Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw. An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century
Publisher: J. Bailey
Publication Year: 1820s
Book Dimensions: 10.5cm x 16.5cm
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2.F462 n.d.
Published in the 1820s by an unknown author, this chapbook set in England features a disgraced outlaw obsessed with his rival’s daughter and a religious Prior determined to right the characters on the path of piety.
Feudal Days, a simple and small book, measures 16.5cm long by 10.5cm wide and contains twenty-eight pages. The book currently has no cover; the reader first encounters a blank yellowed page. All pages in the chapbook are brittle and thin; some are slightly ripped at the edges, and the pages’ top ends are all discolored brown. A small amount of black thread loosely links these pages together, although one can observe holes on the left size of pages where thread was likely once used to tightly bind the book.
Opening the book, the reader will observe a pull-out frontispiece illustration on the left side of the first page and the title page on the right side. The title page contains the full title of the chapbook: Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw. An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century. The title appears in different variations throughout other places in the text. At the top of the first page of text, it appears as Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw without the second line, and at the top of all pages of text, it reads The Noble Outlaw; (on the left page) and Or, Feudal Days (on the right side), thus reversing the order seen on the title page. An author’s name does not appear throughout the chapbook; however, the name J. Bailey appears on the title page, the last page of text, and on the final two pages. These mentions reveal that J. Bailey of 116 Chancery Lane “printed and sold” the book and also published numerous other chapbooks listed on the last two pages of this chapbook. The title page finally lists the price of the chapbook—6 pence.
Venturing past the front pages of the book, the reader will notice that the body text is closely-set and single-spaced and that many pages do not have paragraph breaks. On most pages, the margins are roughly 1cm all around; between pages 22 and 24, the bottom margin increases slightly to 2cm. Pagination on the top of pages begins on the second page of body text at page 4 and continues to the last page of body text (26). In addition to pagination, publishers have included a few extra printed markings on the bottom of pages: “A2” is printed on what would be denoted page 3; “A3” is on page 5; “A4” on page 7; “A5” on page 9; and “B” is printed on page 25. These markings, called signature marks, were printed in order to aid the accuracy in the binding of the chapbook.
Although almost all of the book contains text without any illustration, the frontispiece on the opposite page from the title page provides the singular illustration, depicting a woman stabbing a man inside a cave that is decorated with a chandelier. This frontispiece is unique in the chapbook, both because it is the only use of color and because is the only exception to the dimensions of the chapbook: it folds outward to comprise an overall width of 21cm and height of 16.5cm. This page bears the captions of “FRONTISPIECE” above and a reference to the body text below: “Nay then Ermina, cried Rudolph, ‘I will not brook delay’—when, by one bold effort she released her hand, and seizing my shining sword”. The content of this caption, while not a direct quotation, is a condensed version of dialogue recounted on page 14 of the text; additionally, this caption is printed slightly off-the-page; for this reason, exact punctuation is uncertain.
While most attributes described in this chapbook are particular to the entire batch that this book was printed in, it is finally worthwhile to point out a few characteristics that are likely unique to this particular copy in the Sadlier-Black collection. Overall, this book is devoid of most markings. The three particular marks include potential pen markings in a straight line at the top of the final page, a circular mark which may be glue or wax, and a bit of blue color that has spotted the front and back pieces of the book, which may be the remnants of a cover or binding.
In addition to the copy of Feudal Days held by the University of Virginia, WorldCat indicates that multiple other copies exist in print form in fifteen other libraries. These copies are not concentrated in one geographic region: a copy of Feudal Days can be found at four Canadian libraries, one United Kingdom library, two Spanish libraries, and nine United States libraries (including the University of Virginia). In addition to the print forms of Feudal Days, there is also another digitized copy of the book held by New York Public Library (NYPL), which is accessible through HathiTrust and Google Books.
Multiple factors support an inference that there were multiple printings of Feudal Days when it was originally published: first, the digitized NYPL copy available on HathiTrust includes an additional cover page that the University of Virginia copy does not have. This page includes a notation that the book was “Printed and Published by S. Carvalho, 18, West Place, Nelson Street, City of London”. A few pages later, the cover page indicating that the book was printed by J. Bailey is still included, and the rest of the book looks exactly identical to the version held by the University of Virginia. S. Carvalho may have reprinted the entire book or simply added an additional cover onto the original printing by J. Bailey. Second, the date that Google Books lists for the publication of the NYPL version of Feudal Days is 1829, but the University of Virginia library catalog indicates a date range of 1820 to 1829. While this may not alone be enough to pin down potentially different printings, the WorldCat catalog record for Feudal Days notes that, according to I. Maxted’s London Book Trades, J. Bailey operated at the printed address (116 Chancery Lane) only between 1808 and 1827, not 1829 (Maxted, cited in WorldCat Catalog Record). Regardless, the wide circulation of Feudal Days in international libraries indicates that even if the book only went through one printing, it may have been printed in large volumes.
WorldCat lists three contributors to Feudal Days: J. Bailey, George Cruikshank, and Friedrich Schiller. The British Museum states that J. Bailey was a British “publisher active between 1799 and 1825,” and that he traded with William Bailey, who may have been a family member, during the latter period of his flourishing years, 1823–1824 (“J Bailey”). In addition to the list of chapbooks printed by J. Bailey in the back of Feudal Days, the British Museum also lists a few prints and pamphlets printed by him, including “The life and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte,” which was illustrated by George Cruikshank, evidence that J. Bailey collaborated with Cruikshank on multiple occasions (“Pamphlet”). George Cruikshank is thought to be the illustrator or the author of Feudal Days according to different sources. Cruikshank (1792–1878) was a fairly prominent British graphic artist; he started his career as a caricaturist and then moved to book illustration. Some of his most notable works include working with Charles Dickens on illustrations for Oliver Twist from 1837–1843 and the famous temperance comic The Bottle in 1847 (Patten). Most sources, including HathiTrust and University of Virginia library catalog, credit Cruikshank with illustrations; however, Diane Hoeveler credits Cruikshank himself with adapting Friedrich Schiller’s play Die Räuber into Feudal Days (Hoeveler 197). Finally, Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805) was a famous German playwright, poet, and philosopher (Witte). Schiller wrote his own unfinished gothic novel, The Ghost-Seer, but the most concrete link between Schiller and Feudal Days is the assertion that Feudal Days is based off an English translation of Schiller’s German drama Die Räuber (Andriopoloulos 1–2, Hoeveler 197).
Die Räuber is a drama about two brothers, one of whom is cast out by the father under the influence of the evil brother and who joins a band of outlaws. Although threads of outlawdom and banditti are common to Feudal Days, it seems that the plot of Feudal Days is not an exact adaptation of Die Räuber, primarily because it is missing the element of familial rivalry (“The Robbers”). However, an opera called The Noble Outlaw may also be a source of influence for Feudal Days. The Noble Outlaw, produced in 1815 in England, is “founded upon” Beaumont and Fletcher’s opera The Pilgrim (“Noble Outlaw” Theatrical 310). The Noble Outlaw is about an outlawed robber who returns to his beloved’s residence, disguised as a pilgrim, in order to leave with her (“Noble Outlaw” Monthly 302). As a resolution of the plot, the Outlaw of the opera saves his rival’s life, and “all ends happily” (“Noble Outlaw” Theatrical 311). Similar to Die Räuber, the common thread of outlawdom is present; in addition, plot points such as breaking into a woman’s home in a disguise and saving a rival’s life as a plot resolution are common to both the opera and Feudal Days. No source exists indicating that The Noble Outlaw specifically influenced Feudal Days, but given the time proximity and the name and plot similarities, this may be the case. As evidenced by a search on HathiTrust, there are many other chapbooks with “Feudal Days” or “The Noble Outlaw” constituting part of the title. Online copies of these other chapbooks are limited, so the degree to which these related works are similar is unknown. Therefore, Feudal Days could have other influences and could have influenced other works; at the same time, these numerous titles may indicate that “Feudal Days” and “Noble Outlaw” were simply popular book titles.
Notably inaccessible is information about Feudal Days’s marketing and reception during the time period, reprintings, prequels, and sequels, and any scholarly analysis of the book after its publication. One hypothesis for the absence of such information is that Feudal Days is one in a list of many gothic chapbooks published by J. Bailey during this time period, as evidenced by the final two pages of the chapbook listing other titles (Feudal Days 26–7). Therefore, Feudal Days might not have stood out amongst its counterparts enough to warrant independent reviews or scholarship. In sum, however, the information that can be gleaned about Feudal Days does lead to several inferences regarding its relative importance. First, given the numerous copies available of the book currently, it may have been fairly popular. Second, its plot may have been influenced by multiple, mixed-media sources, including well-known theatrical works like Die Räuber or The Pilgrim. Finally, one of Feudal Days’s potential contributors, George Cruikshank, would later achieve fairly notable status later in his career.
Narrative Point of View
The present-tense section of Feudal Days is narrated by a third-person anonymous narrator who never appears in the text. This narrator relies on recounting dialogue rather than independently describing or analyzing plot. While a minority of the story is recounted by this narrator in the present tense, the text also contains flashbacks and interpolated tales, narrated by the character who experienced the flashback. The majority of the text is spent on Rodolph’s interpolated tale, in which he recounts his descent into lawlessness. This tale is narrated in the first person by Rodolph, and every paragraph opens and closes with quotation marks, to indicate that Rodolph is telling his story during continuous conversation with Father Francis. Both the anonymous narrator and Rodolph often employ long sentences, containing multiple clauses joined by semicolons and oftentimes-unclear referential pronouns. Unlike the anonymous narrator, however, Rodolph utilizes elements of description and recounts his own feelings and state of mind, rather than simply narrating the dialogue of others.
Sample Passage from Rodolph’s Interpolated Tale:
“O, Ernulf! my friend, wealth, honour, fame, are now lost to me; malignant stars have crossed my fondest hopes; Rodolph no longer bears the name of brave, but skulks an outlaw, the meanest slave of passion, who, like the prowling monster of the forest, avoids pursuit, and sheds unguarded blood.” (7)
Sample Passage of Impersonal and Anonymous Third-Person Narrator:
“Hold! (cried the Prior) God commands that ye shall not proceed, re-sheath your swords, and release your captive.” Rodolph started, and gazed with amazement on the Prior. “What man art thou, (said he) that dare oppose my will; disclose to me thy name and purpose?” – “To preach repentance, (replied the prior) and to prevent evil.” Much more the Prior said, for he found that he had gained attention.
Rodolph raised his head, and gazing on the sky, an unwonted smile played o’er his features. “Thou holy man, (he kindly said) thy exhortations wind like infant tendrils round a sinner’s heart, and have taught my soul to know what constitutes true happiness on earth; thy words have chased error from my mind.” (18)
The anonymous narrator guides the reader along through the thoughts and lives of different characters without offering any independent commentary. The only character that the narrator independently comments on is the Prior, whom the narrator repeatedly describes as virtuous. This technique of guiding the narrative with a heavy focus on transcribing dialogue makes the characters of Feudal Days appear more developed than there may otherwise be space for in a twenty-eight-page chapbook. Additionally, the oftentimes-unclear sentences may require a second or third reading of a passage. These tactics combine to make the story appear longer and more action-heavy than what may be expected for a book of its size.
Rodolph’s narration, on the other hand, provides personal and descriptive insights, showcasing broader character development and highlighting Rodolph as the protagonist of the story. Rodolph is frequently over-dramatic, utilizing exaggerated similes such as, in the passage above, “like the prowling monster of the forest” to evoke his strong feelings and emphasize the weightiness of his tumult. The Prior’s eventual ability to calm even Rodolph’s tormented mind, as shown in the sample passage, lends extra weight to the anonymous narrator’s assertion that the Prior is inarguably virtuous. Although Rodolph’s style of narration may appear disjointed from the impersonal and brief narration of the rest of the chapbook, the fact that every paragraph of his tale is offset by quotation marks renders his interpolated tale as a long-form version of the dialogue relayed by the anonymous narrator. Therefore, Rodolph’s narrative style showcases an extended version of the character development tactic utilized by the anonymous narrator and is in fact consistent with the rest of the chapbook.
Feudal Days opens with a description of the Priory of Birkenhead, which sits close to the Mersey inlet, a place where ships frequently wreck. Beyond the inlet, there lies a “bleak and dreary” waste of vegetation; the pious father of the priory (the Prior) cautions travelers to avoid the “track on the right” when navigating through the waste and take the “track on the left” (3).
On a dark night, the Prior summons one of his men, Father Francis, to accompany him down to the water so that they can encounter any struggling travelers and give them aid. As they walk down to the water, the Prior recalls when Francis was rescued in a similar condition—on a night like this, the Prior slipped and fell walking back up to the priory, and locked eyes with Francis, also suffering on the ground and exhausted due to the weather. The Prior called the other brothers of the priory, and the two men were brought up to the priory and nursed back to health.
Back in the present, the men complete their journey down to the water; as the night gets even darker, they decide to head back to the priory. Before they can leave, they catch a glimpse of a man “in warlike form” wielding a sword, but the figure disappears (5). When they return to the priory and go to sleep, the Prior is haunted by dreams related to that figure.
The next morning, Father Francis steals away from morning prayers to sit in solitude in a sea cave on Mersey’s shore. Father Francis recalls his life before becoming a priest, when he was called Ernulf. Father Francis, in mental turmoil, recounts his parting with his lover, Angela. Father Francis killed Angela’s husband, Arden; Angela also died that night in shock, despite her love for Francis. Francis pleads with God to “forgive their murders,” when, suddenly, he sees the warlike figure from last night (6). The figure turns out to be Francis’s old friend, Rodolph. Rodolph first provides clarity to Francis’s backstory, then launches into his own story, declaring himself an “outlaw” and the “meanest slave of passion” (7).
Rodolph was fighting on behalf of the current king, King Henry, against Henry’s rival Edward and commanding other lords to join the fight. Lord Silbert had not yet joined the fight for Henry, so Rodolph resolved to convince him. Rodolph traveled to Silbert’s estate, where he was received by the Lady of Lord Silbert and their daughter, Ermina. At dinner, Rodolph was not able to convince Silbert to join the fight for Henry; in fact, Silbert believed Henry’s rival Edward had a legitimate claim to the throne. The two men began trading threats of violence against each other and Rodolph left the estate quickly.
However, once Rodolph left the estate, he started thinking about Silbert’s daughter Ermina and her charms, quickly forgetting “his king, friends, and country” (9). Unable to gain access to the estate in a conventional fashion, he sought advice from his friend Lord Redwald, and decided to enter the mansion in the disguise of a peasant. When he revealed himself to Ermina inside the mansion, she told him that he had to leave; Rodolph then kidnapped Ermina with the help of Redwald’s men and brought her to Redwald’s mansion. Silbert, about to greet Edward’s troops, realized that Ermina had been taken. He later received word that a peasant had taken Ermina and offered a reward for intelligence about her whereabouts. Rodolph’s identity and location were betrayed for the reward, and Silbert arrived with his men at Redwald’s estate to fight for Ermina’s freedom. Redwald received a fatal wound during the fight with Silbert’s army, but before he died, he conveyed knowledge of a secret passageway within his mansion that could be used as an escape, and Rodolph, his men, and Ermina left via that route.
Once they left the castle and found themselves in nature, Rodolph turned his attention back to Ermina, whose affections towards him had not warmed. She told Rodolph that she would not marry him until her father consented, but he resolved to marry her quickly and have her “share [his] couch tonight” despite her wishes (13). He had Ermina brought “shrieking” to his cavern, and told Ermina to swear to be his (13). Before Rodolph could rape Ermina, Ermina seized Rodolph’s own sword and plunged it into his bosom. She thanked God for preserving her honor, then fled from the area.
The next day, Rodolph came to and heard that Ermina had vanished without a trace. Walking around the area with one of his men, Edric, he saw a stranger, who asked him where to find the “lawless” Rodolph (15). Rodolph dueled with this man, killed him, and read his dispatches. According to these papers, a reward of 500 marks was placed on Rodolph’s head, his lands had been bestowed to Silbert, and his mansion had been used by the rival Edward’s troops. With that development, Rodolph ends his backstory, lamenting his new position as an outlaw. Francis states that the turn of events is beneficial, for Rodolph would have violated Ermina’s honor for a few seconds of pleasure, and invites Rodolph to join the priory for the day and give his penitence.
Meanwhile, another stranger—Lord Silbert—knocks on the door of the priory and asks to stay a night before he continues on his journey. The next morning, Silbert is guided along his journey by one of the priory’s domestics, Gaspar. The Prior watches them leave and realizes that Gaspar is leading Silbert along the wrong path to the right, contrary to the Prior’s constant warnings. On this wrong path, an armed band attacks Silbert, and he is about to die when Rodolph shows up and saves Silbert’s life. Rodolph now has Silbert at his mercy, and demands that Silbert give away Ermina to him. Silbert refuses, and then the Prior shows up to intercede. He urges Rodolph to not keep Silbert captive, and Rodolph quickly acquiesces to his exhortations. Rodolph asks Silbert for forgiveness and pledges to find Ermina for him, and Silbert quickly forgives Rodolph and thanks him for saving his life. As they are about to return to the convent, they come across the wounded Gaspar, who betrayed Silbert. The Prior tells Gaspar that he must repent, and Gaspar reveals that beneath this hill lies a secret cavern where a band of murderers, his companions, live.
Rodolph and Silbert resolve to raid this secret cavern. Once they enter the cavern, they find it fully decorated and quickly kill all of the banditti. They also free a woman who had been kneeling before the chief of the band pleading for mercy. This woman is revealed as Ermina, who was taken by this band when she fled from Rodolph. The chief of the banditti took a liking to her, and threatened to kill her unless she consented to marry him.
After the battle is over, the Prior enters the cavern with a messenger of Silbert, who tells Rodolph that if he swears allegiance to Edward and lays down his arms, he will not only be pardoned, but given a royal favor. Rodolph agrees because King Henry is dead and King Edward has the mandate of the people, and Silbert and Rodolph pledge allegiance to each other.
As the party walks back to the priory, they spot a priest, falling into the water. The priest dies soon after and is revealed as Father Francis. Despite this development, the characters of the book wrap up their story happily—Silbert gives Ermina as a gift to Rodolph and consents to their marriage, Silbert and Rodolph give Lord Redwald a proper burial, and King Edward declares that the men can destroy the robber’s cave and give the proceeds to be split amongst his followers. When the Prior dies a few years later, they all mourn “the good man’s death” together (26).
Andriopoloulos, Stefan. “Occult Conspiracies: Spirits and Secrets in Schiller’s Ghost Seer.” New German Critique, vol. 35, no. 1, 2008, pp. 65–81.
Feudal Days; or, the Noble Outlaw: An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century. London, J. Bailey, n.d.
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Researcher: Lydia McVeigh