Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi
Publisher: A. Kemmish
Publication Year: Unknown
Book Dimensions: 17.3cm x 10.6cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C532 n.d.
In this chapbook set in France, a love story is hindered by a villain’s lust and Machiavellian quest for power, full of abduction and murder.
Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi is embedded with a varied and interesting material history. The aforementioned title of the book appears on the first page, and later, throughout the pages on the upper margins. However, the subtitle is omitted from these subsequent pages. Interestingly, the author’s name does not appear whatsoever, even on the title page.
The chapbook is in surprisingly good condition for being over two hundred years old. The paper itself is good quality, albeit a little brown. However, the pages will not last indefinitely because the novel has been disbound, so if one were to turn the leaves the novel would loosen. Therefore, the Sadler-Black collection might rebind it in the future to prevent this from occurring. The physical dimensions of the book measure out to be 17.3 cm by 10.6 cm. The page count is thirty-eight, including a second short story titled Ogus & Cara-Khan; or the Force of Love appended at the end but not mentioned on the title page. The addition of this second story is not explained, unless perhaps both novels were a part of a larger collection of stories. Unfortunately, while the edition of the novel that is a part of the Sadler-Black library collection was previously bound, no details of the original binding are available.
The overall appearance of the book is cheap (most likely meant to be discarded like other copies), unblemished (there is a relative lack of markings for such a copy), aged (comparatively to modern publications), and of middling quality. Offset is another descriptor here–the text was conveyed (aka “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket to a printing surface, which is a common practice in printing. The body pages themselves contain minimal white space, despite the font being in a relatively small size. An interesting aspect of the font of the text is the use of the long s, an archaic form of the lowercase s, which resembles an f more than an s. It generally replaces the single s and also one of the letters s when there is a double s. This used to be a somewhat common practice but has long fallen out of fashion.
The novel begins with a frontispiece illustration, facing the title page on the right-hand, or recto page. It shows an illustrated image of a man and a woman in antiquated outfits, with the woman sitting on a chair, seemingly in grief—the man is comforting, or trying to comfort, her. They are in a room with a single window, allowing light to enter the space. This scene is not explicated in the chapbook, but could be interpreted as illustrating many parts of the text. The illustration itself is an copper-plate engraving.
Something notable is that the title page has offsetting. The technical reason for this is that there were two printing presses used as they specialized in different types of printing, one for the text and one for the illustration; these would later be combined. Due to this, different inks are used, resulting in offsetting from the oxidation, which forms a brownish rectangle.
Finally, there is one mark of ownership within the book, on the first page, for one Robert Allen. Also, on page thirty-six, there is a printer’s imprint featuring the name of the printer who printed the text—A. Kemmish. The title page contains the name of the publisher—J. Kerr.
Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi was originally published by A. Kemmish for J. Ker. Several copies were seemingly published for this book collector, about whom there is much biographical information. John Ker was the third duke of Roxburghe and lived from 1740 to 1804. There is no date of publication on Clairville Castle and no clear indication in source material of its publication date, though one WorldCat entry estimates 1805 as a potential year of publication.
Jon Ker owned an expansive personal library, which continued to grow throughout his life. He even arranged the marriage of Anna Ker into his family, who was a gothic writer herself, and may have influenced some of the additions to his large collection of books. “Roxburghe books are today the prized possessions of many of the world’s great libraries, and their collector is immortalized by the distinction of having named after him one of the most exclusive and famous of bibliographical societies, the Roxburghe Club” (Hillyard). This aligns with the inclusion of this chapbook in the Sadler-Black collection and many others throughout the U.S. and abroad.
There were no subsequent editions of Clairville Castle published; it was originally written in English, and was never translated into any other languages. There is no preface or introduction to the chapbook, and this appears consistent with the other editions of the novel, all of which were published at the same time. The text also does not appear to have any prequels or sequels in publication, although there are several chapbooks from this time period featuring similar characters and plots.
There are no contemporary reviews for the text, and so it is unknown whether it was received poorly or positively at the time of publication. The text also does not appear to have been advertised, and does not appear to have been reprinted following its original publication—the copies that exist are as follows: one in the University of Virginia library, one at the Stanford Library, one at Harvard University in the Houghton Library, one at Oxford University, one in the British Library Reference Collections, and one in Leakey’s Bookshop (which is a secondhand bookshop in Scotland). Some of these copies have been digitized recently, such as the copy the British Library houses, which was digitized on Sep 28, 2016, according to WorldCat. Also, there is a digital copy available on Google Books; this copy appears nearly identical to the one available in the University of Virginia Sadleir-Black library collection, although it does not contain a frontispiece illustration and has differing marks of ownership, such as an indiscernible signature on the title page.
This text has not been adapted, seemingly, in any fashion. There is a clear similarity in this text to other gothic novels and chapbooks of the time period; however, it does not appear to have specifically influenced any pieces of literature following its publication. Furthermore, this work seems to have been completely unattended to by academic scholarship, and this is most likely a result of the lack of popularity concerning the chapbook. It simply appears to be one of many similar gothic texts published during this time period, which were overshadowed by each other and by even more popular works in the genre.
Narrative Point of View
Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi is told by an anonymous narrator in the third person. This narration contains sentences that vary in length, but the style certainly feels antiquated and long-winded. The narrator strikes a balance between describing the actual plot of the story and the characters’ emotions towards these events throughout the chapbook. The narrator also uses dialogue sparingly, since there is much background information and action within the plot that is described without its use.
Emma had for some time enjoyed the retirement, from which she was aroused by a confused sound of voices that proceeded from below—she started up and recollecting her perilous situation, which the height of the sun beaming through the curtains painted in strong colors; she felt her apprehensions of pursuit renewed—she adjusted her dress, and tied on her straw bonnet, in order to seek her father, when he suddenly entered–he found her so apprehensive from the interval of time that they had lost at the inn, that he ventured to inform her of Albert’s arrival, and his impatience to behold her. The glow of pleasure animated her fair cheek, but was instantly succeeded by a deadly paleness. (30)
This narration succeeds in moving the plot along quickly, by utilizing long compound sentences (such as the passage above) in order to describe the events and the characters’ feelings towards them. By balancing these descriptions of the plot and the internal sentiments of the characters, the narrator is able to allow for lulls in the action of the story so that the plot does not progress too quickly. The minimal use of dialogue also highlights the importance of what the characters say, and works as a plot device in and of itself. All of these features of the narration combine to create a story that is fast paced but still leaves room for the reader to breathe when necessary.
Clairville Castle; or, the History of Albert and Emma with the Death of the Usurper Morenzi, told by a narrator in the third person, begins with a character description of a peasant named Bernard and his daughter, Emma. Although they are not wealthy, the father is a well-respected member of the community of Clairville due to his generous and benevolent nature. His daughter shares these qualities as she joins village festivities and is doted on by her father. Despite the death of Emma’s mother in years past, the two live a happy life as a family unit.
Bernard works as a bailiff under the Marquis de Clairville—until his untimely death, that is, which ushers in a general sadness as exemplified by his funeral which is attended by many, with all attendees displaying great amounts of grief. During the procession, a young Swiss man named Albert arrives at the castle, and decides to join the ceremony after learning who had died from one of the townsfolk. At the church where the funeral is being held, a group of women begin to lay flowers on the coffin of the late Marquis; one is a beautiful girl, whom Albert immediately notices and is enchanted by. He follows her down the middle aisle of the church, and sees her embracing her father, both mourning the man in the casket. Not daring to interrupt, he asks another peasant for the girl’s name, which he learns is Emma. The peasant offers Albert a bed in his cottage, and he agrees immediately, since it is near Bernard and Emma’s abode, and he plans to ask for her hand in marriage already.
The story of the late Marquis’s life is then embellished upon—his wife and infant child were ambushed by some bandits several years prior, resulting in his wife’s death and his son’s kidnapping. This drove him to great melancholy, but he remained generous at heart and treated the townspeople as his own children. Following his death, his lands and estates became those of the Baron of Morenzi, who is a much crueler man. He discards his subjects’ complaints and pays them no heed. He also carries a heavy debt, which he does not pay, instead pursuing a life of vice and leisure.
Meanwhile, Albert has gained the affections of Emma and the approval of Bernard. She reads to him often, having amassed a great collection of books, all of which impress Albert immensely. He begins to fall in love with her and she reciprocates. However, her father declines to support their proposal of marriage because he believes that they are of two distinct social classes. Promising to receive his father’s support for the match, Albert returns to his native country. Bernard then proceeds to tell Emma to relinquish all notions of this potential marriage occurring, and she submits to her father’s request.
The Baron meets Emma a little while later while roaming his lands, and immediately falls for her, planning to seduce her despite Bernard rebuking his advances. One day, a messenger from the castle arrives at Emma’s doorstep and informs her that her father has suddenly been struck ill. She hurries to the castle, only to find the Baron, who threatens her into staying with him, displaying his power over her father. She rejects him, and flees the castle, finding her father at the gates (the Baron’s steward, Du Val, had instructed him to remain there under false pretenses); both return to their cottage. Fearing the Baron’s wrath, they decide to flee to the castle of Brinon, some twenty miles away and where his late wife had labored. On the way, they stop at an inn where the landlord offers them refreshments and water for their horses.
Albert had returned to his home, to the estate of his father, the Count de Bournonville. He tells his father of Emma and begs his permission to marry her. In response, the Count tells him that he is in charge of his own destiny, and reveals that he merely adopted Albert, whose real name is Henry de Clairville. The Count’s infant son had recently died of an illness while they were travelling from France to Switzerland. When the Count and his inconsolable wife came upon the result of a bandit attack and found a dying servant coddling an infant boy, they decided that they must raise Albert as their own. They named him, then, after their late son. The assassin who killed his mother was none other than the Baron de Morenzi. Learning all of this, Albert resolves to avenge his mother and returns to France with a retinue.
During this time, Du Val attempts to capture Emma for the Baron. Finding her cottage empty, he returns to the castle and informs the Baron, who flies into a rage—both set out in pursuit of the fugitives. Albert reaches the inn in which Bernard and Emma are staying, and explains to the father all that he had recently learned. The Baron, too, arrives, and Albert confronts him with extreme anger. However, he is unarmed, unlike the Baron and his retinue, so his men restrain him and drag him to another room where they lock themselves inside. The Baron, feeling immense regret for his past actions, draws a pistol and shoots himself in the head before Du Val can stop him. Albert returns to the room and finds the lifeless body, proclaiming it to be a just death for a murderer, to the onlookers.
Bernard informs Emma, in her chamber, of what has just occurred, and offers her hand in marriage to Albert, or Henry, in his eyes. Albert’s adopted father also approves of the match wholeheartedly. With the usurper now dead, Albert becomes the new Marquis of Clairville—he also marries Emma. The people of the village rejoice at this turn of events and all ends merrily.
Hillyard, Brian. “Ker, John, Third Duke of Roxburghe.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 September 2004. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/15452
Steele, John Gladstone. “Anne and John Ker: New Soundings.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 12, summer 2004, www.romtext.org.uk/reports/cc12_n03/.
Clairville Castle; or, The History of Albert & Emma. With the Death of the Usurper, Morenzi. London, A. Kemmish.
Researcher: Shankar Radhakrishnan