Ravensdale: A Romance

Author: Ellen T.
Publisher: G. Purkess, Strange
Publication Year: 1847
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 13.2 cm x 21 cm
Pages: 116
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .T24 R 1847

Published in 1847 and written by the mysterious Ellen T., Ravensdale follows the intersecting love stories of characters across societal boundaries, while capturing love’s vivacity, disparity, and ultimate fatality.

Material History

The title page of Ravensdale.

Ravensdale: A Romance is a leather and sheep-skin bound book with a hard cover lined in navy cloth. The book’s binding is an orange hue and the cover is not comprised of distinct detail or decoration. The title of the book is engraved simplistically in the middle on the spine, and the cover is blank. The full title only appears on the title page, and the shortened title, Ravensdale, appears at the top left-hand side of each page and is the title engraved on the binding. As for the title page, the font remains simplistic and uniform to the rest of the book’s text. However, the title of the book is printed in a different, more formal font, and appears as though it was printed separately from the initial printing of the book. The rest of the title page is blank except for the bottom where the printing and publishing information is given: “1847 / London: Printed by E. Lloyd, Published by G. Purkess; Compton street, Soho; Strange Paternoster row.”

The illustrator is not acknowledged, and there are no illustrations in the introductory pages of the book. The first illustration appears on the beginning page of Chapter 1. Before Chapter 1, there is a page-long, anonymous preface unveiling to the reader the unattributed work of the author, Ellen T.

The book is decorated simply, with subtle decorative elements that add some embellishment to the book’s cheap production. There is a decorative letter at the beginning of Chapter 1, and each of the following chapters begin with a short poem. The edge of the novel is slightly rough and is speckled with burgundy paint for decorative distinction.

The illustration at the beginning of Chapter 1, which is the first illustration of Ravensdale.

The cover of the book is 13.2 cm wide and 21 cm long and filled with 116 pages. These pages are filled with small, closely-set text, which makes for relatively wide margins. Ravensdale’s text is faint-black due to weathering, use, and printing; however, on some pages the text appears to be inconsistently bolded.

The pages are yellowed with the edges slightly browning from aging and storage. On some pages, there are brown speckles that appear on the corners. The book’s pages are well intact and are firm and stiff when turning the page. Some pages have oil stains due to prior handling, but the stiffness of the pages suggests a strong binding and that the book was handled somewhat infrequently.

Visually, the book lacks uniqueness. There are subtle decorative elements that give Ravensdale individuality, however outside of these elements, the book was produced simplistically and cheaply. The book has black and white illustrations that appear relatively frequently and are uncaptioned. These illustrations represent significant scenes in the chapter, the Chapter 1-page illustration displaying the two main characters standing under their favorite tree, a willow. Black and white illustrations were less expensive than colored illustrations to produce: after printing the initial black and white image, color was placed by another printing or by hand. Thus, adding color and extra detail to these illustrations was too expensive for the production of this book.

Textual History

Ravensdale is a 116-page book printed and published by Edward Lloyd, George Purkess, and William Strange in London. The title page gives the printer and publisher information, revealing the novel’s publishing location of Compton Street and Paternoster-Row. The author is identified as Ellen T., withholding her last name. Ellen T. was a nineteenth-century writer who has written two other books titled Rose Sommerville: Or, A Husband’s Mystery and a Wife’s Devotion. A Romance and Eardley Hall. Rose Sommerville was published the same year as Ravensdale (1847),and Eardley Hall was published in 1850.

The anonymous preface at the beginning of Ravensdale.

Ravensdale was printed by Edward Lloyd, a nineteenth-century printer who has been called “the father of the cheap press” (Humphreys). He operated a publishing empire founded on “penny bloods” and optimized on this emerging mass market. He spearheaded printing, advertising, and distributing techniques that helped with mass production of these publications. His career began with printing volumes of cheap novels, and then he shifted to printing newspapers; one of his early publications was Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, which became widely successful. His original office was located on Curtain Road in Shoreditch, but then he relocated in 1843 to 12 Salisbury Square. He published, often unlawfully, the works of famous authors, however he also published the works of smaller, underappreciated authors like Harry Hazel, Faucit Saville, Mrs. M. L. Sweetser, and B. Barker. Lloyd was notorious for aggressive advertising and for undercutting competitor’s prices, often by plagiarizing. His most famous newspaper was Lloyd’s Penny Sunday Times and People’s Police Gazette. Ellen T. was one of the smaller authors that Lloyd printed, and multiple of her works were printed by him and her poems were published in his newspapers (Humphreys).

Ravensdale was also printed and published by George Purkess and William Strange. Both companies were operated in London; George Purkess worked out of his Compton Street office, and William Strange’s office was located on 21 Paternoster-Row (Lill). Purkess was known for his dealing of cheap fiction in the 1840s, and Strange was known as a significant publisher of cheap literature for working classes, specifically in more urban areas (Anglo 81). Yet, Strange was also involved in more satirical publishing: his most famous publication was a comic journal titled Figaro in London. Strange involved himself in various activities of rebellion, like the resistance of newspaper stamps and other “taxes of knowledge,” while also linking himself to various libel and infringement of copyright cases (Bently 238). Strange and Purkess were regarded as popular figures in radical publishing movements of the 1830s. Throughout their careers, both Strange and Purkess were regarded as publishers who moved between “radical politics, literary populism and popular enlightenment” (Haywood 133). These two men exploited savvy strategies often used by prolific publishers at the time, combining both the publishing of popular, cheap penny bloods and short publications to fund new and rousing periodicals; two of their most popular being the Monthly Theatrical Review and the Girl’s and Boy’s Penny Magazine (Lill).

Ravensdale has two editions. One is the edition published in 1847 held in the University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection and in the libraries of Yale, Notre Dame, and the British Library, both digitally and physically. Another version of Ravensdale was published in The Ladies’ Journal: A Newspaper of Fashion, Literature, Music, and Variety which can be found in the British Library (Léger-St-Jean). The Ladies’ Journal was an extension of Lloyd’s newspaper that ran from April 3 to September 18, 1847. Ravensdale was one of four texts published in the extension: the other texts were Widow Mortimer. A Romance, The Pirate Queen,and The Creole. This newspaper was one of Lloyd’s unsuccessful publications and ran for a shorter period of time (Léger-St-Jean). Ellen T.’s other works were featured in Lloyd’s publications; specifically, her poems “To Christmas”and “Lines on a Birthday” were featured in The People’s Periodical and Family Library. In the 1847 edition of Ravensdale, there is an anonymous preface detailing the unappreciated nature of the author. It ends with “London, November 1847,” and expresses the talent of the author. In Ellen T.’s other novel, Rose Sommerville, another anonymous preface exists, and it portrays the methods and wants of the “Authoress.”

Narrative Point of View

Ravensdale, is narrated in third person through an anonymous character who is not interwoven within the novel’s plot. This narrator frequently uses differentiating descriptors in order to convey certain character’s dispositions. When describing the two Clavering sisters, Grace and Edith, the narrator juxtaposes each description: Edith is often described with a sense of earnestness and fragility, whereas Grace is described with sublime diction. The narrator primarily uses dialogue for plot progression, and thus does not apply large amounts of narrative authority over the description of events. However, the narrator interrupts dialogue for eloquent character description, often detailing the characters’ temperaments flamboyantly. She deploys flowery diction when choosing to describe characters, often theatrically illustrating their emotions. Yet, she sometimes decides to include generalized comments on the plot progression, which occasionally reveal a narrative presence. Additionally, in order to dramatize certain moments of emotional uncertainty, the narrator adds exclamations and rhetorical questions as if attempting to converse with the reader. On some occasions, the narrator directly engages with the reader, demanding that he regard a character’s actions in a certain way.

Sample Passage:

The reader must conceive with what transport this billet was perused, and how rapturously the young man carried it to his lips–how fondly each little word was treasured in his memory. Oh! ‘tis sweet to trace, in the letters of those we love, the soft breathings of a spirit that yearns for our return, to whom all things are as nothing while we are not. Thus felt Edward Villiers, as he read with a throbbing bosom the letter that was penned by Grace, her whom he was seeking to forget; and though her true sentiments towards him were concealed beneath the veil of feminine modesty and true of feeling, he saw sufficient to convince him that he was loved–that he had inspired her with no transitory or evanescent passion for himself, but a love that bade defiance to all obstacles that was no more easy to be extinguished than the flame that was likewise kindled in his own breast. (26­–27)

This passage both demonstrates the narrator’s engagement with the reader while also exemplifying the narrator’s descriptive style. Instead of mere depiction of progressing events, this anonymous narrator interrupts pivotal moments of plot progression and connects directly with the reader. When summoning the reader’s attention, the narrator desires him to internalize the sentiments described and prompt internal reflection. She calls on the reader to look within himself and think back to a past memory where he felt the same emotion. She shifts from third-person perspective and employs first person narrative with her use of “we” and “our.” The narrator asks the reader to join her in telling this story, suggesting that personal attachment provides advantageous insight that grasps the complexity of characters and their accompanied emotions. In the latter half of this passage, the narration resumes its ordinary form, providing ornate description of the character’s state of mind and observations. She describes the emotions felt by Edward when receiving the letter from Grace, utilizing physical elements of Edward’s body to personify the extent of his love. Instead of describing intense emotion, the narrator often uses physical elements in hope of capturing the authenticity of the character’s emotions. She deploys phrases like “a throbbing bosom,” and “the flame that was likewise kindled in his own breast,” which depict the physicality of Edwards love for Grace, and this allows for a deeper clarity on the extent to which the two love each other. Ultimately, the narrator wants the reader to intensely connect with the emotions described.


The decorative letter that begins Chapter 1, which is one of the few decorative elements of Ravensdale.

Ravensdale opens with the introduction of the Clavering family, centering around the two amiable cousins of Grace and Edith, who differ in disposition, but hold the utmost strength of family companionship. Edith embodies the essence of gentility and loving nature, her soft countenance and sweetness extending through all of her relationships. Juxtaposing this nature, Grace contains wild exuberance, and carries a powerful vivacity. Arthur and Grace are both children of Ms. Manning, the sister of the countess of Clavering, and Edith the daughter of the countess. After the birth of Grace, an incurable illness imposes itself upon Ms. Manning, and she bestows a wish of the marriage between the two cousins: Arthur and Edith. Upon the death of Ms. Manning, the countess intends for her wish to come true. Edith then reaches the maturity that shows she is fit for marriage. Upon Arthur’s maturity, he travels around Europe and Edith anticipates his return. Fully aware of his destiny to marry Edith, Arthur is instantly enchanted by her sweetness and beauty, and the Claverings prepare for the highly anticipated ceremony. One of the guests at this beloved ceremony is Edward Villers, a former acquaintance of Arthur’s. Grace is given the task of properly entertaining this unknown visitor, and the two become pleasantly acquainted. In their time together, Edward suggests that Arthur’s heart contains not just Edith but another—a former lover from his travels. Yet, Grace is assured by Edward that this connection is indeed former. Edward and Grace acquire a mutual appreciation for each other and promise to see each other again.

After Edward’s return to London, we are introduced to Catherine Montravers, a governess to a wealthy woman, Mrs. Porters, and a teacher of her children, while rushing along the streets of Paris. Simply dressed, Catherine is a dark and intricate beauty with magnificent raven features. She is introduced in a state of anguish as she is stopped on the street by an admirer, Ernest Moreton, who shows a deep concern in her mental fragility and ill health. When she returns to her school room, the reader learns of her despairing solitude and afflictions with a former lover.

In London, Edward is struck by ennui, and expresses to his family and a close friend, Helen, his love for Grace and his wishes to marry her. Mrs. Villers suggests the disparity in their social standings and proposes Helen to be a better pairing for him: a dutiful, devoted, and helpful woman. Edward refuses, and exclaims his determination to marry Grace.

Edith and Arthur are married, yet Edith is struck by an apparent uneasiness about Arthur’s devotion to her. Grace’s fondness for Edward grows, and she becomes aware of her love for him and wishes to see him again. She expresses her sentiments to Edith, who appears uneasy with Grace’s decision to marry outside her class. While the two sisters converse, a letter appears by a servant addressed to Arthur, and Edith attempts to retrieve it. Instead, Grace possesses the letter and throws it into the fire.

We return to the story of Catherine, who while sitting in her school room, receives two letters from her former lover. She is afflicted by their contents and continues her melancholic suffering when Mr. Porter expresses an interest in returning to London.

Arthur, known as the Earl of Clavering, Edith, and Grace attend the Opera where they are met by Edward. Grace and Edward express their love and mutual wishes to marry, which Arthur rejects. Yet, this does not stop their dedication, and Grace conveys her intentions of disobeying Arthur’s marital wishes for her.

Meanwhile, Helen expresses her love for Edward, and Edward fabricates his ignorance towards her affections and explains that if aware, he would have asked for her hand if not already promised to Grace. He requests that she leave the Villers household with a promise to return to her if rejected by Grace. Meanwhile, Edith happens upon a letter left behind by Arthur, and believing it is intended for his mother, reads it. The letter is actually addressed to Catherine, and Edith is awakened by the bitter reality of her husband’s love for another.

An example of the poems that begin each chapter of Ravensdale.

In the midst of this contention, the reader is introduced to three men: Edward Moreton, Christopher Warden, and John Lawton. The three are discussing Morten’s love for Catherine, when Marie, the former lover of Christopher, enters and is described as a soft and changing beauty. She professes her love and destitution to Christopher, and he agrees to support her, but orders her and their unborn child to distance themselves from his deteriorating illness. Marie resists, insisting her devotion and desire to care for Christopher, but Lawton insists on this separation. After observing the conversation between Christopher, Lawton, and the neglected Marie, Moreton tends an emerging dislike for these two men and a restless desire to investigate their character.

When returning to the household of the Villers, Catherine hears of the disappearance of her sister, Helen, and comes to immediate aid. Convinced that Helen’s disappearance is inextricably linked to Edward, she writes him a letter impersonating Helen and asks him to meet in the middle of the night.

Consistent with the promises of Lawton, Marie is brought to the establishment of Madame Chevasse, an elderly woman with sharp eyes and cunning disposition. In evaluating and feeling assured of her cruelty, Marie refuses to stay with Madame and allow her to care for her unborn child. Lawton again insists that Christopher’s support only reaches so far, and her refusal of Madame’s care will cause a further disunion between them. Marie then agrees to Madame’s hospitality.

In anticipation of her nightly rendezvous, Catherine appears at the meeting place before its expected time, when she sees a dark figure approaching her. Arthur, her former lover, emerges from the darkness and professes his love and undying desire to provide for her every need. She is sickened by his advances and exclaims that although his status allows the exemption of punishment, his complete neglect of her warrants her reprehensibility and hatred. Arthur pushes back on her claims until Edward approaches the meeting place. Arthur hides, and Edward begins to explain, to whom he perceives as Helen, his supposed marriage to Grace. Then, Arthur jumps out from the bushes and yells that this marriage will no longer be held. Arthur describes Edward’s unworthiness of marrying his sister, and that the only way that he can redeem his character is through a duel.

Catherine finds Helen’s place of habitation, and the two again reconcile their inseparable sisterhood. Catherine councils Helen never to see Edward again, as his devotion still lies with Grace. Yet, Helen refuses and attempts to convince Catherine of his love. Catherine rejoices in their rekindled sisterhood, but she still shows apprehension for her sister’s dedication to Edward.

The reader returns to the residence of Madame Chevasse, where Lawton specifies the intended role of her caretaking, which is one of ultimately killing Marie’s unborn child. Lawton expresses that with Christopher’s life-threatening illness, he will be unable to provide a righteous life for their child. Madame Chevasse agrees to Lawton’s request, yet demands an expensive reward. She then begins this process by poisoning Marie, which leads to her ultimate death.

In response to the events of his rendezvous with Catherine and Arthur, Edward writes a letter to Grace explaining the misunderstanding. Grace receives this letter while confronted by Arthur about Edward’s character and unworthiness of her hand. Grace assures Arthur that his allegations are false. Grace and Edward meet again and reconfirm their mutual love for one another, and Edwards professes his intention to convince Arthur of his love. Meanwhile, Helen writes a letter to Edward, demonstrating her relentless devotion.

It is then that Lieutenant Marston, an acquaintance to Arthur, presents himself to Edward and conveys a message. The Lieutenant reveals Arthur’s wishes to duel Edward in his sister’s honor, with the man who prevails deciding Grace’s marital fate. The Lieutenant explains that he will be a third-party preparing Edward for this scheduled duel, and the two become acquainted.

An illustration showing Christopher’s reaction to the corpse of his dead lover, Marie.

Meanwhile, Ernest Moreton confronts Lawton and Christopher about Marie’s death, and insists that Lawton is guilty of this monstrous crime. He then announces his quest for revenge, and the conversation ends with Christopher’s desire to look upon his deceased lover.

The final rejection of Helen’s devotion by Edward sufficiently extinguishes her passion and hope towards their elopement. Coupled with Catherine’s dismissal from governess of Mrs. Porter, the two decide to live together.

As Lieutenant Marston prepares Edward for the upcoming duel, the two obtain a mutual like for each other, and the good nature of the Lieutenant’s character is acknowledged. The day of the duel comes, and it results in the life-threatening injury of Edward. Edward is rushed to the nearby cottage of Helen and Catherine, where Helen tends to him with undying devotion.

Meanwhile, Lawton and Christopher visit Marie’s corpse. Christopher is alarmed by the haunting spectacle that has taken Marie’s place and repeatedly exclaims the foolishness of his visit. Madame Chevasse and Lawton continue to hide their responsibility for her death, however Morten observes them with a skeptical eye and believes that he has caught their criminality. After this fateful visit, Christopher is never the same and the intensity of his illness brings him to his mortal ending.

Helen’s suppressed devotion towards Edward resurfaces in full force after his injury, but her relentless care is not enough, and Edward dies from his honorable duel. When notified of her lover’s death by Arthur, Grace falls into a deep sadness, an illness that removes all of her recent memories and convinces her that her marriage to Edward will still occur. In hope for this bliss to remain, the Claverings decide to entertain Grace’s absence from reality. On her imagined wedding day, Grace drowns in the river where she attempts to meet Edward, and the Claverings mourn their spirited daughter’s loss.

Meanwhile, the Lieutenant provides Catherine and Helen their first group of pupils at their shared cottage, while also developing a great appreciation and love for Helen. After frequent visits to the cottage, the good-natured Lieutenant asks for Helen’s hand in marriage, which she accepts. Finally, Catherine is visited by Ernest Moreton and his mother, who demonstrate a great respect for her character, and Ernest asks for her hand in marriage. 


Anglo, Michael. Penny Dreadfuls and Other Victorian Horrors. London, Jupiter, 1977.

Bently, Lionel. “Prince Albert v Strange.” Landmark Cases in Equity, edited by Charles Mitchell and Paul Mitchell. Hart Publishing, 2012.

Haywood, Ian. The Revolution in Popular Literature. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Humpherys, Anne. “Edward Lloyd.” British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820­–1880, edited by Patricia Anderson and Jonathan Rose. Gale, 1991. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 106. Literature Resource Center.

Léger-St-Jean, Marie. Price One Penny: A Database of Cheap Literature, 1837-1860. 29 June 2019. Faculty of English, Cambridge. http://priceonepenny.info.

Lill, Sara Louise. “In for a Penny: The Business of Mass-Market Publishing 1832–90.” Edward Lloyd and His World Popular Fiction, Politics and the Press In Victorian Britain. New York, Routledge, 2019.

T., Ellen. Eardley Hall: a tale: by Ellen T? Edward Lloyd, 1850. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

T., Ellen. “Lines on a Birthday.” The People’s Periodical and Family Library, vol. I, no. 13. Edward Lloyd, 1847, pp. 205. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

T., Ellen. Ravensdale: A Romance. London, Edward Lloyd, 1847.

T., Ellen. Rose Sommerville: or, A husband’s mystery and a wife’s devotion: a romance. Edward Lloyd, 1847. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

T., Ellen. “To Christmas.” The People’s Periodical and Family Library, vol. I, no. 13. Edward Lloyd, 1847, pp. 205. Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

Researcher: Neila Connaughton

The Royal Twins

The Royal Twins

The Royal Twins: Or, The Sisters of Mystery

Author: Thomas Peckett Prest
Publisher: G. Purkess
Publication Year: 1848
Language: English
Book Dimensions: 14cm x 21.5cm
Pages: 148
University of Virginia Library Call Number, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .P74 Ro 1848

This 1848 Thomas Peckett Prest novel tells the tale of twin girls who endure kidnapping, fire, and secrecy, all as a result of the 1772 Royal Marriage Act.

Material History

The Royal Twins; Or, The Sisters of Mystery is a gothic novel by Thomas Peckett Prest. The title appears regularly throughout this particular book in various forms. Embossed in gold down the spine of the tightly-bound, brown leather cover, the title, shortened to The Royal Twins, is also printed at the top of each page in the novel, including the pages of illustration. There are two separate title pages: one with the full title centered against an otherwise blank page and one accompanied by a full-page black and white illustration that depicts a scene from the beginning of the story.

One of the two title pages for The Royal Twins features a large illustration

Originally, the author’s name was not printed anywhere in the book; there was only indirect indication of the author—mentions of his previous works are printed in small letters underneath the book title on the two title pages. These other works include Ela the Outcast, The Smuggler King, and The Old House of West Street, suggesting a well-published author. The author’s name that appears in the book now on a blue sticker as “Thomas P. Prest” has been pasted on the first title page and on the spine of the book, most likely after the book’s publication.

At first glance, this particular volume seems extremely well-kept and well-preserved. The novel, being only 148 pages in length, makes for an overall slim and neat book. Measuring from the cover, the book is 14 cm wide and 21.5 cm tall. The two-toned leather cover is smooth and unworn, the corners only showing the slightest bit of wear and tear. Upon opening it, the binding still feels tight, almost as if it were not read much in its past life. There are no marks or stamps of previous ownership in the book. The paper, though yellowed, has not softened much, retaining a brittle sharpness, and its thin quality enables the reader to see through to what is printed on the other side of the page. The only other obvious signs of age are various spots that have arisen from impurities in the paper and chemical reactions to being kept in a humid or damp environment.

An anonymously written preface precedes the story, mentioning that the following text has already been “well-received” by the public. This suggests that this book may not be the story’s first edition or publication, although no other officially documented publications of this story have been found from before 1848. The preface also goes on to include a little bit of background knowledge to events and ideas related to the story, such as the Royal Marriage Act. At the very end, a date and location indicate where and when the book was published: London, April 1848.

The pages contain a simple, squiggly border surrounding the body of text with the title of the novel printed inside the border at the very top. The font is small, neat, and closely set, filling up the interior of the page and leaving little white space. The sixteen chapters are not spatially separated; each picks up right where the last left off. They are numbered in Roman numerals, and while they are not titled, they are accompanied by a succinct, one-line description underneath the chapter number of what plot events occur within each respective chapter. Pages of illustration feature rather frequently throughout the book, about one for every few chapters. Nineteen in total, these inked, black-and-white line drawings go along with story events. Illustrations are numbered at the bottom right-hand corner, and are also accompanied by the full book title, split to border the top and the bottom of the illustration, a layout unlike the other pages that contain only text. Watered down red ink, flecked onto the edges of the pages with a brush, add a decorative touch to an otherwise plain book.

Textual History

Published during the rise of penny dreadfuls, The Royal Twins was only one of the many such novels that prolific British penny periodical writer Thomas Peckett Prest wrote. Other works include: Ela, the Outcast (1839), The Hebrew Maiden (1840), and The String of Pearls (1846), perhaps more famously known in the form of the later rewritten Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, although to whom the credit for this last work should be given is rather ambiguous and debatable (Smith 26–28).

The author’s name—appearing on the title page here as Thomas P. Prest—was pasted in, most likely after the book’s publication

Ela, the Outcast, in particular, became Prest’s most successful novel, featuring prominently on the classified advertisement sections of nineteenth-century British periodicals, such as Cleave’s Gazette of Variety and The Penny Satirist, that boasted the current popular penny dreadfuls (Cleave’s 4; Penny 4). Prest, who seemed to rather frequently adapt his prose works to the stage, wrote a version of Ela for stage as well, and it was well-performed by The Queen’s Theatre in 1842. Newspapers like The Age and The Satirist; or, the Censor of the Times ran advertisements for showings of this Prest play, describing it as “successful,” “highly interesting,” and “a tale of most thrilling interest” (Age 1; Satirist 41; Cleave’s 4). Prest wrote a few more major plays towards the end of his career: The Miser of Shoreditch, performed by the Standard Theatre in 1854; Lucy Wentworth, a prize-winning play performed by the City of London Theatre in 1857; and “the highly successful romantic drama” The Idiot Boy, performed by City of London Theatre in 1858 (James and Smith; Northampton Mercury; The Era).

Prest’s talents were very widespread; not only did he make a name for himself as a novelist, but also as a songwriter, a performer of his own songs, and a general literary hack for minor independent publishers, most notably Edward Lloyd. The two rose to prominence in the realm of ephemera together. Prest, originally working as Lloyd’s factotum, started writing satirical penny weekly serial versions of Charles Dickens’s works and later branched out into original fictional works that Lloyd edited and published as quickly as possible (James and Smith). In fact, an article on the editor’s publishing legacy written in the 1904 edition of The New York Times Book Review describes Lloyd as “sinning in good company” with Prest (Williams 566). This established Lloyd as a popular publisher of this sort of cheap fiction, and, in turn, established penny dreadfuls as a genre that held massive potential, tapping into the rapidly expanding reading population and love of sensational stories.

This New York Times article, actually a reader’s submission to publication, features an abundance of glowing praise for the Lloyd publishing house, speaking to the high esteem and approval that the British masses had for the man and his purpose. Edward Lloyd became known as “the father of the cheap press” and was among the first to devise new techniques of printing and advertising to achieve his success in production and distribution of these publications (Humpherys). His advertisements for new titles were accompanied by strings of other recent and popular works as assurance of known quality for the reader—a technique seen within this particular copy of The Royal Twins as well. He issued advertisements for his serial and book publications in his own newspapers as well. The Penny Sunday Times and its Companion contained much of his own fiction, and Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper listed the contents of his fictional periodicals, announced new titles, and advertised important reprints in special columns of their own. Additionally, Lloyd would include a complete list of current Lloyd publications that was compiled anew every six months, serving years later as one of the best resources for bibliographers (Smith 10).

The Sadleir-Black copy of The Royal Twins includes a preface, referencing the Royal Marriages Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1772. The act reveals itself as central to the plot of the novel at the end of the story, when all the revelations regarding the titular twins’ parentage occur. The Royal Marriages Act required the consent of the reigning monarch before any marriage of a descendant of George II could be seen as legitimate. Without consent, any marriage contracted was void. This act was a way to guard the royal family from diminishing their status through unbalanced marriages. It is also precisely the reason that the twins in the book, born of an unapproved and unmatched marriage, had to be raised in secret, separate from their noble parents. In the preface, the unknown author criticizes the act for its cruelty. The act was repealed in 2011.

It is interesting to note that while The Royal Twins dealt with political issues at the time, was popular with the public, according to the text’s preface, and several other works by Prest were recognized enough to be adapted into play versions, there are no reviews, subsequent versions or editions, or further adaptations of this story in particular.

Narrative Point of View

The Royal Twins: Or, The Sisters of Mystery is primarily told in the third person by an omniscient narrator. However, the narrator does address the audience directly throughout the novel as “reader,” and occasionally refers to him or herself using the collective “we.” Because of the narrator’s omniscience, character’s feelings are often stated explicitly for the audience, leaving little room for confusion towards the characters’ emotions in any given scene. Much of the characterization is told rather than shown. Additionally, the narrator gives the reader prior knowledge that the characters themselves do not know yet through use of parentheses. The narrator often precedes the main action of an event with a warning statement that alerts the reader of upcoming plot twists. The narration is at once entertaining and vigorous, even as it is filled with many winding, descriptive sentences. Although wordy at times, the diction is quite standard, reading rather easily.

Sample Passage:

Charlotte, in spite of herself, and notwithstanding she could not understand the feeling found it impossible to conquer a sensation of sadness and regret when Mr. Milford made use of these observation; and she was surprised to find the strong impression on the stranger had made on her even on their first meeting; and she was very dull and less talkative for the rest of the evening than she was accustomed to be; and in spite of all her efforts to the contrary, notwithstanding she really felt vexed with herself, she could not banish the form of the handsome and interesting Henry Stirling from her imagination She could not but also entertain a secret wish that he would fulfill his promise and visit them again shortly. Pure and innocent as it is possible for mortal to be, Charlotte could not for a moment suppose that there was any harm or danger in encouraging these thoughts; but alas, woful [sic] experience was destined to teach her otherwise.

Never was a man more deceptive or dangerous that he who called himself Henry Stirling (for that was not his real name), handsome, accomplished, wealthy, and nobly connected, he possessed the most unbounded power wither for good or evil, and unfortunately his, vices predominated over his good qualities. […] The reason of his assuming the name by which we have introduced him to the reader will be explained in the course of the narrative. (93-94)

The omniscience of the narrator, combined with consistent addressing of the audience in The Royal Twins, serves to create an overall objective and intimate storytelling effect. With the narrator holding the collective knowledge of all the characters thoughts, and directly revealing this insider knowledge, the narrator holds the audience in confidence. This invites the reader to come to more certain conclusions regarding the coding of the various characters: George, the corrupted villain; Charlotte and Augusta, the virtuous sisters; Milford, the self-sacrificing hero. The clear descriptions and long periodic sentences often hold conclusions in suspense until the very end of the sentence or paragraph, delivering heavy impact on the reader. This form of suspense parallels the uncertainty and mystery surrounding the twin sisters that reign throughout the story until the final revelation at the novel’s conclusion.


A married couple, James and Mary Milford, along with their infant son, live on the most impoverished, filthiest street of an English town called Whitechapel after a serious downfall in fortune. In a chance encounter one day, Milford meets a strange man on the road. When the stranger calls Milford by his true name, James Clavering, Milford recognizes him as a man that his late grandfather used to be friendly with (the novel never explains why Milford decided to go by this name instead of Clavering). As the two men catch up, the stranger offers Milford a proposition that would catapult his destitute position to one of comfort and independence. This offer piques Milford’s curiosity, and the man, who insists on remaining unnamed, arranges for a second meeting the next night at the Milford home to discuss the details of his unique offer if he were to accept.

The following night, the stranger arrives at the Milford’s house and persuades Milford and his wife to accept the proposition. He elaborates a little upon it, saying if the couple were to do a task for him, they would be placed in much better conditions than Whitechapel. Milford and his wife accept, and they, along with their son and the stranger, leave their current home immediately. Despite asking, the stranger refuses to tell the couple the destination of their journey, saying everything would be explained in due time.

An illustration of the royal twins as babies

Mr. and Mrs. Milford are blindfolded upon arrival, and find themselves in a well-furnished apartment. The stranger makes the two swear an oath of secrecy before bringing in a middle-aged woman, holding twin girls in her arms. The man finally explains the proposition in full: the Milfords are to take in the two infants and raise them as their own children until an undisclosed time. In return, the Milfords would receive enough money to give them an education and a place to live. The man does reveal that the twins are named Augusta and Charlotte and that they are of noble descent; however, they must not know the truth about their heritage until the proper time. He further tells them that if anyone knows the truth about the twins and the events of this night, lives would be at stake. The Milfords take the infants from the woman, and they, their own infant son, and the stranger travel once more to their new home. At their new home, the stranger takes his leave of the couple, saying he does not know when they will be able to meet again. Before bed, Milford notices that Augusta is wearing an extremely valuable locket necklace. Inside the locket is a miniature portrait of a woman whom the Milfords notice extremely resembles the infant girls.

The next morning, Mr. and Mrs. Milford meet two female servants, Mrs. Morton and Martha, whom the stranger hired to assist in childrearing and housekeeping. They also explore the house, and in the drawing room, discover a portrait of the same woman in Augusta’s locket, which they conclude must be the twins’ mother.

The narrator then tells of the Clavering family’s past history, revealing how Mr. and Mrs. Milford arrived at their state of severe poverty. Milford’s uncle had stripped Milford of his share of his grandfather’s inheritance out of jealousy and malice, reducing him and his wife to homeless beggars before meeting the stranger.

The months pass rather peacefully. The stranger continues to send letters and money to support the Milfords and to remind them of the importance of their secrecy. The twins Augusta and Charlotte grow to be beautiful and intelligent young children under the couple’s care. A few years later, Martha accompanies the young twins on an outing. When Martha arrives back home, she is crying and agitated, and recounts how a woman stole the girls from her and carried them away in a carriage. She describes the lady as resembling the one in the portrait in the drawing room. Mr. and Mrs. Milford are thrown into worry. On the third day of the twins disappearance, the Milfords are surprised to see them delivered back home by the strange man. He leaves soon, and Milford asks the girls to tell them everything that happened during the kidnapping. The sisters reveal that the woman who snatched them away was very kind yet showed extreme emotion towards them. The stranger also acted very kindly towards them, and had taken them home from the woman’s house on the third day. The Milfords are certain now that this woman is the twins’ mother, and suspect that somehow, the woman and the stranger are related as well. From his kindness in delivering them back to Mr. and Mrs. Milford, they suspect that the stranger is also somehow related to the twins.

More years pass, and while Augusta and Charlotte grow ever more beautiful, intelligent, and virtuous, the Milfords’ own son, George, develops an angry temper and associates with gamblers and criminals. He grows sullen towards their parents and jealous of the twins for stealing most of his parents’ affections. He begins to suspect the twins are not actually his sisters until one night, he overhears the entire truth as Mr. and Mrs. Milford are talking, and begins to plan his parents’ downfall.

A series of misfortunes fall upon the Milfords in quick succession. Mrs. Milford dies from illness, casting her husband into grief and an illness of his own. Additionally, his money supply runs dangerously low; the stranger had not kept in contact with the Milfords for a period of time. This resulted in having to let go of Martha and Mrs. Morton’s services, as well as moving to a new, poorer location with a different landlord. Augusta and Charlotte must work as maids in neighboring houses to provide money for the family. In order to keep up his extravagant gambling life, George uses his knowledge of the truth about the twins to blackmail his father into supporting his spendthrift lifestyle, knowing if his father refused, he would be endangering the secrecy he vowed to keep.

One day during this period of time, Milford takes the twins on a walk, and they witness a man fall off an uncontrollable horse. They quickly take him to their home and tend to his injuries. The entire family become quite taken with the man; Charlotte especially is struck by his good looks and falls in love. Before he leaves, he tells them he is named Henry Stirling and hopes to return to see the family soon, for he had also noticed Charlotte and desired to take her as his wife. However, Milford soon receives a letter from the stranger, warning him that Stirling’s character is dangerous and not to let him too close. To the disappointment of Charlotte, Milford tells Stirling they cannot associate with him any longer because of class differences and not to come again. Stirling departs upset and likewise disappointed. Stirling meets George on the way back from the Milford’s, and they make a deal in which George would help Stirling obtain Charlotte for a price.

One night, the twins wake up to their house on fire. Struggling to find any way out of the burning house, they are finally rescued out by Stirling, who happens to be passing by. The fire leaves the family homeless once more, and they are forced to rent in an extremely poor area. Charlotte’s love for Stirling burns stronger than ever after seeing him again, and George becomes a messenger for Stirling and Charlotte, communicating for them without Augusta or Milford’s knowledge. Stirling continues to woo Charlotte until he receives her consent to elope with him when Augusta and Milford are away on a walk.

When Milford and Augusta learn about Charlotte’s disappearance from a witnessing neighbor, Milford’s health takes a drastic turn for the worse, rendering him too weak to get out of bed. Days pass, and his health continues to decline until he feels the day of his death. He laments that he will not get to see Charlotte one last time before he dies. He is in the process of revealing to Augusta the secret of her birth before he dies, when Charlotte bursts through the door, having run from Stirling, apologetic, regretful, and terrified for her father’s health. Milford rejoices at getting to see both twins before he goes. He finally tells them that he and Mary are not actually their parents, and dies.

An illustration of Mr. Milford’s deathbed

A funeral is held for Milford a few days later. The next day, the stranger surprises the twins and reveals himself as their uncle and the Duke of M—. He tells them the entire truth of their birth: the twins are, in fact, the Ladies Charlotte and Augusta, and their parents are the Countess of C— and the Prince of Wales, the second most powerful man in England. Because of passage of the Royal Marriage Act, the marriage of the twins’ parents, unapproved of by the king, was considered illegal, and therefore illegitimated their birth, thus the reason for their secret upbringing. The twins then realize the strange woman who had kidnapped them as children and the woman depicted in the drawing room portrait and locket miniature was their mother, the Countess. The next day, the Duke takes the twins to be reconciled with their mother, and a joyful reunion ensues. Charlotte is eventually officially married to Henry Stirling (revealed to be an Earl), and Augusta to another distinguished nobleman. Meanwhile, George squanders away all his money and property and lives a miserable life.


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Researcher: Melissa Zhu