The Skeleton

The Skeleton

The Skeleton; or, Mysterious Discovery. A Gothic Romance.

Author: Isaac Crookenden
Publisher: A. Neil
Publication Year: 1805
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 9.5cm x 17.75cm
Pages: 38
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.C76 Sk 1805


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.


Material History

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.

The title page of The Skeleton, including the various titles, author, description of author, publication information, and price.

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.

The frontispiece of The Skeleton, showing Adolphus discovering the skeleton.

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 “f”. 


Textual History

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 British Library.

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).

The first page of The Skeleton.

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.

Sample Passage:

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.


Summary

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.

Page 21 of The Skeleton, including Rotaldo’s letter to Almira.

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 may need.

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 before expiring.

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.

Page 33 of The Skeleton with asterisks representing the illegible text of Adolphus’s father’s account.

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)


Bibliography

Baines, Paul. “Crookenden, Isaac (b. 1777), Writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 Sept. 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/63518. Accessed 10 November 2021.

Crookenden, Isaac. The Skeleton: Or, Mysterious Discovery, a Gothic Romance. A Neil, 1805.

Frank, Frederick S. “Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Short Stories in the Magazines (1790–1820).” Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide, 2001, pp. 133–146.

——. “Gothic Gold: The Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, vol. 26, 1997, pp. 287–312.

——. “The Gothic Romance.” Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall B. Tymn. R.R. Bowker, New York, 1981, p. 59.

Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers: 1797–1830, University of Wales Press, 2021.


Researcher: Jacob Tisdale

The Affecting History of Louisa

The Affecting History of Louisa

The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, ‘Lady of the Hay-Stack;’ So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, Near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe.

Author: Unknown
Publisher: A. Neil
Publication Year: 1804
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 10cm x 17cm
Pages: 36
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.A388 1804


This 1804 chapbook, a shorter version of George Henry Glasse’s English translation of L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable, connects the life of Louisa, a deranged wanderer of Bourton, England, to her greatest loss—the social denial of her identity as the natural daughter of Francis I, Emperor of Germany.


Material History

The title page for The Affecting History of Louisa.

The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, ‘Lady of the Hay-Stack;’ So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, Near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe. If you are still here after reading this vehement title, congratulations—you have what it takes to dive into this 1804 gothic chapbook.

This “shilling shocker” is more popularly known as The Affecting History of Louisa. Though an unsung art by many, this novel does possess a special role at the University of Virginia by existing as an individualized, treasured lens of history in the Sadleir-Black Collection presented by Robert K. Black. The Sadleir-Black Collection’s version of the novel is a fragile, well-worn 10cm by 17cm. A beautiful yet dreary illustration adorns the primary page of the coverless and boundless novel. There is evidence of past stitching and binding of the pages, which possibly suggest that the novel was removed from a larger accumulation of gothic novels. 

The pages of Robert Black’s The Affecting History of Louisa are brittle, yellow, and stained, yet they hold many secrets to the publishing and history of the unique novel. Throughout a series of 36 pages (the pages are numbered; however, the numbering begins six pages in with 8, and ends with 38), there are details including catchwords (a repeated/prewritten word located on the following page of a subsequent paragraph) and signature marks (numerical/alphabetical markings) which were used to assist the bookbinders and printers and to ensure correct book assembly on their part.

The frontispiece for The Affecting History of Louisa.

The precision and care that went into the assembling of the book is also reflected in the structured form of the printed words. With 1.5 cm side margins and a 2.5 cm bottom margin, the dainty 2 mm letters with their didonesque font are able to flow across the page and make an impact through their meaning more so than through their appearance. Several of the letters do attempt to make their own statements by being unconventional compared to current norms. Throughout the novel, the character “s” is depicted in multiple forms; sometimes taking on the conventional “s” form, but also sometimes being printed as a long S that looks more like an “f.” This printing trend began to dwindle following the eighteenth century. Between the cultural switch, there were some words where the flow of calligraphy followed the shape of a modern day “s,” and several words still followed that of an “f.” The printing of this novel simply adhered to those social norms of orthography. 

Not only does the interior of this chapbook portray the textual effects of social change, but the exterior does as well. On the cover page of the novel, there is a small, handwritten “5” on the top-left corner. This handwritten “5” could represent several things: perhaps a monetary value, or perhaps a set volume in a more mass pamphlet. Either way, it is evident that this novel has had its experiences with society. The Affecting History of Louisa appears to have been worn and appreciated by previous readers. 


Textual History

The Affecting History of Louisa is a petite chapbook with an extensive title within its first pages: The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, “Lady of the Hay-Stack;” So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe. There is no author listed for this chapbook.

This image presents an advertisement for a drama by James Boaden titled The Maid of Bristol, which inspired the reiteration of its story via this chapbook. 

The initial ambiguity of the chapbook’s authorship stems from the fact that the original work was a French text titled L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable; moreover, English translations included many different titles and forms. George Henry Glasse, a scholar and clergyman, first translated this text into English as A Narrative of Facts. A second edition of Glasse’s translation appeared in 1801 as Louisa: A Narrative of Facts, Supposed to Throw Light on the Mysterious History of “The Lady of the Haystack.” This book was popular enough that it “quickly reached a third edition” (Vian and Ellis). There exists another edition of Glasse’s translation with yet another title, A Narrative of Facts: Supposed to Throw Light on the History of the Bristol-Stranger; Known by the Name of the Maid of the Hay-stack. Translated From the French, which includes an introduction signed by Philalethes. 

Glasse’s translations also inspired a three-act play called The Maid of Bristol, dramatized by James Boaden. Boaden was a dramatist whose works revolved around the gothic genre. While The Maid of Bristol is not well-known for its popularity today, the play is still accessible and available for purchase online. The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac is a shorter chapbook version of Glasse’s translation and was, in particular, “induced” by the popularity of Boaden’s play; the advertisement in this chapbook states, “Mr. Boaden having, with so much success, dramatized the following interesting Tale, under the title of ‘The Maid of Bristol,’ induced us to present the Public with the original Narrative; which we are enabled to do, from the most authentic documents” (Affecting History 6). The Affecting History of Louisa, then, arrived on the publication scene after many translations and iterations of the original French text that aims for a genuine, historically accurate account of the mystery at the center of the story: the true natural daughter of Francis I. 


Narrative Point of View

The Affecting History of Louisa is narrated from a third-person perspective. The frame narration opens and closes with an anonymous third-person narrator who presents part of Louisa’s history with an objective and occasionally empathetic tone. 

Sample of Third-Person Frame Narration:

Some few years ago, a young woman stopped at the village of Bourton, near Bristol, and begged the refreshment of a little milk, There [sic] was something so attractive in her whole appearance, as to engage the attention of all around her. (7)

This third-person frame narration also introduces two other embedded narratives. The first embedded narrative is an oral account by a man from Bristol who spoke with Louisa directly. The chapbook’s narrator explains that the “respectful gentleman in Bristol … has favoured us with some authentic memoirs” and then includes this oral account for several pages (15). The narrative demarcates the Bristol man’s oral narrative with quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph. 

Sample of Bristol Man’s Oral Narrative about Louisa: 

“I should have conceived her,” says the writer, “to be about five-and-twenty; and notwithstanding the injuries which her situation and mode of life must inevitably have occasioned in her looks, she had still a very pleasing countenance. Interesting it certainly was in a high degree; but it is not easy to say how much this impression was to be attributed to the previous knowledge of her story. She had fine, expressive, black eyes and eye-brows; her complexion was wan, but not fickly; her under jaw projected a little, and I fancied I could distinguish something of the Austrian lip; but it was not decidedly marked. Her nose had nothing particular; her hair was very dark, if not black, and in length about a year and a half’s growth, not being thick, but coming down on her forehead; her arm and hand were delicate, with small long fingers.” (9)

The Bristol man’s oral narrative ends without additional commentary from the chapbook’s frame narration. Then there is a line indicating a break in the narrative, and then an italicized description of how a French narrative was found that suggests Louisa is La Fruëlen, and that the chapbook will now include the translation of this narrative. This translated narrative is presented in the third person and focuses on La Fruëlen’s tale for the next twenty-two pages. 

Sample of Translated French Narrative of La Fruëlen’s Tale: 

When the priest came to take her from her house in Bohemia, he told her, that he was going to conduct her to a convent in France. Ignorant as she was, the little which Catharine and her mama had told her of a religious life, taught her to consider a convent as an horrible prison, from which there was no escape: and this idea had so disturbed her mind, that from the moment of her quitting her habitation in Bohemia, she had formed the project of flying, as soon as possible, from such captivity. (28)

By addressing the story with a frame narrative that includes two separately sourced tales (one an oral memoir, and one a translation from a French text), the story of Louisa becomes a type of reality or history that the reader is discovering. The frame narrative works well to connect the woman who claims to be La Fruëlen to the story of the late Emperor, as well as connecting that woman to Louisa, which ultimately connects their stories in a complete manner, defining the tragic, affecting history of Louisa. 


Summary

The first page of this chapbook.

The Affecting History of Louisa is introduced as a recent tale of woe, as the narrative begins, “Some few years ago” (7). The reader is introduced to a woman of the past, in the village of Bourton, England, who is begging for milk. She is described as being young, attractive, and elegant despite her begging state. While she is beautiful, it is evident that over the years, she has experienced hardship, sickness, exposure to the natural elements, and misery. Due to the fact that no one is aware of the nature of her origin, they call her Louisa. She is infamous for her obsessive connection to sleeping in an old haystack rather than a home. As a woman who has experienced multiple episodes of insanity, there have been multiple times when Louisa has been relocated to different hospitals and villages. Despite being relocated, she always manages to find her way back to the haystack. Louisa did not put her worth in items, but spent her days interacting with the village children and going about on her own. 

After a while in the village, she is finally relocated to the village of Bitton in Gloucestershire, England, to be supported by Miss Hannah Moore and her sisters. It seemed evident that Louisa is a foreigner, so Miss Moore attempts to find out which country she is from. Miss Hannah Moore arranges for a Bristol man to visit and speak with Louisa in different languages. First, when the man speaks French, Louisa seems confused—but when he speaks German, she becomes over-emotional. When she can finally gain her composure, she denies knowing the language. The chapbook’s third-person narrator explains that this Bristol man “favoured us with some authentic memoirs” and goes on to include several pages of the Bristol man’s account of Louisa (9). The Bristol man describes Louisa as having fine, expressive black eyes, a pale complexion, a slight jut of the jaw, dark hair, delicate features, and lips that were perhaps Austrian. The Bristol man speaks to Louisa in the way a man speaks to a child. She is not dumb, but slow. He wants to know more of Louisa’s origin. While she is very guarded, he discovers that she responds well to kindness, and he learns that she is fixated on two people called mama and papa, that she understands French, that she is amused at his German, and that she has a large mark or wound on the lower part of her head behind the ear.

This page shows the introduction to the narrative translated from French.

In the next section, the chapbook begins with italicized narration explaining that a “Narrative made its appearance on the Continent” showing “so many striking coincidences” that suggest that Louisa is actually La Fruëlen, the natural daughter of Francis I, the late Emperor of Germany (15). The narrative goes on to include the entirety of the supposed translation of this originally French narrative, which begins in 1768. The narrative first introduces the Count M. de Cobenzel, the imperial minister at Brussels. He receives a letter stating that he should not be surprised if his advice and friendship are sought after. The letter is written in French, and signed La Fruëlen from Bourdeaux. He receives other letters encouraging him to support La Fruëlen, from people such as Le Comte J. de Weissendorff from Prague and Le Comte Dietrichstein from Vienna. Cobenzel begins to write with La Fruëlen, offering his support. At the beginning of 1769, the Court of Vienna informs Versailles that La Fruëlen should be arrested and taken to Brussels to be examined by Cobenzel and the First President, M. de Neny, for being an imposter. The Court of Vienna had discovered Fruëlen’s existence because the King of Spain had received a letter encouraging him to defend her, which he then shared with the Emperor, who shared it with the Empress, who called for her arrest. 

As La Fruëlen arrives in Brussels, she is met with an unsigned letter encouraging her that there is an attempt to save her so she should not despair. Cobenzel and M. de Neny question her and her origin. They describe the woman who goes by La Fruëlen as being tall, elegantly formed, with simple and majestic brown hair, fair skin, and fine dark eyes. She also speaks French with a German accent. The two men dive into the story of her childhood. She explains how she is uncertain of her birthplace, but knows she was educated in Bohemia, and grew up in a sequestered house in the country under the care of mama, Catherine, and the priest – who opposed her learning to read and write for unstated religious reasons. She describes how a stranger in huntsmen clothes would visit periodically, and while he was a stranger to her, he seemed to know her. On one visit, she noticed a red mark on his neck, and when she questioned him about it, he explained that it was the distinction of an officer, and implied that she is the daughter of one. After their conversation, the man had to depart again, but promised to return soon. This promise was broken thereafter because he had fallen ill and could not travel. The novel goes on to explain how this is historically accurate to the life of the late Emperor. On his final visit, he leaves her with a photo of himself, the Empress, and her mother. On his departure, he makes her promise to never marry and that she will be and taken care of and happy. 

After this story, the woman called Louisa describes her departure from Bohemia. First, because she is scared to share her story in front of everyone, she conjures a grand lie that seems too good to be true. Cobenzel catches her in her lie, and she is forced to tell the truth in hopes of regaining his trust. The truth behind her departure from Bohemia is that her priest had planned for her to move to a convent, but she decided to run away instead out of fear of the stories she had heard about convents. She hid in the barn of a generous farmer who provided her with the necessities she required. She still needed to gain distance from Hamburgh, though, so she journeyed to Sweden. On this journey, she injured her head with a nasty cut and required a surgeon to heal it. She then joined a compassionate Dutch family who was journeying to Sweden as well. Once she reached Stockholm, she left the travelers and stayed in the house of a German woman. She became great friends with this woman, but one day, she overheard from her hairdresser that the imperial minister of Stockholm was wondering about an escaped girl. Her fear of poverty overcame her fear of the Convent, so she turned herself in to M. de Belgioioso. He took good care of her. He first gave her housing and money, and then he invited her into his own house for safety. Within those walls, she saw a portrait of the late Emperor Francis, and fainted. They struggled to wake her and she had a bad fever, which was almost fatal. 

The final page to this “real tale of woe.”

La Fruëlen’s story becomes tragic as she explains how her supply of financial aid was cut off suddenly, and she accumulated a great amount of debt. In order to gain support, she herself wrote the letters to the people addressed at the beginning of this explanation, including Cobenzel and the King of Spain. She claimed, however, that not all the letters were forged by her, and that several had truly been sent.

Ultimately, M. de Neny is in denial that she is in fact the daughter of the Emperor. He believes that she is truly just a merchant’s runaway daughter. M. de Neny declares that she should return to her city and face her debtors as a punishment for her lies and sins. Cobenzel disagrees, however, he is near death. The day before Cobenzel dies, he receives an anonymous letter saying not to dismiss La Fruëlen, however, the note is burned and dies with him. Four days after Cobenzel’s death, La Fruëlen is released from prison, given a little bit of money for travel, and abandoned to her wretched destiny. 

At this point, the translation of the French narrative ends and the original chapbook narration resumes. This narration explains that “poor Louisa is no more” with her death on December 19, 1801 (37). The final resolution to this tale is announced in the simple fact that Louisa was discovered under the haystack in the year 1776.


Bibliography

The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac. London, A. Neil, 1804.

Boeden, James. The Maid of Bristol: A Play in Three Acts. New York, Printed and Published by D. Longworth, 1803.

Glasse, G. H. A Narrative of Facts: Supposed to Throw Light on the History of the Bristol-Stranger; Known by the Name of the Maid of the Hay-stack. Translated From the French. Printed for Mr. H. Gardner, Mr. Bull, Mr. Lloyd, Messrs. Evans and Hazell, and Mr. Harward. 

Glasse, G. H. Louisa: A Narrative of Facts, Supposed to Throw Light on the Mysterious History of “The Lady of the Haystack.” P. Norbury, 1801, wellcomecollection.org/works/a4226rdm/items?canvas=5&langCode=eng&sierraId=b22021437.

L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable. 1785.

Vian, Alsager and Mari G. Ellis. “George Henry (1761–1809).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. July 9, 2020. Oxford University Press. https://doi-org.proxy01.its.virginia.edu/10.1093/ref:odnb/10803.


Researcher: Abigail Grace Kiss