With its twists and turns, this transatlantic tale recounts heartbreak, love, desire, and greed. Where one end is tied, another frays, keeping readers in suspense. There is no shortage of the gothic in this text.
The cover of The Commodore’s Daughter is 21.75 cm tall and 13.5 cm wide with a spine thickness of 1.5 cm. While the cover does not have a special design, the two corners and part of the spine have a softer and lighter leather than the rest of the book’s cover, which is a rougher and darker leather. There are three stories bound within this volume and the spine is decorated with gold lettering with the titles: Lucelle. — Julia St. Pierre. — Commodore’s Daughter.
The Commodore’s Daughter, by Benjamin Barker, begins approximately two-thirds of the way into this volume. The pages are clearly in excellent shape. The title page is plain and includes the title, author, and publication information: “PUBLISHED BY E. LLOYD, 12, SALISBURY-SQUARE, FLEET-STREET, AND SOLD BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.”The next page, which starts the text of the story, also includes a detailed picture and caption, as well as the word, “complete” handwritten lightly in pencil at the top of the page. The Commodore’s Daughter was originally published as a “penny dreadful” serial, which is when small cheap portions of the story were published at regular intervals and later bound together. “No. 1,” “No. 2,” etc. appear at the bottom corners of their respective pages (outside of the border created around the text) to indicate the start of a new section of the story. Though the sections were all printed, sold, and originally purchased separately, this version is “complete” because these sections have now been bound together.
The Commodore’s Daughter is sixty-eight pages long. The text is small, always surrounded by a decorative border, and relatively easy to read with decent-sized margins. This copy of The Commodore’s Daughter also shows an error made during printing. Though the final chapter appears to be Chapter XIX, this book does not have nineteen chapters, but rather, eighteen, with one entire chapter having been skipped due to misnumbering. The book leaps from Chapter XVII to Chapter XIX, which should have been correctly numbered as Chapter XVIII. This erroneous Chapter XIX is printed on the back of the page with Chapter XVII. Interestingly, the side of the page with Chapter XVII is much more pristine and in better shape than the other side, which must have been exposed at one point to different environmental conditions.
The Commodore’s Daughter was written by Benjamin Barker—an author who was no stranger to publishing, as he released nineteen other works under his name. Two publishers produced The Commodore’s Daughter—Frederick Gleason in Boston, Massachusetts in 1846, and Edward Lloyd in London in 1847—and versions of each are housed in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction.
The Lloyd and Gleason printings of The Commodore’s Daughter contain a few key differences. For instance, the 1846 Gleason printing (which is also available on Google Books) includes the alternate title, The Dwarf of the Channel, or, The Commodore’s Daughter. While both versions contain the same story content, the Gleason’s version prints the story in columns, and this copy also lacks the illustrations present in the Lloyd version. Lloyd’s 1847 printing also initially appeared serialized as a penny dreadful.
The Lloyd printing of The Commodore’s Daughter contains a preface dated December 1847. In this preface, “the Publisher” provides context for the story’s historical significance, characters, and plot, including the backstory and setting. The final sentence of the preface reads: “The moral of the tale is unexceptionable, and as the incidents do not violate probability, and the characters are so truly drawn, the Publisher anticipates a favourable reception for the work.”
Like much of gothic literature that has faded from view, The Commodore’s Daughter has not remained widely available and the publisher’s projected “favourable reception” was short-lived, if at all. However, there are a few notable online versions. In addition to digital copies of the Gleason printing available via Google Books, Historical Texts has a digitized version of the Lloyd edition. In 2010, the British Library Historical Print Editions released a reprinting of TheCommodore’s Daughter.
Benjamin Barker has a notable publishing history. Not only did he publish nearly twenty works under his name, but he also published under the pseudonym Egbert Augustus Cowslip. One of his most well-known works under this pseudonym was Zoraida; or The witch of Naumkeag! A Tale of the Olden Time. Another of Barker’s works published under his own name, Blackbeard, or, The Pirate of Roanoke, is listed on Amazon and, as of 2021, has several reviews including one with a complaint about its historical inaccuracies, which reiterates the preface of The Commodore’s Daughter regarding the accuracy of accounts of the American Revolution.
Narrative Point of View
The Commodore’s Daughter is narrated in the third person (and occasionally with first-person plural moments) by an unnamed omniscient narrator who does not appear in the text. The narration feels relatively modern, but still contains antiquated vernacular. The paragraphs and sentences are generally lengthy. Yet, there still are inconsistencies in the style, with some paragraphs being much longer or using more eloquent vocabulary than others. The narration describes the characters and their feelings matter-of-factly (and frequently through characters’ actions), and there is very little text dedicated to introspection. The narration also contains much more description than dialogue.
Premising that the following romance is founded upon facts, with the details of which many of our readers may possibly be acquainted, and that for particular reason, we shall claim the privilege and take the liberty of introducing our principal characters under fictitious names, we now proceed to open our story as follows… (1)
By performing that this fictional story is based on facts—a common gothic trope—the narrator effectively tells the story with increased credibility (and possibly more shock value, as well). The narrator seeks to communicate a story by establishing familiarity with the characters in the book without revealing their names, thus providing an even foundation to readers and inviting everyone to enjoy the story with shared knowledge provided by the narrator from the beginning. The use of the first-person plural “we” also gives a more rounded and less singular feeling to the narration, enabling the fictional story to mimic an actual recounting of events.
In the early days of the American Revolution, before the colonies had banded together to declare their own independence, an old and cunning man by the name of Henry Hartville desired a fortune that was supposed to be inherited by a girl named Nora. Through his meticulous planning, Henry was able to trick Nora into believing that she was his daughter, all the while finding the perfect suitor for her so that Henry could obtain this wealth. The story then asks what Henry Hartville’s plan is to arrive at his goal.
An older, “deformed” man named John Ellery, frequently described in the text as a “dwarf,” has taken under his wing a “maniac” girl, Helen Morton, whose parents died years prior. John Ellery is one day met by a man carrying a letter and a black crucifix, who leaves soon after handing him these mysterious items. Despite not knowing who this man is or who the person who wrote the letter could be, Mr. Ellery accepts the commands listed out to him on the letter without any hesitation. One of those commands being to seek Nora Hartville out to keep under his wing, which the story reveals later.
Luckily, Mr. Ellery met with a ship on its way to a New England port, carrying several passengers in its cabins. Since he is able to pilot the ship, Mr. Ellery is gratefully accepted by the captain to guide it to its destination. Mr. Ellery, however, begins to take notice of a peculiar passenger whom the captain dreaded and wanted jettisoned as soon as possible. Through a careful line of questioning, Mr. Ellery finally realizes what he had hoped to find——the girl on the ship is Nora Hartville, the one the letter instructed him to keep under his wing for the next few years.
Mr. Ellery, Helen Morton, and Nora Hartville all arrive at Mr. Ellery’s home and remain there for several months in peace, as Helen and Nora become closer in what Helen describes as a sisterhood. Unfortunately, the fateful night arrives soon enough, and Miles Warton, the man who brought the letter and the crucifix to Mr. Ellery so long ago, finally comes to collect Nora Hartville for the suitor that Henry Hartville had set up for her. Miles Warton was a criminal, so Mr. Ellery knew his arrival at the cottage meant something was wrong. Prior to their meeting, Mr. Ellery heard Nora’s objections to the forced marriage, for the girl had her heart set on another man, George Wellington. Both parties soon realize that this night will not go as planned. In a shocking turn of events, Warton is killed by none other than Helen Morton, as she defends her adoptive father from being harmed by the criminal.
Through many events to follow, George Wellington, who was originally deprived of his desire to see his love, Nora Hartville, meets up with a man named Edward Hale, Helen Morton’s former lover. It is revealed that once George and Edward work together in their search for their lovers, the cruel and conniving plans of Henry Hartville can be overturned.
Yet before their arrival, another surprising figure appears: the former wife of Mr. Ellery, whose name is Julia. Long ago, Julia (the original owner of the black crucifix) held a gun to her husband’s chest in a fit of hatred and demanded that he follow the orders of whoever bears the crucifix. Now, Julia seeks forgiveness for the trouble she has caused, and the old man gracefully accepts. Seeing that Mr. Ellery accepted her apology, Julia knows she can now rest, and she breathes her last breath at her former husband’s humble cottage.
Finally having come to peace with his life, Mr. Ellery travels with his daughters and their suitors (who have found his cottage after a long search) to the ship of a well-known commodore, where it is revealed that the villainous Henry Hartville is aboard the vessel. Cornered and seeing that all his plans have been foiled, Henry Hartville takes a pistol to his head and pulls the trigger, allowing for Edward Hale and Helen Morton to fulfill their love and Nora and George Wellington to do the same. Through much pain and sorrow, Mr. Ellery finally gets to live a happy life away from shame.
Published in 1800 without identifying an author, this shilling-shocker set during the Holy Wars tells a tale of romance, murder, terror, and mystery.
impressions upon introduction to the Sadlier-Black Collection’s edition of The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. most likely will include the frail binding holding together the
forty-two time-worn pages, as well as the curious lack of a cover. Upon closer
inspection, one can find a few remnants of what seems to be tan leather stuck
to bits of dried glue along the spine of the chapbook. This suggests that the
book was once a part of a collection of works, bound together for sale by the
publisher. Once the first blank page, acting as the cover, is turned, an
intricate frontispiece is found to inhabit the reverse. The image of a man and
a woman moving away from an oncoming knight is central to the illustration, and
is surrounded by detailing of weaponry and armor. Beneath the image the
shortened title,The Mystic Tower, is revealed, instead of a caption, creating a
sense of mystery around what might be occurring in the preceding scene.
intrigue of these yellowed pages continues onto the title page where “The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance” is emblazoned in a combination of different fonts across the top half
of the page, yet there is no author to be found. Instead, there are a few
curious clues that follow, some indicating themes present in the story and
others towards the origins of the work itself. Just below the title is another
illustration, this time depicting a woman standing in the doorway of a
low-ceilinged room with a look of astonishment on her face as she looks down
upon a knight emerging from the floorboards. Following this is an excerpt from
Shakespeare’s Macbeth that reads,
“’Tis done! The scene of life will quickly close; Ambition’s vain, delusive
dreams are fled, And now I wake to darkness, guilt, and horror…..I cannot bear
it!…………….” Both the foreshadowing illustration and the ominous quote
allude to the drama that is to come throughout the novel.
Tracking down the
page, again, there is a note that mentions this book was printed in London for
“KAYGILL, at his Circulating Library, Upper Rathbone Place; MACE, New
Round-court, Strand; and ADCOCK Charles-street, Fitzroy-square; and may be had
of all other Book-sellers in Town or Country.” This indicates where other
copies of this work could be found throughout London, specifically mentioning a
few circulating libraries at which interested subscribers could obtain the book
for sixpence, as denoted in fine print below the message. At the very bottom of
the page, the printer, W. Glindon, and the location of his shop, 48,
Rupert-Street, Covenrry-Street, are listed. Though the publisher and the
location of other copies of the book are helpful hints, the author of the work
remains a mystery. The aged, brittle pages that follow hold narrowly spaced
text, signature marks that allowed the bookbinder to order the sheets
correctly, and a handful of stains from past careless readers, but no mention
of the elusive author. There are no handwritten notes, pencil marks, stains, or
tears among the pages, leaving no physical clues about this particular copy’s
journey through the ages.
The Mystic Tower has no known author, which makes it difficult for scholars to trace the work’s publication history.
The Sadlier-Black collection’s copy of this chapbook is one of three currently recorded copies, and was printed specifically for T. Kaygill “at his circulating library” by W. Glindon (“T Kaygill,” “W Glindon”). Both of these men were British printers and publishers whose careers flourished in the early 1800’s. Though no specific publication date is available for this text, it was most likely published between 1803 and 1807. These dates encompass when T. Kaygill was at the address listed on the title page of the book (39 Upper Rathbone Place, London) (“T Kaygill”).
Many of the primary
catalogues of nineteenth-century gothic works are devoid of any information on The Mystic Tower, so there is no record
of advertisements for the book or public reception of the work. Aside from
being briefly mentioned in Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography,Frederick S. Frank’s The Gothic Romance 1762–1820 holds the
most robust assessment of the book. He claims that its hurried “penny-a-line”
writing style and plot mimic John Palmer’s Mystery
of the Black Tower and ensconce
the chapbook as a typical low-brow shilling shocker (Frank 123). This criticism
leads scholars to believe that the book was not wildly popular, and was most
likely not reprinted or adapted after its original publication.
Narrative Point of View
The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. is written with a
third-person anonymous narrator whose identity is never revealed in the text.
The narrator adopts an omniscient perspective and offers insights about most of
the main characters, while mainly telling the story as if following Matilda along
her journey. Holistically, the narration is succinct, colloquial, and typically
devoid of characters’ inner thoughts. The sentences the narrator uses are very
long and littered with commas, but the language is clear and reads very
comfortably. Only occasionally does the narrator hint at how Matilda would feel
about a certain situation through well placed adjectives and emotionally
connotated verbs. The only time that the voice of the narrator changes is when
Matilda reads the letter titled “The Life of Lady Malvina Fitzwalter.” In this
interpolated tale presented as a letter, Lady Malvina is writing in the first
person and describing how she came to be in the curious position in which the
young women found her.
Sample passage of
“The baron and baroness having been appraised of her illness entered at this moment, when the former approaching the bed, Matilda started back, exclaiming ‘did you murder him?’ ‘murder whom?’ exclaimed de Malvern. ‘The dark spirit in the tower,’ returned Matilda; ‘what is all this?’ said the baroness, turning to Clara, who without delay told them all she knew. They made no comments on her information, but commending Matilda to her care, both retired. The simple narrative of Clara, sunk deep in the mind of the baron, his reflections in supportable; the many reports he had heard in spirits that wandered in the ruined tower, and about the walls of the castle, rushed on his mind and in a convulsive agony he threw himself on a couch, groaning most piteously.” (15)
In this passage,
Romaldi and Oswena are coming to check on Matilda after her encounter with the
ominous knight. She is terrified and is convinced that her parents must have
had something to do with the death of the de Malvern men for them to be haunted
by such a terrifying being. The beginning of the passage sticks solely to the
plot, describing the new baron and baroness approaching their daughter, but
quickly switches to the dialogue in which Matilda makes her accusations about
their involvement in the tragic deaths of the de Malverns. The narrator then
resurges to describe how Matilda is put to bed by Clara, and then follows Sir
Romaldi to detail the unrest he faces because of his deep-seated guilt for
facilitating the death of the former Baron and his son. The focus of the
passage is Matilda’s fear and her conversation with her parents, but when she
is not in the scene the narrator is able to shed light on the experiences of
some of the secondary characters.
Sample passage of
“Having the misfortune to lose my mother at an early age, I, the only child of lord Fitzwalter, was educated by an amiable woman with the utmost tenderness, and instructed in every branch of literature proper for a female mind.” (22)
This passage comes
at the beginning of Lady Malvina’s letter to Matilda, explaining her rather
tragic past. She speaks in the first person, using “I” frequently and
colloquially, which indicates the intimacy of the contents of the letter and
the authenticity of the story being told.
Readers are invited to sit in the shoes of Matilda during this break
from the established narrative style, since the letter reads as a direct
address, which highlights the flashback being recounted in the letter.
The story begins with Sir Romaldi, a poor knight returning
home from his tour in the Holy Wars, trudging towards his castle and stewing
over his jealousy of his relative, the rich Baron de Malvern. The Baron and his
son are still fighting in the wars, and his inner monologue reveals that if
they should die before they return from fighting, he himself would be next in
line to inherit their estate and riches. While he is secretly wishing that a
perilous fate befalls the father and son, a ghostly figure appears in his path,
murmuring a prophecy about how his grim wishes will come true. Frightened by
the eerie apparition, Sir Romaldi hurries home to meet his wife, Oswena, and
his daughter, Matilda.
The story then delves into a flashback, featuring Matilda.
One morning she was walking in the woods near the family castle, when a hunter
appears from the woods claiming that he has lost his companions and asking if
he can rest with her for a while. She agrees and the two exchange pleasantries.
It becomes apparent that the young hunter, named Percy, has taken a liking to
Matilda, and suddenly realizes that she is the daughter of Sir Romaldi. He
exclaims that he cannot be seen with her, due to some deeply ingrained fissure
between their families, but that he would like to meet Matilda again in the
secret of the night. She, again, agrees, but is deeply troubled by the fact
that he cannot meet her father, so after their first rendezvous she tells him
she will no longer come to their meeting spot. She adheres to this promise for
the next two years by not returning to their clandestine spot, but one evening
she passes by and sees Percy walking below the battlement. She realizes how
much she misses him, but it is too late because he is leaving to fight in the
Holy Wars. To remind him that her prayers are with him she gives him a crucifix
necklace and bids him goodbye.
A return to the present hones in on a conversation between
Sir Romaldi and Oswena, in which he explains the eerie apparition on his
journey home and she replies that he should have the Baron de Malvern and his
son slain to secure the prophecy that the ethereal figure foretold. After falling into a terrified stupor, he
gathers his resolve and agrees that the foul deed must be done.
Months later, a message arrives at Sir Romaldi’s castle that
the Baron and his son have died, and that he is to inherit the de Malvern
estate. The small family gathers their things and immediately moves into the
new castle. An ominous tension falls over the household as Romaldi walks in,
with the minstrels unable to play their instruments and other household
servants running in terror. As Matilda is walking around her new home with her
attendant, Clara, the servant girl explains to her that there is a suit of
armor rumored to wander the halls of the unrenovated part of the castle at
night, as well as a particular portrait whose inhabitant occasionally leaps
from it to walk to the same mysterious tower, said to house the spirits of the
castle. Matilda tries to mitigate the fears of Clara, but one night they are able
to see a light moving in the windows of the tower which reinvigorates terror in
both of the girls. They send for the family priest, who tells them they are
being superstitious and foolish, but all three are then confronted with the
large black suit of armor that the rumors foretold. Matilda rushes to her
parents to tell them of her terrifying encounters, and asks them if they had
some hand in killing the Baron or his son. They assure her that she has nothing
to worry about, but they share a moment of concern knowing that these hauntings
are very likely due to their nefariously plotted murder.
Tensions and fears settle, and Romaldi begins to bring
suitors to the castle to eventually find a match for Matilda. She, however, is
approached by a boy that gives her the crucifix she gave to Percy, with the
promise that he would return it to her shortly before he came home to ask for
her hand in marriage. When her father tells her that he intends to give her
hand to a particularly distasteful Lord she refuses and, in his anger, he has
Matilda and Clara locked in her room until the next day when she is to be wed.
Clara helps Matilda escape her arranged fate through a series of trap doors and
tunnels that lead from her room to the outside of the castle, and in the middle
of their flight they are met again by the darkly armored knight, and are
terrified but are still able to escape the walls of the castle. Matilda and
Clara hide in the nearby convent, but are quickly discovered by Romaldi, and
are sent a letter demanding their return home. The abbess helps the girls
escape to travel to another convent, but after becoming fatigued during their
journey, they come upon the benevolent and ethereal Lady Malvina. The girls are
showered with Malvina’s compassion and kindness in her hidden underground
dwelling in the forest.
One evening, Matilda is presented with a letter detailing
Lady Malvina’s mysterious history. Reading it, she discovers that as a girl
Malvina was the sole heir to a large estate, promised to be married to her
lover, Sir Egbert, and had met a distressed young woman, named Josephine, in
the woods and secretly took her into her own care. She lived in pure happiness
until her father died, after which Sir Egbert began to act coldly towards her
and Josephine left her to grieve the loss of her lover alone, which she later
discovered to be the result of an affair between her two closest companions.
She tried to go through with the marriage as planned, but at the altar
exclaimed that her friends were and love and should be married instead, despite
the great pain and sorrow it caused her. Later, when she was invited by Sir
Egbert to visit them, it was revealed that he was unhappy with the
ill-intentioned Josephine and asked for Malvina’s forgiveness. Having heard the
conversation between the former lovers and feeling enraged, Josephine storms in
and murders Sir Egbert. Suffering from such deep pain, Malvina moved into her
current subterranean apartments to protect herself from accusations that she
had killed Egbert and the cruel world that injured her so greatly. Matilda
weeps for her friend’s losses, and feels a deep connection with her as she is
the only mother figure Matilda has ever possessed.
Soon Matilda and Clara receive a letter stating that the son
of Baron de Malvern has survived his time in the war, and a foray outside with
Malvina results in the three women being discovered by Josephine’s men. They
are taken to Josephine’s court, but Matilda is cast aside, and is taken back to
the de Malvern castle. She is left by Josephine’s guard to get into the castle
herself and after sleeping outside for a couple days, she manages to sneak into
the castle, where she finds her father lying on the floor covered in blood. He
is only able to explain that he has slain himself, her mother has been
poisoned, and to apologize for his cruelty to her before he dies, and Matilda,
horror stricken, is only able to find her way to a chair before she
She awakes to Percy holding her and he reveals that he is
the son of the Baron de Malvern and rightful heir of the title and estate. He
also tells her that her father sent an assassin to kill him and his father,
though he only managed to murder the Baron, and that he sent a loyal friend to
watch over the castle, giving an explanation to the eerie suit of dark armor
Matilda had seen wandering the castle. Matilda then tells her story leading up
to the present, and concludes with her sorrow over the fate of Malvina. Percy
takes Matilda to Josephine’s castle to rescue her friend but Josephine,
surprised and overwhelmed by the invasion, stabs herself in the heart to avoid
capture. They find Malvina in the dungeon and bring her back to safety with
them, securing her innocence for Sir Egbert’s death with the king. Matilda
marries Percy to become Lady de Malvern and the two live long happy lives
together with their children. Malvina remains heavily involved in Matilda’s
life, and is able to spend her dying breath in Matilda’s arms.
“The Gothic Romance 1762–1820.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall Tymn.
R. R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–175.
The Mystic Tower; or Villainy Punished. London, W. Glindon, N.D.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune Press, 1940.
This early nineteenth-century chapbook by Isaac Crookenden presents an intricate story about relationships and family, weaving together romance, violence, betrayal, and the actions of a supernatural force.
Upon first glance, Spectre of the Turret looks simple and modest. The book was recently rebound in plain dark brown cloth. There is no text indicating the title or author nor are there any illustrations or decorations on the cover or the back of the book. The exact dimensions of the book are 17.8 by 10.9 cm. After opening the book, there is a mark of ownership on the left-hand side of the inside of the cover of the book. It is a medium sized cream sticker that has a blue University of Virginia symbol with the call number of the book. Below the UVA symbol and the call number, it states the words: “The Sadleir-Black Collection” and underneath it says: “Presented by Robert K. Black.”
There is one blank page when opening the book. On the front of the next page, a ghost image of a rectangle can be found. This is from the illustration bleeding through from the back of the page. The illustration is hand-colored and is still quite vivid. Since it is hand-colored, it can remain quite colorful if it is not exposed to light unlike the actual text of the story which looks faded. The picture depicts a man dressed in the outfit similar to a knight’s, and he is holding up a bloodied cloth. There is also a dagger stained with blood lying on the floor next to him. The caption appears right under the illustration and says “The Handkerchief was stained with Life’s Crimson Stream and the Dagger was encrusted with blood! – See pg. 18” On the next page, the title and author are revealed. The full title says “Spectre of the Turret; or Guolto Castle.” The title is fairly large and centered on the page, and the words of the title are done in various fonts. This was a stylistic choice that was popular at the time to make the titles seem more interesting. Written right below the title are the words: “A Romance.” Underneath these words, the name of the author is written: “By Isaac Crookenden.” Following the author’s name and written beneath, there is a quote by Shakespeare as follows: “Tremble thou wretch, who has within Thee crimes, unwhipt of justice! Hide thee thy bloody hand!” Under this, information about the publisher is written as: “London: Printed and Sold by R. Harrild, 20, Great Eastcheap.” On the title page, there is a small faded pencil marking in the upper right-hand corner of the page. The pencil marking seems to be from a bookseller to indicate the price of the book and the stock number.
After the back of the title page, which is left blank, the next page contains the text of the actual story. Right above where the story starts, the shortened title of the story is written: “Spectre of the Turret.” The following pages contain the text of the story. The pages are light cream in color, but they are slightly browned in some areas. There are a couple of stains but none that make the text unreadable. To the touch, the pages are not brittle, but they do show a few signs of aging. There are page numbers on the top of every page ranging from 4 to 32. The text is black in color but looks slightly faded. This is because the paper ages and, with it, the text fades as well. The font is small and closely set, but it is still quite easy to read. The margins on the sides of the book are small, but the margins on the top and bottom are much wider. This is a result of the book not being trimmed very much after it was printed. Some pages have tiny rips on the top but none that obstruct the text.
There is no table of contents page in the book. Once the actual story begins, the text is the only thing present. There are no additional illustrations or decorations. There is a footnote present on page 11 for clarification on a specific word. Each page ends with a catchword, where the first word of the next page is printed in the footer in order to ensure that the printer ordered the pages correctly. The last page in the book ends with “FINIS” after the few final lines of the story. Altogether, this copy of Spectre of the Turret is in fairly good condition as it has been recently rebound so it is intact and the pages have not shown signs of significant aging or damage.
Spectre of the Turret was written by Isaac Crookenden. He was known as a famous plagiarizer during his career and made a significant amount of money from stealing other people’s ideas and using them in his stories. Crookenden is “probably the most notorious counterfeiter of legitimate Gothic novels” (Frank 59). Isaac Crookenden wrote many chapbooks during the early nineteenth century. Some of his other works include The Skeleton,The Mysterious Murder, and Horrible Revenge, or, The Monster of Italy!!. The date of publication of Spectre of the Turret is not listed on the Sadlier-Black Collection at the University of Virginia, and it is indicated as undated in Frederick S. Frank’s “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820” as well. The publisher listed on the chapbook is R. Harrild in London. However, multiple copies of the book at different libraries, listed on WorldCat, have stated 1815 as the publication date. One copy of the book from the Huntington Library listed O Hodgson as the publisher and the publication date as 1810. Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography supplies the date of publication for the work as around 1810. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biographylists the four publishers that Crookenden worked for as: S. Fisher, A. Neil, J. Lee, and R. Harrild as well as stating that the publication date for Spectre of the Turret was between 1810 and 1820. The speculation between the publishers and publication dates for the book might indicate that other editions were printed as well in different places, but does not conclusively determine the precise printing of this edition.
This work does not have a preface or introduction and does not have a prequel or sequel either. “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820” states that there are “several crude drawings” and says that “a half-dozen tower Gothics are mixed together and condensed into this garrish bluebook” (Frank 59). There have been no reprintings of this work in the later nineteenth century or twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography notes that none of Crookenden’s works were reviewed by scholars, and this text was not adapted in any form.
There are two contemporary digital copies available through Google Books. One of the digital copies says the original edition is from the British Library. These two digital copies also state the publication date as 1815 in the information about the book but not explicitly in the text. They seem slightly different from the chapbook from the Sadlier-Black Collection. The illustration has a different color scheme in the digital copies. The specific version of Spectre of the Turretfrom the Sadlier-Black Collection has an illustration with a light brown background and a man wearing a cream coat and red pants while kneeling next to a yellow chest. In the digital copies on Google Books, the illustration has a very dark background and a man wearing a royal blue coat and red pants while kneeling next to a red chest. This might be further evidence that there were other editions published of this chapbook, or that the same edition was hand-painted after publication.
Other locations that have this book are: Harvard University, Princeton University, the Huntington Library, Pennsylvania State University, University of Oxford, British Library Reference Collections, and Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands.
Narrative Point of View
Spectre of the Turret contains two different types of narration. The majority of the story is told from a third-person point of view. However, there are also a few instances when the narrator uses first-person plural pronouns such as “we” when directly addressing the reader. The narration, as a whole, includes lengthy physical descriptions of the characters and offers brief glimpses into their minds, while also focusing on the plot and the action.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
A huge mass of armour was the contents, which Florielmo instantly proceeded to examine, and discovered a napkin stuffed into the hollow of the helmet, which on being unfolded, a dagger dropt out of it; the handkerchief was stained with life’s crimson stream, and the dagger was encrusted with blood! Here was a demonstration of the truth of the spectre’s awful words. Florielmo carefully concealed these bloody proofs; and making no other discovery of any importance, he closed the chest in such a manner as to elude suspicion, and waited the arrival of the man with his breakfast. The day was past by Florielmo in ruminating on his uncle’s unparalleled baseness, of his mother’s horrible fate, and of the possibility of divulging the guilty secret to the world; absorbed in these thoughts, night again overtook him. (18)
Sample Passage of Narration Using First-Person Plural and Direct Address:
We now beg the reader’s attention while we relate the misfortunes of that young man, and show how unjustly he has been accused. (11)
The two types of narrative styles affect the story in two distinct ways. The third-person point of view creates fast-paced events, placing emphasis on the action and the conversations between characters. The first-person point of view and moments of direct address emerge when there are turning points in the plot. Each instance of direct address temporarily slows down the pace of the plot, while simultaneously signifying that what follows is essential to the story. The few sentences that use direct address also portray a more personal relationship between the narrator and the characters, indicating that the narrator cares for the characters in some way or, as in the example above, that the narrator is biased in the character’s favor.
Spectre of the Turret opens with Signor Guolto coming home to his castle on the banks of the Tagus after years of serving his country. His wife died while he was away fighting in the Spanish War, and the narrator notes that even though his wife was lower in status than him, they still had a loving marriage. He sends for his daughter who is staying at his sister’s home. His sister looked down on him for marrying someone below his status and, because of this, she did not treat Signor Guolto’s daughter very well. His daughter, Aspasia, is very happy to come home and see her father.
A young man named Don Florielmo comes to visit Aspasia and her father. He is the son of Guolto’s dear friend who died in battle and who once wished for Aspasia and Floriellmo to get married. Florielmo’s mother had disappeared after her husband’s death. Aspasia and Florielmo are very much in love, and are ready to get married. Florielmo receives a letter from his uncle, Manuel, that half of the estate has been taken by a fire and that Florielmo is needed back at home. Florielmo tells Aspasia that he will be back shortly, but she is very sad that he is leaving so soon. A month passes by without any word from Florielmo until one day Aspasia receives a letter that says that Florielmo is breaking up with her. She is completely heartbroken.
A man named Lord Mountguardo comes to the castle to talk to Aspasia’s father. Even though he seems nice, Aspasia feels that there is something else hidden behind his outward character. Mountguardo reveals that he wants to marry Aspasia. He tells her that he knew Florielmo, and he has heard him brag about how much Aspasia has completely fallen for him. She becomes incredibly sad after hearing this about Florielmo.
The scene transfers from Aspasia’s father consoling her after Mountguardo’s visit to what really happened to Florielmo. Florielmo is travelling to his home and lays down to get some sleep when he suddenly wakes up, tied up in a boat. The two men in the boat bring him to his own castle, and he thinks that they are going to murder him. They bring him into the castle and keep him prisoner in a turret in one of the towers. Florielmo is very confused about what is happening and worried about what Aspasia will think. The turret is a small room that contains a bed, a bookcase full of books, and a locked wooden chest. Since there is nothing for him to do, Florielmo takes a book and starts reading. The title is “The Noble Slave” and begins with a woman named Rudolpha and her husband, Orlando, awaiting a boat from their friend Lupo to take them away from their persecutors. However, when Lupo arrives, it is clear to see that he betrayed them as three soldiers come forward and seize Orlando. They are about to hit him when Rudolpha intervenes. Florielmo is interrupted in his reading by the arrival of breakfast and a letter from his uncle, Count Manuel. The letter states that Florielmo will remain a prisoner in the turret if he doesn’t sign half of his estates away to his uncle. His uncle makes it clear that he is very desperate for the money. Florielmo says that he will never do this and would rather remain in the turret forever. Aspasia comes to his mind at this moment, and he wonders what will happen to their relationship. He feels a strange parallel between his current life and the story that he has just been reading.
Florielmo goes to sleep and starts dreaming that he is reading the book. In his dream, while he is reading, a ghost-like woman appears with a stab wound on her chest that is pouring out with blood. Florielmo wakes up in terror and sees that same woman standing in the room. She reveals herself to be his mother and that she was killed by his uncle. She urges him to look at the locked chest to discover more evidence. The woman also says that it was the servants’ fault that he was put in this turret and that the count thinks that he is prisoner in the northern tower. She continues speaking and says that he should not sign his estates away. His mother vanishes when the clock strikes midnight. Florielmo wakes up from his dream and is in shock for awhile but decides to break open the chest. He finds armour and a napkin covering a dagger stained with old blood and a bloodied handkerchief. He hides this evidence away and closes the chest before anyone comes up to his room and discovers it.
The story changes from Florielmo’s situation to Aspasia’s. Lord Mountguardo keeps visiting to woo her. Signor Guolto likes him, but Aspasia cannot feel the same way towards him as she had with Florielmo. Her father wants her to get married before he dies, and she finally decides to go through with it to make her father happy. Everyone is preparing for the wedding when a letter from Guolto’s sister arrives saying he and Aspasia have to come see her because she’s sick. Guolto decides that Aspasia should get married before the journey to his sister. Aspasia is dreading the moment of the wedding on her wedding day. However, right before she says the words to be united in marriage to Mountguardo at the altar, a figure in white comes between them and says they cannot get married. The priest states that God has deemed that this marriage cannot go through. After this incident, Aspasia and her father do not hear anything from Mountguardo. They decide to travel to see Guolto’s sister, Lady Loveni. When they arrive at her home, she apologizes to her brother for looking down on him for the past nineteen years. The lady’s son, Don Antonio, is about to get married. He and his fiancé, Georgiana, come to his mother’s home to look after her because of her illness. Georgiana and Aspasia become instantly close friends, but Aspasia does not reveal information about loving Florielmo because she does not want to tarnish his character. Georgiana finds her crying often and is unsure why. Aspasia tells her that she will reveal everything after the wedding between Antonio and Georgiana. However, Georgiana immediately jumps to the conclusion that Aspasia loves Antonio and that she is more worthy than herself to marry Antonio. Aspasia is shocked and says that she does not love Antonio, and he also fools around way more than is to her liking. She says she found a knife of his tied to a letter and says she is going to read it. Antonio reveals that he completely forgot about the knife, and he had found it in an old castle. Aspasia suddenly screams and faints while clutching the letter. When she awakes, she says that Florielmo has been betrayed and actually still loves her. The letter is from Florielmo, and he explains that the letter he received while visiting her was a trap.
Mountguardo suddenly arrives to talk to Aspasia and happens to take a look at the letter. Aspasia does not trust him after he spoke ill about Florielmo. Just then, a man arrives who looks like a prince. He is very pale and fatigued. To everyone’s surprise, the man is Florielmo and he reveals that Mountguardo is actually his uncle, Count Manuel. Florielmo provides the proof from the chest that Manuel is the one who killed his mother. He goes on to explain that he had to kill another with that same dagger so he could escape through a secret passage he found when leaving the turret. Because of the shame of everything brought to light, Manuel takes the dagger from Florielmo and stabs himself, and dies soon after.
Everyone is in shock at this turn of events, but things get back to normal after some time. There is a funeral for Manuel, and Florielmo decides not to expose the crimes to everyone else because he does not want to dwell on these past incidents after the man’s death. In the end, both couples decide to get married on the same day. Aspasia and Georgiana also end up both delivering babies on the same day as well. Since it is a boy and a girl, Florielmo and Antonio decide to betroth the babies to each other for a marriage in the future.
Baines, Paul. “Crookenden, Isaac.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 23 Sept. 2004.
Crookenden, Isaac. Spectre of the Turret: Or, Guolto Castle. A Romance. Printed and Sold by R. Harrild, n.d.
Frank, Frederick S. “The Gothic Romance: 1762-1820.” Horror Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall B. Tymn, New York, R.R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–175.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. London, The Fortune Press, 1941.
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.
In this circa 1810 chapbook, backdropped against the outskirts of Italy, a complicated web of family, loyalty, and betrayal spirals a noble family into conspiracy and murder.
Fatal Vows is presented in a disbound pamphlet. The pamphlet was once bound, but there is no longer a hardcover. Paste on the spine of the pamphlet and gilding on the top edge of the pages reflect its previous state. Presumably, Fatal Vows was at some point bound with other pamphlets for ease of storage and style—a common practice at the time. The pages themselves are a linen blend (with perhaps a bit of cotton) in fairly decent shape. The paper is browned by age, but not brittle. There are no significant stains and few splotches—none that obscure the text or decrease legibility.
Fatal Vows is 18.4 x 11.3 cm in dimension, and sixteen pages long. Along the top of the pamphlet the pages are uniformly trimmed, but all other edges are slightly irregular. This variation is presumably due to the nature in which the collection of pamphlets was bound. Commonly, pamphlets of varying sizes were trimmed to the dimensions of the largest pamphlet. Works smaller than the largest pamphlet were often missed by the blade on a few sides, leading to irregularities in page edges like Fatal Vows’.
The front page of the pamphlet, once the University of Virginia note is moved aside, reads “William Coventry // Piccadilly.” This inscription indicates that the text was likely part of a personal collection. The next two pages feature the only two illustrations in the pamphlet, one in the frontispiece and one on the title page. The frontispiece illustration is brightly colored and depicts two men standing outside of a building. The man on the right, with a red cape and green suit, is holding out a sword. The man on the left, with yellow trousers and a blue tunic, appears to be making a vow on the sword. This illustration is helpfully captioned “Rinaldo binding Montavoli by an Oath.” Below the caption is the mark of the publisher, “Pub. By T. Tegg June 1810.”
The second illustration follows immediately after the title. At the top quarter of the page is the title, which varies between flowing cursive and block lettering (indicated by italicized and non-italicized text, respectively) reading: “Fatal Vows, // or // The False Monk, // a // Romance.” Below the title is the second illustration, depicting a man in purple leading a man in green down a staircase and into a stone room. The caption curves around the bottom of the illustration and reads “The Spirit of Montavoli’s Brother ledding him to a place of Safety.” Below the caption, once again, are three lines of the publisher’s information. The first line, “London”, indicates the city Fatal Vows was printed in. The next line repeats “Printed for Thomas Tegg, III, Cheapside June 1-1810” and the final line indicates the price: “Price Sixpence.”
Once the story itself begins, the page layout is relatively consistent. Aside from the first page, which repeats the title (interestingly adding a “the” before the title, the only point in the chapbook where this occurs) before beginning the story about halfway down the page, the margins on the page vary slightly from page to page but average out to a 2 cm outer margin, 1 cm inner margin, 2.5 cm bottom margin, and 0.5 to 0.75 cm top margin. At the top of each page, centered just above the text, is the title in all caps: FATAL VOWS. The page numbers are on the same line as the title, to the far left (for even number pages) or right (for odd number pages) edge of the text. The text itself is single-spaced. The only notable features in the story pages are the occasional letters at the bottom center of the page. Page six has a B, page nine has B3, page seventeen has a C, page nineteen has a C2, and page twenty-one has a C3. These letters serve to assist the printer in ordering the pages—pamphlets like these were generally printed on one large sheet, folded together, and then trimmed to allow for page-turning.
Unfortunately, there is very little either known or recorded on Fatal Vows, or, The False Monk, a Romance. Both the author and illustrator are unknown. Francis Lathom has been named as the author, notably by Google Books, due to the similarities in titles between Fatal Vows and his work The Fatal Vow; Or, St. Michael’s Monastery, but this is a misattribution. Only two copies of Fatal Vows are available online: one on Google Books courtesy of the British Library (although the author is misattributed, as Francis Lathom), and one through the University of Virginia’s Sadleir-Black Collection. Fatal Vows is mentioned in a handful of catalogs listing known gothic novels, but with no opinion or further insight attached to it, with one exception.
Fatal Vows has not been featured in much academic work. However, that does not mean Fatal Vows was entirely unnoted beyond the commercial sphere. Its one notable reference is an allegation that Fatal Vows is a plagiarism of, or at least very heavily influenced by, Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. In Peter Otto’s introduction to the Rare Printed Works from the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia, he notes: “Like Radcliffe’s works, Lewis’s novel inspired a host of plagiarizers, imitators and competitors. The mystery of the black convent (London: A. Neil, [n.d.]) and Fatal vows, or The false monk, a romance (London: Thomas Tegg, 1810) are two of the many chapbooks that draw heavily on The Monk.” This is the only academic work to articulate opinions on Fatal Vows, although it is cited in other works and catalogs.
There appear to be no prequels, sequels, reprints, translations, or adaptations connected to Fatal Vows. Even when published, there is no surviving (if any) mention of Fatal Vows in the ads or articles of the time. There was no announcement in the newspapers of the time and no evidence that Fatal Vows stirred any public notice or controversy.
The only name that can be reliably connected to Fatal Vows is the publisher of the novel. T. Tegg (or Thomas Tegg III) is listed on both available scans as the publisher and bookseller and is comparatively much more well documented. Tegg set himself apart from his contemporaries by both the low prices and the lower quality of the books he produced. His self-description as “the broom that swept the booksellers’ warehouses” fairly articulates his practice of reprinting successful novels, works past copyright protections, and remainders (Curwen 391). Considering the nature of the works published by Tegg, it is perhaps not unsurprising that Fatal Vows was published with little fanfare.
Narrative Point of View
Fatal Vows combines the main story told in the third person by an omniscient, detached narrator, and interpolated stories told by characters explaining things that either occurred off-page or before the story began. There is no meta-narrative of the story’s origin or any relation to the narrator, but characters often narrate their own backstories through letters and oral stories, which are narrated in the first-person voice of the relevant character. The style is fairly formal, with no contractions and winding prose. The epistolary narratives vary slightly depending on the character narrating them, ranging from powerful emoting to detached cynicism, but the overall tone is still formal and vaguely antiquated.
Example of Third-Person Narration:
Rinaldo now informed Count Montavole that Miranda was his own daughter by Serina. The Count grew very faint; to encrease his misery Rinaldo added: “Know likewise that it is a BROTHER who is the death of thee.” He had no sooner finished this speech than he was seized for the murder of the Count, and as he quitted the dungeon he put a paper into Alberto’s hands. Montavole only lived to ejaculate, “a brother ! Miranda too my daughter ! oh—” (25)
Example of Interpolated Oral Tale of Susanna’s Confession:
Unconscious of what I did, I took the dreadful oath, and went gently into Lady Leonora’s room, and changed children with her, by which means Montavole has reared up his brother’s son instead of his own. (20)
Example of Interpolated Tale of Rinaldo’s Letter:
Hereupon I was seized by two footmen in livery, who dragged me to a noble palace: I was conducted to an elegant saloon, when a nobleman, for so I learnt he was, desired me to relate the whole adventure; accordingly, I did. He then observed that I had been used ill, and in return desired his nephew to give me a diamond ring. (26)
Overall, this chapbook’s narration focuses much more internally than externally—there is little imagery or scene building, but a heavy emphasis on the actions of the characters, which drive the majority of the plot. This contrasts with the low-key delivery the narrator uses to convey plot twists or surprises, as exemplified in the first passage. Miranda being the daughter of Count Montavole is a devastating plot twist even by itself, but Rinaldo being the brother of Count Montavole is even more so. However, the verbs used to describe Rinaldo’s proclamation are low-energy (“informed” and “added” are not exactly declarations) and Montavole’s death (who, in fairness, was already on the way out) is received without much fanfare. Within the scene, the room is full of characters that would be rattled by these announcements, but their perspectives are not noted. Even the announcement of Miranda’s parentage reads like an afterthought.
When characters themselves are narrating, more of their personality is able to shine through and influence the story. Susanna’s passage, when she explains the kidnapping she committed almost two decades ago, is full of qualitative adjectives and descriptors; Susanna is one of the kinder, moral characters in the story. This is juxtaposed against Rinaldo describing an altercation in his boyhood, where he describes his own actions with more understated neutrality.
Fatal Vows takes place on the outskirts of Italy, in a castle owned by a Count named Savini. Count Savini has two sons: Montavole and Alberto. Alberto is the youngest and is a charming and obedient son, while Montavole is morose and selfish. Montavole leaves home at an early age to pursue his own interests, breaking Count Savini’s heart. While on his travels, Montavole is attacked by bandits. His life is saved by a stranger, who identifies himself as Rinaldo and commands Montavole to repay his debt by swearing a vow of friendship and loyalty. Montavole is troubled but agrees, and Rinaldo vanishes into the night with an ominous “be careful of Saint Peter’s day” (7).
Eventually, Montavole hears word that his father is critically ill and returns home to see him before he passes. Unfortunately, he is too late, but in their grief Montavole and Alberto reconcile and Montavole decides to settle down. Montavole marries a rich woman named Leonora, and Alberto marries his fianceé, Matilda. Montavole and Leonora are miserable, as their marriage was one for money rather than love and Leonora is afraid of Rinaldo, who Montavole now keeps company with, but Alberto and Marilda are happy and in love. However, tragedy strikes one night when Alberto is murdered. The murderer escapes into the night, and the heavily-pregnant Matilda dies of grief in labor shortly after.
Over the next twenty years, two things of note occur. Firstly, Rinaldo is arrested after killing a man in a dispute, but escapes from jail just before his execution. Secondly, a baby girl is left on Montavole and Leonora’s doorstep with a letter in her crib. Leonora reads the letter, swoons, and decides to raise the child (now named Miranda) as her own, locking the letter away without explanation.
At the end of these twenty years, Leonora is now on her deathbed. Montavole and their son, Alphonso, (who is in love with Miranda despite the two being kept apart by his father) have been out of the kingdom for weeks, leaving only Miranda around to tend to Leonora. Knowing her time is coming to an end, Leonora decides it is time for Miranda to know the truth about her birth. She gives Miranda a key to a cabinet that holds the mysterious letter from her crib. Leonora directs her to read the letter, burn it, and then leave the castle to join the nearby convent. Her only warning is to avoid the castle’s resident monk, Roderigo, who she finds suspicious. After Leonora dies, Miranda goes to the cabinet, but the letter is not there. She despairs, but is interrupted by a mysterious voice that tells her “You have a father living… your father is a murderer!” (13—14). Overcome with shock, Miranda faints.
Alphonso and Montavole return, too late to say goodbye to Leonora. Alphonso rushes to Miranda but Montavole stops him. He has betrothed Alphonso to the daughter of a man to whom he owes a significant amount of money. In exchange for Alphonso’s hand (and prestigious family name) the man will not only forgive Montavole’s debts but offer a substantial dowry. Alphonso is heartbroken but consents.
Miranda, in the meantime, goes for a walk in the surrounding countryside to bolster her spirits. She comes across a cottage with an old woman named Susanna and her nephew, Alonzo, who is insane. Susanna tells Miranda that eighteen years ago, a woman who looked very much like her came to the cottage and died, leaving behind a baby who was taken away by a “mean-looking man” (15). Miranda concludes that she must have been the baby, but returns homes before uncovering anything else. However, as soon as she returns home Roderigo (the suspicious monk Leonora was so afraid of) seizes her and locks her in an abandoned tower. Montavole ordered her to be locked away so she could not get in the way of Alphonso’s wedding, and Roderigo tells her she will stay there for the rest of her life.
Meanwhile, with Miranda effectively out of the picture, Alphonso and Cassandra’s wedding goes off without a hitch. In the ceremony, however, Cassandra drinks a goblet of wine (provided to her by Roderigo) and dies of poisoning. There was another goblet of wine meant for Alphonso, but he disappears shortly after the ceremony and is spared from the chaos. The castle descends into an uproar.
After a few days in the tower, Miranda discovers a key to the door and flees to Susanna’s cottage. She begs Susanna to let her stay the night before she leaves the kingdom, and Susanna readily agrees. That night, however, Montavole and Roderigo break into the cottage. Miranda tries to intervene but she is powerless to stop Montavole and Roderigo, and they murder Alonzo. Susanna comes down just in time to see his death and exclaims “Count Montavole you have killed your son, the real offspring of Leonora… you cruel man!” (19—20). Shocked, Montavole flees. Roderigo takes away the body, and Susanna confesses Alonzo’s backstory to Miranda.
Susanna used to be a servant at the castle. When Matilda died, her child had actually survived, but lord Montavole commanded her to take the child away to the cottage and raise it as her nephew. However, Susanna switched Alberto’s child (Alphonso) with Montavole’s (for no discernable motive) and took him instead. Shortly after confessing, Susanna dies of grief. Miranda returns to the castle, hoping to beg Alphonso for protection, but comes across Roderigo instead. He gives her the letter Leonora had meant to leave her and leaves the room. Miranda finally learns her origins.
Montavole was Miranda’s real father all along. Her mother, Serina, was a noblewoman with a sickly father and little money. Montavole secretly murdered her father, who had attempted to keep him away from Serina, took Serina in, and got her pregnant. He strung her along for a while, promising that once his father died they would get married, but one day Rinaldo revealed to Serina that Montavole’s father had died long ago. Moreover, he had been married to a rich woman for the past twelve months. Serina fled, selling her clothes and jewelry, but was robbed by a coachman. She made her way to Susanna’s cottage and died of grief, and baby Miranda was taken away to the castle.
Meanwhile, Count Montavole is hiding out in one of his dungeons, having been led there by his brother’s ghost—but it is not his ghost. Alberto has been alive the entire time. Roderigo (who is revealed as Rinaldo) bursts in, in the middle of an unspecified fight with Alphonso, but switches tactics to kill Montavole. In Montavole’s final breath he realizes Miranda is also his daughter.
Miranda and Alphonso marry, and Rinaldo is put to death. A letter he wrote before his arrest reveals his own motivation. Rinaldo was actually Alberto and Montavole’s half-brother. His mother, Angelina, was seduced by Alberto and Montavole’s father (Count Savini), but he grew tired of her and abandoned her. Angelina gave birth to Rinaldo and managed to get by for a few years, but caught small-pox and lost her beauty. All her admirers abandoned her, and they were forced to sell all their furniture and move into a small apartment. They eventually ran out of money, and when Rinaldo was nineteen they were evicted. Angelina died in the streets, penniless and heartbroken, but before she passed she told Rinaldo about his father and begged him to avenge her death.
Now it is Alberto’s turn to reveal how he survived. Count Montavole had hired an assassin to kill him, but the wound was not fatal. One of Rinaldo’s servants saved him but locked him in a dungeon in the castle, where he lived until the servant slipped up and left behind a key. The servant himself had conveniently died a few days ago. With all the mysteries explained, everyone lives happily ever after.
Curwen, Henry. “Thomas Tegg: Book-Auctioneering and the “Remainder Trade.” A History of Booksellers, the Old and the New 1st ed., Chatto and Windus, 1873.
Fatal Vows: or the False Monk, a Romance. Thomas Tegg, 1810.
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).
Stefan. “Occult Conspiracies: Spirits and Secrets in Schiller’s Ghost Seer.” New German Critique, vol.
35, no. 1, 2008, pp. 65–81.
Feudal Days; or, the
Noble Outlaw: An Historical Romance of the Fourteenth Century. London, J.
Diane L. “Prose Fiction: Zastrossi, St. Irvyne, The Assassins, The Coliseum.” The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley,
edited by Michael O’Neill et al. Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 193–208.
Maxted, Ian. The London Book Trades 1775–1800: A
Preliminary Checklist of Members. Dawson, 1977.
“The Noble Outlaw.” The Monthly Theatrical Reporter, vol. 1, no. 8, 1815, pp. 301–303. ProQuest.
The Noble Outlaw.” Theatrical Inquisitor, and Monthly Mirror, Feb.1813–June 1819, vol. 6, 1815, pp. 310–312. ProQuest.
Sometimes published with Arabian Lovers, this chapbook takes place in Germany and centers around Seraphina, a pious girl who must resist the temptation and power of a mysterious man who claims to be her promised husband.
The Magician, or
the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which is Added the
Arabian Lovers, a Tale is a
collection of two Gothic stories grouped together, referred to as The
Magician and Arabian Lovers at the tops of the pages of the
respective stories. From the outside, the book has a marbled, brown leather
binding. This marble effect was a common trend for binding books, in which a
weak acid would be used to create the marbled appearance. There are no
prominent illustrations on the front or back, but the spine of the book is
decorated in gold-leaf illustrations of wreaths and flowers as well as some
gold-leaf horizontal stripes, separating the illustrations and symbols. On the
spine, the book is referred to as The Entertainer and the number three,
potentially indicating the volume or edition number. Also, the edges of the
pages are speckled with blue ink. This is the result of a book decoration
method in which the speckles would be hand-painted onto the edges of the paper.
The book is roughly 11 centimeters wide, 17.7 centimeters long, and 2.2
Inside the book,
there are five other stories, printed with different fonts and margins than The
Magician and Arabian Lovers. The book starts with The Magician and
Arabian Lovers, followed by the five additional stories. Each of the stories
also restarts the page numbering instead of a continuous numbering throughout
all of the stories. Some of the stories have frontispieces with illustrations,
although The Magician and Arabian Lovers does not. There is even
a frontispiece in hand-painted color for one of the stories, although the rest
of the frontispieces are black-and-white. This suggests that the book was a
collection of different chapbooks, a common practice at the time. The pages of
the book are speckled with small grey bits of paper and yellowed with age.
Overall, the pages feel worn and delicate, with the paper being thin enough to
see through to the back of the page. The Magician takes up approximately
31 pages of the overall book, which is roughly 290 pages. There are also some
marks of ownership inside the book, including a handwritten table of contents
in the front in what appears to be Michael Sadleir’s handwriting. The table
lists the stories inside the book, along with publication years and potential
author names, but those are unclear. Additionally, there is a “J Phillips”
written on the half-title page for The Magician.
Focusing specifically on The Magician, the font and margins are consistent across the text. The bottom margin is wider than the top, with a fair amount of white space around the main text on each page. In terms of spacing, the words are on the tighter side and the font is also a moderate size. There is a half-title page for only The Magician before the full-title page which contains the complete title for both The Magician and Arabian Lovers. The half-title page and full-title page are formatted differently, with different line breaks in the title and fonts. There is no author printed on the full-title page, however, the title page does list the publication location and year, 1804. While there is no frontispiece for these two stories, there is a small illustration of flowers at the end of The Magician.
Overall, the book
itself externally appears to have a relatively nice, higher quality binding and
attention to detail on the outside, as seen by the marbled leather and speckled
pages. Inside the book, the quality of the paper feels cheaper and worn with
time. The book is also inconsistent with its formatting throughout the different
stories, so at one point the stories may have been separated.
In 1803, The
Magician was published by itself as part of a collection of stories in an
earlier version of The Entertainer (Frank 136). Even earlier than
that, The Magician was published under the title The Story of
Seraphina in Literary Leisure with a date in 1800 printed above it
(Clarke ii, 78). At the top of this version of The Story of Seraphina
there is a headnote from the author explaining that he found the story in “the
hand-writing of poor Delwyn” and that he did not know if the story was a German
translation or something Delwyn wrote himself. Additionally, the author
anticipates that it will be well-received since the author notes that “perhaps
it may not be unacceptable to my readers” (Clarke 78). It seems that this could
be the basis of why The Magician is referred to as a German story. However,
no author is mentioned in both of the University of Virginia’s copies and there
are no known precise German origins beyond this headnote.
As the title The
Magician: Or the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which
Is Added the Arabian Lovers, a Tale suggests, the two stories were
originally published separately in the early eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries. There are two versions of the publication at the University of
Virginia library, one of which is simply the two stories in a small chapbook.
The other version (described above) is in a collection of other stories in a
book named The Entertainer. Both versions at University of Virginia are
from 1804. Around the world, the two stories are published together in
chapbooks owned by multiple libraries, with versions appearing from 1803 and
While it is unclear
exactly at which point the two stories were first published together, the
Minerva Press certainly did so in 1804, which is the year printed on the copy
in the University of Virgina’s edition of The Entertainer. The Minerva
Press was an extremely popular Gothic publishing company created by William
Lane (Potter 15). Not only did Lane’s company publish Gothic literature, but
they also had circulating commercial libraries, which helped boost the
popularity of Gothic texts (Potter 15; Engar). However, these libraries were
still not affordable to the poorest demographics, although they certainly made
the Gothic more accessible to the general population (Potter 15). The Minerva
Press was often criticized for the cheap quality of its publications and “lack
of literary excellence” (Engar). Books printed at the Minerva Press were made
using cheap, flimsy materials and sometimes contained errors. Furthermore,
publications from the Minerva Press were often re-bound by others (Engar).
There does not seem
to be a significant presence in modern academic scholarship of The Magician.
Considering that the stories were published by the Minerva Press, this could be
due to their lower quality production and the company’s reputation (Engar).
There are, however, copies of both The Magician and Arabian Lovers available
for sale online. One paperback version lists the two stories together with the
same title as The Entertainer does, with no authors listed. This version
is sold on Amazon and was printed in 2010, although the description of the book
does note that it “is a reproduction of a book published before 1923.” There
are digital versions of archival copies of The Magician and Arabian
Lovers as a paired story from 1803available online, found on Google
Point of View
The Magician is narrated by a third-person narrator who is
not present in the plot. Early on in the story, the narrator supplies
additional details about the backgrounds and personalities of some of the minor
characters such as Bianca. The narrator often focuses on thorough descriptions
of the surroundings, especially scenes of luxury and opulence. When describing
the environment, the narration is flowery and elegant with longer sentences.
The narrator supplies Seraphina’s feelings and thoughts quite frequently,
although the mysterious man’s thoughts are kept hidden. Unlike the long-winded
descriptions, however, the narration style alternates between a choppier or
longer style depending on Seraphina’s mood and the tone of her thoughts.
Additionally, the narration provides dialogue from Seraphina’s various
This mixture of menace and submission terrified Seraphina, who found herself completely in his power, in a room most luxuriantly fur-nished, where not a single being but themselves appeared, and where every thing bespoke the uncontrouled voluptuousness of the master. In a few minutes a small table, covered with the most exquisite dainties, appeared in the recess, and Seraphina gazed in wonder. Her lover besought her to take some refreshment. She had not eaten since she quitted the hotel with her aunt in the morning, and she really wanted food. She suffered him, therefore, to persuade her, but she took merely some sweetmeats, and resolved to forbear touching salt while she staid; for, dazzling as was the magnificence with which she was surrounded, she had no wish but to escape. She felt restrained in eating too, as her strange companion still retained her fingers in his energetic grasp. At length, he prevailed on her to drink a glass of wine; wine; it was exquisite, but Seraphina was alarmed, and insisted on diluting it with water. (23–24)
third-person narration, the chilling power and demeanor of the mysterious man
is amplified. Even “surrounded” by the “magnificence” and material comforts of
the castle, Seraphina is unable to truly enjoy anything since “she had no wish
but to escape.” The third-person narration aids the story from this viewpoint,
since spending more time on the setting is the narrator’s choice, while
Seraphina is more focused on her escape and emotions for the majority of the
story. The narrator continues to describe the environment and explore Seraphina’s
thoughts as the man attempts to convince her to consent to him, both by
threatening her with his wrath and by offering her all the luxuries at his
disposal. However, Seraphina continuously feels “restrained” from enjoying any
of the material comforts surrounding her by her fear of the mysterious man,
which is evident in her paranoia in eating or drinking too much of the food he
provides her. By continuously describing the environment, the narration serves
as a reminder of how Seraphina is not only emotionally surrounded by the man’s
presence, but how she is also physically enclosed in this extravagant space,
itself a reminder of his authority. Not only does Seraphina feel restrained,
but the man physically restrains her by constantly holding her hand every time
they are together, which the narrator emphasizes by how he “still retained her
fingers in his energetic grasp” in this passage and throughout the rest of the
text. What the man truly plans for Seraphina is hidden from her and the
narration, so the fear and uncertainty she experiences becomes more palpable.
Seraphina is constantly surrounded by “the mixture of menace and submission”
the man exudes, through his threats and his physical presence in the form of
the perpetual handholding. The narration bolsters this fear by providing
insight into her feelings and continuously contrasting the luxurious
environment with the man’s unsettling, constant presence that haunts Seraphina
even when she is alone.
The story of The
Magician, or the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina begins with the yearly
fair in Francfort in 1464. The Italian Lady Bianca d’Alberto attends the fair
with her sixteen-year-old niece, Seraphina, who is also Bianca’s adoptive
daughter. Bianca’s husband, the Colonel, and his brother, Seraphina’s father,
were both serving in the army when Seraphina’s father died. The Colonel
promised his dying brother that he would adopt Seraphina and kept true to his
promise before also passing away, leaving Bianca to raise the “pious and
innocent” Seraphina (2). While in Francfort, Bianca and Seraphina go to see a
conjurer with a nefarious reputation who performs supernatural acts such as
transformations and fortune telling.
As they watch the
show, the magician, Gortz, amazes the crowd. At one point, a sudden,
unidentified voice shouts Gortz’s name, but the show continues. Gortz focuses
on Seraphina and offers to reveal her future husband. Seraphina refuses, but
Bianca pushes her to listen to Gortz. However, Seraphina believes that this
type of magic is evil and does not want to participate. At one point, Seraphina
sees a regally dressed man across the room, staring intently at her. When Gortz
makes a magic circle around a fire and tells Seraphina to enter the circle, she
hesitates, only to see an illusory version of herself get up. The fake
Seraphina enters the circle and chaos erupts, smoke and shrieks coming out of
the circle. Everybody, including Bianca, runs away, leaving Seraphina alone
with Gortz’s body when the smoke clears. She attempts to leave, at first trying
the door and then piling benches up to reach the windows, but fails.
Seraphina again sees
the noble, “majestic” man from earlier and they stare intently at each other
(13). He holds her hand, refusing to let go, and tells her that he will take
care of her. The man reveals that he’s sent the fake Seraphina with her Aunt
and that he is extremely powerful. He then gives Seraphina an ultimatum: either
become his friend and wife or face his power if she refuses. However, Seraphina
already has a childhood friend, Ferdinand, at home interested in marrying her.
The man even claims that Seraphina’s father promised her to him when he died in
the army. At this point, Seraphina faints and wakes up in his castle and the
man again appears before her. Seraphina asks the mysterious man for some time
and he gives her a week to decide, telling her that he knows what she thinks,
so she cannot deceive him. Once he leaves, a servant attends Seraphina, but she
is too scared to even cry. Eventually, she speaks aloud, asking where she can
go in the castle. The man appears before her, dressed magnificently, and takes
her around the castle. Seraphina is stunned by the many servants, jewels, and luscious
flowers they pass by. The man leads her to an empty room, still holding her
hand even as she eats. He orders for people to start dancing as entertainment.
As they watch the dancing, the man tells her that she must consent to him if
she wants to see his true self. At this point, Seraphina decides that his power
must come from an evil source and to refuse him at the end of the week.
For the rest of the
week, the man holds many exquisite events for her like plays and tournaments.
He continuously holds her hand and confesses his love throughout the week, but
Seraphina remains disgusted and fearful. Once the week finally ends, he meets
Seraphina and asks if she’ll stay with him. Seraphina refuses, saying that she
will never give in to magic and then “those sacred names” (29). Immediately, Seraphina
wakes up in a bed in Francfort with her aunt. Bianca reveals that she has just
received word from Italy that Ferdinand has finally gotten permission to marry
her and Seraphina has been sleeping the whole time after the magic show. The
story ends with a statement on how upholding virtue will ultimately result in
Clarke, Hewson. Literary
Leisure: or, The Recreations of Solomon Saunter, Esq. [Pseud.]. vol. 2, W.
Engar, Ann W.
“The Minerva Press; William Lane.” The British Literary Book Trade,
1700–1820, edited by James K. Bracken and Joel Silver, Gale, 1995. Dictionary
of Literary Biography Vol. 154. Literature Resource Center.
S. “Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Short Stories in the Magazines
(1790–1820)” Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide,
edited by Douglass H. Thomson, and Jack G. Voller, Greenwood Publishing Group
Inc., 2001: 133–146.
Potter, Franz J. The
History of Gothic Publishing, 1800-1835: Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave
“The Magician; or The Mystical Adventures of
Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which Is Added The Arabian Lovers, a Tale.”
Amazon, Minerva Press, for Lane and Newman, 2010.
The Magician: Or,
The Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which Is Added The
Arabian Lovers, a Tale.
Minerva Press, 1803. Google Books.
The Magician: Or, the Mystical Adventures of
Seraphina. a German Romance. to Which Is Added the Arabian Lovers, a Tale. London: Printed at the Minerva-Press, for
Lane and Newman, 1803. Print.
The Magician: Or
the Mystical Adventures of Seraphina. A German Romance. To Which Is Added the
Arabian Lovers, a Tale.
Printed at the Minerva Press, for Lane and Newman, 1804.
A plagiarism of Sarah Lansdell’s 1796 (and much longer) novel, Manfredi, Baron St. Osmund, this 1790s chapbook features romance, betrayal, and an Italian hermit who is more courageous and honorable than he seems.
The full title of this book is Manfredi, or the Mysterious Hermit, an Interesting and Original Romance. The initial impression of the book, physically, is that it is rather long because Manfredi is the first chapbook in a compilation of eighteen chapbooks. It was common practice at the time to bind many chapbooks together in one book, and Manfredi is only thirty pages out of many in a compilation entitled Tales & Romances. The page numbers are not continuous throughout the compilation, instead they start over at the beginning of each new chapbook. There is no stated author for this book, but it states that it was published by G. Stevens, with the given address at 10 Borough Road, Southwark. There is also no table of contents in the collection, and the stories start one right after the other, often with only one title page separating them that is decorated with a beautiful illustration. At the beginning of Manfredi, there is a detailed watercolor illustration captioned “Altieri’s Re-encounter with the Hermit,” with the title and the publisher on the same page.
The book is 18 centimeters by 11 centimeters, with a sturdy, well-made cover. The binding is made of leather, and it is clearly worn from frequent reading because there are superficial, vertical cracks down the entirety of the spine. The front and back covers are made of marbled paper that has been rubbed away in the center of both sides. There are leather accents on the corners of the cover that seem to be in good condition. The pages themselves are thin, yellow, and feel brittle. One has the urge to treat them with great care and patience so as to not tear them. The margins on the sides and bottom are 1 centimeter each, and the top margin is 2 centimeters. In the middle of the top margin is the page number, which is large in comparison with the rest of the text. The text is dense and rather small, but not extremely tiny. The only other notable characteristic of the book is that there is a translucent, thin piece of paper inserted on pages 15–16 to mend a tear. Overall, the book can easily be described as worn, high-quality, understated, and beautiful.
The publisher of Manfredi, Or the Mysterious Hermit is London-based G. Stevens, who published many other books, including The Maid and the Magpie: an Interesting Tale Founded on Facts and A Trip to the Fair, Or, A Present for a Good Child. The Maid and the Magpie was published in 1815 or 1816, and A Trip to the Fair was published somewhere between 1810 and 1819. There have been two versions of Manfredi, Or the Mysterious Hermit published, one in the 1790s and one in the 1800s. The printer of the 1790s edition, as noted at the bottom of the last page, is Ann Kemmish. There is no known author, illustrator, or editor. There is one visible difference between the two editions, in that library catalogs frequently credit Sarah Lansdell as the author of the 1790s edition. In actuality, Sarah Lansdell was not the author of this text. She instead wrote a different book entitled, Manfredi, Baron St. Osmund, An Old English Romance in 1796 which encompasses two volumes, each of which take up about 200 pages. This is in direct contrast with Manfredi, Or the Mysterious Hermit, an Interesting and Original Romance, which takes up only 32 pages. Sarah Lansdell’s longer version of the book provided a basis for the shorter, anonymous chapbook. As Angela Koch explains, longer versions of Gothic novels were written and frequently sold to wealthier buyers and libraries, while chapbooks were adapted from them and sold for a much lower price, usually sixpence or one shilling, to the general public. They were often directly plagiarized from the original texts by anonymous authors, and this text is no exception (Koch 21).
There is no preface or introduction in this book, only a title page with the publisher and an illustration.
There are epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. The introductory chapter features epigraphs by William Cowper and William Shakespeare, though they are uncredited. William Cowper’s comes from his poem, “The Task” (1785):
Nor rural sights, but rural sounds Exhilarate the spirit, and restore The tone of languid Nature
Shakespeare’s quote is from the play Cymbeline (1623):
Being scarce made up I mean, to man he had no apprehension Of roaring errors; for defect of judgement Is oft the cause of fear.
The quotes are slightly misstated, omitting the word “alone” after the word “sights” in the Cowper quote and exchanging “the effect” for “defect” in the Shakespeare quote. These quotes relate metaphorically to the content of the book, as do the rest of the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter.
There were no reviews or advertisements published for this text, nor have there been any recent reprintings. As cheap literature—designed for quick entertainment, rather than as a longer, higher-quality novel—there has been little scholarly work on this text. There are a few texts related to Manfredi, but it is unlikely that they were based on the chapbook and more likely that they were based on the original novel by Sarah Lansdell. A play by William Barrymore was published in 1815 entitled Manfredi the Mysterious Hermit: A Romantic Melodrama in Two Acts, and was performed in New York at Fox’s Old Bowery Theatre in 1863 (“Manfredi, the Mysterious Hermit”). WorldCat lists another play published anonymously in 1841 called Manfredi, or, the Mysterious Hermit: in two acts; the original is held at the British Library. There are no contemporary digital copies of this text, but there is an archival copy of a scan of the Chapter 1 introductory page on WorldCat. Additionally, there is a digital copy of Manfredi, Baron St. Osmund. An old English Romance. In two volumes by Sarah Lansdell on the database Eighteenth Century Collections Online.
Narrative Point of View
Manfredi, or the Mysterious Hermit, an Interesting and Original Romance has a straightforward narrative style. The third-person, omniscient narrator is not a character in the text but has consistent knowledge of and sometimes opinions on the actions of the primary characters and the events of the story. The story is not told from a purely objective, detached viewpoint, but one that is colored by the opinions of the anonymous narrator. The style of narration feels like relaxed, conversational storytelling. The sentences are densely packed with information in shorter, plain sentences that focus more on the events of the story than complex language, possibly because this book was plagiarized from a much longer version of the story. The narrator gives some insight into the feelings of the characters, but it is told matter-of-factly in the same manner as the events of the story.
PETER according to his promise hastened to the garden of the palace, “Ah” said he “tired of staying—these Indian manners, do not suit us Englishmen—Mr. Hermit seems too genteel to keep lis [sic.] time.” While he was indulging himself, a servnt [sic.] passed. “Where are you going” enquired Peer, “Going” answered the man, “did you never knay [sic.] a lady in a hurry when she was going to be married? I seek the Marquis.” “I can assure you he is not at this part of the garden, but see comes this way.” “My Lord.” said the man, anessing [sic.] Alteri, “the ceremony awaits your presence.” “Ah,” he said mournfully, “a few moments repite [sic.], the air of this garden, refreshes me and will make me more cheerful for the ceremony.” Then tuning [sic.] to Hugo, he enquired, “What makes your father eye me so,—does he suspect aught: Peter, me honest friend, can I serve you.”— “No my Lord, nor can I serve you—I am honest,” replied, the suspecting fisherman; “Be cautious, father, or you’ll offend the Marquis,” said Hugo— “Be cautious Hugo” retorted Peter, “or you’ll offend your father.” With this unpalatable speech, he left the garden, and Alteri, fearful of offending the powerful Marquis Vincenza and his beautiful daughter, went to fulfil the vows which he tought [sic.] would purchase his future bliss. (16)
This passage uses a concise, informative narrative style to maintain clarity and provide the audience with the most succinct description possible. This has the effect of making sure that the text is not too long or unwieldy. The use of quotes and description of the characters’ feelings appeals to relatable emotions and interesting dialogue that is frequently engaging and interesting. Similarly, the use of dramatic language makes for a gripping narrative.
Manfredi, or the Mysterious Hermit, an Interesting and Original Romance opens with a description of the castle of Vincenza, which is on a lake in Italy. A nice man who honored the family line owned the castle, and he remained dignified but still treated the peasants well. He married a nice woman and had a kind, intelligent daughter named Marcelina. The neighboring Marquis Altieri wants to marry Marcelina.
A mysterious hermit lives across the lake from them, and the ferryman Peter recognizes him. Peter’s wife is Paulina, his daughter is Jacintha, and his son is Hugo, who works for Marquis Altieri. A rough, yet charming young man named Stephano who likes Jacintha wants to know who the hermit is. Peter comes home and tells them that he found a portrait of Olivia Altieri, Marquis Altieri’s first wife, in the hermit’s house. Hugo takes it from him, saying that he is going to put it back in the hermit’s house because stealing is wrong, while Stephano sets off to learn about the hermit. The hermit comes to see Peter and accuses him of stealing the portrait from his house, to which Peter replies that it is being put back and confronts him about it looking like Olivia Altieri. The hermit says Marquis Altieri is a villain and will prove it if he comes to the garden at one in the morning. Following this, the hermit brings Olivia, who is miraculously still alive, into his cave. Stephano watches secretly from the side. They talk about how Marcelina is going to be another victim of Marquis Altieri if the marriage goes through, but Manfredi, the hermit, has a plan to expose him to the world as a terrible person. Olivia only wishes that he spares his life because he is still her husband.
Meanwhile, Hugo brings the portrait of Olivia Altieri to Marquis Altieri, not the hermit’s house, and tells him that Olivia is still alive living with Manfredi. They collude that they must disguise themselves to go to the hermit and kill her. Stephano, ever ill-mannered, is in Manfredi’s house beginning to eat his food and make himself comfortable when he hears Hugo’s voice outside the door and hides while Marquis Altieri and Hugo come in and search the house. Manfredi comes home and knows someone is inside from the disturbance in the entryway. Stephano reveals himself to Manfredi and warns him that the Marquis is there and he is in danger. Manfredi gives Olivia to him, telling him to guard her and take her away with him. Manfredi and the Marquis talk, and the Marquis asks him if Olivia is alive and if anyone else knows. Manfredi says only he and a peasant know, then calls him by his name, exposing his disguise, and says he will see him tomorrow. The Marquis is terrified for his life. Hugo rushes Manfredi, but he is prepared and pulls two pistols and retreats to the back of the cave. Hugo wants to chase him, but their guns aren’t loaded anymore and his are.
Stephano and Olivia make it to the cottage and Jacintha tries to visit but Stephano teases her and won’t let her in because Olivia is there. She becomes upset and pretends to leave but actually stays to eavesdrop. Stephano recognizes that she is upset but doesn’t take it seriously. Jacintha hears Stephano presume that he can win her forgiveness by crying in front of her and pretending to kill himself and sees Olivia through the window, which causes her to get extremely jealous and vow revenge. Manfredi arrives at Stephano’s cottage and reveals his plan to save Marcelina.
The next day, Peter comes to the garden and finds the Marquis. He pretends like he doesn’t suspect anything, but is curt. The Marquis goes to the wedding. Everyone is at the wedding, and it is beautiful but very solemn. Marcelina’s father promises her and his property to Marquis Altieri. Just then, a stranger bursts in and says the Marquis has forgotten Olivia, then sits down to stay when pressed by the Marquis to reveal how he knows this. It turns out the stranger was originally paid to kill Olivia but it didn’t happen. The Marquis says in confidence that it still can and tells him to meet him at the ruins. Peter bursts into the wedding with a letter to Vincenza stating that Olivia is alive and the Marquis is a villain. He denies it and demands to know where the accuser is. On cue, Manfredi comes in and says he can produce Olivia, and the wedding is postponed.
The Marquis plots to ally himself with banditti to find Olivia before Manfredi can produce her. The Marquis and Hugo want to befriend the hermit, but the stranger says they must repent for that to happen. They reply that they never will and try to kill him but he’s too strong. He throws the Marquis on the ground and warns him to beware of tomorrow. He warns that Olivia is going to betray the Marquis.
The banditti and the hit man Spaldro begin their search. They find Jacintha and use her jealousy of Olivia to get her to reveal that she is in the cabin with Stephano. They find Olivia and are going to murder her there but decide that they don’t want to do it in front of Jacintha. They then try to move to the woods, but are stopped by Stephano and Jacintha. Stephano sends Jacintha to the castle to warn Marcelina’s father. Hugo stabs the stranger and leaves him to die on the ground.
An aside is given to the reader that explains the history between Manfredi and Olivia. It states that D’Estalla was a respected name in Tuscany, and that the count with that name had two respected sons who were best friends. The elder one provided well for the younger even though he inherited all of the wealth. They each married and had a child with high-status women from the court, who were Olivia and Manfredi. Manfredi’s mother died following his birth, and his father died of grief soon after, so he was raised with Olivia. He grew to love her romantically, not as a sister, but she didn’t love him back and instead liked Altieri. They were married and it was okay for a while, but then he wanted to marry Marcelina for money because he lost everything gambling. The count was ill and entrusted the care of Olivia to Manfredi because he strongly distrusts the Marquis. Manfredi disguised himself as Spaldro, the hit man, and instead of killing Olivia hid her away with him.
Coming back to the present day, Stephano gets into the castle using Hugo’s name, then lets down the gates to let Peter in. He is stopped by Hugo who also wants to come in, but he won’t let him. It turns out that Manfredi is wounded but not dead, and comes to find them. The banditti betray the Marquis by not killing Olivia. Hugo and the Marquis are so desperate to find Olivia that they vow to set the castle on fire if they don’t capture her. Peter and Stephano use a boat in the moat to linger beneath the window of Olivia’s cell with a crowbar. The Marquis is about to fire a cannon on the castle with the explosive charges lain but then sees them escaping with his wife! In the confusion he still orders Hugo to fire, and unable to disobey his master, he does. Olivia, Peter, and Stephano escape from the fire while Manfredi fights viciously and kills the Marquis.
In the end, Olivia is very sad over her husband dying but eventually agrees to marry Manfredi. Marcelina marries a man from France, and Hugo dies along with the other people who fought against Manfredi. Stephano and Jacintha get married. Manfredi’s house is revered by everyone across the land who learns the story, and Olivia builds a church there to commemorate her savior. A pious recluse begins to live in Manfredi’s old house.
Barrymore, William. Manfredi the Mysterious Hermit: A Romantic Melodrama in Two Acts. London, 1815. 1970. Print.
Koch, Angela. “Gothic Bluebooks in the Princely Library of Corvey and Beyond.” Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text, Issue 9 (Dec. 2002), pp. 5–25.
Manfredi, or The Mysterious Hermit, an Interesting and Original Romance, London, G. Stevens, 1790s.
Manfredi, Or, the Mysterious Hermit: In Two Acts. London, Submitted to Lord Chamberlain, 1841.