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.
A tale of romance, resentment, and revenge, this 1804 chapbook tells the story of a noble family living in France as one brother’s evil corrupts the lives of those around him.
Maximilian and Selina, Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale can be found in two collections in the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. One copy is bound inside the collection Marvellous Magazine (volume III). Pencil notes (perhaps from Sadleir himself) on the inside cover of this copy indicate that this story can also be found in a volume called The Entertainer I, also in the Sadleir-Black Collection.
The printing of Maximilian and Selina bound in The Entertainer appears identical to the version bound in Marvellous Magazine; both sharethe same frontispiece and title page. The frontispiece shows a scene in which a man is being pushed out of a tower by someone else, while a woman watches in horror from behind. Each copy of Maximilian and Selina was published by Tegg and Castleman, but no author is indicated in either volume.
Marvellous Magazine appears very old and worn; the cover and first page are entirely detached from the rest of the book. The binding is plain and cracked. The cover is spotted leather with decorative swirling gold patterning on the spine and gold dots around the edge of the binding. The paper is medium- to lightweight and yellowed, displaying relatively small text. Before each story in the collection appears a black and white frontispiece illustrating a scene from the following pages. The entire book is 512 pages long and contains seven stories: six are exactly seventy-two pages long (including Maximilian and Selina), and one is eighty. The book is rather small, measuring only 4.3 x 10.4 x 18.1 cm.
Maximilian and Selina is available in several different editions at the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. The copies in the larger volumes The Entertainer and Marvellous Magazine are identical and will be discussed first. The story was first printed in 1804 for Tegg & Castleman. Thomas Tegg was a well-known printer who lived from 1776 to 1846. According to an obituary, the bookseller struggled in his childhood and early career, but he eventually established his own successful business and began to amass his fortune printing, buying, and selling books. He was elected Sheriff of London in 1846 but did not serve in that position due to failing health. After his death, his sons continued in their father’s path. Interestingly, Tegg’s youngest son was so stricken with grief at his father’s death that he died as well shortly after, and their bodies were buried in the family plot together on the same day (The Gentleman’s Magazine 650). There is an intriguing (albeit unintended) parallel in Maximilian and Selina: the Duke of Anjou arrives at the convent just as the death knell tolls for his daughter, and he immediately dies of the shock. Their bodies are carried back to the chateau together, where the sight of his dead father and sister drive Godfrey to madness.
The 1804 version of Maximilian and Selina is available within multiple collections of stories. The two held by the University of Virginia are Marvellous Magazine and The Entertainer. Maximilian and Selina appears identical in both volumes, with the same title page and frontispiece. The other printing is for Dean & Munday in 1820. The edition printed by Dean & Munday that is housed at the University of Virginia Library is disbound and has significant brown spotting on the title page. It looks similar to the Tegg & Castleman version, but the publishing information is different and the frontispiece is in color. Also, it is only thirty-six pages instead of seventy-two. The shorter length is because this version is an abridged version of the 1804 edition. The overall plot is similar but most of the frame narrative has been cut out, several characters are entirely deleted, the sequence in which the reader learns about events is different, and in abridging the text many plot points are deleted in a confusing way, without any transitions being added. The Dean & Munday printing has a catalogue slip in it which gives some basic publishing information, a description of the physical object, and part of an assessment by scholar Frederick Frank: “A confusing patchwork of obscure and opaque plots … Complexity and lucidity are not necessarily incompatible elements of style in horror fiction, but in this chapbook, the style is so dense as to render even the basic facts of the story a matter of hazardous speculation” (The First Gothics 233). The explanation on the slip for the frontispiece does not relate to the story. The scene shown is Edward pushing Godfrey out of the tower while Elgiva screams in horror, but the slip describes “ruffians throwing a screaming boy from the top of a tower.”
Another incorrect description of the frontispiece is found in Frederick Frank’s article “Gothic Gold.” The year and publishing information match the Tegg & Castleman version, but the article says that the chapbook is thirty-six pages, like the Dean & Munday printing. The frontispiece is shown in black and white above a brief description of the book: “About to be hurled from the turret by his malicious brother, Adolphus de Monvel, Maximilian’s doom seems sealed as a pathetic mother figure murmurs an ineffectual prayer unheard in the fallen and godless universe. The scene is the chapbook’s initial spectacular incident in a series of unremitting crises” (“Gothic Gold” 309). This description mentions real characters from the story, but neither Adolphus nor Maximilian were a part of this scene, and the female figure is most likely Elgiva, Godfrey’s wife. This is also one of the last events in the chapbook, not the first.
Frank gives another critical synopsis of Maximilian and Selina in his book The First Gothics. It lists the publishing information of the unabridged 1804 version. However, this synopsis also contradicts the events of both versions of the chapbook (the Tegg & Castleman printing, and the abridged one for Dean & Munday). It is also different than the description given for the frontispiece in Frank’s “Gothic Gold.” In The First Gothics, the frontispiece is said to show ruffians throwing Godfrey off a tower, instead of Maximilian being thrown by de Monvel, his “brother.” This synopsis covers the rest of the chapbook, with references to real characters and similar plot points, but multiple inaccuracies which completely change the story.
Maximilian and Selina is mentioned more briefly in several other scholarly works (Potter History of Gothic Publishing 75, Mayo 551, Hoeveler). Mayo explains that Marvellous Magazine and similar anthologies generally featured stories of a specified length. For example, the volume of Marvellous Magazine containing Maximilian and Selina contains stories all seventy-two pages in length, save one exception. This length limit often resulted in the butchering of Gothic classics as they were edited and amended to reach a precise page count (Mayo 367). This is one possibility to account for the incoherency of the shorter Dean & Munday printing compared to the original, which was twice as long.
Narrative Point of View
The main story within Maximilian and Selina is narrated by Maximilian, the Abbott, as he recounts his life to Sancho Orlando. He uses first-person narration which focuses on his own thoughts and feelings as the plot progresses. Since Maximilian is older when he is telling this story, he occasionally inserts future knowledge. Part of the story is the packet that Maximilian wrote based on Nerina’s deathbed explanation. This part is told in the third person, with a somewhat omniscient narrator. The final section is the tale told by Guiscardo to Sancho, in first-person narration from Guiscardo’s point of view. The language is similar in all three: archaic and formal. The packet is perhaps a bit more flowery in its prose than the oral stories.
To discover who this was, became at length the predominant desire of my soul, since, could I but confront him, I knew my innocence must triumph; but where to seek for information, which Selina only could give, and had refused, almost to distraction. At length a light seemed to break on my bewildered senses, and I fancied the whole discovery lay clear before me. On revolving the whole affair, as stated by the Duke, I was forcibly struck with that part where Selina charged me with neglect during her father’s absence; at the same time praising the kindness of her eldest brother, by whose attention she was wholly sustained, whilst Edward and myself chose to amuse ourselves apart. I had once been told by Edward, that Godfrey was my foe, and I now believed it; he alone could have poisoned his sister’s mind against me, and made her notice, a long past and seemingly forgotten act of prudence, as a want of affection for her, —Wild as this idea was, it became conclusive, and I madly formed the resolution of following the Duke and his son, and of accusing the latter. (28)
This paragraph is from the section narrated in Maximilian’s point of view. By describing his past self’s inner thoughts about Selina’s change of heart, Maximilian emphasizes his own perspective. At the time, Maximilian did not have any doubts about his conviction that Godfrey was sabotaging his relationship with Selina, which is why he rashly rode out into the night to follow him. However, now knowing that it was Edward who really betrayed him, he uses words including “I fancied,” “wild,” and “madly.” The narrator’s hindsight creates the feeling of an omniscient point of view, even though it is simply Maximilian in the future, narrating retrospectively.
The story begins with a wise old abbot named Maximilian. A Spanish knight named Sancho Orlando comes to seek his advice after killing his friend in single combat. After the Abbot listens to his story, he assures the knight that his friend’s death was not his fault, and that he has no need for such guilt. The knight asks the Abbot how he came to be a monk, and the body of the tale is what the Abbot tells Sancho in reply.
Godfrey, Duke of Anjou, is a kind and generous nobleman visiting his chateau in the countryside with his children. Maximilian is the same age at that point as the Duke’s younger son, Edward, and because his uncle, the prior at a local convent, is close friends with the Duke, Maximilian spends a lot of time with his children. Godfrey, the Duke’s elder son, is friendly, noble, and admirable, while Edward is horrible, jealous, and cruel, but Maximilian does not notice Edward’s faults until too late because of their friendship. Selina, the Duke’s daughter, is beautiful and kind, and Maximilian falls in love with her, but Edward is the only one who knows of their relationship.
Three years later, the Duke leaves the chateau to visit a dear friend on his deathbed. While he is gone Godfrey is in charge, and Edward advises his friend not to let Godfrey see him with Selina, since he would disapprove. When the Duke returns, he is accompanied by Elgiva de Valmont, his friend’s daughter, who is now his ward. She is even more beautiful than Selina, with whom she becomes close friends. Maximilian’s heart already belongs to Selina, but the two brothers compete fiercely for Elgiva’s affections. Godfrey proposes to Maximilian and Edward that they should all stop pursuing her, since over time without the pressure of their attention she would form her own opinion of which brother she loved. Edward agrees readily.
A few weeks pass in relative peace. Edward asks Maximilian to find out from Selina whether Elgiva prefers him or his brother, but Maximilian refuses because that would be dishonorable when Edward had already agreed to Godfrey’s proposal. Soon after, Maximilian realizes that since no one is aware of his love for Selina, she could be courted by other suitors, and decides to ask his uncle to speak with the Duke. It is decided by his uncle and the Duke that Selina should be promised in marriage to him in several years, if they still love each other, since they are so young to make such a commitment. Maximilian is overjoyed with this outcome. Godfrey is also happy about his sister and Maximilian’s union, meaning that Edward had lied about his disapproval.
Maximilian speaks with Edward while walking home. Edward believes that Godfrey has broken their agreement and said something to Elgiva to turn her against him, but Maximilian does not think he would do that. Edward is distraught and wishes to do something to repair Elgiva’s opinion of him, but Maximilian advises him to keep his distance and not to act rashly. After this conversation, Maximilian is troubled by the situation and his friend’s conduct.
Soon after, the Duke invites Maximilian to come to his other chateau with his family, but just before they leave, Maximilian’s uncle falls ill so he stays behind. The plan is for Maximilian to spend a month with the Duke’s family at the chateau as soon as his uncle recovers, to visit his father’s estate to settle some affairs, then return to the chateau.
When she must leave without him, both Maximilian and Selina are distraught. He takes care of his uncle for over two months, then departs to join them at the chateau. However, Selina is not happy to see him. She says that she has changed her mind after so much time apart; that she has forgiven him, but they should be friends. Maximilian leaves, troubled, and speaks with Edward. He discovers that while he was away, a suitor named de Monvel visited Selina, so Maximilian asks her about him. She insists that she has loved only Maximilian, but that she cannot forgive his perjury. He is confused because he has only been faithful. Maximilian goes to his paternal home as he had planned, where he is soon visited by a stranger, Adolphus de Monvel. Adolphus had come to him to find out if he had broken his engagement to Selina, which he vehemently denies. Adolphus easily accepts this, and leaves.
Now, king Philip of France is preparing to marry, so the Duke and Godfrey go to court for the wedding. Maximilian receives a letter from the Duke saying that Selina is angry with him because she was under the impression that he was gone so long because he was in love with a peasant girl and had eloped with her. She refused to tell anyone where she heard this, but the Duke asks Maximilian to return to the chateau in a month so they can explain the truth. Maximilian convinces himself that it was Godfrey who turned Selina against him, so he goes to court to confront him. He challenges Godfrey to single combat, but Godfrey refuses the fight without due cause. The two men scuffle, and Godfrey stabs Maximilian in the chest.
Maximilian wakes up in bed in the Duke’s apartments at court, where he finds out that the Duke and Godfrey have hastened to the country on account of important news. He is worried because he has no idea what has happened. Godfrey visits while Maximilian is recovering and the two reunite as friends with all forgiven. He lies about the news that made them leave, and Maximilian later finds out that they had really received word from Edward that Selina had disappeared but they hid it from him so his anxiety would not impede his recovery. Shortly after Godfrey’s visit, they find out that Selina had run away to join a convent, in secret because she knew her father would disapprove. Now she is seriously ill and has asked the nuns at the convent to notify her father so that he could see and forgive her before she dies. The Duke, Edward, and Elgiva set out for the convent while Godfrey is still out searching for his sister, but they arrive just after she dies. The Duke immediately dies as well from grief. Godfrey is plunged into madness when he arrives back at the chateau at the precise moment when a procession is carrying the bodies of his sister and father through the gates. It is presumed that Edward and Elgiva will marry, and that Edward will become duke since the older son is indisposed.
Elgiva remarks once that Selina had died because of “hypocrisy,” so Maximilian is set upon exacting revenge upon whoever was responsible (33). He visits the chateau to question Elgiva privately, but Edward spends the whole day with Maximilian so he does not have the chance to speak with her alone. After speaking with his uncle, he decides to join the Christian army on their crusades, and he is renewed by his conviction. He fights successfully with many other knights, crusading from Constantinople from Jerusalem. They lay siege to Jerusalem and defeat the city. After the crusades are over, he joins an organization called the knights of Saint John and spends twelve years in Jerusalem.
One day, he sees a man dressed as a pilgrim being dragged to the church to perform devotions and realizes that it is Edward. Edward confesses that he has committed heinous crimes including murder and is now trying to atone for his sins. His wife is living, but she is now the mistress of king Philip. Elgiva married Godfrey, but she has died, and Edward refuses to explain further. He remains in Jerusalem for some time, and Maximilian manages to piece together some of the story. Godfrey had regained his sanity and married Elgiva, but they both died and left Edward as the guardian of their child. Edward had married a noblewoman and they had a son, but she left him to become the concubine of king Philip.
Edward leaves Jerusalem without saying goodbye. Several years later, Maximilian returns to France on business for the knights of Saint John. While there, he decides to visit the duke’s old chateau, where he finds only servants. They tell him that Edward had been dead for some time, and that his son (now the Duke) was in the country with his wife. Maximilian is confused, because he had heard from Edward that Godfrey had left an heir to the title. A few days later Edward’s son comes to visit Maximilian, saying that he had heard that someone had come to the chateau looking for his father. The new Duke explains that Godfrey had a daughter, but she had descended into madness and died, so he was now the lawful successor. Maximilian then accompanies him to his palace to meet the duchess and stays with them for a month.
Late one night, a woman knocks on his door, requesting that he come to give religious comfort to a dying servant until a confessor can arrive from a distant convent. The dying woman recognizes him as Selina’s lover because she is Nerina, Elgiva’s old servant. She tells him about Edward and Selina’s past, and Maximilian writes all of it down in a packet when he returns to his room. She dies the next morning before he can speak with her again. He learned from her that Godfrey’s daughter (named Elgiva, after her mother) was alive and well, and certainly not an imbecile as the Duke had told him. The Duke had illegally married her (his cousin) but because of their close relation it was not an official union, and he had no claim to the estate unless she died.
When the Duke enters the room, Maximilian horrifies him by immediately asking where he had hidden Elgiva. The Duke begs Maximilian not to expose him, saying that he had fallen in love with his cousin, and they had married in secret. He had been planning on suing for a dispensation and met his current wife while on his way to do so. He fell in love with her and proposed, instead of returning to Elgiva. When he broke off his engagement with her, she went insane and died of a broken heart. Maximilian pronounces him guilty of her murder, and they agree upon appropriate penance for him to perform in exchange for Maximilian’s silence. Maximilian leaves the Duke and Duchess to visit his uncle’s old convent, where he decides to join the brothers. When the prior dies two years later, Maximilian succeeds him.
Maximilian then decides to return to the chateau to find out from Nerina’s brother Conrad, the servant in charge of its care, what truly happened to Elgiva. Conrad relates that after her parents died, Edward had raised Elgiva in ignorance of her right to the estates so that she would believe that she was dependent upon him. Therefore, Nerina and Conrad did as much as they could to advance her marriage to Edward’s son, the current Duke, believing that this was the only way in which she could claim her birthright. Nerina passed away while recovering from a broken leg and when Elgiva heard the news, she went mad with grief and died. Maximilian is convinced, because Conrad has confirmed the Duke’s story.
After finishing his story, the Abbot tells Sancho that even all these years later justice can still prevail, so he plans to tell the king the whole story. He gives Sancho the packet he wrote after Nerina’s deathbed explanation containing everything that happened to him, asking Sancho to read it then come back to visit him. The Abbot believes that Elgiva is alive, and that she may now receive her rightful inheritance when the matter comes to light. Sancho takes the packet home and in it he reads the story of Maximilian and Selina once more, starting from the point where Selina, Edward, Elgiva, Godfrey, and the former Duke all left for a different chateau without Maximilian. Here, the point of view stays with Maximilian, but it’s based on his written packet, no longer on his conversation with the knight.
The family is all together at the chateau. Selina mourns Maximilian’s absence, but she cheers up in a few days. Adolphus de Monvel visits and is instantly attracted to Selina, who is completely unaware. When he confesses his feelings to her, she is flattered that he chose her over the more beautiful Elgiva, but gently denies him. However, Adolphus takes her mild denial as encouragement and continues to pursue her. The second time that he declares his affections, she tells him about her engagement. Edward overhears this and does his best to convince his sister that Maximilian is being unfaithful. He tells Selina that Maximilian has run off with a peasant girl, and she is incredibly upset. The Duke resolves to have the matter investigated, which Edward knows would expose his lies, but he does not have a chance to look into it before he and Godfrey leave for the king’s wedding. Edward hears Elgiva trying to convince Selina not to become a nun and he realizes that this would be very advantageous for him, so he persuades her over time to run away and join a convent without telling their father and helps her leave the chateau unnoticed.
Once she reaches the convent, Selina falls ill from distress since she knows that she has caused her family worry. When she explains her situation to the nuns and asks for their help, the abbess sends a messenger to the chateau to inform the Duke of his daughter’s whereabouts and her regret. He immediately sets out to see her with Elgiva and Edward. Selina writes a letter to Elgiva explaining everything and asking her to beg the Duke to forgive her. Selina and the Duke both die, and Godfrey goes mad with grief. However, after ten years he recovers and marries Elgiva. Edward is bitter and upset because he has lost his chance to have everything he wanted. Elgiva and Godfrey live happily together in the chateau with Edward and Elgiva gives birth to their daughter. One day in a rage while Elgiva and Godfrey are on a walk, Edward attempts to murder the couple. When Godfrey discovers him, Edward begs his brother to kill him, but Godfrey says that he forgives Edward and they all return to the chateau. However, Edward is even more upset by their kindness. He plans on joining the army and prepares to leave.
One night, the three of them are sitting by a window when the two brothers decide to climb a tower for a better view. When they reach the top, Edward pushes his brother off the battlements. Elgiva dies of shock when she sees his corpse. Edward is left as the guardian to the young Elgiva and marries the Duchess. After his wife leaves him for the king, he becomes penitent, and he suffers much in the name of atonement. Eventually, he passes away, still trying to pay for his sins.
After he reads the packet, Sancho is travelling when he sees his friend Guiscardo sitting by a forest, deeply upset. Guiscardo tells Sancho that he is upset because he is now a criminal and explains why. Guiscardo and his wife Maddalena visited one of Guiscardo’s castles for a reprieve but when they arrived the servants said that the new inhabitant of the neighboring property, an Italian named Prince Appiani, was infringing upon Guiscardo’s land and treating Guiscardo’s servants horribly. Soon, Appiani sent a letter apologizing for his conduct and promising to visit the next day. In person, the prince was apologetic, kind, and charming, but Maddalena seemed distressed by his visits, although she was unsure why. One day while Guiscardo was out riding with Appiani, a group of masked men come to the castle and kidnap Maddalena. Guiscardo believes that they were hired by Appiani, so he rushes into the prince’s castle and draws his sword. The prince denies any involvement and orders his servants to search for her. The two men leave together to look for her, but they are unsuccessful.
One morning a stranger comes to see Guiscardo, saying that a woman had given him a letter to deliver to Guiscardo. It is from Maddalena, telling her husband that she plans to kill herself with opium but wanted Guiscardo to know that she was imprisoned in Appiani’s castle and that the prince was the one who kidnapped her. Guiscardo immediately goes to Appiani’s castle and stabs him while he sleeps. However, Guiscardo is now consumed with guilt over having killed a helpless man. Sancho promises that after he returns from a pilgrimage, he will speak with the Pope to obtain absolution for his friend.
Barnes, James J., and Patience P. Barnes. “Tegg, Thomas (1776–1846), publisher.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 September 2004. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/27102.
Frank, Frederick S. The First Gothics: A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel. Garland Publishing, 1987.
——. “Gothic Gold: The Sadleir-Black Gothic Collection.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, vol. 26, 1997, pp. 287–312.
Hoeveler, Diane Long. The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880. University of Wales Press, 2014.
Maximilian and Selina: Or, The Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale. London, Tegg & Castleman, 1804.
Mayo, Robert Donald. The English Novel In the Magazines, 1740–1815: With a Catalogue of 1375 Magazine Novels And Novelettes. Northwestern University Press, 1962.
Potter, Franz J. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. Macmillan UK, 2005.
——. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
“Thomas Tegg.” Collections Online | British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG48140.
“Thomas Tegg, Esq.” The Gentleman’s Magazine: and historical review. June 1846: 650.
In this 1799 gothic novel, a young woman named Cordelia struggles with her father’s abandonment of her family, tries to improve her situation, and is ultimately faced with deceit and tragedy.
Cordelia, or a Romance of Real Life by Sophia King Fortnum is presented in leather binding with a marbled paper cover, giving it an elegant and high-quality appearance. The marbled decoration of the front would have been achieved by hand, using water and oil colors to create a unique design, and shows the care that was taken into the appearance of the book.
The spine is decorated with a few thin horizontal lines and has subtle embellishments surrounding the title, in capital letters, CORDELIA. The book still gives a refined impression, but its age shows with small fractures stemming from a substantial vertical crack down the spine and faded coloring of the cover. The top and bottom right corners of the paper cover appear worn off and torn, which could indicate the possible existence of leather, or another material, corners that came off at one point in its history. The book is 11 by 18 cm and 212 pages in length.
Inside, the pages are yellowed and occasionally darkly spotted on the tops and edges, which is referred to as foxing and is common in paper as it ages. This could possibly be due to oxidization, humidity, or other factors depending on the environments and conditions impacting the paper. The ink in the book is only somewhat faded and still easy to see, but brownish stains blemish many of the pages and one blue stain bleeds through page seven onto eight.
The pages alternate between two lengths and are curled slightly on all edges, leading to pages sticking together as they’re turned. Horizontal folds split the paper into thirds, showing that the paper could have been folded before it was bound in its leather and marbled paper dressings.
Opening the novel, the title is displayed on the second page as Cordelia, or a Romance of Real Life in fanciful font, and on the third page again. The author’s name appears below the title on the third page. Throughout the novel, on the tops of pages, the title is printed as CORDELIA.
The font of the story is prominent, and the lines of text are decently spaced apart. Wide margins, consisting of a larger bottom margin and thinner top margin, also make the text easy to read. As was common in printing at the time, the letter s in Cordelia is usually printed as a “long s,” which appear similar to f, and can cause some confusion for modern readers. Many of the pages feature letters and numbers at the bottoms. These signature marks are meant to indicate to the printer how to fold the pages in the correct order before binding them. Each chapter begins with a quote relevant to the chapter and a word or few words completely capitalized. The text’s format then continues generally uniformly, which fits in with the overall high-quality impression of the book.
Cordelia, or A Romance of Real Life was published in two volumes in 1799 by the Minerva Press and is
Sophia King Fortnum’s second novel (Summers 284). Fortnum was born around 1782
to John King and Deborah Lara, though she may have been born earlier and
misconstrued her age (Brown et al.). She was of Sephardic Jewish heritage, and
her father was a moneylender and radical political actor in England with a
notorious career known as the “Jew King” (Brown et al., Baines). Her parents
divorced in 1784 or 1785 after her mother took two of the children, possibly
including Fortnum, with her to Italy to try to prevent her father’s marriage to
the dowager countess of Lanesborough, an English noblewoman, and failed (Brown
et al., Endelman). Fortnum and her sister, Charlotte Dacre, author of Zofloya
and other gothic novels, published a collection of poetry together
dedicated to their father called Trifles of Helicon in 1798 (Brown et
al.). Fortnum married Charles Fortnum and began publishing under Sophia Fortnum
instead of Sophia King in 1801 (Brown et al.).
Fortnum published other gothic novels throughout
her career, as well as poetry. She was the author of Waldorf, or the Dangers
of Philosophy, A Philosophical Tale in 1798, The Victim of Friendship in
1800, The Fatal Secret: or, Unknown Warrior. A Romance of the Twelfth
Century in 1801, and her final novel, Victor Allen: a Novel in 1802
(Summers 86). Fortnum published much of her poetry in newspapers under the name
“Sappho” and published her only verse collection in 1804: Poems, Legendary,
Pathetic and Descriptive (Brown et al.). The date of Fortnum’s death after
these publications is unknown.
According to Montague Summers’s AGothicBibliography, the Minerva Press was owned by William Lane and was the “most famous publishing house which issued Gothic romances” (ix). Cordelia also had a French translation published by C. Chanin in Paris in 1800: Cordelia, ou la Faiblesse Excusable, histoire de la vie telle qu’elle est (Summers 284). A contemporary review of Cordelia by Tobias George Smollett called the novel a “gloomy tale” that was not “very probable in its incidents” or “interesting in its progress” (235–36). Smollett’s review also stated that the novel lacked an “attractive style” and called the “morality… inconsistent with the prevailing ideas of female virtue” (236). Editions of the first and second volumes of Cordelia were published by Gale Nineteenth Century Collections Online in 2017 and are available on Amazon, though the second volume is out of print.
Point of View
Cordelia, or a Romance of Real Life, is narrated in the first person by its protagonist, Cordelia.
Cordelia recounts the events of the story in retrospect, rarely describing
specific scenes and often summarizing her own judgements on situations and
people to convey what happened. Cordelia goes on tangents about her beliefs and
judgements within the text, saying she has “digressed” multiple times after
long-winded statements of her opinions (8, 50). The wording of sentences can be
lengthy, using many colons, semicolons, and commas, but the language is not
overly ornate, and it communicates ideas clearly.
The folly and conceit of this ridiculous couple forcibly excited my contempt; I easily developed the character of Mrs. Milner, whose brain was turned by wits, and pretended Literati. They found that by humouring her caprices, and flattering her ignorance, they should reap considerable advantages from her fortune and connections. Authors and philosophers swarmed at her table like butterflies; they praised her works, drank her wine, and dedicated poems to her. Mrs. Milner was therefore well pleased, and expended her fortune almost wholly among designing parasites, Democrats, and madmen, for I believe few who visited her were exceptions to this rule; as to the little conceited Citizen, he was a particular friend and almost totally governed her. As she was, however, a woman of rank and fortune, she did not meet with her deserved portion of contempt, but was in some measure countenanced by persons of fashion, and vitiated taste: for instance, titled profligates, romantic misses, and antiquated dowagers, who joined in her follies, and attended her levees, believing they by that means improved their manners and understanding. (48–50)
The narration overall emphasizes Cordelia’s
opinions and feelings and pays less attention to action and plot. One effect of
this style of first-person narration is that there is no objective view of the
story or characters. In the above passage, Mrs. Milner’s characterization is
completely based on Cordelia’s view of her. Cordelia states that Mrs. Milner
“pretended Literati” and people praised her only to gain something from her
“rank and fortune,” declaring her own “contempt” for Mrs. Milner (48, 49). She
frames Mrs. Milner as untalented and ignorant and others’ praise as insincere,
but there is no objective point of view to confirm this. The audience can only
rely on Cordelia’s perception of herself and others to judge characters’
intelligence or morality. Throughout Cordelia, Cordelia’s impressions of
others guide the framing of the story, and when her impressions prove to be
inaccurate, as with Lioni’s character, the effect is unpredictability.
The narrative of Cordelia, or A Romance of
Real Life, Volume I is told from the first-person perspective of Cordelia,
the protagonist of the story. The novel begins with Cordelia’s rantings and
criticisms of people’s disregard of religion and virtue in place of fame and
fortune. Cordelia admits to being susceptible to these kinds of romantic
notions at one point in her life and begins to tell her backstory. Cordelia’s
family consisted of her mother, her sister Rosina, and her brother Collville.
Her mother was married early in life to Mr. Arden, Cordelia’s father, but he
soon deserted her and their children to be with a woman named Lady Lindern. Mr.
Arden and Lady Lindern lived a luxurious life while Mr. Arden’s family was left
with no prospects and infrequent visits. Cordelia describes her mother as pale,
melancholy, and perpetually in love with Mr. Arden, believing he will return to
her someday. She describes herself as “a sort of ringleader” of her siblings,
and as the story starts, her father begins to favor her because of her apparent
“genius” (20, 22). Cordelia grows to love and respect her father despite his
cruel treatment of her family. However, she also becomes more dissatisfied with
her situation after seeing how Mr. Arden and Lady Lindern live.
Cordelia and her siblings want to leave England,
but because their mother still holds onto hope that Mr. Arden will return to
her, she is determined to stay. Cordelia wants to run away, but her mother
discovers this and tells her father. Mr. Arden gives Cordelia the opportunity
to work for a wealthy writer, Mrs. Milner, and become more involved in society
as an attempt to address her unhappiness with her situation. He orders her to
hide their familial relation, and she starts to work for Mrs. Milner. She finds
Mrs. Milner silly and untalented, but Cordelia does well and begins to interact
with more writers, philosophers, and other friends of Mrs. Milner. She becomes
more like them, calling herself “vain and ridiculous” in retrospect (54). One
day, Cordelia edits one of Mrs. Milner’s essays heavily, and Mrs. Milner finds
the rewrite insulting, reprimanding her. Cordelia leaves after this, abandoning
the post her father recommended her for. When her father finds this out, he
tells her that she has lost his good opinion and is an ungrateful daughter.
Cordelia tries to appeal to Lady Lindern’s sympathy and has an outburst about
her role in destroying her family. Lady Lindern is offended and tells Mr.
Arden. Cordelia receives a letter from her father telling her it is better if
they do not see each other, and she loses all hope of bettering her situation.
Cordelia decides to run away and fantasizes
about obtaining fame and fortune. With the help of her sister, Rosina, she gets
money together and leaves home. She eventually finds somewhere to stay, but her
hostess charges her a high price and drains her funds quickly. Throughout this
time, she tries to apply for jobs with theater companies but is denied. After
many rejections and having to seek the assistance of a family friend, Mrs.
Larlston, she gets news that her application to join a theater company was
accepted. At her new job, she meets Lucinda, who she is initially wary of but
becomes close friends with. Their work for the company is physically demanding
and pays very little, and Cordelia remains unhappy with her life. They
eventually meet a man named Count Victor Lioni and his younger companion
Charles Mandani. Cordelia is suspicious of Lioni but finds Mandani agreeable
and develops feelings for him. Lucinda tells Cordelia that Lioni is a childhood
friend and later tells her that they have gotten married.
Lucinda, Lioni, Mandani, and Cordelia go on a
trip to Italy and Cordelia is unsure of Mandani’s sentiments towards her.
Cordelia asks Mandani about Lucinda and Lioni’s marriage and he sees the idea
as ridiculous, revealing to Cordelia that Lioni and Lucinda are not married and
that Mandani perceives Cordelia to have loose morals. After Cordelia clears the
confusion about her morality, Mandani makes it seem like he intends to form a
serious union with her. Cordelia confronts Lioni about the lie of his and
Lucinda’s marriage, and the Count makes an advance towards her. After
Cordelia’s poor response to this, he tells her she and Mandani are his
captives. Cordelia sends a letter to Lioni asking him to let her leave, but he
refuses and reveals that Mandani is lying to her. Lioni gives Cordelia a pile
of papers and letters, which reveal that Mandani is married. According to the
letters, Mandani loved Lioni’s sister Olivia, but at sixteen, Olivia took her
vows in a convent. Mandani wanted to marry her and convinced her to run off to
France with him and elope. Olivia’s guilt over breaking her vows caused her to
leave him and move back to a convent. Lioni forgave Mandani, but if Mandani
ever forgot Olivia and moved on with another woman, Lioni promised to kill him
on behalf of his sister.
Cordelia cannot tell Mandani she knows about his
past and marriage, and the Count gives her money to leave and have a life away
from Mandani as a gesture of friendship. Cordelia overhears Mandani say that
Olivia is dead to him, and he loves only her now, but she knows they cannot be
together because of Lioni’s threat. She plans to leave for Switzerland and live
in peaceful and comfortable solitude with Lioni’s money, but before she can make
it, she encounters armed men who attack her and tie her up. She is confused and
terrified but then wakes up in what she thinks is a madhouse. She despairs and
adds “shrieks” to the “groans of lunacy,” but “Nature” eventually rescues her
by sending her into a “happy insensibility” (212).
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, eds. “Sophia King: Life & Writing.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. <http://orlando.cambridge.org>. 09 November 2021.
Isaac Crookenden’s 1805 chapbook tells a tale of betrayal, terror, and romance. The shocking discovery of a skeleton in a castle dungeon is just one of its many twists.
This copy of The Skeleton; or, Mysterious Discovery, A Gothic Romance by Isaac Crookenden is a small collection of brittle and yellowed pages, delicately held together with a bit of thread and paste. The chapbook lacks binding, and the pages could potentially have been ripped from a larger volume containing an assortment of tales. Assembling these smaller stories into larger volumes was common practice at the time.
In its present state,The Skeleton resembles a small pamphlet. The book and its pages have a width of 9.5 centimeters and a height of 17.75 centimeters. In its entirety, the book consists of 38 pages, including a blank cover page, a page containing an illustrated frontispiece, an official title page, another blank page, and two pages reserved for an author’s introduction.
This version of the text was published in London in 1805. It was printed and published by A. Neil at the Sommers Town Printing Office. The address of the office is listed as No. 30 Chalton Street. The title page notes that the story is sold by “all other booksellers” as well as Sommers Town. On the book’s title page, the price is listed to be six-pence—fairly cheap for its time.
Currently, this copy has a card indicating the University of Virginia’s possession and ownership of the text attached to the blank first page that was likely added in the 1930s or 40s. This card indicates that the book was presented by Robert K. Black. The notecard also has a handwritten inscription indicating that the text has been microfilmed.
Following the blank first page with this card
is the second page containing a detailed frontispiece illustration of a man
standing in an elegant stone hall holding an open flame. His face expresses
shock as the flame illuminates a skeleton. Beneath the illustration is the text
“Adolphus discovers the Skeleton of the Baron de Morfield” as well as
publication information and attribution for the artwork. This is certainly the
biggest artwork included in the text; however, on page 6, there is a small
image of a rose to signify the end of the introduction.
There is no shortage of unique defects to the
text, making it one of a kind. Because of the lack of binding and seemingly
careless way it was removed from its original bound copy, the text is held
together loosely. The first ten pages are especially fragile and could easily
be separated from the rest. There is a small rip midway down the first blank
cover page. There are small stains throughout, but most noticeably on the
bottom of page 35 there is a dark splotch on the page with unknown origins. The
ink for the printed text has faded considerably in some parts of the book.
As well as defects,
there are other intentional printed indicators of the book’s era. There are
various letter/number combinations along the bottom of certain pages called
signature marks, indicating the proper folding of the paper for the printer.
They are as follows: A on page 3, B on page 15, B3 on page 19, C on page 27,
and C3 on page 21. The book may be considered difficult to read to a modern
reader on account of the printer’s use of the long S in which “s” look like
The Skeleton is a gothic chapbook written by Isaac
Crookenden. An edition of the chapbook is currently in the University of
Virginia’s Special Collections Library as a part of the Sadleir-Black
Collection of Gothic Fiction, where it was received as a gift. This chapbook
was published by A. Neil in 1805 and it originally sold for six-pence at a
variety of booksellers. This edition of the chapbook was published at the
Sommers Town Printing Office at No. 30 Chalton Street in London, near the
Crookenden was born
in 1777 in Itchenor, a village in West Sussex, England, as the youngest of nine
children. His father was a shipbuilder who experienced bankruptcy. Crookenden
overcame a presumably impoverished childhood to marry Elizabeth Pelham Fillery
in 1798, and had a son, Adolphus, in 1800. His educational experience is
alluded to in The Skeleton’s title page, on which he describes
himself as the “Late assistant at Mr. Adams’ Academy in Chichester.”
Crookenden’s status as a former schoolmaster indicates he was educated enough
to educate others. Franz Potter hypothesizes that perhaps he advertised his
former position as an educator in The
Skeleton to heighten the shock and scandal of his work—that someone
associated with children could conceive the horrors in the tale (71–2).
Crookenden published the chapbook Berthinia,
or, The Fair Spaniard in 1802, and nine other publications of the same
variety are known. His main genre was gothic, though he experimented with a
more purely romantic approach in 1808’s Venus
on Earth (Baines). While some of his works were published as late as 1824,
Crookenden died in Rotherhithe, Surrey in 1809 at just thirty-two (Potter 72).
Crookenden had an infamous reputation as one of the most prolific plagiarizing writers of the gothic genre. Frederick S. Frank describes Crookenden as “probably the most notorious counterfeiter of legitimate Gothic Novels” (“Gothic Romance” 59). His name is often mentioned alongside Sarah Wilkinson’s, and both authors have been said by Frank to pursue “lucrative careers of Gothic counterfeiting.” (“Gothic Chapbooks” 142). It should then come as no surprise that The Skeleton has no shortage of similarities to a gothic novel published in 1798 called The Animated Skeleton. While the author of the original work is unknown, Crookenden’s rendition of the story includes many borrowed plot points and thematic resemblances, mainly the discovery of a skeleton to incite terror. The key difference comes from the distinct castle settings and character names, as well as the fact that in The Animated Skeleton, the skeleton’s reanimation is found to be mechanized, whereas in Crookenden’s iteration, the skeleton is of a more supernatural variety (Potter 72). Frank notes that “Crookenden plundered the plot from The Animated Skeleton” (“Gothic Gold” 19). Frank, in a separate instance, also notes that The Skeleton “proves to be a refabrication of the anonymous Animated Skeleton of 1798 together with bits and pieces of the author’s extensive Gothic gleanings” (“Gothic Romance” 59)
WorldCat lists four
copies of the chapbook around the world, each with the same publication date of
1805. Along with the University of Virginia’s copy in Charlottesville,
Virginia, The Skeleton can be found
in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC in the Rare Book/Special
Collections Reading Room. The University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library’s Weston
Stacks in Oxford, United Kingdom holds a copy of the chapbook as well. The
Bodleian’s library catalog describes the binding as “sprinkled sheep” and
indicates that it is bound with seven other items. The Monash University
Library in Clayton, Australia holds the fourth and final of the catalogued
copies of The Skeleton.
Narrative Point of View
The Skeleton is mostly narrated in the third person, with
brief, occasional interjections of first-person narration providing commentary
on the actions or events taking place in the chapbook. The introduction is a
note to the reader in the latter style, condemning critics that call gothic
romance unrealistic and directly warning the reader not to judge a book by its
cover. Though the narrator often uses “we” when referring to their subjective
thoughts, the introduction is signed “Your humble servant, The AUTHOR.” The
story and action are presented in the third person, however, and the narrator
makes abundant use of commas, dashes, and semicolons to present a unique voice.
Letters are also included in the story, presented as written by the characters
within the chapbook.
Almira now observed two horsemen issue from the wood, and as they directed their course towards her, she soon discovered them to be hunters. As they approached nearer, she retired towards the cottage; when the foremost of them sprung off his horse, and coming up to her, “I hope, Madam,” said he, bowing, “I have not disturbed your meditations at this serene and tranquil hour.” While he was speaking, Almira had leisure to observe his dignified deportment, his engaging and affable manners, and his polite address. His full, dark, expressive eye spoke a language which Almira’s hear instantly interpreted, and which on discovering, she cast her’s on the ground. — To keep the reader no longer in suspense, this young man was no other than Rotaldo; and his attendant was the individual– we wish we could add, the virtuous– Maurice. (17)
This style of narration evokes the feeling of
being told a story by an unknown but still familiar voice. Because of certain
story elements including the castles, romance, and suspense in the chapbook,
this narration can resemble the style in which one tells a child a bedtime
story. The prolonged and choppy sentence structure with the variety of
punctuation could be read as mimicking an oral form of storytelling. The
interjected claims and commentary with the plural “we” serve to liven up the
story and engage the reader, providing breaks to clarify or emphasize
characterizations or actions that may seem less clear due to the brevity of a
chapbook. For example, because Maurice’s villainous nature is not able to be
developed over many pages in The
Skeleton, the narrator makes
sure to clearly telegraph his lack of virtue in the above paragraph. This
narration style makes the writing feel less stiff, and thus it has aged more
gracefully than some of its blander contemporaries.
On a stormy night, Lord Ellmont resides in
his castle with his two children. Lord Ellmont is a former warrior, now
committed to domesticity after nobly defending his castle for many years. His
twenty-two-year-old son, Rotaldo, embodies masculinity with a perfect heart,
while his seventeen-year-old daughter Elenora is described at length as
incredibly beautiful. The castle is located in Scotland and consists of a blend
of many different styles and forms of architecture. Though Lady Ellmont died in
childbirth, the castle always seems full on the birthdays of both children, and
it is a mirthful affair when Rotaldo’s birthday arrives.
At the base of the mountain that the castle
sits upon is the home of the peasant Viburn. He has a twenty-year-old son named
Adolphus who has heart as well as temper. One day, Rotaldo asks Adolphus to be
his sporting companion, but Adolphus mysteriously declines, hurting Rotaldo’s
feelings. Rotaldo still wishes for a friend and thinks he finds one in the form
of Maurice, an ugly and deceptive older peasant. Maurice is quickly taken by
Elenora’s beauty, but he fears he will be rejected by her or her family because
of his status. It is implied that his attraction to her is not entirely pure,
and he develops an unhealthy lust for her.
In a valley further from the castle is the
cottage of Volcome, an old peasant with only one surviving child. He was once
rich and of nobility but his family fell upon difficult times, and he was
exploited. He believes his brother was murdered under mysterious circumstances
long ago, and his sister-in-law died while giving birth to a nephew he never
got to meet. His wife also died, leaving him in charge of his
seventeen-year-old daughter Almira, who is described as beautiful as she is
innocent. One day, Rotaldo and Maurice come across their cottage and introduce
themselves while riding horses. Rotaldo is deep in thought riding back from
their cottage when a storm disturbs his horse and nearly flings him off a
cliff. A stranger appears and stops the horse, harming himself in the process.
The benevolent savior is revealed to be Adolphus, who Rotaldo invites back to
the castle to be treated for his injuries. However, Maurice fears Adolphus as
competition for Elenora. Adolphus says he declined Rotaldo’s earlier attempt at
companionship because he must tend to his parents, which Rotaldo dismisses and
graciously offers Adolphus and his family the castle and any assistance they
Adolphus and Elenora instantly connect, while
Rotaldo is overcome with passion for Almira and writes her a love letter.
Elenora receives a proposal from the miserable Baron de Morfield, but her
father knows she would be unhappy with him and declines on her behalf. Almira
receives Rotaldo’s letter and soon receives a visit from Rotaldo himself as
they confess their love. He visits her often, but one day he is returning to
the castle from her cottage when an assassin shoots at him. Rotaldo swiftly
draws his sword and fells the assassin who is revealed to be Maurice. Maurice
expresses remorse for his treachery and gives a cryptic warning about his plans
Returning home, Rotaldo finds his family in
distress. Adolphus has been captured and taken by enemies in the night by the
Baron de Morfield, and is imprisoned in a dungeon. As Adolphus ponders why he
deserves this fate, the narrator reveals the villainous motives of Maurice and
the Baron. It is revealed that Maurice planned to force himself upon Elenora
and then propose an elopement to save her honor. However, Adolphus overheard
this proposal and intervened. Maurice begged for forgiveness and Elenora found
him deserving; Adolphus, however, was less understanding. Maurice later swore
vengeance upon Adolphus, informing the Baron de Morfield that Elenora scorned
him for Adolphus. Maurice then forged a letter in Adolphus’s hand stating that
Adolphus has plans to kill Rotaldo and flee the castle.
Elenora and Rotaldo compare their experiences
with each other, and Adolphus’s innocence is revealed. They fear that they may
have been too late to save him from Maurice’s plans. In his dungeon cell,
Adolphus discovers a secret passage, in which he finds a bloodied dagger and is
shocked by a skeleton. Adolphus returns to his cell with a manuscript
supposedly written by the dead man. It reveals that the real Baron de Morfield
is the skeleton who had been forced to give up his estate though he had an
infant son and heir just after he was killed. The supposed Baron presently
interrogating and kidnapping Adolphus is a usurper.
At midnight, Adolphus is freed from his cell by a mysterious man. As they make their escape, the man turns and stabs the usurping Baron. The helper and Adolphus set out to return to the Ellmont castle. Back home, the Ellmonts despair, though Almira has now been taken into the castle after her father’s passing. Her relationship with Rotaldo as well as a friendship with Elenora provides them both great comfort as they fear Adolphus to be dead.
Adolphus is received with joyous welcomes
upon his return. Adolphus’s supposed father reveals he found Adolphus in the
woods nearly the same time the true Baron’s letter was datedmeaning Adolphus is
the true son of the Baron de Morfield. Almira reveals she is also of Morfield
descent, making her and Adolphus cousins. Almira’s father’s story about his
brother’s murder and sister-in-law’s unknown child all come together before the
group. The Ellmonts return to the Morfield castle and witness the usurping Baron
on his deathbed as Adolphus is yielded his claim to the castle. Adolphus then
marries Elenora as a baron and Rotaldo marries Almira. The story ends with
festivity and moralizes that “although villany may triumph for a time, yet, in
the end, Happiness must be finally united to Virtue.” (38)
In this 1799 chapbook set in England during the Middle Ages, a conflict over religion between a priest and a baron, and an enchanted suit of armor result in betrayal, exile, and magic.
Kilverstone Castle, or, The Heir Restored: A Gothic Story is the second of twelve stories, bound together in the same volume. The name of the author does not appear on any of the story’s thirty-three pages.
The cover is stained, and has completely detached from the book pages, but the binding on the side is still intact. The pages are very fragile, and the cover has detached. The book is bound with leather, and has an endband made of red thread at the top and bottom for decorative purposes.
The book’s paper is very brittle and has yellow stains covering it. The binding along the side of the book has the word “tracts” carved into it. A “tract” signifies a chapter or short story, which suggests that someone specifically chose to bind these stories together, either due to similar themes or simply to have them all in one place. The word “Prethy” is also written in elaborate cursive on the opening page, which suggests a previous owner signed their copy.
There are illustrations on the title and final page of the book, with the one on the title page depicting two men dueling in front of a woman fainting, and the one on the final page depicting a tree. The title page also contains the name of the book’s printer and publisher.
One of the most unique characteristics of this volume, however, is the typeface. The margins and type are both very small. Within the text, the letter “s” appears frequently shaped like a letter “f” (this was known as a long S or medial S), except in words that have two “s” in a row, in which case only the first “s” is a long S while the second “s” is the round s that has since become standard.
According to the WorldCat database, there are ten different editions of Kilverstone Castle. The editions slightly vary in title, with most including the phrase Kilverstone Castle, or, the Heir Restored, a Gothic Story and some also including Founded on a Fact which happened at the dawn of the Reformation.
WorldCat lists all of these editions as having been published in 1799, except for one which is listed as having been published in 1800. The edition of the text in the University of Virginia Special Collections library does not have a publishing date inscribed on it, and the call number lists publication as 1802. However, in his Gothic Bibliography, Montague Summers claims that the text was published in 1799. Franz Potter’s Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830 gives the same year (21). An edition of the text on Google Books has “1799” printed on the title page.
While the text has no known author, Kilverstone Castle was published by Ann Lemoine. Lemoine was a prolific publisher of gothic texts, and Potter states that Kilverstone Castle was the first work she published, a collaboration with Thomas Hurst. He goes on to note, “Lemoine effectively dominated the chapbook market by publishing at least 99 Gothic chapbooks over thirteen years, 28 percent of the whole number” (Gothic Chapbooks 21). Potter also says that Kilverstone Castle “capitalised on the widespread success of The Castle of Lindenberg and the continued interest in Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto” (Gothic Chapbooks 47). In The History of Gothic Publishing, Potter notes that Kilverstone Castle was one of the Gothic bluebooks available at William Booth’s Circulating Library in Norwich (70). Though no advertisements for the text have been found in newspapers from the nineteenth century, this suggests that it was not in total obscurity either.
Narrative Point of View
Kilverstone Castle uses a third-person omniscient narrator, who knows the inner thoughts of all the characters. The narrator provides a lot of description of the setting and the material objects the characters interact with. However, the narrator does not explain all characters’ thoughts and motivations. The narrator uses long sentences, and refers to aristocratic characters by their title more often than their actual name, with the exception of Mervil.
He prefaced it with the most solemn asseverations of truth, respect, and esteem for his patron. “My regard for you, my lord, makes me jealous of every injury done to your honor; and it becomes a duty in me to apprise you of every danger which besets you. Be not shocked, my friend, by a discovery in which your happiness is in imminent peril. Your Jessalind is inconstant!” (12)
The omniscient narrator not revealing each character’s motivation adds to the mystery of the story. If the narrator of this passage had been able to state that Polydore was lying about Jessalind committing adultery, significant tension during the scene in the bathhouse would have been lost. Polydore in this passage also puts more emphasis on Mervil’s title than the narration usually does, suggesting that they are not really friends. In other passages throughout the story, when the narrator describes objects in great detail, such as the onyx cross, this is done to humanize the objects and give them a role in the story.
Kilverstone Castle begins by telling the reader about Lord Audley, Baron of Kilverstone in Lincolnshire. He is a virtuous man who is getting older, but he has a son, Mervil, who will be a great successor. Audley lives before the Reformation but holds ideas contrary to those of the Church. This brings him into conflict with Father Peter, who is the Abbot of Croyland and runs the monastery in the village. Peter has many opportunities to take revenge on Audley, due to the supreme influence of the Church at the time. Father Peter goes to Lord Wentworth, in a place where Audley holds lands, with a forged order from the Monastery of St. Crowle to prosecute a claim on the estates.
Audley soon dies, and his son is called away from his travels at the news of his father’s death. The trial about his father’s lands is still happening at the King’s court, and he walks around his mansion considering it. He soon hears his ancestor’s armor rumble, and, when he walks over to it, sees a light from inside. He finds a small onyx cross and puts it on; the cross then starts to bleed, and the armor shakes.
Father Peter shows up, planning to assassinate Mervil. Peter pretends to mourn Audley, and Mervil believes him. Soon the amulet starts to bleed again. Peter is shocked, and briefly feels guilt for attempting to kill Mervil, but it soon fades. As Peter turns to leave, the dagger which he planned to kill Mervil with falls onto the floor. Mervil is shocked, and realizes the amulet was warning him about Peter’s treachery.
It is revealed that Wentworth has led a wild life, and that the churchmen manipulated him. He has made large donations to the monastery. He had gifted Father Peter’s monastery with Audley’s lands. Even with Audley dead, Peter still wants his lands. Since Mervil is so young, and Peter’s whole claim is based in forgery, Peter wants to kill Mervil before he has an heir who could challenge Peter for the Audley lands.
One day, while out hunting, Mervil meets a strange hermit. The hermit says he knows Mervil, and warns him that bad things await him.
Mervil eventually gets married to a local nobleman’s daughter, Jessalind. One day, however, his friend Polydore tells him she is being unfaithful with his friend, Ironside. Polydore tells Mervil to catch Jessalind and Ironside at the bath. Mervil goes there, and though he does not want to doubt his wife, he trusts his friend and the amulet had predicted disaster. He sees Jessalind and Ironside meet, and in a rage stabs Ironside. However, Ironside tells him that nothing was going on and that his and Jessalind’s meeting was accidental.
Mervil realizes that Polydore has lied to him, and that this was instigated by the church. As a murderer, Mervil’s lands are given to Wentworth. Mervil also reveals that Jessalind is pregnant. He decides to run into the woods and live as an unknown. Jessalind wakes up after fainting, sees Ironside dying, and calls out for her husband who has run away.
Some peasants carry Ironside to a shepherd, who says it is possible his wound is not fatal. Soon Wentworth’s officers show up at Audley’s estate after hearing what happened, and force Jessalind out. On the same night, a horrible storm is happening, and Wentworth’s officers flee the Audley castle because they think the storm was caused by evil spirits.
Jessalind befriends a shepherd who knew old Lord Audley. She is able to sell some jewels and go home to Normandy, but her father has left for a war.
The monks celebrate Mervil’s downfall, but Father Peter does not want to risk going near the enchanted armor again. Polydore, who was working for Father Peter, is now stuck with him while Peter shuts himself up in his cell.
Mervil eventually meets an old man at a shepherd’s house. He tells him everything, and the old man tells him that sometimes good things can come from bad. Eventually, Mervil tells the shepherd he is going to leave and find a place to retire and do penance. The shepherd tells him that the Hermitage of Norban is close to them, and Mervil seems to recognize the name and panics. The shepherd tells Mervil to stay the night, and his son will walk the six-hour journey with Mervil in the morning. Mervil then asks the shepherd to tell him the story of the hermit.
The hermit was from Normandy and was a member of Croyland Abbey. He did not leave the world entirely, but was famous for his ability to heal, to prophesize, and for his wisdom. He went into the mountains because he was upset at the sins of others in Croyland. Towards the end of his life, he gets a visitor, and on his deathbed, tells the herdsmen that it is his brother, and his coming means the hermit will die. He leaves a crucifix and says his heir will wear it in the seventh generation, and he will be the guardian of his friends for seven ages to come.
The amulet on Mervil’s neck is glowing once the story finishes. In the morning, he goes looking for where the hermit lived. Mervil finds the hermit’s remains, and decides to stay until he can give the hermit last rites. Mervil stays for some months in the Hermitage, with the shepherd and his sons often visiting.
Mervil eventually becomes famous, and fears he will be discovered. One night, he has a vision of Ironside’s ghost, giving him information about Jessalind. One day, a man shows up, and he realizes it is Ironside. Ironside tells him everyone believes Mervil committed suicide, and that while searching for him, a storm took out Wenthorth. Wentworth’s son refused to give Audley’s lands to the monastery. Ironside then tells him how he was tricked by Polydore, and that Father Peter poisoned Polydore because he knew Peter’s secrets. He then tells him that Jessalind is with her father in Normandy.
Ironside then tells him that Geoffrey, Wentworth’s son, is in open rebellion against the crown. He says Jessalind’s father might come with them to ask about his daughter’s possessions. Mervil says he cannot go until he has fulfilled the hermit’s last request. They leave with the hermit’s urn, and Mervil places it in the vault of his ancestors.
Mervil and Ironside eventually join up with the royal army. Ironside is shot in the arm and forced to retreat during a battle, and Mervil follows to help him. The crucifix Mervil is wearing helps to save the king when he is surrounded by rebels. Ironside dies of his wounds after asking Mervil to look after his daughter.
Mervil reaches the monastery of Crowle, and finds it in ruins. It had been destroyed by royal mandate, and all its possessions confiscated. His own mansion is mostly destroyed, except for the gallery where he first got the amulet.
A wedding is going to take place in a few days. During the wedding, Mervil’s amulet catches the eye of the bride. The bride faints, and the dagger she was going to use to stop the marriage falls out of her hair. It is revealed that the bride is Jessalind. The strange youth, referred to as the Bloody Knight, is revealed to be their son. In the end, Leo, the Bloody Knight, marries Ironside’s daughter Elvira.
Kilverstone Castle. London. Printed for Ann Lemoine. 1799.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830. University of Wales Press, 2021.
——. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835 : Exhuming the Trade. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune press, 1941.
The Fiery Castle, or, Sorcerer Vanquished: A Romance: Relating the Wonderful Adventures of a Female Knight, in Which Is Described Her Attack on Rudamore Castle, to Release a Lovely Maid, Detained There by a Sorcerer, and Glorious Victory Over the Guardian Demons of the Gate: With Her Achievements in the Temple of Illusion, in Which She Resists the Allurements of the Spirits, Releases Her Beloved Knight From the Dungeon of Torture, and Causes the Fatal End of the Sorcerer
This fantastical 1810 chapbook follows two knights through trial and tribulation as they attempt to rescue their loved ones from the grips of a lustful sorcerer, battling spirits and demons all the while dispelling enchanting illusions.
The Fiery Castle does not have a cover, but rather a nondescript worn page,
tinted yellow with scattered mysterious brown stains, separates the reader from
the book’s title. A flip into the string-bound chapbook reveals,
unsurprisingly, more brown stains. What is a surprise, though, is the
intricately drawn illustration that was hidden beneath the nondescript outer
page: with fine lines filled in with bright pink, yellow, orange, and blue
accenting the image, the illustration depicts a dame, accompanied by a knight
posed for combat against two black demons guarding a gate engulfed in flames.
Underneath, a simple caption reads: “See p. 7.” Clearly, this action-packed
scene occurs only five pages in—as the story begins on page two.
Across from this fascinating
illustration is an even more intriguing, albeit long, title: The Fiery
Castle, or, Sorcerer Vanquished: A Romance: Relating the Wonderful Adventures
of a Female Knight, in Which Is Described Her Attack on Rudamore Castle, to Release
a Lovely Maid, Detained There by a Sorcerer, and Glorious Victory Over the
Guardian Demons of the Gate: With Her Achievements in the Temple of Illusion,
in Which She Resists the Allurements of the Spirits, Releases Her Beloved
Knight From the Dungeon of Torture, and Causes the Fatal End of the Sorcerer—its
truncated title being, The Fiery Castle, or, Sorcerer Vanquished. With
varying fonts, text sizes, forms of capitalization, and embellishments
throughout, it is entirely likely that the publisher was actively trying to
capture and retain readers’ attention with this long title. There is no author
listed on the title page or anywhere in the chapbook.
The book itself, only twenty-eight
pages in length, was printed and published in London by a W. Mason and sold for
sixpence. Past the opening illustration, there is no decor in the rest of the
book aside from a single decorative border on the first page of the story, and
a small ink and quill depiction on the thirty-second page, informing the reader
that the novel is “Finis.” Flipping through the pages, the chapbook has all the
characteristics of a standard paperback: set margins, pagination, and an
easy-to-read font. There is but one outlier within this uniformly printed text
on page 22. A small, lowercase t in “the” seems to have fallen a step below its
fellow letters, resembling a subscript of sorts. Small printing quirks like
this are perplexing, but give the text a sense of craftsmanship.
The Fiery Castle measures roughly 0.3 cm thick, standing at 18.2 cm tall and
10.9 cm wide. The brittle yet cotton-like pages are held together by a single
strand of string, with the page reading “finis” almost finished itself, as it
hangs on for dear life. This book, littered with small folds, rips, blemishes,
and tinged with what can only be described as old age, shows all the signs of
having led a thrilling and entertaining life as a shilling shocker.
The Fiery Castle, or, A Sorcerer
Vanquished is one of many gothic novels in the
Sadleir-Black Collection. This edition was published in 1810, though there
appears to be at least one earlier version which is listed as the second
edition on WorldCat. This previous edition was published in 1802 by A. Young
located at 168, High Holborn, Bloomsbury. Although this version is indicated as
the second edition, there is no specific information on whether it is
distinctly separate from the first edition. One clear distinction that can be
asserted is that although the earlier edition was simply entitled: The Fiery
Castle, or, The Sorcerer Vanquished: An original romance, the 1810 edition
in the Sadleir-Black Collection has much more detail incorporated into the
title. Both chapbooks were sold for sixpence, or half a shilling, although they
were printed eight years apart.
While the novel’s original author is
unknown, The Fiery Castle (1810) was distributed by an experienced
publisher by the name of W. Mason. Mason’s primary operations were based at No.
21 Clerkenwell Green where he “published at least fifteen gothic pamphlets” and
he habitually “summarised the entire novel on the title page” (Potter 94). This
serves to explain the variance in the titles between the 1802 and 1810
At the time of publication, the
demand for gothic pamphlets was diminishing. and in its place, a “growing
marketplace for children’s toy books” emerged (Potter 98). W. Mason, however,
published The Fiery Castle presumably because gothic publications
remained well-received by readers to some extent. His decision to publish the
novel may be attributed to its plot, as it illustrates a hybrid between the
gothic and fairytale genres. Due to evolving public sentiment, The Fiery
Castle was written in a way that swapped out the “standard gothic villain,”
incorporating instead a sorcerer that is defeated by a heroine; this
demonstrates how “the gothic was absorbed into the growing market for
children’s stories” (Potter 98). Subsequently, the chapbook’s unconventional
plot may have been another motivating factor for W. Mason’s printing of The Fiery
Many of the chapbook’s physical
details, such as its decorative borders, margin size, font, and font size
appear standard across W. Mason’s publications. Another chapbook published by
Mason, entitled The Spirit of the Spirit, which has been scanned in its
entirety and uploaded digitally to HathiTrust, resembles The Fiery Castle
almost identically. Both texts’ layouts include a single illustration on the
page next to the title, with each title page utilizing the same fonts and
borders atop of the first page of the story.
W. Mason’s 1810 printing of The
Fiery Castle appears to be the last and latest edition of the novel, with
no further editions published. The novel does not have any modern editions
available for purchase, nor are there any digital copies online. As a result,
there have been no modifications to the story since there are no new editions,
nor has the text been adapted to different mediums like film.
The Fiery Castle has very limited recognition in academic scholarship, with
Franz Potter’s mention being the only noteworthy mention of the novel. This may
be attributed to what Potter describes in Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and
Shilling Shockers as the slow yet steady shift away from gothic literature
at the time that the book was distributed. Consequently, there is limited
additional information to be discovered regarding The Fiery Castle’s
Point of View
The Fiery Castle is narrated in third-person omniscient perspective, as the
narrator provides the context for each individual character, their thoughts, as
well as details on the events that are unfolding. Seamlessly switching from one
scene to the next, the narrator concisely illustrates both the emotions and
actions that encompass each character. The narration discloses details for a
wide array of characters, ranging from the most prominent of knights to the
most minute of spirits. While the narrator does not make any outright personal
interjections regarding the crimes that unfold in the plot, there is a notable
use of adjectives within the narration that appear to appraise the characters’
The fairy appeared, and, waving her invisible wand, extinguished the torch. The altar shook to its base, and Hymen and his attendant Cupids fled in dismay; the spirit found his power subdued, and his arts fettered. All presence of mind fled, in proportion as his fears arose, of meeting with the torments with which Rudamore was prepared to afflict him, for failing in his enterprise. The female knight saw, in a mirror which the fairy held to her view, the reflection of her girdle, which displayed again, in luminous letters, its sentence of “Be virtuous and conquer!” (26)
The narration clearly dissects each
aspect of the scene, including each character or group of characters—the fairy,
Hymen and the Cupids, the spirit, the female knight—within it and their
subsequent actions. This creates a plot that is transparent, as the catalyst of
the chain of events. In this case, the narrator is correlating the chaos that
ensues to the initial arrival of the fairy and her “waving her invisible wand,”
which in turn, impedes the efforts of Rudamore’s minions. Furthermore, the
narrator recounts the emotions of the characters, thus providing context for
their specific behaviors. By thoughtfully combining emotion and action in
narration, the characters’ own portrayals are made more robust. This is
illustrated in small points throughout the narration, such as the discussion of
the spirit’s motivations for misleading the female knight. The spirit’s drive
to deception is evidently grounded in his fear of “meeting with the torments
with which Rudamore was prepared to afflict him,” which the narrator makes
known by providing context. This thorough narration allows the reader to gain
further insight into key elements of the plot, while also providing explanation
for specific character choices.
The Fiery Castle opens with the protagonist, known only as the female
knight, seeing a young man in an enchanted mirror whom she falls in love with
at first sight. Her father is a powerful sorcerer and her mother, a fairy.
Receiving their permission, bestowed a set of weapons and armour engraved with
the message: “Be Virtuous and Conquer,” and endowed with courage, she sets out
on her journey (3). In the midst of her travels, she comes across a heartbroken
knight in the forest. He informs her that his beloved Dellaret has been
kidnapped by an evil sorcerer, Rudamore. The female knight offers her services,
thus the two set out on a journey to Rudamore’s castle.
Upon their arrival, the two knights
are faced with two demons that are guarding the gate. Raising their swords, the
gate is engulfed in flames to prevent their passage, and the heartbroken knight
once again feels despondent. The female knight’s mother comes to their aid,
declaring that “with this touch of my wand, your armour becomes adamant, and
your arms are changed to gold” (6). As a result, the knights successfully
defeat the demons and traverse through the flames. Hearing the commotion,
Rudamore opens the gate to investigate, the two knights storm past him, and
Rudamore flees further into the castle.
While the knights make their way
through the castle, Rudamore summons spirits and orders them to distract the
two trespassers. He intends to capture the two knights by conjuring his “Temple
of Love and Illusion,” which will entrap their senses and distract them from
fulfilling their quest (8). This illusion appeals to all five senses and the
spirits take on tantalizing human forms meant to distract them.
The knights find their way down to
the dungeons of the castle, observing and speaking to other imprisoned knights
that are also grieving the loss of their mistresses to Rudamore’s rapine. After
venturing through these cells, the knights arrive in a chamber filled with
pillaged weapons and the robes of the women whom Rudamore has conquered on
display. As this exploration unfolds, the knights are unknowingly walking
towards the illusion and are greeted by the impressive, yet hallucinatory
Temple of Love. Each is guided by enchanting servants to their own elevated
throne of marble while a procession of servants deliver glasses of wine to
them. Just as they are about to drink the liquid, the fairy interferes with the
procession, causing the servant to spill the goblet and preventing her daughter
from consuming this laced liquor. As the liquor spills onto the ground, a hemlock
grows in its place. Realizing the foul properties of the wine, the two knights
attempt to escape the temple. To prevent this from happening, two spirits
assume the facades of each knights’ respective lovers, tempting the knights
back into the grips of the illusion.
As the knight believes he is reunited with Dellaret, he worries that her being in the temple means she has sacrificed her virginity to Rudamore. Reassuring the knight of her chastity, the imposter delves into an elaborate tale explaining that she withstood both illusion and torture, attributing this mental fortitude to “my incessant thoughts of you, and the unshaken resolution to be ever faithful to my part of the mutual vows we have made to each other” (16). Hearing this, the knight laments that he does not have the skills necessary to rescue her from the clutches of Rudamore. Pretending that heaven has suddenly bestowed her with this idea, the imposter suggests that the pair can effectually escape so long as they marry each other “at the altar of Hymen,” because Rudamore is only tempted to keep maidens captive and their marriage would allow the knight and Dellaret to ensure she would no longer fulfill his desire for chastity (21). In reality, the spirit is carrying out Rudamore’s plans to trick the knight into marrying the imposter, as Rudamore brings the true Dellaret to witness the knight’s subsequent infidelity all in the hopes of swaying her resolve.
Rudamore forces Dellaret to watch
her beloved knight marry a woman, who from her perspective resembles an old
hag, and insists that he has been endeavoring this entire time to enlighten her
about the knight’s true character as well as the superficiality of his
proclaimed love for her. Justifying the torture he has been subjecting her to,
Rudamore claims this was all done out of love. After this, he offers to make
Dellaret his wife and empress, while Dellaret, both heart-broken and cornered,
asks for a day to consider his offer.
In the meantime, the knight and the
imposter consummate their illusory marriage while the female knight is also on
the verge of marrying her own imposter at the altar of Hymen. Yet again, her
mother interferes. Extinguishing the torch at the altar, the spirit loses his
powers and flees, allowing the fairy to explain to her daughter that she was
almost seduced by a wind spirit. Shocked by the revelation, the female knight
rests at a canopy. While the female knight is sleeping, Rudamore has been
consulting his book of destiny which informs him that his inevitable demise is
approaching. Desperate for self-preservation, Rudamore also reads in the book
that the female knight’s true love had embarked on a similar quest in search of
her, and that he nears the castle. Planning to use this knight as a bargaining
chip for his life, Rudamore kidnaps the man and imprisons him in the dungeon.
This wrongdoing is manifested in the female knight’s dream, and as a result,
she awakens and rushes to rescue him.
Dellaret, wandering around
contemplating her uncertain fate and exhausted from the day’s events, collapses
by chance into her knight’s arms while he is asleep. When the two wake up, the
knight is immensely confused by Dellaret’s irate reaction at her current
circumstances. Still believing the two are happily united, Dellaret unleashes
the truth exclaiming to him, “As you have deserted me, for such an ugly and
disgustful wretch, I will abandon you” (29). She flees to Rudamore, demanding
that he imprison the knight in exchange for the right to take her virginity.
This request is immediately granted, the knight is captured and subjected to
torture by Rudamore’s spirit, while the sorcerer forces himself upon Dellaret.
The female knight discovers Rudamore
just as he is taking advantage of Dellaret. As she is about to land a fatal
blow on the evil sorcerer, Dellaret pleads to the female knight that she end
her life first. Rudamore interrupts their discourse to plead for mercy,
offering to show the female knight where her lover and her companion are being
held captive. The three go to the dungeons and are brought face to face with
the two captured knights. The female knight attempts to slay Rudamore for his
crimes, however the fairy disrupts her daughter’s attempt. The fairy informs
her daughter that this is not adequate justice unless Rudamore first confesses
his devious schemes. Furthermore, it is made known that the two men cannot be
released from their bindings without Rudamore’s spells. The sorcerer feigns
repentance and releases the men while confessing his role in the manipulation of
the knight and Dellaret. Realizing Rudamore’s evil interference, Dellaret and
her knight immediately restore their love and faith in each other. As the
couples are reunited, Rudamore takes this as an opening to flee to his
chambers. To ensure Rudamore properly receives justice, the fairy leads her
daughter to him. The female knight slays Rudamore and the companions proceed to
live peacefully in the castle, which the fairy has restored to a glorious
Set in Scotland, England, and Italy, Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson’s 1807 chapbook is a complicated tale of vengeance, violence, and long-lost love. And there’s a ghost!
At first glance, The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is nothing more than a small, nondescript book. It is bound in a spotless cardboard cover, with no title or images on the front or back. The spine has a small red rectangle in which The Castle Spectre or Family Horrors is written in gold writing. The chapbook is about 12 centimeters wide, 20 centimeters long, and 1 centimeter thick.
Upon opening the book, it is evident that it has been rebound. The pages inside are soft, yellowed, and worn. The edges are tattered and uneven and the pages are of different sizes. The frontispiece appears to have been glued to a blank page for structural support, as it was ripped and about two inches of the page is missing from the bottom. This page contains a colorful image of two knights in front of a red castle. They are holding blue shields with gold crosses and are wearing red skirts. Behind the knights is a woman in a pink dress; she is surrounded by what appears to be sunbeams and looks as if she is floating with her arm raised. Some of the colors go beyond the edge of the picture, indicating it may have been painted with watercolor. Beneath the image is a caption that says, “GERTRUDE rising from the Rubbish before the CASTLE”. Below the caption is a note about the print company.
The title page
contains the title, written as follows: “The // Castle Spectre; // or, //
Family Horrors: // A Gothic Story.” The words are all uppercase, except for “A
Gothic Story,” which is written in a more elaborate gothic typeface. Beneath
the title is a quote by Langhorne, and then a note on the publisher: “London:
// Printed for T. and R. Hughes, // 35, Ludgate-Street.” “London” is written in
the same gothic font, while the rest is again all capitalized. Beneath this is
the publishing date: 1807. The title page has a small, rather illegible phrase
written in pencil in the upper left corner, and a large stain on the right. The
back of the title page is blank, except for a small stamp in the bottom left
corner that says, “Printed by Bewick and Clarke, Aldergates-street.” It should
be noted that the name of the author is never mentioned.
On the first page of the text, the title is again printed, but this time as The Castle Spectre. The chapbook contains thirty-eight pages, and the page sizes vary slightly. The upper and lower margins range from about 1.5 centimeters to 2.5 centimeters. “Castle Spectre” is written on the top margin of every page, and there are page numbers in the upper corners. The text is small and tight, and the inner margin is very narrow. On the left pages, the words run almost into the spine. On some pages, the text is fading and in certain instances, can be seen through from the back of the page. The pages are speckled with light stains, but none that obscure much text. The bottom margins of a few pages contain signature marks, such as B3, C, and C3. These marks indicate how the pages should be folded together, as the book was printed on one large sheet and then folded and trimmed. This binding technique also explains why the pages vary in size. There are nine blank pages at the end of the book. These pages seem newer and are larger; they were likely added to make the book slightly thicker, as it is difficult to bind such a thin book.
An index card is
loosely placed in the front of the book, containing the title and publishing
information. It appears to be written in Michael Sadleir’s handwriting and was
likely used for cataloging purposes. The note indicates that the book was
originally unbound, but then mounted on modern board and engraved. This
explains the discrepancy between the wear of the cover and that of the pages.
“Louisiana” is written on the upper left corner; Sadleir presumably got the
book from someone who lived there. A line on the bottom of the card indicates his
belief that the plot was plagiarized, as he notes the book is “a theft of title
The Castle Spectre by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson was
printed by Bewick and Clarke for T. and R. Hughes in 1807. According to Michael
Sadleir’s handwritten note, the copy in the University of Virginia
Sadleir-Black Collection was originally unbound and then rebound as a
stand-alone chapbook. It appears there is only one edition, the 1807 version,
but some other copies are bound in volumes with other chapbooks. According to
WorldCat, there are six copies of this edition located at Dartmouth Library,
Columbia University Library, and the National Library of Wales, among others.
As of 2021, there are no digital copies of the story, though GoogleBooks has
information about the title, author, and publishing company.
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story is often misinterpreted
as being inspired by Matthew Gregory Lewis’s play The Castle Spectre.
Though part of the title is the same, the actual plot, characters, and setting
are entirely unrelated. The
confusion has arisen because Wilkinson published two chapbooks with similar
titles: The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: A Gothic Story in 1807 and
The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance; Founded on the Original
Drama of M. G. Lewis in
1820. This second text, The Castle Spectre: An Ancient Baronial Romance,
is in fact based upon Lewis’s play (as accurately suggested by the subtitle),
with the same characters, setting, and plot. By contrast, the 1807 chapbook, The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, remains separate and unrelated except
for its similar main title.
Though the two Castle Spectre texts by
Wilkinson are entirely separate, they are frequently confused for one another.
For instance, Franz J. Potter notes in The History of Gothic Publishing
that Wilkinson “also adapted two versions of Matthew Lewis’s melodrama ‘The
Castle Spectre’ publishing The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors (2.58)
in 1807 with Thomas Hughes, and The Castle Spectre; An Ancient Baronial
Romance, Founded on the Original Drama M. G. L. (2.57) in 1820 with John
Bailey” (119). In his section on the “Family Horrors” version of
Wilkinson’s chapbook, Frederick S. Frank notes that she “transformed Lewis’s Gothic drama, The
Castle Spectre [l-219], back into a Gothic novel” (171). Franz J. Potter
similarly states that this “Family Horrors” version was “founded on Lewis’s The
Castle Spectre. A Drama in Five Acts” (Gothic Chapbooks 39). Even an
article in UVA Today makes this common error, stating “Lewis’ work was
regularly plagiarized and used in this way, as it is in ‘The Castle Spectre,
or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story,’ by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson” (McNally).
that make the claim of a link between The Castle Spectre and Matthew
Lewis’s play cite Montague Summers’s Gothic Bibliography, which lists The
Castle Spectre by Sarah Wilkinson without specifying the subtitle or a
publication date. Summers’s entry reads: “Castle Spectre, The. By Sarah Wilkinson. Founded upon Matthew
Gregory Lewis’ famous drama, The Castle Spectre, produced at Drury Lane
on Thursday, December 14th, 1797” (268). Of the libraries that own The
Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors, many list M. G. Lewis as an author, and
these library catalogs frequently reference Summers’s Gothic Bibliography,
echoing his statement that the story is “Founded
upon Matthew Gregory Lewis’ famous drama ‘The castle spectre’.” Some
libraries note the link to Lewis’s play based upon The National Union
Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints, and this source also cites back to Summers’s Gothic
Bibliography. It is possible Summers’s entry for The Castle Spectre
was misunderstood to be about the “Family Horrors” version, when it was meant
to reference the “Baronial Romance” version, which specifically claims to be
founded upon Lewis’s play. Whatever the reason, this misunderstanding has
spurred many sources, including library catalogs, to erroneously note a
connection between the plot of Lewis’s The Castle Spectre play and
Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors chapbook.
It should also be noted that some sources
discuss a similarity between the two distinct chapbooks Wilkinson wrote under
the titles The Castle Spectre. Diane L. Hoeveler, for instance, suggests
that Wilkinson was plagiarizing herself in these two chapbooks, indicating she
believes the plots to be “virtually identical and indicate how authors as well
as publishers had no qualms about ‘borrowing’ literary texts from others as
well as themselves” (14). Hoeveler writes, “Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre:
An Ancient Baronial Romance is actually her second attempt to capitalize on
the popularity of Lewis’s 1797 drama The Castle Spectre”, naming as the
“other version” The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horrors: a Gothic Story
(14). Yet while it is true that Wilkinson used the same main title for two
different books, they are not “virtually identical”: the plots, characters’
names, and setting of the story have no similarities. A potential reason for
the similar titles was that Wilkinson used the phrase “Castle Spectre” precisely
because of its popularity at the time to attract readers, despite the “Family
Horrors” version being a unique story.
On a separate note, the title page of The Castle Spectre; or, Family
Horrors includes a portion of a poem by John Langhorne. It appears to be an
edited stanza from a longer poem entitled “Fable VII. The Wall-flower” from his
collection of poems, The Fables of Flora (Johnson 447). It is unclear
whether the poem was adapted by Wilkinson or the publishing company, but the
poem alludes to the idea of remembrance and telling the stories of the dead.
This theme reflects in the story of Gertrude’s death and Richard’s journey of
Narrative Point of View
Spectre is, for the most
part, narrated in the third person by an anonymous narrator who is not present
in the plot. There are a few occasions throughout the story when the narrator
speaks in first-person plural, referencing the history of the story and its
translations. The narration follows the knight, Sir Richard, throughout the
entire story, and much of the chapbook contains dialogue and interpolated tales
spoken by a variety of the characters with whom Richard interacts, such as
Douglas. The narrative focuses more on plot and less on characters’ thoughts,
and the sentences are often long and descriptive. There is a bit of insight
into Richard’s feelings, but the narrator does not discuss other characters’
emotions unless the characters reveal their feelings aloud in dialogue. There
is also an instance where Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm exchange letters, which
are printed within the text in quotation marks; both Sir Richard and Sir Kenelm
refer to themselves in the third person in their letters. At times when Elenora
(also known as Gertrude) appears as a ghost, she also refers to herself in the
third person during her tales.
The moon, emerging from a black cloud just as he entered, enabled him to ascertain he was in a grand spacious hall, in the centre of which stood a large banquetting table He seized an extinguished taper, which he with difficulty lighted by the friction of some wood he found on the hearth. He had now an opportunity to observe the place more accurately. The table was laden with viands, some in a putrid state, some mouldering to powder; and to his eager view appeared vases filled with the juice of the generous grape. In a corner of the apartment he beheld the body of a man extended in death on the floor, the boards of which were stained with congealed blood. A murder had been committed here but a short time before. The sight of this did not alarm him; he knew not fear, but emotions of pity rose in his breast, for the unfortunate object before him, and a desire to develope the mysteries of the place he was in, prevailed over ever other consideration. (6)
First-Person Plural Narration:
But we must not anticipate in our story too much, and the Scottish manuscript from whence we translate, mentions some transactions that will better appear hereafter. In the mean time we must observe that after much consultation on these transactions, Lord Mackworth advised Sir Richard to appoint a meeting with Sir Kenelm at midnight. (16)
Sample of Sir
Richard’s Third-Person Letter to Sir Kenelm Cromar:
Sir Richard, brother to Lady Gertrude, returning from the Holy Wars, finds his venerable father mouldering into dust, brought to the grave by grief for the untimely fate of a beloved daughter, whose fair fame was basely called into question, and her dear life sacrificed to lawless love. —Sir Kenelm must account for this, and inform Sir Richard what is become of a dear sister. For which purpose Sir Richard challenges Sir Kenelm to meet him, in single combat, near that castle-gate where he, Sir Kenelm, banquetting with his new bride, beheld the injured shade of Lady Gertrude, when, for a slight offence, he stabbed his cupbearer. Eight days hence, exactly at the hour of twelve, Sir Richard will be there, with two of his most trusty friends. (16)
Sample of Sir Henry
Mackworth’s Interpolated Tale:
At his return to Palestine, finding I was in confinement, his generosity and friendship made him hazard his life to rescue me from my confinement. He succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations. We continued together some time. We had but one heart, one purse, and were a pattern of friendship throughout camp and country. Clemena was often the subject of our conversation. I ventured to hint the inclination I felt for her, from his description and the picture I had seen. ‘Alas!’ said he, ‘I dare not flatter you with the least hope of success; my sister has been educated in a convent, and ever been intended by our parents for a nun, their fortune being too small to support us both in a manner suitable to our rank…’ I remonstrated with Vertolini on the cruelty of secluding a beloved sister, for life, within the dreary walls of a convent… (33).
The various types of
narration in The Castle Spectre allow for a deeper exploration of
different characters’ actions and emotions, as well as greater detail on the
setting and history of the story. The Castle Spectre utilizes several
techniques to augment suspense. On numerous occasions, the names of the
characters Richard meets are not revealed until the end of that individual’s
story, and the reveals often occur casually amidst the dialogue or narrative
with little emphasis. The reveal of the characters’ names has a great impact on
the entire plot, and the narration’s nonchalant delivery augments the suspense
and adds an element of surprise. As a result, many key details and surprises
are revealed suddenly and without foreshadowing. Though the narrator does not
touch on characters’ feelings often, the dialogue provides greater insight into
the different characters’ personalities and emotions. Because so many different
plots are embedded into the chapbook, the story is both engaging and, at times,
confusing: the chapbook is extremely fast-paced because so much action is
packed into each sentence, and in some cases it is difficult to follow the story
and to distinguish who is speaking or who characters are because the plot jumps
back and forth in time or between the different story lines. The moments of
first-person plural narration detail the story as if it were true by discussing
the sources from which the story was translated. These moments where the
narrator speaks as “we” directly to the reader, along with the detailed setting
and long rambling sentences, all conspire to make the story oral in feel, as if
being told to a friend.
Spectre follows the knight
Sir Richard over a period of several years. The story begins on a stormy night
in the Scottish Highlands. Sir Richard is traveling to his father’s castle in
the Grampian Mountains after a four-year deployment to the Holy War in
Palestine. He seeks shelter to ride out the storm, but no one will take him in.
In a flash of lightning, he sees the turret of a castle; he sounds his bugle
numerous times with no response, so he dismounts his horse and tries the door.
By chance, the door is unlocked, and Richard enters the banquet hall of the
castle. With only the moon and occasional flash of lightning to guide him, the
knight explores. The hall is filled with food and drink that appears to have
been placed there recently. In the corner of the hall lies the dead body of a
man; the floor is soaked with congealed blood. Sir Richard vows to unravel the
mystery of the catastrophe that occurred.
Sir Richard tours
the rest of the castle, which is magnificently decorated in gothic splendor. No
one is to be found and all is silent. He comes upon a great bed, and as he is
exhausted from his journey, he jumps in and falls into a deep sleep. At one
o’clock, a bell rings and Sir Richard wakes to the curtains of the bed being
ripped open. Standing at the foot of the bed bathed in blue light is a veiled
woman in a white dress. As he approaches her, the woman’s veil falls off and a
stream of blood gushes from a wound in her side. Richard looks into the woman’s
face, and it is none other than his sister! He calls to the apparition “by her
name Elenora” (though later in the story she is referred to predominantly as
Gertrude, with no explanation given for the shift in name) (7). Elenora the
apparition stands, not speaking, while holding her hand over the seemingly
fresh wound in her side. After repeated prodding, Elenora explains the story of
her brutal murder in the castle, revealing that two years after Richard left,
she married the owner of this castle, and in a fit of frenzy he stabbed her
(while she was pregnant) and left her corpse in a rubbish pile. Left to rot
without a proper Christian burial, she haunts her murderer and his new wife.
The scene that Richard came upon in the banquet hall was the remnants of their
wedding, which was ruined when Elenora appeared and terrorized the guests.
Finally, with a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning, Elenora vanishes in a
swirl of blue flame.
Shocked and overcome
with emotion, Sir Richard decides to leave and avenge his beloved sister. He
lets his horse take the reins on the way to his father’s estate and does not
realize the horse has gone down the wrong road. They come upon a cottage where
he is treated with great hospitality. The owner, Douglas, tells the story of
his childhood and time as a soldier, where he saved the life of the “worthy
nobleman, under whose banners I had enlisted” and was thus assured protection
and this cottage (11). Douglas explains that the nobleman has died and his son
is at war; he fears thar if he does not return, Sir Kenelm Cromar will take
over his estates and leave Douglas and his family to live out their days in
poverty. During this story, Douglas reveals the name of his former nobleman to
be Duncan, and Sir Richard reveals that Duncan was his father! This means that
Sir Richard is the son who has now returned home; the Douglas family rejoices.
Douglas’s story also reveals that Sir Kenelm’s first wife was Elenora (now
predominately referred to as Gertrude in the story). Upon Gertrude and Kenelm’s
marriage, Ally (Douglas’s daughter) moved into the castle where Sir Kenelm
“began to take great liberties with her” (12). Douglas says Lady Gertrude is
now missing and so is Ally. Because of Gertrude’s ghost’s daily visits, Sir
Kenelm and his new wife have moved to his hunting lodge so the castle remains
uninhabited. Sir Richard thanks Douglas and promises him a life of friendship
When he finally
arrives home, the servants rejoice at the return of their young lord. They tell
the knight all that has happened and grieve for the good young lady Gertrude
and their master Duncan. Enraged, Sir Richard vows to avenge her and lay her
body to rest in a Christian burial. He seeks out his father’s friend, Lord
Mackworth, and tells the man the story. Richard decides to challenge Sir Kenelm to
single combat, with Mackworth’s assistance. As part of their agreement,
Mackworth wants Sir Richard to marry his daughter and Sir Richard agrees. Sir
Kenelm accepts Richard’s request, mentioning that though it is illegal to fight
in this manner, he will do it anyways to honor the memory of the venerable
Duncan. Meanwhile, Kenelm sends a letter to the king, requesting that he send
men and imprison Richard before the fight occurs. Instead, the king decides the
two men will have an impartial hearing at his court and he will support
whichever cause is more just.
It is now the night
of combat, and the marshal Lord Glencairn asks if any last-minute
accommodations can be made. Richard declines, unless Sir Kenelm will admit to
murdering Gertrude and surrender to public justice. Kenelm refuses, saying that
Gertrude abandoned him for a lover, and Richard is about to stab him in rage
when suddenly, they are both commanded prisoners and summoned to the king’s
court. Before they leave with the soldiers, the clock strikes one and in a
swirl of thunder and lightning, Gertrude appears. She shares her story and
explains that three times now she has prevented Kenelm from murdering his new
wife. She requests a proper burial, asks Mackworth to protect Richard, and
vanishes in a thick blue flame amidst a crack of lightning and tremendous peal
of thunder. Richard breaks the silence and tells the soldiers to bring them to
the court, so that he can share the full story in front of the king. The
hearing occurs, and Kenelm is found guilty and sent to prison; he later has a
public trial and is condemned to death. Gertrude’s remains are recovered and
she has a proper burial; all the churches in the surrounding area hold masses
in her honor and her final wish is granted.
goes home. He keeps his house open to serve his father’s tenants, and the
neighboring nobility congratulate him on his return from the war and for
bringing Kenelm to justice. Nevertheless, Sir Richard is unhappy; he mourns the
loss of his father and sister and misses his lost love Lady Jane. The story now
shifts back many years, before Richard went to the Holy Land. He fell in love
with Mackworth’s daughter, Jane, and she waited for him to return from the war.
In the four years of his absence, Jane denied many marriage offers from wealthy
prospects, one of them being Lord Glendour. Finally, Richard returns and they
are set to marry. We learn that two years before Richard left, Mackworth’s son
went to war and never returned. They mourned his death, and Mackworth received
Richard as a son and the heir to his estates and domains. As they prepare for
the wedding at the Mackworth estate, Richard returns to his familial castle,
and in his absence, an unfortunate event occurs. One evening, Jane is kidnapped
while on a walk through the gardens. Mackworth sends news to Richard, who vows
never to return until he finds his love. He searches for weeks with no sign of
Jane, until he comes across a hut offering refreshments to travelers. The man
inside mentions that a gagged woman and man had come through just before and
were on their way to Italy. Richard chases them to the river’s edge and
resolves to follow them. For years, he traverses all of Italy, hopelessly
searching convents for his lover. He falls ill and almost dies from grief, but
dreams of Jane and vows to recover and free her.
The story jumps back
in time to Jane’s kidnapping, and it is revealed that Lord Glendour, one of
Kenelm’s friends, fell madly in love with her and kidnapped Jane to be with
her. He requests her hand in marriage, but she refuses. She tricks him into
allowing her to pass the time in a convent in Italy, where she is watched over
by the Lady Abbess and not allowed to leave. Back in the present, Richard meets
an English man in the middle of Venice. They become friends and visit the man’s
villa. Richard recognizes someone in one of the family pictures and asks the
man to share the story of why he left England. The man says the story is long,
but he has written it down for his children and will one day give Richard a
copy to read. After months of visits, Richard reads the man’s story and is
surprised by the similarities between them. The man, Wentworth, was the eldest
son of a noble house in England. He fell in love with a peasant girl Louisa,
and though he was promised to marry a noble woman Anna, he runs away with his
lover. He fakes illness and tells his father he will go to the Holy War; Louisa
goes with him, and they marry and have a son and daughter. He returns from the
war and vows to sort out his betrothal to Anna. Leaving his wife and children
in the protection of her father, he goes back to his paternal castle. He sets a
plan for his brother, William, to marry Anna instead, and it works. Elatedly,
Wentworth returns to the cottage and is devastated to find Louisa and his
infant son missing. They were tricked by a letter claiming to be from him, and
Wentworth suspects his own father to have sent it. For five years, Wentworth
and his daughter travel the world, though nothing can make him forget Louisa.
Receiving word of his father’s ill health, he returns to England. On his death
bed, Wentworth’s father reveals he sent Louisa to a convent in Italy, but she
escaped. Wentworth and his daughter go back to Italy to search for her, but he
never finds Louisa. He lives like a recluse in his villa, and this is where Richard
reenters the story.
Richard again visits
Wentworth. The man reveals he is Richard’s uncle but used a fake family name so
that he may retire in peace, away from the nobility. Richard explains that
during his search for Jane, he saw Louisa and her son in the Pyrenees.
Together, Richard and Wentworth begin their journey to the mountains to find
the long-lost wife and son. They come across a cottage that Richard had visited
before and reunite with Louisa and the son. Wentworth, now revealed to be
called Sir George, decides to return to his family home in England. Richard
promises to join them, if they can spare a few weeks for him to search for
One night on his
return to the Italian villa, Richard sees two criminals attacking a man. He
intervenes, and they admit they were hired by Count Vertolini to kill him.
Richard and the man go back to his house, so they may speak safely. The young
man then explains his story: he came from England to fight in the Holy War and
had a father and sister at home who he had not heard from in years. During the
war, he became great friends with an Italian man, Vertolini, who had a sister
named Clemena. The man falls in love with her, but is then taken prisoner in
Palestine. Four years later, Vertolini bribed the soldiers and freed his
friend, and they carry on their travels together. The Italian man reveals his
sister is promised to a convent, so she cannot be with his friend despite his
love for her. They meet the sister in Italy, where he becomes even more
enamored. Clemena admits she does not want to join the convent, but it is
necessary for her honor. Vertolini vows to save her before she takes the veil,
and the siblings try in vain to convince their father to free her. The father,
Count Vertolini, refuses the young man’s wedding proposal, and advises him to
leave Italy immediately. It is now revealed that the young man is Sir Henry
Mackworth, Lord Mackworth’s long lost son and Jane’s brother.
Back in the present,
Richard and Henry plan to rescue Clemena. While at the convent, a girl hands
the knight a note telling him to return at midnight to find something of great
importance. He listens, and that night, finds Lady Jane at the convent! She
explains her story and begs him to free her. Richard and Henry return to the convent
to demand her release, but the Lady Abbess refuses. The next day, Henry
interrupts the veiling ceremony and saves Clemena from the convent. Richard
goes back to England with Henry and Clemena, where he hurries to find
Mackworth. Together, they apply to the king and receive his royal mandate to
imprison Lord Glendour. The king sends word to the Pope, and Mackworth and Sir
Richard go back to Italy to retrieve a freed Jane. With Richard’s lover in tow,
they return to England. Wentworth lives in his castle with his family, there
are numerous weddings, Glendour dies in a convent, and Sir Richard is blessed
with years of happiness with Jane, Henry, Wentworth, and the others. They all
live happily ever after.
Frank, Frederick S. “A Gothic Romance.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, by Marshall B. Tymn, New
York City, R.R. Bowker, 1981.
Set in England and published in 1827, The Twin Sisters warns of the sexual improprieties of men, cautioning that men lead to the destruction of women, unless women are resilient in their actions.
The book containing The Twin Sisters; or, Two Girls of Nineteen: Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia and Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative by “Charlotte, one of the sisters” is a small 9.1cm by 14.15cm worn book. The book contains seventy-two pages total: pages three through forty-two detail the story of the twin sisters and the remaining thirty pages recount Orphan of the Castle: a Gothic Tale, or the Surprising History and Vicissitudes of Allan Fitz-Roberts, the Orphan Heir of the Castle of Lindisfarne by an unknown author.
This desaturated teal-colored hardcover book is discolored by light warm-brown staining. The discoloration is most exaggerated on the bottom edge of the book. The front cover has a thin crack halfway up the page, starting from the right side, tapering off until it reaches a cool dark-brown freckle near the middle of the book. This dark splotch is the most distinctive out of many, most likely unintentional, freckles splattering the cover, giving the book an aged appearance. There is also a 0.5cm in diameter distinctive stain in the upper left-hand corner, rimmed thinly with a warm dark-brown and filled with a cool-blue grey. The stain resembles a hippopotamus’s head with a small protrusion where the neck should be, giving the appearance of a small gourd.
The binding is exceedingly damaged. The book, bound similarly to modern hardcovers, has a cardboard-like substance acting as the base, wrapped in a colored paper to attach the front hardcover with the back. The desaturated orange-brown colored cardboard-like substance peaks from the corners of the book where the teal paper covering has worn through. The paper cover folds over the edges of the hardback and a rectangle of white paper, now discolored with age, pastes over it to secure it. Only severely degraded paper covers the spine. The spine is intact from the bottom until 8.2cm up from the bottom, where it is torn off completely until 11.5cm up from the bottom. A few centimeters of the paper remain attached, but only attached to the left edge of the spine. In the binding of the pages, some type of adhesive glue adhered each edge of the paper together with a thin bit of string threaded through all of the pages in three places near the center of the inner margin or gutter of the book. Each puncture falls one centimeter apart.
The paper, brittle and browned from age, has the most browning along its edges. On the first page, an 8 by 3cm rectangle-shaped discoloration appears in the middle of the page. A few of the pages are ripped, but only along the bottom edge, including the first page, resulting in a brown staining its negative on the third page. A few of the odd-numbered pages are marked below the text with signature marks used by a printer; the marks appear as a combination of letters and the number 2, ranging from A2 to D2 in The Twin Sisters. The Orphan of the Castle has more damage to the paper detailing its story than The Twin Sisters. The damage evokes the interaction between watercolor paint and salt, giving the pages a speckled appearance.
When looking at a standard spread of The Twin Sisters, the thirty-four lines of text are fully justified causing the spacing between words to be on average narrower than standard. The margins are consistent at 1cm on the bottom and outside edge with the top margin 1.5cm to leave adequate room for “The Two Girls” above the text on the left page, and “Of Nineteen” above the text on the right page. All of the pages are numbered, except for the first page of The Orphan of the Castle and the first three pages of the book: the title page, the blank back of the title page, and the first page of The Twin Sisters.
Beyond a mostly illegible scrawl of what appears to be the name “Mr. Wyllis” in the top left corner of the inside of the cover, and the University of Virginia Library bookplate, there are no illustrations, marginalia, or personal marks in the book. Neither is the title of either story listed anywhere apart from the title page and the first page of each respective story. On the opening page of each story, each of the titles is shortened from their full form inscribed in the title page to just the primary title, without its subtitle.
The title page attributes Charlotte Melford, the narrator of the story, as the author of The Twin Sisters; or, Two Girls of Nineteen: Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia and Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative; however, this is spurious, as the far-fetched story is a work of fiction. There are no other authors listed in any available copies of the book, except one WorldCat entry erroneously listing the publisher, Freeman Scott, as the author.
The copy held at the University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library was published in 1827 by Freeman Scott, with premises on the N.W. Corner of Tenth and Race Streets, Philadelphia. There was another publication of this story produced in London and “printed and sold by Dean & Munday, 35, Threadneedle Street” (as noted on its title page); this copy has been digitized and made available on Google Books, which lists the date at 1830, though this date is not shown anywhere on the scan of the book. The two copies are very similar in most regards but differ substantially in some ways. The Freeman Scott version is one of two stories in the chapbook, with the other being Orphan of the Castle, and The Twin Sisters accounts for pages 3 through 42; by contrast, the Dean and Munday edition was published alone and accounts for pages 8 through 36 of its book. The difference in page count is primarily due to what appears to be differences in margin size as well as page size; the body of the text is largely the same. There are, however, some discrepancies in the text, especially with punctuation. The two editions have very little consistency between their punctuations with over six changes between the two editions on the corresponding text of the first page of the Scott edition alone. Occasionally, there are also some changes in word choice: for instance, page six of the Scott edition uses “written” while the corresponding section of the Dean and Munday edition uses “wrote” on page nine. Or, later, in the same sentence, the Scott edition uses “house” while the Dean and Munday edition uses “home.” There are also some cases where there is an entire half of a sentence or full sentence present in the Dean and Munday edition that is missing in the Scott edition, such as the inclusion of “to go with her; my father she said, was visited by dissolute men in whose company it would be imprudent for us to mix” at the end of a sentence on page ten in the Dean and Munday edition but not the Scott edition. Perhaps most notably, the Dean and Munday edition includes an illustration of the scene where Charlotte is taken from her lodgings by the police as the frontispiece before the title page; this illustration is absent in the Scott edition.
WorldCat also lists several other editions with various publication years, all attributed to Charlotte Melford. For instance, WorldCat lists an 1821 edition that is twelve pages long and was published for wholesale and retail in New York at 386, Broadway, W. Grattan Printer by S. King, and sold at his bookstore. There is only one library with this 1821 edition: the University of Iowa Library.
WorldCat lists an 1823 edition that was published for wholesale and retail in New York by W. Borradaile. This copy is one of the earliest editions and does not have the attached Orphan of the Castle story. This version is thirty-six pages long and includes an illustration.
WorldCat also identifies an edition with an unspecified publication date in the 1800s, and Jstor lists the date for this version as somewhere between 1814 and 1837. This edition was printed in London “for the booksellers, and for J. Kendrew, Colliergate, York.” In the WorldCat entry, James Kendrew is listed as one of the named persons in the book twice alongside Sophia and Charlotte, even though he never appears in the book. This copy appears to be similar to the Dean and Munday edition as the story spans pages 8 through 36 and has a front plate illustration like the Dean and Munday edition; however, this version is listed as being one centimeter smaller (19cm compared to 20cm). The University of York Library, in the United Kingdom, is the only library with a copy of this edition. There is a scan of this book on Jstor, in the form of a photograph of each page spread, showing that it is very similar to the Dean and Munday version of the book as the punctuation and general length and spacing of the book appear to be consistent. There is however a difference in the fonts on the title page and the image on the page before. The image in this University of York version is not colored and depicts the sisters together before they depart on their trip to London. The covers of both books also appear to be a warm brown color, however, the image of the University of York version is more degraded than the image of the Dean and Munday edition available on Google Books. The Kendrew edition of the book most likely contains another story after it within the same physical book, since in the Jstor scan the last page of text is on the left, leaving the right page blank, allowing for the ink from the image on the back of the page to show through. Furthermore, visually, there appear to be numerous pages left in the book.
Fourteen libraries in the world, including the University of Virginia Library, have a copy of the 1827 Scott edition of this book according to WorldCat, with thirteen of the fourteen being in the United States and the last copy being in Canada. The copy of the Scott edition that is owned by the New York Public Library was digitized on January 19th, 2007 onto Google Books where it can be read for free. This copy is the exact same, textually, as the Scott edition owned by the University of Virginia; however, the cover and physical quality are distinct, since the New York Public Library version appears to be in better physical condition and has a harder warm-brown cover as opposed to the worn discolored teal of the University of Virginia version. There is an odd speckling on the first few pages of the New York digitized version that is absent in the physical University of Virginia version.
There is also another book about the sisters called The Sisters, or, Virtue Triumphant : Being the Eventful History of Sophia & Charlotte Melford, which is depicted as authored by Charlotte and Sophia Melford and available on Google Books; other library catalogues, including McGill Library’s Chapbook Collection, New York Public Library Catalogue, and WorldCat just list Charlotte Melford as the author. According to WorldCat, The Sisters, or, Virtue Triumphant was printed by Hodgson & Co. in London at No. 10, Newgate-Street, sometime between 1822 and 1824, indicating that this story predates most but not all editions of The Twin Sisters. From the frontispiece of The Sisters depicted on a scan from the McGill Library, the story appears similar to that of The Twin Sisters in that they share the same general plot points: the smugglers in the sisters’ room dressed as women, Charlotte being taken by the constables, Charlotte and the Colonel, and Sophia being turned to the street (The Sisters 1). The McGill Library catalog entry notes the book is written by Robert Cruikshank, but he is most likely the illustrator of the images.
There are newer publications of The Twin Sisters—with Kessinger Publishing, LLC republishing The Twin Sisters in 2010 and Forgotten Books republishing it in 2018—that can be purchased on several online websites such as Amazon, eBay, and Better World Books.
Narrative Point of View
Charlotte, one of the sisters, narrates The Twin Sisters in the first-person point of view. The narration of the plot is fast paced, with many brief summaries of long periods of time, oftentimes spanning several years, but, at the same time, Charlotte imbues the story with haughty, verbose language in some instances, giving it a formal feel. The chapbook is told in the past tense, making it seem like a story Charlotte is reflecting on and sharing with the readers rather than being more present in the action. This gives the narration a detached sense, which is compounded by the formal titles that she calls every character. She refers to everyone in the book, except her aunt Emma, Sophia, and Susan by their formal names, her close friends, her husband (she calls him Colonel Woodly or colonel), and even people whom she despises. Charlotte focuses primarily on her actions and interactions with people rather than going in-depth about her thought processes or feelings. There is minimal dialogue throughout the novel, with paraphrasing of dialogue more common.
The coach went on with rapidity, and I found in a short time that we had left town, and were proceeding along a road that appeared very dreary. I became seriously alarmed, though, to speak with justice of his lordship, he did not offer to take the least unbecoming liberty. He felt my hand tremble, and bade we dismiss my fears, that we were only going a little way beyond Bayswater, and were near our journey’s end. We stopped at a neat white house, the coachman was ordered to knock, but the summons was several times repeated with violence before the door was opened; nor was that done till a female demanded in a harsh discordant voice, who was there at such an hour? And discovered Lord Morden to be the intruder. (21)
It seems as though Charlotte is trying to prop herself up with the narration, since, by using her extensive vocabulary to create a more complex twist on a simple narrative, she is showing off her intelligence and education. She was born into a lower-class family but was given a genteel education by her aunt, so she is trying to use this education to distinguish herself from these lower classes and establish her place in the upper class of her husband. Relatedly, she refers to people in higher social classes than herself in more formal ways, regardless of her personal feelings about them, and calls people at or below her social class by their informal first names, indicating that they are beneath her. Charlotte distances herself from this story throughout her narration; the writing is closed off and impersonal in most instances, not demonstrating the emotions of terror, disgust, loneliness, and joy. She seems to breeze past her emotions, mentioning a slight hand tremble and feeling “seriously alarmed” but then immediately changing the subject or focusing on the actions of the scene rather than her perceptions of it, as though they are nothing. This generates the distance between the events of the story and the narration, and also functions as a form of protective emotional detachment.
Charlotte, one of the sisters, begins The Twin Sisters with the purpose of the story: a warning to the “fairer sex” about the “delusive arts” of men (2). The Twin Sisters then briefly describes the background of the sisters’ family, detailing the tragedy of their lives and history of issues with financial support. Their mother dies in a horseback riding accident, pushing their father into a grief-fueled sickness from which he eventually dies. His death leaves the girls penniless under the guardianship of their aunt until she too dies a few years later.
The girls receive a letter from Mrs. Mowbray, a friendly neighbor one summer, offering one of them a job as a nanny in London to a rich family, the Aspleys. Having no real opportunities, they accept and venture on their journey to London.
They stop for the night at a crowded inn and are forced to share a room with two other female travelers, who they later discover to be male smugglers in disguise. These men come into the rooms after their late dinner while Sophia is sleeping and while Charlotte is pretending to sleep. Charlotte overhears them consider raping her and her sister before they drunkenly fall asleep. Much to Charlotte’s relief, the smugglers’ coach arrives before they have the chance to hurt either of the sisters.
The rest of their trip to London is uneventful. Upon their arrival, they are summoned by Mrs. Mowbray to meet the wealthy Lady Aspley. On the advice of Mrs. Mowbray, she chooses Sophia for the nannying position, but Charlotte remains living with Mrs. Mowbray.
Charlotte becomes apprehensive as the company Mrs. Mowbray keeps acts more rudely and obscenely than how she expected people of their supposed standings to behave. When she questions Mrs. Mowbray about it, she just calls her a “pretty innocent rustic,” stating that this behavior is normal for townsfolk (16). In an attempt to confirm her apprehensions, Charlotte tries to visit Sophia to compare their experiences. Mrs. Mowbray informs her that is impossible as Lady Aspley’s household, along with Sophia, had moved to Margate so their sick child could sea-bathe. When Charlotte tries to leave anyway, she is stopped by Mrs. Mowbray and some of her servants. They lock Charlotte in her bedroom, causing her to realize she and Sophia were betrayed by Mrs. Mowbray.
From a servant, Susan, who brings her food, Charlotte finds out that Mrs. Mowbray is a sex trafficker, or rather a “procuress who was employed by (to use [the servants] own words) very great gentlemen to ensnare young girls” (17). The servant also informs Charlotte that a man named Lord Morden paid Mrs. Mowbray to set this trap specifically for her as he had taken a fancy towards her. After this revelation, Charlotte bribes Susan to help her escape; Charlotte sneaks out of the room, but faints from fear and wakes up in the arms of Lord Morden. He asks her to give him her affection and to live with him. Charlotte declines his offer, stating she is imprisoned because of him, so why would she want to be with him. When he offers to free her from Mrs. Mowbray, she agrees to go with him as, in her mind, it was better to be content with him than to live enslaved to the “vile” Mrs. Mowbray (21).
Lord Morden then takes her to the house of his former mistress, Matilda, whose life he ruined after taking her innocence, and asks her to watch over Charlotte for a few days. Charlotte is furious as she feels imprisoned again, so she asks to leave. Matilda, partly because of her jealousy towards Charlotte and Lord Morden’s relationship and partly because of her anger towards Lord Morden, agrees to let her go.
Charlotte flees Matilda’s house and finds shelter at a boarding house where she is subsequently falsely arrested for forgery the next day. The victim of the forgery, Mr. Newton, comes to identify her, but brusquely proclaims Charlotte’s innocence. He then offers to take Charlotte back to her room at the boarding house to collect her things. In the carriage ride, he solicits her for sex as he believes her to be a prostitute. Charlotte is horrified by the offer and demands to be let out of the coach. On his refusal, she starts screaming, causing the coach to stop to make sure everything is alright. Charlotte uses this chance to escape.
Charlotte stops at a toy store to rest from her vigorous dash away from the carriage. The owner, a nice old woman named Mrs. Brent, agrees to provide her room and board. Charlotte then gets a job as an English teacher with connections from her bank. Things seem to be looking her way, until one day Charlotte runs into Sophia on a walk. Sophia tells her that she should have yielded to Lord Morden as she would be safe from the danger of the world. Sophia then goes on to share her experiences in the time they were apart and how happy she is with her place in life. Mrs. Mowbray introduced Sophia to a wealthy man named Mr. Greville. He raped her, took her on as his mistress, and is now supporting her lavish lifestyle financially.
Some time passes before her next interaction with Sophia in the form of a letter asking for a meeting. Sophia looks like a wreck; Mr. Greville found a new mistress and abandoned her, forcing her into prostitution, but she still refused to accept Charlotte’s help. She says she is content and happy with her life, that she has time to repent after she retires.
Time passes and Charlotte falls in love with Mrs. Brent’s nephew, Colonel Woodly. Despite the fact that he likes her as well, she feels the marriage is one of unequals. She will sully his reputation with marriage and his mother would never agree to it. His mother, however, overhears this conversation and agrees immediately to the union. They marry and have a successful marriage with two children.
Three years after the marriage, Mrs. Brent arrives, announcing that she found Sophia passed out in the streets and took her in. Sophia had experienced all of the degradations that came with prostitution: she was abandoned by her pimp; sick, penniless, with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Charlotte then helps care for her physically and spiritually. She now lives a very pious, peaceful life in South Wales.
The Twin Sisters, or, Two Girls of Nineteen : Being the Interesting Adventures of Sophia & Charlotte Melford. An Affecting Narrative. London : Printed for the booksellers and for J Kendrew Colliergate York, pp. 1–17, https://jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.29959877.
Set in a secluded castle in 1517 northern England, Sarah Wilkinson’s 1805 chapbook includes romance, jealousy, friendship, and mystery.
Monkcliffe Abbey, A Tale of the Fifteenth Century, To which is added, Lopez and Aranthe; or, The Suicide. By the same author was published in 1803 by Kaygill & Adcock, and written by Sarah Wilkinson. It was printed by W. Glindon in Haymarket, London, and sold for sixpence. The extant copy was originally printed as a chapbook, but later rebound into a collection of similar stories entitled The Entertainer, vol. 4. A handwritten table of contents, including titles, authors, and publishers, is included on the front endpaper. Page numbers are not included; due to the separate origins of each story, the numbers (along with fonts, margin sizes, and layouts) restart with each new chapbook. This volume of The Entertainer contains six chapbooks and sixteen unique stories, including Canterbury Tales.
This copy is bound in a kind of thick cardboard material, covered with paper, and decoratively mottled in black and brown, protected by a clear plastic jacket for use in the library. It measures approximately 18.5 centimeters long by 11 centimeters wide. The spine is embossed in gold with the title, The Entertainer, which appears nowhere else in the book, and with embellishments on the spine’s edges and middle. This copy was bound with twine and glue, which is now quite delicate. The edges of the cover and spine are somewhat broken in, especially on the bottom of the spine, where the cardboard cover is beginning to crack off. Inside, the paper is yellowed and thin, but not brittle. Although the paper is discolored, it is not frequently stained—some small, splattered marks appear at intervals. The paper has an almost fabric-like texture, and is delicate while maintaining flexibility. Some pages are torn and folded, likely accidentally—none are dog-eared or torn completely out. In this copy, Monkcliffe Abbey is printed in a small serif font, with margins of two centimeters at top and bottom and one centimeter on the sides. Page numbers are found on the top outside corner of each page, printed in the same serif as the prose. The story is twenty-two pages long. The title page of the Monkcliffe Abbey chapbook lists the full title, including the addition of The Suicide. Every other instance of the title’s printing abbreviates it to only Monkcliffe Abbey, both on the first page of the story and in the handwritten table of contents. The author’s name is written as “S. Wilkinson” on the title page and in the table of contents, and as “Sarah Wilkinson” on the first page of the story. The title page also includes two illustrations, a larger one representing two women discovering a monk, and a smaller one under the title, with a man, right arm raised, walking up to a woman playing a sort of lute. The larger image has created a shadow of itself on the title page opposite. In the front of the book, an address card is inserted. Formal script on the front reads “Mrs. M.T.H. Sadler,” with an address included on its bottom left corner. The back reads “Oswick the Outlaw,” which has been handwritten in blue ink.
Monkcliffe Abbey is one of Sarah Wilkinson’s lesser-known gothic stories, frequently left unmentioned in lists of her work and life achievements. There are two copies available through the library system at the University of Virginia. One of these copies, primarily discussed here, was published by “Kaygill, etc.” in London, in 1805, and rebound into a collection of gothic novels at a later date. The other was printed across the Atlantic, by James Oram in New York City, two years later. The full novel is also available online through scans of the collection America’s Historical Imprints. This online version is the later, American printing. There does not appear to be much discrepancy between the two copies, other than the specifics of their publication and their titles: the version published in New York by James Oram is entitled Monkcliffe Abbey, or, the History of Albert, Elwina, and Adeline, while the one published in London by Kaygill uses Monkcliffe Abbey: A Tale of the Fifteenth Century instead.
Monkcliffe Abbey is very rarely mentioned, either in collections of gothic works or works by Sarah Wilkinson, who was a prolific author of the genre. One exception can be found in The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880, where Diane Hoeveler discusses the text’s use of the abbey as a gothic trope:
“Sarah Wilkinson’s ‘Monkcliffe Abbey’ (1805) is an example of a chapbook that uses the abbey in order to dwell on the usurpation theme. Very specifically dated to 1517, the action begins the year that Sir Archibald Barnett retires to the former Carthusian abbey in the north of England with his wife and two daughters Adeline and Elwina… The abbey is the setting for a traditional romance between the daughters and their suitors, one of whom is fleeing a friend turned foe who disguises himself as a cowled monk in order to inhabit one of the ‘haunted’ wings of the abbey (Wilkinson, 2009: 185). An architectural description of the abbey suggests the antiquarian investment in the theme by a writer as simple and straightforward as Wilkinson. The ruined abbey functions in this chapbook as little more than a picturesque setting, but it possesses considerably more ideological freight in a work by such a writer as Nathan Drake.” (218–19)
The story is also mentioned in Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression by Kenneth Graham, in a list of Gothic illustrations. The illustration from Monkcliffe Abbey is the same title page engraving found in its London-printed edition, of “Adeline and Elwina in the typical Gothic situation of startled discovery” (Frank 287). This illustration is reprinted in Franz Potter’s collection of gothic chapbooks, many written by Sarah Wilkinson, Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830.
Narrative Point of View
Monkcliffe Abbey is narrated in the third person, past tense, and without a framing story. The narrator is never mentioned or alluded to within the novel. The text is fairly straightforward, but sentences are lengthy and full of information. The narration focuses equally on dialogue, action description, and omniscient insight into the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings.
Elwina presently observed that the hand writing was the same—with the paper she had found in the chapel.—she was struck with horror and astonishment, when she reflected, that, perhaps, this victim of sorrow ere now had died through grief; or, perhaps, had committed some rash deed!—But, fearful of indulging her thoughts in this dismal place,—she deposited the paper with the picture on the shelf,—and returned with emotions of sorrow. (18)
One striking aspect of this narration is its use of punctuation. Especially in the above, quite active example, the exaggerated, slicing punctuation marks create a sense of quickness, motion, and finality. Throughout the text, this visual aspect—literally slicing between sentence fragments—is seen in more active scenarios, mirroring the choppy, frightened thoughts of the characters and creating a fast-paced feel.
The time for Albert’s departure being arrived, he claimed a gift from each of the ladies. Adeline presented him with a scarf of her own work, which he instantly bound round his bosom: Elwina presenting him with a ring from her finger; and, in a faultering voice, besought him to remember her father.—There was something so tender and pathetic in her manner, that it touched the strings of Albert’s heart,—at once with pity and respect for the lovely maiden. (15)
In more tender or calm scenes, such as this second example, the use of dashes has been reduced, although not completely halted. The more flowery, emotional, and flowing language of the second example serves to slow down the scene, emphasizing the tender and soft qualities of the characters in that moment. Even though the story is narrated in the third person, the omniscience of the narrator and the careful use of punctuation creates a sense of immersion.
Monkcliffe Abbey tells the story of a family living in seclusion in a sixteenth-century abbey according to the wishes of Sir Archibald Barnett, a retired warrior, and his wife, Lady Barnett. Along with their two young daughters and a small domestic staff, they live completely shut off from the outside world; no one is allowed to enter, and those who inhabit are only allowed to travel a short distance from the grounds of the abbey. Adeline Barnett, the eldest sister, is beautiful, but obscenely vain and arrogant. The younger sister, Elwina, is fair and sweet, and her generous character outshines her physical appearance. The girls enjoy walking in the country surrounding the abbey, and on one of their walks, they discover a knight lying in a puddle of his own blood. They frantically find help at a nearby cottage, and they return to the abbey while the knight is treated. After they explain the situation to their parents, Sir Archibald leaves for the cottage, only to discover the knight to be Albert de Clerville, a family friend. He brings Albert back to the abbey to recover in peace. Once Albert is well, he tells the whole family the story of his injury. His friend, Edward Barry, held a jealous grudge over Albert for his acquaintance with the beautiful Duchess Sophia Clifford. After dueling Barry multiple times and denying the requests of Lord Clifford to marry his daughter, he left the Clifford estate. On his journey, a helmeted knight stabbed him in the heart.
While walking home one night, Elwina is startled by the figure of a hooded monk walking slowly in front of her. After running home, she is too agitated to explain her situation, and faints. The next day, Albert and Elwina decide to explore the chapel within the abbey, when the head servant, Margaret, rushes in to declare Lady Barnett dead of “an apoplectic fit” (14). As Elwina and Adeline are talking that evening, they see guards rushing towards the abbey. Sir Archibald is arrested due to apparent treasonous acts, and is taken to jail. Albert is left to plan the funeral of Lady Barnett and to watch over the house, but once the funeral is over, he leaves.
Elwina is taking a walk some time later when, distracted, she wanders into an abandoned cell block in the abbey. To her surprise, someone appears to be living in one of the cells. She heads back to the chapel, and there finds the same monk she had seen before. He calls out to her, and they run into each other, falling and hitting their heads on the stone floor. Once Elwina wakes, she finds Margaret, and they investigate the cell together. There, the supposed monk reveals himself to be the knight Edward Barry, who believes he killed Albert after stabbing him in the heart. Elwina is unsure whether Albert is dead or alive, but to her relief, Albert returns to the abbey with Sir Archibald, no longer incarcerated, who has been given the title “Earl of Monkcliffe.” Adeline gets married to an unnamed man, and once Albert realizes his feelings for Elwina, they are married as well. The story ends with Elwina and Albert staying at Monkcliffe Abbey, in “a pattern of domestic virtues” (22).
Brown, Susan, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, editors. “Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson.” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge University Press Online, 2006. <http://orlando.cambridge.org/>. Accessed 10 November 2021.
Frank, Frederick S. “Illustrations from Early Gothic Novels.” Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression, edited by Kenneth Graham. AMS Press, 1989, pp. 270–87.
Hoeveler, Diane Long. “Ruined Abbeys: Justifying Stolen Property and the Crusade against Superstition.” The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780–1880, University of Wales Press, 2014, pp. 197–246.
Potter, Franz J., editor. Literary Mushrooms: Tales of Horror and Fiction from the Gothic Chapbooks, 1800–1830. Zittaw Press, 2009.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Monkcliffe Abbey, a Tale of the Fifteenth Century. Kaygill Etc., 1805.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Monkcliffe Abbey, or, the History of Albert, Elwina and Adeline, to which is added, Lopez and Aranthe, or, The Suicide ; also, the beautiful little tale of the Abbey of Clunedale. James Oram, 1807.
This story written by Mary Anne Radcliffe in 1802 follows a family left destitute after the French Revolution and their quest to start a new life. The only thing in their way is a string of murders.
The Secret Oath
or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance is the second story in volume one of The Entertainer. Seven
stories make up the volume, each containing seventy-two pages, except for The
Secret Oath (sixty-eight pages) and Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment
(four pages). Each time a new story starts, the page numbers restart, with the
exception of Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment, which
continues pagination from the previous story, The Secret Oath, to result
in a total of seventy-two pages. Each story has seventy-two pages
because it matches the method of folding used to bind books at this time. The
volume is bound in brown, acid-splattered leather and has gold lettering of The
Entertainer on the spine. The text block has blue speckles for decoration. The
Entertainer vol. 1 measures 18cm in height, 11cm in width, and 3cm in
In the front cover,
there is a handwritten table of contents and a list of exact duplicates also in
the Sadleir Black Collection. Overall, the pages of the book are in good
condition. All the text in The Secret Oath is readable apart from a
small hole with a diameter of about 0.5cm on page 61, but this does not affect
the overall understanding of the text. The pages inThe Secret Oath
or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance and Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of
Disappointment are a slightly darker brown than the rest of the stories.
This discoloration is caused by different types of paper used in the volume.
The pages in The
Secret Oath use a consistent font and single-spaced lines. The margins
differ due to folding techniques. The left-hand pages have side margins of 1cm
while the right-hand pages have side margins of 0.5cm. The top margin for a
page is either 1 or 2 cm. Each page has the title The Secret Oath on the
top. The margin at the bottom of all the pages is 1cm. At the bottom of some
right-hand pages, there are signature marks that indicate how the book should
be folded. They start with “Ii” and end with “Oo3”. On the last page of the
story, the word “Frederic” is present as a catch word for the book maker to
know which story goes next. Frederic Staun, or the Revenge of Disappointment
was added after The Secret Oath to make the section 72 pages for
At the start of The
Secret Oath, there is a title page that reads “The // Secret Oath // or //
Blood-Stained Dagger, // a Romance” with a black and white illustration
of a house in front of the woods. To the left of the title page, there is
another illustration depicting a character reaching for a dagger while looking
at a statue of a woman and her baby. This black and white illustration of a
woman bled on to the title page and can be seen in a faint brown outline.
This edition was
printed by J. H. Hart and published for Tegg and Castleman in London on
November 1, 1802. There is another edition of this chapbook in the University of
Virginia Special Collections Library printed by T. Plummer and published for T.
Hurst in London on November 1, 1802. The chapbook has many existing editions
both in libraries and as online scans. For instance, there is a version in
volume one of the second edition of The Marvelous Magazine published by
The author of The Secret Oath is not present on the title page or frontispiece. However, another chapbook entitled Monkish Mysteries; Or, the Miraculous Escape: Containing the History and the Villanies of the Monk Bertrand; The Detection of His Impious Frauds, and Subsequent Repentance and Retribution includes a printed note that says: “The whole written, adjusted and compiled solely for this work, by Mrs. Mary Anne Radclife, of Wimbledon in Surrey, author of the Secret oath, or blood-stained dagger” (Radcliffe Monkish Mysteries 2). This connects Mary Anne Radclife, usually spelled “Radcliffe,” to the The Secret Oath. There is another book in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library that includes the same note connecting Mary Anne Radcliffe to TheSecret Oath called The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over the Arabian Deserts, to the British Settlements in India; : Containing, Among Other Particulars, an Account of the Perils He Experienced in Those Terrific Regions, the Eccentric Humors of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses in the War With Hyder Ally, &C (Radcliffe Adventures 2).
Mary Anne Radcliffe was born in 1746 to James Clayton and Sarah née Bladderwick (Grundy). Her father died when she was four, and she was educated at Bar Convent in York, England. After fourteen years of life, she married Joseph Radcliffe, age thirty-five, in an elopement and had eight children with him throughout their marriage.
Her most known works include The Female Advocate (1799), Radcliffe’s New Novelist Pocket Magazine (1802), and Memoirs… in Familiar Letters to her Female Friend (1810). Some of these works are similar to The Secret Oath in the sense that they are sensationalized stories written for cheap entertainment, but others follow a feminist perspective on life and create arguments about more serious topics such as the shrinking job market for women and the risk of prostitution. Radcliffe was advertised in newspapers as an elegant entertainment writer, and her Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine was sold for six-pence at the time of its release (“Advertisements and Newspapers” 4). This magazine, which is more like a collection of stories, includes The Secret Oath. Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine was published by Thomas Hurst.
Grundy suggests that Radcliffe requested that her name remain out of some of
her pieces, but that this was not always respected. Specifically, Radcliffe’s
name was put on The Female Advocate despite her wish to remain
anonymous. This connected her to Radcliffe’s New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine and
other chapbooks. Her publisher was also known to switch published works
with a different author’s name to Radcliffe’s name after the first edition of a
book had been published. For example, The Mysterious Baron (1808) was
switched from Eliza Ratcliffe to Mary Anne Radcliffe after its initial print
(Grundy). The reason for these changes is unknown, but it is likely that the
publisher was using the similarities between Radcliffe’s name and the more
famous Ann Radcliffe, author of A Sicilian Romance (1790), to catch the
eye of readers. Another possibility is that Radcliffe used a false name for
some books in order to remain more anonymous.
having eight children and publishing many works focusing on topics from
thrilling murders to the issues of women, Radcliffe died of a health decline in
August of 1818 and is buried in Old Calton cemetery, Edinburgh (Grundy).
Narrative Point of View
The Secret Oath is narrated in third-person past tense. The
narrator is omniscient and never appears as a character in the text. The
narration focuses on characters’ actions and emotions and uses long sentences
separated by commas for each thought. The narrator does not focus on the
setting and does not use descriptive language to describe the environment. The
focus is on the actions of characters in the story and the feelings of each
They entered the old cabriolet, and after a rude journey arrived at Maschere, where they entered an Inn, and a surgeon was sent for to dress the Marquis’s wounds. – He pronounced it impossible to proceed on the journey without endangering his patient’s life ; in consequence of which, the Marchioness hired some apartments at a farm-house, on the road to Caffagiolo, contiguous to his surgeon. De Montfort had mental as well as bodily wounds to struggle with : he con-sidered himself as the murderer of Dorville–he, who had preserved his life, and illuminated the gloom of exile with the balm of friendship. – His daughter also felt a perpetual pang in the reflection that Dorville, whom she esteemed more than any man living, had been slain by her father’s hand ! (33–4)
demonstrates how the narrator focuses on the emotions and actions of each
character over any other aspect of the story. With its third-person point of
view, the narration takes away any bias that a first-person perspective would
have, but this does not take away all of the suspense. Omniscient narration
here gives an insight to all the characters’ feelings and experiences, which
tie into the universal knowledge of the narrator, but some details are left out
throughout the novel to maintain suspense. How a person is feeling is not left
a secret, but their fate is unknown until an action comes to determine it. This
stylistic choice keeps the story mysterious while also providing insight to
each character’s interiority.
A Secret Oath or
Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance follows an ex-Marquis
named Albert de Montfort, his wife Madame de Montfort, and his daughter Serina.
The book describes how the family is forced to flee from Paris, France in 1792
during the French revolution. After fourteen years of poverty following their
escape, de Montfort accepts an invitation from his deceased father’s godson, M.
Dodier, to stay at his chateau until the family can get back on their feet. De
Montfort is hesitant to accept because M. Dodier received the de Montfort
family fortune after the death of Albert de Montfort’s father, and there is a
lack of trust between the two men. Serina convinces her father to accept the
invitation and the family moves to the chateau. The house is completely empty
except for Aquilina and Orsano Cormazzo, the mysterious caretakers of the
One day, de
Montfort comes home covered in blood after gambling with friends. He claims
that he was trying to save a dying man in the woods. Law enforcement accuses
him of the murder, and they discover evidence in Madame de Montfort and
Serina’s rooms that also connect them to the crime. De Montfort and his family
are taken to prison in a faraway town, but one by one they avoid their sentence
with the help of various people. Serina’s helper saves her under the condition
that she marry Argand, M. Dodier’s son. Next, Madame de Montfort is released
after the murder victim is revealed to have survived. She reunites with Serina
after hearing rumors of her location. De Montfort was the last to be released.
On the way to find his family, the living victim of the attack, Dorville,
offers to help find his wife and daughter because he feels bad that de Montfort
was sent to prison for no reason. De Montfort accepts, and eventually they find
Madame and Serina. De Montfort makes it clear that Serina will not be marrying
Argand because he does not want the man who took his family inheritance to take
his daughter too. M. Dodier kicks the family out of the chateau, and Dorville
offers to let the family stay in his mansion a few cities away.
through France to get to Dorville’s home. Dorville and Serina become close.
While staying in an apartment overnight, Serina wakes to a man in a black mask
holding a dagger above her heart. The masked man realizes he has the wrong
person and claims that if she keeps this visit a secret then her father may
live, but if she says anything he will kill her father and Dorville. Serina
swears the secret oath, and the man gives her an ebony crucifix with the word
“Remember!” carved on the back as a reminder of her promise (21).
After her visit by the mysterious man, Serina
goes to a church to confess. After she divulges her oath, the abbot demands
that she stay in the church for six months to pray in darkness. She has no
escape from her punishment and is brought to a garden to pray. In this garden,
a mysterious man helps her escape. Once the pair is over the wall, there is a
fight between new attackers and Serina’s helper. Serina’s helper reigns
victorious in the fight. However, Serina’s father was planning on saving her
too, and when he sees the man and Serina surrounded by bodies, de Montfort
attacks the man and kills him. Serina sees that her helper was Dorville. She is
extremely sad but must run from the church to avoid another imprisonment.
The family adopts the false name of Berthier to
protect their identity. With the help of an attorney named Cattivo, they
purchase an apartment and stay out of the public eye. Since the family has no
money, de Montfort uses a ring that he won while gambling as payment. Cattivo
takes a liking to Serina and demands her hand in marriage. The family says no,
and Cattivo threatens to blackmail the Berthiers unless Serina marries him.
They still say no, so Cattivo takes de Montfort to court and accuses him of
stealing the ring that was used to pay for the apartment. The ring is found to
belong to a Count Cuculli, a man de Montfort used to gamble with. The count
arrives at court, recognizes de Montfort as the accused “M. Berthier”, and
drops all charges because he trusts de Montfort’s integrity.
After de Montfort is released from jail, he
receives a note that he should go to the count’s mansion. De Montfort runs over
to the mansion and finds his wife and daughter. They tell de Montfort that the
count discovered a plot to hurt Serina. The count decided to keep watch over
their room while de Montfort was in jail awaiting release. Men came and
attacked the two ladies, but the count stabbed one attacker, who was later
revealed to be M. Dodier, and saved the women. Serina and Madame de Montfort
stayed with the count until de Montfort was released. They continue to stay
with the count as a family.
One day, Serina is basking in the sunlight when
Dorville appears and starts talking to her. He rambles about how he is married
to a sickly woman and how he was manipulated by another woman named Maria.
Serina is in near hysterics that he is alive, so they agree to meet the next
day and talk once she has calmed down. The next day, Dorville says that he
never left his home until now, so the man that de Montfort killed in the church
garden was not him. However, during this time, he was forced to marry a sickly
woman even though they did not love each other. Serina is crushed that Dorville
is married, but de Montfort is happy that Dorville is not dead and invites him
to stay with them in the count’s house.
After talking all night about Dorville’s
journey, the two men make connections about the past. During the time de
Montfort thought he was dead, Dorville visited the house of Monsieur Beaulieu,
a wealthy man with a much younger wife named Maria. Dorville was seduced by
Maria and almost fell for her. However, he realized that she only wanted his
money. Maria was known to have many men in her life, one of note being Cattivo.
He confessed that he loved Serina to get out of the relationship. After this
story is told, the men figure out that Maria is the person who is responsible
for the attacks on Serina. Her jealousy has made her vengeful. It is revealed
that she enlisted Cattivo to kill Serina. The men decide to go to the house of
Maria to confront her.
At the house, Dorville learns nothing from Maria. While they talk,
de Montfort witnesses the murder of Monsieur Beaulieu, Maria’s husband. De
Montfort is accused of the murder. Dorville pressures Maria to testify in court
on de Montfort’s behalf, and she agrees. She clears de Montfort’s name and
blames the murder on Cattivo, the attorney who sold the Montfort’s their old
apartment and who is also Maria’s lover. After Monsieur Beaulieu’s death, the
men bring the rest of the Montfort family to the house of Monsieur Beaulieu.
The motive behind some attacks is unclear until M. Dodier shows up to the house
and asks to confess his crimes. He suffers from a stab wound that was inflicted
a few days ago and fears that he will die. He admits that the entire plot to kill
de Montfort was based on revenge because de Montfort said that his son could
not marry Serina. He attempted to kill de Montfort in the woods of the chateau,
but he accidentally attacked Dorville. This left a witness to his crimes, so M.
Dodier tried to eliminate Dorville again, but this time he accidentally went to
Serina’s room. He was the masked man that made her swear the secret oath.
Before M. Dodier could say more, he died of the stab wound the count gave him
while protecting Serina. In the end, Maria tries to flee the country with
Cattivo to avoid imprisonment for her murder plot, but Cattivo murders Maria
because she accused him in the trial of her husband’s death. Serina and
Dorville get married after Dorville’s first wife died of sickness, and the
entire family moved to England in search of financial prosperity.
Grundy, Isobel. “Radcliffe, Mary Ann (b. c. 1746, d. in or after 1810), Writer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23 Sept. 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/37876. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.
Radcliffe, Mary Anne. The Adventures of Capt. Duncan, A Journey From Europe, Over the Arabian Deserts, to the British Settlements In India; : Containing, Among Other Particulars, an Account of the Perils He Experienced In Those Terrific Regions, the Eccentric Humors of His Tartarian Guide, His Shipwreck, and Distresses In the War With Hyder Ally, &C. London, T. Hurst, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u4351511. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.
——. Monkish Mysteries; Or, the Miraculous Escape: Containing the History and the Villanies of the Monk Bertrand; :The Detection of His Impious Frauds, and Subsequent Repentance and Retribution. Nottingham, T. Hurst, 1802. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, https://search.lib.virginia.edu/sources/uva_library/items/u4351072. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.