Fisher’s Cheerful Companion

Fisher’s Cheerful Companion

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.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: S. Fisher
Publication Year: 1800
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10cm x 18cm
Pages: 48
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.F468 1800


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.


Material History

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.

The frontispiece and title page for Fisher’s Cheerful Companion

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 Dexterous Thieves—and 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.


Textual History

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.


Narrative Point of View

Fisher’s 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.

Sample Passage:

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.


Summary

Fisher’s Cheerful Companion contains thirteen separate stories:

This page shows the beginning of the first story, as well as the crooked margins

The 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 Wishes

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 Widgeon

This page shows the transition between two separate stories

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 duck. 

The Lucky Disaster

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 Susans marriage.

The Hunch-back’d Minstrels

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.

The Conjurer

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.

The Fortunate Peasant

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.

The Two Rogues

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.

The Wedding Night

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.

The Humorous Miller

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.

The 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.

The Unfortunate Spaniard

This page shows the conclusion of the book

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.

The Ghost

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.


Bibliography

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 Macmillan, 2005.

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


Researcher: Eliza Eddy

Falkner

Falkner

Falkner: A Novel

Author: Mary Shelley
Publisher: Saunders and Otley
Publication Year: 1837
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 3 volumes, each 12cm x 19.4cm
Pages: 953
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .S52 F 1837


In this 1837 three-volume novel, set in multiple countries across Europe, Shelley grapples with the issues of one man’s guilt and his attempt to resolve it by adopting a young orphan girl.


Material History

The title page of Falkner, with Rebow’s signature in the upper right corner

Falkner is a lesser-known novel by the famed Mary Shelley. The version held in the Sadleir-Black Collection is the first edition of the text, which was published in 1837 and presents the novel in three volumes, which was a common means of publication at the time. While the spine lists the title as solely the word Falkner, the title page of the novel calls it Falkner: A Novel. We know that this was written by Mary Shelley; however, her full name is not stated in any of the three volumes. The title page in each volume simply says, “By the author of ‘Frankenstein;’ ‘The Last Man,’ &c.”. This is followed by a quote from “Rosalind and Helen” by Percy Shelley (1819). It reads,

“there stood
In record of a sweet sad story,
An altar, and a temple bright,
Circled by steps, and o’er the gate
Was sculptured, ‘To Fidelity!’”

Each volume in this set measures approximately 12 centimeters by 19.4 centimeters and is approximately 2.3 centimeters deep. The volumes are half-bound with leather; this means that the spine and corners are bound in leather, but the rest of the book is not. The leather on the spine is decorated with gold gilding. The cover is covered with blue marbled paper that is noticeably faded around the center on each volume. The edges of the pages within the volumes are also marbled blue.

A bookplate from the personal library of John G. Rebow

The pages within these volumes are of medium thickness; they are not thick, but they are also not extremely thin. Volume I consists of 322 pages, volume II is 312 pages, and volume III is 319 pages, which add up to a total of 953 pages in all. While this sounds like a lengthy read, it feels surprisingly short. There is a lot of white space on the pages, and the margins are wide, which makes each page a quick, short read. The font is not too large or too small, adding to the ease with which the novel can be read. Some pages throughout these volumes have letters or letter/number combinations at the bottom. These are printer notes, used to help the printers print, fold, and order the pages correctly. It should also be noted that in the back of Volume I, there is a front and back page of advertisements from the publisher.

These particular volumes are interesting because they each have a personal bookplate in the front, indicating that they once belonged to John Gurdon Rebow. His signature can be found on the title page of each book as well. The bookplates have call numbers, “D. 2.” written on them that most likely indicate their shelving location in Rebow’s personal library. This can be interpreted as the book being shelved on shelf 2 of bookcase D.

Overall, these particular copies of the volumes of Falkner are unique in their own ways. While clearly a matching set in the color of their marbling, the volumes are worn to varying degrees. The pages are slightly yellowed from time. The volumes clearly show their age, particularly the first volume due to some tearing where the spine was originally bound, but they seem to be in relatively nice condition for books that are centuries old.


Textual History

Falkner is the final novel written by Mary Shelley before her death. Shelley was born in August 1797 and died in February 1851. Her two most well-known works of her career are Frankenstein and The Last Man, both of which are mentioned on the title page of Falkner.

A page of advertisements from Saunders and Otley, printed in the back of Falkner volume 1

Falkner was first published in 1837 by Saunders and Otley in London. This edition was published in three volumes and was printed by Stevens and Pardon, Printers. In the same year, Falkner was published in one volume by Harper & Brothers in New York. (The Sadleir-Black Collection also houses a copy of this one-volume edition.) In addition to these versions, Falkner is also contained in various collections of Mary Shelley’s works, including The Novels and Collected Works of Mary Shelley (1996), edited by Pamela Clemit. In 2017, Falkner was translated into an Italian version, titled Il Segreti di Falkner, or Falkner’s Secret. There are also online editions of this novel. The 1837 edition published by Harper & Brothers has been archived online on the HathiTrust website.

Many advertisements and reviews of Shelley’s Falkner can be found in periodicals published near the time of its first publication. There is a brief advertisement combined with a brief review that can be found in The Standard, in an issue from March 1837. There is a shorter advertisement in an April 1837 issue of John Bull. Overall, the reviews of Falkner seem to be positive. It is ambiguous whether overall positivity is due to the actual success of Falkner or Shelley’s fame from her prior works. The Metropolitan Magazine, in a March 1837 issue, states, “The only fault that we can find with [Falkner] … is, that its tone is too universally sombre” (67). The Literary Gazette in London references “the talent of the writer” in its review of the novel (66). A combination advertisement and review in The Athenæum gives a short, concise summary of the plot of the novel without giving away the ending. At the end of the summary, it explains, “we have thus imperfectly shadowed out the mystery of the novel, but we must leave the unraveling of it to Mrs. Shelley,—satisfied, that if you put yourself under her guidance, you will own that your labour has not been in vain” (75). Many of the reviews show that the novel was often well-received in its time, yet there are some reviews that are not so kind to Shelley’s work. The Examiner contains a much less favorable review of Falkner in February of 1837: “The story of Falkner, faulty as it is, makes a small part of the book, which is swollen out with tedious reflections, and prosing explanations of motives and feelings. It will practice the reader in the art of skipping” (101).

Falkner has been discussed and written about by scholars in regard to varying subjects. Scholars have discussed Falkner both on its own and in the context of Shelley’s works, beginning in the late twentieth century and leading into the twenty-first century.


Narrative Point of View

The story of Falkner is predominantly recounted by an unnamed third-person narrator. The narration is third-person omniscient as the narrator gives insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. The narrator also withholds some information. Sentences largely vary in length; some are short and brief, while others are lengthy and feel quite winded. There are moments throughout the novel when the narrator also invokes a first person plural perspective. In these instances, the narrator switches to using a “we” pronoun, rather than the third-person perspective that is used in the majority of the novel.

Sample Passage:

We are all apt to think that when we discard a motive we cure a fault, and foster the same error from a new cause with a safe conscience. Thus, even now, aching and sore from the tortures of remorse for past faults, Falkner indulged in the same propensity, which, apparently innocent in its commencement, had led to fatal results. He meditated doing rather what he wished, than what was strictly just. He did not look forward to the evils his own course involved, while he saw in disproportionate magnitude those to be brought about if he gave up his favourite project. What ills might arise to the orphan from his interweaving her fate with his — he, a criminal, in act, if not in intention — who might be called upon hereafter to answer for his deeds, and who at least must fly and hide himself — of this he thought not; while he determined, that, fostered and guarded by him, Elizabeth must be happy — and, under the tutelage of her relations, she would become the victim of hardhearted neglect. These ideas floated somewhat indistinctly in his mind — and it was half unconsciously that he was building them a fabric for the future, as deceitful as it was alluring. (Volume I, 78–79)

In this passage, the narrator begins using the first person “we.” This allows a generalization—“We are all apt to think”—that relates Falkner to people as a whole. As the narration moves from the first person plural to third person, the opening generalization also paves the way for the narrator’s access into Falkner’s mind. The narrator goes into Falkner’s head and follows his train of thought. This passage is quite long, but it is composed of a mere six sentences. The statement in the middle of the passage, “What ills might arise … the victim of hardhearted neglect,” is one to note because it is the longest sentence given. The third-person point of view allows this sentence to feel akin to stream of consciousness. The dashes between the different parts of the sentence break it up and make it possible to see how each of Falkner’s thoughts connect to one another as he debates what to do with his new charge. The thoughts that do not cross his mind can also be learned through the narrator, in the sentence that notes, “of this he thought not.”


Summary

The marbled cover of Falkner

Falkner follows the story of a young girl named Elizabeth and begins in the town of Treby. Struck with consumption, her father passes away, and her mother dies a few short months later. Just before her death, Elizabeth’s mother begins writing a letter to a woman named Alithea entreating her to take in her daughter and explaining that she does not want Elizabeth to be taken in by her late husband’s family. She dies before she can finish the letter, so it is never sent. The landlord, Mrs. Baker, reads the letter, and takes in Elizabeth, hoping that the girl’s family will one day come looking for her and will reward Mrs. Baker for her kindness. While staying with Mrs. Baker, Elizabeth often goes to her mother’s grave to play, study, and pray, all while feeling close to her mother.

One day, a stranger by the name of John Falkner shows up in Treby and spends a lot of time out of town by himself. He feels guilty because he killed someone, so he goes to the graveyard to kill himself. He makes the mistake of sitting on Elizabeth’s mother’s grave to kill himself, and the young girl stops him. He worries for a young girl out by herself and opts to walk her home. When he meets Mrs. Baker, she tells him Elizabeth’s story and shows him the letter. He is struck by the realization that the woman he killed is the same woman that Elizabeth’s mother was writing to. Upon realizing this, he feels guilty and decides to take Elizabeth with him on his travels, so they leave together for London. Elizabeth begins calling Falkner “papa.” Falkner feels that Elizabeth will be happier with him than with her distant relations, so he chooses to keep her with him. They meet a friend of Falkner’s who tells them that Mr. Neville’s wife has run off with a mysterious lover, and that Mr. Neville is going after them.

Elizabeth and Falkner balance each other’s personalities well: he makes her feel safe, and she is always able to calm his temper. They have been traveling together for years when Falkner decides to hire Miss Jervis, who serves as a governess for Elizabeth. While in Baden, Germany, Elizabeth meets a sad young man, Mr. Neville; his mother was the same Mrs. Neville that ran away from her husband and eloped. Realizing that this boy is the son of Alithea weakens Falkner. He feels guilty for what has become of the boy’s life. He feels that he does not deserve to live, but he no longer wants to kill himself; he decides to join the war in Greece with the goal of dying in battle and wants Elizabeth to return to her family. Elizabeth refuses to leave him, so she stays nearby, and they part from Miss Jervis. Elizabeth desires to save Falkner, but she misses the Neville boy.

While a soldier in Greece, Falkner does not take care of himself because he is still trying to die. He falls ill and is injured in battle by a musketball. The surgeon recommends that he be taken to a place with less dingy air, so they take him to a coastal town. Elizabeth stays by his side until he begins to get better. Falkner decides that since she has saved his life twice, he no longer wishes to die but wants to live for Elizabeth and her happiness. He tells her that he has written of his crime so that she can learn of it in his words after his death.

The pair travels to Italy and meets a group of English people, including Lady Cecil, for whom Miss Jervis is the governess. Falkner and Elizabeth then travel to a different part of Italy where they happen across the young Mr. Neville, which causes Falkner more stress. When they arrive in London, Elizabeth gets sick from the stress of worrying about Falkner. Hearing of the girl’s illness, Lacy Cecil comes to invite her and Falkner to stay with her for two months. Elizabeth goes, but Falkner declines; he promises to join them later. Lady Cecil tells Elizabeth about her brother, Gerard, because she believes they would get along quite well. Elizabeth returns to health while she is staying with Lady Cecil and soon learns that Gerard is none other than her beloved Mr. Neville. He begins to share the supposedly scandalous story of his mother’s disappearance, but relinquishes that duty to Lady Cecil.

Lady Cecil tells Elizabeth the story of the young and beautiful Alithea Neville. She was young when she married Boyvill—formerly Mr. Neville—, but she did her wifely duties well. The two had a son and daughter together; Alithea doted upon the boy, while her husband loved the little girl. Sir Boyvill left for two months for business, and when he returned, his wife and son were out of the house. A storm came that night, and the pair had not returned. Upon searching, they found young Gerard ill in the road, and he said that mamma had been taken off in a carriage with a man named Rupert. It was determined that Alithea had been kidnapped or may be dead. Sir Boyvill, however, believed his wife to have left willingly with the man; Gerard disagreed. He believed that she was either dead or in prison. Sir Boyvill and Alithea’s daughter died less than a year after her mother’s disappearance. Boyvill felt that his wife’s affair had hurt his honor, so he filed for divorce from the missing woman. This meant that Gerard had to testify against his mother; he did but did not want to. The boy ran away to search for his mother, but his father found out and brought him home. Gerard continued to believe his mother was innocent but dead, so he was determined to find her grave. During this time, Sir Boyvill met and married Lady Cecil’s mother.

Now, Gerard is still searching for the truth behind his mother’s disappearance. He leaves Lady Cecil’s home when a man from America claims to have knowledge of his mother. Lady Cecil believes his goal is futile, but Elizabeth supports him in his search. When he comes back from his meeting with Hoskins, the American, he announces that his mother is dead. Hoskins told him about an Englishman named Osborne, who helped a man bury his lover twelve years ago after she drowned in a river, so he wants to go to American to meet Osborne. Elizabeth writes to Falkner about the situation, and he asks her to come home at once.

This page shows how a chapter is denoted and begins

Falkner learns that Lady Cecil desires Gerard and Elizabeth to marry. He believes this to be a good union, but he wants to distance himself from Elizabeth and seek out her biological family. He finds them, but he learns that her father brought dishonor to the family by leaving the church and marrying a poor woman, so her grandfather does not want her. When Elizabeth returns home to Falkner, he worries about what she will think of him considering her new love for Gerard and wonders how much she has changed, but she approaches him with the same love and admiration as before. Gerard comes to say goodbye before he leaves for America, but Falkner tells him not to go because the man he is looking for is standing in front of him. Falkner admits that his name is Rupert Falkner and that he killed the boy’s mother. He gives his written account of the event to Elizabeth and tells her to read it and share it with Gerard.

Falkner’s story tells of his abusive father and his mother’s death when he was a young boy. His father developed a drinking problem and died, so he was taken in by his uncle. His parents called him Rupert, but his uncle called him John, so he mostly went by the latter. He began to visit a woman named Mrs. Rivers and her daughter, Alithea. Mrs. Rivers was distantly related to his mother, and the two women grew up together, but they lost touch when they got married. He spent a lot of time with Mrs. Rivers and her daughter, and the former was always impressing upon him the need to be a good person. In spite of this, Falkner had a temper at school and ended up getting in a fight. He was sent off to the East Indian military college, where he stayed for two years. Alithea wrote to him to let him know that her mother was dying, so he ran away from school to visit and was present when Mrs. Rivers passed. He desired to marry Alithea but was rejected by her father, so he stayed in India as a soldier for ten years. He received word that his uncle and cousin had both passed away, which meant their inheritance became his. When he returned to England, he learned that Alithea’s father had died, but she married in the time he was away. He met her husband, Mr. Neville—now Sir Boyvill—and hated him.

A man by the name of Osborne knew of Falkner’s newly acquired wealth and asked him to assist with his passage to America. Falkner agreed and decided to go to America with him. Before they left, he met with Alithea and learned that she did not love her husband, so he asked her to come to America with them. She said no because she was married and had two children. Falkner thought he could convince her to run away with him, and he asked Osborne to drive the carriage and gave him the instruction not to stop driving until they reached their destination. He went to her house, and walked with her and her young son toward his carriage. Upon talking with Alithea, he changed his mind and decided Alithea should stay with her family. Once they reached the carriage, however, he swept her into it, and Osborne drove them away. She started having convulsions and looked unwell, but Osborne followed his instruction and would not stop. They reached the hut Falkner planned to stop at, and Alithea appeared to recover. He laid her on a couch and stepped outside with Osborne to ready the carriage to return her home with her family. He found Alithea’s body shortly after, drowned in the river. He surmised she had woken up and, in a moment of terror, attempted to cross the stream and return home. The men buried her body, Osborne went off to America, and Falkner ended up in Treby, where he met Elizabeth so long ago.

Elizabeth finishes reading this account and sends it and a letter to Gerard so he can finally learn the truth of his mother’s disappearance. She begs him to be kind to her father, for although he did bad things, he did not kill his mother. Falkner, certain that Gerard will kill him for his crimes, sends proof of Elizabeth’s birth to her family and tells her that they will take her in soon.

Gerard reads Elizabeth’s letter, but he gives Falkner’s written account to his father to read first. Believing that Falkner killed his mother, Gerard contemplates killing the man, but worries about the pain it would cause Elizabeth. Upon reading the letter and finding his wife innocent, Sir Boyvill has Gerard promise that he will avenge her death. Boyvill then leaves home, and Gerard follows soon after to find him. When he finds his father in their old home of Dromore, he is with a group of men from town, and they are uncovering Alithea’s remains. Sir Boyvill plans to have his wife’s remains formally interred and wants a trial for Falkner.

This page of text shows an example of printer notes, located at the bottom of the page

Elizabeth is out of the house when men come to escort Falkner to prison, so she does not know what has happened. Lady Cecil arrives at their home with another woman, who turns out to be Elizabeth’s aunt. The ladies entreat Elizabeth to go home with them, but she insists on visiting her father because she has just learned of his imprisonment. Her aunt offers her a place in her home as a member of the family, but Elizabeth rejects the offer, stating that she is not a part of their family. She is and will forever be Elizabeth Falkner. Gerard returns and pleads with Elizabeth to go with her family and not to go see Falkner. He admits his love to her, but even this is not enough.

Falkner misses the girl while he is in prison, but he cannot bring himself to write to her. He is surprised when Elizabeth shows up at the prison, but her arrival makes him feel suddenly free. Elizabeth spends most of her time with him in the prison; when they are not together, neither of them feel happy or well. The grand jury decides that Falkner will go to trial for his crimes, but the trial is postponed until they can get Osborne back to England. Someone goes to get Osborne, but he has not yet arrived, and people are getting impatient. During this time, Elizabeth, who has not heard much from Gerard, catches him following and watching her. Falkner learns that Osborne is refusing to come to his trial.

On learning this, Elizabeth wants to travel to America to convince Osborne to come. Gerard decides to go in her place, creating more tension with his father. Gerard finds Hoskins in an attempt to learn of Osborne’s whereabouts and learns that he is already in England under a false name. The appearance of Gerard scares Osborne away, and Gerard assumes the man has boarded a ship to return to America. He plans to follow the man. Osborne visits Falkner and Elizabeth in the prison under his false name. He does not plan to testify in the trial and help Falkner, but Elizabeth changes his mind, and he agrees to come forward. Elizabeth writes a letter to Gerard about the situation, so he does not leave for America.

Gerard writes another letter to Elizabeth to let her know that his father is dying. This means the trial may be delayed again. Sir Boyvill soon dies. Gerard tells them that before he died, his father declared that Falkner is actually innocent. Elizabeth cannot enter the trial with him, so they are forced to separate for a while. The trial begins, and Gerard declares in his testimony that Falkner is innocent. Elizabeth spends her time at home crying and waiting for the results of the trial until her aunt comes to visit and give her support.

Finally, Falkner is found to be innocent and is released. Elizabeth’s aunt offers her home as a place for Falkner and Elizabeth to stay, and they graciously accept. During this time, Elizabeth and Gerard miss each other dearly, but neither knows how to approach the situation, due to their circumstances and Elizabeth’s loyalty to Falkner. Gerard writes to the pair of them, asking if Elizabeth can be his and stating that he will take her and Falkner as a pair of sorts. Falkner writes back to say that if Gerard will come and take his daughter, he will remove himself from their lives. Gerard does not wish to tear Elizabeth from this man whom she loves, so he marries her and makes the best amends he can with Falkner. They all stay together for the rest of their time. Gerard and Elizabeth have a happy life and children of their own, but Falkner never forgives himself for his faults.


Bibliography

Falkner: A Novel.” The Athenaeum, 484 (1837): 74–75.

“Falkner.” Examiner, 1515 (1837): 101.

“Falkner.” The Literary Gazette: A weekly journal of literature, science, and the fine arts. 1046 (1837): 66–68.

“Falkner.” The Metropolitan magazine, 1833–1840 18.71 (1837): 65–67.

John Bull (London, England), Issue 853 (Monday, April 17, 1837): pg. 191. New Readerships.

Shelley, Mary. Falkner: A Novel. London, Saunders and Otley, 1837.

Shelley, Mary. Falkner: A Novel. New York, Harper & Brothers, 1837. Print.

Shelley, Mary. Falkner: A Novel. New York, Harper & Brothers, 1837. HathiTrust, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/dul1.ark:/13960/t5q822n9w.

The Standard (London, England), Issue 3068 (Thursday, March 09, 1837): pg. 1. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800–1900.


Researcher: Kenzie M. Hampton

The Spectre Mother

The Spectre Mother

The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower

Author: John Mitchell
Publisher: Dean & Munday
Publication Year: 1800
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.7cm x 18cm
Pages: 30
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.M537 S 1800


This 1800 chapbook by John Mitchell begins with a mysterious murder within Rovido castle and explores revenge, true love, and crime as the ghost of the slain woman visits characters in the story.


Material History

The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower is a short novel of 30 pages. It measures 18 centimeters in length and 10.7 centimeters in width. There is no cover attached to the book. The pamphlet was likely torn out of a larger collection of short Gothic chapbooks that were sold individually to maximize profits for the bookseller. On the spine are remnants of its leather binding and the adhesion used to keep the binding attached. The book was sewn together and threads are still visible sticking out between its pages.

The title page with accompanying illustration and a visible marking

The title page is instantly visible due to the lack of cover and is the reader’s first impression of the chapbook. It has a colored ink sketch of a scene within the book that covers about a third of the page. Below the ink drawing is a quote from a scene on page 12. The quote reads, “I cannot step by that child, said Moresco.” The colors yellow, green, red, and blue dominate the watercolor drawing, causing the illustration to stand out distinctly on the weathered, slightly browned title page. Above the ink drawing at the top of the page is the title of the book. It is printed in several different fonts with swooping lines surrounding the title, creating a pleasant and artistic look. Below the title is printed, “By the author of Midnight Horrors, Female Pilgrim.” The bottom of the title page contains the publisher information. The book was published in London and was printed and sold by Dean & Munday at 35 Threadneedle Street. At the top left corner of the title page is a pencil-written note that says “Ghosts.” The note was likely written by a bookseller to categorize the novel and label it for readers interested in ghost stories.

There are no decorations or illustrations within the text of the book. The paper is thin and delicate. The pages are soft like cotton and the fibers of the paper are clearly visible. Each page is a yellow-brown color that gives the novel an aged look.

The page numbers are at the top corner of each page and there are letters at the bottom of several pages throughout the book. These letters, “B, B3, C, C3,” were printed to assist the person responsible for binding the book. The pages were all printed out on large sheets of paper that had to be folded and oriented in a certain way to create the finished product. This was common practice at the time, and the method was used until around 1900.

The book has an overall elegant and classic look. Its average size ensures that the font and type in the novel are not too small. There is not a lot of empty, white space within the text and the margins are of average size so the pages do not feel cluttered. The sentence structure used by the author, John Mitchell, is varied and the paragraph sizes are fairly consistent throughout the book.


Textual History

There is limited information to be found about The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower and its author, John Mitchell. It left little to no impression on British journals, though another more popular story by Mitchell—The Female Pilgrim—was reviewed several times. The Spectre Mother was originally published by Dean & Munday in London in 1800. Subsequent editions were published in 1820 and 1823. The 1820 edition was also printed by Dean & Munday and the 1823 edition by an American publisher, W. Borradaile, based in New York. In addition to Gothic novels, Dean & Munday also published historical and children’s books, like The History of Germany, and the German Empire, and The Butterfly’s Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast.

The printers, Dean and Munday, are listed at the bottom of the chapbook’s final page

There seem to be a few versions of the 1800 edition of The Spectre Mother available today. Some contain two watercolor ink illustrations, while others contain only one on the title page. A digital copy of this edition can be found on the Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery. The 1820 edition of the story printed by Dean & Munday is identical to the first edition and changes no aspects of the original story, though it does include an additional watercolor and ink frontispiece opposite the title page. A digital copy of this edition can be found on Google Books. The later edition of The Spectre Mother was published in May of 1823 by W. Borradaile in New York City, which proves that there was enough interest in the story for it to be marketable in the United States. The title page of this edition contains the publisher information as well as the fact that it was sold “wholesale and retail, at his book-store, 130 Fulton-Street.” This version was printed as a pamphlet and threaded together with a red paper cover displaying prices for various chapbooks. The copy was advertised to cost 12.5 cents. It contains the exact story of the first edition, but has a different watercolor illustration, title page, and layout within the pamphlet. Its pages are slightly larger and the paragraphs are formatted differently.

Two works of John Mitchell’s are featured within The Spectre Bridegroom and Other Horrors edited by Robert Reginald and Douglas Menville. This anthology of reprinted horror and ghost stories was originally published in 1976 and includes The Spectre Mother and Midnight Horrors: Or the Bandit’s Daughter. They are both attributed to an anonymous author rather than John Mitchell. Another edition of the book was published in 2006.

There is little information available about John Mitchell, the author of The Spectre Mother. He wrote several other stories, including The Female Pilgrim and Midnight Horrors: Or the Bandit’s Daughter. While no reviews of The Spectre Mother were found, The Female Pilgrim received mixed reviews, one of which stated that the story was “an unequal imitation of the celebrated Pilgrim’s Progress, which is, perhaps, inimitable” (Griffiths 219). This could be similar to the case of The Spectre Mother, as many lesser known chapbooks were imitations of works of previous authors.

The Spectre Mother is listed in Franz Potter’s The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. Potter states that the author was “confined by the restrictions of the bluebook” and therefore the reader is immediately immersed in the “contrived, gloomy atmosphere, often by forcing the location, such as a castle, to reflect the antagonist” (72). Following this analysis is a sample of the text from the first paragraph of the story, exemplifying the mysterious and ominous tone of the first several pages of the book. The author, however, is again stated as unknown and there is no mention of John Mitchell within the book.


Narrative Point of View

The narrator of The Spectre Mother is unknown and utilizes third-person narration. The narrator unveils the emotions of each character and shares their thoughts and concerns while also driving the plot forward. The story is narrated with ample descriptions that highlight the actions and eccentricities of each character. The sentences are long and the language evokes strong images and feelings.

Sample Passage:

The dark spirit of Moresco shrank from the presence of innocence thus forcibly delineated, and wanted courage to perpetrate a deed so horrible; but at the moment, the mother moved in her sleep, and with instinctive fondness pressed the babe closer to her bosom, as though to save it from the blow that hovered over it. —The transient beam of benevolence that had broken on the guilty soul of Moresco, vanished before his apprehensions of personal safety, and his thirst of gold; and with a nervous and well-aimed blow, he pierced her virtuous heart, who had never known even a thought injurious to his welfare or his happiness. —One faint and quivering sigh alone told the departure of the pure spirit from its mortal habitation! (8)

The style of narration in The Spectre Mother provides the reader with enough insight into the characters to understand their motivations and thoughts, but not too much to give away key plot points. In the beginning of the text, the narrator explains Moresco’s conflicting feelings about murdering Julia and her child, yet the reason that he was tasked with this mission is not disclosed until later in the story. The narrator uses the emotions of the characters to add to the dark melancholy tone of the story. Angela’s feelings of solitude and gloominess are described in detail by the narrator and they set the mood for her encounter with the ghost of Julia. As Angela tries to sleep, for instance, the narrator exposes that “she mused with terror and curiosity of the incidents of the night” and that “her distressed mind wandered to a no less painful, though a far different subject of meditation” (12).

These descriptions also bring to light the distinctions amongst the characters. While Angela pines for the life she lost when she was taken by banditti, and later worries about the safety of Julia’s baby, Moresco is primarily concerned with pleasing his boss and making money. The narrator also uses long, descriptive sentences to depict how characters react to surprises and supernatural visits. This configuration draws the reader in and builds tension as the narration follows the actions of the characters. Additionally, the narrator’s language—utilizing adjectives and adverbs frequently while describing the settings—evokes a strong sense of visuality.


Summary

The Spectre Mother: Or The Haunted Tower begins with the clock of Rovido castle striking midnight. A man emerges from the shadows of the dark halls and sneaks to the inhabited area of the castle. He carries a lantern and a concealed weapon as he makes his way through the castle, pausing frequently to quiet his guilty mind and ensure no one is awake. He enters a secret door and ascends a flight of steps to a gloomy gallery. The novel now exposes him to be a murderer as he removes a marble statue, presses a hidden panel behind it, and enters the chamber of his intended victims.

The opening scene in Chapter One of The Spectre Mother

Moresco finds the woman he plans to kill, sleeping with her baby in her arms. He watches her sleep and experiences a moment of hesitation before stabbing her. She lets out a final sigh and dies. He points the knife at the baby and it smiles at him. Moresco snatches the child and is about to kill it when a blue light flashes and he sees the pale figure of the mother standing in front of him. She points to the corpse and bloody letters form over the body’s head. They read, “Let the life of the innocent be spared, to plead for the guilty soul of the murderer” (9).

Moresco drops the dagger and sinks to the floor in terror. He holds the child and vows to protect the infant. The spirit vanishes and he flees from the castle. He decides that he will not inform his employer that he failed to kill the child, and instead throws its bloody clothes into the river. He returns home and tells his wife, Angela, to take the child and raise it as her own. He angrily refuses to tell her who the mother is and she relents to abate his temper. Moresco makes her swear to keep it a secret. She recounts to him that earlier that night, the flames of the candles were extinguished and she heard a soft and dismal sigh in her ear. Moresco lashes out over this news and declines to address it. They go off to bed.

It is revealed that Angela Modeni was orphaned and destitute at an early age. The Marchioness di Montmorenci took her in and provided her with an education. When she was twenty years old, the Marquis di Montmorenci returned home from traveling abroad. They both had feelings for one another and he expressed his openly to Angela. She felt guilty about depriving the marchioness of a daughter in law of equal birth for her son, so she resisted his affections. When the marchioness found out about her son’s interest in her, she had Angela removed and induced her to secretly move to a distant convent. En route to the convent, Angela and her attendants were surrounded by banditti. Two of them, Ludovico and Moresco, were drawn to Angela immediately.

Moresco was the youngest son of a Neapolitan nobleman and was to inherit an estate, but his extravagant lifestyle caused him to lose everything. He desperately tried to win back his inheritance, but did so dishonorably. This resulted in him being forced to leave Naples. He met Ludovico’s men and joined their group and rose in their ranks to second-in-command.

Upon meeting Angela, Moresco wanted her for himself. He convinced her to rely on him to help her escape the banditti, and she reluctantly agreed. In order to appear more deserving of her favor, he proposed to her. Angela accepted and they got married and moved to a dilapidated tower in a deserted area in Italy. Soon after, Moresco started working for a man named Count Ruvello. The Count was third in line to inherit a family member’s fortune, after the man’s wife and child. Once the man tragically died in battle, the Count discovered his proximity to the man’s fortune. Greedily, he could not resist the temptation of wealth, and consequently hired Moresco to murder Julia and her child.

The day after the murder, Moresco wakes up, dresses as a friar, and leaves to meet with Count Ruvello. The Count begins to question him about the absence of the child’s body. Moresco becomes frantic as he believes he hears Julia’s sigh in the room, but the Count hears nothing. Moresco makes an excuse for the child’s missing body and explains that he dropped it in the river. The Count offers him a reward and asks Moresco to stay for a few days.

Angela wakes up soon after Moresco’s departure. Though she hates when he is around, she is lonely in the gloomy ruin when he is not there. She takes comfort in the baby and stays close to it. Late that night, a flash of lightning wakes her up. She goes to where the baby is sleeping and is greeted by a bleeding form surrounded by pale blue vapor. Angela is terrified and watches as it glides towards the bed and bends over the sleeping baby. It turns to Angela, raises one hand towards heaven and points the other toward the wound. It motions for Angela to follow, which she does not comply with. Then, a surprising enthusiasm takes over Angela and she grows courageous. She believes that she is being selected for something important. Angela picks up the sleeping baby and follows the spirit.

This page describes the first visit from the ghost of Julia

The ghost glides in silence to the end of the apartment, a concealed door flies open, and they make their way through a dark passage. The spirit pauses, turns to Angela, sighs, and sinks into the ground. Where it disappears, there is now a chasm. Angela experiences an irresistible force compelling her to descend the ruined steps down into the abyss. After doing so, a loud rumbling sound above her head causes her to look up and she sees the chasm close above her. Shadowy hands beckon her forward and she musters the courage to continue through the underground chambers. The ghost that brought her down is now standing by an altar of black marble stained with blood and adorned with human bones. It beckons her forward and motions to a crack in the marble containing a bloody dagger. The ghost points one hand to her bosom and the other she points to the weapon and traces the name of Moresco carved on the hilt. The spirit tells her to save the innocent from the guilty, explains that the Count hired Moresco to commit the murder, and says that she must restore to the child the inheritance that he has taken away from her. The ghost tells Angela not to fear acting with firmness as her virtue will produce her happiness.

Angela wakes up on a small bank near her house, ready to obey the spirit’s request. On Angela’s return home, it begins to rain and she decides to approach a building to ask for shelter for the night. No one answers her call. Angela, tired and desperate, ascends a staircase nearby and takes cover in a gallery and soon falls asleep. The baby crawls away from her and cries until a man finds it.

Angela wakes up and panics when she realizes the child is missing. She searches the area until she finds the baby resting on a couch in a nearby room. The man reenters, and she is shocked to discover that it is Di Montmorenci. They have a joyful reunion until he sees her wedding ring and is reminded of her unavailability. He throws himself on the floor and she begins to calm him, explaining the situation she is in. She decides to leave out Moresco’s involvement in the story but feels conflicted. She does not know how to carry out the mission that the spirit set for her without exposing the Count and endangering the life of Moresco. Angela requests to speak with a holy monk about the important matter, and move with the child to a convent temporarily. She confesses everything to Father Bernada, who urges the necessity of bringing the Count Ruvello to justice, while only revealing Moresco’s guilt if necessary.

The next morning, Angela and the baby leave for the convent, much to Di Montmorenci’s sadness. During their stay, Angela’s attachment to the baby grows stronger and stronger. She then receives a letter from Father Bernado. He and a party of officials went to Count Ruvello’s home to confront him. The Count and Moresco were seated together upon their arrival. After inquiring about Moresco’s religious dress, the Count instantly implicated Moresco in order to divert suspicion away from himself. Both men were confined to guarded rooms, where Moresco committed suicide. Count Ruvello was brought to trial, found guilty, and banished. Father Bernado tells Angela that the child must be returned to her family home for her existence to be universally acknowledged. Since there is no guardian for the child, Angela can take on that role. He tells her that he recounted her actions to the Pope, and the Pope decided to bestow two thousand crowns on her for her misfortunes.

Di Montmorenci visits Angela at her new home with the child and they get married after her twelve months of widowhood are complete. Father Bernado officiates the wedding and the couple soon sets off for Venice, where Angela is received with respect and esteem due to her new rank.


Bibliography

Griffiths, Ralph. Monthly Review, or, Literary Journal, 1752-1825, Vol. 27, Hurst, Robinson, and Co., 1762.

Mitchell, John. “The Spectre Mother, or, The Haunted Tower.” Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery, https://cdm16014.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p4014coll9/id/18519.

Mitchell, John. The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower. London. Dean & Munday, 1800.

Mitchell, John. The Spectre Mother: Or the Haunted Tower. New York City. W. Borradaile, 1823.

Potter, Franz J. The History of Gothic Publishing: 1800-1835: Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Reginald, Robert, and Douglas Menville, editors. The Spectre Bridegroom and Other Horrors. Wildside Press, 2006.


Researcher: Ruby G. Peters

Koenigsmark the Robber

Koenigsmark the Robber

Koenigsmark the Robber, or, the Terror. of. Bohemia, in which is Introduced, Stella, or, the Maniac of the Wood, a Pathetick Tale

Author: H. J. Sarrett
Publisher: Tegg and Castleman
Publication Year: c. 1803
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 3 volumes, each 10.5cm x 8cm, 4 cm deep
Pages: 80
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .M356 1802 v.3 no.1


This chapbook translated by H.J. Sarrett and published around 1803 tells a story of murder, magic, and a maniac. A knight and his lover once separated by death may never be reunited as long as the town’s robbers are still on the loose.


 Material History

The full title of this book is Koenigsmark The Robber or the Terror of Bohemia in Which is Introduced Stella of the Maniac of the Wood, A Pathetick Tale. The cover of this edition is 10.5 cm by 8 cm and the entire novel is 4 cm deep. The front cover of this book has fallen off and is separated from the rest of the intact book; however, the cover is still included with the text. The cover is dark, chocolate-brown leather, including the binding. The leather is smooth and waxy from years of use and direct contact with skin whose oils can smooth the texture of the leather. On the spine, there are golden floral designs. The combination of leather binding and gold accents on the spine could mean this book was printed for long wear and quality. The pages are thick and smooth, similar to the texture of the average paper in a twenty-first century novel. It is sturdy and unstained, yet the paper is slightly yellowed, most likely due to age. The pages all  have small margins, about 1 cm on each side. The text fills up most of the pages. It is a small font and closely set. Most page edges are slightly worn with very few tears.

A handwritten partial table of contents for this compilation of tales appears in the opening leaves of the volume. Though Koenigsmark the Robber is the first tale in this book, whoever wrote this list did not list it here.

Koenigsmark, The Robber is the first book that appears in a compilation of seven stories listed in the following order: Koenigsmark, The Robber (1803), Phantasmagoria: Or the Development of Magical Deception (1803), Ildefonzo & Alberoni, or Tales of Horrors (1803), Ulric and Gustavus, Or Unhappy Swedes (1803), Blanche and Carlos; Or the Constant lovers: including the adventures of Valville and Adelaide, A Mexican Tale. (1803), Maximilian and Selina; Or, the Mysterious Abbot (1804), and The Voyages and Discoveries of Crusoe Richard Davis, the Son of a Clergyman in Cumberland (1801). Koenigsmark, The Robber is the only story within this book that has the author printed on the title page. The rest have no author mentioned within the book and do not appear to be by the same author as Koenigsmark, The Robber. The first six books are all printed by Tegg & Castlemen, whereas Blanche and Carlos was printed by S. Fisher. The stories do not have any evident relationship to one another except that they were published within a short time period (1801–1804) and are all of the Gothic genre. Koenigsmark, The Robber is 80 pages long.

When you first open the book, there is a bookplate with the name “Richardson Harrison” printed on it. As you turn the page, there are four blank leaves, two containing a handwritten table of contents numbered 1 through 7, correlating with the seven stories compiled together in this book. The only numbers that are filled out, though, are numbers 4 and 6.

Frontispiece and title page for Koenigsmark the Robber

Situated after the handwritten table of contents and as the first book in the volume, Koenigsmark opens with a frontispiece featuring an illustration from one of the last scenes in Koenigsmark when Koenigsmark is stabbed. Beneath the scene are the words, “Koenigsmark the Robber.” in a large font, and underneath it reads “Published June 1st 1803 by Tegg & Ca”, the publishing company for the book, Tegg and Castleman. The title page is adjacent to the frontispiece. The title covers the majority of the page and multiple lines; each line of text is a different font than the previous one. The author’s name, H. J. Sarrett, is printed in italics immediately beneath the title in a similar-sized font, as well as details about the author’s other works.

Throughout the rest of the story there are no other decorative elements: no captions, images, or texts other than the story, page numbers, and the abbreviated title, Koenigsmark, the Robber, at the top of each page.


Textual History

This edition of Koenigsmark the Robber Or, the Terror of Bohemia was published in 1803 in London by Tegg & Castleman and is credited, on the title page, to H.J. Sarrett. The book was originally written in German by Rudolf Erich Raspe and titled Koniksmark der Rauber; oderr, Der Schrecken aus Bohmen. The German version was published in 1790. H.J. Sarrett translated and adapted Raspe’s text, publishing it as Koenigsmark, The Robber in 1803. The English version by Sarrett “became the basis for a pirated chapbook purporting to be by M.G. Lewis,” the author of The Monk (Bridgwater 195). Sarrett also translated another work, The Three Monks!!!, which is mentioned on the title page of this edition of Koenigsmark.

Part of the ownership history of Koenigsmark the Robber can be traced thanks to this bookplate

There appear to be several editions of this novel published in the early nineteenth century. Montague Summers and Ann B. Tracy both identify the first publication as 1801 (Summers 380, Tracy 155). Tracy lists this edition as published by William Cole in one volume (155). The edition primarily discussed here is dated 1803, was published by Tegg & Castleman, and has 80 pages. It is collected in the third volume of a collection entitled The Marvelous Magazine and Compendium of Prodigies. There is also a shorter 38-page chapbook published by James Williams that is undated. The chapbook contains the same frontispiece as the 1803 version (but without the note regarding the 1803 publication date) and the title is slightly different: the longer version uses “A Pathetic Tale” while this 38-page chapbook uses “An Affecting Tale.” This chapbook also lists no author on the title page, and there is no link in the printed text between Sarrett and the text. This chapbook is the same story with the same plot, but the longer version goes into more detail and adds more dialogue between characters.

A separate chapbook with a different title, Koenigsmark the Robber, or, The Terror of Bohemia, including the History of Rosenberg and Adelaide, and their Orphan Daughter and attributed to Matthew Lewis was published by William Cole. This edition has only 24 pages and is not dated. Interestingly, in the longer version of Koenigsmark, the orphan daughter character is particularly minor, though here she is referenced in the title. Instead of the black-and-white frontispiece, this chapbook version has a fold-out page featuring several color illustrations (“Gothic Chapbooks”).

This work does not have any prefaces or introductions in any of the editions. Based on its multiple editions, this book appears to have garnered some interest among readers. Nonetheless, since the time of its printing, there have been no additional twenty-first-century reprintings. All editions are available online through Google Books. In scholarship, the novel is used as an example of a gothic romance text as it depicts the supernatural, betrayal, romance, and violence. Popular Romanticism, for instance, gives the chapbook version attributed to Lewis as an example of gothic chapbook form.


Narrative Point of View

Koenigsmark the Robber is narrated in the third person by an anonymous narrator who never appears in the text. The narration is laconic—often brief and to the point—and focuses on filling in gaps in the story or furthering the reader’s understanding of the scene. Throughout the novel, the narration will provide insight into the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists, but never does so for the antagonists.

Sample Passage:

By the time the two friends reached the inn, the night continued stormy, and they found many travelers who were unwilling to continue their journey in such horrid weather. “Bolfield,” said Herman, addressing the landlord, “you will oblige me, my friend, with giving us particulars of Rosenberg’s death, as you heard it from this servant. “Herman,” said the landlord, “since you request it, I will comply, though the subject distresses me. Konigsal you know, lies about twelve miles from this place, across the forest. Rosenberg wished to cross the forest that night, not heeding the representations of his servant, but replied, “that a soldier ought never know fear.” As they proceeded a distant clock struck twelve; they heard the cries of murder seemingly issuing from a clump of trees at a small distance from them. (9)

As in this passage, the vast majority of the narrative is told through dialogue among the characters. The dialogue is condensed together within paragraphs rather than being separated out by character. The third-person narration primarily functions to set the scene and to provide connection and context between instances of dialogue. This makes transitioning scenes as the story progresses rather easy to follow and clear.


Summary

On a dark and stormy night, two young men named Theodore and Herman went to spend a few hours at an inn in the woods where townspeople would meet up and relax together by smoking and telling stories. On the walk there, Herman tells Theodore a story of a young woman named Adelaide and how she lost her husband. Theodore had not lived in the village for long, so he did not know the story. Herman went on to tell him that a man named Adolphus Rosenberg was a young man who had fallen in love with General Kaempfer’s daughter. When Adolphus went to ask the general to marry his daughter, the general said he would only allow it if Adolphus became a soldier for him. He made him the aid-de-camp to the Colonel Monteculi.

A sample page of text from Koenigsmark the Robber, showing the start of the story

Soon after, they set off on a long voyage and ended up being attacked by assassins in the woods called the Banditti. Adolphus saves the general’s life and for that, Kaempfer gave him his blessing to be with his daughter. Only a few weeks later they married and later had a child. Unfortunately, Adolphus was called for another voyage soon after. Adelaide felt that it was a bad idea, and it turned out she was correct. Her husband was killed in the woods by assassins and when the news came back to the general, he told his daughter that he was sick and was stuck on his voyage.

This is all Herman knows. They have reached the inn where they ask the innkeeper, Bolfield, if he knows anything else about Rosenburg’s death. He tells them the story he heard from Adolphus’s servant: they were travelling through the woods when they heard a woman’s cries. When they went to help her, a group of assassins attacked them. Adolphus was fatally shot but the servant was saved by a passerby. Theodore and Herman are told a similar story by someone else in the inn, claiming supernatural occurrences, though Theodore and Herman are skeptical.

Later, a few of the Banditti including their leader, Koenigsmark, arrive the inn where Theodore overhears their plans to attack Kaempfer. Theodore us so moved by the stories that he wants to warn Kaempfer and protect him so that Adelaide would not be fatherless as well. Theodore gathers some friends and they set off to Koningsal, where Kaempfer resides. They tell him of the Banditti’s plan and prepare for them to arrive. When the Banditti show up, Theodore and his men attack and one of the banditti says that they were ordered there by Koenigsmark and that they should beware of him, because he is invincible. Theodore and his men set off to kill Koenigsmark.

They find Koenigsmark in the woods but Theodore is quickly captured and just as they were about to torture him, Koenigsmark’s lieutenant requested that they do not harm Theodore because he had saved his life in a previous battle. Koenigsmark obliges, but says Theodore will be his prisoner in the cave they keep secret in the woods forever.

Later that night, the lieutenant that requested Theodore to be left alone comes to him in his cell. They make a plan to break him out. The next day, the pair, as well as the guard for the cell, Steinfort, escape to Kaempfer who told them to go kill Koenigsmark.

When they return to the cell to fight, the lieutenant is shot and killed while Koenigsmark gets away. So, Theodore and Herman return to the inn where they met Stella: the. maniac of the woods. Bolfield tells them the tragic story of her lover, Raymond, being executed right in front of her after he harmed a servant for his money.

A while later, Theodore receives a letter telling him that colonel Kaempfer is dead and that Adelaide has taken her baby and run into the forest. Theodore and Herman her lying lifeless on the ground without her baby, but she is still alive. They discover that Koenigsmark took the child so they fight him. While he is distracted, Steinfort, the freed servant of Koenigsmark, finds the baby and takes it to safety. Theodore wounds Koenigsmark but keeps him alive so that he can kill him later. When Adelaide is reunited with her baby, a flash of lightening lights up the room and Rosenburg’s ghost appears. Adelaide leaves her body and joins him as a ghost—leaving the baby as an orphan.

Konenigsmark is hanged for execution when a cloaked spirit appears and stabs him, telling him that he fulfilled his promise. The town holds funerals for Colonel Kaempfer and Adelaide. Colonel Monteculi then adopts the child as his own and appoints Theodore and Steinfort as their guardians and protectors if he were to ever die. Theodore and Herman then leave for the army where they are great warriors with lots of success.


Bibliography

Bridgwater, Patrick. The German Gothic Novel in Anglo-German Perspective. Rodopi, 2013.

“Gothic Chapbooks.” Popular Romanticism. poprom.streetprint.org/narratives/90.

Koenigsmark, the Robber: Or, The Terror of Bohemia: Including the History of Rosenberg and Adelaide, and Their Orphan Daughter. Johns Hopkins Library, catalyst.library.jhu.edu/catalog/bib_2655132.

Koenigsmark the Robber: Or, the Terror of Bohemia; In Which is Introduced Stella, or, The Maniac of the Wood, a Pathetick Tale. Portsea, James Williams, n.d.

Sarrett, H. J. Koenigsmark the Robber: Or, the Terror of Bohemia; In Which is Introduced Stella, or, The Maniac of the Wood, a Pathetick Tale. London, Tegg and Castleman, 1803, in The Marvelous Magazine and Compendium of Prodigies, vol. 3. London, Tegg and Castleman, 1802–1804.

Sarrett, H. J. The Three Monks!!! From the French. [A Translation of Les Trois Moines, by M. De Faverolle, Pseudonym of Elisabeth Guénard, Afterwards Brossin, Baroness De Méré.] 1803.

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

Tracy, Ann B. The Gothic Novel 1790­­–1830: Plot Summaries and Index to Motifs. Lexington, The University Press of Kentucky, 1981.


Researcher: Lucy E. Gilbert

The Magician

The Magician

The Magician

Author: Leitch Ritchie
Publisher: Simms and M’Intyre; W. S. Orr and Co
Publication Year: 1846
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.5cm x 16.5cm
Pages: 390
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .R57 M 1846


A tale of magic, secrets, and betrayal, Leitch Ritchie’s 1846 novel set in France features several romances that must overcome the divides created by religion and class, while trust is tested by unknown foes with sinister motives


Material History

Half-title page

The Magician is a novel by Leitch Ritchie, published in 1846 by Simms and M’Intyre (also written as Simms and McIntyre) of Belfast and later also London. The book itself is 390 pages, and its font is small and closely set together. Its margins are likewise small with the right and left margins being 1.35 cm and the top and bottom margins being 1 cm. The book is 16.5 cm long, 10.5 cm wide, and 3.0 cm in thickness, making it physically quite compact. This edition is bound together as one novel, but as implied by the dedication on page five, it has also been published in multiple volumes. There are two other editions, one with two volumes and one with three, both of which were published in 1836. The cover of the book is intricate, with calf leather covering the spine and corners of the book which indicates it was half bound, and the rest of the cover is marbled in blue and red. The leather on the front and back covers is decorated with a floral design that was impressed using a bind-rolled floral tool. On the spine, the design resembles a thistle, which could be a reference to Ritchie’s homeland, Scotland, whose national flower has been the thistle since 1249. The author is also referenced many times inside the book. His name is embossed on the spine, is labeled on pages 3 and 4, and referenced again in the notes at the end of the book. On page 3, his name is also accompanied by some of the titles of his other novels and is followed by “etc. etc.” indicating that he has written many works. There are two title pages, the first with only with The Magician printed on it, and the second (on page 3) with The Magician printed along with Ritchie’s name and other works. This page is outlined in a black lined box. The other stories referenced that were written by Ritchie include The Game of LifeRomance of French History, and Journey to St. Petersburgh and Moscow. Also included on this page is the publisher along with their location along with the publication date of the novel. A note from the author precedes the main text, and here Ritchie explains the lack of magic in the novel, despite its title. He also explains his inspiration for many of his characters, many of which were based on historical figures. One last inclusion is Ritchie’s mention of the character Gilles de Retz, whom he had previously written about three years earlier in Wanderings by the Loire, an account of the character’s history and background.

The book is in relatively good condition, with its spine being the only thing in slightly poor physical condition. The spine is cracked severely but still holds the novel together, while the inside pages look untouched. Also of consideration, the spine is tightly bound, which might contribute to the anomaly that while from the outside it looks worn, the inside is in good condition, as it takes effort to open the novel and in doing so the spine is worn out at an accelerated rate. 

Armorial bookplate of John Waldie, Hendersyde and book label

Inside the book, one of the first things of interest is an armorial bookplate belonging to John Waldie of Hendersyde Park which is located in Ednam, Scotland, a small town near Kelso in the Scottish Borders. The bookplate also has a capital E written in the top left corner. Under the bookplate, is a blue book label that states “Novels and Romance; No. 893” indicating that this novel belonged to a large private collection of Waldie. This was most likely placed at the same time as the armorial bookplate but added second as it abuts the armorial plate so closely. Only the armorial bookplate has left an impression on the page adjacent to the back of the front cover. This is most likely because the bookplate’s paper, as opposed to the book label’s, is thicker and the ink used when printing it has transferred onto the facing page. 

The interior of the book is void of any illustrations except for an intricate drawing of the first letter in the first chapter on page seven. The letter I (belonging to the first word of the novel, “in”) is shaded and drawn to have flowers adorning it. The first and last two pages of the novel (which are not in the official page count) are blank and are thinner and more yellowed in comparison to the rest of the pages, which are slightly brittle but in overall better condition. The pages all together are stiff and inflexible, but this could be due to the novel’s tight binding and resulting infrequent use. 

Receipt of purchase by Robert Black from George Bates’ Rare and Interesting Books in 1939

A unique feature of this novel is that in the back it contains a receipt of purchase by Robert K. Black. It is in linen paper which was determined by holding up the receipt up to the light where the watermark “698 Linen Faced” is revealed, which describes the type and brand of paper. Some of the aspects (name, address, telephone, telegram, etc.) appear to be previously printed onto the paper, while other details look to have been added by a typewriter (including the date of purchase, the book purchased, and the buyer). The receipt comes from George Bates Rare and Interesting Books in London, and it shows that the novel was purchased by Robert Black on August 8, 1939, almost one hundred years after The Magician’s publication. This would have also been one year after Black’s purchase of Michael Sadleir’s collection in 1938 which was immediately placed at the University of Virginia. From 1938 to 1942, Black continued to add more novels into the gothic collection, one of which was The Magician. On the receipt, it can even be seen that the seller incorrectly typed many parts of the receipt. On it, the book purchased is The Nagician (which was not amended) and Ritchie’s last name was originally incorrectly spelled with a “w” at the end, which was later typed over with an e. The date of the book’s publication was also originally incorrectly typed, stating originally 1848, and the 8 was later typed over with a 6.


Textual History

The Magician is a novel written by the Scottish author Leitch Ritchie. Before its publication, Ritchie had already written multiple novels, sketches, and short stories, some of which include The Romance of History, France (1831) and The Game of Life (1830). Ritchie was well known in the literary sphere due to his numerous works and had gained merit from his short stories (The Athenaeum 396). A year after The Magician was published in 1836, Ritchie had even embarked on a tour for his series, Ireland, Picturesque and Romantic; or, Heath’s Picturesque Annual for 1838, which was well-received (Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine 684). The Magician was published in four main editions in Ritchie’s lifetime. The original publication was in 1836, and during that year it was distributed by two publishers: John Macrone as well as Carey, Lea, & Blanchard. John Macrone was based in London but passed away in 1837, a year after The Magician’s publication (Simkin). His version was distributed in three volumes. Carey, Lea, & Blanchard published the novel in two volumes, and this was published in the United States, giving The Magician a larger audience. Later, in 1846, his novel was published in one volume by Simms & M’Intyre, a London and Belfast based publisher. Their first version was in 1846, where the volume consisted of 390 pages and was reprinted in the “Parlour Novelist” (a collection of fiction reprints); this is the edition held by the University of Virginia Sadleir-Black Collection. Simms & M’Intyre’s second printing of The Magician was in 1853 and consisted of 320 pages and was reprinted in the “Parlour Library,” another series of fiction reprints. 

Second title page, including Ritchie’s other works, along with the publisher and date of publication

In periodicals at the time, The Magician was advertised frequently by Macrone and Simms & M’Intyre. Its advertisements were smaller on the page than larger names at the time, such as Charles Dickens in The Athenaeum. Ritchie’s advertisements, in contrast, were often found among groups of novels that were either listed in “Lately Published” or “In the Press” sections (The Athenaeum 1021; The Literary Gazette 12). In a select few of the advertisements, Ritchie’s work would be given more space in print in order to describe a brief summary. Despite the different periodicals it could be found in, such as Gentleman’s Magazine and The Court Magazine and Belle Assemblee, the blurb was consistently “The Magician, the scene in France, and the epoch the end of the English dominion in the fifteenth century, connected with the favourite studies of the period, alchemy and magic, by Mr. Leitch Ritchie” (The Court Magazine and Belle Assemblee vii).

Alongside this promotion, there were few reviews for The Magician, all of which had varying opinions on the quality of the novel. Two of the more notably detailed ones, written in The Literary Gazette and The Athenaeum delivered negative feedback. The Literary Gazette labeled The Magician as “a complete failure” and commented specifically on the striking similarities to the Bible’s tale of Isaac and Rebecca (The Literary Gazette 360). Due to this, the reviewer questioned the originality of the plot and likened parts of it to another previously published novel, Kenilworth, stating that two of The Magician’s main characters created a dynamic that was “an exaggerated copy of Leicester and Alasco” (The Literary Gazette 360). The Athenaeum’s review was less harsh, but still nowhere near positive. Though the author praised Ritchie for his earlier works, he emphasized that he has “been less successful when his canvas was more ambitiously enlarged” (396). This review harped more on the concept of the title and its relation to the book, as any magic that is described in the book is later refuted by Ritchie and revealed to be mere tricks of the eye, stating “we cannot, however, understand why Mr. Ritchie should neutralize the effect of his story, by a careful and systematic destruction of the wonders it contains” (The Athenaeum 396). This review mainly consisted of criticism regarding introducing the idea of sorcery and gramarye only to in the end dissuade his readers from believing in its existence entirely. The Magician’s more positive reviews are less prevalent and take the form of short blurbs. The Examiner referenced a small review by The Globe in which they wrote, “We congratulate Mr. Ritchie on the sensation he has produced,” and the Athenaeum quickly referenced it as a “clever and forcible romance” (The Examiner 688; The Athenaeum 625). This seems to be the extent of the positive reviews, with only a couple more sources eliciting some optimistic words in his direction. Despite this, Ritchie is often referenced in reviews or advertisements for his other works, such as in the Examiner when Wearfoot Common is noted as being by “Leitch Ritchie, Author of ‘The Magician,’” which could indicate its approval by the general public as opposed to the critics, who seemed to have taken a negative stance on its content (The Examiner 181). 

Presently, The Magician has been adapted into digital copies, most notably the Simms & M’Intyre 1846 version has been electronically reproduced by HathiTrust Digital Library in 2011. HathiTrust has also reproduced volumes one through three of the 1836 Macrone publication and volumes one and two of the Carey, Lea & Blanchard 1836 publication. The 1853 version seems to be the only one missing in their digital library. Google Books has electronically reproduced these specific volumes as well.


Narrative Point of View

The Magician is narrated in the third person, conveying the thoughts of all of the characters as opposed to just one. The anonymous narrator provides information about background and history that the characters, individually or collectively, might not know. Within this third-person narration, the narrator also occasionally uses the first-person, particularly utilizing “we” when relaying background knowledge. This is done sparingly, only at the beginning of chapters or in the midst of a description. The narrator also directly addresses “the reader” within the narration.

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:

The attention of the scholar [David] was now directed exclusively to the space within the circle; and after an interval which appeared painfully long, he saw a light-coloured vapor rising from the altar, which was followed by a sudden flame, illuminating for an instance the whole apartment. But the smoke and flame vanished as suddenly as they had arisen, and, at the same moment, the appearance of a man clothed in black armor stood by the table. (258)

Sample Passage of Pauline Narrating a Dream:

“I followed him, for I could not help it. He called my name, and I mounted after him into the air, higher, higher than the lark soars or the cloud rolls. The stars swept in circles above our heads, hissing through the golden air and the earth was like a star beneath our feet, only stationary and alone. Then Prelati turned round, and I saw that he was a demon of the abyss, and I flew shrieking down the fields of space, till the whole universe rang with my cries. But he seized me; he caught me by my long hair, that streamed in the wind, when suddenly his arm was struck from his body by the blow of a sword. We are now safe. Hide me, love, in thy coat, and lay the Bloody Heart next to mine. But take away the dead arm that still clings to my hair. –Faugh! it makes me shudder. Cut off the tress-there– ‘O Douglas, Douglas, Tender and true!’” (261)

Sample Passage including an Interjection and Reference to the Reader:

Soon however, his mind seemed to revert to its usual occupations. He was evidently preparing to retire for the night; and, after having opened the door of a closet, where his bed appeared to be placed, he sank down upon his knees to pray. In his prayer, which was delivered with energy and deep devotion, the student joined mentally; and as the form of supplication was not particular to the personages of our history, but common to many of those who were in that day engaged in similar pursuits, we think it well to present the reader with the following copy. (52)

The third-person narration reveals the actions that occur in the novel as well as the motivations or reasonings behind these actions. They also contribute to the many interpretations of the situations that multiple characters simultaneously encounter. By presenting each character’s experiences, the narration builds a bigger picture of the overarching plot. The example above shows how David is conceptualizing the resurrection of Prelati, but this is only one point of view. Later, the narrator also presents Pauline’s thoughts in the form of the dream she had when she fainted from the sight of Prelati. From her perspective, an impending danger regarding Prelati, and her safety is secured by Douglas (Archibald) is foreshadowed. While the introduction to her position and story is in the third person, her dialogue is told in the first person. Alongside developing these relationships among the novel’s characters, by consistently using “we” the narrator also develops a relationship between himself and the reader. With this relationship, he can also include new knowledge that is essential to understand the context of the novel’s settings and characters.


Summary

This is the first page of main text in the novel. The first letter is illustrated with flowers and vines growing off it.

The novel begins in 1497 in Paris, during the welcome parade for the new prince, where 3000 people are waiting. A young unnamed Scottish knight is introduced and, he enters the crowd, disappearing past the gates of Paris. Stopping on a bridge, the knight talks to the echevin, Jacquin Houpelande who is a member of the legislative body, introducing Scotland’s part as an ally of Paris in the war. The French needed their help in defeating England during the Hundred Years War. The knight stops to think about how well-designed Paris is for the occasion, with everyone dressed up, and he concludes that everyone is represented but the Jews, who were banished by the edict of the past prince. He continues into the city, stopping by the university to watch the parade, full of royals and dignitaries. In it is the dauphin, who is betrothed to Margaret, the young princess of Scotland. While walking further, the unnamed knight is attacked by three English students who draw their swords, but a man, Douglas, shouts at them, and descends into the streets followed by three other men. Douglas, and his three companions, Nigel, Bauldy, and Andrew, defend the Scottish knight, and once the fight is over, the knight goes to talk to his rescuers. He realizes that he knows their leader who was his childhood friend, Archibald, as they are both from the Douglas clan from Scotland.

All leave to go to Archibald’s room, and upon entering, David and Archibald begin to argue over an unlit candle about David’s choice to become a student, which leaves him unpaid. The flame suddenly flashes up, though David takes no notice. David leaves for the night, entering a doorway that leads him to a tunnel under the university. Here, David’s master is introduced, the alchemist Messire Jean, along with his master’s daughter whom David has developed feelings towards over the years. The two men hear a noise and a knock on the final door, which turns out to be Messire Jean’s friend Prelati. Prelati introduces the concept of the philosopher’s stone and then brings up Jean’s enemy Gilles de Retz, who betrayed him long ago. While they begin to talk, David talks to the daughter who tells him her secret: she’s Jewish. She makes him promise not to reveal what he knows as his knowledge could kill them.

The next morning, David has a hard time dealing with the news, so he seeks out Archibald to confess to him his secret life. They walk through Paris and Archibald, a staunch believer in Christianity, over David’s choice to indulge in Hermeticism. While passing people, David mentions that he recognizes a man named Orosmandel, a famed philosopher. Archibald’s past is explained; he came to Paris to assist Margaret, Princess of Scotland, on her journey to meeting the Dauphin of France. On the way he saved a woman known as Mademoiselle de Laval, who warned him that her attacker is the Black Knight and tells him to make friends with a man named Orosmandel. The flashback ends, and now Archie stands in the theatre recognizing her in the crowd with Orosmandel.

The next day, David explains to his roommates Nigel, Andrew, and Bauldy, that he must leave, and they accuse him of valuing his life above their own. Hearing this, David is stunned and leaves the apartment, along with his education at the university. He meets with Messire Jean, who tells him to accompany his daughter, Hagar, to Nantes. David agrees and tells Jean in his absence to find his three friends to uptake the position of his assistant. Around the same time, Andrew, Bauldy, and Nigel receive a visit from Archibald who is trying to find David. They don’t know where he went, but Archibald later receives an anonymous note telling him to meet at the inn and tavern, Pomme-du-Pin. David and Hagar meet him, and David tells Archibald that he is going to work for Orosmandel as his assistant. Archibald insists that he will pursue alchemy if David can prove it is real. Hagar tells them she must leave but tells them to wait for her. While waiting, David inquires about Archibald’s relationship with Mademoiselle de Laval, who Archibald confesses he loves. Upon Hagar’s absence, they resolve to travel together to Brittany. While stopped for the night, Archibald encounters a young woman who tells him that the Damsel de Laval is in danger and he must go to the ruinous castle nearby. There, he overhears a plot to capture the Damsel, and he escapes as the Black Knight enters.

Hagar is now talking to two other women, Pauline and Marie, who want her to join their journey. Hagar insists that she must go straight to Nantes, but Pauline will not let her leave. Marie helps Hagar escape, switching cloaks with her, and Hagar passes the guards without suspicion. In the morning, Marie and Hagar leave for Nantes and end up traveling alongside a parade, where Gilles de Retz is seen. Hagar, now startled, says she is going to seek out Rabbi Solomon, who resides in Nantes, as he will grant her safety and she will be able to live there with her people. Marie’s betrothed, Jean, hears this and tells her that he will oversee her travels there. He instead betrays her, leading her to Gilles de Retz’s city apartment, locking her in to be kept prisoner. Elsewhere, the Damsel de Laval thinks about Archibald, questioning if he loves her for her money or if he has true intentions. She reveals that she is Pauline, who spoke to Hagar earlier. Pauline goes to talk to Orosmandel, who is employed by her father, and his assistant, the dwarf.

On the road to Brittany, David tells Archibald that he is worried about Hagar, and Archibald insinuates that David is falling in love with someone who is “unfit” causing David to draw his sword in her defense. The peasant girl interrupts the fight, telling them that her name is Marie, and that she is getting married. Her cousin, Lissette sings an ominous bridal song, which and Marie leaves crying. David also leaves, and he runs into the dwarf who tells him that it’s his job to escort David to La Verrieré. There, Orosmandel and Gilles, talk about their plans to sacrifice a willing virgin to the devil. They plan on sacrificing one of three girls, Gilles’ daughter Pauline, Hagar, or Marie. They contemplate sacrificing Hagar because she would be willing to save either her father or David’s life, and Marie because she left before she could consummate her marriage. Later Lissette taps on Andrew’s window, telling him that Marie is lost. Archibald runs into the woods, and there he finds the Black Knight and his men. At the same time, Nigel, Bauldy, and Andrew enter the same part of the woods, and after escaping the Black Knight, they all agree to save David, who they fear has been put into grave danger. When they arrive at Nantes, Messire Jean, whose name is Caleb, is with them, as he left Paris with the trio. All try to figure out how to infiltrate La Verrieré to find David.

David is working for Orosmandel, using his position to figure out how to rescue Hagar. Later that night, Orosmandel sends for both David and Pauline so they can watch him summon the ghost of Prelati. Pauline faints, causing David to have to carry her to another room, Hagar’s prison. There, David warns Hagar to not take anything given to her, and he leaves saying that their religion no longer separates them as they are all equal at the gates of death.

Andrew finds the house of Rabbi Solomon, where he meets Caleb. While talking, two men, Claude Montrichard and Beauchamp, enter asking Caleb for gold so they can capture one of Gilles’ territories. They explain that Gilles is being investigated for his perversion of nature and religion and the government plans on arresting him. Caleb agrees to help them so long as they promise to rescue Hagar.

Back at La Verrieré, Hagar, contemplates her feelings for David and questions Gilles’s motives. She tries to leave, but the guard tells her that she needs permission from the baron. Hagar goes to request it, but the baron tells her that he cannot give freedom nor can she receive it. She bargains that if David is set free, she won’t try to leave. David enters to talk to Gilles, and Andrew comes in as the ambassador of Houpelande. Gilles tells David to leave, but David refuses, saying he is there to protect Hagar. Hagar reveals Prelati is alive, and before they all part, David tells Andrew to meet him later that night. Andrew heads for the tower, where David tells him to relay to Archibald that he must ally with Beauchamp and Montrichard, Prelati is alive, and Pauline is in danger. David later discovers a trapdoor in the floor, where Orosmandel and Prelati must have staged the summoning. He hides behind the curtain as Orosmandel and Gilles talk about their sacrifice, determining that Pauline must die. Later that night, David hears his name and discovers Marie in Gilles’ arms. Gilles runs, and David helps Marie escape through the newfound trapdoor. 

Andrew travels back to Nantes to meet with the rest of the men, and from there they split up. Andrew and Archibald take the road with Montrichard, while Nigel and Bauldy set forth on Houpelande’s wagon. While this is happening, Orosmandel and Gilles set up the ritual, and since Pauline won’t be a willing participant (which is required for the ceremony’s success), they convince Hagar, telling her David has died, and she is sent back to her cell. In another location, David has successfully convinced Caleb of his love for Hagar.

Hagar is taken from her cell by the Orosmandel, who has told her he will take her away as he wants her for his mistress. She refuses him, claiming love for David and that Orosmandel is too old for her to love. It’s at this moment that, Orosmandel tears away his beard and cloak, revealing that he was Prelati all along. While Prelati is distracted, Caleb stabs him and is subsequently thrown into the nearby wall by Prelati. Both die, and Hagar leaves with David. In another part of the castle, Archibald rescues Pauline. The novel concludes with the anonymous narrator giving an account of what has happened since then. Archibald and Pauline marry, as do Andrew and Marie, along with Bauldy and Felicité. David and Hagar leave together to travel to far and foreign lands. Three years later, a procession is held for Gilles where he is charged for sorcery and burned for being a wizard.


Bibliography

“Advertisement.” The Athenaeum, no. 1348, 1853, pp. 1021.

“Advertisement. “ Examiner, no. 1499, 1836, pp. 688.

“Book Review.” Examiner, no. 2460, 1855, pp. 181-182.

‘THE BOOKS OF THE SEASON.” Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 4, no. 47, 1837, pp. 678–688.

“LITERARY INTELLIGENCE.” The Court Magazine and Belle Assemblee, July 1832-Jan.1837, vol. 8, no. 2, 1836, pp. 7.

“LITERARY NOVELITIES.” The Literary Gazette : A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, no. 989, 1836, pp. 12.

“The Magician.” The Athenaeum, no. 449, 1836, pp. 396.

“The Magician.” The Literary Gazette : A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, no. 1011, 1836, pp. 360.

Ritchie, Leitch. The Magician. Belfast, Simms & M’Intyre, 1846.

Simkin, John. Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational, https://spartacus-educational.com/PRmacrone.htm.

“A Summer Amongst the Bocages and the Vines.” The Athenaeum, no. 667, 1840, pp. 623­–62.


Researcher: Rebecca E. Laflam

The Female Bluebeard

The Female Bluebeard

The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer

Author: Eugène Sue
Publisher: W. Strange
Publication Year: 1845
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 12.5cm x 18.5cm
Pages: 306
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .S83 F 1845


In this 1845 Eugène Sue novel, the Female Bluebeard is believed to have killed her past three husbands and now has three lovers: a pirate captain, a hide dealer, and a cannibal.


Material History

The Female Bluebeard title page

The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer is originally a French text by Eugène Sue; this edition presents the English translation. This edition does not give the original French title, but the French edition is entitled L’Aventurier ou la Barbe-bleue, with the name Barbe-bleue, or Bluebeard, coming from a French folk tale. In this edition, the full English title, The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer, appears on the fifth page and across every set of adjacent pages. Additionally, the author’s name appears on the fourth page under an illustration of the author, and again on the fifth page, under the title. It is on the fifth page that the book also gives the name of the illustrator, Walmsley, and the publisher, W. Strange.

The translator of this particular English edition is not specified, but we do know it was done in London in November of 1844, and the copy was published by William Strange in his office at 21, Paternoster Row, London, England in 1845. The text features thirty-four illustrations by Walmsley, and a separate epilogue to the story entitled “The Abbey of Saint Quentin.” The translator provides the reasoning behind the epilogue, noting that Eugène Sue was notorious for tying up the rest of his stories very quickly and in an “unsatisfactory manner” (286). Thus, this additional story gives a finished outcome and resolves any unanswered questions.

Translator’s Note for The Female Bluebeard

The translator prefaces both the full story and the epilogue. The epilogue was published separately by T.C. Savill, Printer, 107, St. Martin’s Lane in London.

The book is entirely unique, the cover of the book being a hard paper board which has been hand painted with a marbling technique. This particular cover has a muted, gray-green color with small swirls of reds, yellows, and blacks mixed in. The spine and the corners of the book are bound with dark brown leather, and the spine has both seven sets of parallel gilded lines going across it and a shortened version of the title, Female Bluebeard, also in gilt on the top of the spine. The book is 12.5cm by 18.5cm, and the edges of the cover and around the leather are worn. The binding of the book is still well intact; however, it is fragile upon opening it.

The opening of Chapter 1

Inside of the book, the first couple pages are end sheets of a thicker, more brittle paper, and the rest are of a softer, thinner sheet. There is a table of contents after the title page with both the chapter names and corresponding pages indicated. There are thirty-eight chapters plus an additional two for the epilogue. The pages of the book are identified with numbers indicated on the top left and top right of the pages, consecutively. There is a total of two-hundred and seventy-six pages for The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer, and the full story including the epilogue concludes on page three-hundred and six. Roman numerals, appearing at the bottom of some select pages, going up to the numeral XX, or twenty, were indicators to the people who bound the books which sections went in order.

The font of the text is rather small and closely set, and the margins are not very large. The illustrations appear both at the beginning of some chapters with the first letter of the first word in that sentence incorporated into the drawing, as well as throughout the chapters. They are all done in black ink by wood cuts. The illustrations don’t feature a caption, but they reflect scenes from that particular page or section. In some of the illustrations, the name of the illustrator, Walmsley, can be found cleverly hidden. For instance, in the opening of the chapter there is an illustration in which Walmsley’s name appears under the shadow of a fallen candlestick.

This particular book has some marks from previous ownership and from natural weathering. There is a name on the first page of the first chapter, written in pencil and signed in cursive, as well as a number scrawled in the corner of one of the first pages of endpapers. The significance of both is unknown. The pages show some browning and staining from air pollution interacting with the books over time, but little to no stains are from human error.


Textual History

Portrait of Eugene Sue printed in
The Female Bluebeard

The author of The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer, Eugène Sue, was well known across Europe, his French texts being adapted into every European language. He was lauded as the nautical romance author of Europe. His early works, generally maritime and romance focused, were immensely popular and enjoyed, but ultimately viewed as immoral and depraved. Many authors and publications were quick to defend Eugène Sue’s own moral character though, and his popularity in France led him to be elected as a representative of the people. After publishing several books then going into debt, Sue decided to leave Paris and abandon his upper-class roots to be among the people. This prompted his most popular novels, Mathilde and Les Mystères de Paris, which gave rise to many imitations and put him in the spotlight as a great socialist philosopher and novelist. Sue wrote some of the dramatic adaptations of these novels as well as for some of his other works, including the Morne-Au-Diable, an adaptation of The Female Bluebeard: or the Adventurer (“Eugene Sue: His Life and Works” 54­–66).

The Female Bluebeard was published in several manners. The book could be purchased whole as a single volume, but there was also the option to buy it in sections. It was sold in twenty parts in a magazine, for a price of one penny each. The sections contained two of the illustrations each. This twenty-number option could be bought by the publisher in London at 21 Paternoster-row, or “at all booksellers in England, Ireland, and Scotland” (The Standard 1). The W. Strange edition from 21 Paternoster Row, in 1846, just published, could also be purchased whole for three sickles (“Popular Books” 32). The English version of the text was published by several companies in London and by one in New York. The first English edition was the London edition by W. Strange. The New York version of L’Aventurier ou la Barbe Bleue, published in 1844 by J. Winchester, is titled differently as The Female Bluebeard; or Le Morne au Diable, taking from the name of the Female Bluebeard’s habitation. It is only one hundred and fifteen pages. The London publisher, Stokesley pr. owned by J.S. Pratt, likewise, used this title in their publication of the novel in 1845. This edition contained two volumes, measuring 445 pages, and a two-page insert about the other novels published by Pratt at Stokesley. The French text was translated to English for this edition by Charles Wright. Later, in 1898, The Female Bluebeard had several of its chapters published weekly in a London newspaper on “tales of mystery,” and it was advertised as a story of “love, intrigue, and adventure” (“Tales of Mystery” 241). There are several advertisements regarding the editions and where they could be bought. Stock of The Female Bluebeard was even auctioned off by a book collector at his house, boasting a thousand perfect copies of the eight-volume edition, illustrated with woodcuts with about one hundred and ten reams (“Sales by Auction” 546).

Translator’s Preface for 1845 W. Strange edition of The Female Bluebeard

The Female Bluebeard: Or the Adventurer was adapted for the stage several times. It appeared in England for one of the first times at the Drury Lane Theater in an adaptation entitled Adventurer in the Fiend’s Mountain (Amusements, &C 246). It was also adapted into a play by C. A Somerset Esquire at an amphitheater in Manchester (“Provincial Theatricals”). Both performances seemed to attract favorable attention and were deemed by the press a success. The novel likely had many more shows, as Eugène Sue himself, wrote an adaptation of it.

There were mixed reviews for The Female Bluebeard, as it did not quite capture the hearts of the people as much as many of his other works did. This novel, again, brought scrutiny on Sue’s character. One critic published that The Female Bluebeard was “licentious,” leading the translator of the W. Strange edition to write to the paper and defend the novel’s values. The translator argued that while not many French novels possessed a moral to their story, The Female Bluebeard did, and a valuable one at that (“Literature: The Female Bluebeard”). Moreover, there were some reviews that raved of its success, calling it “the most curious and exciting work” produced by Eugène Sue (“Popular Books” 32).

This particular text is not well attended to by scholars, as Eugene Sue produced a plethora of novels which garnered more attention and acclaim. His novel, Les Mystères de Paris, or The Mysteries of Paris, inspired several other locations-based mysteries such as the Mysteries of London and the Mysteries of Munich, and has been published since by the company Penguin Classics. His novel, the Wandering Jew, has also been published by modern companies, and has gained more attention, particularly for its strong anti-Catholic sentiments. In many of his popular novels, his socialist ideology attracted scholars and inspired a great deal of the emerging writers at the time. Sue’s work is thought to have influenced Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas. Alexandre Dumas wrote the biography of his friend and fellow writer, Eugène Sue (“Eugene Sue: His Life and Works” 54).


Narrative Point of View

The Female Bluebeard: or The Adventurer is narrated in the third person, not through a specific character, but by an anonymous narrator. The narrator continuously interjects throughout the novel to guide the audience’s reading along, directly addressing the reader as a willing participant in learning the history of the characters. The narration has a sense of self-awareness, being cognizant of and acknowledging the ridiculousness of some of its characters as well as several aspects of the story. There is a controlled omniscience throughout, as the characters’ emotions and motives are blatantly revealed. However, regarding some secrets, the author chooses to withhold their answers until it is needed for the plot. The narration is rich, striking a balance between complex and uniquely singular characters, vibrant and multi-sensory descriptions, and a wild and dynamic plot. Finally, some parts of the narration are left in French, as there was not quite as fitting a translation in English, either because of word play or connotations not being expressed in the same manner once translated.

Sample Passage:

We beg, therefore, to inform the reader, who has, doubtless, long since seen through the disguise, and penetrated the mystery of the Boucanier, the Flibustier, and the Carib, that these disguises had been successively worn by the same man, who was none other than THE NATURAL SON OF CHARLES THE SECOND, JAMES DUKE OF MONMOUTH, EXECUTED IN LONDON, THE 15TH OF JULY, 1685, AS GUILTY OF HIGH TREASON.


We hope such of our readers as have had any ill opinion of the Female Bluebeard within their hearts will now do her ample justice. (141)

The narration, particularly in this paragraph, capitalizes on the involvement of the reader in the analysis and reading of the text, creating a greater sense of investment on the reader’s part and making each reveal that much more impactful. While, the narrator gives the reader the benefit of the doubt of likely predicting the mystery element, this simultaneously invites the unaware reader to look retrospectively at the story and recall any clues or foreshadowing, keeping the reader participating. Through the inclusion of the reader throughout the novel, the narrator grabs the readers’ attention, continuously checking in on the progress of their interpretation and ideas about the text. By actually calling forth to the reader, each reader is figured as a singular person whose participation matters to the story, rather than having the story appeal to the emotions of many. This feigned exchange creates an even greater sense of a tale being told by word of mouth, and holds the possibility of investing the reader more into the story. As this connection is made, and mutual involvement and shared knowledge is established, the narrator is more effective in dispelling any of the reader’s disbeliefs or disparagements against the story. In the above sample passage, the narration dispels any aspersions on the Female Bluebeard’s character. The narrator, by voicing what the reader has “doubtless” thought, creates this idea that the reader’s and narrator’s opinion and view of the story will logically match up throughout the story, not just in this one singular instance. Therefore, the narration figures the reader as likely to go along with the rest of what the narrator presents and take it as truthful to the history. Thus, through the inclusion of the reader in the progress of the story, the author is able to give the feel of a spoken tale and interestingly sway the reader to accept what the author says as fact.


Summary

The novel opens up on the ship, the Unicorn, which has presently left la Rochelle for the island, Martinique, and is occupied most usually by Captain Daniel, a small crew, Reverend Father Griffon, and most unusually, by the Gascon, the Chevalier Polyphemus Amador de Croustillac. It is May of 1690, and France is at war with England. The Chevalier de Croustillac has chosen to wait until a less conspicuous time to reveal himself from where he has hidden on board the ship in order to get safe passage to Martinique and eventually, to America. Being a man of great immodesty and foolhardiness, he assumes a spot at supper with no word on how he arrived on board the moving vessel. The Chevalier manages to evade all questioning of his mysterious appearance on board the ship through extreme flattery, party tricks, and by the promise to only confess his intentions to Father Griffon. Nearing the end of the journey to Martinique, Captain Daniel offers the Chevalier de Croustillac a place on board his ship as a permanent source of entertainment, and Reverend Father Griffon, wanting to help the poor adventurer, offers for him to reside with the Reverend at his house in Macouba, where he can attempt to earn some capital. However, this all changes when word of the Female Bluebeard is passed around the ship and meets the ears of the Chevalier.

Angelina, the Female Bluebeard, reads in her gilded bed

The Female Bluebeard, like her folktale namesake, Bluebeard, is believed to have killed her past three husbands, and currently holds the abominable company of three ugly lovers: Hurricane, the pirate captain; a hide dealer boucanier coined, “Tear-out-the-soul”; and a Carib cannibal from Crocodile Creek, Youmaale. Despite these alarming and less than spectacular qualities possessed by the elusive Female Bluebeard, the Chevalier de Croustillac decides that he will show her a true gentleman and win her heart, and with it her fortune, regardless of the potential of her being old and ugly. And so, the Chevalier decides to go with Father Griffon, if only to leave after a night’s repose. This plan is met with strong disagreement from the Father, for he knows some truth to the story of the Female Bluebeard having received confession from a man who encountered her at her home on the Devil’s Mount, or the Morne au Diable. While staying with Father Griffon and resting for supper, a threat to forget his pursuit of the Female Bluebeard comes to the Chevalier in the form of a note tied to an arrow which narrowly misses his flesh. The Chevalier goes against both warnings, sneaks out of Father Griffon’s care, and embarks on a harrowing trek to the habitation of the Female Bluebeard at the Morne au Diable.

It is during this time that we catch a glimpse of the equally daunting and troubling journey to the Morne au Diable, full of danger and risk of death, of the Colonel Rutler, a partisan of the new king of England, William of Orange, who is tasked with a mission which will later be revealed.

Back at the Morne au Diable, the Female Bluebeard, revealed to be exceptionally fine and beautiful, is seen flirting with a man named Jacques, who she also lovingly calls Monsieur Hurricane. It is here that she also learns that the Chevalier de Croustillac is after her hand in marriage, and she, consequently, sends word to the Boucanier, Tear-out-the-soul, to bring him to her.

The Chevalier de Croustillac, led by his gut and the magnetism of his heart to the Female Bluebeard’s, stumbles into the Carib’s camp, exhausted, bloodied, and starving. He is met with a feast of the most unusual variety, and is led to the Morne au Diable, albeit with some feigned protestation from the Boucanier. Upon arriving at the magnificent dwelling of the Female Bluebeard, the Chevalier, wishing to impress the lady, requests a change of clothes for his own sullied and ripped ones, and is put into the garments of the Female Bluebeard’s late first husband.

On his journey to meet the Female Bluebeard, the Chevalier fights a group of feral cats

The Chevalier meets the Female Bluebeard, who we learn is called Angelina, with great awe and wonderment, and attempts to inspire Angelina with much of the same amazement and admiration that he holds for her. Angelina bemuses the Chevalier, speaking falsities and making fun of the Chevalier’s brash actions. She sticks close to her lovers, further aggravating the mind and heart of the Chevalier. She does offer him a limited position as her new husband, which shall end before a year is up through rather gruesome means, an offer the Chevalier is reluctant to accept, aside from his previous promises of marriage. However, Angelina recognizing that the Chevalier is not falling for her murderous and sinful façade, relates to the Chevalier that her three lovers are actually her guards, and her proposition to the Chevalier was made to poke fun at him and amuse herself. She then proposes to make him a new offer the next evening.

Meanwhile, we catch a glimpse of the interactions between the nervous and sweaty governor, Monsieur le Baron de Rupinelle, and Monsieur de Chemeraut, the envoy of France, aboard a French frigate, regarding a state secret vested in the Morne au Diable and backed up by Father Griffon. Monsieur de Chemeraut requests of the governor, ships with thirty of his best armed guards and a ladder, and advances towards the Morne au Diable. Father Griffon learns of their swift advance to the Devil’s Mount, and alarmed that they have learned the secret that only he possesses and fearing the safety of la Barbe-Bleue, he hurries to beat the French frigate to the Morne au Diable. Colonel Rutler, who we learned of earlier, has at this moment, escaped great perils and landed in the interior garden of the Morne au Diable, and is lying, hidden, in wait. 

Back at the Morne au Diable, the Chevalier’s rambling poetry and protestations of love, are met with amusement and some fondness by la Barbe-bleue or the Female Bluebeard. However, she relates to the Chevalier that she was expecting his arrival from word by her good friend, the Father Griffon, and had used the Chevalier’s foolishness for means of entertainment. They wander into the garden, the Chevalier becoming increasingly humiliated and affected, his love for the Female Bluebeard being genuine, and each of her words stinging and hurting his heart and hubris. To add to this, she offers him diamonds to reconcile his hurt feelings which only worsens the injury to his pride. La Barbe Bleue claims that humiliation was not her intent, and that she was under the incorrect notion that the Chevalier was only after her money and posed a threat to her and the inhabitants of the Morne au Diable. She demands his forgiveness, calling him her friend, and offering him a place to stay at her home, which completely reverses the anger and sorrow raging inside the Chevalier. The Female Bluebeard leaves to look for Youmaale and grab a more deserving present for the Chevalier, and in her absence the Colonel Rutler, still hiding in the garden, rushes toward the Chevalier. Pulling a hood over the Chevalier’s face and binding his hands, Colonel Rutler arrests him for high treason.

Colonel Rutler mistakes the Chevalier for the believed late husband of the Female Bluebeard, calling him “my Lord Duke,” and the Chevalier plays the part of the royal Englishman to gain information, learning that la Barbe Bleue’s husband is wanted by the King of England, William of Orange, for treason. The Lord Duke had posed a threat to the King, possessing great fortunes and having previously led a group of devoted partisans against the King, fighting for his royal father of a falcon of Lancaster. The Duke had, after his attempt at revolt, been executed, or at least thought to be until of late. All this being said, the Chevalier promptly decides to assume the personage which has already been given to him, without raising alarm to Angelina, in a means to gain the affection and permanent gratitude of la Barbe Bleue for saving her husband, who she loves dearly.

Arousing great surprise, the bound Chevalier and the Colonel are met by Angelina herself, disguised as one of her domestics, and she gives the Chevalier the Lord Duke’s sword and cloak to further cement his false identity. She leaves to relate the news to her husband, who we find out was masquerading as all three of her lovers, and is in reality, James Duke of Monmouth, the son of Charles the Second. Angelina believes them saved, but her dreams are disrupted when the Duke will not let the Chevalier risk his life for him. To add to her dismay, Father Griffon arrives with the news that the French Frigate knows of the Duke’s existence and location, and had questioned the Father of his whereabouts outside. Upon the arrival of the French frigate, Colonel Rutler had attempted to strike the Chevalier disguised as the Duke, and his blade had broken. This action did not go unnoticed by the French envoy, Monsieur de Chemeraut, and furthered confirmed his suspicions that the fallen and gagged man, was indeed the James Duke. Monsieur de Chemeraut propositions the Chevalier, believing him to be the Duke, to rejoin his partisans and place him back at the head alongside his royal uncle, James Stuart, by driving the “usurper,” William of Orange from his throne of England. Later, he informs the Chevalier that refusing the offer would mean imprisonment. Thus, the Chevalier accepts.

An illustration depicting an execution

The Chevalier de Croustillac, guarded closely by the Monsieur de Chemeraut, happens upon Angelina and Captain Hurricane conducting in improper displays of affection, and is horrified by her actions, the Captain’s real identity still unknown to the Chevalier. After much arguing, frustration, and consideration of the Chevalier’s trustworthiness, Angelina and the Duke reveal their secret, leading the Chevalier to readopt his plan and secure the lovers their safety and security. We also learn how the Duke had evaded death despite there being a witnessed execution.

The Gascon Chevalier, in his natural element, puts on a show for the French envoy and condemns the Female Bluebeard to a seemingly horrible fate, sending her and her lover away on the ship, the Cameleon, to a deserted island where they shall live out the rest of their limited days together. He rejects the Female Bluebeard brutally, while secretly arranging them both safe passage out of the Morne au Diable. Angelina bestows upon the Chevalier a medallion with her initials, and it is all the Chevalier needs to face the unpredictable hardships which lie ahead of him.

The Chevalier puts off his departure several times, afraid of the charade being discovered, but ultimately boards the ship to England, with little suspicion from the Monsieur de Chemeraut. It is at this time that Captain Daniel, commander of the ship, the Unicorn, approaches Monsieur de Chemeraut, requesting to sail alongside him for protection against pirates. Monsieur de Chemeraut refuses, but Captain Daniel sails alongside them anyways, carefully maneuvering his ship to avoid any attacks by the Fulminate, Monsieur de Chemeraut’s ship. The convenience of these ships’ locations works well for the Chevalier, as his treachery is discovered aboard the Fulminate by the Duke’s most adoring partisans, Lord Mortimer, Lord Rothsay, and Lord Dudley, and to avoid death or imprisonment, he jumps into the surrounding sea. The ship, the Cameleon, holding both Angelina and John, having appeared alongside the Fulminate as well, gives the Chevalier the distraction he needs to escape and board the Unicorn. The Chevalier, and Angelina and John tearfully part ways, the revered Lord Duke being pursued by the befuddled and furious French frigate. On board the Unicorn, Father Griffon and the Captain Daniel fill the Chevalier in on the orders they had received to accept him onto the ship, and surprise him with the last gift of the Lord Duke and Angelina; the ship, the Unicorn, and all its cargo. Again, receiving it as a hit to his ego, the Chevalier prescribes to Father Griffon in a note that he refuses the gift and has left the ownership to the Reverend to use charitably, as he sees fit. The Chevalier departs, beginning a new journey to Muscovy where he will enlist as a soldier under the Czar Peter.

The Abbey of Saint Quentin: An Epilogue to the Female Bluebeard
The opening page of “The Abbey of Saint Quentin”

The epilogue opens up on a convent, roughly eighteen years after the events of the Female Bluebeard, where the monks are corpulent and greedy. Two young farmer’s children by the names of Jacques and Angelina are approached by one of Reverends, who demands of them the produce and grains indebted to him by their father. Diseased since the last couple of months, the father is bedridden and incapable of work, their mother taking care of him, leaving them all penniless. Regardless, the Reverend threatens to displace them and lease their farm to a more able farmer. These words are heard by an old man with sad eyes and furs, and he approaches them feeling sympathy for their situation. Upon hearing their names and witnessing the startling similarities between them and the woman he once loved, the man, the Chevalier is overcome with emotion as always.  He requests of the children to stay in their barn and to be given a simple dinner which he will pay for. They depart together to see their father, and upon entering and seeing their mother, who is now middle-aged and dressed very plainly, the Chevalier faints. Angelina, the Female Bluebeard, does not recognize the Chevalier until she and her children come across the medallion she had once gifted him, tied around his neck just beside his heart.

The three old friends reunite, and the Chevalier asks of them to stay in their company for the rest of his life, paying rent to cover the needs of the struggling family. They accept after some groveling, neither party quick to accept gifts, and the Chevalier decides to search for the Father Griffon to reclaim his money from the sale of the Unicorn. The Father, still alive and having spent much of the money to become the proprietor of an estate, happily gives it to the three friends who reside there with their children for the rest of their days, their lives blissful and peaceful at last.


Bibliography

“Amusements, &C.” The Lady’s Newspaper, no 512 (October 18, 1856): 246.

“Eugene Sue: His Life and Works.” Bentley’s Miscellany (July 1858): 54-66.

“Literature: The Female Bluebeard,” Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, no 96 (September 22, 1844).

“Popular Books to be had by Order of All Booksellers.” Reynolds Miscellany (November 14,1846): 32.

“Provincial Theatricals.” The Era, no 335 (February 23, 1845).

The Standard [London], Issue 6273 (August 26, 1844): 1.

“Sales by Auction.” The Athenaeum, Issue 1178 (May 25, 1850): 546.

Sue, Eugène. The Female Bluebeard: or The Adventurer. London: W. Strange, 1845.

“Tales of Mystery: A Noble Scamp.” The London Journal (September 10, 1898): 241.


Researcher: Halle Strosser