In this 1799 gothic novel, a young woman named Cordelia struggles with her father’s abandonment of her family, tries to improve her situation, and is ultimately faced with deceit and tragedy.
Cordelia, or a Romance of Real Life by Sophia King Fortnum is presented in leather binding with a marbled paper cover, giving it an elegant and high-quality appearance. The marbled decoration of the front would have been achieved by hand, using water and oil colors to create a unique design, and shows the care that was taken into the appearance of the book.
The spine is decorated with a few thin horizontal lines and has subtle embellishments surrounding the title, in capital letters, CORDELIA. The book still gives a refined impression, but its age shows with small fractures stemming from a substantial vertical crack down the spine and faded coloring of the cover. The top and bottom right corners of the paper cover appear worn off and torn, which could indicate the possible existence of leather, or another material, corners that came off at one point in its history. The book is 11 by 18 cm and 212 pages in length.
Inside, the pages are yellowed and occasionally darkly spotted on the tops and edges, which is referred to as foxing and is common in paper as it ages. This could possibly be due to oxidization, humidity, or other factors depending on the environments and conditions impacting the paper. The ink in the book is only somewhat faded and still easy to see, but brownish stains blemish many of the pages and one blue stain bleeds through page seven onto eight.
The pages alternate between two lengths and are curled slightly on all edges, leading to pages sticking together as they’re turned. Horizontal folds split the paper into thirds, showing that the paper could have been folded before it was bound in its leather and marbled paper dressings.
Opening the novel, the title is displayed on the second page as Cordelia, or a Romance of Real Life in fanciful font, and on the third page again. The author’s name appears below the title on the third page. Throughout the novel, on the tops of pages, the title is printed as CORDELIA.
The font of the story is prominent, and the lines of text are decently spaced apart. Wide margins, consisting of a larger bottom margin and thinner top margin, also make the text easy to read. As was common in printing at the time, the letter s in Cordelia is usually printed as a “long s,” which appear similar to f, and can cause some confusion for modern readers. Many of the pages feature letters and numbers at the bottoms. These signature marks are meant to indicate to the printer how to fold the pages in the correct order before binding them. Each chapter begins with a quote relevant to the chapter and a word or few words completely capitalized. The text’s format then continues generally uniformly, which fits in with the overall high-quality impression of the book.
Cordelia, or A Romance of Real Life was published in two volumes in 1799 by the Minerva Press and is
Sophia King Fortnum’s second novel (Summers 284). Fortnum was born around 1782
to John King and Deborah Lara, though she may have been born earlier and
misconstrued her age (Brown et al.). She was of Sephardic Jewish heritage, and
her father was a moneylender and radical political actor in England with a
notorious career known as the “Jew King” (Brown et al., Baines). Her parents
divorced in 1784 or 1785 after her mother took two of the children, possibly
including Fortnum, with her to Italy to try to prevent her father’s marriage to
the dowager countess of Lanesborough, an English noblewoman, and failed (Brown
et al., Endelman). Fortnum and her sister, Charlotte Dacre, author of Zofloya
and other gothic novels, published a collection of poetry together
dedicated to their father called Trifles of Helicon in 1798 (Brown et
al.). Fortnum married Charles Fortnum and began publishing under Sophia Fortnum
instead of Sophia King in 1801 (Brown et al.).
Fortnum published other gothic novels throughout
her career, as well as poetry. She was the author of Waldorf, or the Dangers
of Philosophy, A Philosophical Tale in 1798, The Victim of Friendship in
1800, The Fatal Secret: or, Unknown Warrior. A Romance of the Twelfth
Century in 1801, and her final novel, Victor Allen: a Novel in 1802
(Summers 86). Fortnum published much of her poetry in newspapers under the name
“Sappho” and published her only verse collection in 1804: Poems, Legendary,
Pathetic and Descriptive (Brown et al.). The date of Fortnum’s death after
these publications is unknown.
According to Montague Summers’s AGothicBibliography, the Minerva Press was owned by William Lane and was the “most famous publishing house which issued Gothic romances” (ix). Cordelia also had a French translation published by C. Chanin in Paris in 1800: Cordelia, ou la Faiblesse Excusable, histoire de la vie telle qu’elle est (Summers 284). A contemporary review of Cordelia by Tobias George Smollett called the novel a “gloomy tale” that was not “very probable in its incidents” or “interesting in its progress” (235–36). Smollett’s review also stated that the novel lacked an “attractive style” and called the “morality… inconsistent with the prevailing ideas of female virtue” (236). Editions of the first and second volumes of Cordelia were published by Gale Nineteenth Century Collections Online in 2017 and are available on Amazon, though the second volume is out of print.
Point of View
Cordelia, or a Romance of Real Life, is narrated in the first person by its protagonist, Cordelia.
Cordelia recounts the events of the story in retrospect, rarely describing
specific scenes and often summarizing her own judgements on situations and
people to convey what happened. Cordelia goes on tangents about her beliefs and
judgements within the text, saying she has “digressed” multiple times after
long-winded statements of her opinions (8, 50). The wording of sentences can be
lengthy, using many colons, semicolons, and commas, but the language is not
overly ornate, and it communicates ideas clearly.
The folly and conceit of this ridiculous couple forcibly excited my contempt; I easily developed the character of Mrs. Milner, whose brain was turned by wits, and pretended Literati. They found that by humouring her caprices, and flattering her ignorance, they should reap considerable advantages from her fortune and connections. Authors and philosophers swarmed at her table like butterflies; they praised her works, drank her wine, and dedicated poems to her. Mrs. Milner was therefore well pleased, and expended her fortune almost wholly among designing parasites, Democrats, and madmen, for I believe few who visited her were exceptions to this rule; as to the little conceited Citizen, he was a particular friend and almost totally governed her. As she was, however, a woman of rank and fortune, she did not meet with her deserved portion of contempt, but was in some measure countenanced by persons of fashion, and vitiated taste: for instance, titled profligates, romantic misses, and antiquated dowagers, who joined in her follies, and attended her levees, believing they by that means improved their manners and understanding. (48–50)
The narration overall emphasizes Cordelia’s
opinions and feelings and pays less attention to action and plot. One effect of
this style of first-person narration is that there is no objective view of the
story or characters. In the above passage, Mrs. Milner’s characterization is
completely based on Cordelia’s view of her. Cordelia states that Mrs. Milner
“pretended Literati” and people praised her only to gain something from her
“rank and fortune,” declaring her own “contempt” for Mrs. Milner (48, 49). She
frames Mrs. Milner as untalented and ignorant and others’ praise as insincere,
but there is no objective point of view to confirm this. The audience can only
rely on Cordelia’s perception of herself and others to judge characters’
intelligence or morality. Throughout Cordelia, Cordelia’s impressions of
others guide the framing of the story, and when her impressions prove to be
inaccurate, as with Lioni’s character, the effect is unpredictability.
The narrative of Cordelia, or A Romance of
Real Life, Volume I is told from the first-person perspective of Cordelia,
the protagonist of the story. The novel begins with Cordelia’s rantings and
criticisms of people’s disregard of religion and virtue in place of fame and
fortune. Cordelia admits to being susceptible to these kinds of romantic
notions at one point in her life and begins to tell her backstory. Cordelia’s
family consisted of her mother, her sister Rosina, and her brother Collville.
Her mother was married early in life to Mr. Arden, Cordelia’s father, but he
soon deserted her and their children to be with a woman named Lady Lindern. Mr.
Arden and Lady Lindern lived a luxurious life while Mr. Arden’s family was left
with no prospects and infrequent visits. Cordelia describes her mother as pale,
melancholy, and perpetually in love with Mr. Arden, believing he will return to
her someday. She describes herself as “a sort of ringleader” of her siblings,
and as the story starts, her father begins to favor her because of her apparent
“genius” (20, 22). Cordelia grows to love and respect her father despite his
cruel treatment of her family. However, she also becomes more dissatisfied with
her situation after seeing how Mr. Arden and Lady Lindern live.
Cordelia and her siblings want to leave England,
but because their mother still holds onto hope that Mr. Arden will return to
her, she is determined to stay. Cordelia wants to run away, but her mother
discovers this and tells her father. Mr. Arden gives Cordelia the opportunity
to work for a wealthy writer, Mrs. Milner, and become more involved in society
as an attempt to address her unhappiness with her situation. He orders her to
hide their familial relation, and she starts to work for Mrs. Milner. She finds
Mrs. Milner silly and untalented, but Cordelia does well and begins to interact
with more writers, philosophers, and other friends of Mrs. Milner. She becomes
more like them, calling herself “vain and ridiculous” in retrospect (54). One
day, Cordelia edits one of Mrs. Milner’s essays heavily, and Mrs. Milner finds
the rewrite insulting, reprimanding her. Cordelia leaves after this, abandoning
the post her father recommended her for. When her father finds this out, he
tells her that she has lost his good opinion and is an ungrateful daughter.
Cordelia tries to appeal to Lady Lindern’s sympathy and has an outburst about
her role in destroying her family. Lady Lindern is offended and tells Mr.
Arden. Cordelia receives a letter from her father telling her it is better if
they do not see each other, and she loses all hope of bettering her situation.
Cordelia decides to run away and fantasizes
about obtaining fame and fortune. With the help of her sister, Rosina, she gets
money together and leaves home. She eventually finds somewhere to stay, but her
hostess charges her a high price and drains her funds quickly. Throughout this
time, she tries to apply for jobs with theater companies but is denied. After
many rejections and having to seek the assistance of a family friend, Mrs.
Larlston, she gets news that her application to join a theater company was
accepted. At her new job, she meets Lucinda, who she is initially wary of but
becomes close friends with. Their work for the company is physically demanding
and pays very little, and Cordelia remains unhappy with her life. They
eventually meet a man named Count Victor Lioni and his younger companion
Charles Mandani. Cordelia is suspicious of Lioni but finds Mandani agreeable
and develops feelings for him. Lucinda tells Cordelia that Lioni is a childhood
friend and later tells her that they have gotten married.
Lucinda, Lioni, Mandani, and Cordelia go on a
trip to Italy and Cordelia is unsure of Mandani’s sentiments towards her.
Cordelia asks Mandani about Lucinda and Lioni’s marriage and he sees the idea
as ridiculous, revealing to Cordelia that Lioni and Lucinda are not married and
that Mandani perceives Cordelia to have loose morals. After Cordelia clears the
confusion about her morality, Mandani makes it seem like he intends to form a
serious union with her. Cordelia confronts Lioni about the lie of his and
Lucinda’s marriage, and the Count makes an advance towards her. After
Cordelia’s poor response to this, he tells her she and Mandani are his
captives. Cordelia sends a letter to Lioni asking him to let her leave, but he
refuses and reveals that Mandani is lying to her. Lioni gives Cordelia a pile
of papers and letters, which reveal that Mandani is married. According to the
letters, Mandani loved Lioni’s sister Olivia, but at sixteen, Olivia took her
vows in a convent. Mandani wanted to marry her and convinced her to run off to
France with him and elope. Olivia’s guilt over breaking her vows caused her to
leave him and move back to a convent. Lioni forgave Mandani, but if Mandani
ever forgot Olivia and moved on with another woman, Lioni promised to kill him
on behalf of his sister.
Cordelia cannot tell Mandani she knows about his
past and marriage, and the Count gives her money to leave and have a life away
from Mandani as a gesture of friendship. Cordelia overhears Mandani say that
Olivia is dead to him, and he loves only her now, but she knows they cannot be
together because of Lioni’s threat. She plans to leave for Switzerland and live
in peaceful and comfortable solitude with Lioni’s money, but before she can make
it, she encounters armed men who attack her and tie her up. She is confused and
terrified but then wakes up in what she thinks is a madhouse. She despairs and
adds “shrieks” to the “groans of lunacy,” but “Nature” eventually rescues her
by sending her into a “happy insensibility” (212).
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, eds. “Sophia King: Life & Writing.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. <http://orlando.cambridge.org>. 09 November 2021.
Set in Scotland, England, and Italy, Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson’s 1807 chapbook is a complicated tale of vengeance, violence, and long-lost love. And there’s a ghost!
At first glance, The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is nothing more than a small, nondescript book. It is bound in a spotless cardboard cover, with no title or images on the front or back. The spine has a small red rectangle in which The Castle Spectre or Family Horrors is written in gold writing. The chapbook is about 12 centimeters wide, 20 centimeters long, and 1 centimeter thick.
Upon opening the book, it is evident that it has been rebound. The pages inside are soft, yellowed, and worn. The edges are tattered and uneven and the pages are of different sizes. The frontispiece appears to have been glued to a blank page for structural support, as it was ripped and about two inches of the page is missing from the bottom. This page contains a colorful image of two knights in front of a red castle. They are holding blue shields with gold crosses and are wearing red skirts. Behind the knights is a woman in a pink dress; she is surrounded by what appears to be sunbeams and looks as if she is floating with her arm raised. Some of the colors go beyond the edge of the picture, indicating it may have been painted with watercolor. Beneath the image is a caption that says, “GERTRUDE rising from the Rubbish before the CASTLE”. Below the caption is a note about the print company.
The title page
contains the title, written as follows: “The // Castle Spectre; // or, //
Family Horrors: // A Gothic Story.” The words are all uppercase, except for “A
Gothic Story,” which is written in a more elaborate gothic typeface. Beneath
the title is a quote by Langhorne, and then a note on the publisher: “London:
// Printed for T. and R. Hughes, // 35, Ludgate-Street.” “London” is written in
the same gothic font, while the rest is again all capitalized. Beneath this is
the publishing date: 1807. The title page has a small, rather illegible phrase
written in pencil in the upper left corner, and a large stain on the right. The
back of the title page is blank, except for a small stamp in the bottom left
corner that says, “Printed by Bewick and Clarke, Aldergates-street.” It should
be noted that the name of the author is never mentioned.
On the first page of the text, the title is again printed, but this time as The Castle Spectre. The chapbook contains thirty-eight pages, and the page sizes vary slightly. The upper and lower margins range from about 1.5 centimeters to 2.5 centimeters. “Castle Spectre” is written on the top margin of every page, and there are page numbers in the upper corners. The text is small and tight, and the inner margin is very narrow. On the left pages, the words run almost into the spine. On some pages, the text is fading and in certain instances, can be seen through from the back of the page. The pages are speckled with light stains, but none that obscure much text. The bottom margins of a few pages contain signature marks, such as B3, C, and C3. These marks indicate how the pages should be folded together, as the book was printed on one large sheet and then folded and trimmed. This binding technique also explains why the pages vary in size. There are nine blank pages at the end of the book. These pages seem newer and are larger; they were likely added to make the book slightly thicker, as it is difficult to bind such a thin book.
An index card is
loosely placed in the front of the book, containing the title and publishing
information. It appears to be written in Michael Sadleir’s handwriting and was
likely used for cataloging purposes. The note indicates that the book was
originally unbound, but then mounted on modern board and engraved. This
explains the discrepancy between the wear of the cover and that of the pages.
“Louisiana” is written on the upper left corner; Sadleir presumably got the
book from someone who lived there. A line on the bottom of the card indicates his
belief that the plot was plagiarized, as he notes the book is “a theft of title
The Castle Spectre by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson was
printed by Bewick and Clarke for T. and R. Hughes in 1807. According to Michael
Sadleir’s handwritten note, the copy in the University of Virginia
Sadleir-Black Collection was originally unbound and then rebound as a
stand-alone chapbook. It appears there is only one edition, the 1807 version,
but some other copies are bound in volumes with other chapbooks. According to
WorldCat, there are six copies of this edition located at Dartmouth Library,
Columbia University Library, and the National Library of Wales, among others.
As of 2021, there are no digital copies of the story, though GoogleBooks has
information about the title, author, and publishing company.
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is often misinterpreted
as being inspired by Matthew Gregory Lewis’s play The Castle Spectre.
Though part of the title is the same, the actual plot, characters, and setting
are entirely unrelated. The
confusion has arisen because Wilkinson published two chapbooks with similar
titles: The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story in 1807 and
The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance; Founded on the Original
Drama of M. G. Lewis in
1820. This second text, The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance,
is in fact based upon Lewis’s play (as accurately suggested by the subtitle),
with the same characters, setting, and plot. By contrast, the 1807 chapbook, The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, remains separate and unrelated except
for its similar main title.
Though the two Castle Spectre texts by
Wilkinson are entirely separate, they are frequently confused for one another.
For instance, Franz J. Potter notes in The History of Gothic Publishing
that Wilkinson “also adapted two versions of Matthew Lewis’s melodrama ‘The
Castle Spectre’ publishing The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors (2.58)
in 1807 with Thomas Hughes, and The Castle Spectre; An Ancient Baronial
Romance, Founded on the Original Drama M. G. L. (2.57) in 1820 with John
Bailey” (119). In his section on the “Family Horrors” version of
Wilkinson’s chapbook, Frederick S. Frank notes that she “transformed Lewis’s Gothic drama, The
Castle Spectre [l-219], back into a Gothic novel” (171). Franz J. Potter
similarly states that this “Family Horrors” version was “founded on Lewis’s The
Castle Spectre. A Drama in Five Acts” (Gothic Chapbooks 39). Even an
article in UVA Today makes this common error, stating “Lewis’ work was
regularly plagiarized and used in this way, as it is in ‘The Castle Spectre,
or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story,’ by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson” (McNally).
that make the claim of a link between The Castle Spectre and Matthew
Lewis’s play cite Montague Summers’s Gothic Bibliography, which lists The
Castle Spectre by Sarah Wilkinson without specifying the subtitle or a
publication date. Summers’s entry reads: “Castle Spectre, The. By Sarah Wilkinson. Founded upon Matthew
Gregory Lewis’ famous drama, The Castle Spectre, produced at Drury Lane
on Thursday, December 14th, 1797” (268). Of the libraries that own The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, many list M. G. Lewis as an author, and
these library catalogs frequently reference Summers’s Gothic Bibliography,
echoing his statement that the story is “Founded
upon Matthew Gregory Lewis’ famous drama ‘The castle spectre’.” Some
libraries note the link to Lewis’s play based upon The National Union
Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints, and this source also cites back to Summers’s Gothic
Bibliography. It is possible Summers’s entry for The Castle Spectre
was misunderstood to be about the “Family Horrors” version, when it was meant
to reference the “Baronial Romance” version, which specifically claims to be
founded upon Lewis’s play. Whatever the reason, this misunderstanding has
spurred many sources, including library catalogs, to erroneously note a
connection between the plot of Lewis’s The Castle Spectre play and
Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors chapbook.
It should also be noted that some sources
discuss a similarity between the two distinct chapbooks Wilkinson wrote under
the titles The Castle Spectre. Diane L. Hoeveler, for instance, suggests
that Wilkinson was plagiarizing herself in these two chapbooks, indicating she
believes the plots to be “virtually identical and indicate how authors as well
as publishers had no qualms about ‘borrowing’ literary texts from others as
well as themselves” (14). Hoeveler writes, “Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre:
An Ancient Baronial Romance is actually her second attempt to capitalize on
the popularity of Lewis’s 1797 drama The Castle Spectre”, naming as the
“other version” The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story
(14). Yet while it is true that Wilkinson used the same main title for two
different books, they are not “virtually identical”: the plots, characters’
names, and setting of the story have no similarities. A potential reason for
the similar titles was that Wilkinson used the phrase “Castle Spectre” precisely
because of its popularity at the time to attract readers, despite the “Family
Horrors” version being a unique story.
On a separate note, the title page of The Castle Spectre; or, Family
Horrors includes a portion of a poem by John Langhorne. It appears to be an
edited stanza from a longer poem entitled “Fable VII. The Wall-flower” from his
collection of poems, The Fables of Flora (Johnson 447). It is unclear
whether the poem was adapted by Wilkinson or the publishing company, but the
poem alludes to the idea of remembrance and telling the stories of the dead.
This theme reflects in the story of Gertrude’s death and Richard’s journey of
Narrative Point of View
Spectre is, for the most
part, narrated in the third person by an anonymous narrator who is not present
in the plot. There are a few occasions throughout the story when the narrator
speaks in first-person plural, referencing the history of the story and its
translations. The narration follows the knight, Sir Richard, throughout the
entire story, and much of the chapbook contains dialogue and interpolated tales
spoken by a variety of the characters with whom Richard interacts, such as
Douglas. The narrative focuses more on plot and less on characters’ thoughts,
and the sentences are often long and descriptive. There is a bit of insight
into Richard’s feelings, but the narrator does not discuss other characters’
emotions unless the characters reveal their feelings aloud in dialogue. There
is also an instance where Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm exchange letters, which
are printed within the text in quotation marks; both Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm
refer to themselves in the third person in their letters. At times when Elenora
(also known as Gertrude) appears as a ghost, she also refers to herself in the
third person during her tales.
The moon, emerging from a black cloud just as he entered, enabled him to ascertain he was in a grand spacious hall, in the centre of which stood a large banquetting table He seized an extinguished taper, which he with difficulty lighted by the friction of some wood he found on the hearth. He had now an opportunity to observe the place more accurately. The table was laden with viands, some in a putrid state, some mouldering to powder; and to his eager view appeared vases filled with the juice of the generous grape. In a corner of the apartment he beheld the body of a man extended in death on the floor, the boards of which were stained with congealed blood. A murder had been committed here but a short time before. The sight of this did not alarm him; he knew not fear, but emotions of pity rose in his breast, for the unfortunate object before him, and a desire to develope the mysteries of the place he was in, prevailed over ever other consideration. (6)
First-Person Plural Narration:
But we must not anticipate in our story too much, and the Scottish manuscript from whence we translate, mentions some transactions that will better appear hereafter. In the mean time we must observe that after much consultation on these transactions, Lord Mackworth advised Sir Richard to appoint a meeting with Sir Kenelm at midnight. (16)
Sample of Sir
Richard’s Third-Person Letter to Sir Kenelm Cromar:
Sir Richard, brother to Lady Gertrude, returning from the Holy Wars, finds his venerable father mouldering into dust, brought to the grave by grief for the untimely fate of a beloved daughter, whose fair fame was basely called into question, and her dear life sacrificed to lawless love. —Sir Kenelm must account for this, and inform Sir Richard what is become of a dear sister. For which purpose Sir Richard challenges Sir Kenelm to meet him, in single combat, near that castle-gate where he, Sir Kenelm, banquetting with his new bride, beheld the injured shade of Lady Gertrude, when, for a slight offence, he stabbed his cupbearer. Eight days hence, exactly at the hour of twelve, Sir Richard will be there, with two of his most trusty friends. (16)
Sample of Sir Henry
Mackworth’s Interpolated Tale:
At his return to Palestine, finding I was in confinement, his generosity and friendship made him hazard his life to rescue me from my confinement. He succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations. We continued together some time. We had but one heart, one purse, and were a pattern of friendship throughout camp and country. Clemena was often the subject of our conversation. I ventured to hint the inclination I felt for her, from his description and the picture I had seen. ‘Alas!’ said he, ‘I dare not flatter you with the least hope of success; my sister has been educated in a convent, and ever been intended by our parents for a nun, their fortune being too small to support us both in a manner suitable to our rank…’ I remonstrated with Vertolini on the cruelty of secluding a beloved sister, for life, within the dreary walls of a convent… (33).
The various types of
narration in The Castle Spectre allow for a deeper exploration of
different characters’ actions and emotions, as well as greater detail on the
setting and history of the story. The Castle Spectre utilizes several
techniques to augment suspense. On numerous occasions, the names of the
characters Richard meets are not revealed until the end of that individual’s
story, and the reveals often occur casually amidst the dialogue or narrative
with little emphasis. The reveal of the characters’ names has a great impact on
the entire plot, and the narration’s nonchalant delivery augments the suspense
and adds an element of surprise. As a result, many key details and surprises
are revealed suddenly and without foreshadowing. Though the narrator does not
touch on characters’ feelings often, the dialogue provides greater insight into
the different characters’ personalities and emotions. Because so many different
plots are embedded into the chapbook, the story is both engaging and, at times,
confusing: the chapbook is extremely fast-paced because so much action is
packed into each sentence, and in some cases it is difficult to follow the story
and to distinguish who is speaking or who characters are because the plot jumps
back and forth in time or between the different story lines. The moments of
first-person plural narration detail the story as if it were true by discussing
the sources from which the story was translated. These moments where the
narrator speaks as “we” directly to the reader, along with the detailed setting
and long rambling sentences, all conspire to make the story oral in feel, as if
being told to a friend.
Spectre follows the knight
Sir Richard over a period of several years. The story begins on a stormy night
in the Scottish Highlands. Sir Richard is traveling to his father’s castle in
the Grampian Mountains after a four-year deployment to the Holy War in
Palestine. He seeks shelter to ride out the storm, but no one will take him in.
In a flash of lightning, he sees the turret of a castle; he sounds his bugle
numerous times with no response, so he dismounts his horse and tries the door.
By chance, the door is unlocked, and Richard enters the banquet hall of the
castle. With only the moon and occasional flash of lightning to guide him, the
knight explores. The hall is filled with food and drink that appears to have
been placed there recently. In the corner of the hall lies the dead body of a
man; the floor is soaked with congealed blood. Sir Richard vows to unravel the
mystery of the catastrophe that occurred.
Sir Richard tours
the rest of the castle, which is magnificently decorated in gothic splendor. No
one is to be found and all is silent. He comes upon a great bed, and as he is
exhausted from his journey, he jumps in and falls into a deep sleep. At one
o’clock, a bell rings and Sir Richard wakes to the curtains of the bed being
ripped open. Standing at the foot of the bed bathed in blue light is a veiled
woman in a white dress. As he approaches her, the woman’s veil falls off and a
stream of blood gushes from a wound in her side. Richard looks into the woman’s
face, and it is none other than his sister! He calls to the apparition “by her
name Elenora” (though later in the story she is referred to predominantly as
Gertrude, with no explanation given for the shift in name) (7). Elenora the
apparition stands, not speaking, while holding her hand over the seemingly
fresh wound in her side. After repeated prodding, Elenora explains the story of
her brutal murder in the castle, revealing that two years after Richard left,
she married the owner of this castle, and in a fit of frenzy he stabbed her
(while she was pregnant) and left her corpse in a rubbish pile. Left to rot
without a proper Christian burial, she haunts her murderer and his new wife.
The scene that Richard came upon in the banquet hall was the remnants of their
wedding, which was ruined when Elenora appeared and terrorized the guests.
Finally, with a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning, Elenora vanishes in a
swirl of blue flame.
Shocked and overcome
with emotion, Sir Richard decides to leave and avenge his beloved sister. He
lets his horse take the reins on the way to his father’s estate and does not
realize the horse has gone down the wrong road. They come upon a cottage where
he is treated with great hospitality. The owner, Douglas, tells the story of
his childhood and time as a soldier, where he saved the life of the “worthy
nobleman, under whose banners I had enlisted” and was thus assured protection
and this cottage (11). Douglas explains that the nobleman has died and his son
is at war; he fears thar if he does not return, Sir Kenelm Cromar will take
over his estates and leave Douglas and his family to live out their days in
poverty. During this story, Douglas reveals the name of his former nobleman to
be Duncan, and Sir Richard reveals that Duncan was his father! This means that
Sir Richard is the son who has now returned home; the Douglas family rejoices.
Douglas’s story also reveals that Sir Kenelm’s first wife was Elenora (now
predominately referred to as Gertrude in the story). Upon Gertrude and Kenelm’s
marriage, Ally (Douglas’s daughter) moved into the castle where Sir Kenelm
“began to take great liberties with her” (12). Douglas says Lady Gertrude is
now missing and so is Ally. Because of Gertrude’s ghost’s daily visits, Sir
Kenelm and his new wife have moved to his hunting lodge so the castle remains
uninhabited. Sir Richard thanks Douglas and promises him a life of friendship
When he finally
arrives home, the servants rejoice at the return of their young lord. They tell
the knight all that has happened and grieve for the good young lady Gertrude
and their master Duncan. Enraged, Sir Richard vows to avenge her and lay her
body to rest in a Christian burial. He seeks out his father’s friend, Lord
Mackworth, and tells the man the story. Richard decides to challenge Sir Kenelm to
single combat, with Mackworth’s assistance. As part of their agreement,
Mackworth wants Sir Richard to marry his daughter and Sir Richard agrees. Sir
Kenelm accepts Richard’s request, mentioning that though it is illegal to fight
in this manner, he will do it anyways to honor the memory of the venerable
Duncan. Meanwhile, Kenelm sends a letter to the king, requesting that he send
men and imprison Richard before the fight occurs. Instead, the king decides the
two men will have an impartial hearing at his court and he will support
whichever cause is more just.
It is now the night
of combat, and the marshal Lord Glencairn asks if any last-minute
accommodations can be made. Richard declines, unless Sir Kenelm will admit to
murdering Gertrude and surrender to public justice. Kenelm refuses, saying that
Gertrude abandoned him for a lover, and Richard is about to stab him in rage
when suddenly, they are both commanded prisoners and summoned to the king’s
court. Before they leave with the soldiers, the clock strikes one and in a
swirl of thunder and lightning, Gertrude appears. She shares her story and
explains that three times now she has prevented Kenelm from murdering his new
wife. She requests a proper burial, asks Mackworth to protect Richard, and
vanishes in a thick blue flame amidst a crack of lightning and tremendous peal
of thunder. Richard breaks the silence and tells the soldiers to bring them to
the court, so that he can share the full story in front of the king. The
hearing occurs, and Kenelm is found guilty and sent to prison; he later has a
public trial and is condemned to death. Gertrude’s remains are recovered and
she has a proper burial; all the churches in the surrounding area hold masses
in her honor and her final wish is granted.
goes home. He keeps his house open to serve his father’s tenants, and the
neighboring nobility congratulate him on his return from the war and for
bringing Kenelm to justice. Nevertheless, Sir Richard is unhappy; he mourns the
loss of his father and sister and misses his lost love Lady Jane. The story now
shifts back many years, before Richard went to the Holy Land. He fell in love
with Mackworth’s daughter, Jane, and she waited for him to return from the war.
In the four years of his absence, Jane denied many marriage offers from wealthy
prospects, one of them being Lord Glendour. Finally, Richard returns and they
are set to marry. We learn that two years before Richard left, Mackworth’s son
went to war and never returned. They mourned his death, and Mackworth received
Richard as a son and the heir to his estates and domains. As they prepare for
the wedding at the Mackworth estate, Richard returns to his familial castle,
and in his absence, an unfortunate event occurs. One evening, Jane is kidnapped
while on a walk through the gardens. Mackworth sends news to Richard, who vows
never to return until he finds his love. He searches for weeks with no sign of
Jane, until he comes across a hut offering refreshments to travelers. The man
inside mentions that a gagged woman and man had come through just before and
were on their way to Italy. Richard chases them to the river’s edge and
resolves to follow them. For years, he traverses all of Italy, hopelessly
searching convents for his lover. He falls ill and almost dies from grief, but
dreams of Jane and vows to recover and free her.
The story jumps back
in time to Jane’s kidnapping, and it is revealed that Lord Glendour, one of
Kenelm’s friends, fell madly in love with her and kidnapped Jane to be with
her. He requests her hand in marriage, but she refuses. She tricks him into
allowing her to pass the time in a convent in Italy, where she is watched over
by the Lady Abbess and not allowed to leave. Back in the present, Richard meets
an English man in the middle of Venice. They become friends and visit the man’s
villa. Richard recognizes someone in one of the family pictures and asks the
man to share the story of why he left England. The man says the story is long,
but he has written it down for his children and will one day give Richard a
copy to read. After months of visits, Richard reads the man’s story and is
surprised by the similarities between them. The man, Wentworth, was the eldest
son of a noble house in England. He fell in love with a peasant girl Louisa,
and though he was promised to marry a noble woman Anna, he runs away with his
lover. He fakes illness and tells his father he will go to the Holy War; Louisa
goes with him, and they marry and have a son and daughter. He returns from the
war and vows to sort out his betrothal to Anna. Leaving his wife and children
in the protection of her father, he goes back to his paternal castle. He sets a
plan for his brother, William, to marry Anna instead, and it works. Elatedly,
Wentworth returns to the cottage and is devastated to find Louisa and his
infant son missing. They were tricked by a letter claiming to be from him, and
Wentworth suspects his own father to have sent it. For five years, Wentworth
and his daughter travel the world, though nothing can make him forget Louisa.
Receiving word of his father’s ill health, he returns to England. On his death
bed, Wentworth’s father reveals he sent Louisa to a convent in Italy, but she
escaped. Wentworth and his daughter go back to Italy to search for her, but he
never finds Louisa. He lives like a recluse in his villa, and this is where Richard
reenters the story.
Richard again visits
Wentworth. The man reveals he is Richard’s uncle but used a fake family name so
that he may retire in peace, away from the nobility. Richard explains that
during his search for Jane, he saw Louisa and her son in the Pyrenees.
Together, Richard and Wentworth begin their journey to the mountains to find
the long-lost wife and son. They come across a cottage that Richard had visited
before and reunite with Louisa and the son. Wentworth, now revealed to be
called Sir George, decides to return to his family home in England. Richard
promises to join them, if they can spare a few weeks for him to search for
One night on his
return to the Italian villa, Richard sees two criminals attacking a man. He
intervenes, and they admit they were hired by Count Vertolini to kill him.
Richard and the man go back to his house, so they may speak safely. The young
man then explains his story: he came from England to fight in the Holy War and
had a father and sister at home who he had not heard from in years. During the
war, he became great friends with an Italian man, Vertolini, who had a sister
named Clemena. The man falls in love with her, but is then taken prisoner in
Palestine. Four years later, Vertolini bribed the soldiers and freed his
friend, and they carry on their travels together. The Italian man reveals his
sister is promised to a convent, so she cannot be with his friend despite his
love for her. They meet the sister in Italy, where he becomes even more
enamored. Clemena admits she does not want to join the convent, but it is
necessary for her honor. Vertolini vows to save her before she takes the veil,
and the siblings try in vain to convince their father to free her. The father,
Count Vertolini, refuses the young man’s wedding proposal, and advises him to
leave Italy immediately. It is now revealed that the young man is Sir Henry
Mackworth, Lord Mackworth’s long lost son and Jane’s brother.
Back in the present,
Richard and Henry plan to rescue Clemena. While at the convent, a girl hands
the knight a note telling him to return at midnight to find something of great
importance. He listens, and that night, finds Lady Jane at the convent! She
explains her story and begs him to free her. Richard and Henry return to the convent
to demand her release, but the Lady Abbess refuses. The next day, Henry
interrupts the veiling ceremony and saves Clemena from the convent. Richard
goes back to England with Henry and Clemena, where he hurries to find
Mackworth. Together, they apply to the king and receive his royal mandate to
imprison Lord Glendour. The king sends word to the Pope, and Mackworth and Sir
Richard go back to Italy to retrieve a freed Jane. With Richard’s lover in tow,
they return to England. Wentworth lives in his castle with his family, there
are numerous weddings, Glendour dies in a convent, and Sir Richard is blessed
with years of happiness with Jane, Henry, Wentworth, and the others. They all
live happily ever after.
Frank, Frederick S. “A Gothic Romance.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, by Marshall B. Tymn, New
York City, R.R. Bowker, 1981.
In this chapbook, discover dark family secrets and old rivalries in a tale of love, revenge, and deception set in the Italian countryside.
The full title of this book is The Alpine Wanderers; or the Vindictive Relative: A Tale, Founded on Facts. This title appears in full only on the interior title page of the book, and the partial title, The Alpine Wanderers, appears on the spine of the book. The exterior of the book is otherwise extremely plain with no other inscriptions on the cover. The author’s name, given as A. Brown, appears only on the title page and not on the cover or anywhere else in the book. It is bound in brown paper, which looks similar to cardboard. This book is about 18 cm tall and 11 cm wide. It consists of thirty-eight pages of text. This particular copy of the book was rebound by the library at some point, and several pages of thick cardstock-like paper were added to the back of the book in order to make it thicker to make the book easier to bind.
The interior of the book appears well used. The actual pages the story is printed on are very thin and soft. Most of the pages have browned with age and wear. The edges of many of the pages are torn or bent from being turned, and fingerprints have been left on a few of the pages. The text of the book is somewhat small but not tiny. Space is left above the text of the story on each page for the book’s title and the page number to be printed. The text is faded or smudged at some places in the book, and in others, the pages are so thin that the text on one side of the page shows through to the other.
On the very first page of the book, immediately preceding the title page, there is a black and white illustration depicting a fight between three men inside a house. The illustration is captioned “Alpine Wanderers.” This is an illustration of a scene that occurs on page 28 of the book. At the bottom of page 28, there is a note, “*See Frontispiece,” directing the reader to this illustration at the front of the book.
This copy of the book consists of pages appearing to be printed by two different print shops. Up until page 14 of the story, the pages have catchwords on the bottom of the pages. Catchwords are when the printer puts the first word of the next page on the bottom of the page they are setting in order to help ensure they set the pages in the correct order. Pages 15 through 38 do not have these catchwords at the bottom. The bottom of title page of the book is marked with “J. McGowen, Printer, Church Street, Blackfriars Road,” and the bottom of the last page of the story is marked with “J. Bailey, Printer, 116, Chancery Lane.” Based on this, it is likely that the title pages and the story through page 14 were printed by J. McGowen, and the rest of the book, pages 15 through 38, were printed by J. Bailey.
Very little information about The Alpine Wanderers is available from the time that it was published. The title page of this copy of The Alpine Wanderers lists the author as A. Brown. Several sources, notably including Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography, list the book without a known author, which may indicate that other editions of the book were not attributed to any author (230). There do not seem to be any other chapbooks or other similar literature attributed to an A. Brown. The publishing date for book is not certain, with some sources, such as A Gothic Bibliography, listing it as published as early as 1800 and others, such as National Union Catalog, pre-1956 imprints showing dates as late as 1820 (Summers 230, National Union Catalog 536). Most library listings use one of these two dates, and most note the uncertainty of the date. This edition was printed for J. Scales in London, and was printed by J. McGowen of Church Street, Blackfriars Road and J. Bailey of 116, Chancery Lane (Brown 3). Other copies of the book from the nineteenth century all had some variation on this publishing information if any was given. There are no known contemporary advertisements or reviews for the book.
Copies of The Alpine Wanderers appear for sale in multiple catalogues from the early twentieth century. One is a 1900–1902 copy of An Illustrated Catalogue of Old and Rare Books for Sale, with prices affixed from rare book dealers Pickering and Chatto (82). Another is from a catalogue of the 1916 estate auction of one Col. Prideaux by auctioneers Southeby, Wilkinson, & Hodge (59). In both catalogues, the book is sold as part of larger lots of chapbooks. The lot of Col. Prideaux’s chapbooks lists an alternate title for the book as The Castle of Montrose (Southeby, Wilkinson, & Hodge 59). In the text, Montrose Castle is named once at the beginning of the story as the dwelling place the main characters are fleeing at the beginning. A Montrose Castle did exist, but it was located in Scotland, while the book is specified as taking place in the Italian countryside, and Montrose Castle was destroyed several centuries before this book was published (“Montrose, Fort Hill”). Other instances could not be found of this book being referred to by this alternate title or any copy of the book with this title listed on it.
Several other libraries own copies of The Alpine Wanderers. Harvard University’s Houghton Library owns a copy that has also been digitized, and seems to be the same edition the University of Virginia owns. Harvard’s library catalog lists this copy as having a color frontispiece, which differs from the black and white frontispiece of the edition in the Sadleir-Black Collection, but the Harvard edition frontispiece is not included in the digital scan available online. Stanford University’s library also owns a copy, which their library catalog lists as including a hand colored frontispiece. Princeton University owns a copy of the book, also with a color frontispiece; its library catalog listing identifies its previous owner as Michael Sadlier. Princeton’s copy was also part of a two-volume collection of chapbooks bound together under the title Romance. The books from this collection were published mainly in or around 1810, with estimated publishing dates as early as 1800 and as late as 1826, and have a variety of different publishers and printers. It seems likely that these chapbooks were bound together at some point after their separate printing and publishing, though it is not clear when. The University of Oklahoma, the University of Nebraska, and the British Library also all own copies of The Alpine Wanderers.
Narrative Point of View
The Alpine Wanderers is predominantly narrated in third person by an anonymous narrator who is removed from the events of the story. In a few places throughout the story, such as the opening, the narrator will add first-person comments or address the reader directly. The story also includes multiple long stretches when a character spends an extended amount of time recounting their own backstory and takes over the narration in their first-person perspective. The longest of these interpolated tales is presented as a written manuscript. The storytelling focuses on character actions and interactions, with frequent lengthy sections of dialogue and long sentences describing plot, but little time spent on setting and description.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
Let us now return to St. Alver’s Cottage. The little family had just finished their evening repast when they were alarmed by a loud knocking at the Door. Alice demanded who knock’d, a voice from without replied, “A friend who has something of importance to communicate”. The door was opened, and a man entered who wore a mask. On casting his eyes round the group before him, he singled out the Count and told him “He wished to speak with him in private”. In evident agitation St. Alvers followed the stranger into another room. When they were alone the Count begged the man would inform him of his business. “You have reasons, Seignior, or am I mistaken, for concealment; Say; is it not so?” The Count paused, at length he answered “No” The stranger again said, “If not it is all well, but I had reason to believe you were in imminent danger. I am a Friend, but shall not discover who I am at present. If you are the person, destruction awaits you unless you accept of my assistance which I freely offer. -Perhaps it was not you that was alluded to, if so, I beg pardon- Seignor, I meant well. (18–19)
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration Speaking in the First Person:
Poor Mary dared not urge more, and retired in the utmost affliction. Their rural sports were almost neglected, the thoughts of the approaching departure of their beloved brothers damped the usual gaiety. I shall pass over the separation between these beloved relatives, as it can be much better conceived than described; for who has not, at some period of their lives, endured a like separation? (13)
Sample Passage of Interpolated Manuscript:
“For the satisfaction of my children, I write this, that they may know and avoid the crimes of their father, and likewise that they may claim certain estates, which, while my bitter foe lives, I dare not. At the age of twenty-two, I came into possession of a large unencumbered estate, by the death of my father, with the titles and honors annexed to the name of Lindford (for that is my real name.) My sister, yet an infant, was left under my protection. The gaieties of life with me were just began, every kind of dissipation I launched into with avidity; nor did I awake from this giddy dream, until informed by my steward, I had no longer resources, except from the mortgage of part of my estates; it was then I cast my eyes around for a wife, whose wealth would be likely to rescue me from my unpleasant situation.” (26)
The subtitle of The Alpine Wanderers declares the story “a tale, founded on facts.” The narrator attempts to present the story as events that could have occurred in real life. The narrator’s insertion of their own thoughts in first person usually serve to further the idea that this is a real story that they are recounting and commenting on by suggesting they have limited knowledge of the story at certain points or are intentionally skipping over periods of time in their retelling. There is just enough setting description for the reader to be given a general understanding of where events are taking place and for the mood of the story to be set, but there is overall a lack of physical description that again contributes to the premise that the narrator is recounting a true story secondhand rather than making a story up or speaking of a personal experience. The insertion of a long stretch of backstory via a manuscript written by a character allows for the narrator to recount an important part of a main character’s story with specific details, opinions, and emotions recounted by the character himself that helps add depth to the character and his story while giving an in-text reason that the narrator would be able to have this level of detail and insight on this section of the story.
The Alpine Wanderers opens on the Count St. Alvers and his family fleeing their castle home on a stormy night. He, his four children, and the family’s two servants had inhabited this castle for ten years, remaining almost entirely isolated from their neighbors during this time. The Count’s wife had lived with the family for some of this time, but had been a withdrawn and despondent presence in the castle and had died after a few years. The family’s flight from the castle had been instigated by a recently received letter. The Count did not reveal the contents of the letter to his children, but had been visibly distraught upon reading it.
The family travels around Italy in an erratic fashion for several days before coming to rest in a new village. Here, he and his two daughters, Olivia and Mary, will take on the appearance of average peasants while his two sons, Frederic and Robert, will be sent to England for their education. The village is also home to the Chateau of the Marchesa de Cortes, who comes to visit while the family is staying there. The Marchesa brings with her a company which includes her two young nephews, William and Henry. The two boys encounter Olivia and Mary and are quite taken with the beautiful young women. Mary rebuffs Henry’s advances while maintaining her role as a peasant, but Olivia begins to form a relationship with William, who begins to entertain the idea of marriage. He speaks to her father about the subject, but the Count rejects the proposal. The Marchesa overhears her nephew’s discussions about Olivia and also disapproves of him marrying a girl below his station.
That same night, a masked man comes to the home of the Count and his family and informs the count that he is an ally coming to warn him of imminent danger. The masked man informs the count that his family must flee for their safety and offers his assistance in finding them shelter until more permanent arrangements can be made. The Count is alarmed by this news, but believes him, so the family once again flees in the middle of the night. The masked stranger leads them to an unpleasant underground chamber and locks them inside, and the family soon realizes that they have actually been imprisoned. After being kept in this dungeon for three days, the family is visited by the Marchesa, who had assumed the suspicious behavior of the family as they tried to present as peasants had been covering some criminal activity.
Upon seeing the Marchesa, who he had yet to encounter in person, the Count recognizes her as his long-lost sister and reveals his true identity to her as the Lord Linford, an English nobleman. The Marchesa, excited to have found her brother, who she had believed to be lost in a shipwreck years ago, releases the family and brings them into her home. She explains to her brother that since they had last seen each other, she had married the Marches de Cortes, who had later died and left her his fortune and his sister’s sons as her charges. She then informs Henry and William that now that she knows the true status of Olivia and Mary, she fully supports their marriages.
It is then Lord Linford’s turn to explain where he has been since he and his sister parted. He gives the others a manuscript explaining that when he was young, his father died and left him the family fortune. The Lord quickly squandered the fortune and needed to marry a woman with money. He met his children’s mother, who was not nobility but was promised to inherit a decent amount of money from her father. Her family disapproved of the couple, so the two left the country and married without her family’s consent. This led to tensions between the Lord and his wife’s father and brother. On multiple occasions, this tension boiled over and led to physical fighting. On one occasion, Lord Lindford injured his brother-in-law, and on another, he accidentally dealt his father-in-law a fatal blow while attempting to defend himself from his brother-in-law. His brother-in-law had him arrested for the murder of his father, but Lady Lindford helped him escape. They and their children fled the country, eventually ending up in Italy, where they found the castle they were living in at the beginning of the story. While the Lord’s wife believed that her father’s death had been an accident, she still remained distant from her husband and outwardly unhappy until she eventually died. The Lord stayed in this castle until the day he received a letter warning him that the Lady’s brother had learned he was in Italy and was coming to take vengeance for his father’s death. This prompted the family’s flight from the beginning of the book.
Once the Lord has recounted his tale, his sister informs him that his brother-in-law has since died and with his final words, admitted that his father’s death had been an accident and not an intentional murder. With the Lord’s name cleared, the family is free to return to their homeland of England. Upon their arrival, they reunite with Frederic and Robert, who had already been in the country for their education. During his stay, Frederic has fallen in love with a General’s daughter. He and his love have both been fearful that the General would not approve of Frederic, but upon learning he is a Lord, the General grants Frederic his blessing to marry his daughter. The story ends with the three weddings: Frederic and the General’s daughter, Olivia and William, and Mary and Henry. The book then gives the reader a final warning that wrongdoing will receive punishment, good deeds will receive reward, and that nothing good ever comes from disobeying one’s parents.
Brown, A. The Alpine Wanderers: Or the Vindictive Relative: A Tale, Founded On Facts. London, Printed for J. Scales.
American Library Association. Committee on Resources of American Libraries. National Union Catalog Subcommittee, and Library of Congress. “The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints: a Cumulative Author List Representing Library of Congress Printed Cards And Titles Reported by Other American Libraries.” London: Mansell, 1968–1981.
Sotheby, Wilkson, & Hodge. (London, England).“Catalogue of the Very Interesting and Extensive of the Late Col. W. F. Prideaux, C.S.I of Hopeville, St. Peter’s-in-Thanet (Sold by Order of the Executor).” [Catalogues of sales]. 1914-1917. London, Sotheby, Wilkson, & Hodge, 1916. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015059847577.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. Fortune Press, 1941.
Set in the Italian countryside, this 1807 chapbook sees seemingly supernatural justice dealt after a deceitful and power-hungry prince murders his father, usurps the throne, and abducts his brother’s lover.
Parental Murder is anineteenth-century
chapbook written by an unknown author. When the novel is opened past its first
blank page, one is presented with an illustration on the second page, and the
title page appears on the third. The bulk of the title page is dedicated to the
novel’s full title and a brief description: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR, THE BROTHERS,
AN INTERESTING ROMANCE; IN WHICH VIRTUE AND VILLAINY ARE CONTRASTED, AND
FOLLOWED BY REWARD AND RETRIBUTION.” The title page indicates that the novel
was printed for T. and R. Hughes by printers Lewis & Hamblin. A date at the
bottom of the title page indicates that it was published in 1807.
Interestingly, the title page makes no mention of the novel’s author.
The illustration on the second page is in black-and-white,
depicting a scene from the main text. In the image, a woman clad in flowing
white robes looks down upon a man lying dead on the ground, facing upward. The
illustration is accompanied by a caption reading, “A fire-ball, impelled by the
arm of unerring Omnipotence, laid the libertine dead at my feet. Page 27.” As
suggested, this text appears in a passage on page 27.
The chapbook itself measures 11cm wide by 18cm tall.
Stitching holes in each page’s inner margins suggest that the chapbook was
originally bound, but this particular book has had its binding removed, and its
first blank page serves as a kind of cover. The book’s paper is thin, brittle,
yellowed, and very grainy—one feels pulp as they run their finger across each
page. At its edges, the paper is frayed and rough. The book appears to have
been printed on relatively cheap material, and this particular copy is
especially well-worn; several of its pages are on the brink of coming apart
from one another.
The chapbook is numbered as containing forty pages; however,
counting from the novel’s blank first page, there are actually only thirty-eight
pages. The novel’s first numbered page—page 8—appears only six pages in. Every
page number thereafter is consecutive; if these two pages are missing, they
must have been taken from before page 8. It is ultimately unclear if any pages
actually are missing; no content appears to be omitted from these first
pages. It is probable that either the two absent pages are blank or that page
counting simply begins at an unusual number.
The blank first page—while devoid of print—does contain
several ownership markings. The name “Sophia” is stamped identically three
times near the top. Underneath, a partially-legible script indicates the name
“Barbara Bounby” and the date range June 3rd to June 16th,
1810. (However, the specific days in June are somewhat unclear—the script is
blotted and individual characters become difficult to decipher.) Near the
bottom of the page, “Le” is written in a similar script with identical color.
After the main body of the text begins, the title of the
book appears only in its abbreviated form: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR,” alongside
“THE BROTHERS.” printed in the top margins of the left and right pages,
respectively. Each page in the text’s main body has thin margins. The type is
small, seriffed, and heavyset. The lines are short and tightly packed; the
pages, while small, are dense. The body of the text contains no illustrations
beyond the introductory frontispiece on the second page.
The body text is marked on two separate pages. First, on
page 22, two x-marks made in pencil surround the phrase “of his heart.” Higher
up on the same page, an (ostensibly accidental) pencil marking veers off the
top edge. On page 31, the word “Regicide!” is underlined in pen. These two
pages are the only two with obvious, visible annotations; the rest of the text
Very little information is available concerning the writing,
publication, or reception of Parental Murder. Its author is
anonymous—the only names listed in the chapbook are those of the publisher and
printer. Published in London in 1807, it was apparently released to little
fanfare: there are no records of Parental Murder being advertised or
reviewed in any periodicals of its time. Furthermore, searches for contemporary
literary criticism—or any other kind of secondary scholarship—on the chapbook
yield few references.
There are, however, indications that Parental Murder did
not go entirely unnoticed by the scholarly community. For instance: it is
listed in the expansive Gothic Bibliography by Montague Summers,
described simply as “Parental Murder. Chapbook. 1807” (457).A
slightly more detailed listing appears in Douglass Thomson’s Gothic Writers:
A Critical and Bibliographical Guide; his account includes the chapbook’s
full subtitle, its city of publication, and the names of its editors (137).
More interesting, however, is Parental Murder’s omission from Gothic
Writers’ section on modern reprintings or updated editions. In this section,
Thomson maintains a comprehensive list of reprintings, updated editions, and
other reproductions of the works he tracks. From this, we can infer that Parental
Murder was probably never reprinted or republished as a new edition.
Thomson’s finding is consistent with searches across several online catalogs:
in each case, no later editions of the chapbook appear. The available scholarly
information on the chapbook, while relatively minute, suggests that only one
edition has ever been published.
As previously noted, Parental Murder makes no
indication of its author; it does, however, include the names of its printers
and publishers. Before the body of the text, and once more at its close, the
names and address of the books’ printmakers are listed: “Printed by Lewis &
Hamblin, Paternoster-row” (Parental Murder 40). Similarly, the title
page displays the name and address of the publishers: “Printed for T. and R.
Hughes, 35, Ludgate-Hill, Corner of Stationers-Court” (Parental Murder 5).
Biographical information on these figures is scarce; Lewis, Hamblin, and R.
Hughes are all absent from searches for London printmakers or publishers active
during 1807. A brief biographical entry for T. Hughes, however, does appear.
The British Museum indicates that he was a British publisher and printmaker
located at 35 Ludgate-Hill, consistent with the information in the chapbook.
The page also indicates that this figure is “perhaps identical with T Hughes of
Stationers’ Court” (“T Hughes”). Observing that the listed address in Parental
Murder names both Ludgate-Hill and Stationers’ Court, we can confirm that
these two figures likely both refer to the same printmaker.
The British Museum also notes that T. Hughes published
several prints by George Cruikshank, a prominent illustrator of the time.
Cruikshank was widely known for his political cartoons and illustrations for
the likes of Charles Dickens, and his work remains prolific today. The
uncredited illustration preceding Parental Murder is almost certainly
unconnected to Cruikshank, however, as the chapbook’s publication in 1807predates
Cruikshank’s rise as an illustrator in 1811.
Investigating the site of Parental Murder’s printing and publication places the chapbook at the center of the bustling London publishing and printmaking industries. Paternoster-row, the address attributed to printers Lewis and Hamblin, was a nexus of printmaking and principally occupied by “stationers and text-writers” (Thornbury chapter 23). The chapbook’s publishers, T. and R. Hughes, were situated at the corner of the nearby Stationers’ Court. Stationers’ Court is a small path that departs from Ludgate Hill Street and leads to the entrance of Stationers’ Hall (see this Ordnance Survey map to view the precise streets). Stationers’ Hall housed the Stationers’ Company, a government-chartered literary authority that extensively vetted and registered British publications: “almost every publication … was required to be ‘entered at Stationers’ Hall’” (Thornbury chapter 19). In this sense, the sites of Parental Murder’s printing and publication were both mere footsteps away from the epicenter of London publishing, pinning the chapbook’s production to the literal geographic center of a flourishing literary trade.
Point of View
Parental Murder features an anonymous, third-person
narrator whose relationship to the text is left undefined. The novel’s prose is
grandiose, long-winded, and, at times, almost breathless in nature: short and
succinct sentences are often interposed with very long, grammatically complex
ones. The narration shifts freely between making matter-of-fact observations on
plot points and offering reflections on the inner thoughts, emotions, and
secret motivations of the characters.
With malicious looks, Rabano saw that all the favours he had been suing for at the side of this lovely peerless maiden were unhesitatingly granted to his brother, and with such an arch plausibility of excuse, that it was impossible to refuse without exposing his disappointment and vexation. Romano afterwards danced with her, and the whisper every where ran, “What a figure! what grace! what sweetness!” “It must be so!” exclaimed Rabano inwardly; “I must—I will have her; and Zalarra shall decide upon the measures to be pursued!” (20)
Parental Murder’s willingness to freely transition
between objective, plot-driven narration and inward, emotionally focused
musings serves primarily to align its high-octane, action-packed storyline with
a core thematic message about the supreme importance of virtue. Looking at plot
events alone, the novel’s storyline traces out a familiar dramatic arc: the
power-hungry, parricidal son whose sins catch up to him in the end. At the same
time, the insights into characters’ private thoughts and motivations help to
drive the thematic content: from these insights, it becomes clear that Romano
is to be seen as virtuous, and his brother Rabano is not. In the passage above,
Rabano’s inward exclamations of jealousy and lust serve to cement him as the
iniquitous foil to his virtuous brother. Having established this
characterization, when Romano ultimately triumphs, the narrator is able to
assert that “virtue is the only true path to greatness, love, and glory!” (40).
In this way, the intermingling narrative delivery of plot content and emotional
content is key to presenting a compelling plot while also making a clear
statement of theme.
Baretti is a powerful king who rules over an expansive dominion in
Italy. He has two sons, Rabano and Romano. Romano, the younger brother, is the
clear favorite of the two; he is revered by his parents for his virtuous
character. In contrast, Rabano is power-hungry and ruthless. He
resolves to conquer land for himself and sets his sights on the land of Ardini,
a nearby ally. Baretti sees a learning opportunity: he supplies Rabano with men
and armaments, hoping that brutal defeat will show Rabano to be incapable of
One day, Ardini’s men trespass on Baretti’s land, and Rabano
seizes the opportunity to mount a retaliatory attack. But when it becomes clear
that Rabano is interested in senseless brutality, Baretti and his men come to
Ardini’s aid; their forces combined, Rabano will certainly suffer crushing
defeat. Rabano, realizing this, develops a burning hatred for his father and
resolves to get revenge. He enlists his trusted assistant Zalarra to disguise
himself as a priest and sneak to Ardini’s camp, where Baretti is currently
staying. Zalarra finds Baretti in the camp and tells him that Rabano is
prepared to make a peace offering.
Baretti follows him to meet Rabano in an isolated dell. But when
he arrives, Rabano gives his father an ultimatum: betray Ardini and aid in the
conquest of his land, or be killed where he stands. Baretti realizes that the
peace offering was a setup and begins to fight his assailants, but he is
eventually overcome and stabbed. Baretti is buried in a prepared grave, and the
assassins return home.
The next morning, Ardini’s camp is in a state of confusion.
Without orders from Baretti, the supplementary forces will not go into
battle—condemning Ardini to certain defeat at the hands of Rabano. They enact a
short truce with Rabano while they search for Baretti—but find nothing.
Rabano takes the throne. He is shocked, however, when Zalarra
finds Baretti’s grave unearthed and the body missing. Rabano is shaken by this
discovery, but he rules as if nothing is wrong. He sends Romano on a mission to
a neighboring chief, and he plans to throw a party to celebrate his ascension
to power. Despite their strained relationship, Ardini is invited.
At the party, Ardini is accompanied by his beautiful daughter
Miranda. When Rabano sees her, he is immediately enamored and resolves to make
her his own. He asks her to dance, but she refuses. Suddenly, Romano bursts
into the party. Romano explains that the hostile neighboring chief detained
him, but he managed to escape and make his way home. Rabano promises to look
into the matter later.
Romano catches glimpse of Miranda. He asks her to dance, and she
gladly accepts. Rabano is incensed at seeing this, and he plans how he will win
Miranda’s hand. Rabano pulls Miranda and Ardini into a private apartment.
Ardini steps into a neighboring room to give them some privacy, but the door is
shut on him and he finds himself trapped. Now alone with Miranda, Rabano urges
her to marry him, but she confesses that she already loves Romano.
Unprompted, Miranda remarks that Rabano and Zalarra look
suspiciously similar to two hooded figures she saw on the night of Baretti’s
murder. That same night, she had planned a secret meeting with Romano—in the
same isolated dell where Baretti was murdered. She arrived at the dell before
the murderers, but when she heard them approaching, she hid behind a tree. She
has not mentioned anything out of fear for herself and Romano.
Rabano cautions her to keep quiet. If her story got out, Romano
could be in serious danger; he too was missing on the night of
the murder. Miranda agrees and swears to stay silent. Rabano renews his attempts at
courting her. When she refuses again, he forces her towards a hidden chamber.
Meanwhile, Ardini suspects foul play when he is not let out of the
locked room. He escapes through a window, finds Romano, and explains that he
fears for Miranda; the group heads for the castle’s private apartments. When a
guard stops them, they slay him and rush upstairs just in time to catch Rabano
forcing Miranda into the hidden chamber.
Miranda steals Rabano’s weapon and tries to stab him, but the
blade breaks in two and fails to injure him. Soldiers alerted by Zalarra
descend on the group and arrest Romano and Ardini for high treason. Until their
trial, Miranda is to be detained in the hidden apartment, where Rabano persists
in his attempts for her hand almost daily.
One night, Rabano sneaks into Miranda’s chamber while she is
asleep and plants a kiss on her lips. He prepares to rape her, but a suit of
armor steps off its pedestal and stands between them. It shouts: “Thy reign is
short! At the trial, parricide, thou shalt behold me again” (30). The
apparition scares Rabano off from his attempts to violate Miranda.
The night before the trial, Rabano and Zalarra get drunk together.
Zalarra continues to give Rabano alcohol until he passes out on the floor.
Zalarra also has an eye for Miranda; he steals the keys to her secret chamber,
sneaks in, and kisses her while she sleeps. Before he can continue, however, a
figure in black robes shouts “Regicide!” (31). The figure warns Zalarra to
repent. Zalarra flees, wakes Rabano, but decides not to tell him about what he
saw. Instead, Zalarra suggests they search the castle for any other
apparitions. While searching, they discover that Miranda has escaped from her
chamber. Their efforts to locate her are fruitless.
Secretly, Miranda was conveyed by a mysterious monk to a cottage
outside of the castle through a hidden tunnel. In the cottage, she meets a
former servant of Baretti, who promises to lead her to the chamber where the
trial will be held, so she can expose Rabano and Zalarra. On the day of the trial, Ardini is tried first; he confesses to killing guards in
pursuit of Rabano, but he expects that the detention of his daughter will
justify his conduct. Romano is tried next. A priest steps up and testifies the
dying confession of a deserting soldier named Afran, who had allegedly stumbled
upon Romano burying Baretti’s body. He had pursued Romano, but Romano escaped,
and Afran was mortally wounded in the struggle. He did, however, manage to grab
a gorget bearing Romano’s name during the fight.
Romano explains that he was present at the dell on the night of
the murder—but only to see Miranda. As he arrived, he saw a figure stab the
victim. He was unable to reach the assassins in time, so he unearthed the body
and resolved to carry it to a nearby house. The body was too heavy, however, so
he instead brought it to a nearby cave. Afran, seeing Romano carry the body,
mistook him for the assassin and attacked.
The judge is prepared to issue a death sentence for Romano when
Miranda bursts in. She presents the cloak and banner Baretti wore on the night
of his murder, which were found in Rabano’s strongbox. The courtroom descends
into chaos until the aforementioned priest announces that he has one more piece
of evidence—a piece of paper naming the murderer, given by Afran in his final
moments. Zalarra snatches the paper from him and rips it to pieces. Chaos
returns, and the priest suddenly blows a whistle. The room is instantly flooded
with soldiers, and a figure appears at the head of the courtroom.
To everyone’s surprise, the figure is Baretti himself. He explains
that he survived the assassination attempt. After being carried to the cave, he
told Afran that Rabano was guilty. Since then, Baretti has been living in the
cottage, disguised as one of his own servants.
The courtroom instantly condemns Zalarra and Rabano. The judge
assigns both fiends formidable sentences. Rabano is confined to a cell at the
top of a large tower, which eventually collapses and crushes him to death.
Romano is declared the worthy successor to Baretti, and he reigns “with
unabated splendor” (40).
In this circa 1810 chapbook, backdropped against the outskirts of Italy, a complicated web of family, loyalty, and betrayal spirals a noble family into conspiracy and murder.
Fatal Vows is presented in a disbound pamphlet. The pamphlet was once bound, but there is no longer a hardcover. Paste on the spine of the pamphlet and gilding on the top edge of the pages reflect its previous state. Presumably, Fatal Vows was at some point bound with other pamphlets for ease of storage and style—a common practice at the time. The pages themselves are a linen blend (with perhaps a bit of cotton) in fairly decent shape. The paper is browned by age, but not brittle. There are no significant stains and few splotches—none that obscure the text or decrease legibility.
Fatal Vows is 18.4 x 11.3 cm in dimension, and sixteen pages long. Along the top of the pamphlet the pages are uniformly trimmed, but all other edges are slightly irregular. This variation is presumably due to the nature in which the collection of pamphlets was bound. Commonly, pamphlets of varying sizes were trimmed to the dimensions of the largest pamphlet. Works smaller than the largest pamphlet were often missed by the blade on a few sides, leading to irregularities in page edges like Fatal Vows’.
The front page of the pamphlet, once the University of Virginia note is moved aside, reads “William Coventry // Piccadilly.” This inscription indicates that the text was likely part of a personal collection. The next two pages feature the only two illustrations in the pamphlet, one in the frontispiece and one on the title page. The frontispiece illustration is brightly colored and depicts two men standing outside of a building. The man on the right, with a red cape and green suit, is holding out a sword. The man on the left, with yellow trousers and a blue tunic, appears to be making a vow on the sword. This illustration is helpfully captioned “Rinaldo binding Montavoli by an Oath.” Below the caption is the mark of the publisher, “Pub. By T. Tegg June 1810.”
The second illustration follows immediately after the title. At the top quarter of the page is the title, which varies between flowing cursive and block lettering (indicated by italicized and non-italicized text, respectively) reading: “Fatal Vows, // or // The False Monk, // a // Romance.” Below the title is the second illustration, depicting a man in purple leading a man in green down a staircase and into a stone room. The caption curves around the bottom of the illustration and reads “The Spirit of Montavoli’s Brother ledding him to a place of Safety.” Below the caption, once again, are three lines of the publisher’s information. The first line, “London”, indicates the city Fatal Vows was printed in. The next line repeats “Printed for Thomas Tegg, III, Cheapside June 1-1810” and the final line indicates the price: “Price Sixpence.”
Once the story itself begins, the page layout is relatively consistent. Aside from the first page, which repeats the title (interestingly adding a “the” before the title, the only point in the chapbook where this occurs) before beginning the story about halfway down the page, the margins on the page vary slightly from page to page but average out to a 2 cm outer margin, 1 cm inner margin, 2.5 cm bottom margin, and 0.5 to 0.75 cm top margin. At the top of each page, centered just above the text, is the title in all caps: FATAL VOWS. The page numbers are on the same line as the title, to the far left (for even number pages) or right (for odd number pages) edge of the text. The text itself is single-spaced. The only notable features in the story pages are the occasional letters at the bottom center of the page. Page six has a B, page nine has B3, page seventeen has a C, page nineteen has a C2, and page twenty-one has a C3. These letters serve to assist the printer in ordering the pages—pamphlets like these were generally printed on one large sheet, folded together, and then trimmed to allow for page-turning.
Unfortunately, there is very little either known or recorded on Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk, a Romance. Both the author and illustrator are unknown. Francis Lathom has been named as the author, notably by Google Books, due to the similarities in titles between Fatal Vows and his work The Fatal Vow; Or, St. Michael’s Monastery, but this is a misattribution. Only two copies of Fatal Vows are available online: one on Google Books courtesy of the British Library (although the author is misattributed, as Francis Lathom), and one through the University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection. Fatal Vows is mentioned in a handful of catalogs listing known gothic novels, but with no opinion or further insight attached to it, with one exception.
Fatal Vows has not been featured in much academic work. However, that does not mean Fatal Vows was entirely unnoted beyond the commercial sphere. Its one notable reference is an allegation that Fatal Vows is a plagiarism of, or at least very heavily influenced by, Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. In Peter Otto’s introduction to the Rare Printed Works from the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia, he notes: “Like Radcliffe’s works, Lewis’s novel inspired a host of plagiarizers, imitators and competitors. The mystery of the black convent (London: A. Neil, [n.d.]) and Fatal vows, or The false monk, a romance (London: Thomas Tegg, 1810) are two of the many chapbooks that draw heavily on The Monk.” This is the only academic work to articulate opinions on Fatal Vows, although it is cited in other works and catalogs.
There appear to be no prequels, sequels, reprints, translations, or adaptations connected to Fatal Vows. Even when published, there is no surviving (if any) mention of Fatal Vows in the ads or articles of the time. There was no announcement in the newspapers of the time and no evidence that Fatal Vows stirred any public notice or controversy.
The only name that can be reliably connected to Fatal Vows is the publisher of the novel. T. Tegg (or Thomas Tegg III) is listed on both available scans as the publisher and bookseller and is comparatively much more well documented. Tegg set himself apart from his contemporaries by both the low prices and the lower quality of the books he produced. His self-description as “the broom that swept the booksellers’ warehouses” fairly articulates his practice of reprinting successful novels, works past copyright protections, and remainders (Curwen 391). Considering the nature of the works published by Tegg, it is perhaps not unsurprising that Fatal Vows was published with little fanfare.
Narrative Point of View
Fatal Vows combines the main story told in the third person by an omniscient, detached narrator, and interpolated stories told by characters explaining things that either occurred off-page or before the story began. There is no meta-narrative of the story’s origin or any relation to the narrator, but characters often narrate their own backstories through letters and oral stories, which are narrated in the first-person voice of the relevant character. The style is fairly formal, with no contractions and winding prose. The epistolary narratives vary slightly depending on the character narrating them, ranging from powerful emoting to detached cynicism, but the overall tone is still formal and vaguely antiquated.
Example of Third-Person Narration:
Rinaldo now informed Count Montavole that Miranda was his own daughter by Serina. The Count grew very faint; to encrease his misery Rinaldo added: “Know likewise that it is a BROTHER who is the death of thee.” He had no sooner finished this speech than he was seized for the murder of the Count, and as he quitted the dungeon he put a paper into Alberto’s hands. Montavole only lived to ejaculate, “a brother ! Miranda too my daughter ! oh—” (25)
Example of Interpolated Oral Tale of Susanna’s Confession:
Unconscious of what I did, I took the dreadful oath, and went gently into Lady Leonora’s room, and changed children with her, by which means Montavole has reared up his brother’s son instead of his own. (20)
Example of Interpolated Tale of Rinaldo’s Letter:
Hereupon I was seized by two footmen in livery, who dragged me to a noble palace: I was conducted to an elegant saloon, when a nobleman, for so I learnt he was, desired me to relate the whole adventure; accordingly, I did. He then observed that I had been used ill, and in return desired his nephew to give me a diamond ring. (26)
Overall, this chapbook’s narration focuses much more internally than externally—there is little imagery or scene building, but a heavy emphasis on the actions of the characters, which drive the majority of the plot. This contrasts with the low-key delivery the narrator uses to convey plot twists or surprises, as exemplified in the first passage. Miranda being the daughter of Count Montavole is a devastating plot twist even by itself, but Rinaldo being the brother of Count Montavole is even more so. However, the verbs used to describe Rinaldo’s proclamation are low-energy (“informed” and “added” are not exactly declarations) and Montavole’s death (who, in fairness, was already on the way out) is received without much fanfare. Within the scene, the room is full of characters that would be rattled by these announcements, but their perspectives are not noted. Even the announcement of Miranda’s parentage reads like an afterthought.
When characters themselves are narrating, more of their personality is able to shine through and influence the story. Susanna’s passage, when she explains the kidnapping she committed almost two decades ago, is full of qualitative adjectives and descriptors; Susanna is one of the kinder, moral characters in the story. This is juxtaposed against Rinaldo describing an altercation in his boyhood, where he describes his own actions with more understated neutrality.
Fatal Vows takes place on the outskirts of Italy, in a castle owned by a Count named Savini. Count Savini has two sons: Montavole and Alberto. Alberto is the youngest and is a charming and obedient son, while Montavole is morose and selfish. Montavole leaves home at an early age to pursue his own interests, breaking Count Savini’s heart. While on his travels, Montavole is attacked by bandits. His life is saved by a stranger, who identifies himself as Rinaldo and commands Montavole to repay his debt by swearing a vow of friendship and loyalty. Montavole is troubled but agrees, and Rinaldo vanishes into the night with an ominous “be careful of Saint Peter’s day” (7).
Eventually, Montavole hears word that his father is critically ill and returns home to see him before he passes. Unfortunately, he is too late, but in their grief Montavole and Alberto reconcile and Montavole decides to settle down. Montavole marries a rich woman named Leonora, and Alberto marries his fianceé, Matilda. Montavole and Leonora are miserable, as their marriage was one for money rather than love and Leonora is afraid of Rinaldo, who Montavole now keeps company with, but Alberto and Marilda are happy and in love. However, tragedy strikes one night when Alberto is murdered. The murderer escapes into the night, and the heavily-pregnant Matilda dies of grief in labor shortly after.
Over the next twenty years, two things of note occur. Firstly, Rinaldo is arrested after killing a man in a dispute, but escapes from jail just before his execution. Secondly, a baby girl is left on Montavole and Leonora’s doorstep with a letter in her crib. Leonora reads the letter, swoons, and decides to raise the child (now named Miranda) as her own, locking the letter away without explanation.
At the end of these twenty years, Leonora is now on her deathbed. Montavole and their son, Alphonso, (who is in love with Miranda despite the two being kept apart by his father) have been out of the kingdom for weeks, leaving only Miranda around to tend to Leonora. Knowing her time is coming to an end, Leonora decides it is time for Miranda to know the truth about her birth. She gives Miranda a key to a cabinet that holds the mysterious letter from her crib. Leonora directs her to read the letter, burn it, and then leave the castle to join the nearby convent. Her only warning is to avoid the castle’s resident monk, Roderigo, who she finds suspicious. After Leonora dies, Miranda goes to the cabinet, but the letter is not there. She despairs, but is interrupted by a mysterious voice that tells her “You have a father living… your father is a murderer!” (13—14). Overcome with shock, Miranda faints.
Alphonso and Montavole return, too late to say goodbye to Leonora. Alphonso rushes to Miranda but Montavole stops him. He has betrothed Alphonso to the daughter of a man to whom he owes a significant amount of money. In exchange for Alphonso’s hand (and prestigious family name) the man will not only forgive Montavole’s debts but offer a substantial dowry. Alphonso is heartbroken but consents.
Miranda, in the meantime, goes for a walk in the surrounding countryside to bolster her spirits. She comes across a cottage with an old woman named Susanna and her nephew, Alonzo, who is insane. Susanna tells Miranda that eighteen years ago, a woman who looked very much like her came to the cottage and died, leaving behind a baby who was taken away by a “mean-looking man” (15). Miranda concludes that she must have been the baby, but returns homes before uncovering anything else. However, as soon as she returns home Roderigo (the suspicious monk Leonora was so afraid of) seizes her and locks her in an abandoned tower. Montavole ordered her to be locked away so she could not get in the way of Alphonso’s wedding, and Roderigo tells her she will stay there for the rest of her life.
Meanwhile, with Miranda effectively out of the picture, Alphonso and Cassandra’s wedding goes off without a hitch. In the ceremony, however, Cassandra drinks a goblet of wine (provided to her by Roderigo) and dies of poisoning. There was another goblet of wine meant for Alphonso, but he disappears shortly after the ceremony and is spared from the chaos. The castle descends into an uproar.
After a few days in the tower, Miranda discovers a key to the door and flees to Susanna’s cottage. She begs Susanna to let her stay the night before she leaves the kingdom, and Susanna readily agrees. That night, however, Montavole and Roderigo break into the cottage. Miranda tries to intervene but she is powerless to stop Montavole and Roderigo, and they murder Alonzo. Susanna comes down just in time to see his death and exclaims “Count Montavole you have killed your son, the real offspring of Leonora… you cruel man!” (19—20). Shocked, Montavole flees. Roderigo takes away the body, and Susanna confesses Alonzo’s backstory to Miranda.
Susanna used to be a servant at the castle. When Matilda died, her child had actually survived, but lord Montavole commanded her to take the child away to the cottage and raise it as her nephew. However, Susanna switched Alberto’s child (Alphonso) with Montavole’s (for no discernable motive) and took him instead. Shortly after confessing, Susanna dies of grief. Miranda returns to the castle, hoping to beg Alphonso for protection, but comes across Roderigo instead. He gives her the letter Leonora had meant to leave her and leaves the room. Miranda finally learns her origins.
Montavole was Miranda’s real father all along. Her mother, Serina, was a noblewoman with a sickly father and little money. Montavole secretly murdered her father, who had attempted to keep him away from Serina, took Serina in, and got her pregnant. He strung her along for a while, promising that once his father died they would get married, but one day Rinaldo revealed to Serina that Montavole’s father had died long ago. Moreover, he had been married to a rich woman for the past twelve months. Serina fled, selling her clothes and jewelry, but was robbed by a coachman. She made her way to Susanna’s cottage and died of grief, and baby Miranda was taken away to the castle.
Meanwhile, Count Montavole is hiding out in one of his dungeons, having been led there by his brother’s ghost—but it is not his ghost. Alberto has been alive the entire time. Roderigo (who is revealed as Rinaldo) bursts in, in the middle of an unspecified fight with Alphonso, but switches tactics to kill Montavole. In Montavole’s final breath he realizes Miranda is also his daughter.
Miranda and Alphonso marry, and Rinaldo is put to death. A letter he wrote before his arrest reveals his own motivation. Rinaldo was actually Alberto and Montavole’s half-brother. His mother, Angelina, was seduced by Alberto and Montavole’s father (Count Savini), but he grew tired of her and abandoned her. Angelina gave birth to Rinaldo and managed to get by for a few years, but caught small-pox and lost her beauty. All her admirers abandoned her, and they were forced to sell all their furniture and move into a small apartment. They eventually ran out of money, and when Rinaldo was nineteen they were evicted. Angelina died in the streets, penniless and heartbroken, but before she passed she told Rinaldo about his father and begged him to avenge her death.
Now it is Alberto’s turn to reveal how he survived. Count Montavole had hired an assassin to kill him, but the wound was not fatal. One of Rinaldo’s servants saved him but locked him in a dungeon in the castle, where he lived until the servant slipped up and left behind a key. The servant himself had conveniently died a few days ago. With all the mysteries explained, everyone lives happily ever after.
Curwen, Henry. “Thomas Tegg: Book-Auctioneering and the “Remainder Trade.” A History of Booksellers, the Old and the New 1st ed., Chatto and Windus, 1873.
Fatal Vows: or the False Monk, a Romance. Thomas Tegg, 1810.
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.
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 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 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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).
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).
Point of View
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
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)
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
edition of TheCastle 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 TheCastle
of Montabino, as being printed and sold by S.Bailey.
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).
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.
“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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
“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.
Hoeveler, Daine L.
“Sarah Wilkinson: Female Gothic Entrepreneur.” Gothic Archive: Related
Scholarship, Marquette University, 1 Jan. 2015.
The Movable Book Society Newsletter,
May 2013 (“Vintage Pop-Up Books” with further information, accessed 30 October
Potter, Franz. “The
Romance of Real Life: Sarah Wilkinson.” The History of Gothic Publishing: 1800–1835, Palgrave UK, 2005, pp.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Castle of Montabino; or The Orphan Sisters: an Original Romance.
London, Dean and Munday, 1810.
This chapbook printed in 1800 by S. Fisher contains thirteen humorous yet captivating short stories set in cities across Europe. The stories touch on a variety of themes—from romance to murder—and are sure to provide for an entertaining read.
Upon first glance, Fisher’s Cheerful Companion to Promote Laughter is a small,
unassuming book comprised of 48 delicate pages. There is no binding on the
book, although it appears as though there was one at some point in time as the
edges are slightly frayed with pieces of material hanging off of them. The book
itself is quite small, only being 10 cm in width and 18 cm in height. It is
also very delicate since there is no binding, and it must be handled with care.
When initially opening the book, the
first thing you see is the title page on the right-hand side. Since the title
is unusually long, it ends up covering half of the whole page. This book
contains thirteen different short stories, so below the title all thirteen of
the stories’ titles are listed out. These stories include: The Three Dexterous Thieves, The Wishes, The Widgeon, The Lucky
Disaster, The Hunch-back’d Minstrels, The Conjurer, The Fortunate Peasant, The
Two Rogues, The Humorous Miller, The Adventures of Scaramouch, The Unfortunate
Spaniard,The Ghost, and Mutual Confidence on the Wedding Night.
Below these titles is a simple quote: “If you wish for to pass a dull hour
away, Purchase this Cheerful Companion I pray.” There is nothing that indicates
who the author is, however further below this quote it says that it is printed
and sold by S. Fisher. The book was published in the year 1800 in London at
No.10, St. John’s Lane, Clerkenwell, and was also sold by T. Hurst, No. 32,
Paternoster Row. In addition to the publication information, a line with the
text “Price Sixpence” is placed in the bottom right corner.
Facing this first page is a
well-maintained black and white frontispiece which happens to be the only
illustration in the entire book. The illustration depicts a scene from the
first story of this book— The Three
contains the quote that it is portraying: “Unhappy wretches! You will certainly
come to the same end with me (Page 6).” Above this illustration, very small
font reads: “London. Pub Jan.1.1800, by S. Fisher,” which is a repetition of
the publication information on the adjacent page.
While the pages themselves are dainty,
they are also made out of a fairly thick cotton-like material. The pages are
yellowed and stained and seem to be quite worn and weathered throughout the years.
Some of the margins are crooked, and the text is printed at an angle, which is
the most evident on the first page of the first story. Throughout the book it
is apparent that some of the text has bled or been smudged. Additionally, some
of the text is faded or heavily bolded in patches. While the book may seem
short, the text is very small and closely set with a medium sized margin. At
the bottom of a few pages there is a single capital letter which exists as an
aid during the original binding of the book to determine how to fold the pages.
Each story begins with the title surrounded by separating lines and begins
right after the other story is finished, rather than being printed on the next
page. At the top of each of the pages is the name of the current story. Another
interesting thing to note about this book is that a “long s” is used throughout
the book, which was a style used during this time period. It appears to mimic
handwriting, and the s’s in the middle of a word more closely resemble f’s.
There is not much known about the history
of the text Fisher’s Cheerful Companion,
or its printer, Simon Fisher. The book was originally published in London in
1800, with another edition that came out shortly after in 1801. The first edition
contained 48 pages, while the second edition contained only 42 pages total.
Each edition has a different frontispiece, with the first one containing an
illustration from the story “The Three Dexterous Thieves” and the second one
with an illustration from “The Hunch-back’d Minstrels.” Simon Fisher’s
smaller-scale printing business specialized in publishing “bluebooks,” which
are short works of gothic fiction that were common in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries (Potter 44). Fisher’s Cheerful Companion was only
published in English with no translated versions of it. This book was also sold
by a T. Hurst who is mentioned on the opening title page of the book. Fisher
also published other gothic texts, including The Life and Singular Memoirs, of Matilda (1802), The Black Castle (1803), The True and Affecting History of the
Duchess of C**** (1803), The
Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance (1828), Castle
of Wolfenbach (1824), and Children Of
The Abbey (1824) (see Potter 167–77; Summers 268, 274).
Currently, there are numerous digital
copies of Fisher’s Cheerful Companion,
and many other electronic reproductions and microfilms. Specifically, the first
edition of the book was digitized in Eighteenth Century Collections Online.
There is a digital copy of the second edition available on Google Books. Aside
from the many digital copies, there also are hard copies published in 2010 by
Gale that can be found on Amazon or Ebay. Nabu Press also published a reprint
of the book in 2011. Aside from these limited findings, there is not much else
that is known about this book, or Simon Fisher.
Point of View
Cheerful Companion is narrated in third-person by an
unknown narrator who never appears in the text itself. The narration does not
have a lot of insight into the minds of the characters, and focuses a lot on
the flow of events. This is displayed in run-on sentences and a fast-paced
plot, quickly moving from one action to the next. While the sentences can be
lengthy, there is a choppy sort of feel to it. Additionally, the narration also
provides a moral, of sorts, for each story.
Scaramouch being arrived at Rome in the month of December, where the north wind is felt more severely than in any other place in Italy; and having only a little silk cloak, which covered him behind (his father having driven him from Naples because he made too free with his fingers), began to consider how he should defend himself from cold and hunger, whom he looked upon as his greatest enemies. (35)
In this passage and throughout the book,
the narration appears like a long stream of thoughts, strung together. By doing
so, it makes the book much more captivating and difficult to put it down. One
sentence seems to go on forever and eases into the next, which is enough to put
someone in a sort of trance while reading it. While this is effective in this
sense, at times it can become hard to follow, and often sidetracks before
returning back to the plot. These tangents, however, only strengthen effect of
the stories, appearing as if someone were just rambling on and on. Frequently,
this narration feels as though it is intended to be read aloud.
Fisher’s Cheerful Companion contains thirteen separate stories:
Three Dexterous Thieves
Two brothers Hamet and Berard, and their
accomplice Travers are described as rogues and are said to be in the business
of kidnapping and pilfering. When walking through the woods one day, Hamet and
Berard decide to show their talents in thieving. Hamet steals and replaces the
eggs from underneath a magpie, without disturbing the bird. While doing so,
Berard unbuttons Hamet’s pants without Hamet knowing. Travers is so astonished
by both of these acts that he claims he cannot keep up with them and renounces
thieving forever. He goes back to live in his village with his wife, and saves
enough money to buy a hog for Christmas.
Soon enough, Hamet and Berard come to
Travers’s village to reunite with their old friend. Travers leaves to work in
the fields right as the brothers come to visit, and his wife relays this
information to them. Before they leave, they notice the hog and decide to steal
it and eat it when the night falls.
Travers returns and upon hearing of the brothers’ visit, he hides the
hog. When night falls, the two brothers arrive and discover that the hog has
been moved. Travers hears a noise and leaves to go check on his stables. Upon
hearing him leave, Berard mimics his voice and calls out to Travers’ wife
asking where the hog went. His wife, Mary, responds and tells him exactly where
it is, and the two brothers successfully steal the hog. Travers soon returns
and hears of their antics and quickly sets off after them. He soon comes upon
Berard carrying the hog, and mimics Hamet’s voice to steal the hog back. Upon
discovering Travers’s antics when Berard catches up to Hamet, Berard disguises
himself as Mary and runs back to Travers’s home.
Once again, Berard tricks Travers into
giving him the pork by claiming he heard something in the stables and demanded
Travers go investigate. Once Travers discovers he has been tricked again, he
runs for the forest where he assumes they will escape to. He sees a light and
discovers Hamet and Berard cooking the meat. Travers then strips himself naked
and climbs into a tree to pretend to be a hanging corpse. Once they return,
Travers screams at them which scares them off, and then victoriously reclaims
his hog. He and his wife start cooking the hog in a cauldron to eat. Before
long, both of them drift off to sleep and the two brothers return. They climb
onto the roof and use a long stick to pierce pieces of the pork in the cauldron
to steal. Travers’ awakes to catch them in the act and realizes that he cannot
keep doing this so he invites them in to eat the pork together and reconnect.
The duke d’Offona regularly disguises himself and walks around the city so
that he learns of the commoner’s grievances and can address them. On one
particular night when he is walking around the city, he runs into three
soldiers and joins them for a drink. After a while of drinking and singing,
they decide to go around and each say what they think would make them happiest
for the rest of their lives. The first one says that he wishes to have “the sum
of one thousand crowns” (9). The second wishes to be a captain of one of the
duke’s guards. The third says that he wishes to spend a night with the duke’s
wife. Finally, the duke says that his wish is to be the duke so that he can
grant each of the soldiers’ wishes. Once they are finished, the duke finds out each
of the soldiers’ names and sends for them the very next day. The duke asks each
of the soldiers’ wishes again. He graciously grants the wishes of the first two
soldiers. However, when it comes to the third soldier, the duke says that he
cannot grant him his wish, but he can introduce him to his wife. The story ends
with the last soldier wishing that he had a different wish.
The two main characters in this story are
Jack Sawwell, a carpenter, and his wife, Mrs. Anne. Jack gives his wife money
to buy dinner for them, and she goes to the market to buy what she thinks is a
wild duck, when it is in fact a widgeon. When Mrs. Anne serves the widgeon to
Jack—who has hunted widgeons in the past—he immediately identifies it as a
widgeon and not a duck. Mrs. Anne starts arguing with Jack, insisting it is a
duck. The argument quickly transpires into a physical fight between husband and
wife. Jack is the victor, and Mrs. Anne goes back to being a passive obedient
wife. At dinner the next night, Mrs. Anne brings up the matter of the duck
again, and another flight quickly ensues. Jack claims that Mrs. Anne enjoys
arguing just for the sake of arguing. When Mrs. Anne hurls a large plate at
Jack’s head, the plate smashes into a set of china, shattering it. Soon the
neighbors arrive, startled by the load noises, and the fight dissipates. For
every night from now on, a fight breaks out between the couple over the
Monsier Mignard is a widowed apothecary
with one daughter named Susan. Susan marries a physician who is the son of one
of Monsier Mignard’s friends, Dr. Eloy. Monsier Mignard brings in a woman named
Agnes to council Susan. Susan quickly realizes that the man she married is not
a very promising husband, and her attention is drawn to a man named Gorillon
who comes from a lower-income family. Agnes supports Susan’s relationship with
Gorillon and helps them to meet secretly with each other. When her father is
out of town, Susan invites Gorillon over. While Gorillon is waiting in Monsier
Mignard’s chamber for Susan—who is meeting with unexpected visitors—he becomes
thirsty and drinks a glass of what appears to be water. Little does he know,
Monsier Mignard has just made this narcotic water which puts whoever consumes
it in a profound sleep. Once Gorillon drinks this, he falls into a deep
death-like sleep. Susan and Agnes come into the room and encounter his lifeless
body. They think he is dead, and try to decide what to do with his body. Agnes
looks around and discovers a large wooden box from a gunsmith’s shop in the
middle of the street which they decide to place the body in. At this time, the
gunsmith remembers that his men had left the box out in the street and goes
back with them to put it away. The men are too tired to realize that the box
became significantly heavier, and they place the box in the kitchen.
At three in the morning, Gorillion wakes
up and escapes from the box. This wakes the people in the house up, and they
soon discover Gorillon and think he is a thief. The police come and interrogate
him; however, Gorillon refuses to mention Susan for fear that their
relationship will be discovered, so he is thrown into a dungeon. His case soon
spreads across the city and Agnes and Susan hear about it. Monsier Mignard also
returns from his trip and complains about how his narcotic water is missing.
Agnes puts the pieces together, and Agnes and Susan explain the situation to
the gunsmith allowing for Gorillon’s release. The gunsmith happens to be
friends with Monsier Mignard, and talks with him to allow for Gorillon and
A hunchbacked man lives in a castle near
a small town. He is a very ugly man, but he has amassed quite a bit of wealth.
There is one woman in the town that catches his eye, and he requests her hand
in marriage. Even though she is repulsed by him, because of his wealth, she
cannot say no and they are married. Around Christmas, three hunchbacked
minstrels show up at the castle. They start making fun of the hunchbacked man,
but he takes it surprisingly well and invites them in to eat. When they are
leaving, the local man warns the minstrels to never come back again or he shall
kill them. They leave and the man leaves as well, walking toward the country.
His wife then calls out to the minstrels
who are leaving and tells them to come back. They entertain her until her
husband returns and knocks on the door. The wife panics and tells the three men
to hide in three empty trunks that are in the room. After her husband leaves
again, the wife opens the trunks to find that all three men have suffocated and
died. She spots a countryman passing and asks him if he can help her dispose of
a body in exchange for money as long as he does not say anything. She shows him
the first body, which he throws in a river. Then when he returns, she shows him
the next, which the countryman believes is the same one as before that has
returned from the river. He takes this second body down to the river and is
shocked when he returns and sees the body for a third time. The wife claims it
must be a sorcerer, and the man ties a stone around the body’s neck so that it
cannot escape again. When the man is returning from throwing a body in the
river for a third time, he runs into the husband who is returning from the
country. He thinks that the hunchbacked husband is the same body that keeps
appearing back in the castle, so he kills him and throws him in a sack and into
the river. When the countryman returns and tells the wife of his encounter, she
realizes what has transpired and is delighted that her husband is dead. She
pays the countryman the sum of money that she promised, and he goes on his way.
Robin is a poor old villager and will do
anything to become wealthy and to taste luxurious food and liquors. He comes up
with a plan to move to a part of the country where no one knows him and say he
is a conjurer, which is a well-respected profession. Robin sets off on his
journey and soon arrives at the gates of Tony Simpleton, a well-known man of
great wealth. Tony’s servants had recently stolen his wife’s diamond ring and
his wife was determined to figure out what had happened to it, so she turned to
the conjurer for his aid. Robin tells her that he can find the ring after three
days, but he needs to be fed luxurious foods and a place to stay during his
search. She complies and Robin is fed the best meal of his life. The next day,
Robin feasts again and drinks to his heart’s content. One by one, on each day
Robin is there, each of the three servants that had taken part in stealing the
ring go up to see if Robin has discovered their secret. Robin is drunk every
time they see him and they all misinterpret his drunken words and are soon
convinced Robin knows their secret.
On the last morning, the three servants
go up to Robin and give him the ring, pleading for mercy. Robin is thrilled by
his luck and pretends to have known all along. He says he will keep their
secret, so he forces one of the turkeys in the yard to eat the ring. He informs
the lady where the ring is, and tells them to kill the one that he fed the
ring. The ring is recovered and the lady is in awe with the conjurer and
insists that he stay another night to meet Tony who returns from his travels
the next day. Tony immediately thinks Robin is an imposter and threatens to
have him kicked out. The lady insists that he put Robin’s powers to a test
before he is kicked out. Tony captures a small robin in a handkerchief and asks
Robin to tell him what is in the handkerchief. Robin knows he cannot say what
is in it and exclaims his name and his misfortunes. Since his name—Robin—is
what is actually in the handkerchief, Tony invites him to stay longer and
grants all of his wishes.
A king travels across the country in
disguise and converses with regular people. One day, he comes upon a peasant
who instantly recognizes the king despite his disguise. The peasant claims he
does not recognize him and the king continues talking to him. The peasant tells
him how much money he makes—eight-pence—and the king questions how he spends
his money. The peasant tells him he spends two-pence on himself and his wife,
two-pence to pay debts, two-pence he lends, and another two-pence he gives
away. The king wants to be of service to him, but makes him promise not to tell
anyone of their conversation until he sees the king’s face again. The next day
the king sends off some men to solve this problem of how the peasant spends his
money, and promises them a reward if they explain it correctly to them. One of
these men goes to try to find the peasant and ask him what the explanation is.
Once he finds him, he bribes him with a handful of gold and gets the
explanation out of the peasant. The message is relayed to the king and even
though the king knows the peasant broke his promise, he still gives the man his
reward. The next day he goes out to see the peasant again and asks him why he
broke his promise. The peasant says the he did in fact see the face of the king
again on the pieces of gold, so he was allowed to say what they discussed. The
king is pleased with this answer and appoints the peasant to be prime minister.
Squire Hedgedich is riding his horse
across the fields belonging to a farmer named Hobnail. Hedgeditch comes up to
an open gate next to Hobnail, which Hobnail closes, and stops Hedgeditch in his
tracks. Out of anger, Hedgeditch hits Hobnail across the shoulders. Hobnail
complains about this to an attorney from London named Goosequill who talks him
into pressing charges for battery. Goosequill needs to travel to the court of
assizes, and decides to buy a horse from an innkeeper to take him there. The
innkeeper realizes that Goosequill knows nothing about horses and sells him the
weakest horse he owns. The horse cannot carry him very far and collapses
underneath him. Goosequill gets to the next inn where he buys another more fit
horse, leaving the weaker horse at that inn. He eventually makes it and ends up
winning the case for Hobnail. Goosequill returns to retrieve his weak horse
that has become much stronger since being in the care of this other innkeeper.
However, the horse still cannot carry him back to London. Goosequill sends the
horse to London for an easy journey back, and soon gets to London himself by
different means. Once in London, he gets back on his horse and rides to the inn
where he was sold the horse, pretending that he just got back from the long
journey. The innkeeper is shocked that the horse was able to carry him that far
and offers to buy the horse back. Goosequill says he will only sell the horse
at a high price which the innkeeper cannot afford. Goosequill leaves and then
immediately sends his servant Tom to the innkeeper to attempt to buy his horse.
Tom and the innkeeper agree on the high price and Tom pays half of it saying he
will pay the rest the next day. However, the next morning Goosequill says he
needs to leave immediately on his horse. The innkeeper says he sold the horse,
and gives Goosequill the money.
On a newlywed couple’s wedding night, as
the couple lies in bed, the man says that he will tell her a secret of his. He
says that before he met her four years ago, he had a child with another woman.
He says that if she allows him, he can send for the child to come home. The
wife responds with her own story of how she had a child herself and will send
for her child to come home if he allows it. The husband runs outside and starts
yelling like a madman. This wakes the mother and father-in-law. The
mother-in-law goes to check on the daughter and asks what the daughter said to
have caused her husband to yell like that. Meanwhile, the curious father-in-law
listens at the door. The daughter tells her what happened, and the mother yells
at her, telling her daughter she should not have said that and that she herself
has had multiple children before she married her husband. The father-in-law
hears this at the door and goes to talk to the wallowing husband; they share
their common misfortunes with each other.
An evil lord who enjoys tormenting people
learns about an astrologist named Mumbletext who everyone thought to be a
practitioner of black magic. The lord calls for Mumbletext and tells him to
answer four questions or he will tell everyone that he is an imposter. The four
questions that the lord asks him to answer are: where is the middle of the
world, how much am I worth, what do I think, and what do I believe. The lord
says he has to answer these questions or confess that he is a cheat. Mumbletext
buys more time by asking for an extra day to answer so that he can consult the
planets. On his way back, he bumps into a clever miller who offers to disguise
himself as Mumbletext to answer the lord’s questions for him. The next day, the
miller disguises himself as Mumbletext and goes up to the lord. The miller says
that he can show the lord where the middle of the earth is since it is not far
from his house. The miller shows him the exact spot in a field where the middle
of the earth is. The lord cannot disprove it so he asks each of the other
questions to which the miller has a clever response. The lord is impressed by
these answers and is thoroughly entertained so he says that the miller is
welcomed into his house any time and will remit Mumbletext’s punishment.
Adventures of Scaramouch
Scaramouch comes to Rome in the middle of
the winter with no money and no food. He begs in front of a snuff-merchant’s
shop and asks people for a pinch of the snuff when they leave the store. He
collects a full bottle of this during the day and resells it at night. A Swiss
guard comes into the shop, and when he is leaving Scaramouch attempts to take
some snuff from him. The guard hits him with a halberd and leaves him bruised.
Scaramouch leaves Rome, fearing for his life and goes to a town called
Civita-Vecchia. There he encounters two slaves counting up money that they have
earned, and pretends that they stole from him. He is able to convince the judge
that it is his money, and leaves a richer man. He then sets off for another
town called Lombardy and hires a valet. They stop at an inn where Scaramouch
eats and drinks too much and passes out soon after. The valet steals all of
Scaramouch’s belongings, leaving him with nothing. Scaramouch arrives at
another town and is immediately jumped by a man who mistakenly thinks that he
is a runaway slave. Once the mistake is realized, Scaramouch leaves and
realizes he can’t keep living this way and he needs a new way to make money.
A Spaniard named Diego decides to travel
to France for a vacation. He dresses very extravagantly, and is laughed at and
called a madman everywhere he goes in Paris. Crowds start to form around him
and slowly become more hostile with people throwing dirt and pushing him
around. Diego rushes into the first open house that he can see, however the
people surrounded the house and started throwing stones at him. Everywhere he
goes, Diego is greeted by more angry people, and the mob gets worse and worse.
Two women begin fighting and Diego sees this as a distraction for the crowd and
he sprints to a church. Everyone in the church beings to laugh at him. Diego is
eventually saved by his landlord and returns home to Spain, determined to tell
everyone not to visit France.
A young count of the Hobenloe family is
sent to Paris to improve his manners. His house mate is another young man from
a noble family and the young Hobenloe begins to learn a lot very quickly from
this man. The young count soon dies and gives his new friend the money that he
has inherited. Two English noblemen arrive at the same house that they were
staying, and stay in a room adjacent to where the dead body is being held. The
room is small, so the two men must share a bed. During the night, one of the
Englishmen heard people talking in the kitchen and went to join them. When he
returns to his room, he goes into the wrong room and gets into bed with the
dead body. He notices how cold the body is and starts asking it questions,
assuming it to be his friend. A servant enters the room carrying a coffin. The
man jumps up, realizing his mistake. However, the servant thinks that it is the
dead body jumping up and runs out of the room to get more people. Meanwhile the
Englishman returns to his room in shock. A priest comes with holy water to deal
with what they think is a ghost, and everyone regards him as a saint for the
body doesn’t move again. The friend of the count who died goes to get the
inheritance money, and is mistaken for the count by a banker and his wife. The
friend decides to impersonate the dead count, so when the banker goes to visit
the house where the count resided, he is shocked to learn of the count’s death.
The people in the house and the banker both think that they have seen a ghost.
Fisher’s Cheerful Companion to Promote Laughter;
Being a Humorous Collection of Interesting Stories for a Winter’s Evening
Fireside; or Amusement for Summer, in a Shady Retreat. London, S. Fisher, 1800.
“Fisher’s Cheerful Companion to Promote Laughter;” Google Books, Google, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Fisher_s_Cheerful_Companion_to_Promote_L/KaBbAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0&kptab=overview.
Potter, Franz J. The History of Gothic Publishing,
1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave
Summers, Montague. A
Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune Press, 1941.
Follow along with the endeavors of Julian in this chapbook, written circa 1799, to reveal secrets about his past in an unsettling castle.
The front cover of The Haunted Castle presents nothing other than bounded cardboard binding; the cover includes no text nor images. The side of the book features a small, red, leather bound print stating The Haunted Castle at the top of the novel. Other than this small print on the side, there is nothing else on any of the binding. The title of the book appears at the top of the first page in large cursive script, resembling handwriting. The author’s name does not appear on this page with the title; in fact, the author’s name never appears anywhere in the novel. The rest of the title page is blank, leaving empty, unused space. The publication date also does not appear anywhere. The second page includes a strange piece of text, printed upside down at the bottom of the page in near illegible print, which most likely translates to “sixpence novel.” This suggests that the novel was made cheaply, as also suggested by the cover. The back of this page, includes a detailed, full-page graphic of a castle that’s printed in only black and white. The illustration presents a number of knights guiding a woman outside the large entrance of the castle. A caption in thick, bold capital letters stating “Promnelli Castle,” appears below the illustration.
The following page introduces the start of the novel, with the title appearing once again at the top of the page. The text of the story, running 48 pages long, does not contain separate chapters.
The pages are in very fragile condition, nearly falling apart with each turn of a page. Pages 11 and 12 are even missing from this particular copy. The cardboard binding of the book however, which is 11 cm by 18 cm, appears to be in significantly better condition than the pages inside the novel. After the conclusion of the text, several blank, thicker pages were added to this copy of the book to make the binding easier. Printer notes, such as “A2” or “C3,”appear at the bottom of many pages. These were used as a mechanism for the printer, so that they would know how to assemble and fold the pages correctly when putting together the book.
While not tiny, the print of the book is small and slightly faint. The pages also include thin margins along all sides. Most, but not all, words that have an S are printed with the long S, which looks like an f and mimics handwriting, making the novel more difficult to read. With the exception of the illustration at the start of the text, throughout the story there are no other images included until the last page. Beneath the last paragraph of text, a small depiction of another castle sits right under the final paragraph, with “Printed by T. Maiden, Sherbourne Lane” placed beneath it. This last page also includes one of the only signs of any previous owners or readers. Marked in light pencil, just to the left of the image of the castle, is “1702.” There are no other comments found in the book that can help interpret the meaning of this simple note. The bottom left corner of page 22 also features a faded stain of an unidentifiable substance. These two markings are the only signs of any prior use.
The author of The Haunted Castle is unknown, but most likely resided in England, since the book was published and printed in London. Thomas Maiden, Sherbourne-Lane, printed the book for Ann Lemoine, a British chapbook seller and publisher (Bearden-White 103). According to Montague Summers’s Gothic Bibliography, two other books, also titled The Haunted Castle, were published around the same time. Summers lists The Haunted Castle. A Norman Romance by George Walker as well as The Haunted Castle written by August Lafontaine (originally written in German); this latter version is contained in the collection In Tales of Humour and Romance (Summers 348). All three of these texts, however, are distinct and not related in any way.
The University of Virginia Special Collections Library holds the anonymously written The Haunted Castle, whichMontague Summers suggests was published in 1799. This copy appears to be the first printing and has not since been digitized online. Another edition, which can be found digitized online in HathiTrust, titled The Haunted Castle; or, The Child of Misfortune, was published in 1801, as stated on its title page. These editions are nearly identical but have just a few differing qualities between the two texts. First, both titles have the segment The Haunted Castle, but the first printing includes only this piece; the longer, The Haunted Castle; or, The Child of Misfortune, was added when the book was republished in 1801. The earlier edition consists of 48 pages, while the copy from 1801 has only 44. This 1801 copy also opens with a line that appears a few sentences into the first paragraph of the earlier version. The large, detailed image that appears before the start of the novel also differs in the two versions; the illustration in the HathiTrust (1801) copy looks more applicable to the text itself as it presents a man with an expression of fear facing an apparition of a woman. The illustration in the University of Virginia’s copy shows a woman, surrounded by knights, in front of a castle with the print “PROMINELLI CASTLE” at the foot. A second, and much smaller, image of a distant castle can also be found in both versions, with just a few distinctions concerning layout. In the earlier text, this drawing appears after the final paragraph, while in the 1801 version it sits on the title page. This suggests that some text was cut and re-edited before the novel was republished in 1801. The HathiTrust copy also does not incorporate the start of a short piece at the end titled, “IVAR AND MATILDA.” The earlier edition includes just a page and a half of this story before concluding the entire book. It is completely unrelated, and was likely the start to another chapbook in a larger collection.
Another copy of the chapbook, not digitized online, can be found in a four-volume compilation, also published in 1801, known as English Nights Entertainments. While there is not much knowledge on this edition, information provided by The Women’s History Project states a matching number of pages as the copy in the University of Virginia’s library, as well as the same publisher and publishing city. Bearden-White’s compilation notes about English Nights Entertainments also mention “IVAR AND MATILDA” appearing on pages 47 and 48, as they do in the University of Virginia copy.
No scholarly study of The Haunted Castle can be found, which may be a result of lack of information the text itself provides. There is no evidence of any advertisements when the book was released or that it has been adapted into any other forms. After the 1801 copy, there are not any other publications or reprintings that are publicly known. The book also does not have any prequels are sequels.
Narrative Point of View
The Haunted Castle is narrated by a third-person, anonymous narrator that does not appear anywhere in the text. This narrator solely follows the story of the protagonist, Julian, and his endeavors after suddenly departing from his previous lodging, where he has spent his entire life. The narration is very descriptive, using lots of adjectives and long sentences to convey the plot information to the reader in the most detailed way; it sometimes details Julian’s emotions but never explores his thoughts and rather mainly focuses just on his actions. The story is told in chronological order of events, with no jumps back or forth in time, but is narrated in the past tense.
To participate in some of these scenes, the disconsolate Julian, expelled from the asylum which had fostered his infancy, without fortune or friends, and only a few ducats in his pocket, with some necessary linen, and no other guardian than his integrity, nor other companion than his horse, set out from Warsenburg upon a long and doubtful journey. As he passed the drawbridge to go out, an old domestic of the family saluted him, and knowing he was taking his departure for good, crossed himself, and wished him the most prosperous adventures. (1)
While the narrator includes descriptive accounts of Julian’s adventures, the narration does not include any dramatic irony or foreshadowing. Therefore, the narration always requires the reader to follow along with Julian and includes no additional insight to what is going to happen next on his journey. Paired with this, the incorporation of long sentences also creates a further eagerness to know the fate of Julian and his trustworthy friend, Conrad. This technique also helps create an enticing and engaging format. An example of these long sentences appears in the sample passage above, which while multiple lines long, actually consists of only two sentences. All of these aspects make the story feel even more gothic, because anything that happens comes as a total surprise and feel very sudden. The pace of the novel also feels much faster because of the long sentences, since so much plot and description are compacted into one single sentence.
The story, told by a third-person narrator, mainly focuses on the life and journeys of the protagonist, Julian. It begins in Suabia, Germany, where Julian leaves the asylum in which he lived his entire life and embarks on an uncertain course. No details are given on his sudden departure. After traveling throughout the day, Julian encounters a small cabin, where he eats dinner and chooses to stay the night. However, while he tries to sleep, he is consumed by his own thoughts, which are interrupted by the sound of people talking in the front of the cabin. Julian realizes that one of the voices belongs to Count Warsenburg, from the asylum, who has come in search of Julian so that he will return. While listening to the conversation, Julian decides to escape through the window and runs through the night through a valley until he reaches a forest in the morning. He takes a brief rest before he continues to run and then finds several cottages, where he briefly eats before departing again.
Continuing to travel through the forest, Julian reaches a clearing, where there is a lawn with a large castle at the end. It spontaneously starts storming when Julian first encounters the castle. A peasant passes by him, so Julian asks if there is anywhere he can go to seek shelter. He ends up running to the drawbridge of the castle and discovers that the door is already half open, so he enters. The foyer is infested with bats, dirt, and cobwebs, and has military objects and portraits of German emperors hanging on the walls along with marble checkered floors and large windows. Julian notices that the castle is uninhabited but fully furnished, although everything is in a state of decay. He explores the rest of the castle and then decides to sleep in one of the bedrooms. He notices a family portrait above the chimney.
At midnight, he wakes up to screams of distress and perceives a man at the foot of the bed; the man wears a loose dress covered in blood, and Julian thinks he looks like the man from the portrait. The phantom leads Julian out of the room to a dark narrow passage where Julian then feels a cold grip around his wrist. The two enter a dungeon where a woman lies on the ground, covered in blood, with three children around her. The woman hugs him, but the narrator then cuts to Julian waking up the next day.
After leaving the castle, he runs into the same peasant, Conrad, as the day before. The two stick together and end up going to a funeral of an unidentified woman. They are informed that the deceased is Jemima, the Lord’s daughter. Julian is distraught, because it is revealed at the end of the novel that Jemima is his former lover.
That night, Julian returns to the castle, intrigued. Again at midnight comes another cry of distress from someone. The phantom appears, and Julian realizes that it is his father, who tells him that his whole family has been murdered and mentions the name Marquis of Vicanze. The next day, Julian learns that the Marquis now resides in Italy, so Julian and Conrad decide to search for him. They encounter a man at an inn, who reveals that the Marquis is there. Julian’s aunt appears, and it is revealed here that Julian’s family haunts the castle, and that he survived only because the Count found Julian floating in a river, rescued him, and raised him as his own. The Marquis, however, murdered the Count, and now Julian wants vengeance.
Julian returns to the castle and arranges a funeral for all of the murder victims. While searching a passage beyond a trap door, Jemima appears. Both Julian and Jemima are thrilled to see each other and discover that they are both alive; Jemima explains that her death was staged, because she was trying to escape the control of her father. The novel ends with a meal shared by Julian and Jemima, in which she reconnects with father and brother to create a happy ending.
Bearden-White, Roy. How The Wind Sits: History of Henry and Ann Lemoine, Chapbook Writers and Publishers of the Eighteenth Century. Laughing Dog Press, 2017.
English Nights Entertainments. London, Ann Lemoine, 1801.
Sometimes published with Arabian Lovers, this chapbook takes place in Germany and centers around Seraphina, a pious girl who must resist the temptation and power of a mysterious man who claims to be her promised husband.
The Magician, or
the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which is Added the
Arabian Lovers, a Tale is a
collection of two Gothic stories grouped together, referred to as The
Magician and Arabian Lovers at the tops of the pages of the
respective stories. From the outside, the book has a marbled, brown leather
binding. This marble effect was a common trend for binding books, in which a
weak acid would be used to create the marbled appearance. There are no
prominent illustrations on the front or back, but the spine of the book is
decorated in gold-leaf illustrations of wreaths and flowers as well as some
gold-leaf horizontal stripes, separating the illustrations and symbols. On the
spine, the book is referred to as The Entertainer and the number three,
potentially indicating the volume or edition number. Also, the edges of the
pages are speckled with blue ink. This is the result of a book decoration
method in which the speckles would be hand-painted onto the edges of the paper.
The book is roughly 11 centimeters wide, 17.7 centimeters long, and 2.2
Inside the book,
there are five other stories, printed with different fonts and margins than The
Magician and Arabian Lovers. The book starts with The Magician and
Arabian Lovers, followed by the five additional stories. Each of the stories
also restarts the page numbering instead of a continuous numbering throughout
all of the stories. Some of the stories have frontispieces with illustrations,
although The Magician and Arabian Lovers does not. There is even
a frontispiece in hand-painted color for one of the stories, although the rest
of the frontispieces are black-and-white. This suggests that the book was a
collection of different chapbooks, a common practice at the time. The pages of
the book are speckled with small grey bits of paper and yellowed with age.
Overall, the pages feel worn and delicate, with the paper being thin enough to
see through to the back of the page. The Magician takes up approximately
31 pages of the overall book, which is roughly 290 pages. There are also some
marks of ownership inside the book, including a handwritten table of contents
in the front in what appears to be Michael Sadleir’s handwriting. The table
lists the stories inside the book, along with publication years and potential
author names, but those are unclear. Additionally, there is a “J Phillips”
written on the half-title page for The Magician.
Focusing specifically on The Magician, the font and margins are consistent across the text. The bottom margin is wider than the top, with a fair amount of white space around the main text on each page. In terms of spacing, the words are on the tighter side and the font is also a moderate size. There is a half-title page for only The Magician before the full-title page which contains the complete title for both The Magician and Arabian Lovers. The half-title page and full-title page are formatted differently, with different line breaks in the title and fonts. There is no author printed on the full-title page, however, the title page does list the publication location and year, 1804. While there is no frontispiece for these two stories, there is a small illustration of flowers at the end of The Magician.
Overall, the book
itself externally appears to have a relatively nice, higher quality binding and
attention to detail on the outside, as seen by the marbled leather and speckled
pages. Inside the book, the quality of the paper feels cheaper and worn with
time. The book is also inconsistent with its formatting throughout the different
stories, so at one point the stories may have been separated.
In 1803, The
Magician was published by itself as part of a collection of stories in an
earlier version of The Entertainer (Frank 136). Even earlier than
that, The Magician was published under the title The Story of
Seraphina in Literary Leisure with a date in 1800 printed above it
(Clarke ii, 78). At the top of this version of The Story of Seraphina
there is a headnote from the author explaining that he found the story in “the
hand-writing of poor Delwyn” and that he did not know if the story was a German
translation or something Delwyn wrote himself. Additionally, the author
anticipates that it will be well-received since the author notes that “perhaps
it may not be unacceptable to my readers” (Clarke 78). It seems that this could
be the basis of why The Magician is referred to as a German story. However,
no author is mentioned in both of the University of Virginia’s copies and there
are no known precise German origins beyond this headnote.
As the title The
Magician: Or the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which
Is Added the Arabian Lovers, a Tale suggests, the two stories were
originally published separately in the early eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries. There are two versions of the publication at the University of
Virginia library, one of which is simply the two stories in a small chapbook.
The other version (described above) is in a collection of other stories in a
book named The Entertainer. Both versions at University of Virginia are
from 1804. Around the world, the two stories are published together in
chapbooks owned by multiple libraries, with versions appearing from 1803 and
While it is unclear
exactly at which point the two stories were first published together, the
Minerva Press certainly did so in 1804, which is the year printed on the copy
in the University of Virgina’s edition of The Entertainer. The Minerva
Press was an extremely popular Gothic publishing company created by William
Lane (Potter 15). Not only did Lane’s company publish Gothic literature, but
they also had circulating commercial libraries, which helped boost the
popularity of Gothic texts (Potter 15; Engar). However, these libraries were
still not affordable to the poorest demographics, although they certainly made
the Gothic more accessible to the general population (Potter 15). The Minerva
Press was often criticized for the cheap quality of its publications and “lack
of literary excellence” (Engar). Books printed at the Minerva Press were made
using cheap, flimsy materials and sometimes contained errors. Furthermore,
publications from the Minerva Press were often re-bound by others (Engar).
There does not seem
to be a significant presence in modern academic scholarship of The Magician.
Considering that the stories were published by the Minerva Press, this could be
due to their lower quality production and the company’s reputation (Engar).
There are, however, copies of both The Magician and Arabian Lovers available
for sale online. One paperback version lists the two stories together with the
same title as The Entertainer does, with no authors listed. This version
is sold on Amazon and was printed in 2010, although the description of the book
does note that it “is a reproduction of a book published before 1923.” There
are digital versions of archival copies of The Magician and Arabian
Lovers as a paired story from 1803available online, found on Google
Point of View
The Magician is narrated by a third-person narrator who is
not present in the plot. Early on in the story, the narrator supplies
additional details about the backgrounds and personalities of some of the minor
characters such as Bianca. The narrator often focuses on thorough descriptions
of the surroundings, especially scenes of luxury and opulence. When describing
the environment, the narration is flowery and elegant with longer sentences.
The narrator supplies Seraphina’s feelings and thoughts quite frequently,
although the mysterious man’s thoughts are kept hidden. Unlike the long-winded
descriptions, however, the narration style alternates between a choppier or
longer style depending on Seraphina’s mood and the tone of her thoughts.
Additionally, the narration provides dialogue from Seraphina’s various
This mixture of menace and submission terrified Seraphina, who found herself completely in his power, in a room most luxuriantly fur-nished, where not a single being but themselves appeared, and where every thing bespoke the uncontrouled voluptuousness of the master. In a few minutes a small table, covered with the most exquisite dainties, appeared in the recess, and Seraphina gazed in wonder. Her lover besought her to take some refreshment. She had not eaten since she quitted the hotel with her aunt in the morning, and she really wanted food. She suffered him, therefore, to persuade her, but she took merely some sweetmeats, and resolved to forbear touching salt while she staid; for, dazzling as was the magnificence with which she was surrounded, she had no wish but to escape. She felt restrained in eating too, as her strange companion still retained her fingers in his energetic grasp. At length, he prevailed on her to drink a glass of wine; wine; it was exquisite, but Seraphina was alarmed, and insisted on diluting it with water. (23–24)
third-person narration, the chilling power and demeanor of the mysterious man
is amplified. Even “surrounded” by the “magnificence” and material comforts of
the castle, Seraphina is unable to truly enjoy anything since “she had no wish
but to escape.” The third-person narration aids the story from this viewpoint,
since spending more time on the setting is the narrator’s choice, while
Seraphina is more focused on her escape and emotions for the majority of the
story. The narrator continues to describe the environment and explore Seraphina’s
thoughts as the man attempts to convince her to consent to him, both by
threatening her with his wrath and by offering her all the luxuries at his
disposal. However, Seraphina continuously feels “restrained” from enjoying any
of the material comforts surrounding her by her fear of the mysterious man,
which is evident in her paranoia in eating or drinking too much of the food he
provides her. By continuously describing the environment, the narration serves
as a reminder of how Seraphina is not only emotionally surrounded by the man’s
presence, but how she is also physically enclosed in this extravagant space,
itself a reminder of his authority. Not only does Seraphina feel restrained,
but the man physically restrains her by constantly holding her hand every time
they are together, which the narrator emphasizes by how he “still retained her
fingers in his energetic grasp” in this passage and throughout the rest of the
text. What the man truly plans for Seraphina is hidden from her and the
narration, so the fear and uncertainty she experiences becomes more palpable.
Seraphina is constantly surrounded by “the mixture of menace and submission”
the man exudes, through his threats and his physical presence in the form of
the perpetual handholding. The narration bolsters this fear by providing
insight into her feelings and continuously contrasting the luxurious
environment with the man’s unsettling, constant presence that haunts Seraphina
even when she is alone.
The story of The
Magician, or the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina begins with the yearly
fair in Francfort in 1464. The Italian Lady Bianca d’Alberto attends the fair
with her sixteen-year-old niece, Seraphina, who is also Bianca’s adoptive
daughter. Bianca’s husband, the Colonel, and his brother, Seraphina’s father,
were both serving in the army when Seraphina’s father died. The Colonel
promised his dying brother that he would adopt Seraphina and kept true to his
promise before also passing away, leaving Bianca to raise the “pious and
innocent” Seraphina (2). While in Francfort, Bianca and Seraphina go to see a
conjurer with a nefarious reputation who performs supernatural acts such as
transformations and fortune telling.
As they watch the
show, the magician, Gortz, amazes the crowd. At one point, a sudden,
unidentified voice shouts Gortz’s name, but the show continues. Gortz focuses
on Seraphina and offers to reveal her future husband. Seraphina refuses, but
Bianca pushes her to listen to Gortz. However, Seraphina believes that this
type of magic is evil and does not want to participate. At one point, Seraphina
sees a regally dressed man across the room, staring intently at her. When Gortz
makes a magic circle around a fire and tells Seraphina to enter the circle, she
hesitates, only to see an illusory version of herself get up. The fake
Seraphina enters the circle and chaos erupts, smoke and shrieks coming out of
the circle. Everybody, including Bianca, runs away, leaving Seraphina alone
with Gortz’s body when the smoke clears. She attempts to leave, at first trying
the door and then piling benches up to reach the windows, but fails.
Seraphina again sees
the noble, “majestic” man from earlier and they stare intently at each other
(13). He holds her hand, refusing to let go, and tells her that he will take
care of her. The man reveals that he’s sent the fake Seraphina with her Aunt
and that he is extremely powerful. He then gives Seraphina an ultimatum: either
become his friend and wife or face his power if she refuses. However, Seraphina
already has a childhood friend, Ferdinand, at home interested in marrying her.
The man even claims that Seraphina’s father promised her to him when he died in
the army. At this point, Seraphina faints and wakes up in his castle and the
man again appears before her. Seraphina asks the mysterious man for some time
and he gives her a week to decide, telling her that he knows what she thinks,
so she cannot deceive him. Once he leaves, a servant attends Seraphina, but she
is too scared to even cry. Eventually, she speaks aloud, asking where she can
go in the castle. The man appears before her, dressed magnificently, and takes
her around the castle. Seraphina is stunned by the many servants, jewels, and luscious
flowers they pass by. The man leads her to an empty room, still holding her
hand even as she eats. He orders for people to start dancing as entertainment.
As they watch the dancing, the man tells her that she must consent to him if
she wants to see his true self. At this point, Seraphina decides that his power
must come from an evil source and to refuse him at the end of the week.
For the rest of the
week, the man holds many exquisite events for her like plays and tournaments.
He continuously holds her hand and confesses his love throughout the week, but
Seraphina remains disgusted and fearful. Once the week finally ends, he meets
Seraphina and asks if she’ll stay with him. Seraphina refuses, saying that she
will never give in to magic and then “those sacred names” (29). Immediately, Seraphina
wakes up in a bed in Francfort with her aunt. Bianca reveals that she has just
received word from Italy that Ferdinand has finally gotten permission to marry
her and Seraphina has been sleeping the whole time after the magic show. The
story ends with a statement on how upholding virtue will ultimately result in
Clarke, Hewson. Literary
Leisure: or, The Recreations of Solomon Saunter, Esq. [Pseud.]. vol. 2, W.
Engar, Ann W.
“The Minerva Press; William Lane.” The British Literary Book Trade,
1700–1820, edited by James K. Bracken and Joel Silver, Gale, 1995. Dictionary
of Literary Biography Vol. 154. Literature Resource Center.
S. “Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Short Stories in the Magazines
(1790–1820)” Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide,
edited by Douglass H. Thomson, and Jack G. Voller, Greenwood Publishing Group
Inc., 2001: 133–146.
Potter, Franz J. The
History of Gothic Publishing, 1800-1835: Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave
“The Magician; or The Mystical Adventures of
Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which Is Added The Arabian Lovers, a Tale.”
Amazon, Minerva Press, for Lane and Newman, 2010.
The Magician: Or,
The Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which Is Added The
Arabian Lovers, a Tale.
Minerva Press, 1803. Google Books.
The Magician: Or, the Mystical Adventures of
Seraphina. a German Romance. to Which Is Added the Arabian Lovers, a Tale. London: Printed at the Minerva-Press, for
Lane and Newman, 1803. Print.
The Magician: Or
the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which Is Added the
Arabian Lovers, a Tale.
Printed at the Minerva Press, for Lane and Newman, 1804.