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 Recluse of the Woods

The Recluse of the Woods

The Recluse of the Woods; Or, The Generous Warrior

Author: Unknown
Publisher: J. Roe
Publication Year: 1809
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 9.8cm x 15.5cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .R425 1809


In this circa 1809 chapbook set in the county of Sussex and featuring royalty and forbidden love, one intriguing romance revolves around an Earl’s daughter and a mysterious man’s son who lives alone in the woods. 


Material History

This particular copy of The Recluse of The Woods is especially rich in both history and mystery. At first glance, several properties of the physical appearance of the book raise questions regarding the book’s history. The binding of the book is made of plain blue paper with nothing printed on it, while also being held together by just enough stitching to keep it stable. The physical book itself is extremely thin, with its height measuring 15.5 cm and it’s width measuring 9.8 cm. Additionally, the cover of the book is completely empty and simple, signaling the inexpensive qualities of the object. Inside the book, the interior pages follow the precedent set by the exterior as the pages are very thin and worn out. The color of the pages are yellowed, representing a light cream color, however are still relatively intact without major stains. 

The title page for The Recluse of the Woods

A detailed illustration is present in the beginning of the text, showing a well-dressed man and two women greeting each other, while another man watches from the bushes afar. The illustration seems to be either hand coloring or watercoloring while still being in good condition. There’s also a castle in the background, near the upper left corner. Once again, this illustration further points to the ambiguity of The Recluse of The Woods, as there is no caption or description beneath the drawing that provides information on the meaning of the illustration. The one possible inference that can be made is that the man and two women greeting each other are colleagues, while the man watching from afar seems more suspicious and unwelcome. 

The title page prints “The Recluse of The Woods” first, followed by “Or, The Generous Warrior.” Underneath the two titles reads, “A Gothic Romance.” The mysterious qualities of the book are further exemplified by the absence of the author’s name, which is nowhere present in the chapbook. 

In terms of text within the book, all pages have closely-set text with wide margins due to the edges not being trimmed. The font is relatively small. For each page of text, the number of the page is written in the top left corner of the page, while the top of the even-page numbers read “The Recluse of” and the top of the odd-page numbers read “The Woods.” There are thirty-six pages of text total in the book. 


Textual History

While The Recluse of the Woods proves to be an interesting novel offering a unique perspective from gothic literature, the actual history of the text is quite ambiguous. A few key details about the circumstances in which The Recluse of the Woods was made are known, namely regarding the publication of the text. The novel was published in 1809 in London, printed by a man named Thomas Maiden, and the publishers were John Roe and Ann Lemoine. These three also worked together for the production of many other novels during the early nineteenth century, publishing books such as The Castle of Alvidaro and The Round Tower. Additionally, there are several copies of The Recluse of the Woods held in both the United States and England, with schools such as The University of Virginia, Yale University, and The University of Oxford each holding copies of the novel. 

While this information provides some insight into The Recluse of the Woods, the biggest mystery surrounding the novel is the identity of the author. While their identity seems to be hidden, Frederick S. Frank provides substantial information on the novel in a chapter called “The Gothic Romance,” explaining how The Recluse of the Woods was “written with Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde; or, The Recluse of the Lake in view” (139). While the author of The Recluse of the Woods seems to be absent from most databases, Charlotte Smith was well known for her novels and poems during the late eighteenth century.

The frontispiece for The Recluse of the Woods

Charlotte Smith was an English novelist and poet, born in 1749 and living until 1806. In her career spanning twenty-two years, she produced ten novels, two translations, three books of poetry, and six educational works for children (Napier). Most of her novels earned high praise throughout the duration of her career, while also drawing some debate and criticism for her writing style and views. Among her critics, some voiced their disagreement with democratic sympathies, as well as her radical attitudes toward conventional morality and her political ideas of class equality. Some of the key qualities associated with Smith’s writing were her tendency to work self-consciously and experimentally within the fiction genre. Moreover, she often focused on the celebration of nature within her books, while also frequently adopting the prototypical figure of the wanderer as a vehicle for social commentary. Smith was also a “wanderer,” of sorts, for much of her career, making sense of her attraction towards this characterization (Zimmerman).

While Charlotte Smith saw herself as a poet first and foremost, many of Smith’s novels developed the frame of the story according to Gothic and sentimental traditions. Some of her novels even contained poetic scenes, such as the novel related to The Recluse of the Woods, namely Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake. Published in 1790 in Dublin, Ireland, The Recluse of the Lake was received with mixed reviews by critics, as many saw the novel being equal in excellence to one Smith’s best-known works Emmeline, while some disregarded this notion. One particular critic directly challenges this notion, explaining, “If we compare Ethelinde with Emmeline, it will be found less full of adventure, of sudden changes of fortune, and less interesting by its humble denouement. The characters are not too prominent, nor their outlines so broad” (“Ethelinde” 57). Because the poetic scenes revolved around natural landscapes in the The Recluse of the Lake, the novel adopts a static, lingering quality exactly suited to the tone of its heroine’s introspective melancholy (Napier). While poetic scenes play an important role in The Recluse of the Lake, the novel ultimately is characterized by containing sentimental narratives with Gothic elements, similar to her three other works that she produced during the same time period, like Emmeline and Celestina (Ravin). The Recluse of the Woods harnesses the same sentimental narratives, but ultimately did not have the same critical impact or the same staying power as Charlotte Smith’s novel.


Narrative Point of View

The Recluse of The Woods is narrated in the third person by an external narrator who does not appear in the text. The narration is quite descriptive and observational, as the narrator tends to paint a picture of the scene and describe characters’ physical characteristics prior to introducing the dialogue. Also, the narrator repeatedly tells the reader about characters internal conflict and feelings throughout the novel. 

Sample Passage: 

Many other lessons were given to Eliza, by her father and the Lady Gertrude, and she was then left by them to weep for Edgar, and sigh over the hardness of her fate. About the hour of noon the shrill voice of the trumpet announced to her the approach of Lord Harold; she trembled at the sound, and as the untamed fawn flies from the approach of the passenger, she ran to her chamber, anxious to avoid all intercourse with her fellow beings. (24) 

With the presence of third-person narration in The Recluse of The Woods, characters’ feelings and thoughts are highlighted clearly, as shown through this sample passage. Key phrases like “she trembled at the sound” and “anxious to avoid” ultimately underline the fear of the character, Eliza, regarding her impending arranged marriage. Additionally, the narrator also highlights the uncomfortable elements present in this scene to heighten the anxiety-filled environment. Consequently, Eliza’s characterization becomes stronger, as her desire for a life with Edgar is contrasted with her fear of marrying Lord Harold, and both emotions are very strong. 


Summary

The novel begins in the middle of the thirteenth century at Montville Castle, a noble edifice, which lies in the county of Sussex. The Earl of Blancy, the proprietor of Montville Castle, is away in battle for the Christian Army in Palestine while his eighteen-year-old daughter Eliza lives at the castle with Lady Gertrude, a middle-aged woman who envies Eliza’s youth, beauty, and innocence. Lady Gertrude has lived with Eliza since she was eleven years old, as her mother passed away when she was young. While the castle is rich in land, there are some neighbors living nearby, one being a solitary man named Ambrose Phillips. He lives in a poor, wooded cottage area with his teenage son Edgar; both men have a young ambiance and strong appearance. No one knows anything about either of them, but they frequently encounter Eliza and Lady Gertrude on walks through the woods. 

One day, as the two groups pass each other, Eliza and Edgar share a moment of intimacy, while Lady Gertrude notices and appears unhappy with Eliza. Lady Gertrude fears a relationship forming between Eliza and Edgar, since she knows Eliza’s father would not be happy with her marrying a peasant. A few days later, the Earl returns after his long war experience, and is shocked by Eliza’s sprouting growth and beauty. Lady Gertrude tells the Earl about the neighbors the next morning, and he says they must be the poorest of his neighbors, and is suspicious of the relationship between Eliza and Edgar. 

The Earl visits Phillips with his servant Robert, who knows Phillips from past meetings. He tells the Earl that Phillips is a man in love with solitude, while also saying that Phillips has seen enough of the world to dislike it now. However, he also tells the Earl that he is a worthy man, with an entertaining personality and a good heart. Once they arrive at the cottage, they see the two men outside cutting trees, and stop immediately to listen in on their conversation. They overhear Edgar telling Phillips that he wants to be a soldier because of all the stories and books that Phillips has shared with him, but Phillips ultimately shuts this conversation down by telling Edgar he can still be a good man without becoming a soldier. Edgar even offers becoming a soldier for the Earl, but Phillips maintains his position. Once the conversation ceases, the Earl makes his presence known and invites the two to the castle for dinner. 

Once they arrive, the Earl has a great time with Phillips and Edgar, so they return repeatedly throughout the week. The Earl also particularly enjoys his time with Edgar, despite his suspicions of his interactions with his daughter. 

This is the first page of text in The Recluse of the Woods, displaying sample text as well as the two titles at the top.

One day while Lady Gertrude and Eliza are walking through the woods, Eliza demands to visit Edgar, but Lady Gertrude denies permission as a precautionary measure so as to not anger the Earl. After arguing for some time, Lady Gertrude walks away, while Eliza notices Edgar above her in a tree after a twig falls on her. After consistent pressure from Edgar, Eliza eventually agrees to kiss him, kissing until they are caught by Lady Gertrude. The two women argue for a short while before a man appears with the appearance of an aged pilgrim, clearly being elderly and fatigued. He asks to see Phillips, and Edgar takes him to see his father after Lady Gertrude and Eliza leave to return to the castle. 

Later that day, the Earl questions Lady Gertrude about past meetings between Edgar and Eliza. Lady Gertrude tells the Earl about their kiss, leaving the Earl enraged. In response, he says that he has arranged a marriage between Eliza and his old friend from battle named Lord Harold de Vanes, who is sixty-four years old. Although Lady Gertrude disagrees with this action, the Earl explains how he made this promise to Lord Harold after Lord Harold saved the Earl’s life in combat. The Earl then dispatches Lady Gertrude to go notify Eliza of this impending marriage. 

Once Eliza hears this news, she begins to weep, saying how she cannot bear to marry Lord Harold because of her love for Edgar. Although Lady Gertrude tells Eliza that she should be excited because Lord Harold is extremely wealthy, Eliza still cannot stop crying. A few moments later, Edgar and Phillips appear and tell the Earl and Eliza that they are leaving their cottage in the woods, but do not disclose why or to where they are heading. After Edgar begs the Earl to let him die at his feet, Phillips picks up Edgar and they both leave the Castle. 

The next morning, Lord Harold arrives at the castle, and immediately voices his concern to the Earl about the marriage with Eliza, lamenting that his war wounds and bald head are not attractive to a girl Eliza’s age. The Earl disagrees, but Lord Harold is still evidently distraught. When Eliza comes down to greet the Lord, she explains how she was told a past prophecy where she would be happy and fall in love with a man, but not with a man his age. Lord Harold asks her what he can do, and Eliza asks him to persuade his father to let her marry Edgar. Lord Harold agrees to this, and tells the Earl of their discussion. He specifically tells him that it is every man’s duty to guide happiness for others, and how he should let Eliza marry Edgar. 

After this exchange, the novel goes into a side note about the history of Ambrosio Phillips and his son, explaining how they are actually descendants of Sir Hildebrand De Raymond, a nobleman known for his bravery in the battle for the Christian army in Palestine. Edgar’s real name is Eudgene, and he is now the heir of the De Raymond castle. 

Back in the present moment, Edgar arrives at Montville Castle under the name of Sir Eugene de Raymond, asking for a meeting with the Earl. The Earl is shocked when he sees it to actually be Phillips and Edgar, and Eliza is overcome with happiness when the two embrace in joy. Lord Harold is similarly happy for Edgar and Eliza, as the two are finally married with Lady Gerturde performing the ceremony.


Bibliography

“Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake.” The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature, vol. 3, 1791, pp. 57–61.

Napier, Elizabeth R. “Charlotte (Turner) Smith.” British Novelists, 1660-1800, edited by Martin C. Battestin, Gale, 1985. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 39. Gale Literature Resource Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/H1200003646/LitRC?u=viva_uva&sid=LitRC&xid=cc8ebd20. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

Ravin, Kate. “Charlotte (Turner) Smith.” Eighteenth-Century British Poets: Second Series, edited by John E. Sitter, Gale, 1991. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 109. Gale Literature Resource Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/H1200003647/LitRC?u=viva_uva&sid=LitRC&xid=7e5dd560. Accessed 27 Oct. 2020.

The Recluse of the Woods, London, J. Roe and Ann Lemoine, 1809.

Tymn, Marshall B., editor. “The Gothic Romance.” Horror Literature: a Core Collection and Reference Guide, by Frederick S. Frank3, R.R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–178.

Zimmerman, Sarah M. “Smith [née Turner], Charlotte (1749–1806), poet and novelist.” Oxford     Dictionary of National Biography.  October 04, 2007. Oxford University Press. Date of access 27 Oct. 2020,<https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-25790>


Researcher: Kent B. Williams

The Affecting History of Louisa

The Affecting History of Louisa

The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, ‘Lady of the Hay-Stack;’ So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, Near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: A. Neil
Publication Year: 1804
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10cm x 17cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.A388 1804


This 1804 chapbook, a shorter version of George Henry Glasse’s English translation of L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable, connects the life of Louisa, a deranged wanderer of Bourton, England, to her greatest loss—the social denial of her identity as the natural daughter of Francis I, Emperor of Germany.


Material History

The title page for The Affecting History of Louisa.

The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, ‘Lady of the Hay-Stack;’ So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, Near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe. If you are still here after reading this vehement title, congratulations—you have what it takes to dive into this 1804 gothic chapbook.

This “shilling shocker” is more popularly known as The Affecting History of Louisa. Though an unsung art by many, this novel does possess a special role at the University of Virginia by existing as an individualized, treasured lens of history in the Sadleir-Black Collection presented by Robert K. Black. The Sadleir-Black Collection’s version of the novel is a fragile, well-worn 10cm by 17cm. A beautiful yet dreary illustration adorns the primary page of the coverless and boundless novel. There is evidence of past stitching and binding of the pages, which possibly suggest that the novel was removed from a larger accumulation of gothic novels. 

The pages of Robert Black’s The Affecting History of Louisa are brittle, yellow, and stained, yet they hold many secrets to the publishing and history of the unique novel. Throughout a series of 36 pages (the pages are numbered; however, the numbering begins six pages in with 8, and ends with 38), there are details including catchwords (a repeated/prewritten word located on the following page of a subsequent paragraph) and signature marks (numerical/alphabetical markings) which were used to assist the bookbinders and printers and to ensure correct book assembly on their part.

The frontispiece for The Affecting History of Louisa.

The precision and care that went into the assembling of the book is also reflected in the structured form of the printed words. With 1.5 cm side margins and a 2.5 cm bottom margin, the dainty 2 mm letters with their didonesque font are able to flow across the page and make an impact through their meaning more so than through their appearance. Several of the letters do attempt to make their own statements by being unconventional compared to current norms. Throughout the novel, the character “s” is depicted in multiple forms; sometimes taking on the conventional “s” form, but also sometimes being printed as a long S that looks more like an “f.” This printing trend began to dwindle following the eighteenth century. Between the cultural switch, there were some words where the flow of calligraphy followed the shape of a modern day “s,” and several words still followed that of an “f.” The printing of this novel simply adhered to those social norms of orthography. 

Not only does the interior of this chapbook portray the textual effects of social change, but the exterior does as well. On the cover page of the novel, there is a small, handwritten “5” on the top-left corner. This handwritten “5” could represent several things: perhaps a monetary value, or perhaps a set volume in a more mass pamphlet. Either way, it is evident that this novel has had its experiences with society. The Affecting History of Louisa appears to have been worn and appreciated by previous readers. 


Textual History

The Affecting History of Louisa is a petite chapbook with an extensive title within its first pages: The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, “Lady of the Hay-Stack;” So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe. There is no author listed for this chapbook.

This image presents an advertisement for a drama by James Boaden titled The Maid of Bristol, which inspired the reiteration of its story via this chapbook. 

The initial ambiguity of the chapbook’s authorship stems from the fact that the original work was a French text titled L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable; moreover, English translations included many different titles and forms. George Henry Glasse, a scholar and clergyman, first translated this text into English as A Narrative of Facts. A second edition of Glasse’s translation appeared in 1801 as Louisa: A Narrative of Facts, Supposed to Throw Light on the Mysterious History of “The Lady of the Haystack.” This book was popular enough that it “quickly reached a third edition” (Vian and Ellis). There exists another edition of Glasse’s translation with yet another title, A Narrative of Facts: Supposed to Throw Light on the History of the Bristol-Stranger; Known by the Name of the Maid of the Hay-stack. Translated From the French, which includes an introduction signed by Philalethes. 

Glasse’s translations also inspired a three-act play called The Maid of Bristol, dramatized by James Boaden. Boaden was a dramatist whose works revolved around the gothic genre. While The Maid of Bristol is not well-known for its popularity today, the play is still accessible and available for purchase online. The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac is a shorter chapbook version of Glasse’s translation and was, in particular, “induced” by the popularity of Boaden’s play; the advertisement in this chapbook states, “Mr. Boaden having, with so much success, dramatized the following interesting Tale, under the title of ‘The Maid of Bristol,’ induced us to present the Public with the original Narrative; which we are enabled to do, from the most authentic documents” (Affecting History 6). The Affecting History of Louisa, then, arrived on the publication scene after many translations and iterations of the original French text that aims for a genuine, historically accurate account of the mystery at the center of the story: the true natural daughter of Francis I. 


Narrative Point of View

The Affecting History of Louisa is narrated from a third-person perspective. The frame narration opens and closes with an anonymous third-person narrator who presents part of Louisa’s history with an objective and occasionally empathetic tone. 

Sample of Third-Person Frame Narration:

Some few years ago, a young woman stopped at the village of Bourton, near Bristol, and begged the refreshment of a little milk, There [sic] was something so attractive in her whole appearance, as to engage the attention of all around her. (7)

This third-person frame narration also introduces two other embedded narratives. The first embedded narrative is an oral account by a man from Bristol who spoke with Louisa directly. The chapbook’s narrator explains that the “respectful gentleman in Bristol … has favoured us with some authentic memoirs” and then includes this oral account for several pages (15). The narrative demarcates the Bristol man’s oral narrative with quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph. 

Sample of Bristol Man’s Oral Narrative about Louisa: 

“I should have conceived her,” says the writer, “to be about five-and-twenty; and notwithstanding the injuries which her situation and mode of life must inevitably have occasioned in her looks, she had still a very pleasing countenance. Interesting it certainly was in a high degree; but it is not easy to say how much this impression was to be attributed to the previous knowledge of her story. She had fine, expressive, black eyes and eye-brows; her complexion was wan, but not fickly; her under jaw projected a little, and I fancied I could distinguish something of the Austrian lip; but it was not decidedly marked. Her nose had nothing particular; her hair was very dark, if not black, and in length about a year and a half’s growth, not being thick, but coming down on her forehead; her arm and hand were delicate, with small long fingers.” (9)

The Bristol man’s oral narrative ends without additional commentary from the chapbook’s frame narration. Then there is a line indicating a break in the narrative, and then an italicized description of how a French narrative was found that suggests Louisa is La Fruëlen, and that the chapbook will now include the translation of this narrative. This translated narrative is presented in the third person and focuses on La Fruëlen’s tale for the next twenty-two pages. 

Sample of Translated French Narrative of La Fruëlen’s Tale: 

When the priest came to take her from her house in Bohemia, he told her, that he was going to conduct her to a convent in France. Ignorant as she was, the little which Catharine and her mama had told her of a religious life, taught her to consider a convent as an horrible prison, from which there was no escape: and this idea had so disturbed her mind, that from the moment of her quitting her habitation in Bohemia, she had formed the project of flying, as soon as possible, from such captivity. (28)

By addressing the story with a frame narrative that includes two separately sourced tales (one an oral memoir, and one a translation from a French text), the story of Louisa becomes a type of reality or history that the reader is discovering. The frame narrative works well to connect the woman who claims to be La Fruëlen to the story of the late Emperor, as well as connecting that woman to Louisa, which ultimately connects their stories in a complete manner, defining the tragic, affecting history of Louisa. 


Summary

The first page of this chapbook.

The Affecting History of Louisa is introduced as a recent tale of woe, as the narrative begins, “Some few years ago” (7). The reader is introduced to a woman of the past, in the village of Bourton, England, who is begging for milk. She is described as being young, attractive, and elegant despite her begging state. While she is beautiful, it is evident that over the years, she has experienced hardship, sickness, exposure to the natural elements, and misery. Due to the fact that no one is aware of the nature of her origin, they call her Louisa. She is infamous for her obsessive connection to sleeping in an old haystack rather than a home. As a woman who has experienced multiple episodes of insanity, there have been multiple times when Louisa has been relocated to different hospitals and villages. Despite being relocated, she always manages to find her way back to the haystack. Louisa did not put her worth in items, but spent her days interacting with the village children and going about on her own. 

After a while in the village, she is finally relocated to the village of Bitton in Gloucestershire, England, to be supported by Miss Hannah Moore and her sisters. It seemed evident that Louisa is a foreigner, so Miss Moore attempts to find out which country she is from. Miss Hannah Moore arranges for a Bristol man to visit and speak with Louisa in different languages. First, when the man speaks French, Louisa seems confused—but when he speaks German, she becomes over-emotional. When she can finally gain her composure, she denies knowing the language. The chapbook’s third-person narrator explains that this Bristol man “favoured us with some authentic memoirs” and goes on to include several pages of the Bristol man’s account of Louisa (9). The Bristol man describes Louisa as having fine, expressive black eyes, a pale complexion, a slight jut of the jaw, dark hair, delicate features, and lips that were perhaps Austrian. The Bristol man speaks to Louisa in the way a man speaks to a child. She is not dumb, but slow. He wants to know more of Louisa’s origin. While she is very guarded, he discovers that she responds well to kindness, and he learns that she is fixated on two people called mama and papa, that she understands French, that she is amused at his German, and that she has a large mark or wound on the lower part of her head behind the ear.

This page shows the introduction to the narrative translated from French.

In the next section, the chapbook begins with italicized narration explaining that a “Narrative made its appearance on the Continent” showing “so many striking coincidences” that suggest that Louisa is actually La Fruëlen, the natural daughter of Francis I, the late Emperor of Germany (15). The narrative goes on to include the entirety of the supposed translation of this originally French narrative, which begins in 1768. The narrative first introduces the Count M. de Cobenzel, the imperial minister at Brussels. He receives a letter stating that he should not be surprised if his advice and friendship are sought after. The letter is written in French, and signed La Fruëlen from Bourdeaux. He receives other letters encouraging him to support La Fruëlen, from people such as Le Comte J. de Weissendorff from Prague and Le Comte Dietrichstein from Vienna. Cobenzel begins to write with La Fruëlen, offering his support. At the beginning of 1769, the Court of Vienna informs Versailles that La Fruëlen should be arrested and taken to Brussels to be examined by Cobenzel and the First President, M. de Neny, for being an imposter. The Court of Vienna had discovered Fruëlen’s existence because the King of Spain had received a letter encouraging him to defend her, which he then shared with the Emperor, who shared it with the Empress, who called for her arrest. 

As La Fruëlen arrives in Brussels, she is met with an unsigned letter encouraging her that there is an attempt to save her so she should not despair. Cobenzel and M. de Neny question her and her origin. They describe the woman who goes by La Fruëlen as being tall, elegantly formed, with simple and majestic brown hair, fair skin, and fine dark eyes. She also speaks French with a German accent. The two men dive into the story of her childhood. She explains how she is uncertain of her birthplace, but knows she was educated in Bohemia, and grew up in a sequestered house in the country under the care of mama, Catherine, and the priest – who opposed her learning to read and write for unstated religious reasons. She describes how a stranger in huntsmen clothes would visit periodically, and while he was a stranger to her, he seemed to know her. On one visit, she noticed a red mark on his neck, and when she questioned him about it, he explained that it was the distinction of an officer, and implied that she is the daughter of one. After their conversation, the man had to depart again, but promised to return soon. This promise was broken thereafter because he had fallen ill and could not travel. The novel goes on to explain how this is historically accurate to the life of the late Emperor. On his final visit, he leaves her with a photo of himself, the Empress, and her mother. On his departure, he makes her promise to never marry and that she will be and taken care of and happy. 

After this story, the woman called Louisa describes her departure from Bohemia. First, because she is scared to share her story in front of everyone, she conjures a grand lie that seems too good to be true. Cobenzel catches her in her lie, and she is forced to tell the truth in hopes of regaining his trust. The truth behind her departure from Bohemia is that her priest had planned for her to move to a convent, but she decided to run away instead out of fear of the stories she had heard about convents. She hid in the barn of a generous farmer who provided her with the necessities she required. She still needed to gain distance from Hamburgh, though, so she journeyed to Sweden. On this journey, she injured her head with a nasty cut and required a surgeon to heal it. She then joined a compassionate Dutch family who was journeying to Sweden as well. Once she reached Stockholm, she left the travelers and stayed in the house of a German woman. She became great friends with this woman, but one day, she overheard from her hairdresser that the imperial minister of Stockholm was wondering about an escaped girl. Her fear of poverty overcame her fear of the Convent, so she turned herself in to M. de Belgioioso. He took good care of her. He first gave her housing and money, and then he invited her into his own house for safety. Within those walls, she saw a portrait of the late Emperor Francis, and fainted. They struggled to wake her and she had a bad fever, which was almost fatal. 

The final page to this “real tale of woe.”

La Fruëlen’s story becomes tragic as she explains how her supply of financial aid was cut off suddenly, and she accumulated a great amount of debt. In order to gain support, she herself wrote the letters to the people addressed at the beginning of this explanation, including Cobenzel and the King of Spain. She claimed, however, that not all the letters were forged by her, and that several had truly been sent.

Ultimately, M. de Neny is in denial that she is in fact the daughter of the Emperor. He believes that she is truly just a merchant’s runaway daughter. M. de Neny declares that she should return to her city and face her debtors as a punishment for her lies and sins. Cobenzel disagrees, however, he is near death. The day before Cobenzel dies, he receives an anonymous letter saying not to dismiss La Fruëlen, however, the note is burned and dies with him. Four days after Cobenzel’s death, La Fruëlen is released from prison, given a little bit of money for travel, and abandoned to her wretched destiny. 

At this point, the translation of the French narrative ends and the original chapbook narration resumes. This narration explains that “poor Louisa is no more” with her death on December 19, 1801 (37). The final resolution to this tale is announced in the simple fact that Louisa was discovered under the haystack in the year 1776.


Bibliography

The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac. London, A. Neil, 1804.

Boeden, James. The Maid of Bristol: A Play in Three Acts. New York, Printed and Published by D. Longworth, 1803.

Glasse, G. H. A Narrative of Facts: Supposed to Throw Light on the History of the Bristol-Stranger; Known by the Name of the Maid of the Hay-stack. Translated From the French. Printed for Mr. H. Gardner, Mr. Bull, Mr. Lloyd, Messrs. Evans and Hazell, and Mr. Harward. 

Glasse, G. H. Louisa: A Narrative of Facts, Supposed to Throw Light on the Mysterious History of “The Lady of the Haystack.” P. Norbury, 1801, wellcomecollection.org/works/a4226rdm/items?canvas=5&langCode=eng&sierraId=b22021437.

L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable. 1785.

Vian, Alsager and Mari G. Ellis. “George Henry (1761–1809).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. July 9, 2020. Oxford University Press. https://doi-org.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/10.1093/ref:odnb/10803.


Researcher: Abigail Grace Kiss

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

Stories of the Ship

Stories of the Ship

Stories of the Ship OR, THE BRITISH SEAMEN’S PLEASING COMPANION: ILLUSTRATED IN A Series of Curious and Singular ADVENTURES

Author: Unknown
Publisher: W. Harris
Publication Year: 1807
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.5cm x 18cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .S736 1807


A collection of stories related to the sea and sailors, this 1807 chapbook includes humorous anecdotes as well as adventurous tales of heroic resilience.


Material History

Stories of the Ship is a short chapbook of thirty-six pages, written in English. The book’s dimensions are 10.5cm in width and 18cm in length.

Upon first glance, Stories of the Ship lacks a cover. The first page, before the book is opened, is completely devoid of any printed marking and allows for easy observation of the remnants of paper binding at the spine. This is typical of chapbooks in that due to their small size they were often rebound into one’s personal collection after being bought; it is probable that when sold, the book possessed a paper cover.

On the interior of the first page, the first of two illustrations within the pages of this text is found. Depicted in the foreground is a black dog and a Caucasian man gazing at one another. The man is taking refuge from the sea on the floating remnants of a wooden ship, which is exploding in the background. No other living beings, aside from the man and dog, exist in the picture. Notably, there is a slight brown discoloration in the paper under the man’s leftmost leg (from the reader’s point of view). Exactly beneath the image, very small italicized text reads: “Rarlow sculp”. Below this, in larger cursive text, the picture is captioned: “Explosion of a Dutch Ship.” Even further below, in the same small italicized text as right under the image, is a reference to the publisher that says “London. Published by W. Harris August 22nd 1807.”

The title page for Stories of the Ship

To the right is the second illustration, centered amongst various fonts and formats that fill the length of the second page. From top to bottom, the second page begins with the title, completely capitalized: “STORIES OF THE SHIP.” Succeeding the title is a semicolon that transitions the reader into the subtitle, which spans the next few lines, reading: “OR, THE BRITISH SEAMEN’S PLEASING COMPANION: ILLUSTRATED IN A Series of Curious and Singular ADVENTURES.” It should be noted that the font size of “OR, THE” is significantly smaller than that of the title, and occupies its own line. “IN A” shares these same characteristics. Both “BRITISH SEAMAN’S” and “Series of Curious and Singular” are italicized and fill their own respective lines. “PLEASING COMPANION:” and “ADVENTURES.” share the same physical characteristics as the title, but are respectively in a slightly smaller font size. Similarly, they also occupy their own lines. Following this are two sets of horizontal double lines that serve as dividers, within which is a four-line rhyme. Beneath the second divider is the aforementioned illustration, depicting in black ink what appears to be a wooden ship (in the foreground) in contact with an iceberg (in the background). Also in the foreground, to the right of the ship, are three polar bears. Even further beneath the illustration, which bears no caption, is a reference to the place of publication and sale (“London”), the publisher (“Printed for W. HARRIS, 96, High-Street, Shadwell :”), the merchants (“And sold by T. Hughes, Ludgate-Street ; Champante and Whitrow, Aldgate ; A. Cleugh, and T. Soutter, Ratcliff-Highway ; S. Elliott, High-Street, Shadwell ; Wilmot and Hill, and A. Kemmish, Borough; and J. Mackenzie, Old Bailey.”), the price (“PRICE SIX-PENCE.”), and lastly, beneath a long and flat diamond divider, the printer (T. PLUMMER, PRINTER, SEETHING-LANE. 1807.”). There is no explicit reference anywhere in these first few pages, nor anywhere else in the text, to the author.

On the next page (behind that which first mentions the title), there is a page that is blank save for “Entered at the Stamp-Office.” between a singular line right above and below. Beneath is a square outline, slightly discolored, that might have at some point been a stamp. However, there is nothing distinguishable to indicate anything more than that. As for the rest of the book, the size of the font remains constant, as do the margins, which are generally a 1.5cm indent from the outside of the page, although it is important to note that songs and poetry are more indented than the rest of the text. Page numbers appear on the top of the pages, in the outermost corners. The title of the chapbook, Stories of the Ship., is also centered, in all capital letters, at the top of every page. Pages 17 through 20 are approximately 0.75cm shorter than the rest at the bottom. There are some brown stains throughout the pages of the book, but they are very small and irregular. The book ends with “FINIS.”, and the last page of the story is also the last page of the book. At the very bottom of the page, there is another reference to the printer, T. Plummer.


Textual History

There is not substantial information on the history of Stories of the Ship. The author remains unknown; however, the publisher, printer, and booksellers are divulged on the title page. The chapbook was published on August 22nd, 1807 for William Harris and printed by Thomas Plummer, both who practiced in London. This book is likely the original and only publication and edition. There are only three copies worldwide, located at the University of Virginia, The Mariners’ Museum Library, and within the New York Public Library System. Stories of the Ship has not been digitized or reprinted since 1807; neither has it appeared in any scholarly works, which is likely due to its apparent inconsequentiality in the literature and society of its time.

The publisher, William Harris, at 96, High-Street, Shadwell, also worked as a bookbinder and was active from 1802 until 1822 (Cowie 118). Stories of the Ship seems to be the only work for which he served as publisher. The printer, Thomas Plummer, was active from 1798 until 1836 and printed many chapbooks and a couple of works related to sea fiction. The booksellers include Thomas Hughes (a. 1807–1833), Champante and Whitrow (wholesale stationers, fl. 1784–1801), Alexander Cleugh (a. 1785–1811), Thomas Soutter, S. Elliott, Wilmot and Hill, Ann Kemmish (fl. 1800), and Joseph Mackenzie (a. 1806–1807). All are located in London, and S. Elliott and Thomas Hughes are named to be some of the most frequent sellers of well-known author Anne Ker’s bluebooks. However, there is no information on the popularity or public opinion on Stories of the Ship.

The frontispiece for Stories of the Ship

There are two illustrations within the first couple pages of the book. The first, a frontispiece, is captioned by a reference to the British printmaker and engraver Inigo Barlow, reading “Rarlow sculp,” as in Barlow sculpture. Notably, the name is misspelled; however, the font and phrase match the captions of many of his other illustrations. He was active most prominently around 1790. The frontispiece image depicts a scene from the first story within the book, “Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor,” in which a Dutch ship explodes. It is likely that the author derived inspiration from an actual event that occurred earlier in the year 1807. The disaster took place in Leiden, Holland, in which a wooden ship, carrying hundreds of barrels of gunpowder, exploded, resulting in fatalities, injuries, and destruction (Reitsma 1). The incident was eventually attributed to the neglect of the crew. This scenario is very similar to the plot of “Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor,” in which not the ship but instead the protagonist is Dutch, and this ship is not in town, but rather out at sea. Another potential source of inspiration for the author is the municipality and castle of Ortenberg, which shares a name with the aforementioned Dutch sailor protagonist. Ortenberg (the town) is located not far from the Black Forest, and the castle, built in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, is located just above the town. Again, however, these connections are not certain.

There is an entry for a book entitled Songs of the Ship (for 1807), or, the British Seamen’s Cheerful Songster in John Stainer’s book cataloguing his collection of English song books. The details under this entry match the publisher, publication year, and page length of Stories of the Ship; however, the description, which reads “containing a valuable collection of the newest and most celebrated Sea-Songs, sung at all Places of public amusement, To which are added, a Collection of Toasts and Sentiments” is uncharacteristic of Stories of the Ship, which implies likelihood of an accompanying songbook by the same author (Stainer 79).


Narrative Point of View

The first (and longest) story of the chapbook Stories of the Ship has the most complex narrative point of view within the book, but is predominantly told in first person by a Dutch sailor. Despite its narrative complexity, the story is told in a concise and objective manner, as it recounts a past adventure. Though not necessarily of the same form, all other stories in this book maintain a similar condensed style. However, the stories within the book vary in narrative point of view. Sometimes identified, sometimes anonymous, the narrators speak either in first or third person as well as in either present or past tense. The third-person narrators within this book tend to be objective and omniscient, acting as observers to their narratives, while the first-person narrators are necessarily more limited in their narration even as they function as characters within the story themselves.

Sample of First-Person Narrator from “The Dolphin, a droll Story”:

The dame now grinned with passion, but Joe perceiving she quickened her pace, snatched up the rod and net, and made the best of his way, still pointing to the sign as he passed under it, with his mother at his heels. She’ll not look up for a guinea, thought I. No more she did, and hobbling on at a pretty quick pace, was soon out of sight. (16)

Sample of Third-Person Narrator from “An Irish Sailor’s Opinion of Matrimony, a laughable Tale”:

The steward (for he was captain’s steward) was of a disposition that required but little invitation, particularly from a friend. He ate heartily, drank free, and cracked his joke. (25)

Overall, the narrative style is plot- and action-based. It is also non-personal, and in this lack of emphasis on emotion, it becomes easy to focus on and follow the swift narrative style of so many of the sections. Notably, the lack of emotional emphasis exists even when the form is more personal, as occurs in the last story of the book, written in the form of a letter. Additionally, despite the disparity of content and narrative style, there is a surprising lack of confusion derived from these constant switches. This is likely because of the storytelling style and introduction of many of the narrators, as can be seen in the aforementioned excerpts. In “Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor,” the dominant narrator is introduced by another, as if the story is being passed along repeatedly, and has eventually made its way into this book. This embedded narrative style is seen in the opening of “Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor,” which reads as follows:

You know, said Ortenberg, (for that was his name), that I left Holland clandestinely. The ship in which I went, was destined to sail for Batavia; the captain was an honest fellow, and had promised to procure me a place in the counting-house of one of his friends at Java. (3)

The story begins with an implied third-person narrator; however, beyond this first sentence there is no narrative point of view other than that of the first-person narration by Ortenberg, the main character.

In other instances, there is an objective narrator that infrequently uses first person, as their role within the story is limited. Such is the case in “The Dolphin, a droll Story,” excerpted above. This casual approach to the narratives encourages an element of humor as well as insinuates that the book is perhaps meant to be read aloud.


Summary

Stories of the Ship is a collection of short stories and anecdotes; the length of each section ranges from a few lines to multiple pages. The following summaries, listed in the order they appear within the chapbook, will reflect these inconsistencies in length. Additionally, the capitalization and punctuation within titles reflect their printing in the book.

Affecting Narrative of a Dutch Sailor

This story is told by a sailor named Ortenberg, who recalls “the Explosion of the Ship in which he was, and his miraculous preservation” (3). This ship experiences smooth sailing until an alarm is raised regarding a fire in the hold; a huge endeavor is made to extinguish the fire, but the efforts prove fruitless. There is no land or ship in sight, and general panic aboard the ship heightens. Most everyone steals away on boats, and the captain and Ortenberg attempt to chase them down in the ship, but success is again just out of reach. Shortly thereafter, the oil-casks catch fire, and it is not long before the entire ship explodes.

Upon returning to his senses, Ortenberg discovers himself to be the only survivor and laments his circumstances. He and his dog are reunited. Ortenberg then catches sight of the longboat, which had once accompanied the ship, a great distance away. As dawn rises the following day, the boat is near, and he is able to join those aboard who had escaped the ship before its calamity. Ortenberg is appointed captain of the longboat. They journey on, eventually run out of food, and are forced to resort to eating Ortenberg’s dog. Meanwhile, the people grow doubtful that land is near, and Ortenberg is given three days to discover land, or a plan of cannibalism will unfold. As a storm clears from the sky, land and a Dutch fleet are revealed. The story ends with the weary survivors being rescued and fed.

A British Seaman’s Humanity

Narrated in first-person by “a Gentleman,” this story recounts the gentleman opening a subscription at a library for a crazy old cottager who had lost her sailor lover (13). An English sailor, upon hearing her story, laments her tale in a series of metaphors comparing the woman to a ship. As the sailor departs the library, a Bond-street lounger insults him behind his back. The sailor overhears this comment and defends himself as a sailor under a commendable and honorable king, simultaneously attacking the honor of the lounger and leaving him looking like a fool.

The Dolphin, a droll Story

Told by an anonymous first-person narrator, begins with a mother chastising her son, Joe, for not catching enough fish. She proudly declares that she will do much better than he has, and will even catch a dolphin. The woman casts her line into deep and muddy water, and somehow her rod snaps. She then pulls the line in only to find that she had pulled in a stone. Having made a fool of herself (broken rod, muddy dress, and all), Joe pokes fun at her predicament.

Remarkable Instance of the Affection of a Bear for her Cubs, extracted from Commodore Phipps’ Voyage

Narrated in third-person, this tale begins with three bears, a mother and two cubs, making their way over ice towards ships nearby where a sea-horse had been killed. Feasting on the sea-horse, the bears are shot by the sailors, killing the cubs, and wounding the mother. Though in pain, the mother bear presents more meat to her cubs, hoping in vain that they are alive. They remain unmoving and she “endeavor[s] to raise them up” with no success (17). Moaning all the while, she walks away but returns repeatedly, and when she realizes they are dead, growls towards the ship, to which they respond by shooting her dead.

Adventures of Arthur Douglas, the little Scotsman, and Tom Reefem, an English Tar, an affecting Story

This story unfolds with Tom, an experienced sailor, offering aid to a despairing Arthur, who has run away from home to travel the world. Tom, taking pity on Arthur, feeds him, but not before Arthur has mistaken the returning Tom for a ghost. After eating, Arthur’s suspicions of Tom wane in favor of gratitude. Tom introduces Arthur to the captain, whose approval is contrasted by that of a London trader, who sentences Arthur to return to his parents. Arthur, despairing, is given an opportunity by the captain to work aboard his ship. He works under Tom, who he grows to love as a father, and after a few years, returns to England having become well-learned. However, just before docking, war has been declared against France, and Tom and Arthur are wounded in a fight against the French. Arthur, however, proves valiant in further engagements and is appointed midshipman by an admiral. Tom continues to accompany Arthur in his new role, and their friendship is well known.

An Irish Sailor’s Opinion of Matrimony, a laughable Tale

Narrated in third-person, this is a conversation between shipmates Patrick and Thomas. Thomas wants their captain to be married, but Patrick wholeheartedly disagrees with the notion, indicating that marriage is too confining. Thomas responds by advocating the absence of danger in marriage; Patrick refutes that indeed there is danger, most prominently in the form of jealousy, but also in marriage’s other passions and complexities.

This page shows the formatting used to separate stories and anecdotes.
Nocturnal Illumination

Also told by a third-person narrator, this anecdote describes a “finical lieutenant” asking for a light, which he calls a “nocturnal illumination” to be put out, and when he is misunderstood, he complains of the sailor’s stupidity (28). The boatswain, to whom the lieutenant speaks, translates the command into the words of a sailor, and the job is completed.

Anecdote of Admiral Haddock

In which a dying admiral leaves his son a small fortune devoid of dirty money.

Anecdote of a Sailor and Quaker

In which an English sailor attempts to instigate a Quaker to violence, to which the Quaker squeezes and shakes but does not strike the sailor into submission.

The Press-Gang

In which a gang accosts a gentleman, claiming they need him to teach their guards manners.

Extraordinary Instance of Bravery

This is a story of a hero who first sneaks aboard an enemy French ship and attempts to pull down their colors, while holding off, successfully, several attackers. He then saves a fellow countryman’s life, and shortly thereafter narrowly escapes death with a fractured leg, but continues to fight on his knees. After, he is doing well in the hospital. 

The Admiral’s Escutcheon

In which an admiral’s home is mistaken for an alehouse by a sailor, who asks for a cup of ale. The admiral then orders his servant to bring one to the sailor, and tells him that he might pay the next time he comes by.

King Charles II and the Sailor

This is a correspondence between Jack, “the best seamen in [the] navy,” headed for the gallows as a result of stealing, and King Charles Rex, who saves him from the gallows (32). 

A Sailor’s Frolic

This anecdote tells of a sailor endeavoring for “every tub [to] stand upon its own bottom” (32).

Wapping Ball

An anecdote about colliers at a ball who aim to level themselves with well-clothed sailors.

Account of the Battle of Trafalgar

A letter from a sailor by the name of Jack Handspike to his landlord regarding his experience in the Battle of Trafalgar. He begins by commending Lord Nelson but quickly transitions to the onset of the battle, during which Jack injures two of his fingers and ends up cutting them off and wrapping them so that he is able to captain a gun on the main-deck until the British victory. He then asks for several items to be bought for his wife, Sall, and reassures that although he is injured, and that he will be well recompensed for his service to the country. The letter ends with a song celebrating the death of Lord Nelson.


Bibliography

“Ann Kemmish”  The British Museum, The Trustees of the British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG235671.

“Champante and Whitrow.” The British Museum, The Trustees of the British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG155232.

“Cleugh, Alexander” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-no2017003446.

Cowie, George. The Bookbinder’s Manual: Containing a Full Description of Leather And Vellum Binding : Also, Directions for Gilding of Paper & Book-edges, And Numerous Valuable Recipes for Sprinkling, Colouring, & Marbling : Together With a Scale of Bookbinders’ Charges : a List of All the Book And Vellum Binders In London, &c., &c. 5th ed. London: William Strange, 18501859.

“Harris, William” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-no2016030213/

“Inigo Barlow.” The British Museum, The Trustees of the British Museum, www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG198601.

“Hughes, Thomas”  [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-no2015023168/.

“Mackenzie, Joseph” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-no2019147675/.

“Plummer, Thomas” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-nr93018798/.

Reitsma, H.J., and A. Ponsen. “THE LEIDEN DISASTER OF 1807.” Icon, vol. 13, 2007, pp. 1–18.

“Soutter, Thomas” [WorldCat Identities], www.worldcat.org/wcidentities/lccn-no2019147374/.

Stainer, John. Catalogue of English Song Books Forming a Portion of the Library of Sir John Stainer: With Appendices of Foreign Song Books, Collections of Carols, Books On Bells, &c. London: Printed for private circulation by Novello, Ewer, 1891.

Steele, John Gladstone. “Anne and John Ker.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text, no. 12, 2204. 

Stories of the Ship OR, THE BRITISH SEAMEN’S PLEASING COMPANION: ILLUSTRATED IN A Series of Curious and Singular ADVENTURES. William Harris, 1807.


Researcher: Lauren Smits

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

Lucretia

Lucretia

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

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


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


Material History

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

The title page for Lucretia.

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

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

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

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


Textual History

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

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

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

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

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


Narrative Point of View

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

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:

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

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


Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The frontispiece for Lucretia.

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

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


Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Researcher: Dorothea Starr LeBeau

Mary, the Maid of the Inn

Mary, the Maid of the Inn

Mary, the Maid of the Inn: or the Secrets of the Ruins; A Melancholy and Interesting Narrative; shewing the singular way in which she discovered her lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer; with an account of his Trial, Conviction, and Execution: Together with her madness and forlorn wanderings, until she is found frozen to death: to which is added, the celebrated recitation.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Orlando Hodgson
Publication Year: 1822
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 6.5cm x 10.8cm
Pages: 24
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .M353 n.d.


Featuring themes of superstition, mental illness and moral dilemmas, this 1822 chapbook—adapted from a popular Robert Southey poem—follows Mary as she uncovers the terrible crimes of her betrothed and goes mad.


Material History

Found in the Sadleir-Black Collection at the University of Virginia is a copy of Mary, the Maid of the Inn: or the Secrets of the Ruins; A Melancholy and Interesting Narrative; shewing the singular way in which she discovered her lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer; with an account of his Trial, Conviction, and Execution: Together with her madness and forlorn wanderings, until she is found frozen to death: to which is added, the celebrated recitation. On the following page the title appears simply as Mary, the Maid of the Inn: or the Secrets of the Ruins. Throughout the book at the header of every page the title is shortened again and printed only as Mary, the Maid of the Inn.

The fold-out illustration and title page for Mary, the Maid of the Inn

This 24-page chapbook measures 6.5 cm by 10.8 cm and is coverless, with the thread-bound spine exposed. The title page lists the publishing location as London and the publisher as Orlando Hodgson, Maiden Lane. No author is listed throughout the text.

Of particular note is the fold-out color illustration at the front, preceding the title page, which when extended, measures 21.2 cm by 16.4 cm. In this image, a female figure, presumably Mary, stands in the foreground of an exterior setting, expressing horror upon observing in the background two gentlemen carrying a limp body. The illustration is captioned with the shortened title, Mary the Maid of the Inn and some illegible writing underneath that seems to have been cut off in the printing process. The image appears to have been printed lopsided on the page. The folding lines on the illustration page are made so that the image folds in on itself and fits the size of the chapbook, thus it is protected from view when the book is closed.

The interior pages of the text feature a small font, with margins ranging from 1 to 1.4 cm in size. The text is justified and appears in noticeably long paragraphs, leaving very little white space in between.

Existing front cover of Mary, the Maid of the Inn with markings

The chapbook features minimal handwriting. Most notable is the date “1822”written in calligraphy on the blank front (on the opposing side of the illustration)—this is likely the date of publication. Other handwritings include the word “Romance”written in pencil (presumably by someone else) on the front page as well as some number-letter combinations – perhaps old library call numbers which appear to be in the same handwriting as the date.

At the bottom of page 23, the words “Plummer and Brewis, Printers, Love Lane, Eastcheap” appear. The following page, which is not numbered, recites Robert Southey’s popular poem Mary, the Maid of the Inn otherwise known simply as Mary. The recitation appears in a smaller font than the rest of the book and is set in two columns with a bordering line between.

This chapbook features an additional story after the recitation of Mary, the Maid of the Inn called Durward and Isabelle. This story has no title page (though there is evidence it may have been ripped out) and lists no author. The paper seems to be a lighter color and the format of this additional text differs from Mary, the Maid of the Inn, suggesting it was bound to the original at a later date, baring no evidence that it is in any way related to the first. It is bound by thread, is half detached from Mary the Maid of the Inn, and along the spine is attached what appears to be matted hair—possibly part of the original binding. Remnants of the original book cover also appear on the spine.

Overall, this copy of Mary the Maid of the Inn appears frail, though remarkably intact. It is only its binding to Durward and Isabelle which appears to be failing and remains attached only by a single thread.


Textual History

Mary, the Maid of the Inn first appeared as a ballad published in a newspaper by the celebrated poet laureate and author Robert Southey at the turn of the nineteenth century. Following the initial printing, the poem was republished in many other periodicals and newspapers. It was so popular that it was adapted and mass-produced into chapbooks from multiple printers and publishers and even dramatized into plays. There is no evidence that Southey himself ever wrote any version of these adaptations. More likely, one chapbook publisher produced it and many others copied the storyline to their liking. Southey posits that perhaps the poem’s popularity is due to the meter used throughout, which he adapted from “Mr Lewis’s Alonzo and Imogene” (“Poetical Works” 404). He is, of course, here referring to the celebrated gothic author, Matthew Lewis. According to Southey, the idea for the poem transpired after a schoolboy told him a story that was said to be true and was also recorded in ‘Dr Plot’s “History of Staffordshire”’ (“Poetical Works” 404).

Robert Southey’s original poem, appended to Mary, the Maid of the Inn

During his active years as a poet, Southey made clear his support for the French Revolution and socialism through works such as Joan of Arc (Carnall). At one stage, he even considered emigrating to the United States of America to start a pantisocracy—a society where everyone is equal in social status and responsibility (Carnall).

While the Sadleir-Black Collection holds at least three other mid-nineteenth­-century chapbook copies of this narrative, none are exactly the same and all have different publishers. The long titles have slight variations and none of the narratives are entirely consistent, with many altered details such as character names and places. This, along with the variety of publishers and editions, suggests that unlike the poem, the longer narrative of Mary, the Maid of the Inn was not written by Southey.

This particular edition published by Orlando Hodgson in 1822 is also unique in its inclusion of original poetry throughout the text. Although all three copies have different publishers, one of the other copies includes an almost identical fold-out color illustration both done by the same illustrator, John Lewis Marks, recognizable by the matching signature on each image. There is little information available on this illustrator, although some of his works appear in the National Portrait Gallery. All three copies include appendices of Southey’s original poem, which in this edition appears on the final page headed “Recitation.”

The play held in the Sadlier-Black collection titled The Innkeeper’s Daughter: A Melo-Drama, in Two Acts presents an even looser adaptation of the poem, whereby the characters have different names, the setting is completely different with a German theme with German character names and German phrases throughout (Soane).

Other adaptations of Robert Southey’s poem, Mary, the Maid of the Inn, held in the Sadleir-Black Collection:

The History of Mary, the Maid of the Inn: A Melancholy and Affecting Narrative: Detailing her Unfortunate Attachment, her Singular Courage, and Showing the Miraculous Manner in which she Discovers her Lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer: with an Account of his Trial and Execution; and also Describing the Forlorn Wanderings of the Unfortunate Mary, who Became a Wretched Maniac, and was found Frozen to Death on her Mother’s Grave. From the Celebrated Poem by Robert Southey which is here also added.
Publisher: Thomas Richardson
Year: Unknown
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: DA539 .L56 1837 no.6

The Innkeeper’s Daughter: A Melo-Drama, in Two Acts.
Publisher: Neal & Mackenzie, 201 Chestnut Street
Year: 1828
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PS630 .C52 R4 1828 no.5

Mary, the Maid of the Inn, or the Murder at the Abbey.
Publisher: J. Johnson, 15a, Kirkgate.
Year: 1850
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PR5464 .M37 1850x


Narrative Point of View

Although Mary, the Maid of the Inn is primarily written in the third person, there are some instances when the narrator uses personal pronouns that indicate a first-person perspective. The identity of the narrator, however, remains a mystery. The narrative seems rushed; while the narrator spends a lot of time describing the characters, a lot less time is spent describing the action. There is an excessive use of semicolons, creating very long sentences, many of which make up entire paragraphs. The structure of dialogue is inconsistent; in some sections, the dialogue is contained in quotation marks which are repeated at the beginning of each line on which the dialogue continues, where in other parts the dialogue is written more like a script, with the character stated before the dialogue and no quotation marks. Throughout the narrative, the narrator refers to the characters with different names. For example, John Simpson is also referred to as “Mr Simpson,” “Goodman Simpson,” “Master Simpson,” and simply “Simpson” in different sections of the text.

Two-page spread from Mary, the Maid of the Inn

Sample Passage:

KATHLEEN, the cherished rib of mine host of the Wheatsheaf, was a masculine, sour looking female, robust and corpulent, with a ruddy complexion, borrowed from the brandy bottle, and carotty hair; a woman, with whom good humour had long since shaken hands, and parted; indeed, it is strongly suspected that she left her whole stock of it, which never was much, with the parson the day she became a wife; yet to be frequenters of her house, she was all complaisance and subserviency; and acted towards them with an overstrained civility, bordering on meanness. (5)

This excerpt exemplifies the lengthy, colorful, descriptive language used throughout the text, prioritizing description of character over narrative action. The narrator here uses many commas and semicolons rather than any periods, which increases the pace of the narrative. Kathleen’s name, much like the other characters introduced in the text, is printed in all caps. Moreover, the narrator uses the pronoun “mine” in a passage that otherwise reads as third-person narration, suggesting some narrative intimacy with the characters. At once, the narrator’s assessment of Kathleen is rather savage.


Summary

Subsequent title page of Mary, the Maid of the Inn

Mary, the Maid of the Inn opens with a description of an Inn in northern England named Wheatsheaf. The innkeeper is John Simpson, who, though he appears to run the inn, comes second in command to his wife, Kathleen Simpson, who is masculine and sour looking. Their only daughter, Mary, is alluring in her beauty and she is betrothed to Richard Jarvis, who although handsome and seemingly respectable, is known to many others as having an “idle turn” and being “dissolute in his morals” (8).

One stormy night, two horsemen come to Wheatsheaf seeking shelter. They are welcomed in and treated with special care due to their gentlemanly appearance. Once settled, Mrs. Simpson entertains the gentlemen with the history of the deserted monk abbey not far from the inn. She tells them stories she has heard of ghosts frequenting the abbey. One of the gentlemen knows the stories but both gentlemen remain sceptical on the truth behind them. Mrs. Simpson tells them that though nobody ventures there after dark for fear of spotting a ghost, her daughter Mary frequents the abbey at all hours of the day and night, seemingly fearless and courageous. After supper, Mary enters the room to serve punch to the gentlemen and they comment on her beauty. The gentlemen ask Mary to prove her courage, challenging her to venture to the deserted abbey, collect a branch from the alder tree that grows there, and return it to them. They wager her courage for another bowl of punch and a new bonnet for Mary. Mrs. Simpson insists that she obliges and Mary, with no choice, readies herself.

Meanwhile, Jarvis waits at his home for his friend Nicholls, intending to commit a highway robbery that same evening. While he is waiting, Jarvis feels some guilt and hesitation in his intentions and expresses this to Nicholls but eventually Jarvis succumbs to Nicholls’s influence. They go to an alleyway where they know their victim will pass with a plentiful bounty. When Squire Hearty passes on his horse, they accost him, demanding money. He resists their efforts drunkenly. One of the men pulls out a pistol and the other cuts Squire Hearty’s horse’s reins.  He is overpowered.  As they drag his body from the horse, the pistol fires, killing Squire Hearty instantly. The men soon decide to carry the body to the deserted abbey.

Meanwhile, Mary arrives at the abbey to collect the branch when she is overcome with a “deadly weight” and ponders what the meaning of it could be (21). Nevertheless, she plucks the branch from the alder, but hears a voice that frightens her. She listens carefully and realises there are two voices, and wonders whether these might really be the voices of ghosts. She is determined not to believe it and, continuing to listen. she discerns that they are two men’s voices. She then spies a head and hears footsteps. Hiding behind a pillar, she sees two men carrying a body between them and she shrieks and collapses to the ground. The men flee at the sound of her scream, having no idea where it has come from. Upon recovering, Mary sees that one of the men has dropped his top hat. She collects it, thinking it may be a useful clue and returns to the inn in shock of what she has seen. As she tells Mrs. Simpson and the two gentlemen what happened, Jarvis shows up at the Inn, enquiring after her. She tells him she has witnessed two murderers disposing of a body but that she has a top hat, which might help identify them. She realises there might be a name in the lining of the top hat. She rushes to check the lining and reads aloud the name “Richard Jarvis.” With no way to escape, Jarvis is detained by the two gentlemen and sent to trial.

At the trial, Mary grapples with her affection for Jarvis and her moral obligation. Eventually, in tears, she testifies against Jarvis and Nicholls, which results in their guilty charge and sentencing to death by hanging. Mary is horrified by the outcome, shrieks in court, and collapses. Once recovered, she looks at Jarvis and starts laughing hysterically. She yells to the judge, “Wretch, hang me up too for I am his murderer.” She then starts attacking people nearest to her with her fists and is eventually restrained in a straightjacket. Her father, Mr Simpson, is greatly affected by her performance and retires to his bed where he eventually dies. Wheatsheaf falls into disrepair, debt accumulates, and Mrs. Simpson eventually kills herself. Mary’s “disorder” stabilises into a “fixed and gloomy melancholy” (23). She lives in the wild off wild fruits and the charity of others. Her body withers away; her beauty disappears. She is eventually found frozen to death in the snow.


Bibliography

Carnall, Geoffrey. “Southey, Robert (1774–1843), poet and reviewer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. January 06, 2011. Oxford University Press. Date of access 28 Oct. 2019, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/26056

The History of Mary, the Maid of the Inn: A Melancholy and Affecting Narrative: Detailing her Unfortunate Attachment, her Singular Courage, and Showing the Miraculous Manner in which she Discovers her Lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer: with an Account of his Trial and Execution; and also Describing the Forlorn Wanderings of the Unfortunate Mary, who Became a Wretched Maniac, and was found Frozen to Death on her Mother’s Grave. From the Celebrated Poem by Robert Southey which is here also added. Thomas Richardson. Derby.

“John Lewis Marks (circa 1796-1855), Publisher and printmaker.” National Portrait Gallery, https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp16780/john-lewis-marks. Accessed 21 November 2019.

Mary, the Maid of the Inn, or the Murder at the Abbey. J. Johnson, 15a, Kirkgate. 1850.

Southey, Robert. Poems by Robert Southey. 2nd ed., Bristol. 1797. Eighteenth Century Collections Online.

Mary, the Maid of the Inn: or the Secrets of the Ruins; A Melancholy and Interesting Narrative; shewing the singular way in which she discovered her lover to be both a Robber and a Murderer; with an account of his Trial, Conviction, and Execution: Together with her madness and forlorn wanderings, until she is found frozen to death: to which is added, the celebrated recitation. London, Orlando Hodgson, 1822.

The Poetical Works of Robert Southey with a Memoir. New York. 1837. HathiTrust Digital Library.

Soane, George. The Innkeeper’s Daughter: A Melo-Drama, in Two Acts. Neal & Mackenzie, 201 Chestnut Street. Philadelphia. 1828.


Researcher: Jo Terry

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

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

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

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


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


Material History

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

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

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

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

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

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


Textual History

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

This page of Angelina is missing letters in many places.

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

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

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

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

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


Narrative Point of View

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

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration: 

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

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

Sample Passage of Direct Address:

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

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


Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bibliography

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

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

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

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


Researcher: Samara Rubenstein

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