The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over The Arabian Deserts, To the British Settlements in India; Containing, Among Other Particulars, An Account Of The Perils he experienced in those terrific Regions, The Eccentric Humours of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In The War With Hyder Ally, &c.
Dubiously attributed to Mary Anne Radcliffe when published in 1802, this chapbook tracks a captain’s journey across what’s east of England
The Sadleir-Black Collection edition of The Adventures of
Capt. Duncan wears its history well. Despite its age, the book has
maintained its blue cover, bound by a thick string. Frayed and whittled down on
the sides, the cover sheets are thinner and frailer than the sheets containing
the book’s text, perhaps indicating that the covers have borne the brunt of the
wear and tear. The exterior cover notes an extravagant number of salesmen
across England responsible for the publishing of the book. The interior cover
recognizes this edition as the premium printing copy of the story, costing an
additional three pence, up to a total of nine. That distinction, as a premium
publication, likely enabled the cover’s survival, as this edition supplied a
superior set of craftsmanship and materials.
With regards to the pages, The Adventures of Capt. Duncan
is relatively short. Even amongst these few pages, they are uneven, jetting
outward or inward, indicating some combination of both uneven page-cutting and
the wear of centuries. The pages themselves are brittle, dry, and yellowed, yet
firmer than the cover. When turning the pages, they tend to crunch a bit and
move with rigidity.
Following the initial pages that note the book’s publication
information, there is an illustration of Captain Duncan in his armor. This
serves as a frontispiece, with the inelaborate title The Adventures of Capt.
Duncan. On the very next page, the expansive title takes up a full page,
declaring The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over The
Arabian Deserts, To the British Settlements in India; Containing, Among Other
Particulars, An Account Of The Perils he experienced in those terrific Regions,
The Eccentric Humours of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In
The War With Hyder Ally, &c. This title uses an array of fonts, spacings,
and capitalizations on the page, ranging from robotic, direct fonts, to floral
and italicized fonts. On the cover, there is a similar mixing of fonts. There
are variations even among the spaces between the letters within words, as well
as the spacing between lines.
The rest of the book is not nearly as unique. The text itself is
fairly plain. There is little spacing between lines and a 1.5 to 2 centimeter
margin on the pages. The book is brief, at only thirty-six pages, in the style
of gothic chapbooks. The back cover of the book shares the same physical
qualities as the blue front cover: it is thin, fragile, and is more sparsely
populated with printed text.
The Adventures of Captain Duncan
was one of two installations in Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine
(Brown et al). The magazine’s publishers hoped the magazine would “contain an
elegant & chaste collection of Original Novels, Tales, Romances, Lives,
Memoirs, Voyages, Travels, &c. together with a judicious Selection from the
Writings of those Authors, whose works have in any degree excited public
notoriety” but after those first two issues, the project was abandoned (quoted
in Potter 64).
As a chapbook, The Adventures of Captain Duncan holds a
small place in the larger chapbook publishing landscape. From roughly the late
1790s to the early 1800s, Thomas Hurst published gothic chapbooks from his
office at 32 Paternoster Row. He was integral in many of the gothic chapbooks
published between 1798 and 1803, including The Adventures of Captain Duncan.
Hurst spearheaded the serial Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine,
and was also the exclusive seller in England, while the rest of the magazines
were sold in Scotland (Potter 64). Another gentleman, Thomas Brown, joined
Hurst in publishing Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine, as well as
The Marvelous Magazine (Potter 64–5).
As the eighteenth century turned to the nineteenth, chapbooks
were sold with practices that echo modern multi-level marketing schemes. The
primary distributor (Thomas Hurst, for example) would collect a group of
subordinates to sell the chapbooks, with the option to sell the books
individually or further distribute them to other sellers (Potter 67).
Booksellers’ advertisements in newspapers and such reveal an extensive network
of this wholesale distribution (Potter 67–8).
Mary Anne Radcliffe was billed as the writer, compiler, and
editor of Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine. Her name
immediately begets ambiguity with its similarities to the well-known Gothic
novelist Ann Radcliffe, but that is not where the issues end. Mary Anne
Radcliffe was certainly a real person. She was born Mary Clayton of Nottingham.
She was well educated, considering her status and gender (Brown et al). At the
mere age of fourteen, she married Joseph Radcliffe, giving her the fateful
Radcliffe name. Following her marriage, she dotted across England between
Edinburgh, London, and Nottingham (Brown et al). Mary Anne Radcliffe certainly
wrote as well. The works most clearly attributable to her are The Female
Advocate; or An Attempt to Recover the Rights of Women from Male Usurpation and
Memoirs … in Familiar Letters to Her Female Friend. Scholars have doubted
her other attributed works, however, which include an array of gothic novels as
well as translations of foreign novels (Brown et al).
Most modern scholarship focuses on Mary Anne Radcliffe’s larger
Gothic novels rather than her chapbooks, but they reveal a larger practice of
misattribution, where certain publishers attached Mary Anne Radcliffe’s name to
books in an attempt to sell more—relying on her proximity to Ann Radcliffe’s
name (Garside et al). Some of Mary Anne Radcliffe’s attributions are more
suspect than others. One such novel, Radzivil, was attributed to her
several years after publication. The Fate of Velina de Guidova, which is
a translation from Russian that is set in France, was attributed after an even
greater wait (Brown et al). Both novels focus on material entirely distinct
from The Female Advocate and point to a different author entirely (Brown
Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine
has fewer suspect circumstances but still exists within the context of those
other misattributions. The magazine correctly identifies Mary Anne Radcliffe’s
address and she was attributed at the time of publishing (Brown et al). Some modern
scholars are skeptical of Mary Anne Radcliffe being the true author or editor
of the pocket magazine, but it nevertheless holds a sharper connection than her
other attributions (Garside et al). Whether Mary Anne Radcliffe truly wrote and
edited for the magazine or someone else did, The Adventures of Captain
Duncan remains a valuable part of the history of chapbooks in England.
Point of View
The Adventures of Captain Duncan
switches between an unidentified third-person narrator and the first-person
narration of Captain Duncan, through what appears to be a set of direct
statements from Duncan. The third-person narrator functions as an interpreter
of those notes. Both styles delve into the captain’s emotions, but his
first-person interjections serve as sharper confirmations of the preceding
paraphrases of the narrator.
As the Captain became familiarised to his Tartar guide, he found him a fellow of infinite humour and much humanity, well acquainted with the world, and endeavoring all he could to alleviate the gloom that frequently clouded his countenance. One principal object with him seemed to be to impress the Captain with an idea of his high importance as a messenger belonging to the Sultan, and that his authority wherever he came was not to be disputed. “ Thus,” says Capt. Duncan, “ whenever we stopped at a Caravansera, he immediately called about him, in the name of the Sultan, for fresh horses, victuals, &c. And though the utmost submission was shown to his will, he nevertheless frequently exhibited his muscular powers by unmercifully belaboring all indiscriminately with his whip, and I was afraid to interfere, fearful that he might think it necessary to give me a flogging to avoid suspicion.” (15)
These two modes of narration function within the larger
historical implications of The Adventures of Captain Duncan, an
international story that has the power to shape English understandings of lands
and cultures beyond England. The reports of Captain Duncan thus operate as a
historical primary source within this fictional text. This adds a sense of
realism, because it seems as though these could be the words of a real man, who
had a real story, who is being studied by a real person. Additionally, several
times throughout the book, there are extended passages explaining local
customs, none more prominently than when the text explains that during Hajj, in
Mecca, the worshippers “enter the former [Masjid al-Haram], and, walking seven
times round the little building contained within it, say, ‘This is the house of
God and of his servant Abraham’” (10–11). These insights into other cultures
gain veracity the same way Captain Duncan’s own story does: through the book’s
presentation of his journals as a primary source within the narration.
Captain Duncan’s journey begins as any journey does: with a
departure. In May 1781, he receives word that he must go to India to help sort
out his father’s affairs. Duncan leaves his spouse and two daughters in
England. Rather than directly sail around the Cape of Good Hope, he travels
over land, across Europe and the Middle East en route to India. He dots between
European cities like Brussels, Venice, and Augsburg. In Augsburg, Duncan finds
himself in a church when a friar indulges him in drink, issuing vague religious
proclamations about his journey. The friar is welcoming, joyful, and telling
stories that keep Duncan enthralled before continuing his journey.
He reaches a fork in the road at Venice, deciding whether to travel directly through Syria or through Egypt. After opting for a boat ride to Egypt, he meets a young English woman he hopes to bring with him to India, but her guardian stops his pursuits. When he lands in Alexandria, he still heads through Syria, taking his longest stop at Aleppo. His journey is largely defined by the different British people he meets along his travels, and Aleppo is no different. Those expatriates offer comfort, refuge, and rescue to Duncan throughout his trek. He connects with a large, traveling caravan going towards Mecca; one large enough to withstand bands of robbers along their path. It eventually links up with a few more caravans, each boasting legions of soldiers and beasts to fortify their trip.
Once he reaches Mecca, he meets yet another woman who wants to run away, this one suffering in the clutches of an older husband. With their plan hatched, Captain Duncan is quite prepared to sneak away, but the British Consul hears of this scheme and shuts it down. Duncan even faces local legal trouble resultant from his infringement upon a legal marriage, but the Consul smuggles him out of town with a Turkish guide.
The captain quickly irritates the overbearing guide with his mocking of the guide’s sense of seriousness and superiority, leading to some scuffles over horses and such. He specifically objects further when the guide traffics several women via their traveling party, but to no avail. They eventually reach Mosul, where their partnership ends and the captain links up with an Armenian merchant to assist him in his travels. The merchant brings him to the last leg of his journey, where he boards a ship to take him to India.
However, calamity strikes and they misjudge the monsoon patterns of the waterway and condemn their ship to ruin. Despite battling the waters and waves, the ship collapses when a hurricane forms and the crewmates subsequently drift across the sea. They wash ashore at Hydernagur, where Indian locals, who do not take kindly to British colonizers, capture them.
When leader Hyder Ally finds out that Captain Duncan is the son of the renowned Colonel Duncan, he wishes to turn Captain Duncan to his side in the war. At first, it comes in bribes, where Hyder offers men and money, but it later comes in threats, where Hyder’s men temporarily hang and torture Captain Duncan, before eventually conceding.
Duncan has a British companion in these troubles, one Mr. Wall.
Mr. Wall came on this journey out of financial necessity; he was in love with a
woman, and his previously wealthy father had wasted his riches on some poor
investments, leaving him destitute and unable to wed. He came to India to try
to recoup some wealth, enough to get married. But Mr. Wall never returns to
England and dies in Hydernagur, shackled at the feet to the still-living
There is still another English expatriate, however, for General
Matthews marched into town to save Captain Duncan from his captors. After
gaining freedom, Duncan enlists as a negotiator between British and Jemadar
forces, who are an independent sect of forces who revolted from Hyder Ally’s
son, Tippoo Sahib. The British military wants Jemadar’s support to help gain a
valuable garrison to fight back against Sahib. Successful in these
negotiations, Captain Duncan continues on his journey, moving farther across
India before even venturing out to China. He finally returns to England some
three and a half years later.
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, eds. “Mary Ann Radcliffe: Writing.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. http://orlando.cambridge.org 3 November 2021.
P. D. Garside, with J. E. Belanger, A. A. Mandal, and S. A. Ragaz. “The English Novel, 1800–1829: Update 4 (June 2003–August 2003).” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 12 (Summer 2004). http://www.romtext.org.uk/reports/engnov4/ 3 November 2021.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and
Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830,
University of Wales Press, 2021.
Radcliffe, Mary Anne. The Adventures of Captain Duncan.
London, Hurst, 1802.
With its twists and turns, this transatlantic tale recounts heartbreak, love, desire, and greed. Where one end is tied, another frays, keeping readers in suspense. There is no shortage of the gothic in this text.
The cover of The Commodore’s Daughter is 21.75 cm tall and 13.5 cm wide with a spine thickness of 1.5 cm. While the cover does not have a special design, the two corners and part of the spine have a softer and lighter leather than the rest of the book’s cover, which is a rougher and darker leather. There are three stories bound within this volume and the spine is decorated with gold lettering with the titles: Lucelle. — Julia St. Pierre. — Commodore’s Daughter.
The Commodore’s Daughter, by Benjamin Barker, begins approximately two-thirds of the way into this volume. The pages are clearly in excellent shape. The title page is plain and includes the title, author, and publication information: “PUBLISHED BY E. LLOYD, 12, SALISBURY-SQUARE, FLEET-STREET, AND SOLD BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.”The next page, which starts the text of the story, also includes a detailed picture and caption, as well as the word, “complete” handwritten lightly in pencil at the top of the page. The Commodore’s Daughter was originally published as a “penny dreadful” serial, which is when small cheap portions of the story were published at regular intervals and later bound together. “No. 1,” “No. 2,” etc. appear at the bottom corners of their respective pages (outside of the border created around the text) to indicate the start of a new section of the story. Though the sections were all printed, sold, and originally purchased separately, this version is “complete” because these sections have now been bound together.
The Commodore’s Daughter is sixty-eight pages long. The text is small, always surrounded by a decorative border, and relatively easy to read with decent-sized margins. This copy of The Commodore’s Daughter also shows an error made during printing. Though the final chapter appears to be Chapter XIX, this book does not have nineteen chapters, but rather, eighteen, with one entire chapter having been skipped due to misnumbering. The book leaps from Chapter XVII to Chapter XIX, which should have been correctly numbered as Chapter XVIII. This erroneous Chapter XIX is printed on the back of the page with Chapter XVII. Interestingly, the side of the page with Chapter XVII is much more pristine and in better shape than the other side, which must have been exposed at one point to different environmental conditions.
The Commodore’s Daughter was written by Benjamin Barker—an author who was no stranger to publishing, as he released nineteen other works under his name. Two publishers produced The Commodore’s Daughter—Frederick Gleason in Boston, Massachusetts in 1846, and Edward Lloyd in London in 1847—and versions of each are housed in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction.
The Lloyd and Gleason printings of The Commodore’s Daughter contain a few key differences. For instance, the 1846 Gleason printing (which is also available on Google Books) includes the alternate title, The Dwarf of the Channel, or, The Commodore’s Daughter. While both versions contain the same story content, the Gleason’s version prints the story in columns, and this copy also lacks the illustrations present in the Lloyd version. Lloyd’s 1847 printing also initially appeared serialized as a penny dreadful.
The Lloyd printing of The Commodore’s Daughter contains a preface dated December 1847. In this preface, “the Publisher” provides context for the story’s historical significance, characters, and plot, including the backstory and setting. The final sentence of the preface reads: “The moral of the tale is unexceptionable, and as the incidents do not violate probability, and the characters are so truly drawn, the Publisher anticipates a favourable reception for the work.”
Like much of gothic literature that has faded from view, The Commodore’s Daughter has not remained widely available and the publisher’s projected “favourable reception” was short-lived, if at all. However, there are a few notable online versions. In addition to digital copies of the Gleason printing available via Google Books, Historical Texts has a digitized version of the Lloyd edition. In 2010, the British Library Historical Print Editions released a reprinting of TheCommodore’s Daughter.
Benjamin Barker has a notable publishing history. Not only did he publish nearly twenty works under his name, but he also published under the pseudonym Egbert Augustus Cowslip. One of his most well-known works under this pseudonym was Zoraida; or The witch of Naumkeag! A Tale of the Olden Time. Another of Barker’s works published under his own name, Blackbeard, or, The Pirate of Roanoke, is listed on Amazon and, as of 2021, has several reviews including one with a complaint about its historical inaccuracies, which reiterates the preface of The Commodore’s Daughter regarding the accuracy of accounts of the American Revolution.
Narrative Point of View
The Commodore’s Daughter is narrated in the third person (and occasionally with first-person plural moments) by an unnamed omniscient narrator who does not appear in the text. The narration feels relatively modern, but still contains antiquated vernacular. The paragraphs and sentences are generally lengthy. Yet, there still are inconsistencies in the style, with some paragraphs being much longer or using more eloquent vocabulary than others. The narration describes the characters and their feelings matter-of-factly (and frequently through characters’ actions), and there is very little text dedicated to introspection. The narration also contains much more description than dialogue.
Premising that the following romance is founded upon facts, with the details of which many of our readers may possibly be acquainted, and that for particular reason, we shall claim the privilege and take the liberty of introducing our principal characters under fictitious names, we now proceed to open our story as follows… (1)
By performing that this fictional story is based on facts—a common gothic trope—the narrator effectively tells the story with increased credibility (and possibly more shock value, as well). The narrator seeks to communicate a story by establishing familiarity with the characters in the book without revealing their names, thus providing an even foundation to readers and inviting everyone to enjoy the story with shared knowledge provided by the narrator from the beginning. The use of the first-person plural “we” also gives a more rounded and less singular feeling to the narration, enabling the fictional story to mimic an actual recounting of events.
In the early days of the American Revolution, before the colonies had banded together to declare their own independence, an old and cunning man by the name of Henry Hartville desired a fortune that was supposed to be inherited by a girl named Nora. Through his meticulous planning, Henry was able to trick Nora into believing that she was his daughter, all the while finding the perfect suitor for her so that Henry could obtain this wealth. The story then asks what Henry Hartville’s plan is to arrive at his goal.
An older, “deformed” man named John Ellery, frequently described in the text as a “dwarf,” has taken under his wing a “maniac” girl, Helen Morton, whose parents died years prior. John Ellery is one day met by a man carrying a letter and a black crucifix, who leaves soon after handing him these mysterious items. Despite not knowing who this man is or who the person who wrote the letter could be, Mr. Ellery accepts the commands listed out to him on the letter without any hesitation. One of those commands being to seek Nora Hartville out to keep under his wing, which the story reveals later.
Luckily, Mr. Ellery met with a ship on its way to a New England port, carrying several passengers in its cabins. Since he is able to pilot the ship, Mr. Ellery is gratefully accepted by the captain to guide it to its destination. Mr. Ellery, however, begins to take notice of a peculiar passenger whom the captain dreaded and wanted jettisoned as soon as possible. Through a careful line of questioning, Mr. Ellery finally realizes what he had hoped to find——the girl on the ship is Nora Hartville, the one the letter instructed him to keep under his wing for the next few years.
Mr. Ellery, Helen Morton, and Nora Hartville all arrive at Mr. Ellery’s home and remain there for several months in peace, as Helen and Nora become closer in what Helen describes as a sisterhood. Unfortunately, the fateful night arrives soon enough, and Miles Warton, the man who brought the letter and the crucifix to Mr. Ellery so long ago, finally comes to collect Nora Hartville for the suitor that Henry Hartville had set up for her. Miles Warton was a criminal, so Mr. Ellery knew his arrival at the cottage meant something was wrong. Prior to their meeting, Mr. Ellery heard Nora’s objections to the forced marriage, for the girl had her heart set on another man, George Wellington. Both parties soon realize that this night will not go as planned. In a shocking turn of events, Warton is killed by none other than Helen Morton, as she defends her adoptive father from being harmed by the criminal.
Through many events to follow, George Wellington, who was originally deprived of his desire to see his love, Nora Hartville, meets up with a man named Edward Hale, Helen Morton’s former lover. It is revealed that once George and Edward work together in their search for their lovers, the cruel and conniving plans of Henry Hartville can be overturned.
Yet before their arrival, another surprising figure appears: the former wife of Mr. Ellery, whose name is Julia. Long ago, Julia (the original owner of the black crucifix) held a gun to her husband’s chest in a fit of hatred and demanded that he follow the orders of whoever bears the crucifix. Now, Julia seeks forgiveness for the trouble she has caused, and the old man gracefully accepts. Seeing that Mr. Ellery accepted her apology, Julia knows she can now rest, and she breathes her last breath at her former husband’s humble cottage.
Finally having come to peace with his life, Mr. Ellery travels with his daughters and their suitors (who have found his cottage after a long search) to the ship of a well-known commodore, where it is revealed that the villainous Henry Hartville is aboard the vessel. Cornered and seeing that all his plans have been foiled, Henry Hartville takes a pistol to his head and pulls the trigger, allowing for Edward Hale and Helen Morton to fulfill their love and Nora and George Wellington to do the same. Through much pain and sorrow, Mr. Ellery finally gets to live a happy life away from shame.
In this 1811 book by English author George Moore, an envious husband wreaks havoc until finally learning to trust his family and control his passions.
The gothic novel, Tales of the Passions; The Married Man; An
English Tale: In Which is Attempted an Illustration of the Passion of Jealousy
in Its Effects on the Human Mind, was written by English author George
Moore. Its full title stands as such, but either Moore or his publisher
shortened the full title to Tales of the
Passions in certain places within the novel. For example, the first title
page, located after a single blank page at the beginning of the book, simply
uses Tales of the Passions as its
title. The title page also includes the author’s name, written as George Moore,
and publishing information, including the name of the publishers, G. Wilkie and
J. Robinson, and where it was printed in London, which was Paternoster Row. It
also lists the publication date of 1811. This title page is followed by an
uncut page, meaning that for this particular novel the top of the page remains
folded and unbroken. Because large pages were folded to create a bound book, it
was common practice for manufacturers to sell books uncut. This means that the
pages remained folded over at either the top or side of the novel, which made
printing cheaper and thus made novels more affordable to the common consumer.
When readers bought the books, they could either have had the books taken to a
binder who would cleanly cut the novel, or they could cut it themselves, which
is apparently what the reader of this particular copy of the novel did, since this
person never ended up slicing open the page in question.
This uncut page reads “Tale II:
Jealousy” with the word “Jealousy” printed far beneath Tale II and further
separated by a small, floral symbol. This page is also printed in a slightly
more intricate font than the title page. Such a font seems to be suggestive of
handwritten cursive due to the ways the letters curve and flow. Following this
page is the second title page with the novel’s full title. Interestingly, the
font size of different sections of the title change; for example, the “Married
Man” portion of the title is quite large relative to the size of the other
text, but the “In which it is attempted” is quite small. Furthermore, Tales of the Passions is also engraved
in cursive on the spine of the novel below the surname Moore. Two lines also
bracket this combination, separating it from a numerical 2, indicating the
volume number, written several inches further down the spine.
Aside from the pages the reader cut
to consume the novel, it otherwise largely remains unchanged; thus, it is
paper-bound with a plain hard cover and unevenly cut pages such that they stick
out irregularly on the novel’s side. Aside from the ragged nature of the pages,
it appears strikingly similar to the way hardback books look today with their
book jackets removed. The cover is a plain navy blue color with a tan binding,
and both the binding and the cover of the novel are made out of paper. It
should be noted that at the time, books were originally sold simply like this;
not only were the pages sealed at the top or side like aforementioned, but they
were also unevenly cut, as they were thus cheaper to print, causing them to
also be more inexpensive. However, if an individual had enough wealth, he or
she might go to a binder and have the novel rebound in leather and the pages
cut evenly. Neither happened with this copy.
The state of the book is in
relatively good condition. It is largely unmarked save for a couple of light
stains on some of the pages, most of which are inexplicable save for one page
that appears to be stained with what looks like ink splotches. There is also
what appears to be perhaps indirect ink stains or charcoal visible on the
bottom edges of the pages of the novel when the book is closed. Other notable
physical alterations of the book include the presence of a small insect on page
243. It is unknown what species of insect it is without the aid of an
entomologist, but more tantalizing is the consideration of how long it has been
inside the book: whether it was preserved accidentally by the original owners
or trapped in its afterlife in the archive.
The pages themselves are lightly
tanned by age, but do not seem to be exceptionally delicate due to the fact
that the paper the manufacturer used is sturdy and thick. There are no
illustrations throughout the text, and no written comments either; indeed, the
only visible signs of it being read before are the aforementioned stains. The
set of the page includes large amounts of white space and copious margins with
large text set far apart. Thus, while the novel itself is long at around 400
pages, the structure of the print accounts for much of the relative length of
of the Passions was written by
George Moore, published by G. Wilkie and
J. Robinson, and printed by S. Hamilton. The publishers, G. Wilkie and J
Robinson, were involved with a variety of novels, including renditions of
Shakespeare’s plays (Murphy 347–48). There is little information available
about the author, George Moore, which contrasts with the informal, welcoming
tone of his preface, where he directly discusses his reasoning for why he wrote
the novel as well as explaining the different plot choices he decided to keep
in the final version. Moore also included a dedication where he discloses that
he is independent from patrons as well as noting how important independence is
to him on a personal level. Furthermore, he also dedicates the novel to his
mother. It should be noted that in regards to Moore’s own obscurity, there is a
significant confounding variable: a far more famous Irish writer from later in
the nineteenth century shares his name exactly. Thus while many results do
appear when searching for the name George Moore, they all appear to be about
this other writer.
There is some evidence that Tales of the Passions, while never truly
popular at any point of history, received some recognition when it was
initially published. For example, the novel is listed in a British periodical
where new British novel releases were listed for the year, although it is only
listed by name and without summary in a list with hundreds of name-only
releases (“List of New Works” 514). More notably, there are also records of two
articles written in the early nineteenth century that focus on Moore’s work. A
literary journal called Monthly Review reviewed
Tales of the Passion: Jealousy in
1812.The review provides insight
into how Moore’s writing style and plot may have been similarly received by the
general public. The article’s author sums up the way Moore writes perfectly:
“without climbing to the eminences of his profession, he walks much above the
plain of ordinary novelists” (Tay 388). Furthermore, the article goes on to
mention that the story was made too complex by “unintelligible relationships
between subordinate personages,” and that the West Indies plotline was
“improbable, difficult to remember, and not essential to the catastrophe” (Tay 388).
His next section of the review focuses on the lack of realism in Moore’s
flowery prose of the novel, giving the specific example of Osmond’s speech when
he is ill and near death. The reviewer notes how the fact that Osmond’s speech
patterns do not change even then weakens the effect of Osmond’s illness because
sick minds are more “concise” and “abrupt” (Tay 390). The article then argues
that the focus of Felix’s jealousy should have been concentrated on one person,
and that the reader should have been led to believe the wife was cheating as
well to give Felix’s character more moral standing and depth.
There is also another review in Monthly Review about Moore’s Tales of the Passions, but this one
focuses on the first volume of the series, originally published in 1808 and focusing on the passion of revenge. This
reviewer structures his article in a similar way to the review of the second
volume, as both begin by recommending various changes they feel would make the
novel more powerful. Both of the reviews make note of the fact that Joanna
Baillie’s Plays on the Passions
inspired Mooreto write his novel,
but this second review goes into far more depth about the subject. It even goes
so far as to include an entire statement that Moore released regarding the
topic, where he discusses how the idea of focusing a work on various passions
was an engaging one, and how he enjoyed Baillie’s work so much he decided to
write his own “moral tale” about domestic life focused on a single passion (Meri
262). The reviewer then goes on to discuss the plotline of the first volume,
and concludes by noting that while Moore “evidently possesses powers which are
calculated to raise him to distinction in this walk of literature,” his work is
“not polished nor accurate” and he has “palpable violations of grammar and of
propriety” (Meri 266).
Another possible influence for Moore’s writing of the novel comes from a quote he includes in the title page of Tales of the Passions: Jealousy, where he added a section from what he titles as Collins’s “Ode on the Passions,” but in actuality is part of William Collins’s “The Passions: An Ode for Music.”
Exulting, trembling, raging, fainting, Possest beyond the Muse’s painting, By turns they felt the glowing mind, Disturb’d, delighted, raised, refined: ‘Till once, ’tis said, when all were fired, Fill’d with fury, rapt, inspired […] Each, for Madness ruled the hour, Would prove his own expressive power.
Unlike Baillie’s plays, it is
impossible to know precisely how this poem might have inspired the text or
whether Moore decided to include some verses that fit well with his novel’s
thematic purpose and plotline.
Other than the two
nineteenth-century reviews and one mention in a periodical, Moore and his work
are not well-documented on either the Internet or in print form. There are
digital editions of both volumes of Tales
of the Passions available, on Google books. Yet they appear to
have had only one run of publishing in the nineteenth century. The novel also
lacks adaptations to various other forms of media. Combined with the two
reviews that concentrated on the mediocrity of his novels, such a lukewarm
response to Moore’s works have likely contributed to the fact there has been a
near-complete absence of scholarly attention on Tales of the Passions.
Point of View
of the Passions: Jealousy is
narrated in the third person. This third-person narration focuses on the
thoughts and feelings of the main character, Felix Earlvin, hinting at a
third-person limited point of view, although this framework is complicated by
the fact the narrator occasionally also discusses thoughts and events Earvin is
not aware of. Because Earlvin’s mindset is the one that directs the novel the
vast majority of the time, the narration thus hovers between limited and
omniscient third-person narration. Due to the fact that the novel explicitly
explores the idea of jealousy as an emotion, there are many and repetitive
examples of Earlvin thinking about the way he feels and how he is acting, and
the plot and action are often interrupted by these episodes of reverie and
meditation on his actions. The writing style itself often uses simple and
uncomplicated language, but the sentences can be long and complicated by many
phrases, creating runon sentences that can be difficult to follow.
But Onslow heard him not, while Earlvin kneeling, by the side of his wife, pressed his lips to her cold and pallid cheek in silent agony. In a short time two or three persons arrived at the spot, and the driver informed them of the circumstances which had happened. From the appearance of Mrs. Earlvin, they supposed surgical assistance could be of little service, and therefore prepared to secure him who had wounded her, as the first and principal duty incumbent upon them. The instant, however, they attempted to move him, he was roused from a torpid state of suffering to the most violent emotions of anguish and despair. He repelled their efforts with a power and resolution they had much difficulty to overcome. He called on the names of his children and declared himself the murderer of their mother. He entreated, he implored, that he might not be removed from her side and struggled to release himself with convulsive energy. At length he sunk on the ground incapable of farther resistance, and was conveyed to a small house near the road-side, insensible to the vulgar and cruel upbraidings of those by whom he was surrounded. (394)
The narrative style of Tales of the Passions: Jealousy is
interesting in that the writing articulates some complex thematic ideas.
However, the power of Moore’s writing is often undermined through the presence
of seemingly unintentional runon or awkward sentences. Furthermore, the
narrator often repeats his key ideas in the text in the same language every
time, making his central theme seem triter each time he repeats it. As for
Moore’s choice to focus his writing on telling the story from Felix’s
perspective while also occasionally including the thoughts of other characters,
such a framework is convenient because the shifts occur when the narrator needs
to explain a plot point that would otherwise be difficult to explain from
simply Felix’s point of view. Such a method of storytelling is also important
when considering the fact that Tales of
the Passions: Jealousy functions in large part as a mystery, so the shifts
in point of view not only allow the narrator to reveal new information but also
add a flair of dramatic irony.
of the Passions: Jealousy
focuses on an Englishman named Felix Earlvin. Earlvin is a moderately wealthy
nobleman whose kind heart permits him to marry a woman far below his rank.
Nevertheless, his wife, Julia, is extremely well tempered and kind, and for
several years they have lived happily in the countryside with their children.
Felix and Julia’s marriage is generally peaceful, but Felix has one fatal flaw:
he becomes jealous very easily, which, combined with his fear of discussing his
thoughts and secrets with other people, can lead to conflict and chaos. Julia
is aware of this personality trait, but has, up to the point when the novel
starts, been easily able to dispel his jealous fears.
at the beginning of the novel an event occurs that becomes a catalyst for
problems in their marriage. Felix is on his daily evening walk when he hears
his wife’s name. He follows the sound and finds a dilapidated hovel with an old
woman and a well-dressed young man inside. He sees the old woman clearly but
the young man is hidden in shadow. Felix is instantly suspicious, but vows to
return to the hut the next day to talk to the woman alone because he is unarmed
and could not take the man on if it turned into a fight. That night, he shares
dinner with his wife and his neighbor, Mr. Osmond, and Felix is able to largely
act normal until he happens to read an article in the newspaper after dinner
about a couple that was going to get divorced because the wife was unfaithful,
a problem compounded by the fact that the couple has children. Julia, when she
hears of the case, initially says she thinks the wife still deserves pity, but
because of the scene Felix had witnessed in the forest, he has an outburst at
her, which causes his wife to nearly cry and remain quiet and dejected for the
rest of the night. Felix is stressed and starts to feel ill; they are forced to
call Dr. Sulfit. This doctor is greedy and selfish, and throughout the novel he
overcharges characters for his medicine or makes up illnesses in order to
receive more benefits. However, he also often moves the plot along, as he does
in this scene, where he discusses how he saw a finely dressed stranger
wandering around their property on a nice horse, and that this stranger passed
the house several times and then disappeared without speaking to anyone. Felix
then asks the doctor whether he has also seen any old women, a fact that Julia
seems very alarmed by, but the doctor says he has not seen anyone.
Nevertheless, Felix continues to be agitated by what he has seen, and he ends
up traveling back to the hovel after he has fully recovered only to learn from
a neighboring farmer that the hovel had not been lived in for years and it has
thus been demolished a couple days ago.
At this point, the novel transitions
to the backstory of Felix’s grandfather, Abel. Abel had been a poor orphan who
a farmer adopted in order to use him for menial labor, though he was also very
intelligent. Abel grew to admire and desire wealth because the farmer would
regularly favor his children over Abel by giving them all the material goods
they desired while leaving Abel with nothing. When he left the farmer’s abusive
household for London, Abel worked hard to accumulate wealth, and eventually
became an accountant with a sizable income, which, due to the fact Abel loved
money and would never spend it on anything other than necessities, he was able
to amass a sizeable fortune. He also married his employer’s daughter out of
desire to further increase his status. His wife dies within two years, but she
gives him a son that Abel adores because he dreams of passing on his wealth to
his progeny and becoming more officially part of the elite circle. His
father-in-law dies and leaves him substantial sums of money, and he also
becomes increasingly richer from things like trade, speculations, and contracts
with companies. Thus, he raises his son like an aristocrat, sending him to Eton
and Oxford and giving him the best private tutors and education possible.
However, this education does little because his son is naturally unintelligent.
He is also noted to be a nice person, but one easily taken advantage of. This
becomes a problem when Abel’s son goes abroad because he quickly becomes
corrupted and increasingly greedy and prideful. One of Abel’s friends suggests
marriage, a solution also convenient for the friend because he has only
moderate wealth and a daughter of marriageable age. This daughter proves to be
a greedy and controlling person, and she quickly becomes the unofficial leader
of the household, controlling the finances and allowing her husband to be the
laughingstock of their friends. When they give birth to Felix, he becomes his
grandfather’s last hope for passing on his vision of preserving his household’s
name. He teaches Felix to resent his father’s weakness and his mother’s
transgressions, and leads him to fear being in a marriage like his parents’.
Thus, Felix values morality more than wealth, and although Julia’s father, Mr.
Roseville, is an unprincipled, immoral gambler, Julia herself is intelligent
and honorable. They end up courting for two years because Felix wavers over
whether he wants to marry her due to her father’s sinful nature, but when her
father dies, he decides to marry her and they retire to his largest estate,
which is located in the countryside in a little English town called
Back in the present, Felix continues
to be disturbed about the scene he saw in the woods, but he also realizes he is
being cruel to his family. He ends up seeking advice from his neighbor, Osmond,
again. Osmond is raising a teenage girl named Caroline Almond, even though they
are ostensibly not related. She is intelligent and accomplished but he does not
allow her to go very far from him. During their conversation, Osmond hints at
the possibility of Julia duping Felix, and he also discusses how he became celibate
to avoid what he calls “female manners” (60). Several days later, Felix returns
from his walk to find Julia at her desk reading a letter that appears to reduce
her to tears, which reinforces his fears.
The next time the doctor visits, he
tells a story about how Caroline accidentally ended up falling into a lake on
Osmond’s property and was saved by the son of another noble, Sir William. The
son, Herbert William, took her back to the house, but Caroline remained
distressed. Julia asked the doctor if she could see Julia since Osmond is away.
When Julia arrives at the Osmond residence, Osmond has already returned, but he
acts cold to Herbert as well as Caroline, whom he chides for being careless.
Indeed, rather than appearing to be worried, he is irate about the obligation
he now has to pay back to the William family. When Julia queries Caroline about
his behavior, she confesses she wants them to be closer, but she had previously
attempted to close the gap between them and he continued to be apathetic to her.
Herbert is clearly fond of Caroline, but Osmond’s antipathy forces him to leave
quickly. Julia also likes Caroline, and she invites her to the Earlvin
household, but Caroline tells her it is likely impossible for her to visit
because of Osmond’s restrictions upon her.
The next large incident in Felix and
Julia’s life occurs when Herbert visits the household when Felix is there.
After he leaves, Julia innocently praises his virtues to Felix, which causes
Felix to feel lonely and jealous. During a visit with Osmond, Felix learns that
Caroline will be unable to visit because the two are going to London
indefinitely. Osmond also insinuates that Herbert is dangerous and that his
popularity in the village is limited to only women, and that Julia’s virtue
could fall to him. The doctor, who is present to see Caroline, mentions how he
had just seen Herbert going to the Earlvin residence for what Herbert called
“urgent business” (111). Felix becomes furious because it seems to him as
though Julia attempted to get him out of the house to see the young man, who he
views as superior in youth and novelty to him. After Felix leaves, Osmond’s
purpose is also revealed: he lusts after Felix’s wife, but he always believed
it was hopeless because their marriage appeared very resilient. However, one
day he happened upon Felix’s penchant for petty jealousy and now uses it to
attempt to drive them apart so he can have Julia.
Meanwhile, Felix attempts to think
of ways to avoid Herbert and Julia coming in contact with each other. He
finally comes to the conclusion that if he, like Osmond, went to London with
Julia and his children, he could get Julia away from Herbert in the
countryside. Julia is initially wary of this proposal but ultimately agrees to
go. However, when Felix returns from his evening walk, he finds his wife
conversing once again with Herbert. Of course, he is thrown back into complete
disarray. Luckily, Julia realizes Felix’s problem stems from jealousy and she
explains to him that Herbert is loves Caroline and wanted advice from Julia.
This statement nearly causes Felix to confess his jealous fears to her, but he
ends up deciding it would cause her added injury and does not do so.
They begin their travels to London
and end up stopping in a small inn along the way. The inn is small enough it is
difficult to fit Felix’s entire party of servants, and the innkeeper ends up
attempting to kick out a paying customer from the inn. Felix stops him and ends
up talking to the older man, a failed poet named Selville who has endured great
hardship but has become a more moral person because of it. When they arrive in
London, they find Osmond is having a party that evening. The party is difficult
for Felix; he overhears men talking about his wife and becomes increasingly
infuriated. He goes to sit with Julia and implies he wants to leave, but she
appears to be greatly enjoying interacting with everyone. One person in
particular, Mr. Onslow, a wealthy man from West India who Osmond ostensibly
wants Caroline to marry, disturbs Felix with his conduct towards Julia, as the
two act far too friendly for his comfort. Felix becomes ruder and ruder, and
ends up spoiling the atmosphere.
Julia and Felix argue once again
when they return to their London lodgings, but end up forgiving each other until
Julia gets a letter about a masquerade ball from Onslow. Felix tells her she
should not go, and she agrees but stipulates he should go instead, telling him
he should have some fun. Felix is initially compliant but begins to worry why
she might want him gone. During the party, Caroline asks him to set up a
meeting between her and Julia, and he agrees to do so. He is then dragged away
by a person he describes as an “obi woman,” who acts like a seer or magical
being (244). She asks him if he wants his future worries told, and believing
she is in jest, he agrees, and she mysteriously answers with “look to your
wife” (246). Afterwards, he overhears Onslow and this woman arguing. The woman
removes her mask, and Felix recognizes her as the woman he saw in the woods.
When Felix returns to their
accommodations, he is surprised and incensed that Herbert came from the
countryside to meet with Julia. Julia explains he came to see Caroline away
from Osmond. The next day, someone Felix met at Osmond’s party, Mr. Parrot,
also comes to meet with Felix. He had promised to find information about Onslow
for Felix, and he reveals the person Felix saw was Onslow’s mother. She was
briefly romantically involved with Mr. Wellsford, and although he decides not
to marry her he later adopts her son. He moves to Jamaica after inheriting a
plantation. He gets married twice, once to a frivolous woman who leaves him and
takes his first-born daughter away from him, and again to a woman who gives him
another daughter but quickly dies from disease. His second daughter goes to
England to avoid greater illness, but before Wellsford can settle his
plantations and go to England to be with his daughter, he hears word she has
died. His loneliness over his lost children prompts him to adopt Onslow as his
own son. Mr. Parrot also reveals Onslow and Julia had previously met each
other, but yet they had acted like strangers at the party. Indeed, the man the
doctor saw in front of the house and Felix saw inside the hovel was in fact
Onslow, and the two had apparently met while Felix was out. Felix is terrified
and extremely jealous, and while Parrot attempts to reassure him, he is too far
Julia goes to Osmond’s house to see
Caroline, leaving Felix jealous. When Julia arrives, she first meets with Osmond.
During their conversation, Osmond confesses he is wants to enter a relationship
with her. She becomes terrified, and attempts to leave but Osmond stops her.
Osmond accosts her verbally, telling her it is her fault Felix is becoming
abusive because of the fact she had a visitor she did not tell her husband
about even though she knew he would be jealous, implying he knew Onslow visited
her several months prior. Onslow coincidentally arrives and saves Julia. In his
carriage, Julia initially wants to return to Caroline, but Onslow insists they
continue on their way. She also asks to go straight home, but he insists on
riding through a park to aid her recovery of her spirits. Felix, on his way to
Osmond’s place, sees Onslow and Julia in the coach together, which causes his
jealousy to reach new heights. When he talks to Osmond, Osmond convinces him to
go to a tavern instead of returning home, where he would hear the truth about
his intentions from Julia, and also further convinces Felix to hold on to his suspicions
by saying Julia wants to stop the marriage between Caroline and Osmond but not
explaining her reasoning behind it.
The next chapter delves into more
backstory, explaining that Osmond is Wellsford’s second wife’s brother and
thus, in order to execute the will, Onslow had to meet with Osmond, which is
why he went to Monmouthshire in the first place. Onslow also explains that
Wellsford’s first wife eloped with Roseville, who was a ship captain, in order
to leave for England, and that Julia is in actuality Wellsford’s first
daughter. When Onslow explains these circumstances to Osmond upon his visit,
Osmond pretends it is his first time hearing it, even though in actuality he
heard Roseville confess the story on his sickbed. He advises Onslow to meet with
Julia secretly to tell her the truth about her life. He explains this to Onslow
by saying that even though Felix is a good person, he is easily jealous so it
would be better to not let him know about the visit, and that perhaps hearing
about Roseville, who Felix detested, would also inflame his anger. He also asks
that Onslow not let anyone know he is involved because it might cause more
problems. Onslow agrees on both accounts, and lets Julia know by letter he is
coming to visit. Julia sets up the time for when Felix is gone for similar
reasons to the ones Osmond gave. Onslow’s mother was there because she wanted
to receive better clothes from him in order to travel to Bristol, and they
moved into the hovel because the weather turned for the worse, and thus
everything had a logical reason behind it.
On his way to the tavern, Felix
happens upon Selville, the poet he met in the inn on the way to London, and he
is in such great despair he rambles loosely about jealousy and then asks
Selville to accompany him to the tavern. Selville is so worried about Felix he
agrees, but his presence does little to prevent Osmond from convincing a
drunken Felix to vow to leave his wife and challenge Onslow to a duel to the
death. Osmond then returns to the main area of the inn to ask Selville to
deliver Felix’s dueling letter to Onslow, which Selville debates doing. He
ultimately decides to carry it out but to discuss it with Felix in the morning
when he is not intoxicated.
Osmond returns to his London home
questioning whether it was morally correct of him to carry out his plan. When
he arrives at his home, he finds Dr. Sulfit there, who tells him Herbert is in
London in order to see Caroline. Osmond asks his servants to bring Caroline to
him, but he learns she has left for the Earlvin’s household, causing him to
worry that the two will find each other and elope. He thus sends the doctor in
order to find Caroline and bring her back.
Felix continues to obsess over his
impending duel with Onslow, and fetches a pistol and horse to attempt to find
him. He sees a carriage and wonders whether it holds Onslow and Julia, and when
finds that it does, he is furious. Julia is so terrified that there is a man
with a gun she falls against Onslow, which makes Felix even more enraged to the
point he prepares to shoot himself in the temple and commit suicide. However,
Julia looks back upon him, recognizes him, and then appears to recoil,
something that makes him so angry he aims the pistol towards the carriage. His
wife starts to run to him in order to embrace him, but he ends up shooting her
instead and appears to kill her. He instantly is in the agony of remorse and
refuses to leave her body. However, she is not dead and she quickly gets
medical attention. The surgeons call for all people who have medical
experience, and they come across Dr. Sulfit, who explains he is looking for
someone in order to help his friend. During the doctor’s explanation, Onslow
realizes Osmond must have been tricking all of them and he goes with the doctor
in order to find him and challenge him to a duel himself to compensate for the
betrayal. Osmond accepts the duel, but Onslow easily shoots him, although he is
not killed and only badly wounded.
Julia and Osmond slowly recover from
their wounds, while Selville attempts to comfort Felix in his misery over his
violent actions. Osmond, in an attempt to repent his sins, calls Caroline and
Selville to his bedside the next morning to explain his life. He too had a
frivolous, extravagant mother who caused their father to lose his riches and
fortune, and because he was the favorite of his mother, he became a greedy,
weak man. Osmond lived for a time in the Indies close to his wife and her
husband, Wellsford. However, he moved back to England in order to attempt to
gain a larger fortune, which he did by investing Wellsford’s properties. Thus,
when the woman taking care of Wellsford’s second child said a fever had taken
ahold of the girl and would likely kill her, he told Wellsford the girl was
dead both because he did not want his shady dealings discovered, as Wellsford
was unlikely to return to England if his daughter died, and because he thought
she would anyway. However, she did not, and he instead took her in as a weak
form of retribution. Thus, Julia and Caroline are revealed to be in fact
Julia recovers in about a month, and
she forgives Felix for nearly killing her and instead embraces him together
with their children. Felix now feels unworthy of their love, but he slowly
attempts to right his wrongs by treating them correctly for the rest of his
life. Osmond moves to Lisbon to attempt to recover, but he grows continually
weaker, and without anyone who loves him, he dies in only a few months. Herbert
and Caroline get married, which cools Herbert’s passions slightly and makes him
more mature. Felix and Julia stay together and grow old watching their children
grow up. From his transgressions, Felix realizes the importance of his duties
he has to his family, as well as how important it is to control passion in
order to maintain happiness.
“List of New Works.” The British Review, and London Critical
Journal, No. 1 (Jan. 1811): 514.
Meri. “ART. VII. Tales of the Passions; in which is Attempted an Illustration of their Effects on the Human Mind.” Monthly Review, Vol. 57 (Nov. 1808): 262–66.
Moore, George. Tales of the Passions; The Married Man; An English Tale: In Which is
Attempted an Illustration of the Passion of Jealousy in Its Effects on the
Human Mind. London,\ G.
Wilkie and J. Robinson, 1811.
Murphy, Andrew. Shakespeare in Print: A History and Chronology of Shakespeare
Publishing. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Tay, Jr. “ART. VI. Tales of the
Passion; in which is attempted an Illustration of their Effects on the Human
Mind: each Tale comprized in one Volume, and forming the Subject of a single
Passion.” Monthly Review, Vol.67 (Apr. 1812): 388–90.
Published in 1806 by an unknown author, Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother is tragic tale of family disputes and an undying jealousy leading to a family’s demise.
Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother. An Historic Tale is a gothic text in English originally published in London by an unknown author. The text comes in the form of a chapbook with no indication of the title on the cover page, however we do know it was published in 1806 and “by and for J. Roe.” As the book was gifted to the Sadlier-Black Collection, there is no concrete history of the potential author or the context in which it was written. The title appears often, most notable on the inside of the cover page and again on the second page. Its first appearance is under a black and white illustration depicting the inside of a living room and a woman who we can assume to be the stepmother. The illustration is carefully drawn with meticulous lines shaping the room and person within. The second page portrays the title in large, spacious lettering in black ink with still no indication of the author. The title appears again at the top of every page as Roxalana.
The chapbook itself is only 36 pages long with a length of
11.5 cm, its size is quite a bit smaller than the average hand. The condition
of the text is extremely fragile with the first and last page hardly retaining
their attachment to the rest of the pages. The paper is very thin and brittle,
banded simply together with no distinct border. The faint binding remnants
reflect a somewhat thicker cardboard material decorated with once brown and gold
details. The only stylistic elements on the cover page is the faint impression
of the illustration on the inside cover. We can easily observe the delicate
nature of the chapbook, with the yellowing brown pages and pages threatening to
fall out. Its worn state indicates its usage and its light weight contributed
to its easy, cheap exchange. As the illustration is also in black and white, we
can expect this book to have cost a small amount of money.
When analyzing the inside of the book, we can see the font is precise and aligned to allow greater space on the inner margins of the pages as opposed to the outer margins. Despite this, there is not a lot of blank space as the words have assumed a large portion of the compact page. The font initially seems small, however it still allows for easy reading without an overcrowding of words. There are no other illustrations within the chapbook save for the illustration on the inside of the cover page. In exploring potential signs to indicate prior ownership, there are no visible marks in the text nor on the cover pages; there are no stamps, stains, or names besides “I. Roe.” Staying true to making the most of out of the available space, the ending of the book finishes on the second side of the last page. Despite the compact size, the story covers a large amount of geographical space within the Middle East; this contrast seems to give the physicality of the chapbook another dimension.
Roxalana: Or, the
Step-Mother, An Historic Tale was published in 1806 by John Roe and Ann
Lemoine and printed by Thomas Maiden in London. The author of the text is
unknown and there are no concrete sources definitely tracing a potential
author. John Roe and Ann Lemoine were book publishers in the late eighteenth
century; both partook in bookselling and often worked alongside Thomas Maiden
to publish numerous texts. However, because of the sheer number of books these
three collectively worked on, there is still no positive inclination towards
one particular author of Roxalana.
Despite this ambiguity, there are a few avenues that can provide for greater
contextualization of the story.
This text is a chapbook published in English. There are no
prefaces, introductions, prequels, or sequels to further guide the direction of
the narrative. In approaching Roxalana through
a historical lens, however, the character is indeed based off of a real
historical figure in the 1500s, Aleksandra Lisovska or Hurrem Sultan in
Turkish. Roxalana was a Slavic woman who was sold into the slave market at a
young age to an acquaintance of Sultan Suleiman. Soon thereafter, she entered
the harem and eventually became the legal wife of the sultan, a feat considered
quite extraordinary. She bore him five sons and amounted a great deal of power
over the course of her relationship. In grappling with Roxalana from this perspective, the reader can see the realistic
aspects of the story as it derives from a nonfiction narrative (Parry).
An earlier version of Roxalana appeared in The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly
Intelligencer in 1769 as The History
of Mustapha and Roxalana. The content of the story mirrors the 1806 version
despite the changes in details and writing. In the 1769 story, a major
difference in the plot is the father killing one of the sons rather than
servants proceeding with the murder.
Another version appears in The British Moralist; or, Young Gentleman and Lady’s Polite Preceptor,
a two-volume collection of “novels, tales, fables, visions, dreams, allegories”
published in 1771. The collection’s title page lists several authors and then
further indicates the inclusion of other “Celebrated Moderns.” Within this
collection, Roxalana appears in The
Merciless Mother-in-law; or, The History of Mustapha and Roxalana; a story similar to the 1806 version and
the authorship listed as“from Dr. Robertson’s Charles the
Fifth” (276). Dr. William Robertson was a Scottish minister and Principal of
the University of Edinburgh, his work History
of Charles the Fifth is part of a larger volume of works. His work A History of the Middle Ages: Describing the
Progress of Society in Europe from the Subversion of the Roman Empire to the
beginning of the sixteenth century extensively covers historical and
geographical details, such as a deeper look into the Ottoman Empire, omitted
from other versions.
The multiple versions in addition to the 1806 printing
indicate that there was a market for this story. The various places Roxalana can be located also implies
that the audience ranged from those who could only afford chapbooks to those
who had the money to purchase Dr. Robertson’s historical books. There are no
reviews of the story that can readily be found in eighteenth- and
nineteenth-century newspapers, however Roxalana
reflects a longer tradition of European fascination with the Middle East.
Point of View
the Stepmother is narrated from a third-person point of view. The narrator
remains anonymous and never self-identifies through any means throughout the
story. The narrator uses simple yet regal language; the plot is not overly
detailed, however the specific vocabulary used reflects royal aura of the main
ruling family. Further, the narrator is very exact in tone as the story unfolds
and the audience is invited to read the story as if it were true. This echoes
in the latter half of the title—An
Historic Tale—as the narrator contextualizes the tale by providing historic
details and geographical mobility. While the narrator does not provide
excessive details, the narration still offers interiority of the multiple
characters in a transparent, thorough way.
Roxalana being now raised in a co-partnership in the empire, and absolute mistress of the Sultan’s will, took upon her the administration of affairs; and soon made those that composed the Ottoman court, feel the powerful effects of her hatred or good-will. Her aversion for Mustapha increased with the report of his virtues, and her blind tenderness for Bajazet with the knowledge of his vices. She even thought it her duty to repair his visible defects, by the procession of an empire, and that a dignity of that high nature was alone capable of justifying her ill-grounded preference. As for Selim, a blended mixture of vice and good qualities composed his character; and if he sympathised in any thing with Bajazet, it was only in their desire of reigning. (8)
In this passage, the style of the narrator is
evident, displaying evocations of empire and a regal atmosphere. While the
focus is on Roxalana’s thoughts, the narrator also codes Mustapha, Bajazet, and
Selim by explaining just enough for the audience to understand their respective
characters. Another significant feature of the narrative style is how the
narrator is able to adopt a classic oral storytelling voice.
Roxalana: Or, the Step-Mother, An Historic Tale centers on a royal Turkish family in the Ottoman Empire period. The story opens up with a discussion of women and their feminine charm, specifically how women can manipulate their charm to be powerful enough to rule over men and societies.
The narrator then introduces the family through this sentiment by bringing in Solyman, the current Sultan, and characterizing him as a just, respected ruler. Solyman had a Georgian wife, who passed away, with whom he had his first son, Mustapha. Solyman continues to have affairs with other women and a particularly powerful relationship with one Turkish servant, Roxalana. The story describes Roxalana as an evil stepmother capable of severe malevolence and intensely wicked in intention and actions. Together, Roxalana and Solyman have four boys and one daughter: Mahomet, Selim, Bajazet, Zeangir, and Cameria.
Solyman’s prized possession is his first son Mustapha and it
is through this love that Mustapaha eventually marries and becomes a respected
Prince of Amazia, a neighboring region. Roxalana utterly despises Mustapha and
desires her son, Bajazet, to be the successor after Solyman’s death. To execute
such a role, she realizes the importance of formally wedding Solyman and thus
deceives a religious figure into blessing the matrimony of the pair; she then
unleashes her limitless cruelty in securing her son’s position as Sultan.
Bajazet and Selim take after their mother’s temperament while Zeangir imitates
Mustapha’s renowned demeanor, prompting him to join Mustapha. During Zeangir’s
stay with Mustapha they fall into battle with the Sophi of Persia and his army,
resulting in Mustapha’s win over the Sophi. Mustapha’s grace extends to even
the war prisoners, creating an almost peaceful, mediated space between the
rivaling forces. Zeangir assumes power over one of Persia’s territories and
falls in love with the Sophi’s daughter, Perselia. Zeangir confides in Mustapha
about his love for Perselia and eventually, with Mustapha’s permission, leaves
to pursue her after she returns to her home in Tauris. There, Zeangir meets
with an anxious Perselia to profess his love and further intensify his goal of
marrying her. Perselia responds by indicating the inappropriateness of their
private conduct (regarding different sexes) and encourages him to offer a truce
with the Sophi, who similarly wants an end to the conflict. Zeangir realizes
the critical nature of securing this truce in wanting to marry Perselia, thus
he quickly leaves and returns to Mustapha.
Mustapha accepts the news willingly and secretly,
unbeknownst to Solyman, sends an offer to the Sophi through a servant, Achmet,
who later proves to be disloyal. Throughout this unfolding, Roxalana continues
to wreak havoc by inducing paranoia in Solyman regarding his sons and taking
steps to ensure the destruction of Mustapha. Solyman discovers the offer
Mustapha makes and through Roxalana’s authoritative influence becomes enraged
over his son’s actions. He then issues for the kidnapping of Perselia and
summons his sons in Amazia to return to his palace. Roxalana continues to
scheme and employs Rustan, the husband of her daughter, as her loyal ally in
carrying out her horrors. When Bajazet falls in love with the captive Perselia,
Roxalana and Rustan deceptively create traps for the other men to fall into:
they prevent Bajazet from seeing Perselia (whom Roxalana despises), distract
Zeangir by letting him meet with Perselia, and convince Solyman of his ultimate
demise due to Mustapha wanting to overthrow him. Roxalana creates a lie
regarding Mustapha’s desire to replace Solyman and elicits terror in Solyman.
Solyman, fearing replacement, orders Rustan and his men to
murder Mustapha in order to retain his position as Sultan. Rustan and his men
pursue Mustapha, who has realized his stepmother’s evil character, and succeed
in murdering him despite Mustapha’s fighting stance. Zeangir, whom Perselia
warned about the cruelty in Roxalana and Rustan, discovers he is too late and
rushes to the bloody scene of his dead brother. Zeangir and many army men
endure great agony in seeing the death of their beloved leader and mobilize to
discover the cause. Zeangir then faces his father and accuses him of submitting
to Roxalana’s influence and his own weaknesses. Zeangir then stabs himself in
the breast and dies while Solyman finally realizes the truth of the situation.
Despite Solyman acknowledging the truth, he still persists
in obeying Roxalana’s wishes and mourns her greatly after her natural death two
years later. Prior to her death, Roxalana and Rustan force Solyman to consent
to the death of Mustapha’s wife and child. Perselia returns to her father and
is followed by Bajazet, who is still strongly in love with her in spite of
Perselia’s disgust towards him. Solyman, overcome with grief and guilt, orders
for the murder of Bajazet in the same fashion Mustapha had been murdered.
Solyman eventually passes away with old age and Selim assumes the role of the
next Sultan, a role portrayed as respected and fair.