An abridged plagiarism of Sir Walter Scott’s 1823 novel Quentin Durward, this chapbook follows the grotesque adventures of Scottish cavalier Quentin Durward and his romance with the beautiful Countess Isabelle.
Durward and Isabelle appears to be a flimsy few scraps of paper being held together by what looks like a piece of twine. The full title is simply Durward and Isabelle. The book is bound together with another chapbook, Mary, the Maid of the Inn, which precedes Durward and Isabelle. It appears as though the back of Mary, the Maid of the Inn, was ripped out, since there are remnants of torn paper at the last page. The paper of Durward and Isabelle is not as yellow compared to Mary, the Maid of the Inn, and the two texts are printed in different fonts. This suggests that Durward and Isabelle was likely bound to Mary, the Maid of the Inn at a later time.
The origins of this chapbook remain a mystery,
as there is no listed author. However, the publisher is listed at the bottom of
the final page as “Dean and Munday, Threadneedle-Street, London.” Mary, the
Maid of the Inn has a title page with a different publisher listed. The
cover of Mary, the Maid of the Inn does have some handwriting on it, but
it is impossible to know if this was written before or after the chapbooks were
The dimensions of the book are about 11cm x 16
cm, so it is fairly small. Durward and Isabelle is thirty-six pages
long, while the previous story is twenty-five pages, making for a total of sixty-one
pages bound together by a single piece of fraying string. The last page of Durward
and Isabelle has fallen off but is still kept with the book in the library.
The pages are very brittle and dry, and are also very frail and yellowed,
likely due to the wear and tear that the book has been subject to over the
years. The margins are decently sized while the font is relatively small but
not difficult to read. There is a surprisingly large amount of spacing between
paragraphs. The margins are uneven: there is little to no space at the top at
the top of the book, while there are much larger side margins.
While Mary, the Maid of the Inn contains
a fold-out illustration, there are no illustrations in Durward &
Isabelle. There are some words handwritten on the cover: in the top right
corner, the word “romance” is written in pencil and “1822” (the year Mary,
the Maid of the Inn was published) in ink. On the bottom of the cover,
there is a series of numbers and letters without clear meaning.
Durward and Isabelle is a chapbook that is a plagiarized and abridged version of Quentin Durward, a novel written by Sir Walter Scott published in 1823. The author of Durward and Isabelle is not known. At only thirty-six pages, the chapbook is much shorter than the original novel and brushes over many of the major plot points. While the original novel is focused on Quentin Durward and his adventures, the chapbook is more focused on Durward’s adventures that involve his relationship with Isabelle, hence the title Durward and Isabelle. The plagiarized chapbook was published by Dean and Munday, as printed on the last page of the book. Dean and Munday was a popular publishing institution established in 1810 that published many other chapbooks. The Dean and Munday families lived together and raised their children together in their home behind the shop on Threadneedle Street. Two cousins, Thomas Dean and Thomas Munday, became apprentices, then later became partners in the firm. This partnership lasted until 1838, when it was permanently dissolved (Potter 86). According to Franz Potter, “During these early years at Dean & Munday, the firm also reissued a number of well-known gothic pamphlets originally published by other booksellers” (87). Durward and Isabelle is listed as one of the one-shilling pamphlets published by Dean and Munday in a book titled The French Revolution of 1830: Being a Succinct Account of the Tyrannical Attempt of Charles X. to Overturn the French Constitution. Interestingly, Mary, the Maid of the Inn is also on this list of Dean and Munday pamphlets printed with The French Revolution of 1830, though the copy of Mary, the Maid of the Innbound with the Sadleir-Black Collection’s copy of Durward and Isabelle was published by Orlando Hodgson not Dean and Munday.
Given Sir Walter Scott’s significance, there is an abundance of
information about his original novel Quentin Durward by contrast with
the dearth of information on the plagiarized and abridged Durward and
Isabelle. In a late nineteenth-century edition of Quentin Durward edited
by Charlotte M. Yonge, Yonge includes a historical introduction in which she
writes that Scott “held that it was lawful for art to throw together historical
characters and facts with more regard to effect than to accuracy or detail, and
thus to leave a stronger impression on the mind. And there can be no doubt that
the tale he has given us has fixed on thousands of minds a strong and definite
impression of the characters of Louis XI” (14). In writing this, Yonge
identifies the significant impact that the characters of Quentin Durward
had on the public point of view.
There are other notable adaptations of Scott’s novel, including Quentin
Durward; a dramatic adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s novel, in three acts and
three scenes, by Charles Andrew Merz and Frank Wright Tuttle.This
adaptation was published in 1914 and is associated with the Yale University
Dramatic Association. There are digital copies of the original Quentin
Durward and its adaptations available on ProQuest One Literature and the
HathiTrust Library. The novel was even adapted into a film called The
Adventures of Quentin Durward, released in 1955.
Narrative Point of View
Durward and Isabelle is narrated in the third
person, and the narrator is never named nor are we given any context on how
they learned of the story. The story is told in a very straightforward fashion,
yet still manages to incorporate feelings of characters. The narration is
filled with expansive sentences, with an emphasis on depicting events and with minimal
The young and beautiful Isabelle had fled from Burgundy, to avoid being married to one of the Duke’s favourites; and whether she was really under King Louis’s protection, was not certainly known. Durward could not help conjecturing, from circumstances, that the young lady he had seen in the morning, and with whose charms he had been smitten, was, in fact, the young countess. While the knowledge of her rank and misfortunes interested him yet more strongly in her fate, it tended to damp any presumptuous hopes which love might have induced him to form. (8)
As seen here, in Durward and Isabelle the
narration is succinct and descriptive, and effectively explains the characters’
thoughts and feelings at certain moments. This can be seen when Durward deduces
that the woman he saw is the countess, and the narration presents not only what
he knows but how he feels with his subsequently lowered “hopes.”
Durward and Isabelle tells the tale of a fifteenth-century Scottish cavalier, Durward,
and Isabelle, a Countess. The story begins when Durward is met by King Louis XI
of France by chance. Durward introduces himself as a cadet of Scotland, who
came to France to seek fortune. It is later revealed that his father and
remaining family members were killed by a rivaling clan, and this caused his
mother to die of grief. Upon Durward’s introduction, the King also discovers
that he knows Durward’s uncle, Lesie, who comes to the castle to meet him and
the king. The king eventually decides to recruit this young cavalier as one of
his men, after consulting with his astronomer, Martius Galeoletti, who says
that Durward has good intentions. Durward has multiple encounters with Isabelle
throughout the beginning of the story, as she is residing at the castle where
the king lives.
One day while Durward is strolling through the garden, he comes
across a man hanging from a tree. Appalled by this circumstance, he immediately
climbs up the tree and cuts the rope, onlooking Bohemians react badly to this
action. The king’s right-hand man, Provost Marshall, takes them all prisoner.
Durward thinks he is going to be hanged along with the Bohemians but then
proceeds to defend himself, claiming he is from Scotland which is an allied
country. His life is spared.
It is revealed that the reason Isabelle is under the king’s
protection is because she fled from Burgundy after discovering that she was to
be married to one of the duke’s men. A count sent by the Duke of Burgundy
appears while searching for the ladies (Isabelle and her Aunt). The king
refuses to give them up and, after the count threatens to wage war on the
kingdom, the king decides to send Isabelle and her aunt away to Liege to be
under the protection of the bishop. The king appoints Durward in charge of
taking Lady Isabelle and her aunt to Liege with three soldiers and a guide.
Throughout their journey they encounter many men who want to claim possession
of Isabelle, including William de la Marck, a feared man from the area, and the
Duke of Orleans, who is to be wed to Isabelle’s sister but would rather marry
William de la Marck, in a fit of rage, decides to take over the city of Liege and murders the bishop in cold blood. Durward and Isabelle must escape together. During the siege, Durward presents himself to Willam de la Marck and says that if they are to be allied with France, they must not present themselves with this sort of conduct, so William de la Marck complies, and they all leave. De la Marck then threatens to return because he hears word that Isabelle is still hiding in the city. Isabelle at this point is willing to sacrifice herself to the Duke of Burgundy and decides she will offer to give up her patrimonial estates and ask permission to retire in a convent. They make it back to the Duke of Burgundy and the same day, the king decides to visit him too. The Duke of Burgundy hears about William de la Marcks violent tactics and believes that this is King Louis’ doing. He imprisons the king and plans for his execution.
After days of trials and Durward’s statement is given, the duke
determines that the king is innocent and decides they are to combine forces to
capture William de la Marck. Who will receive Isabelle’s hand in marriage
remains in question, so as incentive, the duke says that whoever is successful
in killing de la Marck wins Isabelle’s hand in marriage. Upon hearing this,
Durward searches for de la Marck, and finds him decapitated. In defeat, he
returns to the castle only to discover his uncle Lesie standing with William de
la Marck’s head, which he brought on Durward’s behalf. Durward and Isabelle are
both pleased with the arrangement and end up married together happily ever
Durward and Isabelle. London, Dean & Munday, n.d.
The French Revolution of 1830:
Being a Succinct Account of the Tyrannical Attempt of Charles X. to Overturn the French
Constitution, Etc. [With a Plate.]. Dean & Munday, 1830.
Merz, Charles Andrew, and Frank Wright Tuttle. Quentin
Durward: a Dramatic Adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s Novel, in Three Acts
and Three Scenes.New
Haven, Yale University
Dramatic Association, 1914.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks
and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
Yonge, Charlotte M.
“Introduction.” Quentin Durward, by Sir Walter Scott. Boston, Ginn & Co, 1895.
The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over The Arabian Deserts, To the British Settlements in India; Containing, Among Other Particulars, An Account Of The Perils he experienced in those terrific Regions, The Eccentric Humours of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In The War With Hyder Ally, &c.
Dubiously attributed to Mary Anne Radcliffe when published in 1802, this chapbook tracks a captain’s journey across what’s east of England
The Sadleir-Black Collection edition of The Adventures of
Capt. Duncan wears its history well. Despite its age, the book has
maintained its blue cover, bound by a thick string. Frayed and whittled down on
the sides, the cover sheets are thinner and frailer than the sheets containing
the book’s text, perhaps indicating that the covers have borne the brunt of the
wear and tear. The exterior cover notes an extravagant number of salesmen
across England responsible for the publishing of the book. The interior cover
recognizes this edition as the premium printing copy of the story, costing an
additional three pence, up to a total of nine. That distinction, as a premium
publication, likely enabled the cover’s survival, as this edition supplied a
superior set of craftsmanship and materials.
With regards to the pages, The Adventures of Capt. Duncan
is relatively short. Even amongst these few pages, they are uneven, jetting
outward or inward, indicating some combination of both uneven page-cutting and
the wear of centuries. The pages themselves are brittle, dry, and yellowed, yet
firmer than the cover. When turning the pages, they tend to crunch a bit and
move with rigidity.
Following the initial pages that note the book’s publication
information, there is an illustration of Captain Duncan in his armor. This
serves as a frontispiece, with the inelaborate title The Adventures of Capt.
Duncan. On the very next page, the expansive title takes up a full page,
declaring The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over The
Arabian Deserts, To the British Settlements in India; Containing, Among Other
Particulars, An Account Of The Perils he experienced in those terrific Regions,
The Eccentric Humours of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In
The War With Hyder Ally, &c. This title uses an array of fonts, spacings,
and capitalizations on the page, ranging from robotic, direct fonts, to floral
and italicized fonts. On the cover, there is a similar mixing of fonts. There
are variations even among the spaces between the letters within words, as well
as the spacing between lines.
The rest of the book is not nearly as unique. The text itself is
fairly plain. There is little spacing between lines and a 1.5 to 2 centimeter
margin on the pages. The book is brief, at only thirty-six pages, in the style
of gothic chapbooks. The back cover of the book shares the same physical
qualities as the blue front cover: it is thin, fragile, and is more sparsely
populated with printed text.
The Adventures of Captain Duncan
was one of two installations in Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine
(Brown et al). The magazine’s publishers hoped the magazine would “contain an
elegant & chaste collection of Original Novels, Tales, Romances, Lives,
Memoirs, Voyages, Travels, &c. together with a judicious Selection from the
Writings of those Authors, whose works have in any degree excited public
notoriety” but after those first two issues, the project was abandoned (quoted
in Potter 64).
As a chapbook, The Adventures of Captain Duncan holds a
small place in the larger chapbook publishing landscape. From roughly the late
1790s to the early 1800s, Thomas Hurst published gothic chapbooks from his
office at 32 Paternoster Row. He was integral in many of the gothic chapbooks
published between 1798 and 1803, including The Adventures of Captain Duncan.
Hurst spearheaded the serial Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine,
and was also the exclusive seller in England, while the rest of the magazines
were sold in Scotland (Potter 64). Another gentleman, Thomas Brown, joined
Hurst in publishing Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine, as well as
The Marvelous Magazine (Potter 64–5).
As the eighteenth century turned to the nineteenth, chapbooks
were sold with practices that echo modern multi-level marketing schemes. The
primary distributor (Thomas Hurst, for example) would collect a group of
subordinates to sell the chapbooks, with the option to sell the books
individually or further distribute them to other sellers (Potter 67).
Booksellers’ advertisements in newspapers and such reveal an extensive network
of this wholesale distribution (Potter 67–8).
Mary Anne Radcliffe was billed as the writer, compiler, and
editor of Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine. Her name
immediately begets ambiguity with its similarities to the well-known Gothic
novelist Ann Radcliffe, but that is not where the issues end. Mary Anne
Radcliffe was certainly a real person. She was born Mary Clayton of Nottingham.
She was well educated, considering her status and gender (Brown et al). At the
mere age of fourteen, she married Joseph Radcliffe, giving her the fateful
Radcliffe name. Following her marriage, she dotted across England between
Edinburgh, London, and Nottingham (Brown et al). Mary Anne Radcliffe certainly
wrote as well. The works most clearly attributable to her are The Female
Advocate; or An Attempt to Recover the Rights of Women from Male Usurpation and
Memoirs … in Familiar Letters to Her Female Friend. Scholars have doubted
her other attributed works, however, which include an array of gothic novels as
well as translations of foreign novels (Brown et al).
Most modern scholarship focuses on Mary Anne Radcliffe’s larger
Gothic novels rather than her chapbooks, but they reveal a larger practice of
misattribution, where certain publishers attached Mary Anne Radcliffe’s name to
books in an attempt to sell more—relying on her proximity to Ann Radcliffe’s
name (Garside et al). Some of Mary Anne Radcliffe’s attributions are more
suspect than others. One such novel, Radzivil, was attributed to her
several years after publication. The Fate of Velina de Guidova, which is
a translation from Russian that is set in France, was attributed after an even
greater wait (Brown et al). Both novels focus on material entirely distinct
from The Female Advocate and point to a different author entirely (Brown
Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine
has fewer suspect circumstances but still exists within the context of those
other misattributions. The magazine correctly identifies Mary Anne Radcliffe’s
address and she was attributed at the time of publishing (Brown et al). Some modern
scholars are skeptical of Mary Anne Radcliffe being the true author or editor
of the pocket magazine, but it nevertheless holds a sharper connection than her
other attributions (Garside et al). Whether Mary Anne Radcliffe truly wrote and
edited for the magazine or someone else did, The Adventures of Captain
Duncan remains a valuable part of the history of chapbooks in England.
Point of View
The Adventures of Captain Duncan
switches between an unidentified third-person narrator and the first-person
narration of Captain Duncan, through what appears to be a set of direct
statements from Duncan. The third-person narrator functions as an interpreter
of those notes. Both styles delve into the captain’s emotions, but his
first-person interjections serve as sharper confirmations of the preceding
paraphrases of the narrator.
As the Captain became familiarised to his Tartar guide, he found him a fellow of infinite humour and much humanity, well acquainted with the world, and endeavoring all he could to alleviate the gloom that frequently clouded his countenance. One principal object with him seemed to be to impress the Captain with an idea of his high importance as a messenger belonging to the Sultan, and that his authority wherever he came was not to be disputed. “ Thus,” says Capt. Duncan, “ whenever we stopped at a Caravansera, he immediately called about him, in the name of the Sultan, for fresh horses, victuals, &c. And though the utmost submission was shown to his will, he nevertheless frequently exhibited his muscular powers by unmercifully belaboring all indiscriminately with his whip, and I was afraid to interfere, fearful that he might think it necessary to give me a flogging to avoid suspicion.” (15)
These two modes of narration function within the larger
historical implications of The Adventures of Captain Duncan, an
international story that has the power to shape English understandings of lands
and cultures beyond England. The reports of Captain Duncan thus operate as a
historical primary source within this fictional text. This adds a sense of
realism, because it seems as though these could be the words of a real man, who
had a real story, who is being studied by a real person. Additionally, several
times throughout the book, there are extended passages explaining local
customs, none more prominently than when the text explains that during Hajj, in
Mecca, the worshippers “enter the former [Masjid al-Haram], and, walking seven
times round the little building contained within it, say, ‘This is the house of
God and of his servant Abraham’” (10–11). These insights into other cultures
gain veracity the same way Captain Duncan’s own story does: through the book’s
presentation of his journals as a primary source within the narration.
Captain Duncan’s journey begins as any journey does: with a
departure. In May 1781, he receives word that he must go to India to help sort
out his father’s affairs. Duncan leaves his spouse and two daughters in
England. Rather than directly sail around the Cape of Good Hope, he travels
over land, across Europe and the Middle East en route to India. He dots between
European cities like Brussels, Venice, and Augsburg. In Augsburg, Duncan finds
himself in a church when a friar indulges him in drink, issuing vague religious
proclamations about his journey. The friar is welcoming, joyful, and telling
stories that keep Duncan enthralled before continuing his journey.
He reaches a fork in the road at Venice, deciding whether to travel directly through Syria or through Egypt. After opting for a boat ride to Egypt, he meets a young English woman he hopes to bring with him to India, but her guardian stops his pursuits. When he lands in Alexandria, he still heads through Syria, taking his longest stop at Aleppo. His journey is largely defined by the different British people he meets along his travels, and Aleppo is no different. Those expatriates offer comfort, refuge, and rescue to Duncan throughout his trek. He connects with a large, traveling caravan going towards Mecca; one large enough to withstand bands of robbers along their path. It eventually links up with a few more caravans, each boasting legions of soldiers and beasts to fortify their trip.
Once he reaches Mecca, he meets yet another woman who wants to run away, this one suffering in the clutches of an older husband. With their plan hatched, Captain Duncan is quite prepared to sneak away, but the British Consul hears of this scheme and shuts it down. Duncan even faces local legal trouble resultant from his infringement upon a legal marriage, but the Consul smuggles him out of town with a Turkish guide.
The captain quickly irritates the overbearing guide with his mocking of the guide’s sense of seriousness and superiority, leading to some scuffles over horses and such. He specifically objects further when the guide traffics several women via their traveling party, but to no avail. They eventually reach Mosul, where their partnership ends and the captain links up with an Armenian merchant to assist him in his travels. The merchant brings him to the last leg of his journey, where he boards a ship to take him to India.
However, calamity strikes and they misjudge the monsoon patterns of the waterway and condemn their ship to ruin. Despite battling the waters and waves, the ship collapses when a hurricane forms and the crewmates subsequently drift across the sea. They wash ashore at Hydernagur, where Indian locals, who do not take kindly to British colonizers, capture them.
When leader Hyder Ally finds out that Captain Duncan is the son of the renowned Colonel Duncan, he wishes to turn Captain Duncan to his side in the war. At first, it comes in bribes, where Hyder offers men and money, but it later comes in threats, where Hyder’s men temporarily hang and torture Captain Duncan, before eventually conceding.
Duncan has a British companion in these troubles, one Mr. Wall.
Mr. Wall came on this journey out of financial necessity; he was in love with a
woman, and his previously wealthy father had wasted his riches on some poor
investments, leaving him destitute and unable to wed. He came to India to try
to recoup some wealth, enough to get married. But Mr. Wall never returns to
England and dies in Hydernagur, shackled at the feet to the still-living
There is still another English expatriate, however, for General
Matthews marched into town to save Captain Duncan from his captors. After
gaining freedom, Duncan enlists as a negotiator between British and Jemadar
forces, who are an independent sect of forces who revolted from Hyder Ally’s
son, Tippoo Sahib. The British military wants Jemadar’s support to help gain a
valuable garrison to fight back against Sahib. Successful in these
negotiations, Captain Duncan continues on his journey, moving farther across
India before even venturing out to China. He finally returns to England some
three and a half years later.
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, eds. “Mary Ann Radcliffe: Writing.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. http://orlando.cambridge.org 3 November 2021.
P. D. Garside, with J. E. Belanger, A. A. Mandal, and S. A. Ragaz. “The English Novel, 1800–1829: Update 4 (June 2003–August 2003).” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 12 (Summer 2004). http://www.romtext.org.uk/reports/engnov4/ 3 November 2021.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and
Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830,
University of Wales Press, 2021.
Radcliffe, Mary Anne. The Adventures of Captain Duncan.
London, Hurst, 1802.
With its twists and turns, this transatlantic tale recounts heartbreak, love, desire, and greed. Where one end is tied, another frays, keeping readers in suspense. There is no shortage of the gothic in this text.
The cover of The Commodore’s Daughter is 21.75 cm tall and 13.5 cm wide with a spine thickness of 1.5 cm. While the cover does not have a special design, the two corners and part of the spine have a softer and lighter leather than the rest of the book’s cover, which is a rougher and darker leather. There are three stories bound within this volume and the spine is decorated with gold lettering with the titles: Lucelle. — Julia St. Pierre. — Commodore’s Daughter.
The Commodore’s Daughter, by Benjamin Barker, begins approximately two-thirds of the way into this volume. The pages are clearly in excellent shape. The title page is plain and includes the title, author, and publication information: “PUBLISHED BY E. LLOYD, 12, SALISBURY-SQUARE, FLEET-STREET, AND SOLD BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.”The next page, which starts the text of the story, also includes a detailed picture and caption, as well as the word, “complete” handwritten lightly in pencil at the top of the page. The Commodore’s Daughter was originally published as a “penny dreadful” serial, which is when small cheap portions of the story were published at regular intervals and later bound together. “No. 1,” “No. 2,” etc. appear at the bottom corners of their respective pages (outside of the border created around the text) to indicate the start of a new section of the story. Though the sections were all printed, sold, and originally purchased separately, this version is “complete” because these sections have now been bound together.
The Commodore’s Daughter is sixty-eight pages long. The text is small, always surrounded by a decorative border, and relatively easy to read with decent-sized margins. This copy of The Commodore’s Daughter also shows an error made during printing. Though the final chapter appears to be Chapter XIX, this book does not have nineteen chapters, but rather, eighteen, with one entire chapter having been skipped due to misnumbering. The book leaps from Chapter XVII to Chapter XIX, which should have been correctly numbered as Chapter XVIII. This erroneous Chapter XIX is printed on the back of the page with Chapter XVII. Interestingly, the side of the page with Chapter XVII is much more pristine and in better shape than the other side, which must have been exposed at one point to different environmental conditions.
The Commodore’s Daughter was written by Benjamin Barker—an author who was no stranger to publishing, as he released nineteen other works under his name. Two publishers produced The Commodore’s Daughter—Frederick Gleason in Boston, Massachusetts in 1846, and Edward Lloyd in London in 1847—and versions of each are housed in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction.
The Lloyd and Gleason printings of The Commodore’s Daughter contain a few key differences. For instance, the 1846 Gleason printing (which is also available on Google Books) includes the alternate title, The Dwarf of the Channel, or, The Commodore’s Daughter. While both versions contain the same story content, the Gleason’s version prints the story in columns, and this copy also lacks the illustrations present in the Lloyd version. Lloyd’s 1847 printing also initially appeared serialized as a penny dreadful.
The Lloyd printing of The Commodore’s Daughter contains a preface dated December 1847. In this preface, “the Publisher” provides context for the story’s historical significance, characters, and plot, including the backstory and setting. The final sentence of the preface reads: “The moral of the tale is unexceptionable, and as the incidents do not violate probability, and the characters are so truly drawn, the Publisher anticipates a favourable reception for the work.”
Like much of gothic literature that has faded from view, The Commodore’s Daughter has not remained widely available and the publisher’s projected “favourable reception” was short-lived, if at all. However, there are a few notable online versions. In addition to digital copies of the Gleason printing available via Google Books, Historical Texts has a digitized version of the Lloyd edition. In 2010, the British Library Historical Print Editions released a reprinting of TheCommodore’s Daughter.
Benjamin Barker has a notable publishing history. Not only did he publish nearly twenty works under his name, but he also published under the pseudonym Egbert Augustus Cowslip. One of his most well-known works under this pseudonym was Zoraida; or The witch of Naumkeag! A Tale of the Olden Time. Another of Barker’s works published under his own name, Blackbeard, or, The Pirate of Roanoke, is listed on Amazon and, as of 2021, has several reviews including one with a complaint about its historical inaccuracies, which reiterates the preface of The Commodore’s Daughter regarding the accuracy of accounts of the American Revolution.
Narrative Point of View
The Commodore’s Daughter is narrated in the third person (and occasionally with first-person plural moments) by an unnamed omniscient narrator who does not appear in the text. The narration feels relatively modern, but still contains antiquated vernacular. The paragraphs and sentences are generally lengthy. Yet, there still are inconsistencies in the style, with some paragraphs being much longer or using more eloquent vocabulary than others. The narration describes the characters and their feelings matter-of-factly (and frequently through characters’ actions), and there is very little text dedicated to introspection. The narration also contains much more description than dialogue.
Premising that the following romance is founded upon facts, with the details of which many of our readers may possibly be acquainted, and that for particular reason, we shall claim the privilege and take the liberty of introducing our principal characters under fictitious names, we now proceed to open our story as follows… (1)
By performing that this fictional story is based on facts—a common gothic trope—the narrator effectively tells the story with increased credibility (and possibly more shock value, as well). The narrator seeks to communicate a story by establishing familiarity with the characters in the book without revealing their names, thus providing an even foundation to readers and inviting everyone to enjoy the story with shared knowledge provided by the narrator from the beginning. The use of the first-person plural “we” also gives a more rounded and less singular feeling to the narration, enabling the fictional story to mimic an actual recounting of events.
In the early days of the American Revolution, before the colonies had banded together to declare their own independence, an old and cunning man by the name of Henry Hartville desired a fortune that was supposed to be inherited by a girl named Nora. Through his meticulous planning, Henry was able to trick Nora into believing that she was his daughter, all the while finding the perfect suitor for her so that Henry could obtain this wealth. The story then asks what Henry Hartville’s plan is to arrive at his goal.
An older, “deformed” man named John Ellery, frequently described in the text as a “dwarf,” has taken under his wing a “maniac” girl, Helen Morton, whose parents died years prior. John Ellery is one day met by a man carrying a letter and a black crucifix, who leaves soon after handing him these mysterious items. Despite not knowing who this man is or who the person who wrote the letter could be, Mr. Ellery accepts the commands listed out to him on the letter without any hesitation. One of those commands being to seek Nora Hartville out to keep under his wing, which the story reveals later.
Luckily, Mr. Ellery met with a ship on its way to a New England port, carrying several passengers in its cabins. Since he is able to pilot the ship, Mr. Ellery is gratefully accepted by the captain to guide it to its destination. Mr. Ellery, however, begins to take notice of a peculiar passenger whom the captain dreaded and wanted jettisoned as soon as possible. Through a careful line of questioning, Mr. Ellery finally realizes what he had hoped to find——the girl on the ship is Nora Hartville, the one the letter instructed him to keep under his wing for the next few years.
Mr. Ellery, Helen Morton, and Nora Hartville all arrive at Mr. Ellery’s home and remain there for several months in peace, as Helen and Nora become closer in what Helen describes as a sisterhood. Unfortunately, the fateful night arrives soon enough, and Miles Warton, the man who brought the letter and the crucifix to Mr. Ellery so long ago, finally comes to collect Nora Hartville for the suitor that Henry Hartville had set up for her. Miles Warton was a criminal, so Mr. Ellery knew his arrival at the cottage meant something was wrong. Prior to their meeting, Mr. Ellery heard Nora’s objections to the forced marriage, for the girl had her heart set on another man, George Wellington. Both parties soon realize that this night will not go as planned. In a shocking turn of events, Warton is killed by none other than Helen Morton, as she defends her adoptive father from being harmed by the criminal.
Through many events to follow, George Wellington, who was originally deprived of his desire to see his love, Nora Hartville, meets up with a man named Edward Hale, Helen Morton’s former lover. It is revealed that once George and Edward work together in their search for their lovers, the cruel and conniving plans of Henry Hartville can be overturned.
Yet before their arrival, another surprising figure appears: the former wife of Mr. Ellery, whose name is Julia. Long ago, Julia (the original owner of the black crucifix) held a gun to her husband’s chest in a fit of hatred and demanded that he follow the orders of whoever bears the crucifix. Now, Julia seeks forgiveness for the trouble she has caused, and the old man gracefully accepts. Seeing that Mr. Ellery accepted her apology, Julia knows she can now rest, and she breathes her last breath at her former husband’s humble cottage.
Finally having come to peace with his life, Mr. Ellery travels with his daughters and their suitors (who have found his cottage after a long search) to the ship of a well-known commodore, where it is revealed that the villainous Henry Hartville is aboard the vessel. Cornered and seeing that all his plans have been foiled, Henry Hartville takes a pistol to his head and pulls the trigger, allowing for Edward Hale and Helen Morton to fulfill their love and Nora and George Wellington to do the same. Through much pain and sorrow, Mr. Ellery finally gets to live a happy life away from shame.
A tale of romance, resentment, and revenge, this 1804 chapbook tells the story of a noble family living in France as one brother’s evil corrupts the lives of those around him.
Maximilian and Selina, Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale can be found in two collections in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. One copy is bound inside the collection Marvellous Magazine (volume III). Pencil notes (perhaps from Sadleir himself) on the inside cover of this copy indicate that this story can also be found in a volume called The Entertainer I, also in the Sadleir-Black Collection.
The printing of Maximilian and Selina bound in The Entertainer appears identical to the version bound in Marvellous Magazine; both sharethe same frontispiece and title page. The frontispiece shows a scene in which a man is being pushed out of a tower by someone else, while a woman watches in horror from behind. Each copy of Maximilian and Selina was published by Tegg and Castleman, but no author is indicated in either volume.
Marvellous Magazine appears very old and worn; the cover and first page are entirely detached from the rest of the book. The binding is plain and cracked. The cover is spotted leather with decorative swirling gold patterning on the spine and gold dots around the edge of the binding. The paper is medium- to lightweight and yellowed, displaying relatively small text. Before each story in the collection appears a black and white frontispiece illustrating a scene from the following pages. The entire book is 512 pages long and contains seven stories: six are exactly seventy-two pages long (including Maximilian and Selina), and one is eighty. The book is rather small, measuring only 4.3 x 10.4 x 18.1 cm.
Maximilian and Selina is available in several different editions at the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. The copies in the larger volumes The Entertainer and Marvellous Magazine are identical and will be discussed first. The story was first printed in 1804 for Tegg & Castleman. Thomas Tegg was a well-known printer who lived from 1776 to 1846. According to an obituary, the bookseller struggled in his childhood and early career, but he eventually established his own successful business and began to amass his fortune printing, buying, and selling books. He was elected Sheriff of London in 1846 but did not serve in that position due to failing health. After his death, his sons continued in their father’s path. Interestingly, Tegg’s youngest son was so stricken with grief at his father’s death that he died as well shortly after, and their bodies were buried in the family plot together on the same day (The Gentleman’s Magazine 650). There is an intriguing (albeit unintended) parallel in Maximilian and Selina: the Duke of Anjou arrives at the convent just as the death knell tolls for his daughter, and he immediately dies of the shock. Their bodies are carried back to the chateau together, where the sight of his dead father and sister drive Godfrey to madness.
The 1804 version of Maximilian and Selina is available within multiple collections of stories. The two held by the University of Virginia are Marvellous Magazine and The Entertainer. Maximilian and Selina appears identical in both volumes, with the same title page and frontispiece. The other printing is for Dean & Munday in 1820. The edition printed by Dean & Munday that is housed at the University of Virginia Library is disbound and has significant brown spotting on the title page. It looks similar to the Tegg & Castleman version, but the publishing information is different and the frontispiece is in color. Also, it is only thirty-six pages instead of seventy-two. The shorter length is because this version is an abridged version of the 1804 edition. The overall plot is similar but most of the frame narrative has been cut out, several characters are entirely deleted, the sequence in which the reader learns about events is different, and in abridging the text many plot points are deleted in a confusing way, without any transitions being added. The Dean & Munday printing has a catalogue slip in it which gives some basic publishing information, a description of the physical object, and part of an assessment by scholar Frederick Frank: “A confusing patchwork of obscure and opaque plots … Complexity and lucidity are not necessarily incompatible elements of style in horror fiction, but in this chapbook, the style is so dense as to render even the basic facts of the story a matter of hazardous speculation” (The First Gothics 233). The explanation on the slip for the frontispiece does not relate to the story. The scene shown is Edward pushing Godfrey out of the tower while Elgiva screams in horror, but the slip describes “ruffians throwing a screaming boy from the top of a tower.”
Another incorrect description of the frontispiece is found in Frederick Frank’s article “Gothic Gold.” The year and publishing information match the Tegg & Castleman version, but the article says that the chapbook is thirty-six pages, like the Dean & Munday printing. The frontispiece is shown in black and white above a brief description of the book: “About to be hurled from the turret by his malicious brother, Adolphus de Monvel, Maximilian’s doom seems sealed as a pathetic mother figure murmurs an ineffectual prayer unheard in the fallen and godless universe. The scene is the chapbook’s initial spectacular incident in a series of unremitting crises” (“Gothic Gold” 309). This description mentions real characters from the story, but neither Adolphus nor Maximilian were a part of this scene, and the female figure is most likely Elgiva, Godfrey’s wife. This is also one of the last events in the chapbook, not the first.
Frank gives another critical synopsis of Maximilian and Selina in his book The First Gothics. It lists the publishing information of the unabridged 1804 version. However, this synopsis also contradicts the events of both versions of the chapbook (the Tegg & Castleman printing, and the abridged one for Dean & Munday). It is also different than the description given for the frontispiece in Frank’s “Gothic Gold.” In The First Gothics, the frontispiece is said to show ruffians throwing Godfrey off a tower, instead of Maximilian being thrown by de Monvel, his “brother.” This synopsis covers the rest of the chapbook, with references to real characters and similar plot points, but multiple inaccuracies which completely change the story.
Maximilian and Selina is mentioned more briefly in several other scholarly works (Potter History of Gothic Publishing 75, Mayo 551, Hoeveler). Mayo explains that Marvellous Magazine and similar anthologies generally featured stories of a specified length. For example, the volume of Marvellous Magazine containing Maximilian and Selina contains stories all seventy-two pages in length, save one exception. This length limit often resulted in the butchering of Gothic classics as they were edited and amended to reach a precise page count (Mayo 367). This is one possibility to account for the incoherency of the shorter Dean & Munday printing compared to the original, which was twice as long.
Narrative Point of View
The main story within Maximilian and Selina is narrated by Maximilian, the Abbott, as he recounts his life to Sancho Orlando. He uses first-person narration which focuses on his own thoughts and feelings as the plot progresses. Since Maximilian is older when he is telling this story, he occasionally inserts future knowledge. Part of the story is the packet that Maximilian wrote based on Nerina’s deathbed explanation. This part is told in the third person, with a somewhat omniscient narrator. The final section is the tale told by Guiscardo to Sancho, in first-person narration from Guiscardo’s point of view. The language is similar in all three: archaic and formal. The packet is perhaps a bit more flowery in its prose than the oral stories.
To discover who this was, became at length the predominant desire of my soul, since, could I but confront him, I knew my innocence must triumph; but where to seek for information, which Selina only could give, and had refused, almost to distraction. At length a light seemed to break on my bewildered senses, and I fancied the whole discovery lay clear before me. On revolving the whole affair, as stated by the Duke, I was forcibly struck with that part where Selina charged me with neglect during her father’s absence; at the same time praising the kindness of her eldest brother, by whose attention she was wholly sustained, whilst Edward and myself chose to amuse ourselves apart. I had once been told by Edward, that Godfrey was my foe, and I now believed it; he alone could have poisoned his sister’s mind against me, and made her notice, a long past and seemingly forgotten act of prudence, as a want of affection for her, —Wild as this idea was, it became conclusive, and I madly formed the resolution of following the Duke and his son, and of accusing the latter. (28)
This paragraph is from the section narrated in Maximilian’s point of view. By describing his past self’s inner thoughts about Selina’s change of heart, Maximilian emphasizes his own perspective. At the time, Maximilian did not have any doubts about his conviction that Godfrey was sabotaging his relationship with Selina, which is why he rashly rode out into the night to follow him. However, now knowing that it was Edward who really betrayed him, he uses words including “I fancied,” “wild,” and “madly.” The narrator’s hindsight creates the feeling of an omniscient point of view, even though it is simply Maximilian in the future, narrating retrospectively.
The story begins with a wise old abbot named Maximilian. A Spanish knight named Sancho Orlando comes to seek his advice after killing his friend in single combat. After the Abbot listens to his story, he assures the knight that his friend’s death was not his fault, and that he has no need for such guilt. The knight asks the Abbot how he came to be a monk, and the body of the tale is what the Abbot tells Sancho in reply.
Godfrey, Duke of Anjou, is a kind and generous nobleman visiting his chateau in the countryside with his children. Maximilian is the same age at that point as the Duke’s younger son, Edward, and because his uncle, the prior at a local convent, is close friends with the Duke, Maximilian spends a lot of time with his children. Godfrey, the Duke’s elder son, is friendly, noble, and admirable, while Edward is horrible, jealous, and cruel, but Maximilian does not notice Edward’s faults until too late because of their friendship. Selina, the Duke’s daughter, is beautiful and kind, and Maximilian falls in love with her, but Edward is the only one who knows of their relationship.
Three years later, the Duke leaves the chateau to visit a dear friend on his deathbed. While he is gone Godfrey is in charge, and Edward advises his friend not to let Godfrey see him with Selina, since he would disapprove. When the Duke returns, he is accompanied by Elgiva de Valmont, his friend’s daughter, who is now his ward. She is even more beautiful than Selina, with whom she becomes close friends. Maximilian’s heart already belongs to Selina, but the two brothers compete fiercely for Elgiva’s affections. Godfrey proposes to Maximilian and Edward that they should all stop pursuing her, since over time without the pressure of their attention she would form her own opinion of which brother she loved. Edward agrees readily.
A few weeks pass in relative peace. Edward asks Maximilian to find out from Selina whether Elgiva prefers him or his brother, but Maximilian refuses because that would be dishonorable when Edward had already agreed to Godfrey’s proposal. Soon after, Maximilian realizes that since no one is aware of his love for Selina, she could be courted by other suitors, and decides to ask his uncle to speak with the Duke. It is decided by his uncle and the Duke that Selina should be promised in marriage to him in several years, if they still love each other, since they are so young to make such a commitment. Maximilian is overjoyed with this outcome. Godfrey is also happy about his sister and Maximilian’s union, meaning that Edward had lied about his disapproval.
Maximilian speaks with Edward while walking home. Edward believes that Godfrey has broken their agreement and said something to Elgiva to turn her against him, but Maximilian does not think he would do that. Edward is distraught and wishes to do something to repair Elgiva’s opinion of him, but Maximilian advises him to keep his distance and not to act rashly. After this conversation, Maximilian is troubled by the situation and his friend’s conduct.
Soon after, the Duke invites Maximilian to come to his other chateau with his family, but just before they leave, Maximilian’s uncle falls ill so he stays behind. The plan is for Maximilian to spend a month with the Duke’s family at the chateau as soon as his uncle recovers, to visit his father’s estate to settle some affairs, then return to the chateau.
When she must leave without him, both Maximilian and Selina are distraught. He takes care of his uncle for over two months, then departs to join them at the chateau. However, Selina is not happy to see him. She says that she has changed her mind after so much time apart; that she has forgiven him, but they should be friends. Maximilian leaves, troubled, and speaks with Edward. He discovers that while he was away, a suitor named de Monvel visited Selina, so Maximilian asks her about him. She insists that she has loved only Maximilian, but that she cannot forgive his perjury. He is confused because he has only been faithful. Maximilian goes to his paternal home as he had planned, where he is soon visited by a stranger, Adolphus de Monvel. Adolphus had come to him to find out if he had broken his engagement to Selina, which he vehemently denies. Adolphus easily accepts this, and leaves.
Now, king Philip of France is preparing to marry, so the Duke and Godfrey go to court for the wedding. Maximilian receives a letter from the Duke saying that Selina is angry with him because she was under the impression that he was gone so long because he was in love with a peasant girl and had eloped with her. She refused to tell anyone where she heard this, but the Duke asks Maximilian to return to the chateau in a month so they can explain the truth. Maximilian convinces himself that it was Godfrey who turned Selina against him, so he goes to court to confront him. He challenges Godfrey to single combat, but Godfrey refuses the fight without due cause. The two men scuffle, and Godfrey stabs Maximilian in the chest.
Maximilian wakes up in bed in the Duke’s apartments at court, where he finds out that the Duke and Godfrey have hastened to the country on account of important news. He is worried because he has no idea what has happened. Godfrey visits while Maximilian is recovering and the two reunite as friends with all forgiven. He lies about the news that made them leave, and Maximilian later finds out that they had really received word from Edward that Selina had disappeared but they hid it from him so his anxiety would not impede his recovery. Shortly after Godfrey’s visit, they find out that Selina had run away to join a convent, in secret because she knew her father would disapprove. Now she is seriously ill and has asked the nuns at the convent to notify her father so that he could see and forgive her before she dies. The Duke, Edward, and Elgiva set out for the convent while Godfrey is still out searching for his sister, but they arrive just after she dies. The Duke immediately dies as well from grief. Godfrey is plunged into madness when he arrives back at the chateau at the precise moment when a procession is carrying the bodies of his sister and father through the gates. It is presumed that Edward and Elgiva will marry, and that Edward will become duke since the older son is indisposed.
Elgiva remarks once that Selina had died because of “hypocrisy,” so Maximilian is set upon exacting revenge upon whoever was responsible (33). He visits the chateau to question Elgiva privately, but Edward spends the whole day with Maximilian so he does not have the chance to speak with her alone. After speaking with his uncle, he decides to join the Christian army on their crusades, and he is renewed by his conviction. He fights successfully with many other knights, crusading from Constantinople from Jerusalem. They lay siege to Jerusalem and defeat the city. After the crusades are over, he joins an organization called the knights of Saint John and spends twelve years in Jerusalem.
One day, he sees a man dressed as a pilgrim being dragged to the church to perform devotions and realizes that it is Edward. Edward confesses that he has committed heinous crimes including murder and is now trying to atone for his sins. His wife is living, but she is now the mistress of king Philip. Elgiva married Godfrey, but she has died, and Edward refuses to explain further. He remains in Jerusalem for some time, and Maximilian manages to piece together some of the story. Godfrey had regained his sanity and married Elgiva, but they both died and left Edward as the guardian of their child. Edward had married a noblewoman and they had a son, but she left him to become the concubine of king Philip.
Edward leaves Jerusalem without saying goodbye. Several years later, Maximilian returns to France on business for the knights of Saint John. While there, he decides to visit the duke’s old chateau, where he finds only servants. They tell him that Edward had been dead for some time, and that his son (now the Duke) was in the country with his wife. Maximilian is confused, because he had heard from Edward that Godfrey had left an heir to the title. A few days later Edward’s son comes to visit Maximilian, saying that he had heard that someone had come to the chateau looking for his father. The new Duke explains that Godfrey had a daughter, but she had descended into madness and died, so he was now the lawful successor. Maximilian then accompanies him to his palace to meet the duchess and stays with them for a month.
Late one night, a woman knocks on his door, requesting that he come to give religious comfort to a dying servant until a confessor can arrive from a distant convent. The dying woman recognizes him as Selina’s lover because she is Nerina, Elgiva’s old servant. She tells him about Edward and Selina’s past, and Maximilian writes all of it down in a packet when he returns to his room. She dies the next morning before he can speak with her again. He learned from her that Godfrey’s daughter (named Elgiva, after her mother) was alive and well, and certainly not an imbecile as the Duke had told him. The Duke had illegally married her (his cousin) but because of their close relation it was not an official union, and he had no claim to the estate unless she died.
When the Duke enters the room, Maximilian horrifies him by immediately asking where he had hidden Elgiva. The Duke begs Maximilian not to expose him, saying that he had fallen in love with his cousin, and they had married in secret. He had been planning on suing for a dispensation and met his current wife while on his way to do so. He fell in love with her and proposed, instead of returning to Elgiva. When he broke off his engagement with her, she went insane and died of a broken heart. Maximilian pronounces him guilty of her murder, and they agree upon appropriate penance for him to perform in exchange for Maximilian’s silence. Maximilian leaves the Duke and Duchess to visit his uncle’s old convent, where he decides to join the brothers. When the prior dies two years later, Maximilian succeeds him.
Maximilian then decides to return to the chateau to find out from Nerina’s brother Conrad, the servant in charge of its care, what truly happened to Elgiva. Conrad relates that after her parents died, Edward had raised Elgiva in ignorance of her right to the estates so that she would believe that she was dependent upon him. Therefore, Nerina and Conrad did as much as they could to advance her marriage to Edward’s son, the current Duke, believing that this was the only way in which she could claim her birthright. Nerina passed away while recovering from a broken leg and when Elgiva heard the news, she went mad with grief and died. Maximilian is convinced, because Conrad has confirmed the Duke’s story.
After finishing his story, the Abbot tells Sancho that even all these years later justice can still prevail, so he plans to tell the king the whole story. He gives Sancho the packet he wrote after Nerina’s deathbed explanation containing everything that happened to him, asking Sancho to read it then come back to visit him. The Abbot believes that Elgiva is alive, and that she may now receive her rightful inheritance when the matter comes to light. Sancho takes the packet home and in it he reads the story of Maximilian and Selina once more, starting from the point where Selina, Edward, Elgiva, Godfrey, and the former Duke all left for a different chateau without Maximilian. Here, the point of view stays with Maximilian, but it’s based on his written packet, no longer on his conversation with the knight.
The family is all together at the chateau. Selina mourns Maximilian’s absence, but she cheers up in a few days. Adolphus de Monvel visits and is instantly attracted to Selina, who is completely unaware. When he confesses his feelings to her, she is flattered that he chose her over the more beautiful Elgiva, but gently denies him. However, Adolphus takes her mild denial as encouragement and continues to pursue her. The second time that he declares his affections, she tells him about her engagement. Edward overhears this and does his best to convince his sister that Maximilian is being unfaithful. He tells Selina that Maximilian has run off with a peasant girl, and she is incredibly upset. The Duke resolves to have the matter investigated, which Edward knows would expose his lies, but he does not have a chance to look into it before he and Godfrey leave for the king’s wedding. Edward hears Elgiva trying to convince Selina not to become a nun and he realizes that this would be very advantageous for him, so he persuades her over time to run away and join a convent without telling their father and helps her leave the chateau unnoticed.
Once she reaches the convent, Selina falls ill from distress since she knows that she has caused her family worry. When she explains her situation to the nuns and asks for their help, the abbess sends a messenger to the chateau to inform the Duke of his daughter’s whereabouts and her regret. He immediately sets out to see her with Elgiva and Edward. Selina writes a letter to Elgiva explaining everything and asking her to beg the Duke to forgive her. Selina and the Duke both die, and Godfrey goes mad with grief. However, after ten years he recovers and marries Elgiva. Edward is bitter and upset because he has lost his chance to have everything he wanted. Elgiva and Godfrey live happily together in the chateau with Edward and Elgiva gives birth to their daughter. One day in a rage while Elgiva and Godfrey are on a walk, Edward attempts to murder the couple. When Godfrey discovers him, Edward begs his brother to kill him, but Godfrey says that he forgives Edward and they all return to the chateau. However, Edward is even more upset by their kindness. He plans on joining the army and prepares to leave.
One night, the three of them are sitting by a window when the two brothers decide to climb a tower for a better view. When they reach the top, Edward pushes his brother off the battlements. Elgiva dies of shock when she sees his corpse. Edward is left as the guardian to the young Elgiva and marries the Duchess. After his wife leaves him for the king, he becomes penitent, and he suffers much in the name of atonement. Eventually, he passes away, still trying to pay for his sins.
After he reads the packet, Sancho is travelling when he sees his friend Guiscardo sitting by a forest, deeply upset. Guiscardo tells Sancho that he is upset because he is now a criminal and explains why. Guiscardo and his wife Maddalena visited one of Guiscardo’s castles for a reprieve but when they arrived the servants said that the new inhabitant of the neighboring property, an Italian named Prince Appiani, was infringing upon Guiscardo’s land and treating Guiscardo’s servants horribly. Soon, Appiani sent a letter apologizing for his conduct and promising to visit the next day. In person, the prince was apologetic, kind, and charming, but Maddalena seemed distressed by his visits, although she was unsure why. One day while Guiscardo was out riding with Appiani, a group of masked men come to the castle and kidnap Maddalena. Guiscardo believes that they were hired by Appiani, so he rushes into the prince’s castle and draws his sword. The prince denies any involvement and orders his servants to search for her. The two men leave together to look for her, but they are unsuccessful.
One morning a stranger comes to see Guiscardo, saying that a woman had given him a letter to deliver to Guiscardo. It is from Maddalena, telling her husband that she plans to kill herself with opium but wanted Guiscardo to know that she was imprisoned in Appiani’s castle and that the prince was the one who kidnapped her. Guiscardo immediately goes to Appiani’s castle and stabs him while he sleeps. However, Guiscardo is now consumed with guilt over having killed a helpless man. Sancho promises that after he returns from a pilgrimage, he will speak with the Pope to obtain absolution for his friend.
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Frank, Frederick S. The First Gothics: A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel. Garland Publishing, 1987.
——. “Gothic Gold: The Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, vol. 26, 1997, pp. 287–312.
Hoeveler, Diane Long. The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880. University of Wales Press, 2014.
Maximilian and Selina: Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale. London, Tegg & Castleman, 1804.
Mayo, Robert Donald. The English Novel In the Magazines, 1740–1815: With a Catalogue of 1375 Magazine Novels And Novelettes. Northwestern University Press, 1962.
Potter, Franz J. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. Macmillan UK, 2005.
——. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
“Thomas Tegg.” Collections Online | British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG48140.
“Thomas Tegg, Esq.” The Gentleman’s Magazine: and historical review. June 1846: 650.
The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, Explaining her Birth on an Uninhabited Island, Where she Lived till she was Sixteen Years of age; The Misfortunes and Death of her Parents, and her Surprising Release from that Desolate Place by the Duke de Lancy, to Whom she was Afterwards Married: The dreadful Calamities she Experienced After – Till she Retired to a Monastry, There to end her Wretched Days.
This mock-autobiography published around 1805 to 1810 and written by an unknown author features a haunting, a murder, a birth, and an incestuous marriage—all in a remarkably short number of pages.
The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is a chapbook bound within the second volume of The Entertainer. The elegant binding is brown calf-skin leather with a decorative marbling effect. The marbling effect was produced by the sprinkling of acidic dye onto the leather binding. The volume’s title, The Entertainer, is written in gold text on the spine of the book.
The story is framed as a fictional autobiography, with no known author. Its shortened title The Dutchess de Lancy is seen at the top of each body page. There are thirty-eight pages in the chapbook, one title page and one with an illustration. The illustration is in black and white and appears to depict Thetis kneeling and holding her baby, looking up towards the ghost of her mother. The mother is radiating light and gesturing towards a cottage in the left of the picture. Underneath the image is a quote from the story, written in cursive, “Awe struck, I cast a look of inquiry towards the Spectre. “Grieve not my Thetis,” it exclaimed [sic] The crimes of the parents are expiated by the sufferings of their unfortunate children.” The second page, opposite the illustration, is the title page.
The title page shows the full, longer title of the book. The full title, with capitalization included, is THE LIFE, SUFFERINGS, AND UNCOMMON VISSISITUDES OF THETIS, Dutchess de Lancy, Explaining her birth on an uninhabited Island, where she lived till she was sixteen years of age; THE MISFORTUNES AND DEATH OF HER PARENTS, AND HER SURPRISING RELEASE FROM THAT DESOLATE PLACE BY THE DUKE DE LANCY, TO WHOM SHE WAS AFTERWARDS MARRIED: The dreadful Calamities she experienced after – till she retired to a Monastry, there to end her wretched Days. The font size and capitalization change multiple times on the title page for emphasis. Notable characteristics include a long s, which is a stylized s that appears to look like an f. The long s is not present in the other pages of the book. Underneath the title are the printers and booksellers, along with their addresses in London, England. At the very bottom of the page is the price of the chapbook: sixpence. The title, the list of printers and booksellers, and the price are all separated by decorative dividing lines.
The pages within the chapbook have quite typical formatting. The book is just over 18 cm tall, and the outside of the pages are browning and grey-spotted. The font is small, and there are line skips between paragraphs. The pages are aging, and some are torn. There are bookbinder symbols consisting of a letter and a number to indicate the page order to the bookbinder. Evidence of prior ownership can be found before the chapbook title page, on the inside of the front cover. On the left is the name “Emma Webb” handwritten in a fading, fancy script, and on the right are notes written by Michael Sadleir. He wrote a list of all the chapbooks contained within the volume alongside their bookseller and the publishing date. The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is the first chapbook in the volume, with the bookseller J. Ker. There is no publication date written, but the other books within the volume with known publication dates were published between 1800 and 1805.
There is little information about The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy. There is no known author, editor, or illustrator for the chapbook. There is no scholarship written on the work, and it can be inferred that the chapbook was not widely sold or read. However, there is a decent amount of information on its publisher, John Ker—abbreviated J. Ker in his work. Ker started publishing in 1800 and published an estimated fifteen titles, thirteen of which were of the gothic genre (Potter 38). Multiple sources claim that he was likely the son of John Ker, the third Duke of Roxburgh, and was married to the gothic author Anne Ker (Potter 38, Steele 70). It is known that John Ker also published some of Anne Ker’s work and that her husband was indeed named John. The two also shared business and family connections, so while not proven, it is very likely that John Ker the publisher and Anne Ker’s husband are the same person (Steele 70).
John Ker published from 1800 to 1810 and collaborated with many popular booksellers. Stephen Elliot, along with Nathaniel and John Muggeridge, were the booksellers that Ker associated with the most (Potter 41). In Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, both Elliot and the Muggeridges are listed as booksellers. Two other booksellers listed in Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy are T. Evans and Kemmish. Alongside their names, their addresses are also listed. The UCLA Library and the New York Public Library both allege that since “1805–1810 marks the span of time that T. Evans and Kemmish operated from these addresses,” Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy was likely released during these five years. This period of time—1805 to 1810—aligns with the timespan when Ker was in operation.
According to WorldCat, there are five copies of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy registered in various libraries across the world. The institutions that hold a physical copy are the University of Virginia, the British Library, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the University of California, Los Angeles. The British Library digitized their copy, and it can be found via the library’s website or on Google Books. All of the libraries except the Library of Congress mention that after Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, the story Zelim and Almena follows. Zelim and Almena is unconnected plot-wise to the story of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, but the two stories seem to have been printed and sold in conjunction. Mention of Zelim and Almena can also be found in the Catalogue of the Private Library of Mr. George S. Davis, written by George Davis himself. In this document, all the books that were in Davis’s private library are documented. Davis details a copy of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy that was bound with Sterne’s Maria and Zelim and Almena. He describes the story as “very curious” (Davis 190). This is the only documented review of the chapbook.
There are a few differences between the British Library’s copy and the University of Virginia’s copy of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy. Instead of the illustration being opposite the title page at the front of the chapbook, the British Library’s version has the illustration opposite page 35. The British Library copy also has a more modern green hardback cover, in contrast to the copy at the University of Virginia, which has a spotted brown calf-skin leather cover. Despite these differences, the two copies are nearly identical, with the same font, bookbinder marks, and text on each page.
Narrative Point of View
Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is narrated in the first person by the main character, Thetis. From the beginning, it appears as if Thetis is directly addressing the reader. However, on the final page, Thetis addresses the story to the Countess de Milleray. The Countess de Milleray is not mentioned in the chapbook at any other point, only on the last page in a footnote indicated by an asterisk. Thetis’s narration is intimate, fast-paced, and descriptive. Pages 13–21 are an interpolated tale told by Thetis’s mother, Jaqueline. Jaqueline’s long, uninterrupted dialogue is notable as the reader does not get any glimpse of Thetis’s thoughts or reactions.
Sample Passage of First-Person Narration:
During your* visit to the Convent a short time time [sic.] after my seclusion, I determined to disclose to you the real reasons of a conduct apparently so absurd: I have now been an inmate of these holy walls near twenty years – about six years since, I received a few lines, written by my beloved brother on his death bed, they were tranquil, and thanks to the Almighty, resigned; and he now sleeps in peace within the cemetery of his Convent – grief had broken the heart of the most amiable of men.
*The Countess de Milleray, to whom this narrative is addressed. (36)
Sample Passage of the Interpolated Tale:
“My sisters had bound my long glossy hair in bands round my head, fastening it on the top with bunches of flowers, in the manner of the Lacedeamonien women; this gave me a very singular appearance, and being different from the other girls made my person the more remarked.” (14)
The first-person point of view narrated by Thetis allows the reader to experience a first-hand account of Thetis’s inner thoughts and feelings. The narration choice makes the chapbook more intimate and realistic. While the Countess de Milleray is never mentioned in the book except for the final page, the reader is still able to get a sense of the relationship between Thetis and the Countess. Thetis reveals very personal information about what she experiences, detailing events that would be seen as shameful by society’s standards. However, Thetis is willing to describe these events in extreme detail, confessing her every thought and action candidly. The portion of the story where Jaqueline tells an interpolated tale includes none of Thetis’s thoughts. This section is very distinct from the rest of the novel as the reader is not told how Thetis feels about her mother’s story. This change in expression of Thetis’s thoughts causes a rift between this tale and the rest of the surrounding story. It removes Thetis from the narrative and brings the entire focus onto Jaqueline, Thetis’s mother.
Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is a chapbook centered around the character, Thetis, and her eventful life. Thetis lives on a bountiful island which is deserted except for her mother and father. They tell her stories about their lives and she learns that they are on this island because of a shipwreck. One day, Thetis’s father becomes ill. Thetis is distressed and stays by his side as much as she can. When Thetis wakes up, she goes over to her father to find him no longer breathing. She looks towards her mother in confusion, as she does not understand what death means. They wrap Thetis’s father in woven grass and bury him. Thetis mourns her father’s passing.
Two years pass, and Thetis has worked through her grief. She has started to become the same joyous girl she once was. However, her mother remains somber. Thetis implores her mother to tell her why her spirits are down, and her mother agrees to tell Thetis a story. She reveals to Thetis that the man she called her father was not actually her father, but a man named Victor. She tells Thetis that her name is Jaqueline, and she is the youngest of six children in the Villenueve family from the town of Languedoc, France. They were a peasant family, but Jaqueline was spoiled more than her other siblings. She was given fancy clothes and accessories that rivaled the clothing of children from richer families, while her siblings had very little. One day, the young Marquis of the village decided to throw a coming-of-age celebration. The sixteen-year-old Jaqueline attended and caught the eye of a nobleman. They danced and flirted, and they developed sentiment towards each other. She gained the favor of both the nobleman and the Marquis, and her family was invited to fraternize with the nobility while the other peasants left.
After the party, the nobleman visited her residence and they conversed together, but were always under her mother’s supervision. One day, walking back from her grandmother’s, Thetis met the nobleman and the Marquis. They asked her if she would like to go on an outing with them. She was suspicious, so she refused and began to walk away. They started to pursue her and she ran, but they caught up to her. The nobleman lifted her in his arms and shoved her into a carriage, and they drove away.
She was taken to Paris by the nobleman, where she was given a room in a grand residence. Thetis resisted the sexual advances of the nobleman for a time, but she eventually gave in to his seduction. After many months, she became pregnant. Jaqueline was happy to have become pregnant, but the nobleman was angry. She did not see the nobleman again, and was informed by the Marquis that the nobleman is married with a wife and a son, and that he had left France for a distant settlement. When Jaqueline expressed concern for her parents, the Marquis told her that it was their fault for being punished as they were using Jaqueline to move upwards in society. Jaqueline was enraged by the nobleman and decided to get revenge. She bought tickets for a ship going to where the nobleman currently resided and was joined by her eldest sister. The beginning of the voyage was smooth, but a storm hit, and the ship sank. Jaqueline managed to survive and washed up on the island, while her sister died. Victor also washed up on the island and was the only other survivor. She went into labor, and Victor aided her. She had a baby girl, who they named Thetis. Jaqueline learned that Victor was the nobleman’s younger brother, and she told him her story.
Jaqueline finishes telling Thetis this story, and the pair go to sleep. The next day, Thetis’s mother, Jaqueline, is sick. She dies, and Thetis buries her and mourns for her. That night Thetis sleeps, but is awoken by a sigh. She sees her mother’s ghost, who beckons her to go outside. Thetis walks outside, but then faints. She is awoken by a French Duke standing over her. The Duke invites her to join him and his crew on their voyage to France. She agrees, and the two fall in love on the voyage. Once in France, the two marry, but Thetis feels uneasy. Her mother’s ghost appears to her again and tells her to beware. She is frightened, and the Duke tries to comfort her. Thetis soon becomes pregnant, and the Duke suggests that they take a trip to ease her worries.
The married couple, along with the Marquis and Marchioness de Beaufoy, visit Thetis’s mother’s village. They stay in the Chateau de Murat, welcomed by the Marquis who lives there. After a time, Thetis recounts her story to the Marquis of the Chateau de Murat and asks if he knows about her mother or the Villenueve family. The Marquis is alarmed by the question and rushes out to talk with the Marquis and Marchioness de Beaufoy and the Duke. The Marchioness enters and tells Thetis, “The crimes of the Parents shall be visited on the Children—that terrible denunciation is fulfilled” (32). She then proceeds to tell Thetis that the Duke, the man she is married to, is in fact her own brother. Thetis faints.
Thetis gives birth to a baby boy, and for three months she is bedridden. The only people she sees are the Marchioness and the attendants. After the three months have passed, Thetis feels a cold hand on her forehead while she is sleeping. It is her mother’s ghost, and she motions for Thetis to follow her and bring her child. Thetis follows the spectre into the village to a vine-covered cottage. The ghost stops, and then waves her hand towards her. Thetis looks down at her baby, who is now lifeless. “‘Grieve not, my Thetis,’ [the ghost] exclaimed, ‘the crimes of the parents are expiated by the sufferings of their unfortunate children’” (34). The ghost disappears, and Thetis remains in the same spot, grieving, until morning.
An old man exits the cottage and sees Thetis. He brings her and her dead child inside, and three women help her to sit down. Thetis tells the oldest woman her story, and the woman asks if her family name is Villenueve. Thetis says yes, and the old woman reveals that she is Jaqueline’s mother, and Thetis’s grandmother. The old man who first brought her in was her grandfather, and the two other women are her aunts. Thetis calls for the Marchioness, and she comes to the cottage. She explains to Thetis that the father of Thetis and the Duke was the nobleman who seduced Jaqueline. Thetis’s mother was Jaqueline, while the Duke’s mother was the nobleman’s wife.
The Duke is upset by his marriage to his half-sister, so he joins a convent of monks and takes his vows. Thetis likewise joins a convent and takes her vows. In the final portion of the story, Thetis addresses her writing to the Countess de Milleray. She says that she has lived in the convent for twenty years and feels her death approaching. She is writing out her story in hope of full pardon for her crime. “Thus, my dear Madam, have I opened my heart to you, and though you may not be able to esteem, yet grant your pity to the unfortunate Thetis” (36).
This abridged version of Percy Shelley’s 1811 novel, St. Irvyne, tells of a man high in the Alps, entangled with a pack of bandits and then with the occult, forced to learn first-hand the cost of devaluing life.
Wolfstein is presented in a now-unbound pamphlet.
It is light, being twenty-eight pages in length, 10.7cm x 17.9cm in dimension,
and lacking in a back cover. The untethered, yet remaining front cover is
composed of a marbled, and half-leather binding. This marbling effect was a
popular design of the period, and it was achieved by filling a container with
water and oil paint and dipping the cover in the swirling colors. The cover’s
corners and spine are leather, but the rest is made of faded, dark green decorative
marble paper, which appears to have once been a shade of deep blue, yellowed
with time. No indication of the author is given on the front, nor anywhere
inside the book.
Immediately upon opening the cover, the viewer will be greeted with several notes written in the handwriting of Michael Sadleir, the original curator of this collection. These reveal that there was once a “Coloured Frontispiece” and seven stories in this volume; of these, Wolfstein is the first and the only remaining. The stories are listed exactly as follows:
Wolfstein or The Mysterious Bandit / a Terrific Romance. To which is added The Bronze Statue, a pathetic tale. J. Bailey.
The Ruffian Boy or the Castle of Waldemar. A Venetian Tale. Based on Mrs. Opie’s stay of the same name. by J.S. Wilkinson. J. Bailey
Glenwar, The Scottish Bandit by an Evonian (Dean and Munday)
The White Pilgrim or the Castle of Olival trans from the Le Pelerin Blanc by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson (Dean & Munday)
Theodore and Emma or the Italian Bandit by an Etonian. (J. Bailey)
The rips between these notes and the title page of Wolfstein indicate that the frontispiece may have been removed, perhaps along with the other six stories. The current curator of the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, David Whitesell, hypothesizes that these stories were likely removed in the early days of the collection, possibly when it was first moved to the library. Another mysterious note on the back of the front cover reads, “43 O.R.” What this pen-written memo means is unknown, but it was likely written in the early twentieth century.
Thus, Wolfstein’s forced isolation commands all our attention to it. The title page, though badly torn up, boldly introduces the title in three successive lines, as “Wolfstein; OR, THE MYSTERIOUS BANDIT. A Terrific Romance.” Farther down, the page reads, “TO WHICH IS ADDED, THE BRONZE STATUE. A Pathetic Tale.” The title page arranges the above text in slightly different font variations and vertical lines per each phrase. The page is without pictures or other notable visual features. Further into the chapbook, the titles appear at the top of almost every page as either Wolfstein; OR, THE MYSTERIOUS BANDIT. or THE BRONZE STATUE. The first story takes up pages four through nineteen, while the second story goes from page twenty to the final, twenty-eighth page.
Throughout the book, the
pages are yellowed and tattered. The margins are a uniform 1.5 cm on every
page, and the printing is generally clean and well done. Occasionally, letters
are displaced; this is a result of the moveable type that was used to print the
book. Some seemingly random letters—A, A2, A3, A6, and B—can be found on
different pages near the beginning of each story. These are signature marks, a
common technique of traditional bookmaking: since books were printed on large
sheets of paper that had to be folded and cut, signature marks helped
bookbinders to order the pages correctly.
feature near the beginning of the book is on the backside of the cover page. A
patch, roughly page-colored and a little over an inch in size, is stuck on the
page; looking closely, one can see that its application tore the word “blue”
from the body of the text where the first chapter starts on the following page.
This patch was applied long ago to repair a rip in the title cover, conceivably
when the volume was being moved to the library, but its current presence
appears somewhat ironic, as the title page is now badly torn up. As such, it
seems that the book may have been tattered for quite some time.
Information on Wolfstein;
or The Mysterious Bandit’s textual history is sparse and sometimes
contradictory, especially when it comes to the publication date. In Montague
Summers’s extensive, usually detailed Gothic Bibliography, the entry on
this story is a one-liner, reading, “Chapbook. n.d. [c. 1800]” (561). Indeed,
the circa 1800 publication date is the definite, albeit vague, consensus
amongst all sources, though some sources specify the year of 1822, noting one
crucial detail: Wolfstein is not an original work. Unlike its publishing
companion, The Bronze Statue, published by Anna Jane Vardill, who signed
her work as “V”, Wolfstein is not marked anywhere with any indication of
an author. Instead, the credit for the work is given to author Percy Bysshe
Shelley, as Wolfstein is a condensed, sixteen-page version of Shelley’s
1811 novel St Irvyne; or The Rosicrucian.
Herein the problem is introduced: which came first, The Rosicrucian or The Mysterious Bandit? Frederick S. Frank writes that Wolfstein is a “plagiarized abridgment of various Räuber-roman” and that “P. B. Shelley may have obtained the name of his morose hero in Saint Irvyne … from this lurid little shocker” (“The Gothic Romance” 173). Other sources, however, seem to indicate the opposite. The frontispiece of the chapbook, as found in the New York Public Library, lists the date issued as “1822 (Questionable).” The WorldCat library catalogue, too, describes Wolfstein as “a slightly altered and much abridged version of P. B. Shelley’s 1811 novel, St. Irvyne … published shortly after J. Stockdale’s 1822 re-issue of St. Irvyne.” Finally, in discussing gothic literature’s “fetishisation and moralisation of the formulaic,” Franz J. Potter asserts, “There are multiple redactions and adaptations of what are now viewed as trade novels,” among them, “Percy Shelley’s juvenile novel … was deftly converted into Wolfstein” (The History of Gothic Publishing 54).
Shelley’s St. Irvyne,
at its comparatively whopping length of about two-hundred pages, contains many
plot points common to Wolfstein, while having mostly different character
names. Wolfstein’s breakneck pace, then, can be justified through its
impressive inclusion of many of St. Irvyne’s plot points. The abridgment
is not perfect, though; Wolfstein spends almost no time on Shelley’s
female characters, who, in St. Irvyne, have characterization, dialogue,
and plot lines of their own. Wolfstein’s Serena, the only notable woman
in the chapbook, pales in comparison to Shelley’s Olympia, who, while still
being portrayed primarily as a sexual object, does more than just get captured
and murdered (Finch). Wolfstein goes from barely skimming St. Irvyne’s
waters to totally diving in, even directly copying the text, as in the
“mouldering skeleton” and “terrible convulsions” of the final scene (Wolfstein
19, Shelley 236). The unique similarities of the plots suggest that Wolfstein
was published after Shelley’s novel, possibly in 1822.
Plagiarized chapbooks like Wolfstein were not an irregularity. The printer and publisher of Wolfstein, John Bailey, published many adaptations and abridgements of popular novels as it was “a financially sound investment for printers and publishers exploiting the readers’ appetite for entertainment” (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 89). However, the author, or rather abridger, of Wolfstein is nowhere to be found, whether due to the popularity of anonymity at the time or the fact that the story was a plagiarism. Oftentimes, details like authors and dates remain absent; in total, Bailey dated only five of his thirty-eight pamphlets, these dates ranging from from 1808 to 1823 (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 89). Bailey established himself as a publisher on Chancery Lane by 1800, and his overall contribution to Gothic literature was momentous, finding “market value … in the sensationalism and horror that readers craved” (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 90). Throughout his career, Bailey published and priced a broad range of works at sixpence—very cheap—thus targeting “the general reader whose interest varied by age and need” (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 91).
John Bailey’s gothic pamphlet publications usually contained a frontispiece—which Wolfstein did have, albeit separated—and is now available through the New York Public Library Digital Collections. As described by the WorldCat library database,Wolfstein’s frontispiece was a “folding engraved hand-colored frontispiece with caption beginning, ‘Deeper grew the gloom of the cavern,’ depicting the final scene: a giant skeleton, a lightning bolt, the terrified Wolfstein.” Bailey often commissioned frontispieces from artist George Cruikshank (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 90). Overall, the Bailey family contributed at least seventy-six pamphlets to the “gothic pamphlet marketplace,” making up 19 percent of the total number of Gothic chapbooks (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 91). Their contribution was essential to the genre. Wolfstein is but a singular example of the Bailey family’s gothic legacy.
According to WorldCat,
five known copies of Wolfstein exist. One of them is in the University
of Virginia’s Special Collections Library; one is at the University of
California, Los Angeles; one is in New Jersey, at Princeton University; one is
in the New York Public Library; and one is across the seas at the University of
Point of View
Wolfstein is narrated in the third person,
including both an objective and an omniscient point of view. Although the
narrator is anonymous and physically absent from the story, they sometimes
offer omniscient insight into the characters. Mainly, though, the focus is on
the fast-moving plot, following the terrific story of Wolfstein as he delves
into a life of crime. The narration is almost jarringly engaging, with each
page or two seeming to start a new arc of the story, and sprawling,
multi-clause sentences describing settings and streams of consciousness. While
the narration does pause to zoom-in on specific descriptions, its mere
fifteen-page length requires quick movement through the many beats of action it
contains. This action ranges from murder, thievery, and poisoning to suicidal
contemplation, dreams, and phantasmal appearances. The narration also centers
primarily on Wolfstein, informing us always of his perspective and emotions.
As Pietro concluded, a universal shout of applause echoed through the cavern; and again the goblet passed round, when Wolfstein eagerly seized an opportunity to mingle the poison. The eyes of Barozzi, which had before regarded him with so much earnestness, were intentionally turned away; he then arose from the table, and, complaining of a sudden indisposition, retired.
Stiletto raised the goblet to his lips. “Now, my brave fellows, the hour is late, but before we retire, I here drink success and health to every one of you.” Wolfstein involuntarily shuddered as Stiletto drank the liquor to the dregs, when the cup fell from his trembling hand, and exclaiming, “I am poisoned!” he sank lifeless on the Earth. (11)
Wolfstein’s narrative style frequently deals with
action, but by no means does it lack description or other, slower modes of
fiction. Action verbs in sentences are always surrounded by expressive,
carefully chosen adverbs and adjectives, so that every action is afforded some
reason or emotion. Additionally, the dynamic characters guarantee that the
reasoning and feelings surrounding each action are also dynamic, making the
narration riveting and surprising throughout the tale. For the Alpine Bandits,
power is obtained and maintained through stealth, strength, and wit, so
intelligence is a crucial quality. Taking this into account, the selectively
omniscient point of view aids in the fortune of some characters and expedites
the downfall of others, including Stiletto. The main characters, Wolfstein and
Barozzi, are favored by the narrator in terms of detail and perspective, and
since their thought processes are presented most thoroughly, the book depicts
them as the only characters who are thinking deeply. In a world where success
is based on cunning, they make all other characters seem static and unthinking
in comparison, and those characters’ lives are treated as unimportant and
easily discarded. The narrative’s marking of Wolfstein and Barozzi as
intellectually superior sets them up to search for eternal life and heightens
the irony of their eventual defeat and ruin.
High in the Alps, a terrible thunderstorm “borne on the wings of
the midnight whirlwind” is raging (4). Against a rock, a man named Wolfstein
watches the storm. Wolfstein is tormented by sadness, and he “curse[s] his
wayward destiny… [seeing no point in a life both] useless to himself and
society” (4). Overcome by emotion, he rushes to jump off the cliff, but instead
faints and falls to the ground. His body is quickly found by a group of
traveling monks. They initially suppose him to be dead, but when he wakes up
and lashes out at them, they try to comfort him. Abruptly, the group is
ambushed by the Alpine Bandits, who attack and rob the monks. They threaten
Wolfstein, who says that he has nothing to lose and nothing to fear. Upon
hearing this, they invite him to join their group, and he agrees with little
thought. The banditti take Wolfstein to the “summit of a rocky precipice,”
where they enter a cavern that serves as the bandits’ base camp (5). In the
cavern, they enjoy a banquet made by a woman kept there and eventually retire
to bed. Before going to bed himself, Wolfstein recounts the sorrows of his
life, having been “driven from his native country” by an unnamed force that
presents an “insuperable barrier to ever again returning” (6). Eventually, he
goes to sleep.
As he “inure[s] more and more to the idea of depriving his
fellow creatures of their possessions,” Wolfstein becomes a courageous bandit
(6). His new lifestyle is tested when an Italian count comes to the Alps, and
he goes out to scout alone. While scouting, he discovers that a detached party
of the banditti has already overtaken and killed the count, now dragging a
woman’s “lifeless … light symmetrical form” out of their carriage (7).
Immediately, Wolfstein becomes infatuated with her; but the bandit chief,
Stiletto, seems to desire her for himself.
That night, the woman, whose name is Serena, is invited to the
banquet and seated at the right side of Stiletto, much to Wolfstein’s
displeasure. Filled with “indignation,” he determines to “destroy his rival”
(8). He slips a white powder into Stiletto’s goblet and later proposes a toast.
Just when Stiletto is about to drink, another robber, Barozzi, “dashe[s] the
cup of destruction to the earth” (8). Barozzi is a reserved, cryptic man. He
tells nothing about himself to anyone, and he has never “thrown off [his]
mysterious mask” (9). The interference enrages Wolfstein further, and he
decides to attempt the murder once more, reasoning that he is not worthy of
“the celestial Serena, if [he] shrink[s] at the price… for her possession” (9).
The day after, the bandits are drunk and merry again. Stiletto asks Pietro, a
robber who knows many poems, to tell an old German story to pass the time.
Pietro recites a poem about Sir Eldred the bold, a crusader who died in battle
in Palestine. At his death, his lover wept, “raised her eyes to the banner’s
red cross, / And there by her lover she died” (11). After the story was told, a
goblet was passed around, and Wolfstein again slipped poison into it. At this,
Barozzi “intentionally turn[s] away,” then rises from the table and retires
(11). Stiletto raises the drink, toasting to the “success and health to every
one of you” (11). He drinks it and immediately becomes ill, crying, ““I am
poisoned!” and collapsing (11).
The devastated banditti begin to search for the culprit, but the
search distresses Wolfstein, and he confesses. They are about to kill him when
Barozzi intervenes, insisting that they leave him unhurt on the condition that
he immediately leaves. Wolfstein does. In “half-waking dreams,” he hears
Stiletto’s ghost cry out for justice (12). As he ventures out from the cabin,
he spots Serena lying on the ground. Seeing her as the reason he “forfeited all
earthly happiness,” he takes his sword and stabs her in the breast (12). He
continues on his way, finds an inn to stay in, and Barozzi shows up. In
exchange for saving him from the banditti, Barozzi demands Wolfstein’s
protection and commands that Wolfstein listen to his story. Feeling indebted, Wolfstein
swears to do so, and Barozzi takes his leave. In dreams, Wolfstein sees himself
on the edge of a precipice, being chased by a dreadful figure. Barozzi saves
him, but then the monster throws Barozzi off.
One evening, Wolfstein wanders outside late at night,
“shudder[ing] at the darkness of his future destiny” (14). As he is going back
inside, Barozzi grabs his arm. Jolted, Wolfstein asks if Barozzi is there to
make good on his promise. Barozzi replies: “‘I am come to demand it, Wolfstein,
(said he) art thou willing to perform?’” (14). Wolfstein gathers his strength
and proclaims that he is ready, conducting Barozzi inside. Inside, Barozzi says
it “neither boots [Wolfstein] to know nor [him] to declare” about his past, but
he plans to do so anyway (15). He tells Wolfstein that every event in his life
has been known and guided by his machinations, and tells him to not interrupt,
regardless of how horrifying the tale might be.
At seventeen years old, Barozzi set out on a journey from his
city of Salamanca. The sky that night was completely black and covered by
clouds, and Barozzi “gazed on a torrent foaming at [his] feet” (15). He then
planned to commit suicide. Right before jumping, he heard a bell from a
neighboring convent that “struck a chord in unison with [his] soul” (16). It
made him give up the plan, and he fell to the foot of a tree, crying. In sleep,
he dreamed he stood on a cliff high above the clouds. Amid the mountain’s dark
forms, he felt an earthquake and saw “the dashing of a stupendous cataract”
(16). Suddenly, he heard sweet music, and everything became beautiful; “the
moon became as bright as polished silver; pleasing images stole imperceptibly
upon my senses … louder swelled the strain of seraphic harmony” (16). It calmed
his violent passions. Then, the sky divided, and “reclining on the viewless
air, was a form of most exact and superior symmetry” (16). Speaking “in a voice
which was rapture itself,” it asked, “Wilt thou come with me—wilt thou be
mine?” (16). Barozzi, upset by the proposition, firmly declined. Upon this, he
heard a deafening noise, and his neck was grasped by the phantom, who turned
hideous. It mocked Barozzi, saying, “‘Ah! Thou art mine beyond redemption,’”
and asked him the same question again (17). Frenzied and terrified, he replied
yes, and awoke. From that day forward, a “deep corroding melancholy usurp[ed]
the throne of [his] soul,” and he dived into philosophical enquiries. There he
found a method for eternal life “connected [with his] dream” (17). He lamented to
Wolfstein that this secret may not be shared with anyone else. Barozzi tells
Wolfstein to meet him at midnight in the ruined Abbey St. Pietro—there, he
says, he will reveal the secret to eternal life.
In the still night, Wolfstein ventures there and descends into
the vaults. He trips over a body, and in horror, finds it to be the body of
Serena. On her face, there was a “laugh of anguish” still remaining, and it was
accompanied by wild, knotted hair. Wolfstein “dashe[s] [her body] convulsively
on the earth” and, consumed by almost-madness, runs into the vaults. Thirsting
for knowledge, he waits patiently, and at the midnight bell, Barozzi appears at
last. Desperation alone pushes Barozzi on. His figure thin and his cheek sunken
and hollow, he greets Wolfstein, saying they must get to work. Barozzi throws
his cloak to the ground, shouting, “I am blasted to endless torment!!!” (19).
The cavern grows darker, and lightning flashes in it. From thin air, “the
prince of terror” emerges. He howls and shouts, “‘Yes… yes, you shall have
eternal life, Barozzi!” (19). Barozzi’s body “moulder[s] to a gigantic
skeleton, yet two pale and ghastly flames glazed in his eyeless sockets” (19).
Wolfstein convulses and dies over him.
The tale ends with a statement from the narrator: “Let the
memory of these victims to hell and to malice live in the remembrance of those
who can pity the wanderings of error” (19). The voice remarks that endless life
should be sought from God, the only one who can truly offer eternal happiness.
Finch, Peter. “Monstrous Inheritance: The Sexual Politics of Genre in Shelley’s ‘St. Irvyne.’” Keats-Shelley Journal, vol. 48, Keats-Shelley Association of America, Inc., 1999, pp. 35–68, http://www.jstor.org/stable/30213021. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Frank, Frederick S. “Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Short Stories in the Magazines (1790–1820).” Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide, edited by Douglass H. Thomson et al., Westport, Conn, Greenwood Press, 2001, pp. 133–146, ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uva/detail.action?docID=3000461. Accessed 15 November 2021.
——. “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820.” Horror Literature: A Core
Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall B. Tymn., New York &
London, R.R. Bowker Company, 1981. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830, University of Wales Press, 2021. Accessed 15 November 2021.
——. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the
Trade. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. EBook Collection (EBSCOhost).
Accessed 15 November 2021.
Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley. St. Irvyne, Or, the
Rosicrucian: A Romance. London, J.J. Stockdale, 1811.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. London, The Fortune Press, 1941.
“Vardill, Anna J, John Bailey, John Bailey, and Percy B. Shelley. Wolfstein; Or, the Mysterious Bandit: A Terrific Romance … to Which Is Added, the Bronze Statue, a Pathetic Tale. London: Printed & published by J. Bailey, 116, Chancery Lane, 1822.” Entry in WorldCat. http://uva.worldcat.org/oclc/7130368. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Wolfstein; Or, the Mysterious Bandit: A Terrific Romance … To Which Is Added, the Bronze Statue, a Pathetic Tale. J. Bailey, n.d.
Isaac Crookenden’s 1805 chapbook tells a tale of betrayal, terror, and romance. The shocking discovery of a skeleton in a castle dungeon is just one of its many twists.
This copy of The Skeleton; or, Mysterious Discovery, A Gothic Romance by Isaac Crookenden is a small collection of brittle and yellowed pages, delicately held together with a bit of thread and paste. The chapbook lacks binding, and the pages could potentially have been ripped from a larger volume containing an assortment of tales. Assembling these smaller stories into larger volumes was common practice at the time.
In its present state,The Skeleton resembles a small pamphlet. The book and its pages have a width of 9.5 centimeters and a height of 17.75 centimeters. In its entirety, the book consists of 38 pages, including a blank cover page, a page containing an illustrated frontispiece, an official title page, another blank page, and two pages reserved for an author’s introduction.
This version of the text was published in London in 1805. It was printed and published by A. Neil at the Sommers Town Printing Office. The address of the office is listed as No. 30 Chalton Street. The title page notes that the story is sold by “all other booksellers” as well as Sommers Town. On the book’s title page, the price is listed to be six-pence—fairly cheap for its time.
Currently, this copy has a card indicating the University of Virginia’s possession and ownership of the text attached to the blank first page that was likely added in the 1930s or 40s. This card indicates that the book was presented by Robert K. Black. The notecard also has a handwritten inscription indicating that the text has been microfilmed.
Following the blank first page with this card
is the second page containing a detailed frontispiece illustration of a man
standing in an elegant stone hall holding an open flame. His face expresses
shock as the flame illuminates a skeleton. Beneath the illustration is the text
“Adolphus discovers the Skeleton of the Baron de Morfield” as well as
publication information and attribution for the artwork. This is certainly the
biggest artwork included in the text; however, on page 6, there is a small
image of a rose to signify the end of the introduction.
There is no shortage of unique defects to the
text, making it one of a kind. Because of the lack of binding and seemingly
careless way it was removed from its original bound copy, the text is held
together loosely. The first ten pages are especially fragile and could easily
be separated from the rest. There is a small rip midway down the first blank
cover page. There are small stains throughout, but most noticeably on the
bottom of page 35 there is a dark splotch on the page with unknown origins. The
ink for the printed text has faded considerably in some parts of the book.
As well as defects,
there are other intentional printed indicators of the book’s era. There are
various letter/number combinations along the bottom of certain pages called
signature marks, indicating the proper folding of the paper for the printer.
They are as follows: A on page 3, B on page 15, B3 on page 19, C on page 27,
and C3 on page 21. The book may be considered difficult to read to a modern
reader on account of the printer’s use of the long S in which “s” look like
The Skeleton is a gothic chapbook written by Isaac
Crookenden. An edition of the chapbook is currently in the University of
Virginia’s Special Collections Library as a part of the Sadleir-Black
Collection of Gothic Fiction, where it was received as a gift. This chapbook
was published by A. Neil in 1805 and it originally sold for six-pence at a
variety of booksellers. This edition of the chapbook was published at the
Sommers Town Printing Office at No. 30 Chalton Street in London, near the
Crookenden was born
in 1777 in Itchenor, a village in West Sussex, England, as the youngest of nine
children. His father was a shipbuilder who experienced bankruptcy. Crookenden
overcame a presumably impoverished childhood to marry Elizabeth Pelham Fillery
in 1798, and had a son, Adolphus, in 1800. His educational experience is
alluded to in The Skeleton’s title page, on which he describes
himself as the “Late assistant at Mr. Adams’ Academy in Chichester.”
Crookenden’s status as a former schoolmaster indicates he was educated enough
to educate others. Franz Potter hypothesizes that perhaps he advertised his
former position as an educator in The
Skeleton to heighten the shock and scandal of his work—that someone
associated with children could conceive the horrors in the tale (71–2).
Crookenden published the chapbook Berthinia,
or, The Fair Spaniard in 1802, and nine other publications of the same
variety are known. His main genre was gothic, though he experimented with a
more purely romantic approach in 1808’s Venus
on Earth (Baines). While some of his works were published as late as 1824,
Crookenden died in Rotherhithe, Surrey in 1809 at just thirty-two (Potter 72).
Crookenden had an infamous reputation as one of the most prolific plagiarizing writers of the gothic genre. Frederick S. Frank describes Crookenden as “probably the most notorious counterfeiter of legitimate Gothic Novels” (“Gothic Romance” 59). His name is often mentioned alongside Sarah Wilkinson’s, and both authors have been said by Frank to pursue “lucrative careers of Gothic counterfeiting.” (“Gothic Chapbooks” 142). It should then come as no surprise that The Skeleton has no shortage of similarities to a gothic novel published in 1798 called The Animated Skeleton. While the author of the original work is unknown, Crookenden’s rendition of the story includes many borrowed plot points and thematic resemblances, mainly the discovery of a skeleton to incite terror. The key difference comes from the distinct castle settings and character names, as well as the fact that in The Animated Skeleton, the skeleton’s reanimation is found to be mechanized, whereas in Crookenden’s iteration, the skeleton is of a more supernatural variety (Potter 72). Frank notes that “Crookenden plundered the plot from The Animated Skeleton” (“Gothic Gold” 19). Frank, in a separate instance, also notes that The Skeleton “proves to be a refabrication of the anonymous Animated Skeleton of 1798 together with bits and pieces of the author’s extensive Gothic gleanings” (“Gothic Romance” 59)
WorldCat lists four
copies of the chapbook around the world, each with the same publication date of
1805. Along with the University of Virginia’s copy in Charlottesville,
Virginia, The Skeleton can be found
in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC in the Rare Book/Special
Collections Reading Room. The University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library’s Weston
Stacks in Oxford, United Kingdom holds a copy of the chapbook as well. The
Bodleian’s library catalog describes the binding as “sprinkled sheep” and
indicates that it is bound with seven other items. The Monash University
Library in Clayton, Australia holds the fourth and final of the catalogued
copies of The Skeleton.
Narrative Point of View
The Skeleton is mostly narrated in the third person, with
brief, occasional interjections of first-person narration providing commentary
on the actions or events taking place in the chapbook. The introduction is a
note to the reader in the latter style, condemning critics that call gothic
romance unrealistic and directly warning the reader not to judge a book by its
cover. Though the narrator often uses “we” when referring to their subjective
thoughts, the introduction is signed “Your humble servant, The AUTHOR.” The
story and action are presented in the third person, however, and the narrator
makes abundant use of commas, dashes, and semicolons to present a unique voice.
Letters are also included in the story, presented as written by the characters
within the chapbook.
Almira now observed two horsemen issue from the wood, and as they directed their course towards her, she soon discovered them to be hunters. As they approached nearer, she retired towards the cottage; when the foremost of them sprung off his horse, and coming up to her, “I hope, Madam,” said he, bowing, “I have not disturbed your meditations at this serene and tranquil hour.” While he was speaking, Almira had leisure to observe his dignified deportment, his engaging and affable manners, and his polite address. His full, dark, expressive eye spoke a language which Almira’s hear instantly interpreted, and which on discovering, she cast her’s on the ground. — To keep the reader no longer in suspense, this young man was no other than Rotaldo; and his attendant was the individual– we wish we could add, the virtuous– Maurice. (17)
This style of narration evokes the feeling of
being told a story by an unknown but still familiar voice. Because of certain
story elements including the castles, romance, and suspense in the chapbook,
this narration can resemble the style in which one tells a child a bedtime
story. The prolonged and choppy sentence structure with the variety of
punctuation could be read as mimicking an oral form of storytelling. The
interjected claims and commentary with the plural “we” serve to liven up the
story and engage the reader, providing breaks to clarify or emphasize
characterizations or actions that may seem less clear due to the brevity of a
chapbook. For example, because Maurice’s villainous nature is not able to be
developed over many pages in The
Skeleton, the narrator makes
sure to clearly telegraph his lack of virtue in the above paragraph. This
narration style makes the writing feel less stiff, and thus it has aged more
gracefully than some of its blander contemporaries.
On a stormy night, Lord Ellmont resides in
his castle with his two children. Lord Ellmont is a former warrior, now
committed to domesticity after nobly defending his castle for many years. His
twenty-two-year-old son, Rotaldo, embodies masculinity with a perfect heart,
while his seventeen-year-old daughter Elenora is described at length as
incredibly beautiful. The castle is located in Scotland and consists of a blend
of many different styles and forms of architecture. Though Lady Ellmont died in
childbirth, the castle always seems full on the birthdays of both children, and
it is a mirthful affair when Rotaldo’s birthday arrives.
At the base of the mountain that the castle
sits upon is the home of the peasant Viburn. He has a twenty-year-old son named
Adolphus who has heart as well as temper. One day, Rotaldo asks Adolphus to be
his sporting companion, but Adolphus mysteriously declines, hurting Rotaldo’s
feelings. Rotaldo still wishes for a friend and thinks he finds one in the form
of Maurice, an ugly and deceptive older peasant. Maurice is quickly taken by
Elenora’s beauty, but he fears he will be rejected by her or her family because
of his status. It is implied that his attraction to her is not entirely pure,
and he develops an unhealthy lust for her.
In a valley further from the castle is the
cottage of Volcome, an old peasant with only one surviving child. He was once
rich and of nobility but his family fell upon difficult times, and he was
exploited. He believes his brother was murdered under mysterious circumstances
long ago, and his sister-in-law died while giving birth to a nephew he never
got to meet. His wife also died, leaving him in charge of his
seventeen-year-old daughter Almira, who is described as beautiful as she is
innocent. One day, Rotaldo and Maurice come across their cottage and introduce
themselves while riding horses. Rotaldo is deep in thought riding back from
their cottage when a storm disturbs his horse and nearly flings him off a
cliff. A stranger appears and stops the horse, harming himself in the process.
The benevolent savior is revealed to be Adolphus, who Rotaldo invites back to
the castle to be treated for his injuries. However, Maurice fears Adolphus as
competition for Elenora. Adolphus says he declined Rotaldo’s earlier attempt at
companionship because he must tend to his parents, which Rotaldo dismisses and
graciously offers Adolphus and his family the castle and any assistance they
Adolphus and Elenora instantly connect, while
Rotaldo is overcome with passion for Almira and writes her a love letter.
Elenora receives a proposal from the miserable Baron de Morfield, but her
father knows she would be unhappy with him and declines on her behalf. Almira
receives Rotaldo’s letter and soon receives a visit from Rotaldo himself as
they confess their love. He visits her often, but one day he is returning to
the castle from her cottage when an assassin shoots at him. Rotaldo swiftly
draws his sword and fells the assassin who is revealed to be Maurice. Maurice
expresses remorse for his treachery and gives a cryptic warning about his plans
Returning home, Rotaldo finds his family in
distress. Adolphus has been captured and taken by enemies in the night by the
Baron de Morfield, and is imprisoned in a dungeon. As Adolphus ponders why he
deserves this fate, the narrator reveals the villainous motives of Maurice and
the Baron. It is revealed that Maurice planned to force himself upon Elenora
and then propose an elopement to save her honor. However, Adolphus overheard
this proposal and intervened. Maurice begged for forgiveness and Elenora found
him deserving; Adolphus, however, was less understanding. Maurice later swore
vengeance upon Adolphus, informing the Baron de Morfield that Elenora scorned
him for Adolphus. Maurice then forged a letter in Adolphus’s hand stating that
Adolphus has plans to kill Rotaldo and flee the castle.
Elenora and Rotaldo compare their experiences
with each other, and Adolphus’s innocence is revealed. They fear that they may
have been too late to save him from Maurice’s plans. In his dungeon cell,
Adolphus discovers a secret passage, in which he finds a bloodied dagger and is
shocked by a skeleton. Adolphus returns to his cell with a manuscript
supposedly written by the dead man. It reveals that the real Baron de Morfield
is the skeleton who had been forced to give up his estate though he had an
infant son and heir just after he was killed. The supposed Baron presently
interrogating and kidnapping Adolphus is a usurper.
At midnight, Adolphus is freed from his cell by a mysterious man. As they make their escape, the man turns and stabs the usurping Baron. The helper and Adolphus set out to return to the Ellmont castle. Back home, the Ellmonts despair, though Almira has now been taken into the castle after her father’s passing. Her relationship with Rotaldo as well as a friendship with Elenora provides them both great comfort as they fear Adolphus to be dead.
Adolphus is received with joyous welcomes
upon his return. Adolphus’s supposed father reveals he found Adolphus in the
woods nearly the same time the true Baron’s letter was datedmeaning Adolphus is
the true son of the Baron de Morfield. Almira reveals she is also of Morfield
descent, making her and Adolphus cousins. Almira’s father’s story about his
brother’s murder and sister-in-law’s unknown child all come together before the
group. The Ellmonts return to the Morfield castle and witness the usurping Baron
on his deathbed as Adolphus is yielded his claim to the castle. Adolphus then
marries Elenora as a baron and Rotaldo marries Almira. The story ends with
festivity and moralizes that “although villany may triumph for a time, yet, in
the end, Happiness must be finally united to Virtue.” (38)
Set in Scotland, England, and Italy, Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson’s 1807 chapbook is a complicated tale of vengeance, violence, and long-lost love. And there’s a ghost!
At first glance, The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is nothing more than a small, nondescript book. It is bound in a spotless cardboard cover, with no title or images on the front or back. The spine has a small red rectangle in which The Castle Spectre or Family Horrors is written in gold writing. The chapbook is about 12 centimeters wide, 20 centimeters long, and 1 centimeter thick.
Upon opening the book, it is evident that it has been rebound. The pages inside are soft, yellowed, and worn. The edges are tattered and uneven and the pages are of different sizes. The frontispiece appears to have been glued to a blank page for structural support, as it was ripped and about two inches of the page is missing from the bottom. This page contains a colorful image of two knights in front of a red castle. They are holding blue shields with gold crosses and are wearing red skirts. Behind the knights is a woman in a pink dress; she is surrounded by what appears to be sunbeams and looks as if she is floating with her arm raised. Some of the colors go beyond the edge of the picture, indicating it may have been painted with watercolor. Beneath the image is a caption that says, “GERTRUDE rising from the Rubbish before the CASTLE”. Below the caption is a note about the print company.
The title page
contains the title, written as follows: “The // Castle Spectre; // or, //
Family Horrors: // A Gothic Story.” The words are all uppercase, except for “A
Gothic Story,” which is written in a more elaborate gothic typeface. Beneath
the title is a quote by Langhorne, and then a note on the publisher: “London:
// Printed for T. and R. Hughes, // 35, Ludgate-Street.” “London” is written in
the same gothic font, while the rest is again all capitalized. Beneath this is
the publishing date: 1807. The title page has a small, rather illegible phrase
written in pencil in the upper left corner, and a large stain on the right. The
back of the title page is blank, except for a small stamp in the bottom left
corner that says, “Printed by Bewick and Clarke, Aldergates-street.” It should
be noted that the name of the author is never mentioned.
On the first page of the text, the title is again printed, but this time as The Castle Spectre. The chapbook contains thirty-eight pages, and the page sizes vary slightly. The upper and lower margins range from about 1.5 centimeters to 2.5 centimeters. “Castle Spectre” is written on the top margin of every page, and there are page numbers in the upper corners. The text is small and tight, and the inner margin is very narrow. On the left pages, the words run almost into the spine. On some pages, the text is fading and in certain instances, can be seen through from the back of the page. The pages are speckled with light stains, but none that obscure much text. The bottom margins of a few pages contain signature marks, such as B3, C, and C3. These marks indicate how the pages should be folded together, as the book was printed on one large sheet and then folded and trimmed. This binding technique also explains why the pages vary in size. There are nine blank pages at the end of the book. These pages seem newer and are larger; they were likely added to make the book slightly thicker, as it is difficult to bind such a thin book.
An index card is
loosely placed in the front of the book, containing the title and publishing
information. It appears to be written in Michael Sadleir’s handwriting and was
likely used for cataloging purposes. The note indicates that the book was
originally unbound, but then mounted on modern board and engraved. This
explains the discrepancy between the wear of the cover and that of the pages.
“Louisiana” is written on the upper left corner; Sadleir presumably got the
book from someone who lived there. A line on the bottom of the card indicates his
belief that the plot was plagiarized, as he notes the book is “a theft of title
The Castle Spectre by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson was
printed by Bewick and Clarke for T. and R. Hughes in 1807. According to Michael
Sadleir’s handwritten note, the copy in the University of Virginia
Sadleir-Black Collection was originally unbound and then rebound as a
stand-alone chapbook. It appears there is only one edition, the 1807 version,
but some other copies are bound in volumes with other chapbooks. According to
WorldCat, there are six copies of this edition located at Dartmouth Library,
Columbia University Library, and the National Library of Wales, among others.
As of 2021, there are no digital copies of the story, though GoogleBooks has
information about the title, author, and publishing company.
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is often misinterpreted
as being inspired by Matthew Gregory Lewis’s play The Castle Spectre.
Though part of the title is the same, the actual plot, characters, and setting
are entirely unrelated. The
confusion has arisen because Wilkinson published two chapbooks with similar
titles: The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story in 1807 and
The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance; Founded on the Original
Drama of M. G. Lewis in
1820. This second text, The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance,
is in fact based upon Lewis’s play (as accurately suggested by the subtitle),
with the same characters, setting, and plot. By contrast, the 1807 chapbook, The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, remains separate and unrelated except
for its similar main title.
Though the two Castle Spectre texts by
Wilkinson are entirely separate, they are frequently confused for one another.
For instance, Franz J. Potter notes in The History of Gothic Publishing
that Wilkinson “also adapted two versions of Matthew Lewis’s melodrama ‘The
Castle Spectre’ publishing The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors (2.58)
in 1807 with Thomas Hughes, and The Castle Spectre; An Ancient Baronial
Romance, Founded on the Original Drama M. G. L. (2.57) in 1820 with John
Bailey” (119). In his section on the “Family Horrors” version of
Wilkinson’s chapbook, Frederick S. Frank notes that she “transformed Lewis’s Gothic drama, The
Castle Spectre [l-219], back into a Gothic novel” (171). Franz J. Potter
similarly states that this “Family Horrors” version was “founded on Lewis’s The
Castle Spectre. A Drama in Five Acts” (Gothic Chapbooks 39). Even an
article in UVA Today makes this common error, stating “Lewis’ work was
regularly plagiarized and used in this way, as it is in ‘The Castle Spectre,
or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story,’ by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson” (McNally).
that make the claim of a link between The Castle Spectre and Matthew
Lewis’s play cite Montague Summers’s Gothic Bibliography, which lists The
Castle Spectre by Sarah Wilkinson without specifying the subtitle or a
publication date. Summers’s entry reads: “Castle Spectre, The. By Sarah Wilkinson. Founded upon Matthew
Gregory Lewis’ famous drama, The Castle Spectre, produced at Drury Lane
on Thursday, December 14th, 1797” (268). Of the libraries that own The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, many list M. G. Lewis as an author, and
these library catalogs frequently reference Summers’s Gothic Bibliography,
echoing his statement that the story is “Founded
upon Matthew Gregory Lewis’ famous drama ‘The castle spectre’.” Some
libraries note the link to Lewis’s play based upon The National Union
Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints, and this source also cites back to Summers’s Gothic
Bibliography. It is possible Summers’s entry for The Castle Spectre
was misunderstood to be about the “Family Horrors” version, when it was meant
to reference the “Baronial Romance” version, which specifically claims to be
founded upon Lewis’s play. Whatever the reason, this misunderstanding has
spurred many sources, including library catalogs, to erroneously note a
connection between the plot of Lewis’s The Castle Spectre play and
Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors chapbook.
It should also be noted that some sources
discuss a similarity between the two distinct chapbooks Wilkinson wrote under
the titles The Castle Spectre. Diane L. Hoeveler, for instance, suggests
that Wilkinson was plagiarizing herself in these two chapbooks, indicating she
believes the plots to be “virtually identical and indicate how authors as well
as publishers had no qualms about ‘borrowing’ literary texts from others as
well as themselves” (14). Hoeveler writes, “Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre:
An Ancient Baronial Romance is actually her second attempt to capitalize on
the popularity of Lewis’s 1797 drama The Castle Spectre”, naming as the
“other version” The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story
(14). Yet while it is true that Wilkinson used the same main title for two
different books, they are not “virtually identical”: the plots, characters’
names, and setting of the story have no similarities. A potential reason for
the similar titles was that Wilkinson used the phrase “Castle Spectre” precisely
because of its popularity at the time to attract readers, despite the “Family
Horrors” version being a unique story.
On a separate note, the title page of The Castle Spectre; or, Family
Horrors includes a portion of a poem by John Langhorne. It appears to be an
edited stanza from a longer poem entitled “Fable VII. The Wall-flower” from his
collection of poems, The Fables of Flora (Johnson 447). It is unclear
whether the poem was adapted by Wilkinson or the publishing company, but the
poem alludes to the idea of remembrance and telling the stories of the dead.
This theme reflects in the story of Gertrude’s death and Richard’s journey of
Narrative Point of View
Spectre is, for the most
part, narrated in the third person by an anonymous narrator who is not present
in the plot. There are a few occasions throughout the story when the narrator
speaks in first-person plural, referencing the history of the story and its
translations. The narration follows the knight, Sir Richard, throughout the
entire story, and much of the chapbook contains dialogue and interpolated tales
spoken by a variety of the characters with whom Richard interacts, such as
Douglas. The narrative focuses more on plot and less on characters’ thoughts,
and the sentences are often long and descriptive. There is a bit of insight
into Richard’s feelings, but the narrator does not discuss other characters’
emotions unless the characters reveal their feelings aloud in dialogue. There
is also an instance where Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm exchange letters, which
are printed within the text in quotation marks; both Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm
refer to themselves in the third person in their letters. At times when Elenora
(also known as Gertrude) appears as a ghost, she also refers to herself in the
third person during her tales.
The moon, emerging from a black cloud just as he entered, enabled him to ascertain he was in a grand spacious hall, in the centre of which stood a large banquetting table He seized an extinguished taper, which he with difficulty lighted by the friction of some wood he found on the hearth. He had now an opportunity to observe the place more accurately. The table was laden with viands, some in a putrid state, some mouldering to powder; and to his eager view appeared vases filled with the juice of the generous grape. In a corner of the apartment he beheld the body of a man extended in death on the floor, the boards of which were stained with congealed blood. A murder had been committed here but a short time before. The sight of this did not alarm him; he knew not fear, but emotions of pity rose in his breast, for the unfortunate object before him, and a desire to develope the mysteries of the place he was in, prevailed over ever other consideration. (6)
First-Person Plural Narration:
But we must not anticipate in our story too much, and the Scottish manuscript from whence we translate, mentions some transactions that will better appear hereafter. In the mean time we must observe that after much consultation on these transactions, Lord Mackworth advised Sir Richard to appoint a meeting with Sir Kenelm at midnight. (16)
Sample of Sir
Richard’s Third-Person Letter to Sir Kenelm Cromar:
Sir Richard, brother to Lady Gertrude, returning from the Holy Wars, finds his venerable father mouldering into dust, brought to the grave by grief for the untimely fate of a beloved daughter, whose fair fame was basely called into question, and her dear life sacrificed to lawless love. —Sir Kenelm must account for this, and inform Sir Richard what is become of a dear sister. For which purpose Sir Richard challenges Sir Kenelm to meet him, in single combat, near that castle-gate where he, Sir Kenelm, banquetting with his new bride, beheld the injured shade of Lady Gertrude, when, for a slight offence, he stabbed his cupbearer. Eight days hence, exactly at the hour of twelve, Sir Richard will be there, with two of his most trusty friends. (16)
Sample of Sir Henry
Mackworth’s Interpolated Tale:
At his return to Palestine, finding I was in confinement, his generosity and friendship made him hazard his life to rescue me from my confinement. He succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations. We continued together some time. We had but one heart, one purse, and were a pattern of friendship throughout camp and country. Clemena was often the subject of our conversation. I ventured to hint the inclination I felt for her, from his description and the picture I had seen. ‘Alas!’ said he, ‘I dare not flatter you with the least hope of success; my sister has been educated in a convent, and ever been intended by our parents for a nun, their fortune being too small to support us both in a manner suitable to our rank…’ I remonstrated with Vertolini on the cruelty of secluding a beloved sister, for life, within the dreary walls of a convent… (33).
The various types of
narration in The Castle Spectre allow for a deeper exploration of
different characters’ actions and emotions, as well as greater detail on the
setting and history of the story. The Castle Spectre utilizes several
techniques to augment suspense. On numerous occasions, the names of the
characters Richard meets are not revealed until the end of that individual’s
story, and the reveals often occur casually amidst the dialogue or narrative
with little emphasis. The reveal of the characters’ names has a great impact on
the entire plot, and the narration’s nonchalant delivery augments the suspense
and adds an element of surprise. As a result, many key details and surprises
are revealed suddenly and without foreshadowing. Though the narrator does not
touch on characters’ feelings often, the dialogue provides greater insight into
the different characters’ personalities and emotions. Because so many different
plots are embedded into the chapbook, the story is both engaging and, at times,
confusing: the chapbook is extremely fast-paced because so much action is
packed into each sentence, and in some cases it is difficult to follow the story
and to distinguish who is speaking or who characters are because the plot jumps
back and forth in time or between the different story lines. The moments of
first-person plural narration detail the story as if it were true by discussing
the sources from which the story was translated. These moments where the
narrator speaks as “we” directly to the reader, along with the detailed setting
and long rambling sentences, all conspire to make the story oral in feel, as if
being told to a friend.
Spectre follows the knight
Sir Richard over a period of several years. The story begins on a stormy night
in the Scottish Highlands. Sir Richard is traveling to his father’s castle in
the Grampian Mountains after a four-year deployment to the Holy War in
Palestine. He seeks shelter to ride out the storm, but no one will take him in.
In a flash of lightning, he sees the turret of a castle; he sounds his bugle
numerous times with no response, so he dismounts his horse and tries the door.
By chance, the door is unlocked, and Richard enters the banquet hall of the
castle. With only the moon and occasional flash of lightning to guide him, the
knight explores. The hall is filled with food and drink that appears to have
been placed there recently. In the corner of the hall lies the dead body of a
man; the floor is soaked with congealed blood. Sir Richard vows to unravel the
mystery of the catastrophe that occurred.
Sir Richard tours
the rest of the castle, which is magnificently decorated in gothic splendor. No
one is to be found and all is silent. He comes upon a great bed, and as he is
exhausted from his journey, he jumps in and falls into a deep sleep. At one
o’clock, a bell rings and Sir Richard wakes to the curtains of the bed being
ripped open. Standing at the foot of the bed bathed in blue light is a veiled
woman in a white dress. As he approaches her, the woman’s veil falls off and a
stream of blood gushes from a wound in her side. Richard looks into the woman’s
face, and it is none other than his sister! He calls to the apparition “by her
name Elenora” (though later in the story she is referred to predominantly as
Gertrude, with no explanation given for the shift in name) (7). Elenora the
apparition stands, not speaking, while holding her hand over the seemingly
fresh wound in her side. After repeated prodding, Elenora explains the story of
her brutal murder in the castle, revealing that two years after Richard left,
she married the owner of this castle, and in a fit of frenzy he stabbed her
(while she was pregnant) and left her corpse in a rubbish pile. Left to rot
without a proper Christian burial, she haunts her murderer and his new wife.
The scene that Richard came upon in the banquet hall was the remnants of their
wedding, which was ruined when Elenora appeared and terrorized the guests.
Finally, with a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning, Elenora vanishes in a
swirl of blue flame.
Shocked and overcome
with emotion, Sir Richard decides to leave and avenge his beloved sister. He
lets his horse take the reins on the way to his father’s estate and does not
realize the horse has gone down the wrong road. They come upon a cottage where
he is treated with great hospitality. The owner, Douglas, tells the story of
his childhood and time as a soldier, where he saved the life of the “worthy
nobleman, under whose banners I had enlisted” and was thus assured protection
and this cottage (11). Douglas explains that the nobleman has died and his son
is at war; he fears thar if he does not return, Sir Kenelm Cromar will take
over his estates and leave Douglas and his family to live out their days in
poverty. During this story, Douglas reveals the name of his former nobleman to
be Duncan, and Sir Richard reveals that Duncan was his father! This means that
Sir Richard is the son who has now returned home; the Douglas family rejoices.
Douglas’s story also reveals that Sir Kenelm’s first wife was Elenora (now
predominately referred to as Gertrude in the story). Upon Gertrude and Kenelm’s
marriage, Ally (Douglas’s daughter) moved into the castle where Sir Kenelm
“began to take great liberties with her” (12). Douglas says Lady Gertrude is
now missing and so is Ally. Because of Gertrude’s ghost’s daily visits, Sir
Kenelm and his new wife have moved to his hunting lodge so the castle remains
uninhabited. Sir Richard thanks Douglas and promises him a life of friendship
When he finally
arrives home, the servants rejoice at the return of their young lord. They tell
the knight all that has happened and grieve for the good young lady Gertrude
and their master Duncan. Enraged, Sir Richard vows to avenge her and lay her
body to rest in a Christian burial. He seeks out his father’s friend, Lord
Mackworth, and tells the man the story. Richard decides to challenge Sir Kenelm to
single combat, with Mackworth’s assistance. As part of their agreement,
Mackworth wants Sir Richard to marry his daughter and Sir Richard agrees. Sir
Kenelm accepts Richard’s request, mentioning that though it is illegal to fight
in this manner, he will do it anyways to honor the memory of the venerable
Duncan. Meanwhile, Kenelm sends a letter to the king, requesting that he send
men and imprison Richard before the fight occurs. Instead, the king decides the
two men will have an impartial hearing at his court and he will support
whichever cause is more just.
It is now the night
of combat, and the marshal Lord Glencairn asks if any last-minute
accommodations can be made. Richard declines, unless Sir Kenelm will admit to
murdering Gertrude and surrender to public justice. Kenelm refuses, saying that
Gertrude abandoned him for a lover, and Richard is about to stab him in rage
when suddenly, they are both commanded prisoners and summoned to the king’s
court. Before they leave with the soldiers, the clock strikes one and in a
swirl of thunder and lightning, Gertrude appears. She shares her story and
explains that three times now she has prevented Kenelm from murdering his new
wife. She requests a proper burial, asks Mackworth to protect Richard, and
vanishes in a thick blue flame amidst a crack of lightning and tremendous peal
of thunder. Richard breaks the silence and tells the soldiers to bring them to
the court, so that he can share the full story in front of the king. The
hearing occurs, and Kenelm is found guilty and sent to prison; he later has a
public trial and is condemned to death. Gertrude’s remains are recovered and
she has a proper burial; all the churches in the surrounding area hold masses
in her honor and her final wish is granted.
goes home. He keeps his house open to serve his father’s tenants, and the
neighboring nobility congratulate him on his return from the war and for
bringing Kenelm to justice. Nevertheless, Sir Richard is unhappy; he mourns the
loss of his father and sister and misses his lost love Lady Jane. The story now
shifts back many years, before Richard went to the Holy Land. He fell in love
with Mackworth’s daughter, Jane, and she waited for him to return from the war.
In the four years of his absence, Jane denied many marriage offers from wealthy
prospects, one of them being Lord Glendour. Finally, Richard returns and they
are set to marry. We learn that two years before Richard left, Mackworth’s son
went to war and never returned. They mourned his death, and Mackworth received
Richard as a son and the heir to his estates and domains. As they prepare for
the wedding at the Mackworth estate, Richard returns to his familial castle,
and in his absence, an unfortunate event occurs. One evening, Jane is kidnapped
while on a walk through the gardens. Mackworth sends news to Richard, who vows
never to return until he finds his love. He searches for weeks with no sign of
Jane, until he comes across a hut offering refreshments to travelers. The man
inside mentions that a gagged woman and man had come through just before and
were on their way to Italy. Richard chases them to the river’s edge and
resolves to follow them. For years, he traverses all of Italy, hopelessly
searching convents for his lover. He falls ill and almost dies from grief, but
dreams of Jane and vows to recover and free her.
The story jumps back
in time to Jane’s kidnapping, and it is revealed that Lord Glendour, one of
Kenelm’s friends, fell madly in love with her and kidnapped Jane to be with
her. He requests her hand in marriage, but she refuses. She tricks him into
allowing her to pass the time in a convent in Italy, where she is watched over
by the Lady Abbess and not allowed to leave. Back in the present, Richard meets
an English man in the middle of Venice. They become friends and visit the man’s
villa. Richard recognizes someone in one of the family pictures and asks the
man to share the story of why he left England. The man says the story is long,
but he has written it down for his children and will one day give Richard a
copy to read. After months of visits, Richard reads the man’s story and is
surprised by the similarities between them. The man, Wentworth, was the eldest
son of a noble house in England. He fell in love with a peasant girl Louisa,
and though he was promised to marry a noble woman Anna, he runs away with his
lover. He fakes illness and tells his father he will go to the Holy War; Louisa
goes with him, and they marry and have a son and daughter. He returns from the
war and vows to sort out his betrothal to Anna. Leaving his wife and children
in the protection of her father, he goes back to his paternal castle. He sets a
plan for his brother, William, to marry Anna instead, and it works. Elatedly,
Wentworth returns to the cottage and is devastated to find Louisa and his
infant son missing. They were tricked by a letter claiming to be from him, and
Wentworth suspects his own father to have sent it. For five years, Wentworth
and his daughter travel the world, though nothing can make him forget Louisa.
Receiving word of his father’s ill health, he returns to England. On his death
bed, Wentworth’s father reveals he sent Louisa to a convent in Italy, but she
escaped. Wentworth and his daughter go back to Italy to search for her, but he
never finds Louisa. He lives like a recluse in his villa, and this is where Richard
reenters the story.
Richard again visits
Wentworth. The man reveals he is Richard’s uncle but used a fake family name so
that he may retire in peace, away from the nobility. Richard explains that
during his search for Jane, he saw Louisa and her son in the Pyrenees.
Together, Richard and Wentworth begin their journey to the mountains to find
the long-lost wife and son. They come across a cottage that Richard had visited
before and reunite with Louisa and the son. Wentworth, now revealed to be
called Sir George, decides to return to his family home in England. Richard
promises to join them, if they can spare a few weeks for him to search for
One night on his
return to the Italian villa, Richard sees two criminals attacking a man. He
intervenes, and they admit they were hired by Count Vertolini to kill him.
Richard and the man go back to his house, so they may speak safely. The young
man then explains his story: he came from England to fight in the Holy War and
had a father and sister at home who he had not heard from in years. During the
war, he became great friends with an Italian man, Vertolini, who had a sister
named Clemena. The man falls in love with her, but is then taken prisoner in
Palestine. Four years later, Vertolini bribed the soldiers and freed his
friend, and they carry on their travels together. The Italian man reveals his
sister is promised to a convent, so she cannot be with his friend despite his
love for her. They meet the sister in Italy, where he becomes even more
enamored. Clemena admits she does not want to join the convent, but it is
necessary for her honor. Vertolini vows to save her before she takes the veil,
and the siblings try in vain to convince their father to free her. The father,
Count Vertolini, refuses the young man’s wedding proposal, and advises him to
leave Italy immediately. It is now revealed that the young man is Sir Henry
Mackworth, Lord Mackworth’s long lost son and Jane’s brother.
Back in the present,
Richard and Henry plan to rescue Clemena. While at the convent, a girl hands
the knight a note telling him to return at midnight to find something of great
importance. He listens, and that night, finds Lady Jane at the convent! She
explains her story and begs him to free her. Richard and Henry return to the convent
to demand her release, but the Lady Abbess refuses. The next day, Henry
interrupts the veiling ceremony and saves Clemena from the convent. Richard
goes back to England with Henry and Clemena, where he hurries to find
Mackworth. Together, they apply to the king and receive his royal mandate to
imprison Lord Glendour. The king sends word to the Pope, and Mackworth and Sir
Richard go back to Italy to retrieve a freed Jane. With Richard’s lover in tow,
they return to England. Wentworth lives in his castle with his family, there
are numerous weddings, Glendour dies in a convent, and Sir Richard is blessed
with years of happiness with Jane, Henry, Wentworth, and the others. They all
live happily ever after.
Frank, Frederick S. “A Gothic Romance.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, by Marshall B. Tymn, New
York City, R.R. Bowker, 1981.
This story written by Mary Anne Radcliffe in 1802 follows a family left destitute after the French Revolution and their quest to start a new life. The only thing in their way is a string of murders.
The Secret Oath
or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance is the second story in volume one of The Entertainer. Seven
stories make up the volume, each containing seventy-two pages, except for The
Secret Oath (sixty-eight pages) and Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment
(four pages). Each time a new story starts, the page numbers restart, with the
exception of Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment, which
continues pagination from the previous story, The Secret Oath, to result
in a total of seventy-two pages. Each story has seventy-two pages
because it matches the method of folding used to bind books at this time. The
volume is bound in brown, acid-splattered leather and has gold lettering of The
Entertainer on the spine. The text block has blue speckles for decoration. The
Entertainer vol. 1 measures 18cm in height, 11cm in width, and 3cm in
In the front cover,
there is a handwritten table of contents and a list of exact duplicates also in
the Sadleir Black Collection. Overall, the pages of the book are in good
condition. All the text in The Secret Oath is readable apart from a
small hole with a diameter of about 0.5cm on page 61, but this does not affect
the overall understanding of the text. The pages inThe Secret Oath
or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance and Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of
Disappointment are a slightly darker brown than the rest of the stories.
This discoloration is caused by different types of paper used in the volume.
The pages in The
Secret Oath use a consistent font and single-spaced lines. The margins
differ due to folding techniques. The left-hand pages have side margins of 1cm
while the right-hand pages have side margins of 0.5cm. The top margin for a
page is either 1 or 2 cm. Each page has the title The Secret Oath on the
top. The margin at the bottom of all the pages is 1cm. At the bottom of some
right-hand pages, there are signature marks that indicate how the book should
be folded. They start with “Ii” and end with “Oo3”. On the last page of the
story, the word “Frederic” is present as a catch word for the book maker to
know which story goes next. Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment
was added after The Secret Oath to make the section 72 pages for
At the start of The
Secret Oath, there is a title page that reads “The // Secret Oath // or //
Blood-Stained Dagger, // a Romance” with a black and white illustration
of a house in front of the woods. To the left of the title page, there is
another illustration depicting a character reaching for a dagger while looking
at a statue of a woman and her baby. This black and white illustration of a
woman bled on to the title page and can be seen in a faint brown outline.
This edition was
printed by J. H. Hart and published for Tegg and Castleman in London on
November 1, 1802. There is another edition of this chapbook in the University of
Virginia Special Collections Library printed by T. Plummer and published for T.
Hurst in London on November 1, 1802. The chapbook has many existing editions
both in libraries and as online scans. For instance, there is a version in
volume one of the second edition of The Marvelous Magazine published by
The author of The Secret Oath is not present on the title page or frontispiece. However, another chapbook entitled Monkish Mysteries; Or, the Miraculous Escape: Containing the History and the Villanies of the Monk Bertrand; The Detection of His Impious Frauds, and Subsequent Repentance and Retribution includes a printed note that says: “The whole written, adjusted and compiled solely for this work, by Mrs. Mary Anne Radclife, of Wimbledon in Surrey, author of the Secret oath, or blood-stained dagger” (Radcliffe Monkish Mysteries 2). This connects Mary Anne Radclife, usually spelled “Radcliffe,” to the The Secret Oath. There is another book in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library that includes the same note connecting Mary Anne Radcliffe to TheSecret Oath called The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over the Arabian Deserts, to the British Settlements in India; : Containing, Among Other Particulars, an Account of the Perils He Experienced in Those Terrific Regions, the Eccentric Humors of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses in the War With Hyder Ally, &C (Radcliffe Adventures 2).
Mary Anne Radcliffe was born in 1746 to James Clayton and Sarah née Bladderwick (Grundy). Her father died when she was four, and she was educated at Bar Convent in York, England. After fourteen years of life, she married Joseph Radcliffe, age thirty-five, in an elopement and had eight children with him throughout their marriage.
Her most known works include The Female Advocate (1799), Radcliffe’s New Novelist Pocket Magazine (1802), and Memoirs… in Familiar Letters to her Female Friend (1810). Some of these works are similar to The Secret Oath in the sense that they are sensationalized stories written for cheap entertainment, but others follow a feminist perspective on life and create arguments about more serious topics such as the shrinking job market for women and the risk of prostitution. Radcliffe was advertised in newspapers as an elegant entertainment writer, and her Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine was sold for six-pence at the time of its release (“Advertisements and Newspapers” 4). This magazine, which is more like a collection of stories, includes The Secret Oath. Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine was published by Thomas Hurst.
Grundy suggests that Radcliffe requested that her name remain out of some of
her pieces, but that this was not always respected. Specifically, Radcliffe’s
name was put on The Female Advocate despite her wish to remain
anonymous. This connected her to Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine and
other chapbooks. Her publisher was also known to switch published works
with a different author’s name to Radcliffe’s name after the first edition of a
book had been published. For example, The Mysterious Baron (1808) was
switched from Eliza Ratcliffe to Mary Anne Radcliffe after its initial print
(Grundy). The reason for these changes is unknown, but it is likely that the
publisher was using the similarities between Radcliffe’s name and the more
famous Ann Radcliffe, author of A Sicilian Romance (1790), to catch the
eye of readers. Another possibility is that Radcliffe used a false name for
some books in order to remain more anonymous.
having eight children and publishing many works focusing on topics from
thrilling murders to the issues of women, Radcliffe died of a health decline in
August of 1818 and is buried in Old Calton cemetery, Edinburgh (Grundy).
Narrative Point of View
The Secret Oath is narrated in third-person past tense. The
narrator is omniscient and never appears as a character in the text. The
narration focuses on characters’ actions and emotions and uses long sentences
separated by commas for each thought. The narrator does not focus on the
setting and does not use descriptive language to describe the environment. The
focus is on the actions of characters in the story and the feelings of each
They entered the old cabriolet, and after a rude journey arrived at Maschere, where they entered an Inn, and a surgeon was sent for to dress the Marquis’s wounds. – He pronounced it impossible to proceed on the journey without endangering his patient’s life ; in consequence of which, the Marchioness hired some apartments at a farm-house, on the road to Caffagiolo, contiguous to his surgeon. De Montfort had mental as well as bodily wounds to struggle with : he con-sidered himself as the murderer of Dorville–he, who had preserved his life, and illuminated the gloom of exile with the balm of friendship. – His daughter also felt a perpetual pang in the reflection that Dorville, whom she esteemed more than any man living, had been slain by her father’s hand ! (33–4)
demonstrates how the narrator focuses on the emotions and actions of each
character over any other aspect of the story. With its third-person point of
view, the narration takes away any bias that a first-person perspective would
have, but this does not take away all of the suspense. Omniscient narration
here gives an insight to all the characters’ feelings and experiences, which
tie into the universal knowledge of the narrator, but some details are left out
throughout the novel to maintain suspense. How a person is feeling is not left
a secret, but their fate is unknown until an action comes to determine it. This
stylistic choice keeps the story mysterious while also providing insight to
each character’s interiority.
A Secret Oath or
Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance follows an ex-Marquis
named Albert de Montfort, his wife Madame de Montfort, and his daughter Serina.
The book describes how the family is forced to flee from Paris, France in 1792
during the French revolution. After fourteen years of poverty following their
escape, de Montfort accepts an invitation from his deceased father’s godson, M.
Dodier, to stay at his chateau until the family can get back on their feet. De
Montfort is hesitant to accept because M. Dodier received the de Montfort
family fortune after the death of Albert de Montfort’s father, and there is a
lack of trust between the two men. Serina convinces her father to accept the
invitation and the family moves to the chateau. The house is completely empty
except for Aquilina and Orsano Cormazzo, the mysterious caretakers of the
One day, de
Montfort comes home covered in blood after gambling with friends. He claims
that he was trying to save a dying man in the woods. Law enforcement accuses
him of the murder, and they discover evidence in Madame de Montfort and
Serina’s rooms that also connect them to the crime. De Montfort and his family
are taken to prison in a faraway town, but one by one they avoid their sentence
with the help of various people. Serina’s helper saves her under the condition
that she marry Argand, M. Dodier’s son. Next, Madame de Montfort is released
after the murder victim is revealed to have survived. She reunites with Serina
after hearing rumors of her location. De Montfort was the last to be released.
On the way to find his family, the living victim of the attack, Dorville,
offers to help find his wife and daughter because he feels bad that de Montfort
was sent to prison for no reason. De Montfort accepts, and eventually they find
Madame and Serina. De Montfort makes it clear that Serina will not be marrying
Argand because he does not want the man who took his family inheritance to take
his daughter too. M. Dodier kicks the family out of the chateau, and Dorville
offers to let the family stay in his mansion a few cities away.
through France to get to Dorville’s home. Dorville and Serina become close.
While staying in an apartment overnight, Serina wakes to a man in a black mask
holding a dagger above her heart. The masked man realizes he has the wrong
person and claims that if she keeps this visit a secret then her father may
live, but if she says anything he will kill her father and Dorville. Serina
swears the secret oath, and the man gives her an ebony crucifix with the word
“Remember!” carved on the back as a reminder of her promise (21).
After her visit by the mysterious man, Serina
goes to a church to confess. After she divulges her oath, the abbot demands
that she stay in the church for six months to pray in darkness. She has no
escape from her punishment and is brought to a garden to pray. In this garden,
a mysterious man helps her escape. Once the pair is over the wall, there is a
fight between new attackers and Serina’s helper. Serina’s helper reigns
victorious in the fight. However, Serina’s father was planning on saving her
too, and when he sees the man and Serina surrounded by bodies, de Montfort
attacks the man and kills him. Serina sees that her helper was Dorville. She is
extremely sad but must run from the church to avoid another imprisonment.
The family adopts the false name of Berthier to
protect their identity. With the help of an attorney named Cattivo, they
purchase an apartment and stay out of the public eye. Since the family has no
money, de Montfort uses a ring that he won while gambling as payment. Cattivo
takes a liking to Serina and demands her hand in marriage. The family says no,
and Cattivo threatens to blackmail the Berthiers unless Serina marries him.
They still say no, so Cattivo takes de Montfort to court and accuses him of
stealing the ring that was used to pay for the apartment. The ring is found to
belong to a Count Cuculli, a man de Montfort used to gamble with. The count
arrives at court, recognizes de Montfort as the accused “M. Berthier”, and
drops all charges because he trusts de Montfort’s integrity.
After de Montfort is released from jail, he
receives a note that he should go to the count’s mansion. De Montfort runs over
to the mansion and finds his wife and daughter. They tell de Montfort that the
count discovered a plot to hurt Serina. The count decided to keep watch over
their room while de Montfort was in jail awaiting release. Men came and
attacked the two ladies, but the count stabbed one attacker, who was later
revealed to be M. Dodier, and saved the women. Serina and Madame de Montfort
stayed with the count until de Montfort was released. They continue to stay
with the count as a family.
One day, Serina is basking in the sunlight when
Dorville appears and starts talking to her. He rambles about how he is married
to a sickly woman and how he was manipulated by another woman named Maria.
Serina is in near hysterics that he is alive, so they agree to meet the next
day and talk once she has calmed down. The next day, Dorville says that he
never left his home until now, so the man that de Montfort killed in the church
garden was not him. However, during this time, he was forced to marry a sickly
woman even though they did not love each other. Serina is crushed that Dorville
is married, but de Montfort is happy that Dorville is not dead and invites him
to stay with them in the count’s house.
After talking all night about Dorville’s
journey, the two men make connections about the past. During the time de
Montfort thought he was dead, Dorville visited the house of Monsieur Beaulieu,
a wealthy man with a much younger wife named Maria. Dorville was seduced by
Maria and almost fell for her. However, he realized that she only wanted his
money. Maria was known to have many men in her life, one of note being Cattivo.
He confessed that he loved Serina to get out of the relationship. After this
story is told, the men figure out that Maria is the person who is responsible
for the attacks on Serina. Her jealousy has made her vengeful. It is revealed
that she enlisted Cattivo to kill Serina. The men decide to go to the house of
Maria to confront her.
At the house, Dorville learns nothing from Maria. While they talk,
de Montfort witnesses the murder of Monsieur Beaulieu, Maria’s husband. De
Montfort is accused of the murder. Dorville pressures Maria to testify in court
on de Montfort’s behalf, and she agrees. She clears de Montfort’s name and
blames the murder on Cattivo, the attorney who sold the Montfort’s their old
apartment and who is also Maria’s lover. After Monsieur Beaulieu’s death, the
men bring the rest of the Montfort family to the house of Monsieur Beaulieu.
The motive behind some attacks is unclear until M. Dodier shows up to the house
and asks to confess his crimes. He suffers from a stab wound that was inflicted
a few days ago and fears that he will die. He admits that the entire plot to kill
de Montfort was based on revenge because de Montfort said that his son could
not marry Serina. He attempted to kill de Montfort in the woods of the chateau,
but he accidentally attacked Dorville. This left a witness to his crimes, so M.
Dodier tried to eliminate Dorville again, but this time he accidentally went to
Serina’s room. He was the masked man that made her swear the secret oath.
Before M. Dodier could say more, he died of the stab wound the count gave him
while protecting Serina. In the end, Maria tries to flee the country with
Cattivo to avoid imprisonment for her murder plot, but Cattivo murders Maria
because she accused him in the trial of her husband’s death. Serina and
Dorville get married after Dorville’s first wife died of sickness, and the
entire family moved to England in search of financial prosperity.
Grundy, Isobel. “Radcliffe, Mary Ann (b. c. 1746, d. in or after 1810), Writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 Sept. 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/37876. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.
Radcliffe, Mary Anne. The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over the Arabian Deserts, to the British Settlements In India; : Containing, Among Other Particulars, an Account of the Perils He Experienced In Those Terrific Regions, the Eccentric Humors of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In the War With Hyder Ally, &C. London, T. Hurst, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u4351511. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.
——. Monkish Mysteries; Or, the Miraculous Escape: Containing the History and the Villanies of the Monk Bertrand; :The Detection of His Impious Frauds, and Subsequent Repentance and Retribution. Nottingham, T. Hurst, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u4351072. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.
Set in the Italian countryside, this 1807 chapbook sees seemingly supernatural justice dealt after a deceitful and power-hungry prince murders his father, usurps the throne, and abducts his brother’s lover.
Parental Murder is anineteenth-century
chapbook written by an unknown author. When the novel is opened past its first
blank page, one is presented with an illustration on the second page, and the
title page appears on the third. The bulk of the title page is dedicated to the
novel’s full title and a brief description: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR, THE BROTHERS,
AN INTERESTING ROMANCE; IN WHICH VIRTUE AND VILLAINY ARE CONTRASTED, AND
FOLLOWED BY REWARD AND RETRIBUTION.” The title page indicates that the novel
was printed for T. and R. Hughes by printers Lewis & Hamblin. A date at the
bottom of the title page indicates that it was published in 1807.
Interestingly, the title page makes no mention of the novel’s author.
The illustration on the second page is in black-and-white,
depicting a scene from the main text. In the image, a woman clad in flowing
white robes looks down upon a man lying dead on the ground, facing upward. The
illustration is accompanied by a caption reading, “A fire-ball, impelled by the
arm of unerring Omnipotence, laid the libertine dead at my feet. Page 27.” As
suggested, this text appears in a passage on page 27.
The chapbook itself measures 11cm wide by 18cm tall.
Stitching holes in each page’s inner margins suggest that the chapbook was
originally bound, but this particular book has had its binding removed, and its
first blank page serves as a kind of cover. The book’s paper is thin, brittle,
yellowed, and very grainy—one feels pulp as they run their finger across each
page. At its edges, the paper is frayed and rough. The book appears to have
been printed on relatively cheap material, and this particular copy is
especially well-worn; several of its pages are on the brink of coming apart
from one another.
The chapbook is numbered as containing forty pages; however,
counting from the novel’s blank first page, there are actually only thirty-eight
pages. The novel’s first numbered page—page 8—appears only six pages in. Every
page number thereafter is consecutive; if these two pages are missing, they
must have been taken from before page 8. It is ultimately unclear if any pages
actually are missing; no content appears to be omitted from these first
pages. It is probable that either the two absent pages are blank or that page
counting simply begins at an unusual number.
The blank first page—while devoid of print—does contain
several ownership markings. The name “Sophia” is stamped identically three
times near the top. Underneath, a partially-legible script indicates the name
“Barbara Bounby” and the date range June 3rd to June 16th,
1810. (However, the specific days in June are somewhat unclear—the script is
blotted and individual characters become difficult to decipher.) Near the
bottom of the page, “Le” is written in a similar script with identical color.
After the main body of the text begins, the title of the
book appears only in its abbreviated form: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR,” alongside
“THE BROTHERS.” printed in the top margins of the left and right pages,
respectively. Each page in the text’s main body has thin margins. The type is
small, seriffed, and heavyset. The lines are short and tightly packed; the
pages, while small, are dense. The body of the text contains no illustrations
beyond the introductory frontispiece on the second page.
The body text is marked on two separate pages. First, on
page 22, two x-marks made in pencil surround the phrase “of his heart.” Higher
up on the same page, an (ostensibly accidental) pencil marking veers off the
top edge. On page 31, the word “Regicide!” is underlined in pen. These two
pages are the only two with obvious, visible annotations; the rest of the text
Very little information is available concerning the writing,
publication, or reception of Parental Murder. Its author is
anonymous—the only names listed in the chapbook are those of the publisher and
printer. Published in London in 1807, it was apparently released to little
fanfare: there are no records of Parental Murder being advertised or
reviewed in any periodicals of its time. Furthermore, searches for contemporary
literary criticism—or any other kind of secondary scholarship—on the chapbook
yield few references.
There are, however, indications that Parental Murder did
not go entirely unnoticed by the scholarly community. For instance: it is
listed in the expansive Gothic Bibliography by Montague Summers,
described simply as “Parental Murder. Chapbook. 1807” (457).A
slightly more detailed listing appears in Douglass Thomson’s Gothic Writers:
A Critical and Bibliographical Guide; his account includes the chapbook’s
full subtitle, its city of publication, and the names of its editors (137).
More interesting, however, is Parental Murder’s omission from Gothic
Writers’ section on modern reprintings or updated editions. In this section,
Thomson maintains a comprehensive list of reprintings, updated editions, and
other reproductions of the works he tracks. From this, we can infer that Parental
Murder was probably never reprinted or republished as a new edition.
Thomson’s finding is consistent with searches across several online catalogs:
in each case, no later editions of the chapbook appear. The available scholarly
information on the chapbook, while relatively minute, suggests that only one
edition has ever been published.
As previously noted, Parental Murder makes no
indication of its author; it does, however, include the names of its printers
and publishers. Before the body of the text, and once more at its close, the
names and address of the books’ printmakers are listed: “Printed by Lewis &
Hamblin, Paternoster-row” (Parental Murder 40). Similarly, the title
page displays the name and address of the publishers: “Printed for T. and R.
Hughes, 35, Ludgate-Hill, Corner of Stationers-Court” (Parental Murder 5).
Biographical information on these figures is scarce; Lewis, Hamblin, and R.
Hughes are all absent from searches for London printmakers or publishers active
during 1807. A brief biographical entry for T. Hughes, however, does appear.
The British Museum indicates that he was a British publisher and printmaker
located at 35 Ludgate-Hill, consistent with the information in the chapbook.
The page also indicates that this figure is “perhaps identical with T Hughes of
Stationers’ Court” (“T Hughes”). Observing that the listed address in Parental
Murder names both Ludgate-Hill and Stationers’ Court, we can confirm that
these two figures likely both refer to the same printmaker.
The British Museum also notes that T. Hughes published
several prints by George Cruikshank, a prominent illustrator of the time.
Cruikshank was widely known for his political cartoons and illustrations for
the likes of Charles Dickens, and his work remains prolific today. The
uncredited illustration preceding Parental Murder is almost certainly
unconnected to Cruikshank, however, as the chapbook’s publication in 1807predates
Cruikshank’s rise as an illustrator in 1811.
Investigating the site of Parental Murder’s printing and publication places the chapbook at the center of the bustling London publishing and printmaking industries. Paternoster-row, the address attributed to printers Lewis and Hamblin, was a nexus of printmaking and principally occupied by “stationers and text-writers” (Thornbury chapter 23). The chapbook’s publishers, T. and R. Hughes, were situated at the corner of the nearby Stationers’ Court. Stationers’ Court is a small path that departs from Ludgate Hill Street and leads to the entrance of Stationers’ Hall (see this Ordnance Survey map to view the precise streets). Stationers’ Hall housed the Stationers’ Company, a government-chartered literary authority that extensively vetted and registered British publications: “almost every publication … was required to be ‘entered at Stationers’ Hall’” (Thornbury chapter 19). In this sense, the sites of Parental Murder’s printing and publication were both mere footsteps away from the epicenter of London publishing, pinning the chapbook’s production to the literal geographic center of a flourishing literary trade.
Point of View
Parental Murder features an anonymous, third-person
narrator whose relationship to the text is left undefined. The novel’s prose is
grandiose, long-winded, and, at times, almost breathless in nature: short and
succinct sentences are often interposed with very long, grammatically complex
ones. The narration shifts freely between making matter-of-fact observations on
plot points and offering reflections on the inner thoughts, emotions, and
secret motivations of the characters.
With malicious looks, Rabano saw that all the favours he had been suing for at the side of this lovely peerless maiden were unhesitatingly granted to his brother, and with such an arch plausibility of excuse, that it was impossible to refuse without exposing his disappointment and vexation. Romano afterwards danced with her, and the whisper every where ran, “What a figure! what grace! what sweetness!” “It must be so!” exclaimed Rabano inwardly; “I must—I will have her; and Zalarra shall decide upon the measures to be pursued!” (20)
Parental Murder’s willingness to freely transition
between objective, plot-driven narration and inward, emotionally focused
musings serves primarily to align its high-octane, action-packed storyline with
a core thematic message about the supreme importance of virtue. Looking at plot
events alone, the novel’s storyline traces out a familiar dramatic arc: the
power-hungry, parricidal son whose sins catch up to him in the end. At the same
time, the insights into characters’ private thoughts and motivations help to
drive the thematic content: from these insights, it becomes clear that Romano
is to be seen as virtuous, and his brother Rabano is not. In the passage above,
Rabano’s inward exclamations of jealousy and lust serve to cement him as the
iniquitous foil to his virtuous brother. Having established this
characterization, when Romano ultimately triumphs, the narrator is able to
assert that “virtue is the only true path to greatness, love, and glory!” (40).
In this way, the intermingling narrative delivery of plot content and emotional
content is key to presenting a compelling plot while also making a clear
statement of theme.
Baretti is a powerful king who rules over an expansive dominion in
Italy. He has two sons, Rabano and Romano. Romano, the younger brother, is the
clear favorite of the two; he is revered by his parents for his virtuous
character. In contrast, Rabano is power-hungry and ruthless. He
resolves to conquer land for himself and sets his sights on the land of Ardini,
a nearby ally. Baretti sees a learning opportunity: he supplies Rabano with men
and armaments, hoping that brutal defeat will show Rabano to be incapable of
One day, Ardini’s men trespass on Baretti’s land, and Rabano
seizes the opportunity to mount a retaliatory attack. But when it becomes clear
that Rabano is interested in senseless brutality, Baretti and his men come to
Ardini’s aid; their forces combined, Rabano will certainly suffer crushing
defeat. Rabano, realizing this, develops a burning hatred for his father and
resolves to get revenge. He enlists his trusted assistant Zalarra to disguise
himself as a priest and sneak to Ardini’s camp, where Baretti is currently
staying. Zalarra finds Baretti in the camp and tells him that Rabano is
prepared to make a peace offering.
Baretti follows him to meet Rabano in an isolated dell. But when
he arrives, Rabano gives his father an ultimatum: betray Ardini and aid in the
conquest of his land, or be killed where he stands. Baretti realizes that the
peace offering was a setup and begins to fight his assailants, but he is
eventually overcome and stabbed. Baretti is buried in a prepared grave, and the
assassins return home.
The next morning, Ardini’s camp is in a state of confusion.
Without orders from Baretti, the supplementary forces will not go into
battle—condemning Ardini to certain defeat at the hands of Rabano. They enact a
short truce with Rabano while they search for Baretti—but find nothing.
Rabano takes the throne. He is shocked, however, when Zalarra
finds Baretti’s grave unearthed and the body missing. Rabano is shaken by this
discovery, but he rules as if nothing is wrong. He sends Romano on a mission to
a neighboring chief, and he plans to throw a party to celebrate his ascension
to power. Despite their strained relationship, Ardini is invited.
At the party, Ardini is accompanied by his beautiful daughter
Miranda. When Rabano sees her, he is immediately enamored and resolves to make
her his own. He asks her to dance, but she refuses. Suddenly, Romano bursts
into the party. Romano explains that the hostile neighboring chief detained
him, but he managed to escape and make his way home. Rabano promises to look
into the matter later.
Romano catches glimpse of Miranda. He asks her to dance, and she
gladly accepts. Rabano is incensed at seeing this, and he plans how he will win
Miranda’s hand. Rabano pulls Miranda and Ardini into a private apartment.
Ardini steps into a neighboring room to give them some privacy, but the door is
shut on him and he finds himself trapped. Now alone with Miranda, Rabano urges
her to marry him, but she confesses that she already loves Romano.
Unprompted, Miranda remarks that Rabano and Zalarra look
suspiciously similar to two hooded figures she saw on the night of Baretti’s
murder. That same night, she had planned a secret meeting with Romano—in the
same isolated dell where Baretti was murdered. She arrived at the dell before
the murderers, but when she heard them approaching, she hid behind a tree. She
has not mentioned anything out of fear for herself and Romano.
Rabano cautions her to keep quiet. If her story got out, Romano
could be in serious danger; he too was missing on the night of
the murder. Miranda agrees and swears to stay silent. Rabano renews his attempts at
courting her. When she refuses again, he forces her towards a hidden chamber.
Meanwhile, Ardini suspects foul play when he is not let out of the
locked room. He escapes through a window, finds Romano, and explains that he
fears for Miranda; the group heads for the castle’s private apartments. When a
guard stops them, they slay him and rush upstairs just in time to catch Rabano
forcing Miranda into the hidden chamber.
Miranda steals Rabano’s weapon and tries to stab him, but the
blade breaks in two and fails to injure him. Soldiers alerted by Zalarra
descend on the group and arrest Romano and Ardini for high treason. Until their
trial, Miranda is to be detained in the hidden apartment, where Rabano persists
in his attempts for her hand almost daily.
One night, Rabano sneaks into Miranda’s chamber while she is
asleep and plants a kiss on her lips. He prepares to rape her, but a suit of
armor steps off its pedestal and stands between them. It shouts: “Thy reign is
short! At the trial, parricide, thou shalt behold me again” (30). The
apparition scares Rabano off from his attempts to violate Miranda.
The night before the trial, Rabano and Zalarra get drunk together.
Zalarra continues to give Rabano alcohol until he passes out on the floor.
Zalarra also has an eye for Miranda; he steals the keys to her secret chamber,
sneaks in, and kisses her while she sleeps. Before he can continue, however, a
figure in black robes shouts “Regicide!” (31). The figure warns Zalarra to
repent. Zalarra flees, wakes Rabano, but decides not to tell him about what he
saw. Instead, Zalarra suggests they search the castle for any other
apparitions. While searching, they discover that Miranda has escaped from her
chamber. Their efforts to locate her are fruitless.
Secretly, Miranda was conveyed by a mysterious monk to a cottage
outside of the castle through a hidden tunnel. In the cottage, she meets a
former servant of Baretti, who promises to lead her to the chamber where the
trial will be held, so she can expose Rabano and Zalarra. On the day of the trial, Ardini is tried first; he confesses to killing guards in
pursuit of Rabano, but he expects that the detention of his daughter will
justify his conduct. Romano is tried next. A priest steps up and testifies the
dying confession of a deserting soldier named Afran, who had allegedly stumbled
upon Romano burying Baretti’s body. He had pursued Romano, but Romano escaped,
and Afran was mortally wounded in the struggle. He did, however, manage to grab
a gorget bearing Romano’s name during the fight.
Romano explains that he was present at the dell on the night of
the murder—but only to see Miranda. As he arrived, he saw a figure stab the
victim. He was unable to reach the assassins in time, so he unearthed the body
and resolved to carry it to a nearby house. The body was too heavy, however, so
he instead brought it to a nearby cave. Afran, seeing Romano carry the body,
mistook him for the assassin and attacked.
The judge is prepared to issue a death sentence for Romano when
Miranda bursts in. She presents the cloak and banner Baretti wore on the night
of his murder, which were found in Rabano’s strongbox. The courtroom descends
into chaos until the aforementioned priest announces that he has one more piece
of evidence—a piece of paper naming the murderer, given by Afran in his final
moments. Zalarra snatches the paper from him and rips it to pieces. Chaos
returns, and the priest suddenly blows a whistle. The room is instantly flooded
with soldiers, and a figure appears at the head of the courtroom.
To everyone’s surprise, the figure is Baretti himself. He explains
that he survived the assassination attempt. After being carried to the cave, he
told Afran that Rabano was guilty. Since then, Baretti has been living in the
cottage, disguised as one of his own servants.
The courtroom instantly condemns Zalarra and Rabano. The judge
assigns both fiends formidable sentences. Rabano is confined to a cell at the
top of a large tower, which eventually collapses and crushes him to death.
Romano is declared the worthy successor to Baretti, and he reigns “with
unabated splendor” (40).