. Frightened by the eerie apparition, Sir Romaldi hurries home to meet his wife, Oswena, and his daughter, Matilda.

The story then delves into a flashback, featuring Matilda. One morning she was walking in the woods near the family castle, when a hunter appears from the woods claiming that he has lost his companions and asking if he can rest with her for a while. She agrees and the two exchange pleasantries. It becomes apparent that the young hunter, named Percy, has taken a liking to Matilda, and suddenly realizes that she is the daughter of Sir Romaldi. He exclaims that he cannot be seen with her, due to some deeply ingrained fissure between their families, but that he would like to meet Matilda again in the secret of the night. She, again, agrees, but is deeply troubled by the fact that he cannot meet her father, so after their first rendezvous she tells him she will no longer come to their meeting spot. She adheres to this promise for the next two years by not returning to their clandestine spot, but one evening she passes by and sees Percy walking below the battlement. She realizes how much she misses him, but it is too late because he is leaving to fight in the Holy Wars. To remind him that her prayers are with him she gives him a crucifix necklace and bids him goodbye.

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

A return to the present hones in on a conversation between Sir Romaldi and Oswena, in which he explains the eerie apparition on his journey home and she replies that he should have the Baron de Malvern and his son slain to secure the prophecy that the ethereal figure foretold.  After falling into a terrified stupor, he gathers his resolve and agrees that the foul deed must be done.

Months later, a message arrives at Sir Romaldi’s castle that the Baron and his son have died, and that he is to inherit the de Malvern estate. The small family gathers their things and immediately moves into the new castle. An ominous tension falls over the household as Romaldi walks in, with the minstrels unable to play their instruments and other household servants running in terror. As Matilda is walking around her new home with her attendant, Clara, the servant girl explains to her that there is a suit of armor rumored to wander the halls of the unrenovated part of the castle at night, as well as a particular portrait whose inhabitant occasionally leaps from it to walk to the same mysterious tower, said to house the spirits of the castle. Matilda tries to mitigate the fears of Clara, but one night they are able to see a light moving in the windows of the tower which reinvigorates terror in both of the girls. They send for the family priest, who tells them they are being superstitious and foolish, but all three are then confronted with the large black suit of armor that the rumors foretold. Matilda rushes to her parents to tell them of her terrifying encounters, and asks them if they had some hand in killing the Baron or his son. They assure her that she has nothing to worry about, but they share a moment of concern knowing that these hauntings are very likely due to their nefariously plotted murder.

Tensions and fears settle, and Romaldi begins to bring suitors to the castle to eventually find a match for Matilda. She, however, is approached by a boy that gives her the crucifix she gave to Percy, with the promise that he would return it to her shortly before he came home to ask for her hand in marriage. When her father tells her that he intends to give her hand to a particularly distasteful Lord she refuses and, in his anger, he has Matilda and Clara locked in her room until the next day when she is to be wed. Clara helps Matilda escape her arranged fate through a series of trap doors and tunnels that lead from her room to the outside of the castle, and in the middle of their flight they are met again by the darkly armored knight, and are terrified but are still able to escape the walls of the castle. Matilda and Clara hide in the nearby convent, but are quickly discovered by Romaldi, and are sent a letter demanding their return home. The abbess helps the girls escape to travel to another convent, but after becoming fatigued during their journey, they come upon the benevolent and ethereal Lady Malvina. The girls are showered with Malvina’s compassion and kindness in her hidden underground dwelling in the forest.

One evening, Matilda is presented with a letter detailing Lady Malvina’s mysterious history. Reading it, she discovers that as a girl Malvina was the sole heir to a large estate, promised to be married to her lover, Sir Egbert, and had met a distressed young woman, named Josephine, in the woods and secretly took her into her own care. She lived in pure happiness until her father died, after which Sir Egbert began to act coldly towards her and Josephine left her to grieve the loss of her lover alone, which she later discovered to be the result of an affair between her two closest companions. She tried to go through with the marriage as planned, but at the altar exclaimed that her friends were and love and should be married instead, despite the great pain and sorrow it caused her. Later, when she was invited by Sir Egbert to visit them, it was revealed that he was unhappy with the ill-intentioned Josephine and asked for Malvina’s forgiveness. Having heard the conversation between the former lovers and feeling enraged, Josephine storms in and murders Sir Egbert. Suffering from such deep pain, Malvina moved into her current subterranean apartments to protect herself from accusations that she had killed Egbert and the cruel world that injured her so greatly. Matilda weeps for her friend’s losses, and feels a deep connection with her as she is the only mother figure Matilda has ever possessed.

The final page of The Mystic Tower.

Soon Matilda and Clara receive a letter stating that the son of Baron de Malvern has survived his time in the war, and a foray outside with Malvina results in the three women being discovered by Josephine’s men. They are taken to Josephine’s court, but Matilda is cast aside, and is taken back to the de Malvern castle. She is left by Josephine’s guard to get into the castle herself and after sleeping outside for a couple days, she manages to sneak into the castle, where she finds her father lying on the floor covered in blood. He is only able to explain that he has slain himself, her mother has been poisoned, and to apologize for his cruelty to her before he dies, and Matilda, horror stricken, is only able to find her way to a chair before she faints. 

She awakes to Percy holding her and he reveals that he is the son of the Baron de Malvern and rightful heir of the title and estate. He also tells her that her father sent an assassin to kill him and his father, though he only managed to murder the Baron, and that he sent a loyal friend to watch over the castle, giving an explanation to the eerie suit of dark armor Matilda had seen wandering the castle. Matilda then tells her story leading up to the present, and concludes with her sorrow over the fate of Malvina. Percy takes Matilda to Josephine’s castle to rescue her friend but Josephine, surprised and overwhelmed by the invasion, stabs herself in the heart to avoid capture. They find Malvina in the dungeon and bring her back to safety with them, securing her innocence for Sir Egbert’s death with the king. Matilda marries Percy to become Lady de Malvern and the two live long happy lives together with their children. Malvina remains heavily involved in Matilda’s life, and is able to spend her dying breath in Matilda’s arms.


Bibliography

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

The Mystic Tower; or Villainy Punished. London, W. Glindon, N.D.

Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune Press, 1940.

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

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


Researcher: Olivia M. Walker

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

The Alpine Wanderers

The Alpine Wanderers

The Alpine Wanderers; Or the Vindictive Relative: A Tale, Founded on Facts

Author: A. Brown
Publisher: J. Scales, J. McGowen, J. Bailey
Publication Year: Unknown
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.7cm x 17.8cm
Pages: 38
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.B77 A 1820


In this chapbook, discover dark family secrets and old rivalries in a tale of love, revenge, and deception set in the Italian countryside.


Material History

The title page of The Alpine Wanderers.

The full title of this book is The Alpine Wanderers; or the Vindictive Relative: A Tale, Founded on Facts. This title appears in full only on the interior title page of the book, and the partial title, The Alpine Wanderers, appears on the spine of the book. The exterior of the book is otherwise extremely plain with no other inscriptions on the cover. The author’s name, given as A. Brown, appears only on the title page and not on the cover or anywhere else in the book. It is bound in brown paper, which looks similar to cardboard. This book is about 18 cm tall and 11 cm wide. It consists of thirty-eight pages of text. This particular copy of the book was rebound by the library at some point, and several pages of thick cardstock-like paper were added to the back of the book in order to make it thicker to make the book easier to bind. 

The interior of the book appears well used. The actual pages the story is printed on are very thin and soft. Most of the pages have browned with age and wear. The edges of many of the pages are torn or bent from being turned, and fingerprints have been left on a few of the pages. The text of the book is somewhat small but not tiny. Space is left above the text of the story on each page for the book’s title and the page number to be printed. The text is faded or smudged at some places in the book, and in others, the pages are so thin that the text on one side of the page shows through to the other. 

The final page of The Alpine Wanderers, which shows the book’s second printer.

On the very first page of the book, immediately preceding the title page, there is a black and white illustration depicting a fight between three men inside a house. The illustration is captioned “Alpine Wanderers.” This is an illustration of a scene that occurs on page 28 of the book. At the bottom of page 28, there is a note, “*See Frontispiece,” directing the reader to this illustration at the front of the book. 

This copy of the book consists of pages appearing to be printed by two different print shops. Up until page 14 of the story, the pages have catchwords on the bottom of the pages. Catchwords are when the printer puts the first word of the next page on the bottom of the page they are setting in order to help ensure they set the pages in the correct order. Pages 15 through 38 do not have these catchwords at the bottom. The bottom of title page of the book is marked with “J. McGowen, Printer, Church Street, Blackfriars Road,” and the bottom of the last page of the story is marked with “J. Bailey, Printer, 116, Chancery Lane.” Based on this, it is likely that the title pages and the story through page 14 were printed by J. McGowen, and the rest of the book, pages 15 through 38, were printed by J. Bailey.


Textual History

Very little information about The Alpine Wanderers is available from the time that it was published. The title page of this copy of The Alpine Wanderers lists the author as A. Brown. Several sources, notably including Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography, list the book without a known author, which may indicate that other editions of the book were not attributed to any author (230). There do not seem to be any other chapbooks or other similar literature attributed to an A. Brown. The publishing date for book is not certain, with some sources, such as A Gothic Bibliography, listing it as published as early as 1800 and others, such as National Union Catalog, pre-1956 imprints showing dates as late as 1820 (Summers 230, National Union Catalog 536). Most library listings use one of these two dates, and most note the uncertainty of the date. This edition was printed for J. Scales in London, and was printed by J. McGowen of Church Street, Blackfriars Road and J. Bailey of 116, Chancery Lane (Brown 3). Other copies of the book from the nineteenth century all had some variation on this publishing information if any was given. There are no known contemporary advertisements or reviews for the book. 

A page of sample text from The Alpine Wanderers with a reference to the book’s frontispiece. 

Copies of The Alpine Wanderers appear for sale in multiple catalogues from the early twentieth century. One is a 1900–1902 copy of An Illustrated Catalogue of Old and Rare Books for Sale, with prices affixed from rare book dealers Pickering and Chatto (82). Another is from a catalogue of the 1916 estate auction of one Col. Prideaux by auctioneers Southeby, Wilkinson, & Hodge (59). In both catalogues, the book is sold as part of larger lots of chapbooks. The lot of Col. Prideaux’s chapbooks lists an alternate title for the book as The Castle of Montrose (Southeby, Wilkinson, & Hodge 59)In the text, Montrose Castle is named once at the beginning of the story as the dwelling place the main characters are fleeing at the beginning. A Montrose Castle did exist, but it was located in Scotland, while the book is specified as taking place in the Italian countryside, and Montrose Castle was destroyed several centuries before this book was published (“Montrose, Fort Hill”). Other instances could not be found of this book being referred to by this alternate title or any copy of the book with this title listed on it. 

Several other libraries own copies of The Alpine Wanderers. Harvard University’s Houghton Library owns a copy that has also been digitized, and seems to be the same edition the University of Virginia owns. Harvard’s library catalog lists this copy as having a color frontispiece, which differs from the black and white frontispiece of the edition in the Sadleir-Black Collection, but the Harvard edition frontispiece is not included in the digital scan available online. Stanford University’s library also owns a copy, which their library catalog lists as including a hand colored frontispiece. Princeton University owns a copy of the book, also with a color frontispiece; its library catalog listing identifies its previous owner as Michael Sadlier. Princeton’s copy was also part of a two-volume collection of chapbooks bound together under the title Romance. The books from this collection were published mainly in or around 1810, with estimated publishing dates as early as 1800 and as late as 1826, and have a variety of different publishers and printers. It seems likely that these chapbooks were bound together at some point after their separate printing and publishing, though it is not clear when. The University of Oklahoma, the University of Nebraska, and the British Library also all own copies of The Alpine Wanderers.


Narrative Point of View

The Alpine Wanderers is predominantly narrated in third person by an anonymous narrator who is removed from the events of the story. In a few places throughout the story, such as the opening, the narrator will add first-person comments or address the reader directly. The story also includes multiple long stretches when a character spends an extended amount of time recounting their own backstory and takes over the narration in their first-person perspective. The longest of these interpolated tales is presented as a written manuscript. The storytelling focuses on character actions and interactions, with frequent lengthy sections of dialogue and long sentences describing plot, but little time spent on setting and description. 

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration: 

Let us now return to St. Alver’s Cottage. The little family had just finished their evening repast when they were alarmed by a loud knocking at the Door. Alice demanded who knock’d, a voice from without replied, “A friend who has something of importance to communicate”. The door was opened, and a man entered who wore a mask. On casting his eyes round the group before him, he singled out the Count and told him “He wished to speak with him in private”. In evident agitation St. Alvers followed the stranger into another room. When they were alone the Count begged the man would inform him of his business. “You have reasons, Seignior, or am I mistaken, for concealment; Say; is it not so?” The Count paused, at length he answered “No” The stranger again said, “If not it is all well, but I had reason to believe you were in imminent danger. I am a Friend, but shall not discover who I am at present. If you are the person, destruction awaits you unless you accept of my assistance which I freely offer. -Perhaps it was not you that was alluded to, if so, I beg pardon- Seignor, I meant well. (18–19)

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration Speaking in the First Person: 

Poor Mary dared not urge more, and retired in the utmost affliction. Their rural sports were almost neglected, the thoughts of the approaching departure of their beloved brothers damped the usual gaiety. I shall pass over the separation between these beloved relatives, as it can be much better conceived than described; for who has not, at some period of their lives, endured a like separation? (13)

Sample Passage of Interpolated Manuscript: 

“For the satisfaction of my children, I write this, that they may know and avoid the crimes of their father, and likewise that they may claim certain estates, which, while my bitter foe lives, I dare not. At the age of twenty-two, I came into possession of a large unencumbered estate, by the death of my father, with the titles and honors annexed to the name of Lindford (for that is my real name.) My sister, yet an infant, was left under my protection. The gaieties of life with me were just began, every kind of dissipation I launched into with avidity; nor did I awake from this giddy dream, until informed by my steward, I had no longer resources, except from the mortgage of part of my estates; it was then I cast my eyes around for a wife, whose wealth would be likely to rescue me from my unpleasant situation.” (26)

The subtitle of The Alpine Wanderers declares the story “a tale, founded on facts.” The narrator attempts to present the story as events that could have occurred in real life. The narrator’s insertion of their own thoughts in first person usually serve to further the idea that this is a real story that they are recounting and commenting on by suggesting they have limited knowledge of the story at certain points or are intentionally skipping over periods of time in their retelling. There is just enough setting description for the reader to be given a general understanding of where events are taking place and for the mood of the story to be set, but there is overall a lack of physical description that again contributes to the premise that the narrator is recounting a true story secondhand rather than making a story up or speaking of a personal experience. The insertion of a long stretch of backstory via a manuscript written by a character allows for the narrator to recount an important part of a main character’s story with specific details, opinions, and emotions recounted by the character himself that helps add depth to the character and his story while giving an in-text reason that the narrator would be able to have this level of detail and insight on this section of the story.


Summary

The Alpine Wanderers opens on the Count St. Alvers and his family fleeing their castle home on a stormy night. He, his four children, and the family’s two servants had inhabited this castle for ten years, remaining almost entirely isolated from their neighbors during this time. The Count’s wife had lived with the family for some of this time, but had been a withdrawn and despondent presence in the castle and had died after a few years. The family’s flight from the castle had been instigated by a recently received letter. The Count did not reveal the contents of the letter to his children, but had been visibly distraught upon reading it. 

The first page of text for The Alpine Wanderers.

The family travels around Italy in an erratic fashion for several days before coming to rest in a new village. Here, he and his two daughters, Olivia and Mary, will take on the appearance of average peasants while his two sons, Frederic and Robert, will be sent to England for their education. The village is also home to the Chateau of the Marchesa de Cortes, who comes to visit while the family is staying there. The Marchesa brings with her a company which includes her two young nephews, William and Henry. The two boys encounter Olivia and Mary and are quite taken with the beautiful young women. Mary rebuffs Henry’s advances while maintaining her role as a peasant, but Olivia begins to form a relationship with William, who begins to entertain the idea of marriage. He speaks to her father about the subject, but the Count rejects the proposal. The Marchesa overhears her nephew’s discussions about Olivia and also disapproves of him marrying a girl below his station. 

That same night, a masked man comes to the home of the Count and his family and informs the count that he is an ally coming to warn him of imminent danger. The masked man informs the count that his family must flee for their safety and offers his assistance in finding them shelter until more permanent arrangements can be made. The Count is alarmed by this news, but believes him, so the family once again flees in the middle of the night. The masked stranger leads them to an unpleasant underground chamber and locks them inside, and the family soon realizes that they have actually been imprisoned. After being kept in this dungeon for three days, the family is visited by the Marchesa, who had assumed the suspicious behavior of the family as they tried to present as peasants had been covering some criminal activity. 

Upon seeing the Marchesa, who he had yet to encounter in person, the Count recognizes her as his long-lost sister and reveals his true identity to her as the Lord Linford, an English nobleman. The Marchesa, excited to have found her brother, who she had believed to be lost in a shipwreck years ago, releases the family and brings them into her home. She explains to her brother that since they had last seen each other, she had married the Marches de Cortes, who had later died and left her his fortune and his sister’s sons as her charges. She then informs Henry and William that now that she knows the true status of Olivia and Mary, she fully supports their marriages. 

The frontispiece of The Alpine Wanderers.

It is then Lord Linford’s turn to explain where he has been since he and his sister parted. He gives the others a manuscript explaining that when he was young, his father died and left him the family fortune. The Lord quickly squandered the fortune and needed to marry a woman with money. He met his children’s mother, who was not nobility but was promised to inherit a decent amount of money from her father. Her family disapproved of the couple, so the two left the country and married without her family’s consent. This led to tensions between the Lord and his wife’s father and brother. On multiple occasions, this tension boiled over and led to physical fighting. On one occasion, Lord Lindford injured his brother-in-law, and on another, he accidentally dealt his father-in-law a fatal blow while attempting to defend himself from his brother-in-law. His brother-in-law had him arrested for the murder of his father, but Lady Lindford helped him escape. They and their children fled the country, eventually ending up in Italy, where they found the castle they were living in at the beginning of the story. While the Lord’s wife believed that her father’s death had been an accident, she still remained distant from her husband and outwardly unhappy until she eventually died. The Lord stayed in this castle until the day he received a letter warning him that the Lady’s brother had learned he was in Italy and was coming to take vengeance for his father’s death. This prompted the family’s flight from the beginning of the book. 

Once the Lord has recounted his tale, his sister informs him that his brother-in-law has since died and with his final words, admitted that his father’s death had been an accident and not an intentional murder. With the Lord’s name cleared, the family is free to return to their homeland of England. Upon their arrival, they reunite with Frederic and Robert, who had already been in the country for their education. During his stay, Frederic has fallen in love with a General’s daughter. He and his love have both been fearful that the General would not approve of Frederic, but upon learning he is a Lord, the General grants Frederic his blessing to marry his daughter. The story ends with the three weddings: Frederic and the General’s daughter, Olivia and William, and Mary and Henry. The book then gives the reader a final warning that wrongdoing will receive punishment, good deeds will receive reward, and that nothing good ever comes from disobeying one’s parents. 


Bibliography

Brown, A. The Alpine Wanderers: Or the Vindictive Relative: A Tale, Founded On Facts. London, Printed for J. Scales.

American Library Association. Committee on Resources of American Libraries. National Union Catalog Subcommittee, and Library of Congress. “The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints: a Cumulative Author List Representing Library of Congress Printed Cards And Titles Reported by Other American Libraries.” London: Mansell, 1968–1981. 

“Montrose, Fort Hill.” Canmore, canmore.org.uk/site/36242/montrose-fort-hill

Pickering & Chatto. An Illustrated Catalogue of Old And Rare Books for Sale, With Prices Affixed … London, Pickering & Chatto, 1900–1902. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.32044080263072

Sotheby, Wilkson, & Hodge. (London, England). “Catalogue of the Very Interesting and Extensive of the Late Col. W. F. Prideaux, C.S.I of Hopeville, St. Peter’s-in-Thanet (Sold by Order of the Executor).” [Catalogues of sales]. 1914-1917. London, Sotheby, Wilkson, & Hodge, 1916. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015059847577.

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


Researcher: Hannah Lothrop

Parental Murder

Parental Murder

Parental Murder; or, the Brothers, an Interesting Romance; in which Virtue and Villainy are Contrasted, and Followed by Reward and Retribution.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: T. and R. Hughes
Publication Year: 1807
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18cm
Pages: 40
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.P345 1807


Set in the Italian countryside, this 1807 chapbook sees seemingly supernatural justice dealt after a deceitful and power-hungry prince murders his father, usurps the throne, and abducts his brother’s lover.


Material History

Parental Murder is anineteenth-century chapbook written by an unknown author. When the novel is opened past its first blank page, one is presented with an illustration on the second page, and the title page appears on the third. The bulk of the title page is dedicated to the novel’s full title and a brief description: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR, THE BROTHERS, AN INTERESTING ROMANCE; IN WHICH VIRTUE AND VILLAINY ARE CONTRASTED, AND FOLLOWED BY REWARD AND RETRIBUTION.” The title page indicates that the novel was printed for T. and R. Hughes by printers Lewis & Hamblin. A date at the bottom of the title page indicates that it was published in 1807. Interestingly, the title page makes no mention of the novel’s author.

The frontispiece for Parental Murder.

The illustration on the second page is in black-and-white, depicting a scene from the main text. In the image, a woman clad in flowing white robes looks down upon a man lying dead on the ground, facing upward. The illustration is accompanied by a caption reading, “A fire-ball, impelled by the arm of unerring Omnipotence, laid the libertine dead at my feet. Page 27.” As suggested, this text appears in a passage on page 27.

The chapbook itself measures 11cm wide by 18cm tall. Stitching holes in each page’s inner margins suggest that the chapbook was originally bound, but this particular book has had its binding removed, and its first blank page serves as a kind of cover. The book’s paper is thin, brittle, yellowed, and very grainy—one feels pulp as they run their finger across each page. At its edges, the paper is frayed and rough. The book appears to have been printed on relatively cheap material, and this particular copy is especially well-worn; several of its pages are on the brink of coming apart from one another.

The chapbook is numbered as containing forty pages; however, counting from the novel’s blank first page, there are actually only thirty-eight pages. The novel’s first numbered page—page 8—appears only six pages in. Every page number thereafter is consecutive; if these two pages are missing, they must have been taken from before page 8. It is ultimately unclear if any pages actually are missing; no content appears to be omitted from these first pages. It is probable that either the two absent pages are blank or that page counting simply begins at an unusual number.

The cover page for Parental Murder, complete with ownership markings.

The blank first page—while devoid of print—does contain several ownership markings. The name “Sophia” is stamped identically three times near the top. Underneath, a partially-legible script indicates the name “Barbara Bounby” and the date range June 3rd to June 16th, 1810. (However, the specific days in June are somewhat unclear—the script is blotted and individual characters become difficult to decipher.) Near the bottom of the page, “Le” is written in a similar script with identical color.

After the main body of the text begins, the title of the book appears only in its abbreviated form: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR,” alongside “THE BROTHERS.” printed in the top margins of the left and right pages, respectively. Each page in the text’s main body has thin margins. The type is small, seriffed, and heavyset. The lines are short and tightly packed; the pages, while small, are dense. The body of the text contains no illustrations beyond the introductory frontispiece on the second page.

The body text is marked on two separate pages. First, on page 22, two x-marks made in pencil surround the phrase “of his heart.” Higher up on the same page, an (ostensibly accidental) pencil marking veers off the top edge. On page 31, the word “Regicide!” is underlined in pen. These two pages are the only two with obvious, visible annotations; the rest of the text is unmarked.


Textual History

Very little information is available concerning the writing, publication, or reception of Parental Murder. Its author is anonymous—the only names listed in the chapbook are those of the publisher and printer. Published in London in 1807, it was apparently released to little fanfare: there are no records of Parental Murder being advertised or reviewed in any periodicals of its time. Furthermore, searches for contemporary literary criticism—or any other kind of secondary scholarship—on the chapbook yield few references.

There are, however, indications that Parental Murder did not go entirely unnoticed by the scholarly community. For instance: it is listed in the expansive Gothic Bibliography by Montague Summers, described simply as “Parental Murder. Chapbook. 1807” (457).A slightly more detailed listing appears in Douglass Thomson’s Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide; his account includes the chapbook’s full subtitle, its city of publication, and the names of its editors (137). More interesting, however, is Parental Murder’s omission from Gothic Writers’ section on modern reprintings or updated editions. In this section, Thomson maintains a comprehensive list of reprintings, updated editions, and other reproductions of the works he tracks. From this, we can infer that Parental Murder was probably never reprinted or republished as a new edition. Thomson’s finding is consistent with searches across several online catalogs: in each case, no later editions of the chapbook appear. The available scholarly information on the chapbook, while relatively minute, suggests that only one edition has ever been published.

The title page for Parental Murder.

As previously noted, Parental Murder makes no indication of its author; it does, however, include the names of its printers and publishers. Before the body of the text, and once more at its close, the names and address of the books’ printmakers are listed: “Printed by Lewis & Hamblin, Paternoster-row” (Parental Murder 40). Similarly, the title page displays the name and address of the publishers: “Printed for T. and R. Hughes, 35, Ludgate-Hill, Corner of Stationers-Court” (Parental Murder 5). Biographical information on these figures is scarce; Lewis, Hamblin, and R. Hughes are all absent from searches for London printmakers or publishers active during 1807. A brief biographical entry for T. Hughes, however, does appear. The British Museum indicates that he was a British publisher and printmaker located at 35 Ludgate-Hill, consistent with the information in the chapbook. The page also indicates that this figure is “perhaps identical with T Hughes of Stationers’ Court” (“T Hughes”). Observing that the listed address in Parental Murder names both Ludgate-Hill and Stationers’ Court, we can confirm that these two figures likely both refer to the same printmaker.

The British Museum also notes that T. Hughes published several prints by George Cruikshank, a prominent illustrator of the time. Cruikshank was widely known for his political cartoons and illustrations for the likes of Charles Dickens, and his work remains prolific today. The uncredited illustration preceding Parental Murder is almost certainly unconnected to Cruikshank, however, as the chapbook’s publication in 1807predates Cruikshank’s rise as an illustrator in 1811.

Investigating the site of Parental Murder’s printing and publication places the chapbook at the center of the bustling London publishing and printmaking industries. Paternoster-row, the address attributed to printers Lewis and Hamblin, was a nexus of printmaking and principally occupied by “stationers and text-writers” (Thornbury chapter 23). The chapbook’s publishers, T. and R. Hughes, were situated at the corner of the nearby Stationers’ Court. Stationers’ Court is a small path that departs from Ludgate Hill Street and leads to the entrance of Stationers’ Hall (see this Ordnance Survey map to view the precise streets). Stationers’ Hall housed the Stationers’ Company, a government-chartered literary authority that extensively vetted and registered British publications: “almost every publication … was required to be ‘entered at Stationers’ Hall’” (Thornbury chapter 19). In this sense, the sites of Parental Murder’s printing and publication were both mere footsteps away from the epicenter of London publishing, pinning the chapbook’s production to the literal geographic center of a flourishing literary trade.


Narrative Point of View

Parental Murder features an anonymous, third-person narrator whose relationship to the text is left undefined. The novel’s prose is grandiose, long-winded, and, at times, almost breathless in nature: short and succinct sentences are often interposed with very long, grammatically complex ones. The narration shifts freely between making matter-of-fact observations on plot points and offering reflections on the inner thoughts, emotions, and secret motivations of the characters.

Sample Passage:

With malicious looks, Rabano saw that all the favours he had been suing for at the side of this lovely peerless maiden were unhesitatingly granted to his brother, and with such an arch plausibility of excuse, that it was impossible to refuse without exposing his disappointment and vexation. Romano afterwards danced with her, and the whisper every where ran, “What a figure! what grace! what sweetness!” “It must be so!” exclaimed Rabano inwardly; “I must—I will have her; and Zalarra shall decide upon the measures to be pursued!” (20)

Parental Murder’s willingness to freely transition between objective, plot-driven narration and inward, emotionally focused musings serves primarily to align its high-octane, action-packed storyline with a core thematic message about the supreme importance of virtue. Looking at plot events alone, the novel’s storyline traces out a familiar dramatic arc: the power-hungry, parricidal son whose sins catch up to him in the end. At the same time, the insights into characters’ private thoughts and motivations help to drive the thematic content: from these insights, it becomes clear that Romano is to be seen as virtuous, and his brother Rabano is not. In the passage above, Rabano’s inward exclamations of jealousy and lust serve to cement him as the iniquitous foil to his virtuous brother. Having established this characterization, when Romano ultimately triumphs, the narrator is able to assert that “virtue is the only true path to greatness, love, and glory!” (40). In this way, the intermingling narrative delivery of plot content and emotional content is key to presenting a compelling plot while also making a clear statement of theme.


Summary

Baretti is a powerful king who rules over an expansive dominion in Italy. He has two sons, Rabano and Romano. Romano, the younger brother, is the clear favorite of the two; he is revered by his parents for his virtuous character. In contrast, Rabano is power-hungry and ruthless. He resolves to conquer land for himself and sets his sights on the land of Ardini, a nearby ally. Baretti sees a learning opportunity: he supplies Rabano with men and armaments, hoping that brutal defeat will show Rabano to be incapable of leadership.

One day, Ardini’s men trespass on Baretti’s land, and Rabano seizes the opportunity to mount a retaliatory attack. But when it becomes clear that Rabano is interested in senseless brutality, Baretti and his men come to Ardini’s aid; their forces combined, Rabano will certainly suffer crushing defeat. Rabano, realizing this, develops a burning hatred for his father and resolves to get revenge. He enlists his trusted assistant Zalarra to disguise himself as a priest and sneak to Ardini’s camp, where Baretti is currently staying. Zalarra finds Baretti in the camp and tells him that Rabano is prepared to make a peace offering.

Baretti follows him to meet Rabano in an isolated dell. But when he arrives, Rabano gives his father an ultimatum: betray Ardini and aid in the conquest of his land, or be killed where he stands. Baretti realizes that the peace offering was a setup and begins to fight his assailants, but he is eventually overcome and stabbed. Baretti is buried in a prepared grave, and the assassins return home.

The next morning, Ardini’s camp is in a state of confusion. Without orders from Baretti, the supplementary forces will not go into battle—condemning Ardini to certain defeat at the hands of Rabano. They enact a short truce with Rabano while they search for Baretti—but find nothing.

Rabano takes the throne. He is shocked, however, when Zalarra finds Baretti’s grave unearthed and the body missing. Rabano is shaken by this discovery, but he rules as if nothing is wrong. He sends Romano on a mission to a neighboring chief, and he plans to throw a party to celebrate his ascension to power. Despite their strained relationship, Ardini is invited.

At the party, Ardini is accompanied by his beautiful daughter Miranda. When Rabano sees her, he is immediately enamored and resolves to make her his own. He asks her to dance, but she refuses. Suddenly, Romano bursts into the party. Romano explains that the hostile neighboring chief detained him, but he managed to escape and make his way home. Rabano promises to look into the matter later.

Romano catches glimpse of Miranda. He asks her to dance, and she gladly accepts. Rabano is incensed at seeing this, and he plans how he will win Miranda’s hand. Rabano pulls Miranda and Ardini into a private apartment. Ardini steps into a neighboring room to give them some privacy, but the door is shut on him and he finds himself trapped. Now alone with Miranda, Rabano urges her to marry him, but she confesses that she already loves Romano.

Unprompted, Miranda remarks that Rabano and Zalarra look suspiciously similar to two hooded figures she saw on the night of Baretti’s murder. That same night, she had planned a secret meeting with Romano—in the same isolated dell where Baretti was murdered. She arrived at the dell before the murderers, but when she heard them approaching, she hid behind a tree. She has not mentioned anything out of fear for herself and Romano.

Rabano cautions her to keep quiet. If her story got out, Romano could be in serious danger; he too was missing on the night of the murder. Miranda agrees and swears to stay silent. Rabano renews his attempts at courting her. When she refuses again, he forces her towards a hidden chamber.

Meanwhile, Ardini suspects foul play when he is not let out of the locked room. He escapes through a window, finds Romano, and explains that he fears for Miranda; the group heads for the castle’s private apartments. When a guard stops them, they slay him and rush upstairs just in time to catch Rabano forcing Miranda into the hidden chamber.

Miranda steals Rabano’s weapon and tries to stab him, but the blade breaks in two and fails to injure him. Soldiers alerted by Zalarra descend on the group and arrest Romano and Ardini for high treason. Until their trial, Miranda is to be detained in the hidden apartment, where Rabano persists in his attempts for her hand almost daily.

Sample page from the body of Parental Murder, with an underline marked beneath the word “Regicide!”

One night, Rabano sneaks into Miranda’s chamber while she is asleep and plants a kiss on her lips. He prepares to rape her, but a suit of armor steps off its pedestal and stands between them. It shouts: “Thy reign is short! At the trial, parricide, thou shalt behold me again” (30). The apparition scares Rabano off from his attempts to violate Miranda.

The night before the trial, Rabano and Zalarra get drunk together. Zalarra continues to give Rabano alcohol until he passes out on the floor. Zalarra also has an eye for Miranda; he steals the keys to her secret chamber, sneaks in, and kisses her while she sleeps. Before he can continue, however, a figure in black robes shouts “Regicide!” (31). The figure warns Zalarra to repent. Zalarra flees, wakes Rabano, but decides not to tell him about what he saw. Instead, Zalarra suggests they search the castle for any other apparitions. While searching, they discover that Miranda has escaped from her chamber. Their efforts to locate her are fruitless.

Secretly, Miranda was conveyed by a mysterious monk to a cottage outside of the castle through a hidden tunnel. In the cottage, she meets a former servant of Baretti, who promises to lead her to the chamber where the trial will be held, so she can expose Rabano and Zalarra. On the day of the trial, Ardini is tried first; he confesses to killing guards in pursuit of Rabano, but he expects that the detention of his daughter will justify his conduct. Romano is tried next. A priest steps up and testifies the dying confession of a deserting soldier named Afran, who had allegedly stumbled upon Romano burying Baretti’s body. He had pursued Romano, but Romano escaped, and Afran was mortally wounded in the struggle. He did, however, manage to grab a gorget bearing Romano’s name during the fight.

Romano explains that he was present at the dell on the night of the murder—but only to see Miranda. As he arrived, he saw a figure stab the victim. He was unable to reach the assassins in time, so he unearthed the body and resolved to carry it to a nearby house. The body was too heavy, however, so he instead brought it to a nearby cave. Afran, seeing Romano carry the body, mistook him for the assassin and attacked.

The judge is prepared to issue a death sentence for Romano when Miranda bursts in. She presents the cloak and banner Baretti wore on the night of his murder, which were found in Rabano’s strongbox. The courtroom descends into chaos until the aforementioned priest announces that he has one more piece of evidence—a piece of paper naming the murderer, given by Afran in his final moments. Zalarra snatches the paper from him and rips it to pieces. Chaos returns, and the priest suddenly blows a whistle. The room is instantly flooded with soldiers, and a figure appears at the head of the courtroom.

To everyone’s surprise, the figure is Baretti himself. He explains that he survived the assassination attempt. After being carried to the cave, he told Afran that Rabano was guilty. Since then, Baretti has been living in the cottage, disguised as one of his own servants.

The courtroom instantly condemns Zalarra and Rabano. The judge assigns both fiends formidable sentences. Rabano is confined to a cell at the top of a large tower, which eventually collapses and crushes him to death. Romano is declared the worthy successor to Baretti, and he reigns “with unabated splendor” (40).


Bibliography

“George Cruikshank.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 23 Sept. 2020, www.britannica.com/biography/George-Cruikshank.

Ordnance Survey. Director General of the Ordnance Survey, Chessington, Surrey, 1953. Map. https://maps.nls.uk/view/102904585.

Parental Murder. London, T. and R. Hughes, 1807.

Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. London, Fortune Press, 1964.

Thomson, Douglass H., et al. Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide. Greenwood Press, 2002.

Thornbury, Walter. Old and New London: Volume 1. London, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878. British History Online. 27 October 2020. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol1.

“T Hughes.” British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG163433.


Researcher: Joe Kerrigan

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

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

The Convent of Saint Usurla

The Convent of Saint Usurla

The Convent of Saint Usurla, or Incidents at Ottagro. An Italian Romance.

Author: Unknown, but abridged from a Sarah Wilkinson novel
Publisher: John Arliss
Publication Year: 1809
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11cm x 18cm
Pages: 40
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C664 1809


In this abridged version of Sarah Wilkinson’s 1807 novel “The Fugitive Captive,” Magdalena retells the story of the peculiar circumstances in which she has been forced to escape her mysterious husband, the Count de Ottagro.


Material History

The Convent of Saint Usurla, or Incidents at Ottagro. An Italian Romance was published in London on August 22, 1809 with no named author. The full title appears only on the title page; in the header of every other page, it appears only as The Convent of Saint Usurla. It is important to note the spelling of Usurla, not Ursula, in the title. The reason for this misspelling seems to be intentional, as it appears in that form throughout the book; however, the reasoning is unknown. In addition, printing and publishing credit appears on the bottom of the frontispiece and title page, as well as the final page of the book and indicates both printer and publisher to be John Arliss at Bartholomew-Close.  

The title page for The Convent of Saint Usurla

The book is fairly small in size (18 x 11 cm) and without a cover, aside from the title page. This is consistent with the fact that it is likely from an inexpensive chapbook with several other stories. Additionally, the book is disbound. It is precariously held together by thread, evidenced by three small puncture holes on the interior of the pages which it is wound through. On one page, a small fragment of the thread pokes out. Furthermore, the pages are yellowed in an uneven quality throughout the book and scalloped around the edges. Some pages are shorter in width than others. This low quality in binding and appearance can be attributed to its nature as an economical source of entertainment for the public.   

Upon opening the book, one is met with two illustrations. There is a large (13 x 8 cm) illustration on the frontispiece and a smaller (3.5 x 5.5 cm) one on the title page. Both are black and white depictions of scenes from the book. There is a slight reverse image transfer from the large frontispiece illustration onto the adjacent title page. This is due to the differing properties in ink from the two pages. 

The remaining forty pages relay the story of The Convent of Saint Usurla. The text is closely set and fairly small with margins ranging from 1.5 to 2 cm. There are few paragraph indentations, leading to long blocks of uninterrupted text which give the page a crowded appearance. Some pages present words that are precise and clearly distinguishable, while others have ink globs and letters that appear fuzzy. This particular copy of the book has no post-production markings other than one small dark yellow rectangular stain on pages 20 and 21, most likely from a previous owner leaving a scrap of paper in the book for a long period of time. 

At the bottom of various pages, there are signature marks. In the production process, multiple pages were printed on the same large roll of paper which then needed to be folded in the correct order. These signature marks assisted the printers in the folding and binding of the text. Such signature marks appear on pages 3, 5, 15, 19, 25, 27, and 37 and are labeled B, B2, C, C3, D, D3, and E, respectively. Interestingly, each section under a particular signature mark, has a different paper and ink quality than those surrounding it. For example, the paper in signature mark section D is of a visibly lower quality than section C3. Despite the presence of these signature marks, a mistake in the folding of this copy was discovered which led to duplicate copies of pages 25 and 26.  


Textual History

In addition to the copy in the Sadlier-Black Collection at the University of Virginia, The Convent of Saint Usurla, or, Incidents at Ottagro. An Italian Romance (1809) can be found in various forms. For instance, in 2017, a copy of the chapbook was digitized to Google Books by the British National Library. It appears to be the same chapbook edition published by John Arliss, even exhibiting the same mistakes in page numbering. Additionally, the story was republished in Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830 by Franz J. Potter in 2009 with the author listed as Sarah Wilkinson. Likewise, a 2004 reprint by the Zittaw Press publishing company lists Sarah Wilkinson as the author as well. 

The reason for this ambiguity regarding the author comes from the fact that the brief chapbook story is an abridged version of the full-length novel, The Fugitive Countess or, Convent of Saint Ursula (1807) by Sarah Wilkinson. Sections of the chapbook story are pulled directly from the novel, with a few small changes. One alteration is the name change of “Ursula” in the novel, which has been printed as “Usurla” in the chapbook. Similarly, the name “Ottagio” in the novel is slightly altered to “Ottagro” in the chapbook. It is unknown if Sarah Wilkinson herself abridged her novel into the chapbook released in 1809, or if it was plagiarized by a counterfeiter, which was a common practice in the day (Frank 142). 

As aforementioned, The Fugitive Countess (1807), written by Sarah Wilkinson and published by J.P. Hughes, is a four-volume novel that expands upon the short chapbook story The Convent of Saint Usurla (1809). There do not appear to be any critical reviews of the novel or chapbook at the time of original publication; however, The Fugitive Countess is found to be advertised in newspapers. For example, the novel is mentioned under the section “New Novels, just published” in the London based newspaper Morning Post on June 12, 1807. Also, in the Morning Post, it is listed as number six in the “Popular novels/Romances” section on January 1, 1808 which indicates that it was at least marginally popular.

Despite the few mentions of the novel at the time of its release, The Fugitive Countess has received some scholarly critical analysis in recent years. In his work, The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade, Franz Potter notes a striking similarity between Clementina’s interpolated tale from The Fugitive Countess and one of Wilkinson’s previous chapbooks, The Wife of Two Husbands, which was itself an adaptation of a theater musical. He asserts that in the novel, Wilkinson, “drew from other popular themes found in Gothic novels, most notably from Eliza Parsons’s The Mysterious Warning” (128). Despite these similarities, The Fugitive Countess appears to be a legitimate, original novel that was only heavily influenced by popular Gothic works of the time, not plagiarized (History of Gothic Publishing 120).     

A signature mark is shown at the bottom of this page

Nowadays, The Fugitive Countess can be found digitized in the Corvey Collection, a massive collection of European literature from 1790–1840 (Behrendt). It can also be found in, English Language Women’s Literature of the18th & 19th Centuries published by Belser Wissenschaftlicher Dienst in 2004. This republishing of The Fugitive Countess, along with other recent republishings of its chapbook version, may be attributed to the revival of interest in Gothic chapbooks, and author Sarah Wilkinson herself in recent years, as “a case study of middling to lower-class female authorship during the early nineteenth century” (Hoeveler 184). 

A well-known chapbook author of her day, Sarah Carr Wilkinson (1779–1831) was the author of over one-hundred chapbooks, gothic novels, and abridged versions of plays, operas, and popular gothic novels—making her one of the most prolific writers of her genre (“Writing for the Spectre of Poverty” 23). Early on, Wilkinson’s writing career began with children’s books, but she soon transitioned primarily to writing short Gothic chapbooks, also called bluebooks, and full-length novels (Hughes 253). Wilkinson produced many more chapbooks, which were cheaply constructed and sold, than novels. Ultimately, chapbooks were a more profitable venture for her, and writing was her primary source of income (“Writing for the Spectre of Poverty” 23). Her most active and successful years were between 1803 and 1812, in which she received modest popularity in her genre (History of Gothic Publishing 116). Unfortunately, despite her relative popularity in the chapbook scene, Wilkinson “never had the comfort of literary or economic success” and faced a life-long struggle against poverty (“Writing for the Spectre of Poverty” 18). Her financial concerns intensified around 1820, which is exemplified in the many petitions (and denials) for financial assistance from the Royal Literary Fund (History of Gothic Publishing 113). In 1824, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, her plea for assistance was finally granted. The petition was endorsed by several of her publishers and cites, “a depression in the Book trade” as a reason for her need of assistance. This interesting inclusion indicates the waning popularity of the genre that had once sustained her. Unfortunately, Wilkinson’s health and financial situations both continued to deteriorate, culminating in 1831 when she passed away in a London workhouse (History of Gothic Publishing 113–15). 

Currently, there are varying opinions on the merit of Wilkinson as a serious author. Some of her harshest critics have gone as far as to assert that she engaged in “Gothic counterfeiting” (Frank 142). Others have called her a “‘hack’ writer” who pumped out contrived, formulaic stories for the sole purpose of making money (Hoeveler 184). On the other hand, more generous critics admit that Wilkinson wrote to sustain herself and often employed “recycled scenes and motifs” from the genre, even as some argue that her works also show an “ability to construct clear and simple story lines free from dense subplotting that often encumbered Gothic novels” and are important in that they “uniquely show the amalgamation of the bluebook and the novel” (History of Gothic Publishing 116, 130).


Narrative Point of View

The Convent of Saint Usurla is told in two alternating perspectives. Primarily, the novel is written from a third-person point of view. The narrator is unspecified, but omniscient to all of the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and actions. The chapbook is written in a fairly formal style, frequently employs long sentences, and often delves into the interiority of the protagonists. In contrast to this style of writing, the novel also has several interpolated tales inserted throughout which are written in a first-person perspective. These tales extend for many pages at a time and function to recount relevant past events. Since they are told from an individual’s perspective, they are limited to only this character’s point of view. Despite this, however, they are imbued with a great level of detail and highly specific dialogue.   

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:

On this occasion the count visited Tivoli; and having remained there a few days, escorted his daughter to the convent, to the regret of her governess, who did not give her assent to this visit. The journey was delightful to Magdalena: everything was novel, consequently pleasing to her youthful mind; and she chatted with the utmost gaiety. The count could not withhold his love and admiration; but her presence forcibly reminded him of the injury he had done to her, and the necessity of preserving his own reputation unblemished. (7–8)

This passage from near the beginning of the novel demonstrates the omniscient qualities of the third-person point of view. In this case, this narrative perspective functions to give the reader a sense of the motivations of the characters which justify their subsequent actions in the story. 

Sample Passage of First-Person Narration in an Interpolated Tale:

A few days after this I was ordered to receive Ottagro as my husband. Such was my desperation, that being left alone with the count, I, on my knees, confessed my prior marriage, and its consequences, beseeching him not to betray me, but to form some pretext for preventing our approaching union. He raised me in his arms. “You have acted,” said he, “with honorable candour, never shall your confidence be betrayed. Lenardo’s widow must be my bride. If I act in conformity to your wishes your father will seek another alliance; the next suitor may not act with the same generosity as myself. Let me, in the character of husband, be your defender from ill.” (26) 

This passage is from Clementina de Lusini’s interpolated tale in which she recounts her backstory to Magdalena. A first-person perspective is important here because the readers are not given all aspects of the story, only the parts known to Clementina, herself. Due to this, the reader does not receive all relevant information until the end when all of the stories connect together. In addition, the interpolated tale format creates a non-chronological sequence of events. These elements propel the story forward and create mystery that can only be resolved by fully completing the novel. 


Summary

The chapbook, The Convent of Saint Usurla, begins in the middle of an action-packed scene in which the protagonist, Magdalena, the Countess de Ottagro, closely escapes imminent death at the hand of her husband, the Count de Ottagro. Upon fleeing, Magdalena and her maid, Laura, take refuge in the Convent of Saint Usurla where her loving aunt Viola is the Abbess. With this, the novel goes back in time in order to tell the story of how Magdalena came to be in this situation. 

As a young girl, Magdalena lost her mother and thus received a sheltered upbringing by her father, the Count de Verona. The Count de Verona was from an esteemed family in Tivoli; however, he was a gambler and managed to gamble away all of his money, as well as Magdalena’s inheritance. Due to this, Magdalena has no dowry, and thus little prospect for a favorable marriage. To avoid this problem, the Count de Verona wants Magdalena to become a nun and sends her to the Convent of Saint Usurla for a visit. Here, Magdalena becomes close to her Aunt Viola and makes friends, coming to appreciate the convent as she considers taking the oath.

While, at the convent, Magdalena meets the Count de Ottagro, who is a wealthy nobleman and friend of her father’s. The Count takes a liking to her, though she feels impartial, and two continue to meet. Suspecting his marital intentions and questioning his character, Aunt Viola expresses her disapproval of these meetings to Magdalena’s father. In response, the Count de Verona removes Magdalena from the convent and transfers her to the Castle de Ottagro. 

At the Castle de Ottagro, Magdalena spends several weeks with her father, the Count de Ottagro, and his cold sister, Lady Jacintha. In this time, Magdalena also grows close to the Lusini family—the amiable daughter Angelina and handsome son Ernestus—who live nearby; however, this is disapproved of as a bad blood exists between the Count de Ottagro and the Lusini’s for some unknown reason. In addition, Magdalena passes her time secretly reading in the castle library, in which she is forbidden. One late night in the library, Magdalena briefly sees a mysterious woman in white, and she flees in terror. The next day, Magdalena returns to the library and finds a mysterious note, addressed to her, which warns her of some unspecified danger. 

Soon after this strange occurrence, the Count de Verona orders Magdalena to marry the Count de Ottagro. He says that by doing this, Ottagro will erase the gambling debts that he has incurred and will even give him a future loan. At first, Magdalena rejects the idea since she is suspicious of Ottagro. However, the Count de Verona threatens suicide, so she ultimately agrees. The next morning, Magdalena unhappily accepts the Count de Ottagro’s marriage proposal, and the wedding ceremony is set for two weeks’ time. 

The frontispiece for The Convent of Saint Usurla

In the interim, one-night Magdalena spots the Count de Ottagro and his sister, Lady Jacintha, carrying a covered basket to the library. There, the two open a hidden trapdoor and descend. Now, Magdalena is highly wary of her groom-to-be and suspects that there is a secret prisoner in the library. Nevertheless, she proceeds with the marriage. 

A few weeks later, on a night in which the Count de Ottagro is out of town and Lady Jacintha is sick, Magdalena returns to the library and opens the trap door. She descends down a staircase and a long passage where she then reaches a locked door. Disappointed, Magdalena starts to return to the surface; however, Lady Jacintha’s maid Thomasine finds her. Magdalena fears that Thomasine will turn her in, but instead she unlocks the door to reveal the secret. Inside, there is a small child and a dying woman who is identified as Clementina de Lusini—the first wife of the Count de Ottagro.  

At this point, the dying Clementina de Lusini retells the story of how she came to be imprisoned in the library dungeon in the Castle de Ottagro. As a teen, Clementina fell in love with Lenardo di Orizzi, the son of her father’s arch nemesis. She was forbidden to marry him, but the two secretly eloped. Soon, their elopement was discovered by Lenardo’s family and because of this, he was sent far away to war where he was killed in action. After this devastating tragedy, Clementina discovered that she was pregnant. Fortunately, her family was scheduled to go on a long trip without her, during which she gave birth to a baby boy. She called him Lenardo and gives him to her doctor and his wife to raise. The doctor and his family, including young Lenardo, then moved to England.  

Ignorant to all of the events that had taken place, Clementina’s family returned from their trip with a friend, the Count de Ottagro. Thinking her lover to be dead, Clementina married the Count de Ottagro, but before long, her guilty conscience prompted her to tell the Count of everything that had occurred. Surprisingly, the Count de Ottagro accepted her admission, but over time grew resentful and unkind. After some time, Clementina became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl, Adeline, but the Count de Ottagro remained unhappy, as he wanted a male heir. 

After several years, Clementina visited her family’s mansion, where she found Lenardo, her lover, to be alive and well. Apparently, he was not sent away to war, but imprisoned by his father for his indiscretion and declared dead to the world. Upon the recent death of his father, he was freed. However happy, Clementina was also greatly troubled at this news, as she had already remarried.

Almost immediately, the Count de Ottagro discovered that Lenardo was alive, and he and Clementina have met. With this knowledge, he accused Clementina of plotting to murder him and took her to the dungeon under his library. There she found Lenardo and her maid, Drusilla, who was imprisoned as an accomplice to Clementina’s perceived betrayal. In a rage, Ottagro murdered Lenardo and Drusilla, and Clementina was devastated. The Count de Ottagro realized that he cannot free Clementina as she could expose him; however, he also does not want to kill her. As a result, he faked her and their daughter’s deaths and imprisons them in the library dungeon where they have been for the last five years. Soon after relaying this story, Clementina dies. 

Soon after this wild discovery, the Count de Ottagro grows suspicious that Magdalena has uncovered his secret. Under pressure, she admits. The Count threatens Magdalena, but ultimately swears her to secrecy. Two years pass by with this arrangement, when one-night Magdalena sees the Count de Ottagro smuggle a teen boy into the library dungeon. She secretly enters the dungeon and discovers that it is Clementina’s son, Lenardo. Lenardo tells her that he was raised in England by his adopted family, but upon growing older was told of his true past. On hearing this, he vowed to take revenge on Ottagro and started heading for Italy. However, all of this time, the Count de Ottagro kept tabs on the boy, so he was intercepted on his journey and imprisoned. With the help of Magdalena, Lenardo manages to escape and arrives safely at the Lusini home. The Count de Ottagro discovers this and, furious, he nearly kills Magdelena. However, Magdalena escapes and flees to the Convent to take refuge. This is where the various timelines of the novel converge.  

Fearing exposure, the Count de Ottagro rapidly flees the castle when his carriage crashes and he dies. Magdelena is now free from the evil Count de Ottagro and she and the handsome Lusini son, Ernestus, get married. 


Bibliography

Behrendt, Stephen C. “European Literature, 1790–1840: The Corvey Collection.” Gale Primary Sources: Nineteenth Century Collections Online. https://go-gale-com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/ps/aboutThisCollection?userGroupName=viva_uva&inPS=true&mCode=4UVC&prodId=NCCO

The Convent of Saint Usurla, or, Incidents at Ottagro. An Italian Romance. London, John Arliss, 1809. 

Frank, Frederick S.. Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide, edited by Douglass H. Thomson, and Jack G. Voller, Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central. 

Hoeveler, Diane Long. “More Gothic Gold: the Sadleir-Black chapbook collection at the University of Virginia library.” Papers on Language & Literature, vol. 46, no. 2, 2010, pp. 164–193. 

Hughes, William. Historical Dictionary of Gothic Literature, Scarecrow Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/lib/uva/detail.action?docID=1144297

“Multiple Classified Ads.” Morning Post [London], Issue 11322, June 12, 1807, p. 2. Gale Primary Sources: British Library Newspapers.

“Multiple Classified Ads.” Morning Post [London], Issue 11503, Jan. 1, 1808, p. 4. Gale Primary Sources: British Library Newspapers.

Potter, Franz. The History of Gothic Publishing, 18001835: Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Potter, Franz. ‘Writing for the Spectre of Poverty: Exhuming Sarah Wilkinson’s Bluebooks and Novels.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text, issue 11, 2003, pp. 17–34.

Wilkinson, Sarah. The Fugitive Countess or, Convent of Saint Ursula. London, J.P. Hughes, 1807.


Researcher: Samantha K. Venables

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