Wolfstein; or, the Mysterious Bandit. A Terrific Romance. To Which Is Added, The Bronze Statue. A Pathetic Tale.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: J. Bailey
Publication Year: possibly 1822
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 17.9 cm x 10.7 cm
Pages: 28
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.W742 1800

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.

Material History

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.

Notes written by Michael Sadleir in the very front of the book. Information on the original volume, including a list of the stories it contained, is jotted down in pencil on these pages.

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:

  1. Wolfstein or The Mysterious Bandit / a Terrific Romance. To which is added The Bronze Statue, a pathetic tale. J. Bailey.
  2. 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
  3. Feudal Days or The Noble Outlaw
    J. Bailey
  4. The Monastery of St Mary or The White Maid of Avenel. A Scottish Tale (J. Bailey). By Emelia Grossett
  5. Glenwar, The Scottish Bandit
    by an Evonian
    (Dean and Munday)
  6. The White Pilgrim or the Castle of Olival
    trans from the Le Pelerin Blanc by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson (Dean & Munday)
  7. 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.

The page where the first chapter of Wolfstein begins. The repairing patch on the left side and the text it ripped off, the word “blue,” on the right side, are visible.

Another interesting 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.

Textual History

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.

The title page of Wolfstein and its partner story, The Bronze Statue. The price, sixpence, is listed at the bottom.

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 Birmingham.

Narrative 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.

Sample Passage:

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.

The frontispiece was torn out of the copy of Wolfstein in the Sadleir-Black Collection. It is part of the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection.

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.

Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle. “Wolfstein; Or, the Mysterious Bandit…, [Frontispiece].” The New York Public Library Digital Collections, The New York Public Library, 1822, http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/3b47b780-0c31-0135-fa18-1917b1455179. 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.

Researcher: Rachel Jean Quinn

Spectre of the Turret

Spectre of the Turret

Spectre of the Turret; or Guolto Castle

Author: Isaac Crookenden
Publisher: Printed and Sold by R. Harrild
Publication Year: Unknown
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10.9cm x 17.8cm
Pages: 32
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C76 Sp n.d.

This early nineteenth-century chapbook by Isaac Crookenden presents an intricate story about relationships and family, weaving together romance, violence, betrayal, and the actions of a supernatural force.

Material History

Upon first glance, Spectre of the Turret looks simple and modest. The book was recently rebound in plain dark brown cloth. There is no text indicating the title or author nor are there any illustrations or decorations on the cover or the back of the book. The exact dimensions of the book are 17.8 by 10.9 cm. After opening the book, there is a mark of ownership on the left-hand side of the inside of the cover of the book. It is a medium sized cream sticker that has a blue University of Virginia symbol with the call number of the book. Below the UVA symbol and the call number, it states the words: “The Sadleir-Black Collection” and underneath it says: “Presented by Robert K. Black.” 

The title page for Spectre of the Turret

There is one blank page when opening the book. On the front of the next page, a ghost image of a rectangle can be found. This is from the illustration bleeding through from the back of the page. The illustration is hand-colored and is still quite vivid. Since it is hand-colored, it can remain quite colorful if it is not exposed to light unlike the actual text of the story which looks faded. The picture depicts a man dressed in the outfit similar to a knight’s, and he is holding up a bloodied cloth. There is also a dagger stained with blood lying on the floor next to him. The caption appears right under the illustration and says “The Handkerchief was stained with Life’s Crimson Stream and the Dagger was encrusted with blood! – See pg. 18” On the next page, the title and author are revealed. The full title says “Spectre of the Turret; or Guolto Castle.” The title is fairly large and centered on the page, and the words of the title are done in various fonts. This was a stylistic choice that was popular at the time to make the titles seem more interesting. Written right below the title are the words: “A Romance.” Underneath these words, the name of the author is written: “By Isaac Crookenden.” Following the author’s name and written beneath, there is a quote by Shakespeare as follows: “Tremble thou wretch, who has within Thee crimes, unwhipt of justice! Hide thee thy bloody hand!” Under this, information about the publisher is written as: “London: Printed and Sold by R. Harrild, 20, Great Eastcheap.” On the title page, there is a small faded pencil marking in the upper right-hand corner of the page. The pencil marking seems to be from a bookseller to indicate the price of the book and the stock number.

This page shows the small rips at the top of the page and the only footnote in the entire text

After the back of the title page, which is left blank, the next page contains the text of the actual story. Right above where the story starts, the shortened title of the story is written: “Spectre of the Turret.” The following pages contain the text of the story. The pages are light cream in color, but they are slightly browned in some areas. There are a couple of stains but none that make the text unreadable. To the touch, the pages are not brittle, but they do show a few signs of aging. There are page numbers on the top of every page ranging from 4 to 32. The text is black in color but looks slightly faded. This is because the paper ages and, with it, the text fades as well. The font is small and closely set, but it is still quite easy to read. The margins on the sides of the book are small, but the margins on the top and bottom are much wider. This is a result of the book not being trimmed very much after it was printed. Some pages have tiny rips on the top but none that obstruct the text.

There is no table of contents page in the book. Once the actual story begins, the text is the only thing present. There are no additional illustrations or decorations. There is a footnote present on page 11 for clarification on a specific word. Each page ends with a catchword, where the first word of the next page is printed in the footer in order to ensure that the printer ordered the pages correctly. The last page in the book ends with “FINIS” after the few final lines of the story. Altogether, this copy of Spectre of the Turret is in fairly good condition as it has been recently rebound so it is intact and the pages have not shown signs of significant aging or damage.

Textual History

Spectre of the Turret was written by Isaac Crookenden. He was known as a famous plagiarizer during his career and made a significant amount of money from stealing other people’s ideas and using them in his stories. Crookenden is “probably the most notorious counterfeiter of legitimate Gothic novels” (Frank 59). Isaac Crookenden wrote many chapbooks during the early nineteenth century. Some of his other works include The Skeleton, The Mysterious Murder, and Horrible Revenge, or, The Monster of Italy!!. The date of publication of Spectre of the Turret is not listed on the Sadlier-Black Collection at the University of Virginia, and it is indicated as undated in Frederick S. Frank’s “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820” as well. The publisher listed on the chapbook is R. Harrild in London. However, multiple copies of the book at different libraries, listed on WorldCat, have stated 1815 as the publication date. One copy of the book from the Huntington Library listed O Hodgson as the publisher and the publication date as 1810. Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography supplies the date of publication for the work as around 1810. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biographylists the four publishers that Crookenden worked for as: S. Fisher, A. Neil, J. Lee, and R. Harrild as well as stating that the publication date for Spectre of the Turret was between 1810 and 1820. The speculation between the publishers and publication dates for the book might indicate that other editions were printed as well in different places, but does not conclusively determine the precise printing of this edition. 

The frontispiece for Spectre of the Turret

This work does not have a preface or introduction and does not have a prequel or sequel either. “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820” states that there are “several crude drawings” and says that “a half-dozen tower Gothics are mixed together and condensed into this garrish bluebook” (Frank 59). There have been no reprintings of this work in the later nineteenth century or twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography notes that none of Crookenden’s works were reviewed by scholars, and this text was not adapted in any form.

There are two contemporary digital copies available through Google Books. One of the digital copies says the original edition is from the British Library. These two digital copies also state the publication date as 1815 in the information about the book but not explicitly in the text. They seem slightly different from the chapbook from the Sadlier-Black Collection. The illustration has a different color scheme in the digital copies. The specific version of Spectre of the Turretfrom the Sadlier-Black Collection has an illustration with a light brown background and a man wearing a cream coat and red pants while kneeling next to a yellow chest. In the digital copies on Google Books, the illustration has a very dark background and a man wearing a royal blue coat and red pants while kneeling next to a red chest. This might be further evidence that there were other editions published of this chapbook, or that the same edition was hand-painted after publication. 

Other locations that have this book are: Harvard University, Princeton University, the Huntington Library, Pennsylvania State University, University of Oxford, British Library Reference Collections, and Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands.

Narrative Point of View

Spectre of the Turret contains two different types of narration. The majority of the story is told from a third-person point of view. However, there are also a few instances when the narrator uses first-person plural pronouns such as “we” when directly addressing the reader. The narration, as a whole, includes lengthy physical descriptions of the characters and offers brief glimpses into their minds, while also focusing on the plot and the action.

Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:

A huge mass of armour was the contents, which Florielmo instantly proceeded to examine, and discovered a napkin stuffed into the hollow of the helmet, which on being unfolded, a dagger dropt out of it; the handkerchief was stained with life’s crimson stream, and the dagger was encrusted with blood! Here was a demonstration of the truth of the spectre’s awful words. Florielmo carefully concealed these bloody proofs; and making no other discovery of any importance, he closed the chest in such a manner as to elude suspicion, and waited the arrival of the man with his breakfast. The day was past by Florielmo in ruminating on his uncle’s unparalleled baseness, of his mother’s horrible fate, and of the possibility of divulging the guilty secret to the world; absorbed in these thoughts, night again overtook him. (18)

Sample Passage of Narration Using First-Person Plural and Direct Address:

We now beg the reader’s attention while we relate the misfortunes of that young man, and show how unjustly he has been accused. (11)

The two types of narrative styles affect the story in two distinct ways. The third-person point of view creates fast-paced events, placing emphasis on the action and the conversations between characters. The first-person point of view and moments of direct address emerge when there are turning points in the plot. Each instance of direct address temporarily slows down the pace of the plot, while simultaneously signifying that what follows is essential to the story. The few sentences that use direct address also portray a more personal relationship between the narrator and the characters, indicating that the narrator cares for the characters in some way or, as in the example above, that the narrator is biased in the character’s favor. 


Spectre of the Turret opens with Signor Guolto coming home to his castle on the banks of the Tagus after years of serving his country. His wife died while he was away fighting in the Spanish War, and the narrator notes that even though his wife was lower in status than him, they still had a loving marriage. He sends for his daughter who is staying at his sister’s home. His sister looked down on him for marrying someone below his status and, because of this, she did not treat Signor Guolto’s daughter very well. His daughter, Aspasia, is very happy to come home and see her father. 

A young man named Don Florielmo comes to visit Aspasia and her father. He is the son of Guolto’s dear friend who died in battle and who once wished for Aspasia and Floriellmo to get married. Florielmo’s mother had disappeared after her husband’s death. Aspasia and Florielmo are very much in love, and are ready to get married. Florielmo receives a letter from his uncle, Manuel, that half of the estate has been taken by a fire and that Florielmo is needed back at home. Florielmo tells Aspasia that he will be back shortly, but she is very sad that he is leaving so soon. A month passes by without any word from Florielmo until one day Aspasia receives a letter that says that Florielmo is breaking up with her. She is completely heartbroken. 

A man named Lord Mountguardo comes to the castle to talk to Aspasia’s father. Even though he seems nice, Aspasia feels that there is something else hidden behind his outward character. Mountguardo reveals that he wants to marry Aspasia. He tells her that he knew Florielmo, and he has heard him brag about how much Aspasia has completely fallen for him. She becomes incredibly sad after hearing this about Florielmo. 

The scene transfers from Aspasia’s father consoling her after Mountguardo’s visit to what really happened to Florielmo. Florielmo is travelling to his home and lays down to get some sleep when he suddenly wakes up, tied up in a boat. The two men in the boat bring him to his own castle, and he thinks that they are going to murder him. They bring him into the castle and keep him prisoner in a turret in one of the towers. Florielmo is very confused about what is happening and worried about what Aspasia will think. The turret is a small room that contains a bed, a bookcase full of books, and a locked wooden chest. Since there is nothing for him to do, Florielmo takes a book and starts reading. The title is “The Noble Slave” and begins with a woman named Rudolpha and her husband, Orlando, awaiting a boat from their friend Lupo to take them away from their persecutors. However, when Lupo arrives, it is clear to see that he betrayed them as three soldiers come forward and seize Orlando. They are about to hit him when Rudolpha intervenes. Florielmo is interrupted in his reading by the arrival of breakfast and a letter from his uncle, Count Manuel. The letter states that Florielmo will remain a prisoner in the turret if he doesn’t sign half of his estates away to his uncle. His uncle makes it clear that he is very desperate for the money. Florielmo says that he will never do this and would rather remain in the turret forever. Aspasia comes to his mind at this moment, and he wonders what will happen to their relationship. He feels a strange parallel between his current life and the story that he has just been reading.

Florielmo goes to sleep and starts dreaming that he is reading the book. In his dream, while he is reading, a ghost-like woman appears with a stab wound on her chest that is pouring out with blood. Florielmo wakes up in terror and sees that same woman standing in the room. She reveals herself to be his mother and that she was killed by his uncle. She urges him to look at the locked chest to discover more evidence. The woman also says that it was the servants’ fault that he was put in this turret and that the count thinks that he is prisoner in the northern tower. She continues speaking and says that he should not sign his estates away. His mother vanishes when the clock strikes midnight. Florielmo wakes up from his dream and is in shock for awhile but decides to break open the chest. He finds armour and a napkin covering a dagger stained with old blood and a bloodied handkerchief. He hides this evidence away and closes the chest before anyone comes up to his room and discovers it. 

The final page of text in Spectre of the Turret

The story changes from Florielmo’s situation to Aspasia’s. Lord Mountguardo keeps visiting to woo her. Signor Guolto likes him, but Aspasia cannot feel the same way towards him as she had with Florielmo. Her father wants her to get married before he dies, and she finally decides to go through with it to make her father happy. Everyone is preparing for the wedding when a letter from Guolto’s sister arrives saying he and Aspasia have to come see her because she’s sick. Guolto decides that Aspasia should get married before the journey to his sister. Aspasia is dreading the moment of the wedding on her wedding day. However, right before she says the words to be united in marriage to Mountguardo at the altar, a figure in white comes between them and says they cannot get married. The priest states that God has deemed that this marriage cannot go through. After this incident, Aspasia and her father do not hear anything from Mountguardo. They decide to travel to see Guolto’s sister, Lady Loveni. When they arrive at her home, she apologizes to her brother for looking down on him for the past nineteen years. The lady’s son, Don Antonio, is about to get married. He and his fiancé, Georgiana, come to his mother’s home to look after her because of her illness. Georgiana and Aspasia become instantly close friends, but Aspasia does not reveal information about loving Florielmo because she does not want to tarnish his character. Georgiana finds her crying often and is unsure why. Aspasia tells her that she will reveal everything after the wedding between Antonio and Georgiana. However, Georgiana immediately jumps to the conclusion that Aspasia loves Antonio and that she is more worthy than herself to marry Antonio. Aspasia is shocked and says that she does not love Antonio, and he also fools around way more than is to her liking. She says she found a knife of his tied to a letter and says she is going to read it. Antonio reveals that he completely forgot about the knife, and he had found it in an old castle. Aspasia suddenly screams and faints while clutching the letter. When she awakes, she says that Florielmo has been betrayed and actually still loves her. The letter is from Florielmo, and he explains that the letter he received while visiting her was a trap. 

Mountguardo suddenly arrives to talk to Aspasia and happens to take a look at the letter. Aspasia does not trust him after he spoke ill about Florielmo. Just then, a man arrives who looks like a prince. He is very pale and fatigued. To everyone’s surprise, the man is Florielmo and he reveals that Mountguardo is actually his uncle, Count Manuel. Florielmo provides the proof from the chest that Manuel is the one who killed his mother. He goes on to explain that he had to kill another with that same dagger so he could escape through a secret passage he found when leaving the turret. Because of the shame of everything brought to light, Manuel takes the dagger from Florielmo and stabs himself, and dies soon after. 

Everyone is in shock at this turn of events, but things get back to normal after some time. There is a funeral for Manuel, and Florielmo decides not to expose the crimes to everyone else because he does not want to dwell on these past incidents after the man’s death. In the end, both couples decide to get married on the same day. Aspasia and Georgiana also end up both delivering babies on the same day as well. Since it is a boy and a girl, Florielmo and Antonio decide to betroth the babies to each other for a marriage in the future.


Baines, Paul. “Crookenden, Isaac.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 23 Sept. 2004.

Crookenden, Isaac. Spectre of the Turret: Or, Guolto Castle. A Romance. Printed and Sold by R. Harrild, n.d.

Frank, Frederick S. “The Gothic Romance: 1762-1820.” Horror Literature: A Core  Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall B. Tymn, New York, R.R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–175.

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

Researcher: Rachel Chiramel