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 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
In this 1800s chapbook by Sarah Wilkinson set in the South of France, follow Emma de Villeroy as she navigates her mysterious marriage, and the truth about her bloodline.
The White Cottage of the Valley is one chapbook bound in a collection of eighteen stories. The story itself is short, only twenty-one pages as compared to the over thirty-page length of the other stories in the book, but the text is quite dense. The text is small and close-set, and the margins between each line are thin. The book measures approximately 11cm x 18cm, allowing this chapbook to hold a lot of content. The margins of the pages vary, ranging from 0.8 cm to 1.6cm. The pages are quite thin, allowing you to see the text on the other side. Each page has the shortened title of the book, The White Cottage, printed across the top. This is uniform to every story in the book, making it easy to differentiate the separate works.
Before you begin reading the story, you are greeted with a frontispiece. The frontispiece, an illustration preceding the title page, is completely unique. Although the black outline is printed, the colors are hand painted with watercolors. You can see white space that the artist did not quite cover with color, as well as places where the colors overlap. The illustration depicts a woman clothed in red and white approaching the door of a hut where a woman and child wait. Below the illustration is a quote that relates to the part of the story the image is depicting: “Merciful Providence! Your Husband ill, & lying in that Hut.” Uniquely, the word “page” stands alone just below the quote, likely intended to list the page number where you could find this quote. However, there is no page number, and in fact this illustration does not relate at all to The White Cottage of the Valley, or to any story within this collection of chapbooks. It is possible that this was a misprint, or perhaps the story that relates to this illustration was removed from this book. The White Cottage of the Valley also does not contain page numbers, though it does include signature marks, which were used to guide bookbinders and make sure the pages were folded correctly and in the correct order. A2, B, C, and C2 appear on the first, seventh, eleventh, and thirteenth pages respectively.
The title page follows the frontispiece on the next page. The full title, The White Cottage of the Valley; or the Mysterious Husband: an Original, Interesting Romance,is printed vertically down the page, followed by the name of the author, Sarah Wilkinson. An excerpt from a poem is quoted just below, and below that the printer is listed. Finally, the price, sixpence, is printed at the very bottom of the page. The title page bleeds through almost completely to the other side of the paper, which is otherwise completely blank.
The cover of the chapbook collection follows a very popular binding technique of the time called half binding. The spine and two triangles on the corners of the front and back cover are brown leather, while the main cover is paper. The paper cover is decorated with another popular technique: marbling. This is a process in which different colors of oil paint are added to a tub of water, which the paper for the cover is then dipped in. The water forces the oil to spread, giving it a “marbled” look. The cover of this book is mostly beige, with marbling of dark blue. It is worse for wear, though, with quite a bit of the front worn off. The spine is also quite worn, with cracks appearing in the leather and tearing slightly at the top. Luckily, the book is in mostly good condition, with no large tears or extremely stained pages.
Sarah Wilkinson was a gothic writer active between 1799 and 1824. In that time, she penned approximately one-hundred short stories, including about thirty gothic works. The White Cottage of the Valley; or the Mysterious Husband is one of her lesser-known works. Unlike her more popular stories, which have well-documented and sometimes controversial histories, The White Cottage has very little written about it. This is likely due to the pure quantity of gothic chapbooks that Wilkinson penned, meaning only the most popular of them have been attended to by historians and literary scholars. The White Cottage has, however, been republished in the second volume of Gary Kelly’s 2002 Varieties of Female Gothic. This volume, titled Street Gothic, includes a number of gothic texts by female writers that Kelly suggests depict the change in the writing of the lower class. In the introduction to this volume, Kelly describes The White Cottage as “represent[ing] the revolution in cheap print of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century that saw the creation of a commercialised novelty literature for the lower-class and lower middle-class readers” (xxiii). This is one of the only modern works that analyzes The White Cottage, rather than simply listing it as one of Wilkinson’s texts.
As often as Wilkinson is described as prolific, she is also described as a “hack” writer (Kelly xxi, Hoeveler 3). This is due to the fact that Wilkinson was on the cusp of poverty, writing “at the lowest end of the literary market” (Kelly xxi). Indeed, she wrote so much because she had to in order to make a living, not necessarily out of love for the craft. In 1803, she wrote to Tell-Tale Magazine, issuing a “warning [to] every indigent woman, who is troubled with the itch of scribbling, to beware of [her] unhappy fate.” (“The Life of an Authoress, Written by Herself” 28) Obviously Wilkinson had the desire to write, self-described as an “itch of scribbling,” but it was not an easy way to make a living.
Interestingly, the publisher of The White Cottage is also somewhat well-known. In 1810, Robert Harrild invented a new tool for inking typeface, called a composition roller. This was a much more efficient method than the previously used balls of hide (Anderson & McConnell). Conversely, the illustrator for the frontispiece for The White Cottage is completely unlisted and unknown. The White Cottage of the Valley originally included a frontispiece (printed in Kelly’s Varieties of Female Gothic) but this frontispiece is not present in the University of Virginia version, which may be due to Wilkinson’s lack of resources, or it is possible that there was a misprinting or a confusion when rebinding and a different frontispiece was accidentally placed there instead. All versions of the chapbook, however, have the title-page epigraph from Thomas Fitzgerald’s eighteenth-century poem “Bedlam.”
There was at least one printing of The White Cottage in the early nineteenth century, but the publication date is not precisely known because the work itself has no date listed. WorldCat and Google Books list the date as 1815, although this is likely inaccurate because the title page of The White Cottage lists Robert Harrild as residing at 20 Great Eastcheap in London at the time of printing, a location he did not move to until 1819. He moved once again in 1824, suggesting The White Cottage was likely published sometime between 1819 and 1824, not 1815 (Anderson & McConnell).
While it has never been officially said that Wilkinson pulled content from Elizabeth Meeke’s The Mysterious Husband: A Novel, there are a few obvious overlaps between the two stories. Most notably, the works share a partial title, a character named the Earl of Clarencourt (spelled Clarancourt in Meeke’s story), a theme of marrying for money rather than love, and a main character who leaves for France for the sake of his mental health. Since Meeke’s novel was published early in 1801, it is possible that Wilkinson read Meeke’s novel and incorporated ideas from it into her own chapbook. This would not be the first time Wilkinson took inspiration from another story, either: her 1820 novel, Castle of Lindenberg; or, The History of Raymond and Agnes, is heavily derived from Matthew Lewis’s popular story The Monk. This was not all that unusual at the time: Father Innocent, Abbot of the Capuchins; or, The Crimes of Cloisters (1805) and The Castle of Lindenberg; or The History of Raymond and Agnes (1798) were also borderline plagiarisms of the same popular work.
Narrative Point of View
The White Cottage of the Valley is narrated by an unnamed narrator who is never a character in the story. They narrate entirely in third person and past tense, except at the beginning of extended backstory when they momentarily switch to present tense and use “we” to refer to the narration. The narrator often acts as an omniscient storyteller, relating how the characters feel and react to each other. Through the narrator, we are given insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. The language the narrator uses is formal and antiquated.
She instantly summoned Alise and Anetta to her presence, that she might fully apprize them of the part they had to act before the stranger could converse them, and thus frustrate her intentions.
While she is conversing with her faithful domestics, we will look back a little to the events that preceded—the distress of mind into which the amiable Emma was now plunged.
Emma de Villeroy was a native of the southern part of France; she was the only child of a very respectable medical man, a descendant of a noble family. (4)
This method of omniscient storytelling allows readers access to what the characters are thinking, enabling readers to experience events more intimately with the characters. The narration also heightens the effect of the plot unfolding in real time by suggesting that Emma’s backstory can be provided during the period of time when “she is conversing with her faithful domestics” as if Emma is talking to her servants at the exact same moment that the narration is relaying her backstory. As a result, Emma, the third-person narration, and the readers are all waiting for the rest of Emma’s story to unfold in this moment.
The White Cottage of the Valley opens with its main character Emma crying because her husband has not come home. She eventually falls into a fitful sleep until late in the night, when the gate bell rings. Emma, convinced it is her husband, quickly answers it. It is not her husband, however, but a stranger asking for shelter out of the rain. Despite her reluctance, Emma allows him in and sets him up with a bed. The next morning, when she goes down to breakfast with her children, the stranger asks which of the two is hers. Emma, alarmed by this question, lies and says only Rosalthe is hers and that Adolphus is the child of her servant, Alise.
Here, the narrator backs up to talk a bit about Emma’s backstory. Emma de Villeroy is the daughter of a woman who married against the will of her parents. Emma’s grandparents were so against the marriage that her parents left and never contacted them again. The years passed, and eventually both of Emma’s parents died. On his deathbed, her father bid Emma to seek out her wealthy, noble grandparents because otherwise she would be left destitute. Unfortunately, he died before he could give any information about her grandparents, leaving Emma with no way to contact either of them. In cleaning out her parents’ house, Emma subsequently found a miniature of her mother and began to wear it on a necklace under her clothes.
One day, Emma met a young man named Adolphus Montreville who had taken a liking to her late father’s library so much that he wanted to purchase the books. When the two of them met, there was an immediate spark. Adolphus was very kind to Emma in a way that betrayed his emotions, but he never made any formal declarations of his passion. Eventually, Adolphus explained that his father, a greedy Earl, wants to marry him off to an heiress for the money. Adolphus expressed that while he has feelings for Emma, he cannot marry her publicly due to his father. Therefore, he suggested a private marriage. Emma accepted his proposal, without mentioning her wealthy grandparents. The next week, the pair were married. Almost immediately, however, Adolphus Montreville was called back to England. He promised to return as soon as possible, leaving a pregnant Emma with one of her parents’ servants, Alise.
Eventually, Emma had twins, Rosalthe and Adolphus, and travelled to Paris to meet her husband, still concealing their marriage. There, the pair attended an opera and Emma noticed a wealthy couple who she immediately believed to be her grandparents due to their resemblance to her late mother. She did not mention her suspicions to her husband, however, and eventually left France for Wales without any conclusion of this matter.
Two months after settling in a white cottage in the valley in Wales, Adolphus visited and he expressed to Emma his fears that their marriage had been discovered. The following night, he promises that he will be more explicit when he returns. However, after this visit, he does not come back.
This is where the beginning of the story picks up again. That night, the second one the stranger stays in the cottage, Emma and Rosalthe are kidnapped by Adolphus Montreville’s father, the Earl of Clarencourt. The earl accuses Emma of deceiving him by denying Adolphus as her son. He informs Emma that her husband is also his prisoner and gives Emma a paper urging her to sign it. The paper proposes this agreement: the earl intends to fake his son’s death so that his younger brother, Edward, can marry the heiress. Emma and her family will be banished, but Emma’s son, Adolphus, will be raised by the earl. If Emma and Adolphus Montreville do not sign this paper, they will forever be confined to Milbury castle as they are now.
Emma refuses to sign, making the earl angry and scaring Rosalthe in her arms. As Rosalthe clings to her, she pulls out the necklace Emma wears. The earl immediately recognizes it as a miniature of the daughter of the Marquis De Aubigne. When Emma tells him it was her mother’s, he realizes his mistake. He apologizes to Emma, and she and her husband are freed. Emma goes on to meet her grandparents, who accept her eagerly and apologize for their poor treatment of her mother. Emma inherits all of her grandparents’ wealth, and her family lives happily for the rest of their lives.
Kelly, Gary. “Introduction.” Varieties of Female Gothic, Volume 2: Street Gothic. Taylor & Francis, 2002, pp. vii–xxiii.
“The Life of an Authoress, Written by Herself,” Tale 57 in Tell-Tale Magazine (London: Ann Lemoine, 1803), p. 28 in The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade, by Franz Potter. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The White Cottage of the Valley: Or the Mysterious Husband: An Original, Interesting Romance. Printed and Published by R. Harrild, n.d.
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.
In this 1803 chapbook, Charlotte Frances Barrett (Frances Burney’s niece) writes a tale of adventure, surprise, and horror in which the righteous queen must be rescued from an evil usurper.
The Round Tower, Or the Mysterious Witness: An Irish Legendary Tale of the Sixth Century, by C. F. Barrett, is a gothic chapbook in the Sadleir-Black Collection of the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. The book is thirty-six pages, has no cover, and measures 17.3cm by 10.7cm. The front of the book is blank, save for the faint traces of ink that have bled through from the illustration next to the inside title page. Once the book is opened, an illustration of two cavaliers gesturing towards a godlike figure is observed along with the words “Vaughan delin” and “Barlow sculp” under the bottom left and right corners respectively. The illustration combines both etching and engraving and was printed from a copper plate. Additionally, the words “Round Tower” are written under the center of the illustration in a three-dimensional font. The inside title page follows the illustration and the author’s name is printed in the middle of the page in all capital letters. Beneath the author’s name is listed Barrett’s other publication: Mary Queen of Scots, Sc., and the quote, “Murder! Most foul, and Treachery most vile.” Farther down the inner title page, after the author’s name and credentials, is the publishing information and the words “Printed for Tegg and Castleman.”
The book is held together by glue binding; however, it is
worn and has lost its effect, leading to the book’s fragility. The binding used
to be accompanied by stitching that adhered the book to its cover as
illustrated by the holes in the sides of the pages closest to the spine, but
the cover has since fallen off, which contributes to the book’s tattered
The pages of the text are yellowed, have the texture of
sandpaper, and are splotchy, due to a chemical reaction that has occurred
between the chemicals in the paper and the environment in which the book is
stored. Moreover, the pages get increasingly brown beginning at page 25, and
appear more weathered than the pages at the beginning and middle of the text.
On each page, the text is centered and situated between margins
that are slightly larger on the top and bottom than the left and right. Each
page has the words “THE ROUND TOWER” printed in the center of the top margin
and the page number in the bottom left corner right under the text. The text is
small, closely set, and sophisticated with a font that appears similar to Times
The Round Tower boasts markings made by potential
previous owners. The first and second occur on page 11. In the bottom margin is
a signature written in cursive, however, it has faded and is therefore
illegible. At the top of page 11 in the right-hand margin, the initials LB are
written in cursive, insinuating that the book was once owned by an individual
before coming into the Sadleir-Black Collection. Finally, there is a blotch of
blue ink two-thirds of the way down page 25.
The Round Tower, Or the Mysterious Witness: An Irish
Legendary Tale of the Sixth Century, by C. F. Barrett, was published by
Tegg and Castleman in London in 1803; this appears to be the only edition and
there are no digital copies. Interestingly, the book is a plagiarism of John
Palmer’s popular gothic novel, The Mystery of the Black Tower (Tymn 41).
This tale is set in the time period of Edward the III and depicts the life of
Leonard, a young boy who earns knighthood and must embark on an adventure to
save his love, Emma, from imprisonment in the Black Tower. Published in 1796, The
Black Tower was influenced by Don Quixote as well as Clara Reeve’s The
Old English Baron and is still billed as “among the finest historical
Gothic novels” (“The Mystery of the Black Tower (1796)”).
Plagiarisms were very common among chapbooks at this time.
Francesca Saggini suggests that The Round
Tower was also inspired by contemporary theatrical performances. Saggini
characterizes Barrett as a “prolific hack … who adapted to the page several
Gothic spectacles performed … at popular London venues” (120). The
frontispiece of The Round Tower depicts the dramaticism of the
appearance of the supernatural apparition and the animated reflections of the
onlookers, thus illustrating how the gothic genre was influenced by performance
yet also available to readers “at a cheap price and in the safety of their own
homes” (Saggini 122). The frontispiece is also displayed in Frederick Frank’s
article “Gothic Gold: The Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection”along with a
description of the work that describes the book as a thrilling “Macbethian
Gothic” that includes dramatized supernatural elements (18).
Charlotte Frances Barrett, author of The Round Tower,
produced pamphlets between 1800 and 1810 and authored stories including, as
compiled by Franz Potter: The Great Devil’s Tale; or, The Castle of Morbano
included in Canterbury Tales (1802), The Mysterious Vision; or,
Perfidy Punished in the New Collection of Gothic Stories (1801), a
translation of The Shipwreck, or, The Adventures, Love, and Constancy, of
Paul and Virginia (1800), Douglas Castle; or, The Cell of Mystery. A
Scottish Tale (1803) for Arthur Neil, and Laugh when You Can; or, The
Monstrous Droll Jester (1800) for Ann Lemoine (104-5n). Barrett was also
the niece of Frances Burney (1752–1840), well-known author of Evelina (1778)
and Cecilia (1782).
Thomas Tegg (1776–1846), who published The Round Tower, was
a bookseller and publisher in London who specialized in “reprints,
out-of-copyright publications, remainders, and cheap satirical prints” (“Thomas
Tegg”). He also published accounts of shipwrecks that included engraved folding
frontispieces (Weiss 60). Tegg and Castleman were prolific: “between 1802 and
1805, Tegg and Castleman co-published at least nineteen novelettes in
collaboration with Dugdale” (Loeber and Stouthamer-Loeber 26). Potter calls Tegg
“the most prominent, if not notorious, publisher of gothic chapbooks and
pamphlets in the early nineteenth century” (59).
Point of View
The Round Tower is narrated by an omniscient narrator
who has insight into the thoughts and actions of each character. The story is
narrated in a venerable tone using lengthy sentences that are broken up by
punctuation. The narration primarily focuses on the emotions of the characters
and how they influence the characters’ dispositions and behaviors. Additionally,
the narrator relays the tale with great expressivity by contextualizing every
event in the story with dramatic and detailed descriptions.
Enraged at her firmness, Sitric seized the infant, and, drawing his poignard, he raised his arm in order to plunge it in the bosom of the latter, when, driven to desperation, she rushed on the perfidious Dane, and, wrestling the fatal weapon from him, would have plunged it in his heart, but at that moment the door of the dungeon flew open, and Cobthatch, attended by the vindictive Connora, rushed in, followed by several of the usurper’s guards. Appalled at the sudden appearance of her husband’s enemy, the poignard fell from the hand of Moriat, which Connora instantly seized, fearful (in despite of her lord’s neglect) lest in a paroxysm of despair Moriat might yet use it against his life. (19)
The narrator’s omniscience allows for multiple characters’
perspectives to be included in the relation of the book, which illustrates
their motives, ambitions, and values to add nuance and intricacy to the tale.
Likewise, the multitude of punctuation functions to provide the narrator with
inflection and gives the impression that the book is being told as a story. The
narrator’s emphasis on the characters’ feelings centers the driving force of
the plot around emotion and asserts its power as a motivating force behind the
characters’ actions. Furthermore, the descriptive and intensified manner in
which the book is narrated creates a theatrical tone that results in an
Cobthatch, King of Munster, is listening to music in an attempt to
calm his anxiety about the fact that he has unjustly obtained the throne by
killing his uncle, Laughair. He is then notified that Maon and Moriat, the son
of his murdered uncle and his wife, are still alive, and orders his associate,
Sitric, to ensure their execution. However, Maon and Moriat do not know the
other is alive.
Meanwhile, Moriat is in the mountains where she has been able to
secure lodging. One day when she is mourning the loss of Maon, who she thinks
is deceased, she carves his name into a nearby rock. While doing so, she is
startled by a man approaching her, but then realizes it is Kildare, her loyal
attendant. He recalls his experience venturing out to secure provisions and
tells Moriat the story of how he discovered Maon. He recollects that he heard a
groan and was convinced it was a ghost, but then realized it was Maon, who at
the time had drawn his sword with the intention of committing suicide. Kildare
caught the Lord before he impaled himself, and they embraced upon their
reunion. Maon immediately wanted to be shown to Moriat, but Kildare convinced
him the sudden shock would be too much for her to bear and convinced Maon to wait
until he could deliver the news.
Upon hearing that her husband is alive, Moriat waits the entire
night for his return with their child at her side, but Maon never shows.
Instead, Moriat is pursued and cornered by Cobthatch’s guards, who take her to
Sitric’s castle where she and her infant are detained in the dungeon. Sitric is
enamored by Moriat’s beauty and wants to spare her from death at the hand of
Cobthatch. He therefore goes to Cobthatch and makes up a story where he states
that Moriat refused to reveal Maon’s location and therefore, he stabbed her.
This satisfies the king, and he is happy to know he will not have to worry
about her raising suspicion. When Sitric returns to the dungeon where Moriat is
being held, he asks that in return for him sparing her life, she complies with
all his future demands. She responds that she will not break her marriage vows,
but that someday her son will be able to repay him. Sitric, infuriated by her
lack of compliance, chains her infant to the opposite wall. He returns the
following night, and when Moriat again refuses to comply, he gives her an
ultimatum that if she does not obey, both her and her baby’s life will suffer
In the meantime, Sitric’s wife, Connora, suspects that her husband
is devoted to another, and devises a plan to observe him. She disguises herself
and follows him to the dungeon where she overhears his conversation with
Moriat, thus confirming her suspicions. Sitric returns to visit Moriat and is
on the verge of stabbing her infant out of anger at her firmness, when Connora
and Cobthatch enter the room. Cobthatch, enraged at discovering that Moriat is
alive, demands that she and her baby be removed to the Round Tower.
While Moriat was captured, Kildare and Maon encountered troops, causing
a delay in their visit to reunite with her. When they venture out the next
morning, they see Sitric’s party in the distance and Kildare suggests they
retire to the cottage of a loyal friend, O’Brian, until they can gather a party
large enough to overpower Sitric’s army.
Once at the cottage, Kildare relates the adventures of Maon and
Moriat since the death of Laughair to O’Brian. He recalls that Laughair had
stayed at the castle of Cobthatch when he was murdered, and that Maon and
Moriat, being accused of the crime, fled to O’Brian’s cottage. Here they were
discovered, which resulted in Moriat fleeing to the mountains and Maon
embarking on a ship that was said to have capsized, leading Moriat to believe
In an effort to rescue Moriat, Maon resolves to enter Sitric’s
castle disguised as a friar and embarks on his journey. Once he arrives, Maon
encounters Sitric, who relates the story of Moriat’s captivity from the
perspective of her savior and offers to lead Maon to the Round Tower. The next day,
as Sitric leads Maon through the passageways, he decides to kill him.
Immediately before he stabs him, the ghost of Laughair appears and instructs
Sitric to lead Maon safely to the dungeon, or else he would face his vengeance.
Once at the door, Maon and Sitric discover Cobthatch attempting to rape Moriat,
leading Sitric to stab and kill him. Sitric then accuses Maon of the murder and
has him taken prisoner. Because of the death of Cobthatch, Sitric is crowned
Following Cobthatch’s murder, Sitric offers Moriat the freedom of
her husband and child if she agrees to have sex with him. At this moment,
Laughair’s ghost reappears and tells Moriat not to trust the tyrant, and she
complies with his instructions and holds firm.
Later that evening, Sitric discovers that Moriat has escaped,
accuses Maon of aiding her to freedom, and orders the execution of him and his
child. The moment before the axe is to execute Maon, Sitric tells him that if
he resigns his title to Moriat and tells him her location, Maon will be spared.
He refuses and at that moment, Kildare enters the courtyard with a band of
peasants and enters into combat with Sitric’s men. While Sitric is engaged in
fighting, Moriat stabs him, which causes his troops to disperse.
After the death of Sitric, Kildare presents to the nobles that
Maon should be king, and when asked for proof of his innocence, the ghost of
Laughair appears for the final time to declare that Maon is the rightful heir
of Munster, and he is crowned king.
Once Maon and Moriat are restored to the throne, Moriat retells
that she escaped because the ghost of Laughair led her to the cottage where
Kildare was staying. Once she arrived, Kildare had assembled an army of
peasants ready to restore the true king to power.
Maon and Moriat enjoy a life full of joy and peace together, and
his rule becomes known for its justice and serves as an example to other
Barrett, Charlotte Frances. The Round Tower,
Or the Mysterious Witness: An Irish Legendary Tale of the Sixth Century. London,
Tegg and Castleman, 1803.
Frank, Frederick. “Gothic Gold: The
Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture,
vol. 26, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 1997, pp. 287–312.
Loeber, Rolf, and Magda Stouthamer-Loeber.
“The Publication of Irish Novels and Novelettes: A Footnote on Irish Gothic
Fiction.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text, 10th ed., e Centre
for Editorial and Intertextual Research, Cardiff, Wales, 2003, pp. 17–44. http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/romtextv2/files/2013/02/cc10_n02.pdf
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks,
Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers: 1797–1830. University of Wales Press,
Saggini, Francesca. The Gothic Novel and
The Stage: Romantic Appropriations. Routledge, Taylor Et Francis Group,
In this circa 1809 chapbook set in the county of Sussex and featuring royalty and forbidden love, one intriguing romance revolves around an Earl’s daughter and a mysterious man’s son who lives alone in the woods.
This particular copy of The Recluse of The Woods is especially rich in both history and mystery. At first glance, several properties of the physical appearance of the book raise questions regarding the book’s history. The binding of the book is made of plain blue paper with nothing printed on it, while also being held together by just enough stitching to keep it stable. The physical book itself is extremely thin, with its height measuring 15.5 cm and it’s width measuring 9.8 cm. Additionally, the cover of the book is completely empty and simple, signaling the inexpensive qualities of the object. Inside the book, the interior pages follow the precedent set by the exterior as the pages are very thin and worn out. The color of the pages are yellowed, representing a light cream color, however are still relatively intact without major stains.
A detailed illustration is present in the beginning of the text, showing a well-dressed man and two women greeting each other, while another man watches from the bushes afar. The illustration seems to be either hand coloring or watercoloring while still being in good condition. There’s also a castle in the background, near the upper left corner. Once again, this illustration further points to the ambiguity of The Recluse of The Woods, as there is no caption or description beneath the drawing that provides information on the meaning of the illustration. The one possible inference that can be made is that the man and two women greeting each other are colleagues, while the man watching from afar seems more suspicious and unwelcome.
The title page prints “The Recluse of The Woods” first, followed by “Or, The Generous Warrior.” Underneath the two titles reads, “A Gothic Romance.” The mysterious qualities of the book are further exemplified by the absence of the author’s name, which is nowhere present in the chapbook.
In terms of text within the book, all pages have closely-set text with wide margins due to the edges not being trimmed. The font is relatively small. For each page of text, the number of the page is written in the top left corner of the page, while the top of the even-page numbers read “The Recluse of” and the top of the odd-page numbers read “The Woods.” There are thirty-six pages of text total in the book.
While The Recluse of the Woods proves to be an interesting novel offering a unique perspective from gothic literature, the actual history of the text is quite ambiguous. A few key details about the circumstances in which The Recluse of the Woods was made are known, namely regarding the publication of the text. The novel was published in 1809 in London, printed by a man named Thomas Maiden, and the publishers were John Roe and Ann Lemoine. These three also worked together for the production of many other novels during the early nineteenth century, publishing books such as The Castle of Alvidaro and The Round Tower. Additionally, there are several copies of The Recluse of the Woods held in both the United States and England, with schools such as The University of Virginia, Yale University, and The University of Oxford each holding copies of the novel.
While this information provides some insight into The Recluse of the Woods, the biggest mystery surrounding the novel is the identity of the author. While their identity seems to be hidden, Frederick S. Frank provides substantial information on the novel in a chapter called “The Gothic Romance,” explaining how The Recluse of the Woods was “written with Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde; or, The Recluse of the Lake in view” (139). While the author of The Recluse of the Woods seems to be absent from most databases, Charlotte Smith was well known for her novels and poems during the late eighteenth century.
Charlotte Smith was an English novelist and poet, born in 1749 and living until 1806. In her career spanning twenty-two years, she produced ten novels, two translations, three books of poetry, and six educational works for children (Napier). Most of her novels earned high praise throughout the duration of her career, while also drawing some debate and criticism for her writing style and views. Among her critics, some voiced their disagreement with democratic sympathies, as well as her radical attitudes toward conventional morality and her political ideas of class equality. Some of the key qualities associated with Smith’s writing were her tendency to work self-consciously and experimentally within the fiction genre. Moreover, she often focused on the celebration of nature within her books, while also frequently adopting the prototypical figure of the wanderer as a vehicle for social commentary. Smith was also a “wanderer,” of sorts, for much of her career, making sense of her attraction towards this characterization (Zimmerman).
While Charlotte Smith saw herself as a poet first and foremost, many of Smith’s novels developed the frame of the story according to Gothic and sentimental traditions. Some of her novels even contained poetic scenes, such as the novel related to The Recluse of the Woods, namely Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake. Published in 1790 in Dublin, Ireland, The Recluse of the Lake was received with mixed reviews by critics, as many saw the novel being equal in excellence to one Smith’s best-known works Emmeline, while some disregarded this notion. One particular critic directly challenges this notion, explaining, “If we compare Ethelinde with Emmeline, it will be found less full of adventure, of sudden changes of fortune, and less interesting by its humble denouement. The characters are not too prominent, nor their outlines so broad” (“Ethelinde” 57). Because the poetic scenes revolved around natural landscapes in the The Recluse of the Lake, the novel adopts a static, lingering quality exactly suited to the tone of its heroine’s introspective melancholy (Napier). While poetic scenes play an important role in The Recluse of the Lake, the novel ultimately is characterized by containing sentimental narratives with Gothic elements, similar to her three other works that she produced during the same time period, like Emmeline and Celestina (Ravin). The Recluse of the Woods harnesses the same sentimental narratives, but ultimately did not have the same critical impact or the same staying power as Charlotte Smith’s novel.
Narrative Point of View
The Recluse of The Woods is narrated in the third person by an external narrator who does not appear in the text. The narration is quite descriptive and observational, as the narrator tends to paint a picture of the scene and describe characters’ physical characteristics prior to introducing the dialogue. Also, the narrator repeatedly tells the reader about characters internal conflict and feelings throughout the novel.
Many other lessons were given to Eliza, by her father and the Lady Gertrude, and she was then left by them to weep for Edgar, and sigh over the hardness of her fate. About the hour of noon the shrill voice of the trumpet announced to her the approach of Lord Harold; she trembled at the sound, and as the untamed fawn flies from the approach of the passenger, she ran to her chamber, anxious to avoid all intercourse with her fellow beings. (24)
With the presence of third-person narration in The Recluse of The Woods, characters’ feelings and thoughts are highlighted clearly, as shown through this sample passage. Key phrases like “she trembled at the sound” and “anxious to avoid” ultimately underline the fear of the character, Eliza, regarding her impending arranged marriage. Additionally, the narrator also highlights the uncomfortable elements present in this scene to heighten the anxiety-filled environment. Consequently, Eliza’s characterization becomes stronger, as her desire for a life with Edgar is contrasted with her fear of marrying Lord Harold, and both emotions are very strong.
The novel begins in the middle of the thirteenth century at Montville Castle, a noble edifice, which lies in the county of Sussex. The Earl of Blancy, the proprietor of Montville Castle, is away in battle for the Christian Army in Palestine while his eighteen-year-old daughter Eliza lives at the castle with Lady Gertrude, a middle-aged woman who envies Eliza’s youth, beauty, and innocence. Lady Gertrude has lived with Eliza since she was eleven years old, as her mother passed away when she was young. While the castle is rich in land, there are some neighbors living nearby, one being a solitary man named Ambrose Phillips. He lives in a poor, wooded cottage area with his teenage son Edgar; both men have a young ambiance and strong appearance. No one knows anything about either of them, but they frequently encounter Eliza and Lady Gertrude on walks through the woods.
One day, as the two groups pass each other, Eliza and Edgar share a moment of intimacy, while Lady Gertrude notices and appears unhappy with Eliza. Lady Gertrude fears a relationship forming between Eliza and Edgar, since she knows Eliza’s father would not be happy with her marrying a peasant. A few days later, the Earl returns after his long war experience, and is shocked by Eliza’s sprouting growth and beauty. Lady Gertrude tells the Earl about the neighbors the next morning, and he says they must be the poorest of his neighbors, and is suspicious of the relationship between Eliza and Edgar.
The Earl visits Phillips with his servant Robert, who knows Phillips from past meetings. He tells the Earl that Phillips is a man in love with solitude, while also saying that Phillips has seen enough of the world to dislike it now. However, he also tells the Earl that he is a worthy man, with an entertaining personality and a good heart. Once they arrive at the cottage, they see the two men outside cutting trees, and stop immediately to listen in on their conversation. They overhear Edgar telling Phillips that he wants to be a soldier because of all the stories and books that Phillips has shared with him, but Phillips ultimately shuts this conversation down by telling Edgar he can still be a good man without becoming a soldier. Edgar even offers becoming a soldier for the Earl, but Phillips maintains his position. Once the conversation ceases, the Earl makes his presence known and invites the two to the castle for dinner.
Once they arrive, the Earl has a great time with Phillips and Edgar, so they return repeatedly throughout the week. The Earl also particularly enjoys his time with Edgar, despite his suspicions of his interactions with his daughter.
One day while Lady Gertrude and Eliza are walking through the woods, Eliza demands to visit Edgar, but Lady Gertrude denies permission as a precautionary measure so as to not anger the Earl. After arguing for some time, Lady Gertrude walks away, while Eliza notices Edgar above her in a tree after a twig falls on her. After consistent pressure from Edgar, Eliza eventually agrees to kiss him, kissing until they are caught by Lady Gertrude. The two women argue for a short while before a man appears with the appearance of an aged pilgrim, clearly being elderly and fatigued. He asks to see Phillips, and Edgar takes him to see his father after Lady Gertrude and Eliza leave to return to the castle.
Later that day, the Earl questions Lady Gertrude about past meetings between Edgar and Eliza. Lady Gertrude tells the Earl about their kiss, leaving the Earl enraged. In response, he says that he has arranged a marriage between Eliza and his old friend from battle named Lord Harold de Vanes, who is sixty-four years old. Although Lady Gertrude disagrees with this action, the Earl explains how he made this promise to Lord Harold after Lord Harold saved the Earl’s life in combat. The Earl then dispatches Lady Gertrude to go notify Eliza of this impending marriage.
Once Eliza hears this news, she begins to weep, saying how she cannot bear to marry Lord Harold because of her love for Edgar. Although Lady Gertrude tells Eliza that she should be excited because Lord Harold is extremely wealthy, Eliza still cannot stop crying. A few moments later, Edgar and Phillips appear and tell the Earl and Eliza that they are leaving their cottage in the woods, but do not disclose why or to where they are heading. After Edgar begs the Earl to let him die at his feet, Phillips picks up Edgar and they both leave the Castle.
The next morning, Lord Harold arrives at the castle, and immediately voices his concern to the Earl about the marriage with Eliza, lamenting that his war wounds and bald head are not attractive to a girl Eliza’s age. The Earl disagrees, but Lord Harold is still evidently distraught. When Eliza comes down to greet the Lord, she explains how she was told a past prophecy where she would be happy and fall in love with a man, but not with a man his age. Lord Harold asks her what he can do, and Eliza asks him to persuade his father to let her marry Edgar. Lord Harold agrees to this, and tells the Earl of their discussion. He specifically tells him that it is every man’s duty to guide happiness for others, and how he should let Eliza marry Edgar.
After this exchange, the novel goes into a side note about the history of Ambrosio Phillips and his son, explaining how they are actually descendants of Sir Hildebrand De Raymond, a nobleman known for his bravery in the battle for the Christian army in Palestine. Edgar’s real name is Eudgene, and he is now the heir of the De Raymond castle.
Back in the present moment, Edgar arrives at Montville Castle under the name of Sir Eugene de Raymond, asking for a meeting with the Earl. The Earl is shocked when he sees it to actually be Phillips and Edgar, and Eliza is overcome with happiness when the two embrace in joy. Lord Harold is similarly happy for Edgar and Eliza, as the two are finally married with Lady Gerturde performing the ceremony.
“Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake.” The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature, vol. 3, 1791, pp. 57–61.
The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, ‘Lady of the Hay-Stack;’ So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, Near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe.
This 1804 chapbook, a shorter version of George Henry Glasse’s English translation of L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable, connects the life of Louisa, a deranged wanderer of Bourton, England, to her greatest loss—the social denial of her identity as the natural daughter of Francis I, Emperor of Germany.
The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, ‘Lady of the Hay-Stack;’ So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, Near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe. If you are still here after reading this vehement title, congratulations—you have what it takes to dive into this 1804 gothic chapbook.
This “shilling shocker” is more popularly known as The Affecting History of Louisa. Though an unsung art by many, this novel does possess a special role at the University of Virginia by existing as an individualized, treasured lens of history in the Sadleir-Black Collection presented by Robert K. Black. The Sadleir-Black Collection’s version of the novel is a fragile, well-worn 10cm by 17cm. A beautiful yet dreary illustration adorns the primary page of the coverless and boundless novel. There is evidence of past stitching and binding of the pages, which possibly suggest that the novel was removed from a larger accumulation of gothic novels.
The pages of Robert Black’s The Affecting History of Louisa are brittle, yellow, and stained, yet they hold many secrets to the publishing and history of the unique novel. Throughout a series of 36 pages (the pages are numbered; however, the numbering begins six pages in with 8, and ends with 38), there are details including catchwords (a repeated/prewritten word located on the following page of a subsequent paragraph) and signature marks (numerical/alphabetical markings) which were used to assist the bookbinders and printers and to ensure correct book assembly on their part.
The precision and care that went into the assembling of the book is also reflected in the structured form of the printed words. With 1.5 cm side margins and a 2.5 cm bottom margin, the dainty 2 mm letters with their didonesque font are able to flow across the page and make an impact through their meaning more so than through their appearance. Several of the letters do attempt to make their own statements by being unconventional compared to current norms. Throughout the novel, the character “s” is depicted in multiple forms; sometimes taking on the conventional “s” form, but also sometimes being printed as a long S that looks more like an “f.” This printing trend began to dwindle following theeighteenth century. Between the cultural switch, there were some words where the flow of calligraphy followed the shape of a modern day “s,” and several words still followed that of an “f.” The printing of this novel simply adhered to those social norms of orthography.
Not only does the interior of this chapbook portray the textual effects of social change, but the exterior does as well. On the cover page of the novel, there is a small, handwritten “5” on the top-left corner. This handwritten “5” could represent several things: perhaps a monetary value, or perhaps a set volume in a more mass pamphlet. Either way, it is evident that this novel has had its experiences with society. The Affecting History of Louisa appears to have been worn and appreciated by previous readers.
The Affecting History of Louisa is a petite chapbook with an extensive title within its first pages: The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, “Lady of the Hay-Stack;” So called, from having taken up her Residence under that Shelter, in the Village of Bourton, near Bristol, in a State of Melancholy Derangement; and supposed to be a Natural Daughter of Francis I. Emperor of Germany. A Real Tale of Woe. There is no author listed for this chapbook.
The initial ambiguity of the chapbook’s authorship stems from the fact that the original work was a French text titled L’Inconnue Histoire Véritable; moreover, English translations included many different titles and forms. George Henry Glasse, a scholar and clergyman, first translated this text into English as A Narrative of Facts. A second edition of Glasse’s translation appeared in 1801 as Louisa: A Narrative of Facts, Supposed to Throw Light on the Mysterious History of “The Lady of the Haystack.” This book was popular enough that it “quickly reached a third edition” (Vian and Ellis). There exists another edition of Glasse’s translation with yet another title, A Narrative of Facts: Supposed to Throw Light on the History of the Bristol-Stranger; Known by the Name of the Maid of the Hay-stack. Translated From the French, which includes an introduction signed by Philalethes.
Glasse’s translations also inspired a three-act play called The Maid of Bristol, dramatized by James Boaden. Boaden was a dramatist whose works revolved around the gothic genre. While The Maid of Bristol is not well-known for its popularity today, the play is still accessible and available for purchase online. The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac is a shorter chapbook version of Glasse’s translation and was, in particular, “induced” by the popularity of Boaden’s play; the advertisement in this chapbook states, “Mr. Boaden having, with so much success, dramatized the following interesting Tale, under the title of ‘The Maid of Bristol,’ induced us to present the Public with the original Narrative; which we are enabled to do, from the most authentic documents” (Affecting History 6). The Affecting History of Louisa, then, arrived on the publication scene after many translations and iterations of the original French text that aims for a genuine, historically accurate account of the mystery at the center of the story: the true natural daughter of Francis I.
Narrative Point of View
The Affecting History of Louisa is narrated from a third-person perspective. The frame narration opens and closes with an anonymous third-person narrator who presents part of Louisa’s history with an objective and occasionally empathetic tone.
Sample of Third-Person Frame Narration:
Some few years ago, a young woman stopped at the village of Bourton, near Bristol, and begged the refreshment of a little milk, There [sic] was something so attractive in her whole appearance, as to engage the attention of all around her. (7)
This third-person frame narration also introduces two other embedded narratives. The first embedded narrative is an oral account by a man from Bristol who spoke with Louisa directly. The chapbook’s narrator explains that the “respectful gentleman in Bristol … has favoured us with some authentic memoirs” and then includes this oral account for several pages (15). The narrative demarcates the Bristol man’s oral narrative with quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph.
Sample of Bristol Man’s Oral Narrative about Louisa:
“I should have conceived her,” says the writer, “to be about five-and-twenty; and notwithstanding the injuries which her situation and mode of life must inevitably have occasioned in her looks, she had still a very pleasing countenance. Interesting it certainly was in a high degree; but it is not easy to say how much this impression was to be attributed to the previous knowledge of her story. She had fine, expressive, black eyes and eye-brows; her complexion was wan, but not fickly; her under jaw projected a little, and I fancied I could distinguish something of the Austrian lip; but it was not decidedly marked. Her nose had nothing particular; her hair was very dark, if not black, and in length about a year and a half’s growth, not being thick, but coming down on her forehead; her arm and hand were delicate, with small long fingers.” (9)
The Bristol man’s oral narrative ends without additional commentary from the chapbook’s frame narration. Then there is a line indicating a break in the narrative, and then an italicized description of how a French narrative was found that suggests Louisa is La Fruëlen, and that the chapbook will now include the translation of this narrative. This translated narrative is presented in the third person and focuses on La Fruëlen’s tale for the next twenty-two pages.
Sample of Translated French Narrative of La Fruëlen’s Tale:
When the priest came to take her from her house in Bohemia, he told her, that he was going to conduct her to a convent in France. Ignorant as she was, the little which Catharine and her mama had told her of a religious life, taught her to consider a convent as an horrible prison, from which there was no escape: and this idea had so disturbed her mind, that from the moment of her quitting her habitation in Bohemia, she had formed the project of flying, as soon as possible, from such captivity. (28)
By addressing the story with a frame narrative that includes two separately sourced tales (one an oral memoir, and one a translation from a French text), the story of Louisa becomes a type of reality or history that the reader is discovering. The frame narrative works well to connect the woman who claims to be La Fruëlen to the story of the late Emperor, as well as connecting that woman to Louisa, which ultimately connects their stories in a complete manner, defining the tragic, affecting history of Louisa.
The Affecting History of Louisa is introduced as a recent tale of woe, as the narrative begins, “Some few years ago” (7). The reader is introduced to a woman of the past, in the village of Bourton, England, who is begging for milk. She is described as being young, attractive, and elegant despite her begging state. While she is beautiful, it is evident that over the years, she has experienced hardship, sickness, exposure to the natural elements, and misery. Due to the fact that no one is aware of the nature of her origin, they call her Louisa. She is infamous for her obsessive connection to sleeping in an old haystack rather than a home. As a woman who has experienced multiple episodes of insanity, there have been multiple times when Louisa has been relocated to different hospitals and villages. Despite being relocated, she always manages to find her way back to the haystack. Louisa did not put her worth in items, but spent her days interacting with the village children and going about on her own.
After a while in the village, she is finally relocated to the village of Bitton in Gloucestershire, England, to be supported by Miss Hannah Moore and her sisters. It seemed evident that Louisa is a foreigner, so Miss Moore attempts to find out which country she is from. Miss Hannah Moore arranges for a Bristol man to visit and speak with Louisa in different languages. First, when the man speaks French, Louisa seems confused—but when he speaks German, she becomes over-emotional. When she can finally gain her composure, she denies knowing the language. The chapbook’s third-person narrator explains that this Bristol man “favoured us with some authentic memoirs” and goes on to include several pages of the Bristol man’s account of Louisa (9). The Bristol man describes Louisa as having fine, expressive black eyes, a pale complexion, a slight jut of the jaw, dark hair, delicate features, and lips that were perhaps Austrian. The Bristol man speaks to Louisa in the way a man speaks to a child. She is not dumb, but slow. He wants to know more of Louisa’s origin. While she is very guarded, he discovers that she responds well to kindness, and he learns that she is fixated on two people called mama and papa, that she understands French, that she is amused at his German, and that she has a large mark or wound on the lower part of her head behind the ear.
In the next section, the chapbook begins with italicized narration explaining that a “Narrative made its appearance on the Continent” showing “so many striking coincidences” that suggest that Louisa is actually La Fruëlen, the natural daughter of Francis I, the late Emperor of Germany (15). The narrative goes on to include the entirety of the supposed translation of this originally French narrative, which begins in 1768. The narrative first introduces the Count M. de Cobenzel, the imperial minister at Brussels. He receives a letter stating that he should not be surprised if his advice and friendship are sought after. The letter is written in French, and signed La Fruëlen from Bourdeaux. He receives other letters encouraging him to support La Fruëlen, from people such as Le Comte J. de Weissendorff from Prague and Le Comte Dietrichstein from Vienna. Cobenzel begins to write with La Fruëlen, offering his support. At the beginning of 1769, the Court of Vienna informs Versailles that La Fruëlen should be arrested and taken to Brussels to be examined by Cobenzel and the First President, M. de Neny, for being an imposter. The Court of Vienna had discovered Fruëlen’s existence because the King of Spain had received a letter encouraging him to defend her, which he then shared with the Emperor, who shared it with the Empress, who called for her arrest.
As La Fruëlen arrives in Brussels, she is met with an unsigned letter encouraging her that there is an attempt to save her so she should not despair. Cobenzel and M. de Neny question her and her origin. They describe the woman who goes by La Fruëlen as being tall, elegantly formed, with simple and majestic brown hair, fair skin, and fine dark eyes. She also speaks French with a German accent. The two men dive into the story of her childhood. She explains how she is uncertain of her birthplace, but knows she was educated in Bohemia, and grew up in a sequestered house in the country under the care of mama, Catherine, and the priest – who opposed her learning to read and write for unstated religious reasons. She describes how a stranger in huntsmen clothes would visit periodically, and while he was a stranger to her, he seemed to know her. On one visit, she noticed a red mark on his neck, and when she questioned him about it, he explained that it was the distinction of an officer, and implied that she is the daughter of one. After their conversation, the man had to depart again, but promised to return soon. This promise was broken thereafter because he had fallen ill and could not travel. The novel goes on to explain how this is historically accurate to the life of the late Emperor. On his final visit, he leaves her with a photo of himself, the Empress, and her mother. On his departure, he makes her promise to never marry and that she will be and taken care of and happy.
After this story, the woman called Louisa describes her departure from Bohemia. First, because she is scared to share her story in front of everyone, she conjures a grand lie that seems too good to be true. Cobenzel catches her in her lie, and she is forced to tell the truth in hopes of regaining his trust. The truth behind her departure from Bohemia is that her priest had planned for her to move to a convent, but she decided to run away instead out of fear of the stories she had heard about convents. She hid in the barn of a generous farmer who provided her with the necessities she required. She still needed to gain distance from Hamburgh, though, so she journeyed to Sweden. On this journey, she injured her head with a nasty cut and required a surgeon to heal it. She then joined a compassionate Dutch family who was journeying to Sweden as well. Once she reached Stockholm, she left the travelers and stayed in the house of a German woman. She became great friends with this woman, but one day, she overheard from her hairdresser that the imperial minister of Stockholm was wondering about an escaped girl. Her fear of poverty overcame her fear of the Convent, so she turned herself in to M. de Belgioioso. He took good care of her. He first gave her housing and money, and then he invited her into his own house for safety. Within those walls, she saw a portrait of the late Emperor Francis, and fainted. They struggled to wake her and she had a bad fever, which was almost fatal.
La Fruëlen’s story becomes tragic as she explains how her supply of financial aid was cut off suddenly, and she accumulated a great amount of debt. In order to gain support, she herself wrote the letters to the people addressed at the beginning of this explanation, including Cobenzel and the King of Spain. She claimed, however, that not all the letters were forged by her, and that several had truly been sent.
Ultimately, M. de Neny is in denial that she is in fact the daughter of the Emperor. He believes that she is truly just a merchant’s runaway daughter. M. de Neny declares that she should return to her city and face her debtors as a punishment for her lies and sins. Cobenzel disagrees, however, he is near death. The day before Cobenzel dies, he receives an anonymous letter saying not to dismiss La Fruëlen, however, the note is burned and dies with him. Four days after Cobenzel’s death, La Fruëlen is released from prison, given a little bit of money for travel, and abandoned to her wretched destiny.
At this point, the translation of the French narrative ends and the original chapbook narration resumes. This narration explains that “poor Louisa is no more” with her death on December 19, 1801 (37). The final resolution to this tale is announced in the simple fact that Louisa was discovered under the haystack in the year 1776.
The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac. London, A. Neil, 1804.
Boeden, James. The Maid of Bristol: A Play in Three Acts. New York, Printed and Published by D. Longworth, 1803.
Glasse, G. H. A Narrative of Facts: Supposed to Throw Light on the History of the Bristol-Stranger; Known by the Name of the Maid of the Hay-stack. Translated From the French. Printed for Mr. H. Gardner, Mr. Bull, Mr. Lloyd, Messrs. Evans and Hazell, and Mr. Harward.
In this 1806 chapbook set in the Grecian Isles, an evil magician and his accomplice stop at nothing to thwart the marriage of the beautiful Princess Evelina and her true love, Prince Valentia.
The University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction contains an edition of “The Invisible Ring.” The full title of the book—“The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre”—appears only once in the whole text. This can be found on the first page of the book following the cover. The title is then referred to as simply “The Invisible Ring” atop each page of text. The name of the author is not included anywhere in the book. The most specific reference given is a brief sentence indicating that The Invisible Ring was published in England in 1806. There is one illustration in the whole book which lies on the inside cover. It depicts a woman standing alone on a small piece of land surrounded by water. She is chained to a large boulder, representing a scene from the book. The monochrome image is captioned simply “Invisible Ring.”
The book’s dimensions are 11.5 by 8 centimeters; it is 36 pages long. The binding is no longer in place, but a strip of leftover leather remains along the seam. The front and back covers are now simply reduced to paper. The quality of the paper in the book is thin and weathered; the overall appearance is worn, damaged, old, faded, and small. Many pages have small tears beginning at the edges, and several pages towards the end are even entirely detached. Each page is covered from top to bottom with closely-set text in very fine print. There is little white space leftover. At the bottom of each page is a letter followed by a number: for example, “G1.” This style of marking was used to maintain page order during printing. However, the first page begins on the letter “G,” indicating that there once may have been preceding pages of separate stories that have since been lost.
Written on the first page under the full title are the words, “Founded on the popular Aquatic Melo-Drama, as performed with universal applause at Sadler’s Wells.” Sadler’s Wells is a prominent theater and dance company in London that is still in existence today. Additionally, following the story, there is a section devoted to the full lyrics of each song mentioned in the book.
On the last two blank pages of the book, there are penciled-in notes, including a list of ten book titles such as The Invisible Ring and Blackbeard, the Notorious Pirate. Publication years are also written down next to each book title. These notes may have been taken by Michael Sadlier or another reader in an attempt to discover other books belonging to a collection of short stories with The Invisible Ring. This would also provide an explanation for the missing pages at the beginning of the book. Moreover, the notetaker hypothesized in his notes that The Invisible Ring may be related to another chapbook: “This must be a sequel to The TellTale (1805).”
The chapbook The Invisible Ring; or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre was published by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine in London, 1806. This chapbook was a version of a play that was popular the same year in London. The author of the chapbook is unknown, but the playwright of The Invisible Ring was the celebrated dramatist Charles Dibdin Jr., and the music in the play was composed by William Reeve. It premiered on June 25th, 1806 at Sadler’s Wells Aquatic Theatre.
Due to little digital evidence, there are many unknowns surrounding the chapbook’s history: it is unclear whether there were multiple editions of the chapbook, if it was ever translated, if there are prequels or sequels, how it was advertised and received, or if it was ever adapted. However, although information regarding the chapbook is scarce, the play version from Sadler’s Wells has a significant digital footprint. To that point, there are no digital copies of the chapbook to be found online, but there are multiple references to the Sadler’s Wells production on GoogleBooks (Greene 4517).
The writer of the play, Charles Isaac Mungo Dibdin (1768–1833), was the first son of Charles Didbin, who was also a playwright and composer. Dibdin the younger launched his career in the theatrical world when he became the manager of Sadler’s Wells in the year 1800 (Kilburn). He took the theatre to new heights in 1804 by installing a water tank below the stage rebranding Sadler’s Wells as an aquatic theatre. The water tank was ninety feet long, twenty-four feet wide, and three feet deep (Press 223). The water was sourced from a nearby river. However, the process of changing out the water took many workers and many hours, so it was only done once every three weeks (Press 224). The aquatic theatre allowed for far more realistic productions than before, consisting of actors swimming across the stage during aquatic scenes. This included naval attack scenes in a war play as well as an oceanic setting for a play about Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. The aquatic feature was utilized in The Invisible Ring during its last scene.
At the end of The Invisible Ring chapbook, there is a list of lyrics from the songs that originate in the play. These were written by William Reeve. Reeve (1757–1815) was a composer for Sadler’s Wells for many years, owning a full eighth of the company by the year 1802 (Halliwell). He worked closely with Dibdin during this time. However, he was known for his habit of using other composers’ music in his arrangements, leading his work to be criticized by many (Halliwell).
In terms of reviews of the play, newspaper clippings from the week of the first performance of The Invisible Ring indicate that Sadler’s Wells was a popular theatre with many supporters (“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” 3). The play was likely well-received by the public as a result of its “variety of supernatural appearances performed on real water” (“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” 3). However, an incident at the theatre in 1807 marks the decline of Dibdin’s success at Sadler’s Wells. A false fire alarm was set off during a performance and the resulting stampede killed eighteen people (Kilburn). The Napoleonic Wars occuring at the same time put a further stress on the entertainment industry, eventually leading to Dibdin’s bankruptcy. He eventually sold his shares of the theatre to pay off his debt (Kilburn). The Invisible Ring along with all the notable productions of the time were likely soon forgotten.
Narrative Point of View
The Invisible Ring is narrated in the third person omniscient by an anonymous narrator who does not appear in the text. The narrator describes events concerning each character in the story, as well as each character’s internal reactions to major plot points. In addition, the narrator gives the reader insight into events that some characters are not privy to. The narration is composed of lengthy sentences with lots of punctuation.
We will leave them wandering for the present, and return to the intrepid Jeannot, who had voluntarily undertook a hazardous enterprize, in which there was very little chance of succeeding, but a very great one of losing her own life: but this she was willing to risk for the sake of her dear mistress. (15–16)
This style of narration gives the chapbook the feel of a play where the audience is directly involved in the production. Additionally, the passage shows a verbose sentence structure. The use of long sentences allows the narrator to give vivid descriptions of events and characters’ emotions. For example, the narrator uses this passage to delve into Jeannot, who is a minor character in The Invisible Ring. Though her role is small, the narrator still provides an explanation for her actions and builds her character into not just an arbitrary servant, but a loyal confidant of the princess.
The story takes place on an isle in the ancient Grecian empire. The plot is introduced with the forthcoming wedding of Prince Valentia and his beautiful betrothed, Princess Evelina. Alas, a neighboring governor named Ernulph seeks the princess for his own. He journeys to the cave of the mysterious sorcerer and magician, Alnaschar, to ask for help in his scheme to prevent Valentia and Evelina’s matrimony. There, the two form a sinister partnership.
Valentia and Evelina’s wedding day arrives. The ceremony is just beginning when an apparition of Evelina’s deceased mother appears. In reality, she is merely a guise of an evil spirit conjured by Alnaschar to create a diversion at the wedding. While she chants prophecies of warning, Ernulph, Alnaschar, and his henchman, Nervoso, kidnap Evelina. Valentia sends his captain of the guard after them, but Alnaschar escapes with Evelina through the use of a magic ring that renders its wearer invisible.
The captured Ernulph and Nervoso are taken to a prison for interrogation. When Nervoso agrees to comply with Valentia’s demands, Ernulph begins to attack him, so Valentia orders for the two to be imprisoned separately. Shortly after, a violent fight ensues between Ernulph, the captain, and Valentia. Ernulph is defeated, but Valentia mercifully gives him his freedom, hoping the act of kindness will result in friendship. However, Ernulph leaves angrier than before.
Afterwards, Valentia questions Nervoso, who confesses Ernulph’s entire scheme. He promises to steal Alnaschar’s invisible ring so that Valentia can use it to rescue Evelina, who is being held captive in Ernulph’s castle, which is guarded by impenetrable magical forces. Valentia releases Nervoso, who journeys to Alnashcar’s cave. He waits until the magician is asleep, then puts a magic ointment on his eyelids that will keep him asleep for twenty-four hours. He then steals the ring and begins the journey back to Valentia’s castle. Meanwhile, Valentia pays a visit to Evelina’s fairy godmother, Bonoma. She produces a dragon for him to use in pursuit of Evelina.
When Nervoso arrives back at the castle, Valentia is not there, so he uses the stolen ring to play tricks on Evelina’s maids, Marianetta and Jeannot. Jeannot quickly realizes that their pesterer is Nervoso with the invisibility ring. She manages to steal it off his finger and takes it for herself. Valentia returns to the castle three days later after an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Evelina with the dragon. Nervoso informs him of how he lost the ring to Jeannot. Then the two journey to the forest surrounding Ernulph’s castle to gather intel and hatch a new escape plan.
Jeannot, in the meantime, uses the advantages of the invisibility ring to bypass the magician’s enchantments and enter Enrulph’s castle in an attempt to save her beloved princess, Evelina. She finds Evelina being held captive in a room with Alnaschar and Ernulph. Due to her invisibility, the three dismiss her entrance as a gust of wind. Alnaschar begins preparations for a potion that will render Evelina unconscious, leaving her unprotected from Ernulph’s wicked intentions. But when he gives it to Evelina, the invisible Jeannot knocks the glass out of her hands. Ernulph and Alnaschar plot once more and decide on another means of tricking Evelina: an enchanted belt that will allow Alnaschar to control her will. However, Jeannot hears their plan and again destroys the belt just as Evelina is about to wear it. Amidst Ernulph and Alnaschar’s confusion, Jeannot slips the invisibility ring onto Evelina’s finger and hides behind a sofa. Realizing Evelina’s disappearance, Ernulph and Alnaschar leave the room in search of her; Jeannot uses the opportunity to escape back to Valentia’s castle.
Back at Ernulph’s castle, Evelina uses the power of the ring to secure her escape. She makes it to the forest where she encounters Valentia and Nervoso. There is a joyous reunion between Evelina and Valentia, and also between Nervoso and the invisibility ring he cannot believe to have found again. Just as they are making their exit from the forest, Ernulph, Alnaschar, and several of their attendants arrive on the scene; a battle ensues. The princess is taken again and Alnaschar draws a magical line before Valentia that he cannot cross. However, Nervoso, invisible by the ring, evades the line and follows Alnaschar in order to rescue Evelina. He finds her trapped in a tower. She must accept a marriage proposal from Ernulph or she will soon be chained to a boulder on an island where a sea monster resides. Nervoso reports back to Valentia with the news, then travels to the fairy Bonoma for more help.
Meanwhile, Evelina refuses Ernulph’s proposal, so Alnaschar and Ernulph deliver her to the island. Just as the sea monster emerges to devour her, Valentia arrives on his dragon and begins to fight the sea monster. Nervoso arrives too and discovers Ernulph and Alnaschar on the island. While Valentia and Nervoso duel with Ernulph and Alnaschar, Bonoma arrives and frees Evelina from the enchanted rock. Valentia and Nervoso defeat Ernulph and Alnaschar, who then sink into the lake.
Valentia and Evelina return to Valentia’s castle and are married the next day. Nervoso and Jeannot receive recompense for their bravery and the two get married several days later as well.
“Aquatic Theatre Sadler’s Wells” The Observer, 20 July 1806, 3.
Greene, John C. “Appendix: New London Plays, 1745-1820” Theatre in Dublin, 1745–1820: A Calendar of Performances, Volume 6. Lehigh University Press, 2011, pp. 4517.
The Invisible Ring: Or, the Water Monster, and Fire Spectre. A Romantic Tale Founded On the Popular Aquatic Melo-drama, As Performed With Universal Applause At Sadler’s Wells. London, printed by T. Maiden for Ann Lemoine, 1806.
Set in the Italian countryside, this 1807 chapbook sees seemingly supernatural justice dealt after a deceitful and power-hungry prince murders his father, usurps the throne, and abducts his brother’s lover.
Parental Murder is anineteenth-century
chapbook written by an unknown author. When the novel is opened past its first
blank page, one is presented with an illustration on the second page, and the
title page appears on the third. The bulk of the title page is dedicated to the
novel’s full title and a brief description: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR, THE BROTHERS,
AN INTERESTING ROMANCE; IN WHICH VIRTUE AND VILLAINY ARE CONTRASTED, AND
FOLLOWED BY REWARD AND RETRIBUTION.” The title page indicates that the novel
was printed for T. and R. Hughes by printers Lewis & Hamblin. A date at the
bottom of the title page indicates that it was published in 1807.
Interestingly, the title page makes no mention of the novel’s author.
The illustration on the second page is in black-and-white,
depicting a scene from the main text. In the image, a woman clad in flowing
white robes looks down upon a man lying dead on the ground, facing upward. The
illustration is accompanied by a caption reading, “A fire-ball, impelled by the
arm of unerring Omnipotence, laid the libertine dead at my feet. Page 27.” As
suggested, this text appears in a passage on page 27.
The chapbook itself measures 11cm wide by 18cm tall.
Stitching holes in each page’s inner margins suggest that the chapbook was
originally bound, but this particular book has had its binding removed, and its
first blank page serves as a kind of cover. The book’s paper is thin, brittle,
yellowed, and very grainy—one feels pulp as they run their finger across each
page. At its edges, the paper is frayed and rough. The book appears to have
been printed on relatively cheap material, and this particular copy is
especially well-worn; several of its pages are on the brink of coming apart
from one another.
The chapbook is numbered as containing forty pages; however,
counting from the novel’s blank first page, there are actually only thirty-eight
pages. The novel’s first numbered page—page 8—appears only six pages in. Every
page number thereafter is consecutive; if these two pages are missing, they
must have been taken from before page 8. It is ultimately unclear if any pages
actually are missing; no content appears to be omitted from these first
pages. It is probable that either the two absent pages are blank or that page
counting simply begins at an unusual number.
The blank first page—while devoid of print—does contain
several ownership markings. The name “Sophia” is stamped identically three
times near the top. Underneath, a partially-legible script indicates the name
“Barbara Bounby” and the date range June 3rd to June 16th,
1810. (However, the specific days in June are somewhat unclear—the script is
blotted and individual characters become difficult to decipher.) Near the
bottom of the page, “Le” is written in a similar script with identical color.
After the main body of the text begins, the title of the
book appears only in its abbreviated form: “PARENTAL MURDER; OR,” alongside
“THE BROTHERS.” printed in the top margins of the left and right pages,
respectively. Each page in the text’s main body has thin margins. The type is
small, seriffed, and heavyset. The lines are short and tightly packed; the
pages, while small, are dense. The body of the text contains no illustrations
beyond the introductory frontispiece on the second page.
The body text is marked on two separate pages. First, on
page 22, two x-marks made in pencil surround the phrase “of his heart.” Higher
up on the same page, an (ostensibly accidental) pencil marking veers off the
top edge. On page 31, the word “Regicide!” is underlined in pen. These two
pages are the only two with obvious, visible annotations; the rest of the text
Very little information is available concerning the writing,
publication, or reception of Parental Murder. Its author is
anonymous—the only names listed in the chapbook are those of the publisher and
printer. Published in London in 1807, it was apparently released to little
fanfare: there are no records of Parental Murder being advertised or
reviewed in any periodicals of its time. Furthermore, searches for contemporary
literary criticism—or any other kind of secondary scholarship—on the chapbook
yield few references.
There are, however, indications that Parental Murder did
not go entirely unnoticed by the scholarly community. For instance: it is
listed in the expansive Gothic Bibliography by Montague Summers,
described simply as “Parental Murder. Chapbook. 1807” (457).A
slightly more detailed listing appears in Douglass Thomson’s Gothic Writers:
A Critical and Bibliographical Guide; his account includes the chapbook’s
full subtitle, its city of publication, and the names of its editors (137).
More interesting, however, is Parental Murder’s omission from Gothic
Writers’ section on modern reprintings or updated editions. In this section,
Thomson maintains a comprehensive list of reprintings, updated editions, and
other reproductions of the works he tracks. From this, we can infer that Parental
Murder was probably never reprinted or republished as a new edition.
Thomson’s finding is consistent with searches across several online catalogs:
in each case, no later editions of the chapbook appear. The available scholarly
information on the chapbook, while relatively minute, suggests that only one
edition has ever been published.
As previously noted, Parental Murder makes no
indication of its author; it does, however, include the names of its printers
and publishers. Before the body of the text, and once more at its close, the
names and address of the books’ printmakers are listed: “Printed by Lewis &
Hamblin, Paternoster-row” (Parental Murder 40). Similarly, the title
page displays the name and address of the publishers: “Printed for T. and R.
Hughes, 35, Ludgate-Hill, Corner of Stationers-Court” (Parental Murder 5).
Biographical information on these figures is scarce; Lewis, Hamblin, and R.
Hughes are all absent from searches for London printmakers or publishers active
during 1807. A brief biographical entry for T. Hughes, however, does appear.
The British Museum indicates that he was a British publisher and printmaker
located at 35 Ludgate-Hill, consistent with the information in the chapbook.
The page also indicates that this figure is “perhaps identical with T Hughes of
Stationers’ Court” (“T Hughes”). Observing that the listed address in Parental
Murder names both Ludgate-Hill and Stationers’ Court, we can confirm that
these two figures likely both refer to the same printmaker.
The British Museum also notes that T. Hughes published
several prints by George Cruikshank, a prominent illustrator of the time.
Cruikshank was widely known for his political cartoons and illustrations for
the likes of Charles Dickens, and his work remains prolific today. The
uncredited illustration preceding Parental Murder is almost certainly
unconnected to Cruikshank, however, as the chapbook’s publication in 1807predates
Cruikshank’s rise as an illustrator in 1811.
Investigating the site of Parental Murder’s printing and publication places the chapbook at the center of the bustling London publishing and printmaking industries. Paternoster-row, the address attributed to printers Lewis and Hamblin, was a nexus of printmaking and principally occupied by “stationers and text-writers” (Thornbury chapter 23). The chapbook’s publishers, T. and R. Hughes, were situated at the corner of the nearby Stationers’ Court. Stationers’ Court is a small path that departs from Ludgate Hill Street and leads to the entrance of Stationers’ Hall (see this Ordnance Survey map to view the precise streets). Stationers’ Hall housed the Stationers’ Company, a government-chartered literary authority that extensively vetted and registered British publications: “almost every publication … was required to be ‘entered at Stationers’ Hall’” (Thornbury chapter 19). In this sense, the sites of Parental Murder’s printing and publication were both mere footsteps away from the epicenter of London publishing, pinning the chapbook’s production to the literal geographic center of a flourishing literary trade.
Point of View
Parental Murder features an anonymous, third-person
narrator whose relationship to the text is left undefined. The novel’s prose is
grandiose, long-winded, and, at times, almost breathless in nature: short and
succinct sentences are often interposed with very long, grammatically complex
ones. The narration shifts freely between making matter-of-fact observations on
plot points and offering reflections on the inner thoughts, emotions, and
secret motivations of the characters.
With malicious looks, Rabano saw that all the favours he had been suing for at the side of this lovely peerless maiden were unhesitatingly granted to his brother, and with such an arch plausibility of excuse, that it was impossible to refuse without exposing his disappointment and vexation. Romano afterwards danced with her, and the whisper every where ran, “What a figure! what grace! what sweetness!” “It must be so!” exclaimed Rabano inwardly; “I must—I will have her; and Zalarra shall decide upon the measures to be pursued!” (20)
Parental Murder’s willingness to freely transition
between objective, plot-driven narration and inward, emotionally focused
musings serves primarily to align its high-octane, action-packed storyline with
a core thematic message about the supreme importance of virtue. Looking at plot
events alone, the novel’s storyline traces out a familiar dramatic arc: the
power-hungry, parricidal son whose sins catch up to him in the end. At the same
time, the insights into characters’ private thoughts and motivations help to
drive the thematic content: from these insights, it becomes clear that Romano
is to be seen as virtuous, and his brother Rabano is not. In the passage above,
Rabano’s inward exclamations of jealousy and lust serve to cement him as the
iniquitous foil to his virtuous brother. Having established this
characterization, when Romano ultimately triumphs, the narrator is able to
assert that “virtue is the only true path to greatness, love, and glory!” (40).
In this way, the intermingling narrative delivery of plot content and emotional
content is key to presenting a compelling plot while also making a clear
statement of theme.
Baretti is a powerful king who rules over an expansive dominion in
Italy. He has two sons, Rabano and Romano. Romano, the younger brother, is the
clear favorite of the two; he is revered by his parents for his virtuous
character. In contrast, Rabano is power-hungry and ruthless. He
resolves to conquer land for himself and sets his sights on the land of Ardini,
a nearby ally. Baretti sees a learning opportunity: he supplies Rabano with men
and armaments, hoping that brutal defeat will show Rabano to be incapable of
One day, Ardini’s men trespass on Baretti’s land, and Rabano
seizes the opportunity to mount a retaliatory attack. But when it becomes clear
that Rabano is interested in senseless brutality, Baretti and his men come to
Ardini’s aid; their forces combined, Rabano will certainly suffer crushing
defeat. Rabano, realizing this, develops a burning hatred for his father and
resolves to get revenge. He enlists his trusted assistant Zalarra to disguise
himself as a priest and sneak to Ardini’s camp, where Baretti is currently
staying. Zalarra finds Baretti in the camp and tells him that Rabano is
prepared to make a peace offering.
Baretti follows him to meet Rabano in an isolated dell. But when
he arrives, Rabano gives his father an ultimatum: betray Ardini and aid in the
conquest of his land, or be killed where he stands. Baretti realizes that the
peace offering was a setup and begins to fight his assailants, but he is
eventually overcome and stabbed. Baretti is buried in a prepared grave, and the
assassins return home.
The next morning, Ardini’s camp is in a state of confusion.
Without orders from Baretti, the supplementary forces will not go into
battle—condemning Ardini to certain defeat at the hands of Rabano. They enact a
short truce with Rabano while they search for Baretti—but find nothing.
Rabano takes the throne. He is shocked, however, when Zalarra
finds Baretti’s grave unearthed and the body missing. Rabano is shaken by this
discovery, but he rules as if nothing is wrong. He sends Romano on a mission to
a neighboring chief, and he plans to throw a party to celebrate his ascension
to power. Despite their strained relationship, Ardini is invited.
At the party, Ardini is accompanied by his beautiful daughter
Miranda. When Rabano sees her, he is immediately enamored and resolves to make
her his own. He asks her to dance, but she refuses. Suddenly, Romano bursts
into the party. Romano explains that the hostile neighboring chief detained
him, but he managed to escape and make his way home. Rabano promises to look
into the matter later.
Romano catches glimpse of Miranda. He asks her to dance, and she
gladly accepts. Rabano is incensed at seeing this, and he plans how he will win
Miranda’s hand. Rabano pulls Miranda and Ardini into a private apartment.
Ardini steps into a neighboring room to give them some privacy, but the door is
shut on him and he finds himself trapped. Now alone with Miranda, Rabano urges
her to marry him, but she confesses that she already loves Romano.
Unprompted, Miranda remarks that Rabano and Zalarra look
suspiciously similar to two hooded figures she saw on the night of Baretti’s
murder. That same night, she had planned a secret meeting with Romano—in the
same isolated dell where Baretti was murdered. She arrived at the dell before
the murderers, but when she heard them approaching, she hid behind a tree. She
has not mentioned anything out of fear for herself and Romano.
Rabano cautions her to keep quiet. If her story got out, Romano
could be in serious danger; he too was missing on the night of
the murder. Miranda agrees and swears to stay silent. Rabano renews his attempts at
courting her. When she refuses again, he forces her towards a hidden chamber.
Meanwhile, Ardini suspects foul play when he is not let out of the
locked room. He escapes through a window, finds Romano, and explains that he
fears for Miranda; the group heads for the castle’s private apartments. When a
guard stops them, they slay him and rush upstairs just in time to catch Rabano
forcing Miranda into the hidden chamber.
Miranda steals Rabano’s weapon and tries to stab him, but the
blade breaks in two and fails to injure him. Soldiers alerted by Zalarra
descend on the group and arrest Romano and Ardini for high treason. Until their
trial, Miranda is to be detained in the hidden apartment, where Rabano persists
in his attempts for her hand almost daily.
One night, Rabano sneaks into Miranda’s chamber while she is
asleep and plants a kiss on her lips. He prepares to rape her, but a suit of
armor steps off its pedestal and stands between them. It shouts: “Thy reign is
short! At the trial, parricide, thou shalt behold me again” (30). The
apparition scares Rabano off from his attempts to violate Miranda.
The night before the trial, Rabano and Zalarra get drunk together.
Zalarra continues to give Rabano alcohol until he passes out on the floor.
Zalarra also has an eye for Miranda; he steals the keys to her secret chamber,
sneaks in, and kisses her while she sleeps. Before he can continue, however, a
figure in black robes shouts “Regicide!” (31). The figure warns Zalarra to
repent. Zalarra flees, wakes Rabano, but decides not to tell him about what he
saw. Instead, Zalarra suggests they search the castle for any other
apparitions. While searching, they discover that Miranda has escaped from her
chamber. Their efforts to locate her are fruitless.
Secretly, Miranda was conveyed by a mysterious monk to a cottage
outside of the castle through a hidden tunnel. In the cottage, she meets a
former servant of Baretti, who promises to lead her to the chamber where the
trial will be held, so she can expose Rabano and Zalarra. On the day of the trial, Ardini is tried first; he confesses to killing guards in
pursuit of Rabano, but he expects that the detention of his daughter will
justify his conduct. Romano is tried next. A priest steps up and testifies the
dying confession of a deserting soldier named Afran, who had allegedly stumbled
upon Romano burying Baretti’s body. He had pursued Romano, but Romano escaped,
and Afran was mortally wounded in the struggle. He did, however, manage to grab
a gorget bearing Romano’s name during the fight.
Romano explains that he was present at the dell on the night of
the murder—but only to see Miranda. As he arrived, he saw a figure stab the
victim. He was unable to reach the assassins in time, so he unearthed the body
and resolved to carry it to a nearby house. The body was too heavy, however, so
he instead brought it to a nearby cave. Afran, seeing Romano carry the body,
mistook him for the assassin and attacked.
The judge is prepared to issue a death sentence for Romano when
Miranda bursts in. She presents the cloak and banner Baretti wore on the night
of his murder, which were found in Rabano’s strongbox. The courtroom descends
into chaos until the aforementioned priest announces that he has one more piece
of evidence—a piece of paper naming the murderer, given by Afran in his final
moments. Zalarra snatches the paper from him and rips it to pieces. Chaos
returns, and the priest suddenly blows a whistle. The room is instantly flooded
with soldiers, and a figure appears at the head of the courtroom.
To everyone’s surprise, the figure is Baretti himself. He explains
that he survived the assassination attempt. After being carried to the cave, he
told Afran that Rabano was guilty. Since then, Baretti has been living in the
cottage, disguised as one of his own servants.
The courtroom instantly condemns Zalarra and Rabano. The judge
assigns both fiends formidable sentences. Rabano is confined to a cell at the
top of a large tower, which eventually collapses and crushes him to death.
Romano is declared the worthy successor to Baretti, and he reigns “with
unabated splendor” (40).
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. AnHistorical 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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).
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35, no. 1, 2008, pp. 65–81.
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