Spectre of the Turret; or Guolto Castle
Author: Isaac Crookenden
Publisher: Printed and Sold by R. Harrild
Publication Year: Unknown
Book Dimensions: 10.9cm x 17.8cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C76 Sp n.d.
This early nineteenth-century chapbook by Isaac Crookenden presents an intricate story about relationships and family, weaving together romance, violence, betrayal, and the actions of a supernatural force.
Upon first glance, Spectre of the Turret looks simple and modest. The book was recently rebound in plain dark brown cloth. There is no text indicating the title or author nor are there any illustrations or decorations on the cover or the back of the book. The exact dimensions of the book are 17.8 by 10.9 cm. After opening the book, there is a mark of ownership on the left-hand side of the inside of the cover of the book. It is a medium sized cream sticker that has a blue University of Virginia symbol with the call number of the book. Below the UVA symbol and the call number, it states the words: “The Sadleir-Black Collection” and underneath it says: “Presented by Robert K. Black.”
There is one blank page when opening the book. On the front of the next page, a ghost image of a rectangle can be found. This is from the illustration bleeding through from the back of the page. The illustration is hand-colored and is still quite vivid. Since it is hand-colored, it can remain quite colorful if it is not exposed to light unlike the actual text of the story which looks faded. The picture depicts a man dressed in the outfit similar to a knight’s, and he is holding up a bloodied cloth. There is also a dagger stained with blood lying on the floor next to him. The caption appears right under the illustration and says “The Handkerchief was stained with Life’s Crimson Stream and the Dagger was encrusted with blood! – See pg. 18” On the next page, the title and author are revealed. The full title says “Spectre of the Turret; or Guolto Castle.” The title is fairly large and centered on the page, and the words of the title are done in various fonts. This was a stylistic choice that was popular at the time to make the titles seem more interesting. Written right below the title are the words: “A Romance.” Underneath these words, the name of the author is written: “By Isaac Crookenden.” Following the author’s name and written beneath, there is a quote by Shakespeare as follows: “Tremble thou wretch, who has within Thee crimes, unwhipt of justice! Hide thee thy bloody hand!” Under this, information about the publisher is written as: “London: Printed and Sold by R. Harrild, 20, Great Eastcheap.” On the title page, there is a small faded pencil marking in the upper right-hand corner of the page. The pencil marking seems to be from a bookseller to indicate the price of the book and the stock number.
After the back of the title page, which is left blank, the next page contains the text of the actual story. Right above where the story starts, the shortened title of the story is written: “Spectre of the Turret.” The following pages contain the text of the story. The pages are light cream in color, but they are slightly browned in some areas. There are a couple of stains but none that make the text unreadable. To the touch, the pages are not brittle, but they do show a few signs of aging. There are page numbers on the top of every page ranging from 4 to 32. The text is black in color but looks slightly faded. This is because the paper ages and, with it, the text fades as well. The font is small and closely set, but it is still quite easy to read. The margins on the sides of the book are small, but the margins on the top and bottom are much wider. This is a result of the book not being trimmed very much after it was printed. Some pages have tiny rips on the top but none that obstruct the text.
There is no table of contents page in the book. Once the actual story begins, the text is the only thing present. There are no additional illustrations or decorations. There is a footnote present on page 11 for clarification on a specific word. Each page ends with a catchword, where the first word of the next page is printed in the footer in order to ensure that the printer ordered the pages correctly. The last page in the book ends with “FINIS” after the few final lines of the story. Altogether, this copy of Spectre of the Turret is in fairly good condition as it has been recently rebound so it is intact and the pages have not shown signs of significant aging or damage.
Spectre of the Turret was written by Isaac Crookenden. He was known as a famous plagiarizer during his career and made a significant amount of money from stealing other people’s ideas and using them in his stories. Crookenden is “probably the most notorious counterfeiter of legitimate Gothic novels” (Frank 59). Isaac Crookenden wrote many chapbooks during the early nineteenth century. Some of his other works include The Skeleton, The Mysterious Murder, and Horrible Revenge, or, The Monster of Italy!!. The date of publication of Spectre of the Turret is not listed on the Sadlier-Black Collection at the University of Virginia, and it is indicated as undated in Frederick S. Frank’s “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820” as well. The publisher listed on the chapbook is R. Harrild in London. However, multiple copies of the book at different libraries, listed on WorldCat, have stated 1815 as the publication date. One copy of the book from the Huntington Library listed O Hodgson as the publisher and the publication date as 1810. Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography supplies the date of publication for the work as around 1810. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biographylists the four publishers that Crookenden worked for as: S. Fisher, A. Neil, J. Lee, and R. Harrild as well as stating that the publication date for Spectre of the Turret was between 1810 and 1820. The speculation between the publishers and publication dates for the book might indicate that other editions were printed as well in different places, but does not conclusively determine the precise printing of this edition.
This work does not have a preface or introduction and does not have a prequel or sequel either. “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820” states that there are “several crude drawings” and says that “a half-dozen tower Gothics are mixed together and condensed into this garrish bluebook” (Frank 59). There have been no reprintings of this work in the later nineteenth century or twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography notes that none of Crookenden’s works were reviewed by scholars, and this text was not adapted in any form.
There are two contemporary digital copies available through Google Books. One of the digital copies says the original edition is from the British Library. These two digital copies also state the publication date as 1815 in the information about the book but not explicitly in the text. They seem slightly different from the chapbook from the Sadlier-Black Collection. The illustration has a different color scheme in the digital copies. The specific version of Spectre of the Turretfrom the Sadlier-Black Collection has an illustration with a light brown background and a man wearing a cream coat and red pants while kneeling next to a yellow chest. In the digital copies on Google Books, the illustration has a very dark background and a man wearing a royal blue coat and red pants while kneeling next to a red chest. This might be further evidence that there were other editions published of this chapbook, or that the same edition was hand-painted after publication.
Other locations that have this book are: Harvard University, Princeton University, the Huntington Library, Pennsylvania State University, University of Oxford, British Library Reference Collections, and Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands.
Narrative Point of View
Spectre of the Turret contains two different types of narration. The majority of the story is told from a third-person point of view. However, there are also a few instances when the narrator uses first-person plural pronouns such as “we” when directly addressing the reader. The narration, as a whole, includes lengthy physical descriptions of the characters and offers brief glimpses into their minds, while also focusing on the plot and the action.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
A huge mass of armour was the contents, which Florielmo instantly proceeded to examine, and discovered a napkin stuffed into the hollow of the helmet, which on being unfolded, a dagger dropt out of it; the handkerchief was stained with life’s crimson stream, and the dagger was encrusted with blood! Here was a demonstration of the truth of the spectre’s awful words. Florielmo carefully concealed these bloody proofs; and making no other discovery of any importance, he closed the chest in such a manner as to elude suspicion, and waited the arrival of the man with his breakfast. The day was past by Florielmo in ruminating on his uncle’s unparalleled baseness, of his mother’s horrible fate, and of the possibility of divulging the guilty secret to the world; absorbed in these thoughts, night again overtook him. (18)
Sample Passage of Narration Using First-Person Plural and Direct Address:
We now beg the reader’s attention while we relate the misfortunes of that young man, and show how unjustly he has been accused. (11)
The two types of narrative styles affect the story in two distinct ways. The third-person point of view creates fast-paced events, placing emphasis on the action and the conversations between characters. The first-person point of view and moments of direct address emerge when there are turning points in the plot. Each instance of direct address temporarily slows down the pace of the plot, while simultaneously signifying that what follows is essential to the story. The few sentences that use direct address also portray a more personal relationship between the narrator and the characters, indicating that the narrator cares for the characters in some way or, as in the example above, that the narrator is biased in the character’s favor.
Spectre of the Turret opens with Signor Guolto coming home to his castle on the banks of the Tagus after years of serving his country. His wife died while he was away fighting in the Spanish War, and the narrator notes that even though his wife was lower in status than him, they still had a loving marriage. He sends for his daughter who is staying at his sister’s home. His sister looked down on him for marrying someone below his status and, because of this, she did not treat Signor Guolto’s daughter very well. His daughter, Aspasia, is very happy to come home and see her father.
A young man named Don Florielmo comes to visit Aspasia and her father. He is the son of Guolto’s dear friend who died in battle and who once wished for Aspasia and Floriellmo to get married. Florielmo’s mother had disappeared after her husband’s death. Aspasia and Florielmo are very much in love, and are ready to get married. Florielmo receives a letter from his uncle, Manuel, that half of the estate has been taken by a fire and that Florielmo is needed back at home. Florielmo tells Aspasia that he will be back shortly, but she is very sad that he is leaving so soon. A month passes by without any word from Florielmo until one day Aspasia receives a letter that says that Florielmo is breaking up with her. She is completely heartbroken.
A man named Lord Mountguardo comes to the castle to talk to Aspasia’s father. Even though he seems nice, Aspasia feels that there is something else hidden behind his outward character. Mountguardo reveals that he wants to marry Aspasia. He tells her that he knew Florielmo, and he has heard him brag about how much Aspasia has completely fallen for him. She becomes incredibly sad after hearing this about Florielmo.
The scene transfers from Aspasia’s father consoling her after Mountguardo’s visit to what really happened to Florielmo. Florielmo is travelling to his home and lays down to get some sleep when he suddenly wakes up, tied up in a boat. The two men in the boat bring him to his own castle, and he thinks that they are going to murder him. They bring him into the castle and keep him prisoner in a turret in one of the towers. Florielmo is very confused about what is happening and worried about what Aspasia will think. The turret is a small room that contains a bed, a bookcase full of books, and a locked wooden chest. Since there is nothing for him to do, Florielmo takes a book and starts reading. The title is “The Noble Slave” and begins with a woman named Rudolpha and her husband, Orlando, awaiting a boat from their friend Lupo to take them away from their persecutors. However, when Lupo arrives, it is clear to see that he betrayed them as three soldiers come forward and seize Orlando. They are about to hit him when Rudolpha intervenes. Florielmo is interrupted in his reading by the arrival of breakfast and a letter from his uncle, Count Manuel. The letter states that Florielmo will remain a prisoner in the turret if he doesn’t sign half of his estates away to his uncle. His uncle makes it clear that he is very desperate for the money. Florielmo says that he will never do this and would rather remain in the turret forever. Aspasia comes to his mind at this moment, and he wonders what will happen to their relationship. He feels a strange parallel between his current life and the story that he has just been reading.
Florielmo goes to sleep and starts dreaming that he is reading the book. In his dream, while he is reading, a ghost-like woman appears with a stab wound on her chest that is pouring out with blood. Florielmo wakes up in terror and sees that same woman standing in the room. She reveals herself to be his mother and that she was killed by his uncle. She urges him to look at the locked chest to discover more evidence. The woman also says that it was the servants’ fault that he was put in this turret and that the count thinks that he is prisoner in the northern tower. She continues speaking and says that he should not sign his estates away. His mother vanishes when the clock strikes midnight. Florielmo wakes up from his dream and is in shock for awhile but decides to break open the chest. He finds armour and a napkin covering a dagger stained with old blood and a bloodied handkerchief. He hides this evidence away and closes the chest before anyone comes up to his room and discovers it.
The story changes from Florielmo’s situation to Aspasia’s. Lord Mountguardo keeps visiting to woo her. Signor Guolto likes him, but Aspasia cannot feel the same way towards him as she had with Florielmo. Her father wants her to get married before he dies, and she finally decides to go through with it to make her father happy. Everyone is preparing for the wedding when a letter from Guolto’s sister arrives saying he and Aspasia have to come see her because she’s sick. Guolto decides that Aspasia should get married before the journey to his sister. Aspasia is dreading the moment of the wedding on her wedding day. However, right before she says the words to be united in marriage to Mountguardo at the altar, a figure in white comes between them and says they cannot get married. The priest states that God has deemed that this marriage cannot go through. After this incident, Aspasia and her father do not hear anything from Mountguardo. They decide to travel to see Guolto’s sister, Lady Loveni. When they arrive at her home, she apologizes to her brother for looking down on him for the past nineteen years. The lady’s son, Don Antonio, is about to get married. He and his fiancé, Georgiana, come to his mother’s home to look after her because of her illness. Georgiana and Aspasia become instantly close friends, but Aspasia does not reveal information about loving Florielmo because she does not want to tarnish his character. Georgiana finds her crying often and is unsure why. Aspasia tells her that she will reveal everything after the wedding between Antonio and Georgiana. However, Georgiana immediately jumps to the conclusion that Aspasia loves Antonio and that she is more worthy than herself to marry Antonio. Aspasia is shocked and says that she does not love Antonio, and he also fools around way more than is to her liking. She says she found a knife of his tied to a letter and says she is going to read it. Antonio reveals that he completely forgot about the knife, and he had found it in an old castle. Aspasia suddenly screams and faints while clutching the letter. When she awakes, she says that Florielmo has been betrayed and actually still loves her. The letter is from Florielmo, and he explains that the letter he received while visiting her was a trap.
Mountguardo suddenly arrives to talk to Aspasia and happens to take a look at the letter. Aspasia does not trust him after he spoke ill about Florielmo. Just then, a man arrives who looks like a prince. He is very pale and fatigued. To everyone’s surprise, the man is Florielmo and he reveals that Mountguardo is actually his uncle, Count Manuel. Florielmo provides the proof from the chest that Manuel is the one who killed his mother. He goes on to explain that he had to kill another with that same dagger so he could escape through a secret passage he found when leaving the turret. Because of the shame of everything brought to light, Manuel takes the dagger from Florielmo and stabs himself, and dies soon after.
Everyone is in shock at this turn of events, but things get back to normal after some time. There is a funeral for Manuel, and Florielmo decides not to expose the crimes to everyone else because he does not want to dwell on these past incidents after the man’s death. In the end, both couples decide to get married on the same day. Aspasia and Georgiana also end up both delivering babies on the same day as well. Since it is a boy and a girl, Florielmo and Antonio decide to betroth the babies to each other for a marriage in the future.
Baines, Paul. “Crookenden, Isaac.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 23 Sept. 2004.
Crookenden, Isaac. Spectre of the Turret: Or, Guolto Castle. A Romance. Printed and Sold by R. Harrild, n.d.
Frank, Frederick S. “The Gothic Romance: 1762-1820.” Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall B. Tymn, New York, R.R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–175.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. London, The Fortune Press, 1941.
Researcher: Rachel Chiramel