The Convent of Saint Usurla

The Convent of Saint Usurla

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

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


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


Material History

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

The title page for The Convent of Saint Usurla

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

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

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

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


Textual History

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

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

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

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

A signature mark is shown at the bottom of this page

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

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

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


Narrative Point of View

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

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:

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

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

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

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

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


Summary

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

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

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

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

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

The frontispiece for The Convent of Saint Usurla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Researcher: Samantha K. Venables

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

Ghost and No Ghost

Ghost and No Ghost

Somerset Castle; or the Father and Daughter. A Tragic Tale. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. To which is added, Ghost and No Ghost; or The Dungeon

Author: Unknown
Publisher: Ann Lemoine and J. Roe
Publication Year: 1804
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 11.5cm x 18cm 
Pages: 38
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .S648 1804


Published with Somerset Castle in 1804, this chapbook tells of a story with romance and adultery that meets murderers, mysteries, and more.


Material History

Ghost and No Ghost is the second story within Somerset Castle; or the Father and Daughter. A Tragic Tale. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. To which is added, Ghost and no Ghost; or The Dungeon, published in 1804 by IRoe and Ann Lemoine. This full title is printed on the fourth page of the book, but a shortened version of the other text’s title is printed two pages earlier: Somerset Castle; or the Father and Daughter. This shorter title is printed on the original exterior of a pamphlet in which these stories were published. Now with a new binding, the old cover page becomes the second page. Also on the title page and underneath the publisher information, the price of the novel is revealed to be a sixpence, indicating it was made very cheaply. No author is mentioned for Somerset Castle or Ghost and no Ghost on any page within the book. 

Title page for Somerset Castle and Ghost and no Ghost with frontispiece.

The book’s new binding is a tan colored paper over boards, which gives it a more sturdy feeling. On the spine, the words Somerset Castle / 1804 appear in gold lettering over a maroon strip of fabric. Because the original pamphlet that these stories were published in was quite thin (only 28 pages), the book binder elected to place additional blank pages around the original ones to make the book thicker and therefore easier to bind. One new page is placed before the original cover; the final page with text is followed by eight pages of added paper; then, the original back cover appears, followed by one more newly added page. In total, the new binding of this book includes 38 pages front and back. The original pamphlet pages are made of a darker colored, more visibly worn paper, and the newer pages are made of white cotton that is thicker than the originals, producing a new book that is double the size of the original. These newer pages also have no writing or markings of any sort on them, revealing that they were not used for note taking but result from a choice made by the book binder. 

Sample page of text in Ghost and no Ghost with rips at the bottom.

The binding of the book measures 11.5 centimeters wide and 18 centimeters tall. When looking at one of the original pages with text, the font appears rather small with closely set margins and page numbers that are printed on the top outside corners of each page. The first story, Somerset Castle, is printed on the pages numbered 5 through 29, and the second story, Ghost and no Ghost, appears on pages 30 through 38. On these pages a shortened title is printed at the top of the page, Somerset Castle on the first section and The Dungeon on the second section. In addition to page numbers at the top, some pages have numberings on the bottom in the middle of the page, such as A1, A2, B1, etc. These numbers serve to aid the book binder when printing the pages. Starting out with a large grid of pages printed on one sheet, the book binder would have to fold the pages until the grid was turned into the shape of a book; these numbers were printed strategically on the original grid to ultimately progress in a logical manner when the pages were folded. This technique allowed the book binder to be certain that the pages of the final product had been folded in the correct order.

On the inside cover of the original pamphlet, the novel’s only image appears. A scene of a woman and a child is depicted; they appear to be in a cave containing objects of death, such as a coffin and a skull. Surrounded by architectural decorations continued from the picture above, the title Somerset Castle is printed with the phrase page 22 to indicate the events of this scene occur on page 22. Underneath the title, the words Alais Sc. are printed, revealing the name of the artist of the image. There are no images within the novel that reference the story of Ghost and no Ghost.

In Ghost and no Ghost on pages 31 and 33, there is tearing on the bottom of the pages, and on pages 33 through 38, there is a hole that continues through the bottom corner of these pages. Two small pencil markings are also found near the back of the book. The number “402” or “702” is written on the last page of text of Ghost and no Ghost near the printing of finis. While this number may have meant something to a previous owner, the meaning is unknown now. On the back of the original pamphlet’s cover, the letters L. and E. are written in pencil, possibly noting the initials of one of this book’s previous owners. Even though this book lacks many personal written additions from previous owners, the condition of the original pages shows that the pamphlet was well used and appreciated in its past life. 


Textual History

Ghost and No Ghost and Somerset Castle were published together anonymously by Ann Lemoine and J. Roe in 1804. Because the authorship is unknown to this day, the two stories could have been written by the same author or different ones. Ann Lemoine was a very famous publisher of the time and worked closely with J. Roe. Lemoine began publishing in 1795 after her husband was imprisoned, and over the course of the next twenty-five years, she published over four hundred chapbooks (Bearden-White 299). Thomas Maiden printed Somerset Castle as well as many other chapbooks for Ann Lemoine. By 1796, Maiden was Lemoine’s primary printer, helping her give her chapbooks a more consistent and expensive appearance (Bearden-White 310). 

Other than the copy of Somerset Castle in the Sadleir-Black Collection at the University of Virginia, there are four copies in collections around the world. Yale University and The University of Illinois both have copies of the 1804 publication in their libraries. The National Library of Wales and the British Library also have copies. The British Library’s copy is slightly different from the version in the Sadleir-Black Collection. At the end of the British Library’s copy, there is a second illustration with the title, Subterraneous Passage, and a date of July 23, 1804 underneath. This additional page suggests that Somerset Castle and Ghost and No Ghost were at one time printed in a collection that also included Sarah Wilkinson’s story, Subterraneous Passage. Many of Wilkinson’s stories were also published by Ann Lemoine and J.Roe, and because the publishing date of the two is so close, it is possibly the two were printed together at one point (Wilkinson; Bearden-White 299, 316). 

Although little is known about this text, some scholarly work does reference the story and the illustration it contains. A Gothic Bibliography cites Somerset Castle and Ghost and No Ghost exactly the same as the Sadleir-Black Collection, including the lack of an author, both stories printed together, and with a date of 1804 (Summers 509). The Women’s Print History Project has an entry for this chapbook with the publication date as 1800. In Angela Koch’s article entitled “‘The Absolute Horror of Horrors’ Revised,” she includes this chapbook as part of a list of nineteenth-century gothic bluebooks, mentioning the copy in the University of Virginia and Yale libraries. As part of a collection of gothic images, Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression by Kenneth W. Graham includes a photo of the frontispiece with a description of “the skull, the rib cage, and carelessly tossed sarcophagus” that help develop the gothic mood of the story. This reference only cites a title of Somerset Castle; or, The Father and Daughter with no mention of the Ghost and no Ghost (Graham 271). 

When looking for contemporary references to this story, there is not much information that has survived to today. This lack of knowledge about its reception among readers can tell us that this story was not immensely popular or appreciated by its contemporary readers. 


Narrative Point of View

Ghost and no Ghost is told in a different manner than its accompanying tale, Somerset Castle. This story takes the form of a frame narrative. The main narrator is third-person and limited to the character of the Spanish soldier. As the events progress, the man who the soldier has met begins to tell a story. This secondary tale is told mostly in quotes through first-person narration, and there are only a few times when the story is interrupted to return to the main story until the second tale is completed. At the end of the secondary story, the narration fully turns back to third-person frame narrative, telling of the two men’s actions with the woman in the dungeon. 

Sample Passage of Secondary Tale: 

“But as soon as I came into her presence, I felt at once a tenderness, and a horror, which would not allow me to proceed. At last I determined to destroy her by hunger, carrying her every day only half a pound of mouldy bread, and a little mug of water. It is now just a fortnight that she has been in this condition, without her ever seeing the light of the sun, hearing a word from me, or speaking a word herself, when I carry her this miserable pittance. It is, Sir, but a fortnight this day, and yet, to me, it has appeared fourteen thousand years.” (36)

The first person style in the secondary narrative allows the reader an intimate look into the character’s internal feelings including his internal conflicts and even his admission of faults. By clarifying the man’s emotions, the soldier’s unknown emotions become more intriguing, switching the focus to how the soldier will respond to the events of this story. Because the man continues his story without letting the soldier interrupt, the readers do not know the soldier’s emotions until the frame narrative in resumed completely. 

Sample Passage of Third-Person Frame Narrative:

As soon as he had said this, he lighted a flambeaux, and again besought him to follow. After crossing a little garden, he opened the door of that dismal place, which he had made the sad depositary of all his evils. On one side lay a carcase stretched on the ground, covered with wounds; on the other lay the remains of a body torn to pieces, the side quite laid open, and the heart lying upon a bench before the eyes of the most finished beauty, that, perhaps, nature ever formed. (36) 

At this point in the story, the secondary tale has just been completed, catching up to the present. As the narration switches back to the third-person style, the narrator includes more pieces of description about the setting. With this shift, the reader now is focalized primarily through the perspective of the soldier who is new to these events and discovering the situation of this man and woman along with the reader. 


Summary

Sample page of text with the start of Ghost and No Ghost; or The Dungeon. Only the subtitle is featured at the top of the pages.

A Spanish soldier sets out on a journey to Milan. As he is walking along his path, a cavalier with a hawk on his arm approaches him. The cavalier tells the soldier he has lodging close by where he can take a rest from his journey. Even though the soldier feels a little uneasy about the cavalier, he follows him. When they arrive at his house, it appears rundown and dirty, and all of the servants seem to be depressed. As they enter the house, the cavalier offers no directions to the soldier but instead tells the soldier he needs to tell him the story of his grief. 

His story begins happily; the cavalier tells the soldier he previously lived a more enjoyable life. When he was young, the cavalier did not think about marriage until he saw the most beautiful woman one day in a garden. He found out that the woman was unmarried, so he approached her. The couple fell in love easily and soon got married. Then, the cavalier’s story shifts to more recently. A phantom had come to haunt his house. Every time the phantom was spotted, the cavalier would go out into the garden to see it, but the phantom would disappear by the time he got there. When he returned to his room, his wife was very scared and took lots of persuading to open the door even after he had assured her it was him. After a few days of this occurring, the cavalier suspected that his wife was lying about why she could not open the door, so he set out a guard to watch for the phantom. The guard reported that the cavalier’s friend, Cornelio, was using the phantom as a distraction to allow him to sleep with the cavalier’s wife. After hearing his report, the cavalier stabbed the guard and dragged him to the cellar. When the cavalier returned to his wife, she knew something had changed, but he did not speak with her about the issue yet. The next day, the cavalier and Cornelio went out hunting together, but when it was time to return home, the cavalier said he had to stay out because he lost one of his hawks. After sending the rest of his servants away, the cavalier returned home. He found a hole in the wall underneath his bedroom, behind where a painting of the adultery of Venus and Mars usually hangs. There was a ladder hanging down from the hole, so the cavalier pulled the ladder down and ran up the stairs to his room. His wife opened the door right after he knocked on it, but he saw Cornelio trying to escape. Because he pulled the ladder down before, Cornelio fell and broke both of his legs. The cavalier went downstairs and stabbed Cornelio in the heart. He returned upstairs to kill his wife, but he kept dropping the knife because she was so beautiful and he used to love her. As an alternative to killing her, the cavalier decided to put her in a vault with Cornelio’s body and the body of the murdered guard. For the past fortnight, he has been only feeding her a pound of bread and some water every day. 

Now that he has caught his story up to the present, the cavalier wants to show his wife to the soldier. When they get to the vault, the cavalier is very sad to see his wife in this state. The soldier attempts to calm the cavalier, telling him he will not tell his secret. The woman tells her side of the story, saying Cornelio had never come out of the picture before that day and she did not cheat on her husband. To persuade her husband of the truth, she says she will die to prove her words. Her husband is completely convinced of her innocence now, so he runs to the house to get her liquid to drink. The men bring her back into the house and give her medicine until she fully recovers. After a few weeks, the couple is happy, and the soldier resumes his journey to Venice.


Bibliography

Bearden-White, Roy. “A History of Guilty Pleasure: Chapbooks and the Lemoines.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 103, no. 3, Sept. 2009, pp. 283–318. doi:10.1086/pbsa.103.3.24293816.

Graham, Kenneth W. Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression. AMS Press, 1989.

Koch, A. ‘“The Absolute Horror of Horrors’ Revised: A Bibliographical Checklist of Early-Nineteenth-Century Gothic Bluebooks’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 9 (Dec 2002). http://www.romtext.org.uk/reports/cc09_n03/

Somerset Castle: Or the Father and Daughter. A Tragic Tale … To Which Is Added, Ghost and No Ghost: Or, the Dungeon. London, Printed by T. Maiden, for Ann Lemoine, and J. Roe, 1804.

“Somerset Castle; or the Father and Daughter. A Tragic Tale. If You Have Tears, Prepare to Shed Them Now. To Which Is Added, Ghost and No Ghost; or, the Dungeon.” Edited by Kandice Sharren, The Women’s Print History Project , dhil.lib.sfu.ca/wphp/title/13465.

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

Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Subterraneous Passage; or, Gothic Cell. A Romance. London: J. Roe, Ann Lemoine, 1803.


Researcher: Mason Wilson

Oswick, The Bold Outlaw

Oswick, The Bold Outlaw

Oswick, the Bold Outlaw: A Tale of the Eighth Century.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: T. Hurst
Publication Year: 1802
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 12.5 cm x 18 cm
Pages: 85
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .O675 1802


This 1802 novel details a tale of violence, manipulation, and deceit, as an outlaw attempts to evade his capture and destined fate. Will poetic justice be served or will evil continue to reign?


Material History

This image shows the lack of front cover and delicate state of the binding of pages

This edition of Oswick, The Bold Outlaw, A Tale Of The Eighth Century is rather worn, with no front cover, back cover, or substantial binding. The pages are held together by weathered remnants of paper binding, with a few pages falling loose. Upon opening the book, the reader is met with an intricate illustration, the only departure from the otherwise simple and consistent printing. This frontispiece depicts a man with a sword standing over a slain body in the midst of trees. The man who has been slain seems to have been a knight of sorts, as his helmet is lying beside his body on the ground. The image is composed entirely of line-work, with all shading being a manipulation of the density of lines, with there being either an abundance or absence of lines. The image is captioned with the following: “They beheld Blight standing over the mangled body of Egbert: his countenance betrayed the violent emotions of his mind—agitated by remorse—pg. 21”

The title page features the only appearance of the title in the entire book. There is no mention of the author, and thus the author of this work is unknown. However, “printed for T. Hurst, Paternoster-row” does appear on the title page, followed by “By J.D. Dewick, aldersgate-street” in much smaller, almost miniscule font, suggesting that such is not the author but rather the publisher.

The novel is 85 pages long, and is printed in a simplistic manner, on textured, rough, yellowed paper, with the edges browning. The pages feature a page number on the top and justified blocks of text, with large margins and small font, in a rather uniform fashion for the entirety of the 85 pages of the novel. However, some of the blocks of text on certain pages are unevenly placed, with some being crooked and having larger margins than others. It is to be noted that other versions of this novel have been found, which are printed as chapbooks and only feature thirty-some pages. One feature that can be seen in this edition is the appearance of letters in small font followed by a number at the bottom of certain pages. At the time, this was a mechanism to indicate how to correctly line up and fold the pages when printing. The book features no chapters.

This image shows pages of sample text, with markings of age and irregular margins

Other irregularities of the book are merely a result of wear and age. The image featured on the back of the first page has left a slightly darkened imprint on the front of the second page. The frontispiece and title page are the most worn, being significantly darker and browner than the rest of the pages. Every page features three small holes in the middle left/right, towards the spine, as the pages were likely originally bound through these holes. There is a uniform brown spot on the top right of pages 8 through 15, as if something was spilt. The pages towards the end of the book are significantly whiter, firmer, and less worn, suggesting that the novel was not read all the way through much. There is a notable hole on page 79. The text is faded in certain parts, with no pattern. The simplistic pages and the absence of an author suggest the book was cheaply printed.


Textual History

Oswick, the Bold Outlaw: A Tale of the Eighth Century has many versions in circulation. In addition to the 86-page edition published in 1802 by T. Hurst, there is also a chapbook version of Oswick. One version of this chapbook was published in 1806 in a volume of The Entertainer III and under the title, Surprising Achievements of Oswick, the Bold Outlaw, Chieftain of a Band of Robbers: Containing Also an Interesting Account of Enna, His Fair Captive, as Related by Her Son to King Alfred. A Tale of the Eighth Century. Another chapbook, again with the shorter title of Oswick, the Bold Outlaw: A Tale of the Eight Century,was published by Dean and Munday in 1823; this chapbook has 38 pages and a colored illustration instead of the black and white illustration.

T. Hurst, the publisher of the 1802 edition, published many other gothic texts in the early nineteenth century. The publishers Dean and Munday also published many chapbooks in the early nineteenth century, primarily between 1810 and 1855. Dean and Munday were known as pioneers of moveable books for children, which were books with interactive features such as pop-ups and flaps. The company was a small family business, founded in 1702, and later growing to a larger scale in the eighteenth century.

While some university library catalog entries note that this title appears in A Gothic Bibliography by Montague Summers on page 455, it in fact does not. The title noted on that page is Oswick the Outlaw which is a different text than Oswick the Bold Outlaw. Oswick the Outlaw was written by G Smith, Jr. and published by Southwark : G. Smith and Co. in 1815, is 24 pages, and is a children’s story that was performed as a play.

The frontispiece and title page for Oswick, The Bold Outlaw

The title page of the 1802 work contains a five-line poem. This is an excerpt from King Arthur: An Heroick Poem in Twelve Books by Sir Richard Blackmore M. D., published in 1697. The original poem is as follows:

Hell’s greatest Masters all their Skill combin’d
To form and cultivate so fierce a Mind,
Till their great Work was to Perfection brought,
A finish’d Monster form’d without a Fault.
No Flaw of Goodness, no deforming Vein
Or Streak of Vertue did their Offspring stain.

However, the lines included in the front of the book exclude the third line. The chapbook editions feature a different variation of only 4 lines.

There are no translations of this work and no traces of the reception of this book from the nineteenth century. In addition, its printing as a chapbook suggests it was a cheap work. There are no modern reprintings of the work or digital editions available. There is no scholarship on this text, also suggesting that it was not particularly popular.


Narrative Point of View

Oswick, the Bold Outlaw: A Tale of the Eighth Century is narrated anonymously in third person. The sentences generally lack significant amounts of description or insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings, and rather focus mainly on plot development and observable actions. The description that is offered is akin to that which might be expected of a casual audience member of a play describing a scene, noting the anxiety on a character’s face or the pace of someone’s steps. The narration frequently consists of long, compound sentences comprised of short fragments bound together by many commas, colons, and semicolons, especially when describing a series of events taking place in succession, and many times punctuated with a period only at the end of the paragraph.

Sample Passage:

Oswick never before had seen the inside of a dungeon, and he shuddered. Blight was discovered extended upon his back in the damp vault ; his legs and hands were chained to the ground ; a basket of coarse bread was by his side, and a pitcher of stinking water ; pestiferous animals drew their train along the ground, and across his body ; a lamp burned in one corner of the dungeon, that emitted but a faint light, and materially added to the gloomy horrors of the place. (50)

The third-person narration plays a significant role in amplifying the suspense of the plot since much of the plot is spent with Oswick, the protagonist, incognito and attempting to avoid his capture. The narrator explains, “Oswick … beheld written in large characters, the promise of a great reward for his apprehension; and he stopped to read on, which ran thus: ‘Ten thousand crowns reward are offered to him … who will bring in the head … [of] Oswick the Outlaw’” (44). Here, the repetition of Oswick’s name in describing his actions and juxtaposing it against the mention of his name in a wanted poster emphasize the urgent and dire situation of Oswick and the shock and fear of seeing one’s own name being hunted. Furthermore, the staccato pace of the narration coincides with the pace of the dialogue to create a generally fast-paced tone, adding to the thrill of the plot. The style of narration also emulates that of a myth or tall tale by boasting the grandeur and fearful reverence of Oswick, as if he is a mythical villain.


Summary

The novel begins with the narrative of a King, Alfred, traveling through parts of his constituency to better understand what the people want. While doing so, one night, the King decides to take a detour off his route in favor of the beautiful scenery surrounding him. He quickly loses his way, day turns to night, and a storm afflicts him, forcing him to seek shelter in a stranger’s home. Alfred is warmly invited in, but upon being shown his room, finds a trembling boy under his bed, clutching a dagger. Alfred demands the boy to make clear his intentions and finds out that his mother, Enna, sent the boy to supply the dagger as a means of protection for Alfred as he is actually within the home of a notorious bandit, Oswick, and will be killed as he sleeps.

Enna was indeed right, as Oswick and his gang attack Alfred later in his chamber in an attempt to kill him. Alfred and the boy are able to undermine and overpower the assailers, killing Oswick and Blight, a member of his gang. Oswick unfortunately kills Enna.

As news of Oswick’s demise spreads, the town erupts in celebration. Oswick had been a heartless tyrant and all of his constituents lived in constant fear. After the dust settles, the boy, Egwald, begins to relay his story and the story of Oswick to Alfred.

Egwald, Enna, and his father, Egbert, had been the first victims of Oswick’s. In a similar situation as Alfred, they were forced to spend the night at Oswick’s because of a storm. Upon first glance at Enna, Oswick, astonished by her beauty, fell in love. However, his love was a violent one, as he prohibited her from leaving her chamber that night, stating that she was not allowed to continue her journey that night.

Egbert was killed by Oswick, leaving Enna and Egwald entirely at his mercy. He spared Enna because of his love for her, and honored her passionate pleas to spare her child as well. Enna and Egwald were then forced to live within the confines of a dungeon, until the unlikely night that Enna was permitted to make her journey. In the dungeon Enna was violated by Oswick and spent the majority of her years in a deep depression.

Egwald then relays how Oswick rose to power. He and his banditti gained a notorious reputation by making a pact that no one would ever leave the banditti’s chambers alive. As the banditti slay stranger after stranger, one of them, Gilbert, began to try to lead a revolution within the banditti to overthrow the tyranny of Oswick. Gilbert faltered as he was about to kill Oswick, overcome in a moment of compassion. Left alive, Oswick ensnared Gilbert in a manipulative plan to frame him, thus resulting in his death as revenge for his lack of loyalty. In doing so, Oswick accidentally ensnared himself as well and needed to go to great lengths to reestablish his credibility as a vicious monster. The tale followed his adventures of manipulation under disguise as he attempted to evade apprehension and regain his status. Along the way, he was betrayed by many of his own, who are overpowered by the allure of the monetary reward offered for Oswick’s capture. The novel comes to a close with Oswick scarcely escaping his arrest by own of his own comrades, with the plot coming full circle to the fateful night of the storm which forced Alfred into Oswick’s home.


Bibliography

Blackmore, Sir Richard. King Arthur: An Heroick Poem in Twelve Books. The Camelot Project. University of Rochester. https://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/blackmore-king-arthur-I

Oswick, the Bold Outlaw: A Tale, of the Eighth Century. London, Dean and Munday, 1823.

Oswick, the Bold Outlaw: A Tale of the Eighth Century. London, T. Hurst, 1802.

Surprising Achievements of Oswick, the Bold Outlaw, Chieftain of a Band of Robbers: Containing Also an Interesting Account of Enna, His Fair Captive, As Related by Her Son to King Alfred. A Tale of the Eighth Century. Printed by Dewick and Clarke, for T. Hughes, 1806.


Researcher: Archisha Singh