An abridged plagiarism of Sir Walter Scott’s 1823 novel Quentin Durward, this chapbook follows the grotesque adventures of Scottish cavalier Quentin Durward and his romance with the beautiful Countess Isabelle.
Durward and Isabelle appears to be a flimsy few scraps of paper being held together by what looks like a piece of twine. The full title is simply Durward and Isabelle. The book is bound together with another chapbook, Mary, the Maid of the Inn, which precedes Durward and Isabelle. It appears as though the back of Mary, the Maid of the Inn, was ripped out, since there are remnants of torn paper at the last page. The paper of Durward and Isabelle is not as yellow compared to Mary, the Maid of the Inn, and the two texts are printed in different fonts. This suggests that Durward and Isabelle was likely bound to Mary, the Maid of the Inn at a later time.
The origins of this chapbook remain a mystery,
as there is no listed author. However, the publisher is listed at the bottom of
the final page as “Dean and Munday, Threadneedle-Street, London.” Mary, the
Maid of the Inn has a title page with a different publisher listed. The
cover of Mary, the Maid of the Inn does have some handwriting on it, but
it is impossible to know if this was written before or after the chapbooks were
The dimensions of the book are about 11cm x 16
cm, so it is fairly small. Durward and Isabelle is thirty-six pages
long, while the previous story is twenty-five pages, making for a total of sixty-one
pages bound together by a single piece of fraying string. The last page of Durward
and Isabelle has fallen off but is still kept with the book in the library.
The pages are very brittle and dry, and are also very frail and yellowed,
likely due to the wear and tear that the book has been subject to over the
years. The margins are decently sized while the font is relatively small but
not difficult to read. There is a surprisingly large amount of spacing between
paragraphs. The margins are uneven: there is little to no space at the top at
the top of the book, while there are much larger side margins.
While Mary, the Maid of the Inn contains
a fold-out illustration, there are no illustrations in Durward &
Isabelle. There are some words handwritten on the cover: in the top right
corner, the word “romance” is written in pencil and “1822” (the year Mary,
the Maid of the Inn was published) in ink. On the bottom of the cover,
there is a series of numbers and letters without clear meaning.
Durward and Isabelle is a chapbook that is a plagiarized and abridged version of Quentin Durward, a novel written by Sir Walter Scott published in 1823. The author of Durward and Isabelle is not known. At only thirty-six pages, the chapbook is much shorter than the original novel and brushes over many of the major plot points. While the original novel is focused on Quentin Durward and his adventures, the chapbook is more focused on Durward’s adventures that involve his relationship with Isabelle, hence the title Durward and Isabelle. The plagiarized chapbook was published by Dean and Munday, as printed on the last page of the book. Dean and Munday was a popular publishing institution established in 1810 that published many other chapbooks. The Dean and Munday families lived together and raised their children together in their home behind the shop on Threadneedle Street. Two cousins, Thomas Dean and Thomas Munday, became apprentices, then later became partners in the firm. This partnership lasted until 1838, when it was permanently dissolved (Potter 86). According to Franz Potter, “During these early years at Dean & Munday, the firm also reissued a number of well-known gothic pamphlets originally published by other booksellers” (87). Durward and Isabelle is listed as one of the one-shilling pamphlets published by Dean and Munday in a book titled The French Revolution of 1830: Being a Succinct Account of the Tyrannical Attempt of Charles X. to Overturn the French Constitution. Interestingly, Mary, the Maid of the Inn is also on this list of Dean and Munday pamphlets printed with The French Revolution of 1830, though the copy of Mary, the Maid of the Innbound with the Sadleir-Black Collection’s copy of Durward and Isabelle was published by Orlando Hodgson not Dean and Munday.
Given Sir Walter Scott’s significance, there is an abundance of
information about his original novel Quentin Durward by contrast with
the dearth of information on the plagiarized and abridged Durward and
Isabelle. In a late nineteenth-century edition of Quentin Durward edited
by Charlotte M. Yonge, Yonge includes a historical introduction in which she
writes that Scott “held that it was lawful for art to throw together historical
characters and facts with more regard to effect than to accuracy or detail, and
thus to leave a stronger impression on the mind. And there can be no doubt that
the tale he has given us has fixed on thousands of minds a strong and definite
impression of the characters of Louis XI” (14). In writing this, Yonge
identifies the significant impact that the characters of Quentin Durward
had on the public point of view.
There are other notable adaptations of Scott’s novel, including Quentin
Durward; a dramatic adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s novel, in three acts and
three scenes, by Charles Andrew Merz and Frank Wright Tuttle.This
adaptation was published in 1914 and is associated with the Yale University
Dramatic Association. There are digital copies of the original Quentin
Durward and its adaptations available on ProQuest One Literature and the
HathiTrust Library. The novel was even adapted into a film called The
Adventures of Quentin Durward, released in 1955.
Narrative Point of View
Durward and Isabelle is narrated in the third
person, and the narrator is never named nor are we given any context on how
they learned of the story. The story is told in a very straightforward fashion,
yet still manages to incorporate feelings of characters. The narration is
filled with expansive sentences, with an emphasis on depicting events and with minimal
The young and beautiful Isabelle had fled from Burgundy, to avoid being married to one of the Duke’s favourites; and whether she was really under King Louis’s protection, was not certainly known. Durward could not help conjecturing, from circumstances, that the young lady he had seen in the morning, and with whose charms he had been smitten, was, in fact, the young countess. While the knowledge of her rank and misfortunes interested him yet more strongly in her fate, it tended to damp any presumptuous hopes which love might have induced him to form. (8)
As seen here, in Durward and Isabelle the
narration is succinct and descriptive, and effectively explains the characters’
thoughts and feelings at certain moments. This can be seen when Durward deduces
that the woman he saw is the countess, and the narration presents not only what
he knows but how he feels with his subsequently lowered “hopes.”
Durward and Isabelle tells the tale of a fifteenth-century Scottish cavalier, Durward,
and Isabelle, a Countess. The story begins when Durward is met by King Louis XI
of France by chance. Durward introduces himself as a cadet of Scotland, who
came to France to seek fortune. It is later revealed that his father and
remaining family members were killed by a rivaling clan, and this caused his
mother to die of grief. Upon Durward’s introduction, the King also discovers
that he knows Durward’s uncle, Lesie, who comes to the castle to meet him and
the king. The king eventually decides to recruit this young cavalier as one of
his men, after consulting with his astronomer, Martius Galeoletti, who says
that Durward has good intentions. Durward has multiple encounters with Isabelle
throughout the beginning of the story, as she is residing at the castle where
the king lives.
One day while Durward is strolling through the garden, he comes
across a man hanging from a tree. Appalled by this circumstance, he immediately
climbs up the tree and cuts the rope, onlooking Bohemians react badly to this
action. The king’s right-hand man, Provost Marshall, takes them all prisoner.
Durward thinks he is going to be hanged along with the Bohemians but then
proceeds to defend himself, claiming he is from Scotland which is an allied
country. His life is spared.
It is revealed that the reason Isabelle is under the king’s
protection is because she fled from Burgundy after discovering that she was to
be married to one of the duke’s men. A count sent by the Duke of Burgundy
appears while searching for the ladies (Isabelle and her Aunt). The king
refuses to give them up and, after the count threatens to wage war on the
kingdom, the king decides to send Isabelle and her aunt away to Liege to be
under the protection of the bishop. The king appoints Durward in charge of
taking Lady Isabelle and her aunt to Liege with three soldiers and a guide.
Throughout their journey they encounter many men who want to claim possession
of Isabelle, including William de la Marck, a feared man from the area, and the
Duke of Orleans, who is to be wed to Isabelle’s sister but would rather marry
William de la Marck, in a fit of rage, decides to take over the city of Liege and murders the bishop in cold blood. Durward and Isabelle must escape together. During the siege, Durward presents himself to Willam de la Marck and says that if they are to be allied with France, they must not present themselves with this sort of conduct, so William de la Marck complies, and they all leave. De la Marck then threatens to return because he hears word that Isabelle is still hiding in the city. Isabelle at this point is willing to sacrifice herself to the Duke of Burgundy and decides she will offer to give up her patrimonial estates and ask permission to retire in a convent. They make it back to the Duke of Burgundy and the same day, the king decides to visit him too. The Duke of Burgundy hears about William de la Marcks violent tactics and believes that this is King Louis’ doing. He imprisons the king and plans for his execution.
After days of trials and Durward’s statement is given, the duke
determines that the king is innocent and decides they are to combine forces to
capture William de la Marck. Who will receive Isabelle’s hand in marriage
remains in question, so as incentive, the duke says that whoever is successful
in killing de la Marck wins Isabelle’s hand in marriage. Upon hearing this,
Durward searches for de la Marck, and finds him decapitated. In defeat, he
returns to the castle only to discover his uncle Lesie standing with William de
la Marck’s head, which he brought on Durward’s behalf. Durward and Isabelle are
both pleased with the arrangement and end up married together happily ever
Durward and Isabelle. London, Dean & Munday, n.d.
The French Revolution of 1830:
Being a Succinct Account of the Tyrannical Attempt of Charles X. to Overturn the French
Constitution, Etc. [With a Plate.]. Dean & Munday, 1830.
Merz, Charles Andrew, and Frank Wright Tuttle. Quentin
Durward: a Dramatic Adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s Novel, in Three Acts
and Three Scenes.New
Haven, Yale University
Dramatic Association, 1914.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks
and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
Yonge, Charlotte M.
“Introduction.” Quentin Durward, by Sir Walter Scott. Boston, Ginn & Co, 1895.
The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over The Arabian Deserts, To the British Settlements in India; Containing, Among Other Particulars, An Account Of The Perils he experienced in those terrific Regions, The Eccentric Humours of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In The War With Hyder Ally, &c.
Dubiously attributed to Mary Anne Radcliffe when published in 1802, this chapbook tracks a captain’s journey across what’s east of England
The Sadleir-Black Collection edition of The Adventures of
Capt. Duncan wears its history well. Despite its age, the book has
maintained its blue cover, bound by a thick string. Frayed and whittled down on
the sides, the cover sheets are thinner and frailer than the sheets containing
the book’s text, perhaps indicating that the covers have borne the brunt of the
wear and tear. The exterior cover notes an extravagant number of salesmen
across England responsible for the publishing of the book. The interior cover
recognizes this edition as the premium printing copy of the story, costing an
additional three pence, up to a total of nine. That distinction, as a premium
publication, likely enabled the cover’s survival, as this edition supplied a
superior set of craftsmanship and materials.
With regards to the pages, The Adventures of Capt. Duncan
is relatively short. Even amongst these few pages, they are uneven, jetting
outward or inward, indicating some combination of both uneven page-cutting and
the wear of centuries. The pages themselves are brittle, dry, and yellowed, yet
firmer than the cover. When turning the pages, they tend to crunch a bit and
move with rigidity.
Following the initial pages that note the book’s publication
information, there is an illustration of Captain Duncan in his armor. This
serves as a frontispiece, with the inelaborate title The Adventures of Capt.
Duncan. On the very next page, the expansive title takes up a full page,
declaring The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over The
Arabian Deserts, To the British Settlements in India; Containing, Among Other
Particulars, An Account Of The Perils he experienced in those terrific Regions,
The Eccentric Humours of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In
The War With Hyder Ally, &c. This title uses an array of fonts, spacings,
and capitalizations on the page, ranging from robotic, direct fonts, to floral
and italicized fonts. On the cover, there is a similar mixing of fonts. There
are variations even among the spaces between the letters within words, as well
as the spacing between lines.
The rest of the book is not nearly as unique. The text itself is
fairly plain. There is little spacing between lines and a 1.5 to 2 centimeter
margin on the pages. The book is brief, at only thirty-six pages, in the style
of gothic chapbooks. The back cover of the book shares the same physical
qualities as the blue front cover: it is thin, fragile, and is more sparsely
populated with printed text.
The Adventures of Captain Duncan
was one of two installations in Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine
(Brown et al). The magazine’s publishers hoped the magazine would “contain an
elegant & chaste collection of Original Novels, Tales, Romances, Lives,
Memoirs, Voyages, Travels, &c. together with a judicious Selection from the
Writings of those Authors, whose works have in any degree excited public
notoriety” but after those first two issues, the project was abandoned (quoted
in Potter 64).
As a chapbook, The Adventures of Captain Duncan holds a
small place in the larger chapbook publishing landscape. From roughly the late
1790s to the early 1800s, Thomas Hurst published gothic chapbooks from his
office at 32 Paternoster Row. He was integral in many of the gothic chapbooks
published between 1798 and 1803, including The Adventures of Captain Duncan.
Hurst spearheaded the serial Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine,
and was also the exclusive seller in England, while the rest of the magazines
were sold in Scotland (Potter 64). Another gentleman, Thomas Brown, joined
Hurst in publishing Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine, as well as
The Marvelous Magazine (Potter 64–5).
As the eighteenth century turned to the nineteenth, chapbooks
were sold with practices that echo modern multi-level marketing schemes. The
primary distributor (Thomas Hurst, for example) would collect a group of
subordinates to sell the chapbooks, with the option to sell the books
individually or further distribute them to other sellers (Potter 67).
Booksellers’ advertisements in newspapers and such reveal an extensive network
of this wholesale distribution (Potter 67–8).
Mary Anne Radcliffe was billed as the writer, compiler, and
editor of Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine. Her name
immediately begets ambiguity with its similarities to the well-known Gothic
novelist Ann Radcliffe, but that is not where the issues end. Mary Anne
Radcliffe was certainly a real person. She was born Mary Clayton of Nottingham.
She was well educated, considering her status and gender (Brown et al). At the
mere age of fourteen, she married Joseph Radcliffe, giving her the fateful
Radcliffe name. Following her marriage, she dotted across England between
Edinburgh, London, and Nottingham (Brown et al). Mary Anne Radcliffe certainly
wrote as well. The works most clearly attributable to her are The Female
Advocate; or An Attempt to Recover the Rights of Women from Male Usurpation and
Memoirs … in Familiar Letters to Her Female Friend. Scholars have doubted
her other attributed works, however, which include an array of gothic novels as
well as translations of foreign novels (Brown et al).
Most modern scholarship focuses on Mary Anne Radcliffe’s larger
Gothic novels rather than her chapbooks, but they reveal a larger practice of
misattribution, where certain publishers attached Mary Anne Radcliffe’s name to
books in an attempt to sell more—relying on her proximity to Ann Radcliffe’s
name (Garside et al). Some of Mary Anne Radcliffe’s attributions are more
suspect than others. One such novel, Radzivil, was attributed to her
several years after publication. The Fate of Velina de Guidova, which is
a translation from Russian that is set in France, was attributed after an even
greater wait (Brown et al). Both novels focus on material entirely distinct
from The Female Advocate and point to a different author entirely (Brown
Radclife’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine
has fewer suspect circumstances but still exists within the context of those
other misattributions. The magazine correctly identifies Mary Anne Radcliffe’s
address and she was attributed at the time of publishing (Brown et al). Some modern
scholars are skeptical of Mary Anne Radcliffe being the true author or editor
of the pocket magazine, but it nevertheless holds a sharper connection than her
other attributions (Garside et al). Whether Mary Anne Radcliffe truly wrote and
edited for the magazine or someone else did, The Adventures of Captain
Duncan remains a valuable part of the history of chapbooks in England.
Point of View
The Adventures of Captain Duncan
switches between an unidentified third-person narrator and the first-person
narration of Captain Duncan, through what appears to be a set of direct
statements from Duncan. The third-person narrator functions as an interpreter
of those notes. Both styles delve into the captain’s emotions, but his
first-person interjections serve as sharper confirmations of the preceding
paraphrases of the narrator.
As the Captain became familiarised to his Tartar guide, he found him a fellow of infinite humour and much humanity, well acquainted with the world, and endeavoring all he could to alleviate the gloom that frequently clouded his countenance. One principal object with him seemed to be to impress the Captain with an idea of his high importance as a messenger belonging to the Sultan, and that his authority wherever he came was not to be disputed. “ Thus,” says Capt. Duncan, “ whenever we stopped at a Caravansera, he immediately called about him, in the name of the Sultan, for fresh horses, victuals, &c. And though the utmost submission was shown to his will, he nevertheless frequently exhibited his muscular powers by unmercifully belaboring all indiscriminately with his whip, and I was afraid to interfere, fearful that he might think it necessary to give me a flogging to avoid suspicion.” (15)
These two modes of narration function within the larger
historical implications of The Adventures of Captain Duncan, an
international story that has the power to shape English understandings of lands
and cultures beyond England. The reports of Captain Duncan thus operate as a
historical primary source within this fictional text. This adds a sense of
realism, because it seems as though these could be the words of a real man, who
had a real story, who is being studied by a real person. Additionally, several
times throughout the book, there are extended passages explaining local
customs, none more prominently than when the text explains that during Hajj, in
Mecca, the worshippers “enter the former [Masjid al-Haram], and, walking seven
times round the little building contained within it, say, ‘This is the house of
God and of his servant Abraham’” (10–11). These insights into other cultures
gain veracity the same way Captain Duncan’s own story does: through the book’s
presentation of his journals as a primary source within the narration.
Captain Duncan’s journey begins as any journey does: with a
departure. In May 1781, he receives word that he must go to India to help sort
out his father’s affairs. Duncan leaves his spouse and two daughters in
England. Rather than directly sail around the Cape of Good Hope, he travels
over land, across Europe and the Middle East en route to India. He dots between
European cities like Brussels, Venice, and Augsburg. In Augsburg, Duncan finds
himself in a church when a friar indulges him in drink, issuing vague religious
proclamations about his journey. The friar is welcoming, joyful, and telling
stories that keep Duncan enthralled before continuing his journey.
He reaches a fork in the road at Venice, deciding whether to travel directly through Syria or through Egypt. After opting for a boat ride to Egypt, he meets a young English woman he hopes to bring with him to India, but her guardian stops his pursuits. When he lands in Alexandria, he still heads through Syria, taking his longest stop at Aleppo. His journey is largely defined by the different British people he meets along his travels, and Aleppo is no different. Those expatriates offer comfort, refuge, and rescue to Duncan throughout his trek. He connects with a large, traveling caravan going towards Mecca; one large enough to withstand bands of robbers along their path. It eventually links up with a few more caravans, each boasting legions of soldiers and beasts to fortify their trip.
Once he reaches Mecca, he meets yet another woman who wants to run away, this one suffering in the clutches of an older husband. With their plan hatched, Captain Duncan is quite prepared to sneak away, but the British Consul hears of this scheme and shuts it down. Duncan even faces local legal trouble resultant from his infringement upon a legal marriage, but the Consul smuggles him out of town with a Turkish guide.
The captain quickly irritates the overbearing guide with his mocking of the guide’s sense of seriousness and superiority, leading to some scuffles over horses and such. He specifically objects further when the guide traffics several women via their traveling party, but to no avail. They eventually reach Mosul, where their partnership ends and the captain links up with an Armenian merchant to assist him in his travels. The merchant brings him to the last leg of his journey, where he boards a ship to take him to India.
However, calamity strikes and they misjudge the monsoon patterns of the waterway and condemn their ship to ruin. Despite battling the waters and waves, the ship collapses when a hurricane forms and the crewmates subsequently drift across the sea. They wash ashore at Hydernagur, where Indian locals, who do not take kindly to British colonizers, capture them.
When leader Hyder Ally finds out that Captain Duncan is the son of the renowned Colonel Duncan, he wishes to turn Captain Duncan to his side in the war. At first, it comes in bribes, where Hyder offers men and money, but it later comes in threats, where Hyder’s men temporarily hang and torture Captain Duncan, before eventually conceding.
Duncan has a British companion in these troubles, one Mr. Wall.
Mr. Wall came on this journey out of financial necessity; he was in love with a
woman, and his previously wealthy father had wasted his riches on some poor
investments, leaving him destitute and unable to wed. He came to India to try
to recoup some wealth, enough to get married. But Mr. Wall never returns to
England and dies in Hydernagur, shackled at the feet to the still-living
There is still another English expatriate, however, for General
Matthews marched into town to save Captain Duncan from his captors. After
gaining freedom, Duncan enlists as a negotiator between British and Jemadar
forces, who are an independent sect of forces who revolted from Hyder Ally’s
son, Tippoo Sahib. The British military wants Jemadar’s support to help gain a
valuable garrison to fight back against Sahib. Successful in these
negotiations, Captain Duncan continues on his journey, moving farther across
India before even venturing out to China. He finally returns to England some
three and a half years later.
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, eds. “Mary Ann Radcliffe: Writing.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. http://orlando.cambridge.org 3 November 2021.
P. D. Garside, with J. E. Belanger, A. A. Mandal, and S. A. Ragaz. “The English Novel, 1800–1829: Update 4 (June 2003–August 2003).” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 12 (Summer 2004). http://www.romtext.org.uk/reports/engnov4/ 3 November 2021.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and
Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830,
University of Wales Press, 2021.
Radcliffe, Mary Anne. The Adventures of Captain Duncan.
London, Hurst, 1802.
A tale of romance, resentment, and revenge, this 1804 chapbook tells the story of a noble family living in France as one brother’s evil corrupts the lives of those around him.
Maximilian and Selina, Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale can be found in two collections in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. One copy is bound inside the collection Marvellous Magazine (volume III). Pencil notes (perhaps from Sadleir himself) on the inside cover of this copy indicate that this story can also be found in a volume called The Entertainer I, also in the Sadleir-Black Collection.
The printing of Maximilian and Selina bound in The Entertainer appears identical to the version bound in Marvellous Magazine; both sharethe same frontispiece and title page. The frontispiece shows a scene in which a man is being pushed out of a tower by someone else, while a woman watches in horror from behind. Each copy of Maximilian and Selina was published by Tegg and Castleman, but no author is indicated in either volume.
Marvellous Magazine appears very old and worn; the cover and first page are entirely detached from the rest of the book. The binding is plain and cracked. The cover is spotted leather with decorative swirling gold patterning on the spine and gold dots around the edge of the binding. The paper is medium- to lightweight and yellowed, displaying relatively small text. Before each story in the collection appears a black and white frontispiece illustrating a scene from the following pages. The entire book is 512 pages long and contains seven stories: six are exactly seventy-two pages long (including Maximilian and Selina), and one is eighty. The book is rather small, measuring only 4.3 x 10.4 x 18.1 cm.
Maximilian and Selina is available in several different editions at the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. The copies in the larger volumes The Entertainer and Marvellous Magazine are identical and will be discussed first. The story was first printed in 1804 for Tegg & Castleman. Thomas Tegg was a well-known printer who lived from 1776 to 1846. According to an obituary, the bookseller struggled in his childhood and early career, but he eventually established his own successful business and began to amass his fortune printing, buying, and selling books. He was elected Sheriff of London in 1846 but did not serve in that position due to failing health. After his death, his sons continued in their father’s path. Interestingly, Tegg’s youngest son was so stricken with grief at his father’s death that he died as well shortly after, and their bodies were buried in the family plot together on the same day (The Gentleman’s Magazine 650). There is an intriguing (albeit unintended) parallel in Maximilian and Selina: the Duke of Anjou arrives at the convent just as the death knell tolls for his daughter, and he immediately dies of the shock. Their bodies are carried back to the chateau together, where the sight of his dead father and sister drive Godfrey to madness.
The 1804 version of Maximilian and Selina is available within multiple collections of stories. The two held by the University of Virginia are Marvellous Magazine and The Entertainer. Maximilian and Selina appears identical in both volumes, with the same title page and frontispiece. The other printing is for Dean & Munday in 1820. The edition printed by Dean & Munday that is housed at the University of Virginia Library is disbound and has significant brown spotting on the title page. It looks similar to the Tegg & Castleman version, but the publishing information is different and the frontispiece is in color. Also, it is only thirty-six pages instead of seventy-two. The shorter length is because this version is an abridged version of the 1804 edition. The overall plot is similar but most of the frame narrative has been cut out, several characters are entirely deleted, the sequence in which the reader learns about events is different, and in abridging the text many plot points are deleted in a confusing way, without any transitions being added. The Dean & Munday printing has a catalogue slip in it which gives some basic publishing information, a description of the physical object, and part of an assessment by scholar Frederick Frank: “A confusing patchwork of obscure and opaque plots … Complexity and lucidity are not necessarily incompatible elements of style in horror fiction, but in this chapbook, the style is so dense as to render even the basic facts of the story a matter of hazardous speculation” (The First Gothics 233). The explanation on the slip for the frontispiece does not relate to the story. The scene shown is Edward pushing Godfrey out of the tower while Elgiva screams in horror, but the slip describes “ruffians throwing a screaming boy from the top of a tower.”
Another incorrect description of the frontispiece is found in Frederick Frank’s article “Gothic Gold.” The year and publishing information match the Tegg & Castleman version, but the article says that the chapbook is thirty-six pages, like the Dean & Munday printing. The frontispiece is shown in black and white above a brief description of the book: “About to be hurled from the turret by his malicious brother, Adolphus de Monvel, Maximilian’s doom seems sealed as a pathetic mother figure murmurs an ineffectual prayer unheard in the fallen and godless universe. The scene is the chapbook’s initial spectacular incident in a series of unremitting crises” (“Gothic Gold” 309). This description mentions real characters from the story, but neither Adolphus nor Maximilian were a part of this scene, and the female figure is most likely Elgiva, Godfrey’s wife. This is also one of the last events in the chapbook, not the first.
Frank gives another critical synopsis of Maximilian and Selina in his book The First Gothics. It lists the publishing information of the unabridged 1804 version. However, this synopsis also contradicts the events of both versions of the chapbook (the Tegg & Castleman printing, and the abridged one for Dean & Munday). It is also different than the description given for the frontispiece in Frank’s “Gothic Gold.” In The First Gothics, the frontispiece is said to show ruffians throwing Godfrey off a tower, instead of Maximilian being thrown by de Monvel, his “brother.” This synopsis covers the rest of the chapbook, with references to real characters and similar plot points, but multiple inaccuracies which completely change the story.
Maximilian and Selina is mentioned more briefly in several other scholarly works (Potter History of Gothic Publishing 75, Mayo 551, Hoeveler). Mayo explains that Marvellous Magazine and similar anthologies generally featured stories of a specified length. For example, the volume of Marvellous Magazine containing Maximilian and Selina contains stories all seventy-two pages in length, save one exception. This length limit often resulted in the butchering of Gothic classics as they were edited and amended to reach a precise page count (Mayo 367). This is one possibility to account for the incoherency of the shorter Dean & Munday printing compared to the original, which was twice as long.
Narrative Point of View
The main story within Maximilian and Selina is narrated by Maximilian, the Abbott, as he recounts his life to Sancho Orlando. He uses first-person narration which focuses on his own thoughts and feelings as the plot progresses. Since Maximilian is older when he is telling this story, he occasionally inserts future knowledge. Part of the story is the packet that Maximilian wrote based on Nerina’s deathbed explanation. This part is told in the third person, with a somewhat omniscient narrator. The final section is the tale told by Guiscardo to Sancho, in first-person narration from Guiscardo’s point of view. The language is similar in all three: archaic and formal. The packet is perhaps a bit more flowery in its prose than the oral stories.
To discover who this was, became at length the predominant desire of my soul, since, could I but confront him, I knew my innocence must triumph; but where to seek for information, which Selina only could give, and had refused, almost to distraction. At length a light seemed to break on my bewildered senses, and I fancied the whole discovery lay clear before me. On revolving the whole affair, as stated by the Duke, I was forcibly struck with that part where Selina charged me with neglect during her father’s absence; at the same time praising the kindness of her eldest brother, by whose attention she was wholly sustained, whilst Edward and myself chose to amuse ourselves apart. I had once been told by Edward, that Godfrey was my foe, and I now believed it; he alone could have poisoned his sister’s mind against me, and made her notice, a long past and seemingly forgotten act of prudence, as a want of affection for her, —Wild as this idea was, it became conclusive, and I madly formed the resolution of following the Duke and his son, and of accusing the latter. (28)
This paragraph is from the section narrated in Maximilian’s point of view. By describing his past self’s inner thoughts about Selina’s change of heart, Maximilian emphasizes his own perspective. At the time, Maximilian did not have any doubts about his conviction that Godfrey was sabotaging his relationship with Selina, which is why he rashly rode out into the night to follow him. However, now knowing that it was Edward who really betrayed him, he uses words including “I fancied,” “wild,” and “madly.” The narrator’s hindsight creates the feeling of an omniscient point of view, even though it is simply Maximilian in the future, narrating retrospectively.
The story begins with a wise old abbot named Maximilian. A Spanish knight named Sancho Orlando comes to seek his advice after killing his friend in single combat. After the Abbot listens to his story, he assures the knight that his friend’s death was not his fault, and that he has no need for such guilt. The knight asks the Abbot how he came to be a monk, and the body of the tale is what the Abbot tells Sancho in reply.
Godfrey, Duke of Anjou, is a kind and generous nobleman visiting his chateau in the countryside with his children. Maximilian is the same age at that point as the Duke’s younger son, Edward, and because his uncle, the prior at a local convent, is close friends with the Duke, Maximilian spends a lot of time with his children. Godfrey, the Duke’s elder son, is friendly, noble, and admirable, while Edward is horrible, jealous, and cruel, but Maximilian does not notice Edward’s faults until too late because of their friendship. Selina, the Duke’s daughter, is beautiful and kind, and Maximilian falls in love with her, but Edward is the only one who knows of their relationship.
Three years later, the Duke leaves the chateau to visit a dear friend on his deathbed. While he is gone Godfrey is in charge, and Edward advises his friend not to let Godfrey see him with Selina, since he would disapprove. When the Duke returns, he is accompanied by Elgiva de Valmont, his friend’s daughter, who is now his ward. She is even more beautiful than Selina, with whom she becomes close friends. Maximilian’s heart already belongs to Selina, but the two brothers compete fiercely for Elgiva’s affections. Godfrey proposes to Maximilian and Edward that they should all stop pursuing her, since over time without the pressure of their attention she would form her own opinion of which brother she loved. Edward agrees readily.
A few weeks pass in relative peace. Edward asks Maximilian to find out from Selina whether Elgiva prefers him or his brother, but Maximilian refuses because that would be dishonorable when Edward had already agreed to Godfrey’s proposal. Soon after, Maximilian realizes that since no one is aware of his love for Selina, she could be courted by other suitors, and decides to ask his uncle to speak with the Duke. It is decided by his uncle and the Duke that Selina should be promised in marriage to him in several years, if they still love each other, since they are so young to make such a commitment. Maximilian is overjoyed with this outcome. Godfrey is also happy about his sister and Maximilian’s union, meaning that Edward had lied about his disapproval.
Maximilian speaks with Edward while walking home. Edward believes that Godfrey has broken their agreement and said something to Elgiva to turn her against him, but Maximilian does not think he would do that. Edward is distraught and wishes to do something to repair Elgiva’s opinion of him, but Maximilian advises him to keep his distance and not to act rashly. After this conversation, Maximilian is troubled by the situation and his friend’s conduct.
Soon after, the Duke invites Maximilian to come to his other chateau with his family, but just before they leave, Maximilian’s uncle falls ill so he stays behind. The plan is for Maximilian to spend a month with the Duke’s family at the chateau as soon as his uncle recovers, to visit his father’s estate to settle some affairs, then return to the chateau.
When she must leave without him, both Maximilian and Selina are distraught. He takes care of his uncle for over two months, then departs to join them at the chateau. However, Selina is not happy to see him. She says that she has changed her mind after so much time apart; that she has forgiven him, but they should be friends. Maximilian leaves, troubled, and speaks with Edward. He discovers that while he was away, a suitor named de Monvel visited Selina, so Maximilian asks her about him. She insists that she has loved only Maximilian, but that she cannot forgive his perjury. He is confused because he has only been faithful. Maximilian goes to his paternal home as he had planned, where he is soon visited by a stranger, Adolphus de Monvel. Adolphus had come to him to find out if he had broken his engagement to Selina, which he vehemently denies. Adolphus easily accepts this, and leaves.
Now, king Philip of France is preparing to marry, so the Duke and Godfrey go to court for the wedding. Maximilian receives a letter from the Duke saying that Selina is angry with him because she was under the impression that he was gone so long because he was in love with a peasant girl and had eloped with her. She refused to tell anyone where she heard this, but the Duke asks Maximilian to return to the chateau in a month so they can explain the truth. Maximilian convinces himself that it was Godfrey who turned Selina against him, so he goes to court to confront him. He challenges Godfrey to single combat, but Godfrey refuses the fight without due cause. The two men scuffle, and Godfrey stabs Maximilian in the chest.
Maximilian wakes up in bed in the Duke’s apartments at court, where he finds out that the Duke and Godfrey have hastened to the country on account of important news. He is worried because he has no idea what has happened. Godfrey visits while Maximilian is recovering and the two reunite as friends with all forgiven. He lies about the news that made them leave, and Maximilian later finds out that they had really received word from Edward that Selina had disappeared but they hid it from him so his anxiety would not impede his recovery. Shortly after Godfrey’s visit, they find out that Selina had run away to join a convent, in secret because she knew her father would disapprove. Now she is seriously ill and has asked the nuns at the convent to notify her father so that he could see and forgive her before she dies. The Duke, Edward, and Elgiva set out for the convent while Godfrey is still out searching for his sister, but they arrive just after she dies. The Duke immediately dies as well from grief. Godfrey is plunged into madness when he arrives back at the chateau at the precise moment when a procession is carrying the bodies of his sister and father through the gates. It is presumed that Edward and Elgiva will marry, and that Edward will become duke since the older son is indisposed.
Elgiva remarks once that Selina had died because of “hypocrisy,” so Maximilian is set upon exacting revenge upon whoever was responsible (33). He visits the chateau to question Elgiva privately, but Edward spends the whole day with Maximilian so he does not have the chance to speak with her alone. After speaking with his uncle, he decides to join the Christian army on their crusades, and he is renewed by his conviction. He fights successfully with many other knights, crusading from Constantinople from Jerusalem. They lay siege to Jerusalem and defeat the city. After the crusades are over, he joins an organization called the knights of Saint John and spends twelve years in Jerusalem.
One day, he sees a man dressed as a pilgrim being dragged to the church to perform devotions and realizes that it is Edward. Edward confesses that he has committed heinous crimes including murder and is now trying to atone for his sins. His wife is living, but she is now the mistress of king Philip. Elgiva married Godfrey, but she has died, and Edward refuses to explain further. He remains in Jerusalem for some time, and Maximilian manages to piece together some of the story. Godfrey had regained his sanity and married Elgiva, but they both died and left Edward as the guardian of their child. Edward had married a noblewoman and they had a son, but she left him to become the concubine of king Philip.
Edward leaves Jerusalem without saying goodbye. Several years later, Maximilian returns to France on business for the knights of Saint John. While there, he decides to visit the duke’s old chateau, where he finds only servants. They tell him that Edward had been dead for some time, and that his son (now the Duke) was in the country with his wife. Maximilian is confused, because he had heard from Edward that Godfrey had left an heir to the title. A few days later Edward’s son comes to visit Maximilian, saying that he had heard that someone had come to the chateau looking for his father. The new Duke explains that Godfrey had a daughter, but she had descended into madness and died, so he was now the lawful successor. Maximilian then accompanies him to his palace to meet the duchess and stays with them for a month.
Late one night, a woman knocks on his door, requesting that he come to give religious comfort to a dying servant until a confessor can arrive from a distant convent. The dying woman recognizes him as Selina’s lover because she is Nerina, Elgiva’s old servant. She tells him about Edward and Selina’s past, and Maximilian writes all of it down in a packet when he returns to his room. She dies the next morning before he can speak with her again. He learned from her that Godfrey’s daughter (named Elgiva, after her mother) was alive and well, and certainly not an imbecile as the Duke had told him. The Duke had illegally married her (his cousin) but because of their close relation it was not an official union, and he had no claim to the estate unless she died.
When the Duke enters the room, Maximilian horrifies him by immediately asking where he had hidden Elgiva. The Duke begs Maximilian not to expose him, saying that he had fallen in love with his cousin, and they had married in secret. He had been planning on suing for a dispensation and met his current wife while on his way to do so. He fell in love with her and proposed, instead of returning to Elgiva. When he broke off his engagement with her, she went insane and died of a broken heart. Maximilian pronounces him guilty of her murder, and they agree upon appropriate penance for him to perform in exchange for Maximilian’s silence. Maximilian leaves the Duke and Duchess to visit his uncle’s old convent, where he decides to join the brothers. When the prior dies two years later, Maximilian succeeds him.
Maximilian then decides to return to the chateau to find out from Nerina’s brother Conrad, the servant in charge of its care, what truly happened to Elgiva. Conrad relates that after her parents died, Edward had raised Elgiva in ignorance of her right to the estates so that she would believe that she was dependent upon him. Therefore, Nerina and Conrad did as much as they could to advance her marriage to Edward’s son, the current Duke, believing that this was the only way in which she could claim her birthright. Nerina passed away while recovering from a broken leg and when Elgiva heard the news, she went mad with grief and died. Maximilian is convinced, because Conrad has confirmed the Duke’s story.
After finishing his story, the Abbot tells Sancho that even all these years later justice can still prevail, so he plans to tell the king the whole story. He gives Sancho the packet he wrote after Nerina’s deathbed explanation containing everything that happened to him, asking Sancho to read it then come back to visit him. The Abbot believes that Elgiva is alive, and that she may now receive her rightful inheritance when the matter comes to light. Sancho takes the packet home and in it he reads the story of Maximilian and Selina once more, starting from the point where Selina, Edward, Elgiva, Godfrey, and the former Duke all left for a different chateau without Maximilian. Here, the point of view stays with Maximilian, but it’s based on his written packet, no longer on his conversation with the knight.
The family is all together at the chateau. Selina mourns Maximilian’s absence, but she cheers up in a few days. Adolphus de Monvel visits and is instantly attracted to Selina, who is completely unaware. When he confesses his feelings to her, she is flattered that he chose her over the more beautiful Elgiva, but gently denies him. However, Adolphus takes her mild denial as encouragement and continues to pursue her. The second time that he declares his affections, she tells him about her engagement. Edward overhears this and does his best to convince his sister that Maximilian is being unfaithful. He tells Selina that Maximilian has run off with a peasant girl, and she is incredibly upset. The Duke resolves to have the matter investigated, which Edward knows would expose his lies, but he does not have a chance to look into it before he and Godfrey leave for the king’s wedding. Edward hears Elgiva trying to convince Selina not to become a nun and he realizes that this would be very advantageous for him, so he persuades her over time to run away and join a convent without telling their father and helps her leave the chateau unnoticed.
Once she reaches the convent, Selina falls ill from distress since she knows that she has caused her family worry. When she explains her situation to the nuns and asks for their help, the abbess sends a messenger to the chateau to inform the Duke of his daughter’s whereabouts and her regret. He immediately sets out to see her with Elgiva and Edward. Selina writes a letter to Elgiva explaining everything and asking her to beg the Duke to forgive her. Selina and the Duke both die, and Godfrey goes mad with grief. However, after ten years he recovers and marries Elgiva. Edward is bitter and upset because he has lost his chance to have everything he wanted. Elgiva and Godfrey live happily together in the chateau with Edward and Elgiva gives birth to their daughter. One day in a rage while Elgiva and Godfrey are on a walk, Edward attempts to murder the couple. When Godfrey discovers him, Edward begs his brother to kill him, but Godfrey says that he forgives Edward and they all return to the chateau. However, Edward is even more upset by their kindness. He plans on joining the army and prepares to leave.
One night, the three of them are sitting by a window when the two brothers decide to climb a tower for a better view. When they reach the top, Edward pushes his brother off the battlements. Elgiva dies of shock when she sees his corpse. Edward is left as the guardian to the young Elgiva and marries the Duchess. After his wife leaves him for the king, he becomes penitent, and he suffers much in the name of atonement. Eventually, he passes away, still trying to pay for his sins.
After he reads the packet, Sancho is travelling when he sees his friend Guiscardo sitting by a forest, deeply upset. Guiscardo tells Sancho that he is upset because he is now a criminal and explains why. Guiscardo and his wife Maddalena visited one of Guiscardo’s castles for a reprieve but when they arrived the servants said that the new inhabitant of the neighboring property, an Italian named Prince Appiani, was infringing upon Guiscardo’s land and treating Guiscardo’s servants horribly. Soon, Appiani sent a letter apologizing for his conduct and promising to visit the next day. In person, the prince was apologetic, kind, and charming, but Maddalena seemed distressed by his visits, although she was unsure why. One day while Guiscardo was out riding with Appiani, a group of masked men come to the castle and kidnap Maddalena. Guiscardo believes that they were hired by Appiani, so he rushes into the prince’s castle and draws his sword. The prince denies any involvement and orders his servants to search for her. The two men leave together to look for her, but they are unsuccessful.
One morning a stranger comes to see Guiscardo, saying that a woman had given him a letter to deliver to Guiscardo. It is from Maddalena, telling her husband that she plans to kill herself with opium but wanted Guiscardo to know that she was imprisoned in Appiani’s castle and that the prince was the one who kidnapped her. Guiscardo immediately goes to Appiani’s castle and stabs him while he sleeps. However, Guiscardo is now consumed with guilt over having killed a helpless man. Sancho promises that after he returns from a pilgrimage, he will speak with the Pope to obtain absolution for his friend.
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——. “Gothic Gold: The Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, vol. 26, 1997, pp. 287–312.
Hoeveler, Diane Long. The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880. University of Wales Press, 2014.
Maximilian and Selina: Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale. London, Tegg & Castleman, 1804.
Mayo, Robert Donald. The English Novel In the Magazines, 1740–1815: With a Catalogue of 1375 Magazine Novels And Novelettes. Northwestern University Press, 1962.
Potter, Franz J. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. Macmillan UK, 2005.
——. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
“Thomas Tegg.” Collections Online | British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG48140.
“Thomas Tegg, Esq.” The Gentleman’s Magazine: and historical review. June 1846: 650.
Isaac Crookenden’s 1805 chapbook tells a tale of betrayal, terror, and romance. The shocking discovery of a skeleton in a castle dungeon is just one of its many twists.
This copy of The Skeleton; or, Mysterious Discovery, A Gothic Romance by Isaac Crookenden is a small collection of brittle and yellowed pages, delicately held together with a bit of thread and paste. The chapbook lacks binding, and the pages could potentially have been ripped from a larger volume containing an assortment of tales. Assembling these smaller stories into larger volumes was common practice at the time.
In its present state,The Skeleton resembles a small pamphlet. The book and its pages have a width of 9.5 centimeters and a height of 17.75 centimeters. In its entirety, the book consists of 38 pages, including a blank cover page, a page containing an illustrated frontispiece, an official title page, another blank page, and two pages reserved for an author’s introduction.
This version of the text was published in London in 1805. It was printed and published by A. Neil at the Sommers Town Printing Office. The address of the office is listed as No. 30 Chalton Street. The title page notes that the story is sold by “all other booksellers” as well as Sommers Town. On the book’s title page, the price is listed to be six-pence—fairly cheap for its time.
Currently, this copy has a card indicating the University of Virginia’s possession and ownership of the text attached to the blank first page that was likely added in the 1930s or 40s. This card indicates that the book was presented by Robert K. Black. The notecard also has a handwritten inscription indicating that the text has been microfilmed.
Following the blank first page with this card
is the second page containing a detailed frontispiece illustration of a man
standing in an elegant stone hall holding an open flame. His face expresses
shock as the flame illuminates a skeleton. Beneath the illustration is the text
“Adolphus discovers the Skeleton of the Baron de Morfield” as well as
publication information and attribution for the artwork. This is certainly the
biggest artwork included in the text; however, on page 6, there is a small
image of a rose to signify the end of the introduction.
There is no shortage of unique defects to the
text, making it one of a kind. Because of the lack of binding and seemingly
careless way it was removed from its original bound copy, the text is held
together loosely. The first ten pages are especially fragile and could easily
be separated from the rest. There is a small rip midway down the first blank
cover page. There are small stains throughout, but most noticeably on the
bottom of page 35 there is a dark splotch on the page with unknown origins. The
ink for the printed text has faded considerably in some parts of the book.
As well as defects,
there are other intentional printed indicators of the book’s era. There are
various letter/number combinations along the bottom of certain pages called
signature marks, indicating the proper folding of the paper for the printer.
They are as follows: A on page 3, B on page 15, B3 on page 19, C on page 27,
and C3 on page 21. The book may be considered difficult to read to a modern
reader on account of the printer’s use of the long S in which “s” look like
The Skeleton is a gothic chapbook written by Isaac
Crookenden. An edition of the chapbook is currently in the University of
Virginia’s Special Collections Library as a part of the Sadleir-Black
Collection of Gothic Fiction, where it was received as a gift. This chapbook
was published by A. Neil in 1805 and it originally sold for six-pence at a
variety of booksellers. This edition of the chapbook was published at the
Sommers Town Printing Office at No. 30 Chalton Street in London, near the
Crookenden was born
in 1777 in Itchenor, a village in West Sussex, England, as the youngest of nine
children. His father was a shipbuilder who experienced bankruptcy. Crookenden
overcame a presumably impoverished childhood to marry Elizabeth Pelham Fillery
in 1798, and had a son, Adolphus, in 1800. His educational experience is
alluded to in The Skeleton’s title page, on which he describes
himself as the “Late assistant at Mr. Adams’ Academy in Chichester.”
Crookenden’s status as a former schoolmaster indicates he was educated enough
to educate others. Franz Potter hypothesizes that perhaps he advertised his
former position as an educator in The
Skeleton to heighten the shock and scandal of his work—that someone
associated with children could conceive the horrors in the tale (71–2).
Crookenden published the chapbook Berthinia,
or, The Fair Spaniard in 1802, and nine other publications of the same
variety are known. His main genre was gothic, though he experimented with a
more purely romantic approach in 1808’s Venus
on Earth (Baines). While some of his works were published as late as 1824,
Crookenden died in Rotherhithe, Surrey in 1809 at just thirty-two (Potter 72).
Crookenden had an infamous reputation as one of the most prolific plagiarizing writers of the gothic genre. Frederick S. Frank describes Crookenden as “probably the most notorious counterfeiter of legitimate Gothic Novels” (“Gothic Romance” 59). His name is often mentioned alongside Sarah Wilkinson’s, and both authors have been said by Frank to pursue “lucrative careers of Gothic counterfeiting.” (“Gothic Chapbooks” 142). It should then come as no surprise that The Skeleton has no shortage of similarities to a gothic novel published in 1798 called The Animated Skeleton. While the author of the original work is unknown, Crookenden’s rendition of the story includes many borrowed plot points and thematic resemblances, mainly the discovery of a skeleton to incite terror. The key difference comes from the distinct castle settings and character names, as well as the fact that in The Animated Skeleton, the skeleton’s reanimation is found to be mechanized, whereas in Crookenden’s iteration, the skeleton is of a more supernatural variety (Potter 72). Frank notes that “Crookenden plundered the plot from The Animated Skeleton” (“Gothic Gold” 19). Frank, in a separate instance, also notes that The Skeleton “proves to be a refabrication of the anonymous Animated Skeleton of 1798 together with bits and pieces of the author’s extensive Gothic gleanings” (“Gothic Romance” 59)
WorldCat lists four
copies of the chapbook around the world, each with the same publication date of
1805. Along with the University of Virginia’s copy in Charlottesville,
Virginia, The Skeleton can be found
in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC in the Rare Book/Special
Collections Reading Room. The University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library’s Weston
Stacks in Oxford, United Kingdom holds a copy of the chapbook as well. The
Bodleian’s library catalog describes the binding as “sprinkled sheep” and
indicates that it is bound with seven other items. The Monash University
Library in Clayton, Australia holds the fourth and final of the catalogued
copies of The Skeleton.
Narrative Point of View
The Skeleton is mostly narrated in the third person, with
brief, occasional interjections of first-person narration providing commentary
on the actions or events taking place in the chapbook. The introduction is a
note to the reader in the latter style, condemning critics that call gothic
romance unrealistic and directly warning the reader not to judge a book by its
cover. Though the narrator often uses “we” when referring to their subjective
thoughts, the introduction is signed “Your humble servant, The AUTHOR.” The
story and action are presented in the third person, however, and the narrator
makes abundant use of commas, dashes, and semicolons to present a unique voice.
Letters are also included in the story, presented as written by the characters
within the chapbook.
Almira now observed two horsemen issue from the wood, and as they directed their course towards her, she soon discovered them to be hunters. As they approached nearer, she retired towards the cottage; when the foremost of them sprung off his horse, and coming up to her, “I hope, Madam,” said he, bowing, “I have not disturbed your meditations at this serene and tranquil hour.” While he was speaking, Almira had leisure to observe his dignified deportment, his engaging and affable manners, and his polite address. His full, dark, expressive eye spoke a language which Almira’s hear instantly interpreted, and which on discovering, she cast her’s on the ground. — To keep the reader no longer in suspense, this young man was no other than Rotaldo; and his attendant was the individual– we wish we could add, the virtuous– Maurice. (17)
This style of narration evokes the feeling of
being told a story by an unknown but still familiar voice. Because of certain
story elements including the castles, romance, and suspense in the chapbook,
this narration can resemble the style in which one tells a child a bedtime
story. The prolonged and choppy sentence structure with the variety of
punctuation could be read as mimicking an oral form of storytelling. The
interjected claims and commentary with the plural “we” serve to liven up the
story and engage the reader, providing breaks to clarify or emphasize
characterizations or actions that may seem less clear due to the brevity of a
chapbook. For example, because Maurice’s villainous nature is not able to be
developed over many pages in The
Skeleton, the narrator makes
sure to clearly telegraph his lack of virtue in the above paragraph. This
narration style makes the writing feel less stiff, and thus it has aged more
gracefully than some of its blander contemporaries.
On a stormy night, Lord Ellmont resides in
his castle with his two children. Lord Ellmont is a former warrior, now
committed to domesticity after nobly defending his castle for many years. His
twenty-two-year-old son, Rotaldo, embodies masculinity with a perfect heart,
while his seventeen-year-old daughter Elenora is described at length as
incredibly beautiful. The castle is located in Scotland and consists of a blend
of many different styles and forms of architecture. Though Lady Ellmont died in
childbirth, the castle always seems full on the birthdays of both children, and
it is a mirthful affair when Rotaldo’s birthday arrives.
At the base of the mountain that the castle
sits upon is the home of the peasant Viburn. He has a twenty-year-old son named
Adolphus who has heart as well as temper. One day, Rotaldo asks Adolphus to be
his sporting companion, but Adolphus mysteriously declines, hurting Rotaldo’s
feelings. Rotaldo still wishes for a friend and thinks he finds one in the form
of Maurice, an ugly and deceptive older peasant. Maurice is quickly taken by
Elenora’s beauty, but he fears he will be rejected by her or her family because
of his status. It is implied that his attraction to her is not entirely pure,
and he develops an unhealthy lust for her.
In a valley further from the castle is the
cottage of Volcome, an old peasant with only one surviving child. He was once
rich and of nobility but his family fell upon difficult times, and he was
exploited. He believes his brother was murdered under mysterious circumstances
long ago, and his sister-in-law died while giving birth to a nephew he never
got to meet. His wife also died, leaving him in charge of his
seventeen-year-old daughter Almira, who is described as beautiful as she is
innocent. One day, Rotaldo and Maurice come across their cottage and introduce
themselves while riding horses. Rotaldo is deep in thought riding back from
their cottage when a storm disturbs his horse and nearly flings him off a
cliff. A stranger appears and stops the horse, harming himself in the process.
The benevolent savior is revealed to be Adolphus, who Rotaldo invites back to
the castle to be treated for his injuries. However, Maurice fears Adolphus as
competition for Elenora. Adolphus says he declined Rotaldo’s earlier attempt at
companionship because he must tend to his parents, which Rotaldo dismisses and
graciously offers Adolphus and his family the castle and any assistance they
Adolphus and Elenora instantly connect, while
Rotaldo is overcome with passion for Almira and writes her a love letter.
Elenora receives a proposal from the miserable Baron de Morfield, but her
father knows she would be unhappy with him and declines on her behalf. Almira
receives Rotaldo’s letter and soon receives a visit from Rotaldo himself as
they confess their love. He visits her often, but one day he is returning to
the castle from her cottage when an assassin shoots at him. Rotaldo swiftly
draws his sword and fells the assassin who is revealed to be Maurice. Maurice
expresses remorse for his treachery and gives a cryptic warning about his plans
Returning home, Rotaldo finds his family in
distress. Adolphus has been captured and taken by enemies in the night by the
Baron de Morfield, and is imprisoned in a dungeon. As Adolphus ponders why he
deserves this fate, the narrator reveals the villainous motives of Maurice and
the Baron. It is revealed that Maurice planned to force himself upon Elenora
and then propose an elopement to save her honor. However, Adolphus overheard
this proposal and intervened. Maurice begged for forgiveness and Elenora found
him deserving; Adolphus, however, was less understanding. Maurice later swore
vengeance upon Adolphus, informing the Baron de Morfield that Elenora scorned
him for Adolphus. Maurice then forged a letter in Adolphus’s hand stating that
Adolphus has plans to kill Rotaldo and flee the castle.
Elenora and Rotaldo compare their experiences
with each other, and Adolphus’s innocence is revealed. They fear that they may
have been too late to save him from Maurice’s plans. In his dungeon cell,
Adolphus discovers a secret passage, in which he finds a bloodied dagger and is
shocked by a skeleton. Adolphus returns to his cell with a manuscript
supposedly written by the dead man. It reveals that the real Baron de Morfield
is the skeleton who had been forced to give up his estate though he had an
infant son and heir just after he was killed. The supposed Baron presently
interrogating and kidnapping Adolphus is a usurper.
At midnight, Adolphus is freed from his cell by a mysterious man. As they make their escape, the man turns and stabs the usurping Baron. The helper and Adolphus set out to return to the Ellmont castle. Back home, the Ellmonts despair, though Almira has now been taken into the castle after her father’s passing. Her relationship with Rotaldo as well as a friendship with Elenora provides them both great comfort as they fear Adolphus to be dead.
Adolphus is received with joyous welcomes
upon his return. Adolphus’s supposed father reveals he found Adolphus in the
woods nearly the same time the true Baron’s letter was datedmeaning Adolphus is
the true son of the Baron de Morfield. Almira reveals she is also of Morfield
descent, making her and Adolphus cousins. Almira’s father’s story about his
brother’s murder and sister-in-law’s unknown child all come together before the
group. The Ellmonts return to the Morfield castle and witness the usurping Baron
on his deathbed as Adolphus is yielded his claim to the castle. Adolphus then
marries Elenora as a baron and Rotaldo marries Almira. The story ends with
festivity and moralizes that “although villany may triumph for a time, yet, in
the end, Happiness must be finally united to Virtue.” (38)
In this 1799 chapbook set in England during the Middle Ages, a conflict over religion between a priest and a baron, and an enchanted suit of armor result in betrayal, exile, and magic.
Kilverstone Castle, or, The Heir Restored: A Gothic Story is the second of twelve stories, bound together in the same volume. The name of the author does not appear on any of the story’s thirty-three pages.
The cover is stained, and has completely detached from the book pages, but the binding on the side is still intact. The pages are very fragile, and the cover has detached. The book is bound with leather, and has an endband made of red thread at the top and bottom for decorative purposes.
The book’s paper is very brittle and has yellow stains covering it. The binding along the side of the book has the word “tracts” carved into it. A “tract” signifies a chapter or short story, which suggests that someone specifically chose to bind these stories together, either due to similar themes or simply to have them all in one place. The word “Prethy” is also written in elaborate cursive on the opening page, which suggests a previous owner signed their copy.
There are illustrations on the title and final page of the book, with the one on the title page depicting two men dueling in front of a woman fainting, and the one on the final page depicting a tree. The title page also contains the name of the book’s printer and publisher.
One of the most unique characteristics of this volume, however, is the typeface. The margins and type are both very small. Within the text, the letter “s” appears frequently shaped like a letter “f” (this was known as a long S or medial S), except in words that have two “s” in a row, in which case only the first “s” is a long S while the second “s” is the round s that has since become standard.
According to the WorldCat database, there are ten different editions of Kilverstone Castle. The editions slightly vary in title, with most including the phrase Kilverstone Castle, or, the Heir Restored, a Gothic Story and some also including Founded on a Fact which happened at the dawn of the Reformation.
WorldCat lists all of these editions as having been published in 1799, except for one which is listed as having been published in 1800. The edition of the text in the University of Virginia Special Collections library does not have a publishing date inscribed on it, and the call number lists publication as 1802. However, in his Gothic Bibliography, Montague Summers claims that the text was published in 1799. Franz Potter’s Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830 gives the same year (21). An edition of the text on Google Books has “1799” printed on the title page.
While the text has no known author, Kilverstone Castle was published by Ann Lemoine. Lemoine was a prolific publisher of gothic texts, and Potter states that Kilverstone Castle was the first work she published, a collaboration with Thomas Hurst. He goes on to note, “Lemoine effectively dominated the chapbook market by publishing at least 99 Gothic chapbooks over thirteen years, 28 percent of the whole number” (Gothic Chapbooks 21). Potter also says that Kilverstone Castle “capitalised on the widespread success of The Castle of Lindenberg and the continued interest in Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto” (Gothic Chapbooks 47). In The History of Gothic Publishing, Potter notes that Kilverstone Castle was one of the Gothic bluebooks available at William Booth’s Circulating Library in Norwich (70). Though no advertisements for the text have been found in newspapers from the nineteenth century, this suggests that it was not in total obscurity either.
Narrative Point of View
Kilverstone Castle uses a third-person omniscient narrator, who knows the inner thoughts of all the characters. The narrator provides a lot of description of the setting and the material objects the characters interact with. However, the narrator does not explain all characters’ thoughts and motivations. The narrator uses long sentences, and refers to aristocratic characters by their title more often than their actual name, with the exception of Mervil.
He prefaced it with the most solemn asseverations of truth, respect, and esteem for his patron. “My regard for you, my lord, makes me jealous of every injury done to your honor; and it becomes a duty in me to apprise you of every danger which besets you. Be not shocked, my friend, by a discovery in which your happiness is in imminent peril. Your Jessalind is inconstant!” (12)
The omniscient narrator not revealing each character’s motivation adds to the mystery of the story. If the narrator of this passage had been able to state that Polydore was lying about Jessalind committing adultery, significant tension during the scene in the bathhouse would have been lost. Polydore in this passage also puts more emphasis on Mervil’s title than the narration usually does, suggesting that they are not really friends. In other passages throughout the story, when the narrator describes objects in great detail, such as the onyx cross, this is done to humanize the objects and give them a role in the story.
Kilverstone Castle begins by telling the reader about Lord Audley, Baron of Kilverstone in Lincolnshire. He is a virtuous man who is getting older, but he has a son, Mervil, who will be a great successor. Audley lives before the Reformation but holds ideas contrary to those of the Church. This brings him into conflict with Father Peter, who is the Abbot of Croyland and runs the monastery in the village. Peter has many opportunities to take revenge on Audley, due to the supreme influence of the Church at the time. Father Peter goes to Lord Wentworth, in a place where Audley holds lands, with a forged order from the Monastery of St. Crowle to prosecute a claim on the estates.
Audley soon dies, and his son is called away from his travels at the news of his father’s death. The trial about his father’s lands is still happening at the King’s court, and he walks around his mansion considering it. He soon hears his ancestor’s armor rumble, and, when he walks over to it, sees a light from inside. He finds a small onyx cross and puts it on; the cross then starts to bleed, and the armor shakes.
Father Peter shows up, planning to assassinate Mervil. Peter pretends to mourn Audley, and Mervil believes him. Soon the amulet starts to bleed again. Peter is shocked, and briefly feels guilt for attempting to kill Mervil, but it soon fades. As Peter turns to leave, the dagger which he planned to kill Mervil with falls onto the floor. Mervil is shocked, and realizes the amulet was warning him about Peter’s treachery.
It is revealed that Wentworth has led a wild life, and that the churchmen manipulated him. He has made large donations to the monastery. He had gifted Father Peter’s monastery with Audley’s lands. Even with Audley dead, Peter still wants his lands. Since Mervil is so young, and Peter’s whole claim is based in forgery, Peter wants to kill Mervil before he has an heir who could challenge Peter for the Audley lands.
One day, while out hunting, Mervil meets a strange hermit. The hermit says he knows Mervil, and warns him that bad things await him.
Mervil eventually gets married to a local nobleman’s daughter, Jessalind. One day, however, his friend Polydore tells him she is being unfaithful with his friend, Ironside. Polydore tells Mervil to catch Jessalind and Ironside at the bath. Mervil goes there, and though he does not want to doubt his wife, he trusts his friend and the amulet had predicted disaster. He sees Jessalind and Ironside meet, and in a rage stabs Ironside. However, Ironside tells him that nothing was going on and that his and Jessalind’s meeting was accidental.
Mervil realizes that Polydore has lied to him, and that this was instigated by the church. As a murderer, Mervil’s lands are given to Wentworth. Mervil also reveals that Jessalind is pregnant. He decides to run into the woods and live as an unknown. Jessalind wakes up after fainting, sees Ironside dying, and calls out for her husband who has run away.
Some peasants carry Ironside to a shepherd, who says it is possible his wound is not fatal. Soon Wentworth’s officers show up at Audley’s estate after hearing what happened, and force Jessalind out. On the same night, a horrible storm is happening, and Wentworth’s officers flee the Audley castle because they think the storm was caused by evil spirits.
Jessalind befriends a shepherd who knew old Lord Audley. She is able to sell some jewels and go home to Normandy, but her father has left for a war.
The monks celebrate Mervil’s downfall, but Father Peter does not want to risk going near the enchanted armor again. Polydore, who was working for Father Peter, is now stuck with him while Peter shuts himself up in his cell.
Mervil eventually meets an old man at a shepherd’s house. He tells him everything, and the old man tells him that sometimes good things can come from bad. Eventually, Mervil tells the shepherd he is going to leave and find a place to retire and do penance. The shepherd tells him that the Hermitage of Norban is close to them, and Mervil seems to recognize the name and panics. The shepherd tells Mervil to stay the night, and his son will walk the six-hour journey with Mervil in the morning. Mervil then asks the shepherd to tell him the story of the hermit.
The hermit was from Normandy and was a member of Croyland Abbey. He did not leave the world entirely, but was famous for his ability to heal, to prophesize, and for his wisdom. He went into the mountains because he was upset at the sins of others in Croyland. Towards the end of his life, he gets a visitor, and on his deathbed, tells the herdsmen that it is his brother, and his coming means the hermit will die. He leaves a crucifix and says his heir will wear it in the seventh generation, and he will be the guardian of his friends for seven ages to come.
The amulet on Mervil’s neck is glowing once the story finishes. In the morning, he goes looking for where the hermit lived. Mervil finds the hermit’s remains, and decides to stay until he can give the hermit last rites. Mervil stays for some months in the Hermitage, with the shepherd and his sons often visiting.
Mervil eventually becomes famous, and fears he will be discovered. One night, he has a vision of Ironside’s ghost, giving him information about Jessalind. One day, a man shows up, and he realizes it is Ironside. Ironside tells him everyone believes Mervil committed suicide, and that while searching for him, a storm took out Wenthorth. Wentworth’s son refused to give Audley’s lands to the monastery. Ironside then tells him how he was tricked by Polydore, and that Father Peter poisoned Polydore because he knew Peter’s secrets. He then tells him that Jessalind is with her father in Normandy.
Ironside then tells him that Geoffrey, Wentworth’s son, is in open rebellion against the crown. He says Jessalind’s father might come with them to ask about his daughter’s possessions. Mervil says he cannot go until he has fulfilled the hermit’s last request. They leave with the hermit’s urn, and Mervil places it in the vault of his ancestors.
Mervil and Ironside eventually join up with the royal army. Ironside is shot in the arm and forced to retreat during a battle, and Mervil follows to help him. The crucifix Mervil is wearing helps to save the king when he is surrounded by rebels. Ironside dies of his wounds after asking Mervil to look after his daughter.
Mervil reaches the monastery of Crowle, and finds it in ruins. It had been destroyed by royal mandate, and all its possessions confiscated. His own mansion is mostly destroyed, except for the gallery where he first got the amulet.
A wedding is going to take place in a few days. During the wedding, Mervil’s amulet catches the eye of the bride. The bride faints, and the dagger she was going to use to stop the marriage falls out of her hair. It is revealed that the bride is Jessalind. The strange youth, referred to as the Bloody Knight, is revealed to be their son. In the end, Leo, the Bloody Knight, marries Ironside’s daughter Elvira.
Kilverstone Castle. London. Printed for Ann Lemoine. 1799.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
——. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835 : Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune press, 1941.
The Fiery Castle, or, Sorcerer Vanquished: A Romance: Relating the Wonderful Adventures of a Female Knight, in Which Is Described Her Attack on Rudamore Castle, to Release a Lovely Maid, Detained There by a Sorcerer, and Glorious Victory Over the Guardian Demons of the Gate: With Her Achievements in the Temple of Illusion, in Which She Resists the Allurements of the Spirits, Releases Her Beloved Knight From the Dungeon of Torture, and Causes the Fatal End of the Sorcerer
This fantastical 1810 chapbook follows two knights through trial and tribulation as they attempt to rescue their loved ones from the grips of a lustful sorcerer, battling spirits and demons all the while dispelling enchanting illusions.
The Fiery Castle does not have a cover, but rather a nondescript worn page,
tinted yellow with scattered mysterious brown stains, separates the reader from
the book’s title. A flip into the string-bound chapbook reveals,
unsurprisingly, more brown stains. What is a surprise, though, is the
intricately drawn illustration that was hidden beneath the nondescript outer
page: with fine lines filled in with bright pink, yellow, orange, and blue
accenting the image, the illustration depicts a dame, accompanied by a knight
posed for combat against two black demons guarding a gate engulfed in flames.
Underneath, a simple caption reads: “See p. 7.” Clearly, this action-packed
scene occurs only five pages in—as the story begins on page two.
Across from this fascinating
illustration is an even more intriguing, albeit long, title: The Fiery
Castle, or, Sorcerer Vanquished: A Romance: Relating the Wonderful Adventures
of a Female Knight, in Which Is Described Her Attack on Rudamore Castle, to Release
a Lovely Maid, Detained There by a Sorcerer, and Glorious Victory Over the
Guardian Demons of the Gate: With Her Achievements in the Temple of Illusion,
in Which She Resists the Allurements of the Spirits, Releases Her Beloved
Knight From the Dungeon of Torture, and Causes the Fatal End of the Sorcerer—its
truncated title being, The Fiery Castle, or, Sorcerer Vanquished. With
varying fonts, text sizes, forms of capitalization, and embellishments
throughout, it is entirely likely that the publisher was actively trying to
capture and retain readers’ attention with this long title. There is no author
listed on the title page or anywhere in the chapbook.
The book itself, only twenty-eight
pages in length, was printed and published in London by a W. Mason and sold for
sixpence. Past the opening illustration, there is no decor in the rest of the
book aside from a single decorative border on the first page of the story, and
a small ink and quill depiction on the thirty-second page, informing the reader
that the novel is “Finis.” Flipping through the pages, the chapbook has all the
characteristics of a standard paperback: set margins, pagination, and an
easy-to-read font. There is but one outlier within this uniformly printed text
on page 22. A small, lowercase t in “the” seems to have fallen a step below its
fellow letters, resembling a subscript of sorts. Small printing quirks like
this are perplexing, but give the text a sense of craftsmanship.
The Fiery Castle measures roughly 0.3 cm thick, standing at 18.2 cm tall and
10.9 cm wide. The brittle yet cotton-like pages are held together by a single
strand of string, with the page reading “finis” almost finished itself, as it
hangs on for dear life. This book, littered with small folds, rips, blemishes,
and tinged with what can only be described as old age, shows all the signs of
having led a thrilling and entertaining life as a shilling shocker.
The Fiery Castle, or, A Sorcerer
Vanquished is one of many gothic novels in the
Sadleir-Black Collection. This edition was published in 1810, though there
appears to be at least one earlier version which is listed as the second
edition on WorldCat. This previous edition was published in 1802 by A. Young
located at 168, High Holborn, Bloomsbury. Although this version is indicated as
the second edition, there is no specific information on whether it is
distinctly separate from the first edition. One clear distinction that can be
asserted is that although the earlier edition was simply entitled: The Fiery
Castle, or, The Sorcerer Vanquished: An original romance, the 1810 edition
in the Sadleir-Black Collection has much more detail incorporated into the
title. Both chapbooks were sold for sixpence, or half a shilling, although they
were printed eight years apart.
While the novel’s original author is
unknown, The Fiery Castle (1810) was distributed by an experienced
publisher by the name of W. Mason. Mason’s primary operations were based at No.
21 Clerkenwell Green where he “published at least fifteen gothic pamphlets” and
he habitually “summarised the entire novel on the title page” (Potter 94). This
serves to explain the variance in the titles between the 1802 and 1810
At the time of publication, the
demand for gothic pamphlets was diminishing. and in its place, a “growing
marketplace for children’s toy books” emerged (Potter 98). W. Mason, however,
published The Fiery Castle presumably because gothic publications
remained well-received by readers to some extent. His decision to publish the
novel may be attributed to its plot, as it illustrates a hybrid between the
gothic and fairytale genres. Due to evolving public sentiment, The Fiery
Castle was written in a way that swapped out the “standard gothic villain,”
incorporating instead a sorcerer that is defeated by a heroine; this
demonstrates how “the gothic was absorbed into the growing market for
children’s stories” (Potter 98). Subsequently, the chapbook’s unconventional
plot may have been another motivating factor for W. Mason’s printing of The Fiery
Many of the chapbook’s physical
details, such as its decorative borders, margin size, font, and font size
appear standard across W. Mason’s publications. Another chapbook published by
Mason, entitled The Spirit of the Spirit, which has been scanned in its
entirety and uploaded digitally to HathiTrust, resembles The Fiery Castle
almost identically. Both texts’ layouts include a single illustration on the
page next to the title, with each title page utilizing the same fonts and
borders atop of the first page of the story.
W. Mason’s 1810 printing of The
Fiery Castle appears to be the last and latest edition of the novel, with
no further editions published. The novel does not have any modern editions
available for purchase, nor are there any digital copies online. As a result,
there have been no modifications to the story since there are no new editions,
nor has the text been adapted to different mediums like film.
The Fiery Castle has very limited recognition in academic scholarship, with
Franz Potter’s mention being the only noteworthy mention of the novel. This may
be attributed to what Potter describes in Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and
Shilling Shockers as the slow yet steady shift away from gothic literature
at the time that the book was distributed. Consequently, there is limited
additional information to be discovered regarding The Fiery Castle’s
Point of View
The Fiery Castle is narrated in third-person omniscient perspective, as the
narrator provides the context for each individual character, their thoughts, as
well as details on the events that are unfolding. Seamlessly switching from one
scene to the next, the narrator concisely illustrates both the emotions and
actions that encompass each character. The narration discloses details for a
wide array of characters, ranging from the most prominent of knights to the
most minute of spirits. While the narrator does not make any outright personal
interjections regarding the crimes that unfold in the plot, there is a notable
use of adjectives within the narration that appear to appraise the characters’
The fairy appeared, and, waving her invisible wand, extinguished the torch. The altar shook to its base, and Hymen and his attendant Cupids fled in dismay; the spirit found his power subdued, and his arts fettered. All presence of mind fled, in proportion as his fears arose, of meeting with the torments with which Rudamore was prepared to afflict him, for failing in his enterprise. The female knight saw, in a mirror which the fairy held to her view, the reflection of her girdle, which displayed again, in luminous letters, its sentence of “Be virtuous and conquer!” (26)
The narration clearly dissects each
aspect of the scene, including each character or group of characters—the fairy,
Hymen and the Cupids, the spirit, the female knight—within it and their
subsequent actions. This creates a plot that is transparent, as the catalyst of
the chain of events. In this case, the narrator is correlating the chaos that
ensues to the initial arrival of the fairy and her “waving her invisible wand,”
which in turn, impedes the efforts of Rudamore’s minions. Furthermore, the
narrator recounts the emotions of the characters, thus providing context for
their specific behaviors. By thoughtfully combining emotion and action in
narration, the characters’ own portrayals are made more robust. This is
illustrated in small points throughout the narration, such as the discussion of
the spirit’s motivations for misleading the female knight. The spirit’s drive
to deception is evidently grounded in his fear of “meeting with the torments
with which Rudamore was prepared to afflict him,” which the narrator makes
known by providing context. This thorough narration allows the reader to gain
further insight into key elements of the plot, while also providing explanation
for specific character choices.
The Fiery Castle opens with the protagonist, known only as the female
knight, seeing a young man in an enchanted mirror whom she falls in love with
at first sight. Her father is a powerful sorcerer and her mother, a fairy.
Receiving their permission, bestowed a set of weapons and armour engraved with
the message: “Be Virtuous and Conquer,” and endowed with courage, she sets out
on her journey (3). In the midst of her travels, she comes across a heartbroken
knight in the forest. He informs her that his beloved Dellaret has been
kidnapped by an evil sorcerer, Rudamore. The female knight offers her services,
thus the two set out on a journey to Rudamore’s castle.
Upon their arrival, the two knights
are faced with two demons that are guarding the gate. Raising their swords, the
gate is engulfed in flames to prevent their passage, and the heartbroken knight
once again feels despondent. The female knight’s mother comes to their aid,
declaring that “with this touch of my wand, your armour becomes adamant, and
your arms are changed to gold” (6). As a result, the knights successfully
defeat the demons and traverse through the flames. Hearing the commotion,
Rudamore opens the gate to investigate, the two knights storm past him, and
Rudamore flees further into the castle.
While the knights make their way
through the castle, Rudamore summons spirits and orders them to distract the
two trespassers. He intends to capture the two knights by conjuring his “Temple
of Love and Illusion,” which will entrap their senses and distract them from
fulfilling their quest (8). This illusion appeals to all five senses and the
spirits take on tantalizing human forms meant to distract them.
The knights find their way down to
the dungeons of the castle, observing and speaking to other imprisoned knights
that are also grieving the loss of their mistresses to Rudamore’s rapine. After
venturing through these cells, the knights arrive in a chamber filled with
pillaged weapons and the robes of the women whom Rudamore has conquered on
display. As this exploration unfolds, the knights are unknowingly walking
towards the illusion and are greeted by the impressive, yet hallucinatory
Temple of Love. Each is guided by enchanting servants to their own elevated
throne of marble while a procession of servants deliver glasses of wine to
them. Just as they are about to drink the liquid, the fairy interferes with the
procession, causing the servant to spill the goblet and preventing her daughter
from consuming this laced liquor. As the liquor spills onto the ground, a hemlock
grows in its place. Realizing the foul properties of the wine, the two knights
attempt to escape the temple. To prevent this from happening, two spirits
assume the facades of each knights’ respective lovers, tempting the knights
back into the grips of the illusion.
As the knight believes he is reunited with Dellaret, he worries that her being in the temple means she has sacrificed her virginity to Rudamore. Reassuring the knight of her chastity, the imposter delves into an elaborate tale explaining that she withstood both illusion and torture, attributing this mental fortitude to “my incessant thoughts of you, and the unshaken resolution to be ever faithful to my part of the mutual vows we have made to each other” (16). Hearing this, the knight laments that he does not have the skills necessary to rescue her from the clutches of Rudamore. Pretending that heaven has suddenly bestowed her with this idea, the imposter suggests that the pair can effectually escape so long as they marry each other “at the altar of Hymen,” because Rudamore is only tempted to keep maidens captive and their marriage would allow the knight and Dellaret to ensure she would no longer fulfill his desire for chastity (21). In reality, the spirit is carrying out Rudamore’s plans to trick the knight into marrying the imposter, as Rudamore brings the true Dellaret to witness the knight’s subsequent infidelity all in the hopes of swaying her resolve.
Rudamore forces Dellaret to watch
her beloved knight marry a woman, who from her perspective resembles an old
hag, and insists that he has been endeavoring this entire time to enlighten her
about the knight’s true character as well as the superficiality of his
proclaimed love for her. Justifying the torture he has been subjecting her to,
Rudamore claims this was all done out of love. After this, he offers to make
Dellaret his wife and empress, while Dellaret, both heart-broken and cornered,
asks for a day to consider his offer.
In the meantime, the knight and the
imposter consummate their illusory marriage while the female knight is also on
the verge of marrying her own imposter at the altar of Hymen. Yet again, her
mother interferes. Extinguishing the torch at the altar, the spirit loses his
powers and flees, allowing the fairy to explain to her daughter that she was
almost seduced by a wind spirit. Shocked by the revelation, the female knight
rests at a canopy. While the female knight is sleeping, Rudamore has been
consulting his book of destiny which informs him that his inevitable demise is
approaching. Desperate for self-preservation, Rudamore also reads in the book
that the female knight’s true love had embarked on a similar quest in search of
her, and that he nears the castle. Planning to use this knight as a bargaining
chip for his life, Rudamore kidnaps the man and imprisons him in the dungeon.
This wrongdoing is manifested in the female knight’s dream, and as a result,
she awakens and rushes to rescue him.
Dellaret, wandering around
contemplating her uncertain fate and exhausted from the day’s events, collapses
by chance into her knight’s arms while he is asleep. When the two wake up, the
knight is immensely confused by Dellaret’s irate reaction at her current
circumstances. Still believing the two are happily united, Dellaret unleashes
the truth exclaiming to him, “As you have deserted me, for such an ugly and
disgustful wretch, I will abandon you” (29). She flees to Rudamore, demanding
that he imprison the knight in exchange for the right to take her virginity.
This request is immediately granted, the knight is captured and subjected to
torture by Rudamore’s spirit, while the sorcerer forces himself upon Dellaret.
The female knight discovers Rudamore
just as he is taking advantage of Dellaret. As she is about to land a fatal
blow on the evil sorcerer, Dellaret pleads to the female knight that she end
her life first. Rudamore interrupts their discourse to plead for mercy,
offering to show the female knight where her lover and her companion are being
held captive. The three go to the dungeons and are brought face to face with
the two captured knights. The female knight attempts to slay Rudamore for his
crimes, however the fairy disrupts her daughter’s attempt. The fairy informs
her daughter that this is not adequate justice unless Rudamore first confesses
his devious schemes. Furthermore, it is made known that the two men cannot be
released from their bindings without Rudamore’s spells. The sorcerer feigns
repentance and releases the men while confessing his role in the manipulation of
the knight and Dellaret. Realizing Rudamore’s evil interference, Dellaret and
her knight immediately restore their love and faith in each other. As the
couples are reunited, Rudamore takes this as an opening to flee to his
chambers. To ensure Rudamore properly receives justice, the fairy leads her
daughter to him. The female knight slays Rudamore and the companions proceed to
live peacefully in the castle, which the fairy has restored to a glorious
Set in Scotland, England, and Italy, Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson’s 1807 chapbook is a complicated tale of vengeance, violence, and long-lost love. And there’s a ghost!
At first glance, The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is nothing more than a small, nondescript book. It is bound in a spotless cardboard cover, with no title or images on the front or back. The spine has a small red rectangle in which The Castle Spectre or Family Horrors is written in gold writing. The chapbook is about 12 centimeters wide, 20 centimeters long, and 1 centimeter thick.
Upon opening the book, it is evident that it has been rebound. The pages inside are soft, yellowed, and worn. The edges are tattered and uneven and the pages are of different sizes. The frontispiece appears to have been glued to a blank page for structural support, as it was ripped and about two inches of the page is missing from the bottom. This page contains a colorful image of two knights in front of a red castle. They are holding blue shields with gold crosses and are wearing red skirts. Behind the knights is a woman in a pink dress; she is surrounded by what appears to be sunbeams and looks as if she is floating with her arm raised. Some of the colors go beyond the edge of the picture, indicating it may have been painted with watercolor. Beneath the image is a caption that says, “GERTRUDE rising from the Rubbish before the CASTLE”. Below the caption is a note about the print company.
The title page
contains the title, written as follows: “The // Castle Spectre; // or, //
Family Horrors: // A Gothic Story.” The words are all uppercase, except for “A
Gothic Story,” which is written in a more elaborate gothic typeface. Beneath
the title is a quote by Langhorne, and then a note on the publisher: “London:
// Printed for T. and R. Hughes, // 35, Ludgate-Street.” “London” is written in
the same gothic font, while the rest is again all capitalized. Beneath this is
the publishing date: 1807. The title page has a small, rather illegible phrase
written in pencil in the upper left corner, and a large stain on the right. The
back of the title page is blank, except for a small stamp in the bottom left
corner that says, “Printed by Bewick and Clarke, Aldergates-street.” It should
be noted that the name of the author is never mentioned.
On the first page of the text, the title is again printed, but this time as The Castle Spectre. The chapbook contains thirty-eight pages, and the page sizes vary slightly. The upper and lower margins range from about 1.5 centimeters to 2.5 centimeters. “Castle Spectre” is written on the top margin of every page, and there are page numbers in the upper corners. The text is small and tight, and the inner margin is very narrow. On the left pages, the words run almost into the spine. On some pages, the text is fading and in certain instances, can be seen through from the back of the page. The pages are speckled with light stains, but none that obscure much text. The bottom margins of a few pages contain signature marks, such as B3, C, and C3. These marks indicate how the pages should be folded together, as the book was printed on one large sheet and then folded and trimmed. This binding technique also explains why the pages vary in size. There are nine blank pages at the end of the book. These pages seem newer and are larger; they were likely added to make the book slightly thicker, as it is difficult to bind such a thin book.
An index card is
loosely placed in the front of the book, containing the title and publishing
information. It appears to be written in Michael Sadleir’s handwriting and was
likely used for cataloging purposes. The note indicates that the book was
originally unbound, but then mounted on modern board and engraved. This
explains the discrepancy between the wear of the cover and that of the pages.
“Louisiana” is written on the upper left corner; Sadleir presumably got the
book from someone who lived there. A line on the bottom of the card indicates his
belief that the plot was plagiarized, as he notes the book is “a theft of title
The Castle Spectre by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson was
printed by Bewick and Clarke for T. and R. Hughes in 1807. According to Michael
Sadleir’s handwritten note, the copy in the University of Virginia
Sadleir-Black Collection was originally unbound and then rebound as a
stand-alone chapbook. It appears there is only one edition, the 1807 version,
but some other copies are bound in volumes with other chapbooks. According to
WorldCat, there are six copies of this edition located at Dartmouth Library,
Columbia University Library, and the National Library of Wales, among others.
As of 2021, there are no digital copies of the story, though GoogleBooks has
information about the title, author, and publishing company.
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is often misinterpreted
as being inspired by Matthew Gregory Lewis’s play The Castle Spectre.
Though part of the title is the same, the actual plot, characters, and setting
are entirely unrelated. The
confusion has arisen because Wilkinson published two chapbooks with similar
titles: The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story in 1807 and
The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance; Founded on the Original
Drama of M. G. Lewis in
1820. This second text, The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance,
is in fact based upon Lewis’s play (as accurately suggested by the subtitle),
with the same characters, setting, and plot. By contrast, the 1807 chapbook, The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, remains separate and unrelated except
for its similar main title.
Though the two Castle Spectre texts by
Wilkinson are entirely separate, they are frequently confused for one another.
For instance, Franz J. Potter notes in The History of Gothic Publishing
that Wilkinson “also adapted two versions of Matthew Lewis’s melodrama ‘The
Castle Spectre’ publishing The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors (2.58)
in 1807 with Thomas Hughes, and The Castle Spectre; An Ancient Baronial
Romance, Founded on the Original Drama M. G. L. (2.57) in 1820 with John
Bailey” (119). In his section on the “Family Horrors” version of
Wilkinson’s chapbook, Frederick S. Frank notes that she “transformed Lewis’s Gothic drama, The
Castle Spectre [l-219], back into a Gothic novel” (171). Franz J. Potter
similarly states that this “Family Horrors” version was “founded on Lewis’s The
Castle Spectre. A Drama in Five Acts” (Gothic Chapbooks 39). Even an
article in UVA Today makes this common error, stating “Lewis’ work was
regularly plagiarized and used in this way, as it is in ‘The Castle Spectre,
or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story,’ by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson” (McNally).
that make the claim of a link between The Castle Spectre and Matthew
Lewis’s play cite Montague Summers’s Gothic Bibliography, which lists The
Castle Spectre by Sarah Wilkinson without specifying the subtitle or a
publication date. Summers’s entry reads: “Castle Spectre, The. By Sarah Wilkinson. Founded upon Matthew
Gregory Lewis’ famous drama, The Castle Spectre, produced at Drury Lane
on Thursday, December 14th, 1797” (268). Of the libraries that own The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, many list M. G. Lewis as an author, and
these library catalogs frequently reference Summers’s Gothic Bibliography,
echoing his statement that the story is “Founded
upon Matthew Gregory Lewis’ famous drama ‘The castle spectre’.” Some
libraries note the link to Lewis’s play based upon The National Union
Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints, and this source also cites back to Summers’s Gothic
Bibliography. It is possible Summers’s entry for The Castle Spectre
was misunderstood to be about the “Family Horrors” version, when it was meant
to reference the “Baronial Romance” version, which specifically claims to be
founded upon Lewis’s play. Whatever the reason, this misunderstanding has
spurred many sources, including library catalogs, to erroneously note a
connection between the plot of Lewis’s The Castle Spectre play and
Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors chapbook.
It should also be noted that some sources
discuss a similarity between the two distinct chapbooks Wilkinson wrote under
the titles The Castle Spectre. Diane L. Hoeveler, for instance, suggests
that Wilkinson was plagiarizing herself in these two chapbooks, indicating she
believes the plots to be “virtually identical and indicate how authors as well
as publishers had no qualms about ‘borrowing’ literary texts from others as
well as themselves” (14). Hoeveler writes, “Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre:
An Ancient Baronial Romance is actually her second attempt to capitalize on
the popularity of Lewis’s 1797 drama The Castle Spectre”, naming as the
“other version” The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story
(14). Yet while it is true that Wilkinson used the same main title for two
different books, they are not “virtually identical”: the plots, characters’
names, and setting of the story have no similarities. A potential reason for
the similar titles was that Wilkinson used the phrase “Castle Spectre” precisely
because of its popularity at the time to attract readers, despite the “Family
Horrors” version being a unique story.
On a separate note, the title page of The Castle Spectre; or, Family
Horrors includes a portion of a poem by John Langhorne. It appears to be an
edited stanza from a longer poem entitled “Fable VII. The Wall-flower” from his
collection of poems, The Fables of Flora (Johnson 447). It is unclear
whether the poem was adapted by Wilkinson or the publishing company, but the
poem alludes to the idea of remembrance and telling the stories of the dead.
This theme reflects in the story of Gertrude’s death and Richard’s journey of
Narrative Point of View
Spectre is, for the most
part, narrated in the third person by an anonymous narrator who is not present
in the plot. There are a few occasions throughout the story when the narrator
speaks in first-person plural, referencing the history of the story and its
translations. The narration follows the knight, Sir Richard, throughout the
entire story, and much of the chapbook contains dialogue and interpolated tales
spoken by a variety of the characters with whom Richard interacts, such as
Douglas. The narrative focuses more on plot and less on characters’ thoughts,
and the sentences are often long and descriptive. There is a bit of insight
into Richard’s feelings, but the narrator does not discuss other characters’
emotions unless the characters reveal their feelings aloud in dialogue. There
is also an instance where Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm exchange letters, which
are printed within the text in quotation marks; both Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm
refer to themselves in the third person in their letters. At times when Elenora
(also known as Gertrude) appears as a ghost, she also refers to herself in the
third person during her tales.
The moon, emerging from a black cloud just as he entered, enabled him to ascertain he was in a grand spacious hall, in the centre of which stood a large banquetting table He seized an extinguished taper, which he with difficulty lighted by the friction of some wood he found on the hearth. He had now an opportunity to observe the place more accurately. The table was laden with viands, some in a putrid state, some mouldering to powder; and to his eager view appeared vases filled with the juice of the generous grape. In a corner of the apartment he beheld the body of a man extended in death on the floor, the boards of which were stained with congealed blood. A murder had been committed here but a short time before. The sight of this did not alarm him; he knew not fear, but emotions of pity rose in his breast, for the unfortunate object before him, and a desire to develope the mysteries of the place he was in, prevailed over ever other consideration. (6)
First-Person Plural Narration:
But we must not anticipate in our story too much, and the Scottish manuscript from whence we translate, mentions some transactions that will better appear hereafter. In the mean time we must observe that after much consultation on these transactions, Lord Mackworth advised Sir Richard to appoint a meeting with Sir Kenelm at midnight. (16)
Sample of Sir
Richard’s Third-Person Letter to Sir Kenelm Cromar:
Sir Richard, brother to Lady Gertrude, returning from the Holy Wars, finds his venerable father mouldering into dust, brought to the grave by grief for the untimely fate of a beloved daughter, whose fair fame was basely called into question, and her dear life sacrificed to lawless love. —Sir Kenelm must account for this, and inform Sir Richard what is become of a dear sister. For which purpose Sir Richard challenges Sir Kenelm to meet him, in single combat, near that castle-gate where he, Sir Kenelm, banquetting with his new bride, beheld the injured shade of Lady Gertrude, when, for a slight offence, he stabbed his cupbearer. Eight days hence, exactly at the hour of twelve, Sir Richard will be there, with two of his most trusty friends. (16)
Sample of Sir Henry
Mackworth’s Interpolated Tale:
At his return to Palestine, finding I was in confinement, his generosity and friendship made him hazard his life to rescue me from my confinement. He succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations. We continued together some time. We had but one heart, one purse, and were a pattern of friendship throughout camp and country. Clemena was often the subject of our conversation. I ventured to hint the inclination I felt for her, from his description and the picture I had seen. ‘Alas!’ said he, ‘I dare not flatter you with the least hope of success; my sister has been educated in a convent, and ever been intended by our parents for a nun, their fortune being too small to support us both in a manner suitable to our rank…’ I remonstrated with Vertolini on the cruelty of secluding a beloved sister, for life, within the dreary walls of a convent… (33).
The various types of
narration in The Castle Spectre allow for a deeper exploration of
different characters’ actions and emotions, as well as greater detail on the
setting and history of the story. The Castle Spectre utilizes several
techniques to augment suspense. On numerous occasions, the names of the
characters Richard meets are not revealed until the end of that individual’s
story, and the reveals often occur casually amidst the dialogue or narrative
with little emphasis. The reveal of the characters’ names has a great impact on
the entire plot, and the narration’s nonchalant delivery augments the suspense
and adds an element of surprise. As a result, many key details and surprises
are revealed suddenly and without foreshadowing. Though the narrator does not
touch on characters’ feelings often, the dialogue provides greater insight into
the different characters’ personalities and emotions. Because so many different
plots are embedded into the chapbook, the story is both engaging and, at times,
confusing: the chapbook is extremely fast-paced because so much action is
packed into each sentence, and in some cases it is difficult to follow the story
and to distinguish who is speaking or who characters are because the plot jumps
back and forth in time or between the different story lines. The moments of
first-person plural narration detail the story as if it were true by discussing
the sources from which the story was translated. These moments where the
narrator speaks as “we” directly to the reader, along with the detailed setting
and long rambling sentences, all conspire to make the story oral in feel, as if
being told to a friend.
Spectre follows the knight
Sir Richard over a period of several years. The story begins on a stormy night
in the Scottish Highlands. Sir Richard is traveling to his father’s castle in
the Grampian Mountains after a four-year deployment to the Holy War in
Palestine. He seeks shelter to ride out the storm, but no one will take him in.
In a flash of lightning, he sees the turret of a castle; he sounds his bugle
numerous times with no response, so he dismounts his horse and tries the door.
By chance, the door is unlocked, and Richard enters the banquet hall of the
castle. With only the moon and occasional flash of lightning to guide him, the
knight explores. The hall is filled with food and drink that appears to have
been placed there recently. In the corner of the hall lies the dead body of a
man; the floor is soaked with congealed blood. Sir Richard vows to unravel the
mystery of the catastrophe that occurred.
Sir Richard tours
the rest of the castle, which is magnificently decorated in gothic splendor. No
one is to be found and all is silent. He comes upon a great bed, and as he is
exhausted from his journey, he jumps in and falls into a deep sleep. At one
o’clock, a bell rings and Sir Richard wakes to the curtains of the bed being
ripped open. Standing at the foot of the bed bathed in blue light is a veiled
woman in a white dress. As he approaches her, the woman’s veil falls off and a
stream of blood gushes from a wound in her side. Richard looks into the woman’s
face, and it is none other than his sister! He calls to the apparition “by her
name Elenora” (though later in the story she is referred to predominantly as
Gertrude, with no explanation given for the shift in name) (7). Elenora the
apparition stands, not speaking, while holding her hand over the seemingly
fresh wound in her side. After repeated prodding, Elenora explains the story of
her brutal murder in the castle, revealing that two years after Richard left,
she married the owner of this castle, and in a fit of frenzy he stabbed her
(while she was pregnant) and left her corpse in a rubbish pile. Left to rot
without a proper Christian burial, she haunts her murderer and his new wife.
The scene that Richard came upon in the banquet hall was the remnants of their
wedding, which was ruined when Elenora appeared and terrorized the guests.
Finally, with a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning, Elenora vanishes in a
swirl of blue flame.
Shocked and overcome
with emotion, Sir Richard decides to leave and avenge his beloved sister. He
lets his horse take the reins on the way to his father’s estate and does not
realize the horse has gone down the wrong road. They come upon a cottage where
he is treated with great hospitality. The owner, Douglas, tells the story of
his childhood and time as a soldier, where he saved the life of the “worthy
nobleman, under whose banners I had enlisted” and was thus assured protection
and this cottage (11). Douglas explains that the nobleman has died and his son
is at war; he fears thar if he does not return, Sir Kenelm Cromar will take
over his estates and leave Douglas and his family to live out their days in
poverty. During this story, Douglas reveals the name of his former nobleman to
be Duncan, and Sir Richard reveals that Duncan was his father! This means that
Sir Richard is the son who has now returned home; the Douglas family rejoices.
Douglas’s story also reveals that Sir Kenelm’s first wife was Elenora (now
predominately referred to as Gertrude in the story). Upon Gertrude and Kenelm’s
marriage, Ally (Douglas’s daughter) moved into the castle where Sir Kenelm
“began to take great liberties with her” (12). Douglas says Lady Gertrude is
now missing and so is Ally. Because of Gertrude’s ghost’s daily visits, Sir
Kenelm and his new wife have moved to his hunting lodge so the castle remains
uninhabited. Sir Richard thanks Douglas and promises him a life of friendship
When he finally
arrives home, the servants rejoice at the return of their young lord. They tell
the knight all that has happened and grieve for the good young lady Gertrude
and their master Duncan. Enraged, Sir Richard vows to avenge her and lay her
body to rest in a Christian burial. He seeks out his father’s friend, Lord
Mackworth, and tells the man the story. Richard decides to challenge Sir Kenelm to
single combat, with Mackworth’s assistance. As part of their agreement,
Mackworth wants Sir Richard to marry his daughter and Sir Richard agrees. Sir
Kenelm accepts Richard’s request, mentioning that though it is illegal to fight
in this manner, he will do it anyways to honor the memory of the venerable
Duncan. Meanwhile, Kenelm sends a letter to the king, requesting that he send
men and imprison Richard before the fight occurs. Instead, the king decides the
two men will have an impartial hearing at his court and he will support
whichever cause is more just.
It is now the night
of combat, and the marshal Lord Glencairn asks if any last-minute
accommodations can be made. Richard declines, unless Sir Kenelm will admit to
murdering Gertrude and surrender to public justice. Kenelm refuses, saying that
Gertrude abandoned him for a lover, and Richard is about to stab him in rage
when suddenly, they are both commanded prisoners and summoned to the king’s
court. Before they leave with the soldiers, the clock strikes one and in a
swirl of thunder and lightning, Gertrude appears. She shares her story and
explains that three times now she has prevented Kenelm from murdering his new
wife. She requests a proper burial, asks Mackworth to protect Richard, and
vanishes in a thick blue flame amidst a crack of lightning and tremendous peal
of thunder. Richard breaks the silence and tells the soldiers to bring them to
the court, so that he can share the full story in front of the king. The
hearing occurs, and Kenelm is found guilty and sent to prison; he later has a
public trial and is condemned to death. Gertrude’s remains are recovered and
she has a proper burial; all the churches in the surrounding area hold masses
in her honor and her final wish is granted.
goes home. He keeps his house open to serve his father’s tenants, and the
neighboring nobility congratulate him on his return from the war and for
bringing Kenelm to justice. Nevertheless, Sir Richard is unhappy; he mourns the
loss of his father and sister and misses his lost love Lady Jane. The story now
shifts back many years, before Richard went to the Holy Land. He fell in love
with Mackworth’s daughter, Jane, and she waited for him to return from the war.
In the four years of his absence, Jane denied many marriage offers from wealthy
prospects, one of them being Lord Glendour. Finally, Richard returns and they
are set to marry. We learn that two years before Richard left, Mackworth’s son
went to war and never returned. They mourned his death, and Mackworth received
Richard as a son and the heir to his estates and domains. As they prepare for
the wedding at the Mackworth estate, Richard returns to his familial castle,
and in his absence, an unfortunate event occurs. One evening, Jane is kidnapped
while on a walk through the gardens. Mackworth sends news to Richard, who vows
never to return until he finds his love. He searches for weeks with no sign of
Jane, until he comes across a hut offering refreshments to travelers. The man
inside mentions that a gagged woman and man had come through just before and
were on their way to Italy. Richard chases them to the river’s edge and
resolves to follow them. For years, he traverses all of Italy, hopelessly
searching convents for his lover. He falls ill and almost dies from grief, but
dreams of Jane and vows to recover and free her.
The story jumps back
in time to Jane’s kidnapping, and it is revealed that Lord Glendour, one of
Kenelm’s friends, fell madly in love with her and kidnapped Jane to be with
her. He requests her hand in marriage, but she refuses. She tricks him into
allowing her to pass the time in a convent in Italy, where she is watched over
by the Lady Abbess and not allowed to leave. Back in the present, Richard meets
an English man in the middle of Venice. They become friends and visit the man’s
villa. Richard recognizes someone in one of the family pictures and asks the
man to share the story of why he left England. The man says the story is long,
but he has written it down for his children and will one day give Richard a
copy to read. After months of visits, Richard reads the man’s story and is
surprised by the similarities between them. The man, Wentworth, was the eldest
son of a noble house in England. He fell in love with a peasant girl Louisa,
and though he was promised to marry a noble woman Anna, he runs away with his
lover. He fakes illness and tells his father he will go to the Holy War; Louisa
goes with him, and they marry and have a son and daughter. He returns from the
war and vows to sort out his betrothal to Anna. Leaving his wife and children
in the protection of her father, he goes back to his paternal castle. He sets a
plan for his brother, William, to marry Anna instead, and it works. Elatedly,
Wentworth returns to the cottage and is devastated to find Louisa and his
infant son missing. They were tricked by a letter claiming to be from him, and
Wentworth suspects his own father to have sent it. For five years, Wentworth
and his daughter travel the world, though nothing can make him forget Louisa.
Receiving word of his father’s ill health, he returns to England. On his death
bed, Wentworth’s father reveals he sent Louisa to a convent in Italy, but she
escaped. Wentworth and his daughter go back to Italy to search for her, but he
never finds Louisa. He lives like a recluse in his villa, and this is where Richard
reenters the story.
Richard again visits
Wentworth. The man reveals he is Richard’s uncle but used a fake family name so
that he may retire in peace, away from the nobility. Richard explains that
during his search for Jane, he saw Louisa and her son in the Pyrenees.
Together, Richard and Wentworth begin their journey to the mountains to find
the long-lost wife and son. They come across a cottage that Richard had visited
before and reunite with Louisa and the son. Wentworth, now revealed to be
called Sir George, decides to return to his family home in England. Richard
promises to join them, if they can spare a few weeks for him to search for
One night on his
return to the Italian villa, Richard sees two criminals attacking a man. He
intervenes, and they admit they were hired by Count Vertolini to kill him.
Richard and the man go back to his house, so they may speak safely. The young
man then explains his story: he came from England to fight in the Holy War and
had a father and sister at home who he had not heard from in years. During the
war, he became great friends with an Italian man, Vertolini, who had a sister
named Clemena. The man falls in love with her, but is then taken prisoner in
Palestine. Four years later, Vertolini bribed the soldiers and freed his
friend, and they carry on their travels together. The Italian man reveals his
sister is promised to a convent, so she cannot be with his friend despite his
love for her. They meet the sister in Italy, where he becomes even more
enamored. Clemena admits she does not want to join the convent, but it is
necessary for her honor. Vertolini vows to save her before she takes the veil,
and the siblings try in vain to convince their father to free her. The father,
Count Vertolini, refuses the young man’s wedding proposal, and advises him to
leave Italy immediately. It is now revealed that the young man is Sir Henry
Mackworth, Lord Mackworth’s long lost son and Jane’s brother.
Back in the present,
Richard and Henry plan to rescue Clemena. While at the convent, a girl hands
the knight a note telling him to return at midnight to find something of great
importance. He listens, and that night, finds Lady Jane at the convent! She
explains her story and begs him to free her. Richard and Henry return to the convent
to demand her release, but the Lady Abbess refuses. The next day, Henry
interrupts the veiling ceremony and saves Clemena from the convent. Richard
goes back to England with Henry and Clemena, where he hurries to find
Mackworth. Together, they apply to the king and receive his royal mandate to
imprison Lord Glendour. The king sends word to the Pope, and Mackworth and Sir
Richard go back to Italy to retrieve a freed Jane. With Richard’s lover in tow,
they return to England. Wentworth lives in his castle with his family, there
are numerous weddings, Glendour dies in a convent, and Sir Richard is blessed
with years of happiness with Jane, Henry, Wentworth, and the others. They all
live happily ever after.
Frank, Frederick S. “A Gothic Romance.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, by Marshall B. Tymn, New
York City, R.R. Bowker, 1981.
Set in a secluded castle in 1517 northern England, Sarah Wilkinson’s 1805 chapbook includes romance, jealousy, friendship, and mystery.
Monkcliffe Abbey, A Tale of the Fifteenth Century, To which is added, Lopez and Aranthe; or, The Suicide. By the same author was published in 1803 by Kaygill & Adcock, and written by Sarah Wilkinson. It was printed by W. Glindon in Haymarket, London, and sold for sixpence. The extant copy was originally printed as a chapbook, but later rebound into a collection of similar stories entitled The Entertainer, vol. 4. A handwritten table of contents, including titles, authors, and publishers, is included on the front endpaper. Page numbers are not included; due to the separate origins of each story, the numbers (along with fonts, margin sizes, and layouts) restart with each new chapbook. This volume of The Entertainer contains six chapbooks and sixteen unique stories, including Canterbury Tales.
This copy is bound in a kind of thick cardboard material, covered with paper, and decoratively mottled in black and brown, protected by a clear plastic jacket for use in the library. It measures approximately 18.5 centimeters long by 11 centimeters wide. The spine is embossed in gold with the title, The Entertainer, which appears nowhere else in the book, and with embellishments on the spine’s edges and middle. This copy was bound with twine and glue, which is now quite delicate. The edges of the cover and spine are somewhat broken in, especially on the bottom of the spine, where the cardboard cover is beginning to crack off. Inside, the paper is yellowed and thin, but not brittle. Although the paper is discolored, it is not frequently stained—some small, splattered marks appear at intervals. The paper has an almost fabric-like texture, and is delicate while maintaining flexibility. Some pages are torn and folded, likely accidentally—none are dog-eared or torn completely out. In this copy, Monkcliffe Abbey is printed in a small serif font, with margins of two centimeters at top and bottom and one centimeter on the sides. Page numbers are found on the top outside corner of each page, printed in the same serif as the prose. The story is twenty-two pages long. The title page of the Monkcliffe Abbey chapbook lists the full title, including the addition of The Suicide. Every other instance of the title’s printing abbreviates it to only Monkcliffe Abbey, both on the first page of the story and in the handwritten table of contents. The author’s name is written as “S. Wilkinson” on the title page and in the table of contents, and as “Sarah Wilkinson” on the first page of the story. The title page also includes two illustrations, a larger one representing two women discovering a monk, and a smaller one under the title, with a man, right arm raised, walking up to a woman playing a sort of lute. The larger image has created a shadow of itself on the title page opposite. In the front of the book, an address card is inserted. Formal script on the front reads “Mrs. M.T.H. Sadler,” with an address included on its bottom left corner. The back reads “Oswick the Outlaw,” which has been handwritten in blue ink.
Monkcliffe Abbey is one of Sarah Wilkinson’s lesser-known gothic stories, frequently left unmentioned in lists of her work and life achievements. There are two copies available through the library system at the University of Virginia. One of these copies, primarily discussed here, was published by “Kaygill, etc.” in London, in 1805, and rebound into a collection of gothic novels at a later date. The other was printed across the Atlantic, by James Oram in New York City, two years later. The full novel is also available online through scans of the collection America’s Historical Imprints. This online version is the later, American printing. There does not appear to be much discrepancy between the two copies, other than the specifics of their publication and their titles: the version published in New York by James Oram is entitled Monkcliffe Abbey, or, the History of Albert, Elwina, and Adeline, while the one published in London by Kaygill uses Monkcliffe Abbey: A Tale of the Fifteenth Century instead.
Monkcliffe Abbey is very rarely mentioned, either in collections of gothic works or works by Sarah Wilkinson, who was a prolific author of the genre. One exception can be found in The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880, where Diane Hoeveler discusses the text’s use of the abbey as a gothic trope:
“Sarah Wilkinson’s ‘Monkcliffe Abbey’ (1805) is an example of a chapbook that uses the abbey in order to dwell on the usurpation theme. Very specifically dated to 1517, the action begins the year that Sir Archibald Barnett retires to the former Carthusian abbey in the north of England with his wife and two daughters Adeline and Elwina… The abbey is the setting for a traditional romance between the daughters and their suitors, one of whom is fleeing a friend turned foe who disguises himself as a cowled monk in order to inhabit one of the ‘haunted’ wings of the abbey (Wilkinson, 2009: 185). An architectural description of the abbey suggests the antiquarian investment in the theme by a writer as simple and straightforward as Wilkinson. The ruined abbey functions in this chapbook as little more than a picturesque setting, but it possesses considerably more ideological freight in a work by such a writer as Nathan Drake.” (218–19)
The story is also mentioned in Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression by Kenneth Graham, in a list of Gothic illustrations. The illustration from Monkcliffe Abbey is the same title page engraving found in its London-printed edition, of “Adeline and Elwina in the typical Gothic situation of startled discovery” (Frank 287). This illustration is reprinted in Franz Potter’s collection of gothic chapbooks, many written by Sarah Wilkinson, Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830.
Narrative Point of View
Monkcliffe Abbey is narrated in the third person, past tense, and without a framing story. The narrator is never mentioned or alluded to within the novel. The text is fairly straightforward, but sentences are lengthy and full of information. The narration focuses equally on dialogue, action description, and omniscient insight into the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings.
Elwina presently observed that the hand writing was the same—with the paper she had found in the chapel.—she was struck with horror and astonishment, when she reflected, that, perhaps, this victim of sorrow ere now had died through grief; or, perhaps, had committed some rash deed!—But, fearful of indulging her thoughts in this dismal place,—she deposited the paper with the picture on the shelf,—and returned with emotions of sorrow. (18)
One striking aspect of this narration is its use of punctuation. Especially in the above, quite active example, the exaggerated, slicing punctuation marks create a sense of quickness, motion, and finality. Throughout the text, this visual aspect—literally slicing between sentence fragments—is seen in more active scenarios, mirroring the choppy, frightened thoughts of the characters and creating a fast-paced feel.
The time for Albert’s departure being arrived, he claimed a gift from each of the ladies. Adeline presented him with a scarf of her own work, which he instantly bound round his bosom: Elwina presenting him with a ring from her finger; and, in a faultering voice, besought him to remember her father.—There was something so tender and pathetic in her manner, that it touched the strings of Albert’s heart,—at once with pity and respect for the lovely maiden. (15)
In more tender or calm scenes, such as this second example, the use of dashes has been reduced, although not completely halted. The more flowery, emotional, and flowing language of the second example serves to slow down the scene, emphasizing the tender and soft qualities of the characters in that moment. Even though the story is narrated in the third person, the omniscience of the narrator and the careful use of punctuation creates a sense of immersion.
Monkcliffe Abbey tells the story of a family living in seclusion in a sixteenth-century abbey according to the wishes of Sir Archibald Barnett, a retired warrior, and his wife, Lady Barnett. Along with their two young daughters and a small domestic staff, they live completely shut off from the outside world; no one is allowed to enter, and those who inhabit are only allowed to travel a short distance from the grounds of the abbey. Adeline Barnett, the eldest sister, is beautiful, but obscenely vain and arrogant. The younger sister, Elwina, is fair and sweet, and her generous character outshines her physical appearance. The girls enjoy walking in the country surrounding the abbey, and on one of their walks, they discover a knight lying in a puddle of his own blood. They frantically find help at a nearby cottage, and they return to the abbey while the knight is treated. After they explain the situation to their parents, Sir Archibald leaves for the cottage, only to discover the knight to be Albert de Clerville, a family friend. He brings Albert back to the abbey to recover in peace. Once Albert is well, he tells the whole family the story of his injury. His friend, Edward Barry, held a jealous grudge over Albert for his acquaintance with the beautiful Duchess Sophia Clifford. After dueling Barry multiple times and denying the requests of Lord Clifford to marry his daughter, he left the Clifford estate. On his journey, a helmeted knight stabbed him in the heart.
While walking home one night, Elwina is startled by the figure of a hooded monk walking slowly in front of her. After running home, she is too agitated to explain her situation, and faints. The next day, Albert and Elwina decide to explore the chapel within the abbey, when the head servant, Margaret, rushes in to declare Lady Barnett dead of “an apoplectic fit” (14). As Elwina and Adeline are talking that evening, they see guards rushing towards the abbey. Sir Archibald is arrested due to apparent treasonous acts, and is taken to jail. Albert is left to plan the funeral of Lady Barnett and to watch over the house, but once the funeral is over, he leaves.
Elwina is taking a walk some time later when, distracted, she wanders into an abandoned cell block in the abbey. To her surprise, someone appears to be living in one of the cells. She heads back to the chapel, and there finds the same monk she had seen before. He calls out to her, and they run into each other, falling and hitting their heads on the stone floor. Once Elwina wakes, she finds Margaret, and they investigate the cell together. There, the supposed monk reveals himself to be the knight Edward Barry, who believes he killed Albert after stabbing him in the heart. Elwina is unsure whether Albert is dead or alive, but to her relief, Albert returns to the abbey with Sir Archibald, no longer incarcerated, who has been given the title “Earl of Monkcliffe.” Adeline gets married to an unnamed man, and once Albert realizes his feelings for Elwina, they are married as well. The story ends with Elwina and Albert staying at Monkcliffe Abbey, in “a pattern of domestic virtues” (22).
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, editors. “Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. <http://orlando.cambridge.org/>. Accessed 10 November 2021.
Frank, Frederick S. “Illustrations from Early Gothic Novels.” Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression, edited by Kenneth Graham. AMS Press, 1989, pp. 270–87.
Hoeveler, Diane Long. “Ruined Abbeys: Justifying Stolen Property and the Crusade against Superstition.” The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880, University of Wales Press, 2014, pp. 197–246.
Potter, Franz J., editor. Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830. Zittaw Press, 2009.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Monkcliffe Abbey, a Tale of the Fifteenth Century. Kaygill Etc., 1805.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Monkcliffe Abbey, or, the History of Albert, Elwina and Adeline, to which is added, Lopez and Aranthe, or, The Suicide ; also, the beautiful little tale of the Abbey of Clunedale. James Oram, 1807.
This early nineteenth-century chapbook by Emilia Grossett is a Scottish tale featuring various encounters with the mythical White Maid of Avenel. The story is believed to be plagiarized from The Monastery by Walter Scott.
The Monastery of St. Mary by Emilia Grossett is a short text, only twenty-four pages
in length. The size of the pamphlet is only 17.4 by 10.8 centimeters. The pages
are yellowed with age and relatively thin. The font appears to be one that is
standard to today’s texts, similar to Times New Roman. The pamphlet is not
bound by any sort of cover, though pamphlets from this era were frequently
bound with a leather cover or bound with other similar pamphlets together as a
Since this copy of the pamphlet is unbound, the first thing
that the viewer sees is the label that reveals that it is from the
Sadleir-Black Collection at the University of Virginia. On the backside of that
page is the only illustration that can be found in this pamphlet. The
illustration is in color, and it shows a man in a kilt and a woman wrapped in a
white sheet. The man’s brightly colored pink socks have bled through the page,
and the ink can be seen on the previously mentioned cover page. The pink
marking caused by the bleeding of the sock color seems irregular and is likely
not visible in most other copies of this pamphlet. After the illustration comes
the pamphlet’s title page, which states the full title, The Monastery of St.
Mary: Or, the White Maid of Avenel. A Scottish Tale,followed by the
author’s name and the publishing information. On this title page, a faint mark
of the previous illustration can be seen as though it was printed onto the page
like a watermark. This mark is most likely sun damage or staining, and not an intentional
addition to the text.
One noticeable and possibly confusing part of the book to
the untrained eye is the page numbers. The standard page numbers, which number
up to twenty-four on the final page, are in the top corner of the text. There
is a second set of numbers, however, that appears at the bottom of the first
five odd-numbered pages. These numbers have the letter A in front of them (A2,
A3, etc.) and are useless to the reader, but very important to the printer of
the text. When pamphlets like these were printed in large sheets and then
folded and cut into the order that they were meant to be read in, the printer
used these numbers to ensure that the pages were configured correctly.
Some final details that one might notice when looking
through the pamphlet include the publishing information and the price. The
price is listed on the title page as sixpence. The publishing information
appears on the title page below the price, and on the final page below “The
End.” This reveals that the pamphlet was published in London, despite its
advertisement as a Scottish tale.
One of the most important things
to note about Emilia Grossett’s chapbook, The Monastery of St. Mary, is
that it was almost certainly plagiarized from Walter Scott’s 1820 novel, The
Monastery. Both the novel and the chapbook have the same characters as well
as the same plotlines, except for the chapbook being a simplified version of
the plot due to its brevity in length. This makes it difficult to find
information about the chapbook specifically, because any mention of the
character names or locations in the chapbook almost always lead to mentions of
There is a beautiful frontispiece
in The Monastery of St. Mary, but unfortunately the illustrator’s name
is either unlisted or illegible. The illustrations of similar scenes such as
one titled Halbert Glendinning’s First Invocation of The White Maid of
Avenel in an 1821 London edition of Walter Scott’s The Monastery
were done by a man named Richard Westall, but they are clearly not by the same
illustrator as the chapbook version because Westall’s work looks much more
polished and professional than the frontispiece in The Monastery of St. Mary
Under the caption of the
frontispiece, the publisher of the chapbook is listed as “J. Bailey.” This was
a publisher who operated out of London at 116 Chancery Lane. According to E. W.
Pitcher, Bailey was active at that address from the years 1809 to 1815, however
there is also evidence pointing to Bailey publishing before 1809 and after
1815, including this chapbook which, though undated, was presumably published
after the 1820 novel that it plagiarizes (Pitcher 78, Koch 75). According to
the British Museum’s archives J. Bailey was active in publishing from 1799 to
1825 when the press was eventually shared with at least one other man by the
same surname, William Bailey, suspected to be his son (“J Bailey”). J. Bailey
is listed as the publisher for many gothic chapbooks and pamphlets from the
early nineteenth century, among other small literary works and informational
handbills (Bonnets 41).
Emilia Grossett is a fairly
mysterious author with not much credited work in the literary field. There are
a couple texts that have her listed as the author, however, including The
Spirit of The Grotto from 1799, and The Freebooter’s Wife from 1819
(Summers 56). The latter title is listed as a book, not a chapbook, published
as one volume. Montague Summers’s Gothic Bibliography and several
library catalogues, including WorldCat, spell the author’s surname as “Grosett”
as opposed to “Grossett” as it appears on the title page of The Monastery of
St. Mary. Grossett’s other known texts were not published by J.
Point of View
The Monastery of St. Mary is written in the third person by an anonymous narrator who
is not a character in the text. The narrator mostly focuses on the dialogue and
events that transpire throughout the world of the story, but they occasionally
exhibit omniscience by describing the characters’ thoughts or feelings that are
unvoiced in the story. The language used by the narrator is modern enough that
it reads very easily, with the exception being the dialogue, which sounds a
little more antiquated than the general writing style in the text. As would be
expected, the text uses British spelling which is noticeable in instances such
as writing “pedlar” instead of “peddler.”
Father Philip, eager to acquaint the Abbot of the discovery he had made, rode homeward as quick as his mule would carry him ; and in spite of the haste he made, the moon had risen before he reached the banks of the river, which it was necessary for him to cross to reach the Monastery. As the Monk came close to the water’s edge, he saw a female sitting under the remains of a large broken oak tree, looking on the current, and weeping most piteously ; surprised to see a female there at that time of night, yet supposing her grief arose from her wish to cross the river. Father Philip politely addressed her, and offered to carry her across on his mule. (5)
This excerpt demonstrates the
narrator’s use of the third person, the description of scenery and events in
the story, and insight into the characters’ (in this case Father Philip’s)
thoughts and emotions in response to events or other characters in the text.
This description of the internal reaction that the woman causes in the monk
offers a clearer idea of how the character feels about the White Maid of Avenel
than just a description of her appearance would. In the description of the
woman, the narrator also offers an interpretation of her emotional state, that
she is “weeping most piteously,” which seems to be the way that Father Philip
perceives the woman and not necessarily just a description of what she is
The Monastery of St. Mary is set on the border of Scotland, where the magnificent
Monastery of St. Mary sits on the bank of a river. Simon Glendenning and his
family live in the Tower of Glendearg, which is located a few miles from the
monastery in a hidden glen. Despite the tower’s inaccessible nature, Simon is
called to war and dies at the battle of Pinkie. His widow Elspeth surrenders
her tower and is pitied by the Englishmen.
The widow of Sir Walter Avenel,
whose husband was killed in the same manner as Simon Glendenning, has been
forced from her home by the Englishmen and is roaming helplessly around the
country with her children. They find shelter in the home of a shepherd, Martin,
and his wife, Tibb, but their cattle have been killed and they will soon starve
if they stay there. The group decides to take a chance and go to the Tower of
Glendearg, hoping that Elspeth will welcome them due to Lady Avenel’s high
status, which she does.
Lady Avenel intends to return to
her mansion once the country is more peaceful, but Julian Avenel seizes
possession of the mansion. Therefore, Lady Avenel stays at Glendearg where her
health gradually declines due to the death of her husband. Elspeth sends Martin
to fetch the priest at the monastery so that Lady Avenel can confess before she
dies. The priest emerges from her chamber after a long wait and is in a foul
mood. He says that he suspects the house to “be foul with heresy” (5). Elspeth
is alarmed but admits that Lady Avenel often reads out of a black book. Father
Phillip is horrified when he sees that it is a book of holy scriptures, which
is a sin when possessed by anyone but a priest. He takes the book from them.
On his way back, the priest
reaches the river and sees a woman weeping on the bank. He calls out to help
her. She leaps on the back of the mule and leads it into the water, then dunks
the priest in the water thrice and throws him on the bank where he lies
unconscious. Once he is found, the book of scriptures is gone. His jumbled
story is questioned by many people, including Father Eustace, who goes to
Glendearg to enquire about the priest’s visit.
Father Eustace is informed of a
strange figure who returned the book, which he again confiscates. On his way
back, the priest’s mule stops suddenly at a turn in the road and hears an
unbodied female voice whispering to him. He is then thrown from his mule,
unconscious, and wakes up in the dark. Upon returning to the monastery, the
priest learns that a trooper had gone to confession after seeing a white woman
on the path where he intended to murder Father Eustace that night. The trooper,
named Cristie of the Clinthill, accepts a gold cross from the father before
departing. The priest realizes that the book is once again gone.
Days later, Halbert Glendenning
goes out alone and summons the White Maid. She helps him retrieve the book,
then disappears. Halbert returns to the Tower with the book, and finds a miller
and his daughter, Mysie. Soon after their arrival, Cristie of the Clinthill and
Sir Piercie Shafton arrive, hoping to find hospitality there since the knight
is fleeing death in England. Halbert and the knight clash with one another, due
to their mutual superiority complexes.
The next day, Halbert is once
again offended by Sir Piercie, and goes to summon the White Maid. She gives no
advice but hands him a token to use when Sir Piercie boasts again. Upon
returning to the tower Halbert is once again offended by Sir Piercie, so he
presents the token. It works, and the knight is immediately calmed, but
realizes Halbert’s power over him and says that it will cost the boy his life.
They agree to duel in the woods the following morning. When the morning comes,
they go to the site of the enchanted fountain to fight. They find in its place
a neatly dug grave and shovel, which Halbert denies preparing.
They duel, and despite the knight
being a more skilled fighter than Halbert, the latter stabs Sir Piercie,
apparently killing him. Halbert tries to summon the White Maid, but nothing
happens, and he screams curses at her for putting him in this position. Fleeing,
Halbert finds a man in the valley who he drags back to the site of the duel,
hoping to save the knight. They find the grave filled, but the only trace of
the knight is his doublet that was laid down before the duel. The stranger,
named Henry Warden, listens to the story and advises Halbert to find shelter at
the castle of Julian Avenel instead of returning home.
At the castle they find Julian
accompanied by a young woman, Catherine, who is unmarried although pregnant.
This offends Henry because he is a preacher, and he advises Julian to marry the
woman. Julian is enraged by his advice and throws Henry in the dungeon. Halbert
is locked in a bedroom to stop him from interfering. Halbert escapes his room
through a window.
Meanwhile, the inhabitants of
Glendearg are alarmed that Halbert and Sir Piercie have yet to return, and they
send Martin out to look for them. Martin finds the grave, the bloodstains, and
the doublet. Martin returns and is telling the others what he found, when Sir
Piercie walks into the apartment wearing blood-stained clothes. This leads them
to believe that Halbert is dead, and Edward decides to get revenge for his
brother’s death. He confines the knight to a guarded room until the grave can
be searched the following morning. Father Eustace arrives at the castle and
requests a private meeting with Sir Piercie, who admits that Halbert wounded
him and he fell unconscious, before waking up with the realization that his
wound had miraculously healed.
It is forgotten that Mysie’s bedroom
is within the larger room in which the knight is being held, and she overhears
his conversation with Father Eustace. Mysie takes pity on the knight and
decides to save him. She goes to the door and whispers to Edward that she is
trapped. Edward opens the door and Mysie and the knight exit the apartment,
undiscovered by Edward due to the lack of light in the stairwell. The knight
flees with Mysie on a horse but is almost immediately seen and shot at by
Edward. They manage to escape, and they eventually stop in a village to rest.
Mysie disguises herself as a man.
Meanwhile, Halbert has found an
inn in which to stay and there he meets a pedlar who knows where to find the
recipient of Henry Warden’s letter, Lord Moray. The two men agree to travel
together the following morning, and they find themselves before the Earl of
Moray. The Earl is informed that the Monastery of St. Mary is surrounded by
English troops who are searching for Sir Piercie Shafton. Halbert is instructed
to lead the men to the monastery and advise the two sides to wait until the
Earl arrives to fight. The Earl and Sir John Foster arrive simultaneously, and
the former announces that his purpose was fulfilled, since they had captured
Sir Piercie. Upon closer inspection, they discover that the person they
captured is in fact Mysie.
All of the troops arrive in
procession at the monastery, in search of Sir Piercie. The knight advances from
the crowd and says that he is leaving England with his bride, Mysie. Halbert
and Mary Avenel marry and regain possession of the Castle of Avenel. They live
there with Elspeth, Martin, and Tibb happily ever after. Edward joins the
Monastery of St. Mary and beholds the last sight of the White Maid of Avenel,
whose fountain eventually dries up and is never seen again.
Koch, Angela. “‘The Absolute
Horror of Horrors’ Revised: A Bibliographical Checklist of
Early-Nineteenth-Century Gothic Bluebooks.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the
Romantic Text 9 (Dec 2002), pp. 45–110.
BONNETS. 1819. The British Stage and Literary Cabinet 4, (35) (11): 41–2.
Published in 1800 without identifying an author, this shilling-shocker set during the Holy Wars tells a tale of romance, murder, terror, and mystery.
impressions upon introduction to the Sadlier-Black Collection’s edition of The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. most likely will include the frail binding holding together the
forty-two time-worn pages, as well as the curious lack of a cover. Upon closer
inspection, one can find a few remnants of what seems to be tan leather stuck
to bits of dried glue along the spine of the chapbook. This suggests that the
book was once a part of a collection of works, bound together for sale by the
publisher. Once the first blank page, acting as the cover, is turned, an
intricate frontispiece is found to inhabit the reverse. The image of a man and
a woman moving away from an oncoming knight is central to the illustration, and
is surrounded by detailing of weaponry and armor. Beneath the image the
shortened title,The Mystic Tower, is revealed, instead of a caption, creating a
sense of mystery around what might be occurring in the preceding scene.
intrigue of these yellowed pages continues onto the title page where “The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance” is emblazoned in a combination of different fonts across the top half
of the page, yet there is no author to be found. Instead, there are a few
curious clues that follow, some indicating themes present in the story and
others towards the origins of the work itself. Just below the title is another
illustration, this time depicting a woman standing in the doorway of a
low-ceilinged room with a look of astonishment on her face as she looks down
upon a knight emerging from the floorboards. Following this is an excerpt from
Shakespeare’s Macbeth that reads,
“’Tis done! The scene of life will quickly close; Ambition’s vain, delusive
dreams are fled, And now I wake to darkness, guilt, and horror…..I cannot bear
it!…………….” Both the foreshadowing illustration and the ominous quote
allude to the drama that is to come throughout the novel.
Tracking down the
page, again, there is a note that mentions this book was printed in London for
“KAYGILL, at his Circulating Library, Upper Rathbone Place; MACE, New
Round-court, Strand; and ADCOCK Charles-street, Fitzroy-square; and may be had
of all other Book-sellers in Town or Country.” This indicates where other
copies of this work could be found throughout London, specifically mentioning a
few circulating libraries at which interested subscribers could obtain the book
for sixpence, as denoted in fine print below the message. At the very bottom of
the page, the printer, W. Glindon, and the location of his shop, 48,
Rupert-Street, Covenrry-Street, are listed. Though the publisher and the
location of other copies of the book are helpful hints, the author of the work
remains a mystery. The aged, brittle pages that follow hold narrowly spaced
text, signature marks that allowed the bookbinder to order the sheets
correctly, and a handful of stains from past careless readers, but no mention
of the elusive author. There are no handwritten notes, pencil marks, stains, or
tears among the pages, leaving no physical clues about this particular copy’s
journey through the ages.
The Mystic Tower has no known author, which makes it difficult for scholars to trace the work’s publication history.
The Sadlier-Black collection’s copy of this chapbook is one of three currently recorded copies, and was printed specifically for T. Kaygill “at his circulating library” by W. Glindon (“T Kaygill,” “W Glindon”). Both of these men were British printers and publishers whose careers flourished in the early 1800’s. Though no specific publication date is available for this text, it was most likely published between 1803 and 1807. These dates encompass when T. Kaygill was at the address listed on the title page of the book (39 Upper Rathbone Place, London) (“T Kaygill”).
Many of the primary
catalogues of nineteenth-century gothic works are devoid of any information on The Mystic Tower, so there is no record
of advertisements for the book or public reception of the work. Aside from
being briefly mentioned in Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography,Frederick S. Frank’s The Gothic Romance 1762–1820 holds the
most robust assessment of the book. He claims that its hurried “penny-a-line”
writing style and plot mimic John Palmer’s Mystery
of the Black Tower and ensconce
the chapbook as a typical low-brow shilling shocker (Frank 123). This criticism
leads scholars to believe that the book was not wildly popular, and was most
likely not reprinted or adapted after its original publication.
Narrative Point of View
The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. is written with a
third-person anonymous narrator whose identity is never revealed in the text.
The narrator adopts an omniscient perspective and offers insights about most of
the main characters, while mainly telling the story as if following Matilda along
her journey. Holistically, the narration is succinct, colloquial, and typically
devoid of characters’ inner thoughts. The sentences the narrator uses are very
long and littered with commas, but the language is clear and reads very
comfortably. Only occasionally does the narrator hint at how Matilda would feel
about a certain situation through well placed adjectives and emotionally
connotated verbs. The only time that the voice of the narrator changes is when
Matilda reads the letter titled “The Life of Lady Malvina Fitzwalter.” In this
interpolated tale presented as a letter, Lady Malvina is writing in the first
person and describing how she came to be in the curious position in which the
young women found her.
Sample passage of
“The baron and baroness having been appraised of her illness entered at this moment, when the former approaching the bed, Matilda started back, exclaiming ‘did you murder him?’ ‘murder whom?’ exclaimed de Malvern. ‘The dark spirit in the tower,’ returned Matilda; ‘what is all this?’ said the baroness, turning to Clara, who without delay told them all she knew. They made no comments on her information, but commending Matilda to her care, both retired. The simple narrative of Clara, sunk deep in the mind of the baron, his reflections in supportable; the many reports he had heard in spirits that wandered in the ruined tower, and about the walls of the castle, rushed on his mind and in a convulsive agony he threw himself on a couch, groaning most piteously.” (15)
In this passage,
Romaldi and Oswena are coming to check on Matilda after her encounter with the
ominous knight. She is terrified and is convinced that her parents must have
had something to do with the death of the de Malvern men for them to be haunted
by such a terrifying being. The beginning of the passage sticks solely to the
plot, describing the new baron and baroness approaching their daughter, but
quickly switches to the dialogue in which Matilda makes her accusations about
their involvement in the tragic deaths of the de Malverns. The narrator then
resurges to describe how Matilda is put to bed by Clara, and then follows Sir
Romaldi to detail the unrest he faces because of his deep-seated guilt for
facilitating the death of the former Baron and his son. The focus of the
passage is Matilda’s fear and her conversation with her parents, but when she
is not in the scene the narrator is able to shed light on the experiences of
some of the secondary characters.
Sample passage of
“Having the misfortune to lose my mother at an early age, I, the only child of lord Fitzwalter, was educated by an amiable woman with the utmost tenderness, and instructed in every branch of literature proper for a female mind.” (22)
This passage comes
at the beginning of Lady Malvina’s letter to Matilda, explaining her rather
tragic past. She speaks in the first person, using “I” frequently and
colloquially, which indicates the intimacy of the contents of the letter and
the authenticity of the story being told.
Readers are invited to sit in the shoes of Matilda during this break
from the established narrative style, since the letter reads as a direct
address, which highlights the flashback being recounted in the letter.
The story begins with Sir Romaldi, a poor knight returning
home from his tour in the Holy Wars, trudging towards his castle and stewing
over his jealousy of his relative, the rich Baron de Malvern. The Baron and his
son are still fighting in the wars, and his inner monologue reveals that if
they should die before they return from fighting, he himself would be next in
line to inherit their estate and riches. While he is secretly wishing that a
perilous fate befalls the father and son, a ghostly figure appears in his path,
murmuring a prophecy about how his grim wishes will come true. Frightened by
the eerie apparition, Sir Romaldi hurries home to meet his wife, Oswena, and
his daughter, Matilda.
The story then delves into a flashback, featuring Matilda.
One morning she was walking in the woods near the family castle, when a hunter
appears from the woods claiming that he has lost his companions and asking if
he can rest with her for a while. She agrees and the two exchange pleasantries.
It becomes apparent that the young hunter, named Percy, has taken a liking to
Matilda, and suddenly realizes that she is the daughter of Sir Romaldi. He
exclaims that he cannot be seen with her, due to some deeply ingrained fissure
between their families, but that he would like to meet Matilda again in the
secret of the night. She, again, agrees, but is deeply troubled by the fact
that he cannot meet her father, so after their first rendezvous she tells him
she will no longer come to their meeting spot. She adheres to this promise for
the next two years by not returning to their clandestine spot, but one evening
she passes by and sees Percy walking below the battlement. She realizes how
much she misses him, but it is too late because he is leaving to fight in the
Holy Wars. To remind him that her prayers are with him she gives him a crucifix
necklace and bids him goodbye.
A return to the present hones in on a conversation between
Sir Romaldi and Oswena, in which he explains the eerie apparition on his
journey home and she replies that he should have the Baron de Malvern and his
son slain to secure the prophecy that the ethereal figure foretold. After falling into a terrified stupor, he
gathers his resolve and agrees that the foul deed must be done.
Months later, a message arrives at Sir Romaldi’s castle that
the Baron and his son have died, and that he is to inherit the de Malvern
estate. The small family gathers their things and immediately moves into the
new castle. An ominous tension falls over the household as Romaldi walks in,
with the minstrels unable to play their instruments and other household
servants running in terror. As Matilda is walking around her new home with her
attendant, Clara, the servant girl explains to her that there is a suit of
armor rumored to wander the halls of the unrenovated part of the castle at
night, as well as a particular portrait whose inhabitant occasionally leaps
from it to walk to the same mysterious tower, said to house the spirits of the
castle. Matilda tries to mitigate the fears of Clara, but one night they are able
to see a light moving in the windows of the tower which reinvigorates terror in
both of the girls. They send for the family priest, who tells them they are
being superstitious and foolish, but all three are then confronted with the
large black suit of armor that the rumors foretold. Matilda rushes to her
parents to tell them of her terrifying encounters, and asks them if they had
some hand in killing the Baron or his son. They assure her that she has nothing
to worry about, but they share a moment of concern knowing that these hauntings
are very likely due to their nefariously plotted murder.
Tensions and fears settle, and Romaldi begins to bring
suitors to the castle to eventually find a match for Matilda. She, however, is
approached by a boy that gives her the crucifix she gave to Percy, with the
promise that he would return it to her shortly before he came home to ask for
her hand in marriage. When her father tells her that he intends to give her
hand to a particularly distasteful Lord she refuses and, in his anger, he has
Matilda and Clara locked in her room until the next day when she is to be wed.
Clara helps Matilda escape her arranged fate through a series of trap doors and
tunnels that lead from her room to the outside of the castle, and in the middle
of their flight they are met again by the darkly armored knight, and are
terrified but are still able to escape the walls of the castle. Matilda and
Clara hide in the nearby convent, but are quickly discovered by Romaldi, and
are sent a letter demanding their return home. The abbess helps the girls
escape to travel to another convent, but after becoming fatigued during their
journey, they come upon the benevolent and ethereal Lady Malvina. The girls are
showered with Malvina’s compassion and kindness in her hidden underground
dwelling in the forest.
One evening, Matilda is presented with a letter detailing
Lady Malvina’s mysterious history. Reading it, she discovers that as a girl
Malvina was the sole heir to a large estate, promised to be married to her
lover, Sir Egbert, and had met a distressed young woman, named Josephine, in
the woods and secretly took her into her own care. She lived in pure happiness
until her father died, after which Sir Egbert began to act coldly towards her
and Josephine left her to grieve the loss of her lover alone, which she later
discovered to be the result of an affair between her two closest companions.
She tried to go through with the marriage as planned, but at the altar
exclaimed that her friends were and love and should be married instead, despite
the great pain and sorrow it caused her. Later, when she was invited by Sir
Egbert to visit them, it was revealed that he was unhappy with the
ill-intentioned Josephine and asked for Malvina’s forgiveness. Having heard the
conversation between the former lovers and feeling enraged, Josephine storms in
and murders Sir Egbert. Suffering from such deep pain, Malvina moved into her
current subterranean apartments to protect herself from accusations that she
had killed Egbert and the cruel world that injured her so greatly. Matilda
weeps for her friend’s losses, and feels a deep connection with her as she is
the only mother figure Matilda has ever possessed.
Soon Matilda and Clara receive a letter stating that the son
of Baron de Malvern has survived his time in the war, and a foray outside with
Malvina results in the three women being discovered by Josephine’s men. They
are taken to Josephine’s court, but Matilda is cast aside, and is taken back to
the de Malvern castle. She is left by Josephine’s guard to get into the castle
herself and after sleeping outside for a couple days, she manages to sneak into
the castle, where she finds her father lying on the floor covered in blood. He
is only able to explain that he has slain himself, her mother has been
poisoned, and to apologize for his cruelty to her before he dies, and Matilda,
horror stricken, is only able to find her way to a chair before she
She awakes to Percy holding her and he reveals that he is
the son of the Baron de Malvern and rightful heir of the title and estate. He
also tells her that her father sent an assassin to kill him and his father,
though he only managed to murder the Baron, and that he sent a loyal friend to
watch over the castle, giving an explanation to the eerie suit of dark armor
Matilda had seen wandering the castle. Matilda then tells her story leading up
to the present, and concludes with her sorrow over the fate of Malvina. Percy
takes Matilda to Josephine’s castle to rescue her friend but Josephine,
surprised and overwhelmed by the invasion, stabs herself in the heart to avoid
capture. They find Malvina in the dungeon and bring her back to safety with
them, securing her innocence for Sir Egbert’s death with the king. Matilda
marries Percy to become Lady de Malvern and the two live long happy lives
together with their children. Malvina remains heavily involved in Matilda’s
life, and is able to spend her dying breath in Matilda’s arms.
“The Gothic Romance 1762–1820.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall Tymn.
R. R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–175.
The Mystic Tower; or Villainy Punished. London, W. Glindon, N.D.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune Press, 1940.