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.
The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, Explaining her Birth on an Uninhabited Island, Where she Lived till she was Sixteen Years of age; The Misfortunes and Death of her Parents, and her Surprising Release from that Desolate Place by the Duke de Lancy, to Whom she was Afterwards Married: The dreadful Calamities she Experienced After – Till she Retired to a Monastry, There to end her Wretched Days.
This mock-autobiography published around 1805 to 1810 and written by an unknown author features a haunting, a murder, a birth, and an incestuous marriage—all in a remarkably short number of pages.
The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is a chapbook bound within the second volume of The Entertainer. The elegant binding is brown calf-skin leather with a decorative marbling effect. The marbling effect was produced by the sprinkling of acidic dye onto the leather binding. The volume’s title, The Entertainer, is written in gold text on the spine of the book.
The story is framed as a fictional autobiography, with no known author. Its shortened title The Dutchess de Lancy is seen at the top of each body page. There are thirty-eight pages in the chapbook, one title page and one with an illustration. The illustration is in black and white and appears to depict Thetis kneeling and holding her baby, looking up towards the ghost of her mother. The mother is radiating light and gesturing towards a cottage in the left of the picture. Underneath the image is a quote from the story, written in cursive, “Awe struck, I cast a look of inquiry towards the Spectre. “Grieve not my Thetis,” it exclaimed [sic] The crimes of the parents are expiated by the sufferings of their unfortunate children.” The second page, opposite the illustration, is the title page.
The title page shows the full, longer title of the book. The full title, with capitalization included, is THE LIFE, SUFFERINGS, AND UNCOMMON VISSISITUDES OF THETIS, Dutchess de Lancy, Explaining her birth on an uninhabited Island, where she lived till she was sixteen years of age; THE MISFORTUNES AND DEATH OF HER PARENTS, AND HER SURPRISING RELEASE FROM THAT DESOLATE PLACE BY THE DUKE DE LANCY, TO WHOM SHE WAS AFTERWARDS MARRIED: The dreadful Calamities she experienced after – till she retired to a Monastry, there to end her wretched Days. The font size and capitalization change multiple times on the title page for emphasis. Notable characteristics include a long s, which is a stylized s that appears to look like an f. The long s is not present in the other pages of the book. Underneath the title are the printers and booksellers, along with their addresses in London, England. At the very bottom of the page is the price of the chapbook: sixpence. The title, the list of printers and booksellers, and the price are all separated by decorative dividing lines.
The pages within the chapbook have quite typical formatting. The book is just over 18 cm tall, and the outside of the pages are browning and grey-spotted. The font is small, and there are line skips between paragraphs. The pages are aging, and some are torn. There are bookbinder symbols consisting of a letter and a number to indicate the page order to the bookbinder. Evidence of prior ownership can be found before the chapbook title page, on the inside of the front cover. On the left is the name “Emma Webb” handwritten in a fading, fancy script, and on the right are notes written by Michael Sadleir. He wrote a list of all the chapbooks contained within the volume alongside their bookseller and the publishing date. The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is the first chapbook in the volume, with the bookseller J. Ker. There is no publication date written, but the other books within the volume with known publication dates were published between 1800 and 1805.
There is little information about The Life, Sufferings, and Uncommon Vissisitudes of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy. There is no known author, editor, or illustrator for the chapbook. There is no scholarship written on the work, and it can be inferred that the chapbook was not widely sold or read. However, there is a decent amount of information on its publisher, John Ker—abbreviated J. Ker in his work. Ker started publishing in 1800 and published an estimated fifteen titles, thirteen of which were of the gothic genre (Potter 38). Multiple sources claim that he was likely the son of John Ker, the third Duke of Roxburgh, and was married to the gothic author Anne Ker (Potter 38, Steele 70). It is known that John Ker also published some of Anne Ker’s work and that her husband was indeed named John. The two also shared business and family connections, so while not proven, it is very likely that John Ker the publisher and Anne Ker’s husband are the same person (Steele 70).
John Ker published from 1800 to 1810 and collaborated with many popular booksellers. Stephen Elliot, along with Nathaniel and John Muggeridge, were the booksellers that Ker associated with the most (Potter 41). In Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, both Elliot and the Muggeridges are listed as booksellers. Two other booksellers listed in Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy are T. Evans and Kemmish. Alongside their names, their addresses are also listed. The UCLA Library and the New York Public Library both allege that since “1805–1810 marks the span of time that T. Evans and Kemmish operated from these addresses,” Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy was likely released during these five years. This period of time—1805 to 1810—aligns with the timespan when Ker was in operation.
According to WorldCat, there are five copies of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy registered in various libraries across the world. The institutions that hold a physical copy are the University of Virginia, the British Library, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the University of California, Los Angeles. The British Library digitized their copy, and it can be found via the library’s website or on Google Books. All of the libraries except the Library of Congress mention that after Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, the story Zelim and Almena follows. Zelim and Almena is unconnected plot-wise to the story of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy, but the two stories seem to have been printed and sold in conjunction. Mention of Zelim and Almena can also be found in the Catalogue of the Private Library of Mr. George S. Davis, written by George Davis himself. In this document, all the books that were in Davis’s private library are documented. Davis details a copy of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy that was bound with Sterne’s Maria and Zelim and Almena. He describes the story as “very curious” (Davis 190). This is the only documented review of the chapbook.
There are a few differences between the British Library’s copy and the University of Virginia’s copy of Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy. Instead of the illustration being opposite the title page at the front of the chapbook, the British Library’s version has the illustration opposite page 35. The British Library copy also has a more modern green hardback cover, in contrast to the copy at the University of Virginia, which has a spotted brown calf-skin leather cover. Despite these differences, the two copies are nearly identical, with the same font, bookbinder marks, and text on each page.
Narrative Point of View
Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is narrated in the first person by the main character, Thetis. From the beginning, it appears as if Thetis is directly addressing the reader. However, on the final page, Thetis addresses the story to the Countess de Milleray. The Countess de Milleray is not mentioned in the chapbook at any other point, only on the last page in a footnote indicated by an asterisk. Thetis’s narration is intimate, fast-paced, and descriptive. Pages 13–21 are an interpolated tale told by Thetis’s mother, Jaqueline. Jaqueline’s long, uninterrupted dialogue is notable as the reader does not get any glimpse of Thetis’s thoughts or reactions.
Sample Passage of First-Person Narration:
During your* visit to the Convent a short time time [sic.] after my seclusion, I determined to disclose to you the real reasons of a conduct apparently so absurd: I have now been an inmate of these holy walls near twenty years – about six years since, I received a few lines, written by my beloved brother on his death bed, they were tranquil, and thanks to the Almighty, resigned; and he now sleeps in peace within the cemetery of his Convent – grief had broken the heart of the most amiable of men.
*The Countess de Milleray, to whom this narrative is addressed. (36)
Sample Passage of the Interpolated Tale:
“My sisters had bound my long glossy hair in bands round my head, fastening it on the top with bunches of flowers, in the manner of the Lacedeamonien women; this gave me a very singular appearance, and being different from the other girls made my person the more remarked.” (14)
The first-person point of view narrated by Thetis allows the reader to experience a first-hand account of Thetis’s inner thoughts and feelings. The narration choice makes the chapbook more intimate and realistic. While the Countess de Milleray is never mentioned in the book except for the final page, the reader is still able to get a sense of the relationship between Thetis and the Countess. Thetis reveals very personal information about what she experiences, detailing events that would be seen as shameful by society’s standards. However, Thetis is willing to describe these events in extreme detail, confessing her every thought and action candidly. The portion of the story where Jaqueline tells an interpolated tale includes none of Thetis’s thoughts. This section is very distinct from the rest of the novel as the reader is not told how Thetis feels about her mother’s story. This change in expression of Thetis’s thoughts causes a rift between this tale and the rest of the surrounding story. It removes Thetis from the narrative and brings the entire focus onto Jaqueline, Thetis’s mother.
Thetis, Dutchess de Lancy is a chapbook centered around the character, Thetis, and her eventful life. Thetis lives on a bountiful island which is deserted except for her mother and father. They tell her stories about their lives and she learns that they are on this island because of a shipwreck. One day, Thetis’s father becomes ill. Thetis is distressed and stays by his side as much as she can. When Thetis wakes up, she goes over to her father to find him no longer breathing. She looks towards her mother in confusion, as she does not understand what death means. They wrap Thetis’s father in woven grass and bury him. Thetis mourns her father’s passing.
Two years pass, and Thetis has worked through her grief. She has started to become the same joyous girl she once was. However, her mother remains somber. Thetis implores her mother to tell her why her spirits are down, and her mother agrees to tell Thetis a story. She reveals to Thetis that the man she called her father was not actually her father, but a man named Victor. She tells Thetis that her name is Jaqueline, and she is the youngest of six children in the Villenueve family from the town of Languedoc, France. They were a peasant family, but Jaqueline was spoiled more than her other siblings. She was given fancy clothes and accessories that rivaled the clothing of children from richer families, while her siblings had very little. One day, the young Marquis of the village decided to throw a coming-of-age celebration. The sixteen-year-old Jaqueline attended and caught the eye of a nobleman. They danced and flirted, and they developed sentiment towards each other. She gained the favor of both the nobleman and the Marquis, and her family was invited to fraternize with the nobility while the other peasants left.
After the party, the nobleman visited her residence and they conversed together, but were always under her mother’s supervision. One day, walking back from her grandmother’s, Thetis met the nobleman and the Marquis. They asked her if she would like to go on an outing with them. She was suspicious, so she refused and began to walk away. They started to pursue her and she ran, but they caught up to her. The nobleman lifted her in his arms and shoved her into a carriage, and they drove away.
She was taken to Paris by the nobleman, where she was given a room in a grand residence. Thetis resisted the sexual advances of the nobleman for a time, but she eventually gave in to his seduction. After many months, she became pregnant. Jaqueline was happy to have become pregnant, but the nobleman was angry. She did not see the nobleman again, and was informed by the Marquis that the nobleman is married with a wife and a son, and that he had left France for a distant settlement. When Jaqueline expressed concern for her parents, the Marquis told her that it was their fault for being punished as they were using Jaqueline to move upwards in society. Jaqueline was enraged by the nobleman and decided to get revenge. She bought tickets for a ship going to where the nobleman currently resided and was joined by her eldest sister. The beginning of the voyage was smooth, but a storm hit, and the ship sank. Jaqueline managed to survive and washed up on the island, while her sister died. Victor also washed up on the island and was the only other survivor. She went into labor, and Victor aided her. She had a baby girl, who they named Thetis. Jaqueline learned that Victor was the nobleman’s younger brother, and she told him her story.
Jaqueline finishes telling Thetis this story, and the pair go to sleep. The next day, Thetis’s mother, Jaqueline, is sick. She dies, and Thetis buries her and mourns for her. That night Thetis sleeps, but is awoken by a sigh. She sees her mother’s ghost, who beckons her to go outside. Thetis walks outside, but then faints. She is awoken by a French Duke standing over her. The Duke invites her to join him and his crew on their voyage to France. She agrees, and the two fall in love on the voyage. Once in France, the two marry, but Thetis feels uneasy. Her mother’s ghost appears to her again and tells her to beware. She is frightened, and the Duke tries to comfort her. Thetis soon becomes pregnant, and the Duke suggests that they take a trip to ease her worries.
The married couple, along with the Marquis and Marchioness de Beaufoy, visit Thetis’s mother’s village. They stay in the Chateau de Murat, welcomed by the Marquis who lives there. After a time, Thetis recounts her story to the Marquis of the Chateau de Murat and asks if he knows about her mother or the Villenueve family. The Marquis is alarmed by the question and rushes out to talk with the Marquis and Marchioness de Beaufoy and the Duke. The Marchioness enters and tells Thetis, “The crimes of the Parents shall be visited on the Children—that terrible denunciation is fulfilled” (32). She then proceeds to tell Thetis that the Duke, the man she is married to, is in fact her own brother. Thetis faints.
Thetis gives birth to a baby boy, and for three months she is bedridden. The only people she sees are the Marchioness and the attendants. After the three months have passed, Thetis feels a cold hand on her forehead while she is sleeping. It is her mother’s ghost, and she motions for Thetis to follow her and bring her child. Thetis follows the spectre into the village to a vine-covered cottage. The ghost stops, and then waves her hand towards her. Thetis looks down at her baby, who is now lifeless. “‘Grieve not, my Thetis,’ [the ghost] exclaimed, ‘the crimes of the parents are expiated by the sufferings of their unfortunate children’” (34). The ghost disappears, and Thetis remains in the same spot, grieving, until morning.
An old man exits the cottage and sees Thetis. He brings her and her dead child inside, and three women help her to sit down. Thetis tells the oldest woman her story, and the woman asks if her family name is Villenueve. Thetis says yes, and the old woman reveals that she is Jaqueline’s mother, and Thetis’s grandmother. The old man who first brought her in was her grandfather, and the two other women are her aunts. Thetis calls for the Marchioness, and she comes to the cottage. She explains to Thetis that the father of Thetis and the Duke was the nobleman who seduced Jaqueline. Thetis’s mother was Jaqueline, while the Duke’s mother was the nobleman’s wife.
The Duke is upset by his marriage to his half-sister, so he joins a convent of monks and takes his vows. Thetis likewise joins a convent and takes her vows. In the final portion of the story, Thetis addresses her writing to the Countess de Milleray. She says that she has lived in the convent for twenty years and feels her death approaching. She is writing out her story in hope of full pardon for her crime. “Thus, my dear Madam, have I opened my heart to you, and though you may not be able to esteem, yet grant your pity to the unfortunate Thetis” (36).
This abridged version of Percy Shelley’s 1811 novel, St. Irvyne, tells of a man high in the Alps, entangled with a pack of bandits and then with the occult, forced to learn first-hand the cost of devaluing life.
Wolfstein is presented in a now-unbound pamphlet.
It is light, being twenty-eight pages in length, 10.7cm x 17.9cm in dimension,
and lacking in a back cover. The untethered, yet remaining front cover is
composed of a marbled, and half-leather binding. This marbling effect was a
popular design of the period, and it was achieved by filling a container with
water and oil paint and dipping the cover in the swirling colors. The cover’s
corners and spine are leather, but the rest is made of faded, dark green decorative
marble paper, which appears to have once been a shade of deep blue, yellowed
with time. No indication of the author is given on the front, nor anywhere
inside the book.
Immediately upon opening the cover, the viewer will be greeted with several notes written in the handwriting of Michael Sadleir, the original curator of this collection. These reveal that there was once a “Coloured Frontispiece” and seven stories in this volume; of these, Wolfstein is the first and the only remaining. The stories are listed exactly as follows:
Wolfstein or The Mysterious Bandit / a Terrific Romance. To which is added The Bronze Statue, a pathetic tale. J. Bailey.
The Ruffian Boy or the Castle of Waldemar. A Venetian Tale. Based on Mrs. Opie’s stay of the same name. by J.S. Wilkinson. J. Bailey
Glenwar, The Scottish Bandit by an Evonian (Dean and Munday)
The White Pilgrim or the Castle of Olival trans from the Le Pelerin Blanc by Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson (Dean & Munday)
Theodore and Emma or the Italian Bandit by an Etonian. (J. Bailey)
The rips between these notes and the title page of Wolfstein indicate that the frontispiece may have been removed, perhaps along with the other six stories. The current curator of the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, David Whitesell, hypothesizes that these stories were likely removed in the early days of the collection, possibly when it was first moved to the library. Another mysterious note on the back of the front cover reads, “43 O.R.” What this pen-written memo means is unknown, but it was likely written in the early twentieth century.
Thus, Wolfstein’s forced isolation commands all our attention to it. The title page, though badly torn up, boldly introduces the title in three successive lines, as “Wolfstein; OR, THE MYSTERIOUS BANDIT. A Terrific Romance.” Farther down, the page reads, “TO WHICH IS ADDED, THE BRONZE STATUE. A Pathetic Tale.” The title page arranges the above text in slightly different font variations and vertical lines per each phrase. The page is without pictures or other notable visual features. Further into the chapbook, the titles appear at the top of almost every page as either Wolfstein; OR, THE MYSTERIOUS BANDIT. or THE BRONZE STATUE. The first story takes up pages four through nineteen, while the second story goes from page twenty to the final, twenty-eighth page.
Throughout the book, the
pages are yellowed and tattered. The margins are a uniform 1.5 cm on every
page, and the printing is generally clean and well done. Occasionally, letters
are displaced; this is a result of the moveable type that was used to print the
book. Some seemingly random letters—A, A2, A3, A6, and B—can be found on
different pages near the beginning of each story. These are signature marks, a
common technique of traditional bookmaking: since books were printed on large
sheets of paper that had to be folded and cut, signature marks helped
bookbinders to order the pages correctly.
feature near the beginning of the book is on the backside of the cover page. A
patch, roughly page-colored and a little over an inch in size, is stuck on the
page; looking closely, one can see that its application tore the word “blue”
from the body of the text where the first chapter starts on the following page.
This patch was applied long ago to repair a rip in the title cover, conceivably
when the volume was being moved to the library, but its current presence
appears somewhat ironic, as the title page is now badly torn up. As such, it
seems that the book may have been tattered for quite some time.
Information on Wolfstein;
or The Mysterious Bandit’s textual history is sparse and sometimes
contradictory, especially when it comes to the publication date. In Montague
Summers’s extensive, usually detailed Gothic Bibliography, the entry on
this story is a one-liner, reading, “Chapbook. n.d. [c. 1800]” (561). Indeed,
the circa 1800 publication date is the definite, albeit vague, consensus
amongst all sources, though some sources specify the year of 1822, noting one
crucial detail: Wolfstein is not an original work. Unlike its publishing
companion, The Bronze Statue, published by Anna Jane Vardill, who signed
her work as “V”, Wolfstein is not marked anywhere with any indication of
an author. Instead, the credit for the work is given to author Percy Bysshe
Shelley, as Wolfstein is a condensed, sixteen-page version of Shelley’s
1811 novel St Irvyne; or The Rosicrucian.
Herein the problem is introduced: which came first, The Rosicrucian or The Mysterious Bandit? Frederick S. Frank writes that Wolfstein is a “plagiarized abridgment of various Räuber-roman” and that “P. B. Shelley may have obtained the name of his morose hero in Saint Irvyne … from this lurid little shocker” (“The Gothic Romance” 173). Other sources, however, seem to indicate the opposite. The frontispiece of the chapbook, as found in the New York Public Library, lists the date issued as “1822 (Questionable).” The WorldCat library catalogue, too, describes Wolfstein as “a slightly altered and much abridged version of P. B. Shelley’s 1811 novel, St. Irvyne … published shortly after J. Stockdale’s 1822 re-issue of St. Irvyne.” Finally, in discussing gothic literature’s “fetishisation and moralisation of the formulaic,” Franz J. Potter asserts, “There are multiple redactions and adaptations of what are now viewed as trade novels,” among them, “Percy Shelley’s juvenile novel … was deftly converted into Wolfstein” (The History of Gothic Publishing 54).
Shelley’s St. Irvyne,
at its comparatively whopping length of about two-hundred pages, contains many
plot points common to Wolfstein, while having mostly different character
names. Wolfstein’s breakneck pace, then, can be justified through its
impressive inclusion of many of St. Irvyne’s plot points. The abridgment
is not perfect, though; Wolfstein spends almost no time on Shelley’s
female characters, who, in St. Irvyne, have characterization, dialogue,
and plot lines of their own. Wolfstein’s Serena, the only notable woman
in the chapbook, pales in comparison to Shelley’s Olympia, who, while still
being portrayed primarily as a sexual object, does more than just get captured
and murdered (Finch). Wolfstein goes from barely skimming St. Irvyne’s
waters to totally diving in, even directly copying the text, as in the
“mouldering skeleton” and “terrible convulsions” of the final scene (Wolfstein
19, Shelley 236). The unique similarities of the plots suggest that Wolfstein
was published after Shelley’s novel, possibly in 1822.
Plagiarized chapbooks like Wolfstein were not an irregularity. The printer and publisher of Wolfstein, John Bailey, published many adaptations and abridgements of popular novels as it was “a financially sound investment for printers and publishers exploiting the readers’ appetite for entertainment” (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 89). However, the author, or rather abridger, of Wolfstein is nowhere to be found, whether due to the popularity of anonymity at the time or the fact that the story was a plagiarism. Oftentimes, details like authors and dates remain absent; in total, Bailey dated only five of his thirty-eight pamphlets, these dates ranging from from 1808 to 1823 (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 89). Bailey established himself as a publisher on Chancery Lane by 1800, and his overall contribution to Gothic literature was momentous, finding “market value … in the sensationalism and horror that readers craved” (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 90). Throughout his career, Bailey published and priced a broad range of works at sixpence—very cheap—thus targeting “the general reader whose interest varied by age and need” (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 91).
John Bailey’s gothic pamphlet publications usually contained a frontispiece—which Wolfstein did have, albeit separated—and is now available through the New York Public Library Digital Collections. As described by the WorldCat library database,Wolfstein’s frontispiece was a “folding engraved hand-colored frontispiece with caption beginning, ‘Deeper grew the gloom of the cavern,’ depicting the final scene: a giant skeleton, a lightning bolt, the terrified Wolfstein.” Bailey often commissioned frontispieces from artist George Cruikshank (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 90). Overall, the Bailey family contributed at least seventy-six pamphlets to the “gothic pamphlet marketplace,” making up 19 percent of the total number of Gothic chapbooks (Potter Gothic Chapbooks 91). Their contribution was essential to the genre. Wolfstein is but a singular example of the Bailey family’s gothic legacy.
According to WorldCat,
five known copies of Wolfstein exist. One of them is in the University
of Virginia’s Special Collections Library; one is at the University of
California, Los Angeles; one is in New Jersey, at Princeton University; one is
in the New York Public Library; and one is across the seas at the University of
Point of View
Wolfstein is narrated in the third person,
including both an objective and an omniscient point of view. Although the
narrator is anonymous and physically absent from the story, they sometimes
offer omniscient insight into the characters. Mainly, though, the focus is on
the fast-moving plot, following the terrific story of Wolfstein as he delves
into a life of crime. The narration is almost jarringly engaging, with each
page or two seeming to start a new arc of the story, and sprawling,
multi-clause sentences describing settings and streams of consciousness. While
the narration does pause to zoom-in on specific descriptions, its mere
fifteen-page length requires quick movement through the many beats of action it
contains. This action ranges from murder, thievery, and poisoning to suicidal
contemplation, dreams, and phantasmal appearances. The narration also centers
primarily on Wolfstein, informing us always of his perspective and emotions.
As Pietro concluded, a universal shout of applause echoed through the cavern; and again the goblet passed round, when Wolfstein eagerly seized an opportunity to mingle the poison. The eyes of Barozzi, which had before regarded him with so much earnestness, were intentionally turned away; he then arose from the table, and, complaining of a sudden indisposition, retired.
Stiletto raised the goblet to his lips. “Now, my brave fellows, the hour is late, but before we retire, I here drink success and health to every one of you.” Wolfstein involuntarily shuddered as Stiletto drank the liquor to the dregs, when the cup fell from his trembling hand, and exclaiming, “I am poisoned!” he sank lifeless on the Earth. (11)
Wolfstein’s narrative style frequently deals with
action, but by no means does it lack description or other, slower modes of
fiction. Action verbs in sentences are always surrounded by expressive,
carefully chosen adverbs and adjectives, so that every action is afforded some
reason or emotion. Additionally, the dynamic characters guarantee that the
reasoning and feelings surrounding each action are also dynamic, making the
narration riveting and surprising throughout the tale. For the Alpine Bandits,
power is obtained and maintained through stealth, strength, and wit, so
intelligence is a crucial quality. Taking this into account, the selectively
omniscient point of view aids in the fortune of some characters and expedites
the downfall of others, including Stiletto. The main characters, Wolfstein and
Barozzi, are favored by the narrator in terms of detail and perspective, and
since their thought processes are presented most thoroughly, the book depicts
them as the only characters who are thinking deeply. In a world where success
is based on cunning, they make all other characters seem static and unthinking
in comparison, and those characters’ lives are treated as unimportant and
easily discarded. The narrative’s marking of Wolfstein and Barozzi as
intellectually superior sets them up to search for eternal life and heightens
the irony of their eventual defeat and ruin.
High in the Alps, a terrible thunderstorm “borne on the wings of
the midnight whirlwind” is raging (4). Against a rock, a man named Wolfstein
watches the storm. Wolfstein is tormented by sadness, and he “curse[s] his
wayward destiny… [seeing no point in a life both] useless to himself and
society” (4). Overcome by emotion, he rushes to jump off the cliff, but instead
faints and falls to the ground. His body is quickly found by a group of
traveling monks. They initially suppose him to be dead, but when he wakes up
and lashes out at them, they try to comfort him. Abruptly, the group is
ambushed by the Alpine Bandits, who attack and rob the monks. They threaten
Wolfstein, who says that he has nothing to lose and nothing to fear. Upon
hearing this, they invite him to join their group, and he agrees with little
thought. The banditti take Wolfstein to the “summit of a rocky precipice,”
where they enter a cavern that serves as the bandits’ base camp (5). In the
cavern, they enjoy a banquet made by a woman kept there and eventually retire
to bed. Before going to bed himself, Wolfstein recounts the sorrows of his
life, having been “driven from his native country” by an unnamed force that
presents an “insuperable barrier to ever again returning” (6). Eventually, he
goes to sleep.
As he “inure[s] more and more to the idea of depriving his
fellow creatures of their possessions,” Wolfstein becomes a courageous bandit
(6). His new lifestyle is tested when an Italian count comes to the Alps, and
he goes out to scout alone. While scouting, he discovers that a detached party
of the banditti has already overtaken and killed the count, now dragging a
woman’s “lifeless … light symmetrical form” out of their carriage (7).
Immediately, Wolfstein becomes infatuated with her; but the bandit chief,
Stiletto, seems to desire her for himself.
That night, the woman, whose name is Serena, is invited to the
banquet and seated at the right side of Stiletto, much to Wolfstein’s
displeasure. Filled with “indignation,” he determines to “destroy his rival”
(8). He slips a white powder into Stiletto’s goblet and later proposes a toast.
Just when Stiletto is about to drink, another robber, Barozzi, “dashe[s] the
cup of destruction to the earth” (8). Barozzi is a reserved, cryptic man. He
tells nothing about himself to anyone, and he has never “thrown off [his]
mysterious mask” (9). The interference enrages Wolfstein further, and he
decides to attempt the murder once more, reasoning that he is not worthy of
“the celestial Serena, if [he] shrink[s] at the price… for her possession” (9).
The day after, the bandits are drunk and merry again. Stiletto asks Pietro, a
robber who knows many poems, to tell an old German story to pass the time.
Pietro recites a poem about Sir Eldred the bold, a crusader who died in battle
in Palestine. At his death, his lover wept, “raised her eyes to the banner’s
red cross, / And there by her lover she died” (11). After the story was told, a
goblet was passed around, and Wolfstein again slipped poison into it. At this,
Barozzi “intentionally turn[s] away,” then rises from the table and retires
(11). Stiletto raises the drink, toasting to the “success and health to every
one of you” (11). He drinks it and immediately becomes ill, crying, ““I am
poisoned!” and collapsing (11).
The devastated banditti begin to search for the culprit, but the
search distresses Wolfstein, and he confesses. They are about to kill him when
Barozzi intervenes, insisting that they leave him unhurt on the condition that
he immediately leaves. Wolfstein does. In “half-waking dreams,” he hears
Stiletto’s ghost cry out for justice (12). As he ventures out from the cabin,
he spots Serena lying on the ground. Seeing her as the reason he “forfeited all
earthly happiness,” he takes his sword and stabs her in the breast (12). He
continues on his way, finds an inn to stay in, and Barozzi shows up. In
exchange for saving him from the banditti, Barozzi demands Wolfstein’s
protection and commands that Wolfstein listen to his story. Feeling indebted, Wolfstein
swears to do so, and Barozzi takes his leave. In dreams, Wolfstein sees himself
on the edge of a precipice, being chased by a dreadful figure. Barozzi saves
him, but then the monster throws Barozzi off.
One evening, Wolfstein wanders outside late at night,
“shudder[ing] at the darkness of his future destiny” (14). As he is going back
inside, Barozzi grabs his arm. Jolted, Wolfstein asks if Barozzi is there to
make good on his promise. Barozzi replies: “‘I am come to demand it, Wolfstein,
(said he) art thou willing to perform?’” (14). Wolfstein gathers his strength
and proclaims that he is ready, conducting Barozzi inside. Inside, Barozzi says
it “neither boots [Wolfstein] to know nor [him] to declare” about his past, but
he plans to do so anyway (15). He tells Wolfstein that every event in his life
has been known and guided by his machinations, and tells him to not interrupt,
regardless of how horrifying the tale might be.
At seventeen years old, Barozzi set out on a journey from his
city of Salamanca. The sky that night was completely black and covered by
clouds, and Barozzi “gazed on a torrent foaming at [his] feet” (15). He then
planned to commit suicide. Right before jumping, he heard a bell from a
neighboring convent that “struck a chord in unison with [his] soul” (16). It
made him give up the plan, and he fell to the foot of a tree, crying. In sleep,
he dreamed he stood on a cliff high above the clouds. Amid the mountain’s dark
forms, he felt an earthquake and saw “the dashing of a stupendous cataract”
(16). Suddenly, he heard sweet music, and everything became beautiful; “the
moon became as bright as polished silver; pleasing images stole imperceptibly
upon my senses … louder swelled the strain of seraphic harmony” (16). It calmed
his violent passions. Then, the sky divided, and “reclining on the viewless
air, was a form of most exact and superior symmetry” (16). Speaking “in a voice
which was rapture itself,” it asked, “Wilt thou come with me—wilt thou be
mine?” (16). Barozzi, upset by the proposition, firmly declined. Upon this, he
heard a deafening noise, and his neck was grasped by the phantom, who turned
hideous. It mocked Barozzi, saying, “‘Ah! Thou art mine beyond redemption,’”
and asked him the same question again (17). Frenzied and terrified, he replied
yes, and awoke. From that day forward, a “deep corroding melancholy usurp[ed]
the throne of [his] soul,” and he dived into philosophical enquiries. There he
found a method for eternal life “connected [with his] dream” (17). He lamented to
Wolfstein that this secret may not be shared with anyone else. Barozzi tells
Wolfstein to meet him at midnight in the ruined Abbey St. Pietro—there, he
says, he will reveal the secret to eternal life.
In the still night, Wolfstein ventures there and descends into
the vaults. He trips over a body, and in horror, finds it to be the body of
Serena. On her face, there was a “laugh of anguish” still remaining, and it was
accompanied by wild, knotted hair. Wolfstein “dashe[s] [her body] convulsively
on the earth” and, consumed by almost-madness, runs into the vaults. Thirsting
for knowledge, he waits patiently, and at the midnight bell, Barozzi appears at
last. Desperation alone pushes Barozzi on. His figure thin and his cheek sunken
and hollow, he greets Wolfstein, saying they must get to work. Barozzi throws
his cloak to the ground, shouting, “I am blasted to endless torment!!!” (19).
The cavern grows darker, and lightning flashes in it. From thin air, “the
prince of terror” emerges. He howls and shouts, “‘Yes… yes, you shall have
eternal life, Barozzi!” (19). Barozzi’s body “moulder[s] to a gigantic
skeleton, yet two pale and ghastly flames glazed in his eyeless sockets” (19).
Wolfstein convulses and dies over him.
The tale ends with a statement from the narrator: “Let the
memory of these victims to hell and to malice live in the remembrance of those
who can pity the wanderings of error” (19). The voice remarks that endless life
should be sought from God, the only one who can truly offer eternal happiness.
Finch, Peter. “Monstrous Inheritance: The Sexual Politics of Genre in Shelley’s ‘St. Irvyne.’” Keats-Shelley Journal, vol. 48, Keats-Shelley Association of America, Inc., 1999, pp. 35–68, http://www.jstor.org/stable/30213021. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Frank, Frederick S. “Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Short Stories in the Magazines (1790–1820).” Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide, edited by Douglass H. Thomson et al., Westport, Conn, Greenwood Press, 2001, pp. 133–146, ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uva/detail.action?docID=3000461. Accessed 15 November 2021.
——. “The Gothic Romance 1762–1820.” Horror Literature: A Core
Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall B. Tymn., New York &
London, R.R. Bowker Company, 1981. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Potter, Franz J. Gothic Chapbooks, Bluebooks and Shilling Shockers, 1797–1830, University of Wales Press, 2021. Accessed 15 November 2021.
——. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the
Trade. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. EBook Collection (EBSCOhost).
Accessed 15 November 2021.
Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley. St. Irvyne, Or, the
Rosicrucian: A Romance. London, J.J. Stockdale, 1811.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. London, The Fortune Press, 1941.
“Vardill, Anna J, John Bailey, John Bailey, and Percy B. Shelley. Wolfstein; Or, the Mysterious Bandit: A Terrific Romance … to Which Is Added, the Bronze Statue, a Pathetic Tale. London: Printed & published by J. Bailey, 116, Chancery Lane, 1822.” Entry in WorldCat. http://uva.worldcat.org/oclc/7130368. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Wolfstein; Or, the Mysterious Bandit: A Terrific Romance … To Which Is Added, the Bronze Statue, a Pathetic Tale. J. Bailey, n.d.
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.
A story of love and tragedy, this 1805 chapbook features plagiarized excerpts from Charlotte Smith’s 1789 novel Ethelinde.
The Affecting History of Caroline, or the Distressed Widow: A True
Tale is the fourth gothic story in a collection of four volumes. In the back of
the front cover of the collection, there is a note written in pencil that
states “4 Vol,” denoting there are four rebound volumes in the set. Notably,
none of the volumes have an author listed at the front.
The chapbook collection consists
of a front and back cover made of chipped, faded red-dyed paper, with the spine
of the book dyed green and highlighted by a black outline on the front and
back. Both sides are blank, leaving a polished but plain look. From the top of
the spine, there is a gold fabric label printed with the word, “ROMANCES”
bordered by a series of decorative black lines and dots arranged symmetrically.
Including the cover, the book is approximately 18 cm long, 10.5cm wide, and
1.4cm thick. Inside, the pages are evenly cut, but yellowed and worn.
Although the pages are very thin
and easy to flip through, their texture is rough like sandpaper. Without any
spots or signs of damage other than age, the book is in fairly good
The title page features the main
title, The Affecting History of Caroline,
settled at the top half of the page in large fine black font. The alternative
title, Distressed Widow, is italicized.
Underneath, outlined by a thin
horizontal line, is the subtitle, A True
Tale. The footer of the title page includes publishing information:
“London, published by S. Carvalho, 19 Castle Calley, White Chapel.” This is
followed by the chapbook’s individual sale price: sixpence. Then, at the very
bottom, there appears to be a misaligned line of text that cuts off past the
margins, plausibly additional publishing information.
Positioned at the center of the
title page is a small printed illustration of a woman in a red dress holding a
baby in a blanket. The illustration is painted over in watercolors, which gives
the image a glossy texture that stands out from the rest of the pages. There is
no caption for the illustration, but it is implied that the woman pictured is
the titular “Distressed Widow.”
Furthermore, there is a
frontispiece that consists of a full color spread of a woman and young girl
standing on a paved road while a smiling man appears to lead them to a
carriage. Similar to the title page illustration, this picture was hand-painted
in watercolor, which gives the page additional heavy weight in comparison to
other pages. The twentieth (and final) page of the story includes a printed
illustration of various household items at the bottom, such as two bowls.
Pagination of Caroline does not begin until page 4,
and the chapbook is twenty pages long. Every left page of the open book
includes the abbreviated title Caroline
in the header, with the page number listed above it. The markers for printing
sections B and C are located on pages three and fifteen, respectively, in the
center of the footer. These sections denote to the publisher when to fold the
pages so that the book is bound in the right order. The pagination continues to
another story, titled The Negro: An
Affecting Tale, which then closes its respective volume. Each of the four
rebound volumes has its own pagination, so they are not continuous among one another.
The Affecting History of Caroline: or, The Distressed Widow was
published in 1805. This twenty-five-page chapbook entered the Sadleir-Black
Gothic Collection at the University of Virginia as one of four chapbooks
rebound into a single volume, yet a digital copy of the chapbook as its own
isolated volume, with a front and back cover, is publicly available through
Duke University Library and HathiTrust.
There are few differences between
the University of Virginia and Duke copies of the text. One that stands out is
the alignment of the title page. Whereas the print of University of Virginia’s
copy is slightly tilted and thus parts of the text cut off at the bottom
margins, the print is fully aligned, listing details on publishing information,
“E. Billing, Printer, 187, Bermondsey Street.” Furthermore, the Duke copy has a
marbled cover, whereas the University of Virginia’s rebound copy uses a paper
cover. Otherwise, the pagination, font, publication date, and publishing
company are all the same. Furthermore, neither copy lists an author anywhere in
According to WorldCat, S.
Carvalho, the publishing company, was located in London and published other
novels between 1805 and 1831. Their other works followed a similar subject as The
Affecting History of Caroline: a woman’s reflection on her life, such as in
The Lady’s Revenge: a Tale Founded on
Facts (1817) and The History of Miss
Patty Proud (1820). Yet, throughout S. Carvalho’s legacy, there were no
other reprints of Caroline, nor any
known translations. However, in 2015, two publishing companies dedicated to
revitalizing old books, BiblioBazaar and FB&C Limited, reprinted the
original text in a new paperback edition. FB&C Limited would go on to
publish a hardcover edition of The
Affecting History of Caroline in 2018.
The Affecting History of Caroline is actually an excerpted
plagiarism of a Charlotte Smith novel, Ethelinde,
or the Recluse of the Lake, published in 1789. From the years 1789–1792,
multiple serialized magazines such as TheEuropean Magazine and London Review and Walker’s Hibernian
Magazine published an excerpt of Ethelinde
under the title, The Affecting History of
Caroline Montgomery. This story aligns almost exactly with The Affecting History of Caroline. In TheEuropean
Magazine, The Affecting History of
Caroline Montgomery was released in two parts, just one month apart from
each other. The first sixteen pages of the 1805 version of The Affecting History of Caroline match the first part of The Affecting History of Caroline Montgomery
word-for-word; there are plot variations in the second half of the two stories.
Perhaps what is most interesting is that all magazines cite the acclaimed author
Charlotte Smith and Ethelinde as the
source of their release of The Affecting History of Caroline Montgomery, bur
the 1805 version of The Affecting
History of Caroline does not make
To verify this link, one can
observe the stark similarities between The
Affecting History of Caroline, and an excerpt from Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde. The text of The Affecting History of Caroline from pages 1–16 aligns almost word-for-word with chapter
16 of Ethelinde (Smith 128–55). Differences
between the texts include formatting preferences, such as Ethelinde
using the long S that looks closer to an f, as well as spelling changes like
how The Affecting History of Caroline
uses “mamma” whereas Ethelinde spells
the same word as “mama.” The most stark difference is the textual context: in Ethelinde, Caroline Montgomery tells her
tale to the titular character, Ethelinde; in The Affecting History of Caroline, mentions of Ethelinde are
completely removed. This change is understandable, for if the intent of The Affecting History Caroline was to
present the plagiarized text as an original story, then any evidence of being
associated with plot elements from the world of Ethelinde needed to be
removed. Attempts at erasing ties to Ethelinde
are most noticeable following page 16 of The
Affecting History of Caroline. From just pages 16–18 of The Affecting History of Caroline, over
ten paragraphs of Ethelinde are skipped over, but these cuts are
presented as a seamless transition between not only paragraphs but sentences as
well (Smith 155–61). There are also noticeable changes in phrasing, such as the
line “Lord Pevensey took this opportunity of departing,” versus the line from Ethelinde, “Lord Pevensey took that
opportunity to depart” (Affecting History of Caroline 16, Smith 155).
It is not surprising that someone
would want to plagiarize Charlotte’s Smith’s work, for she was an illustrious
novelist during her time. From 1784 to 1806, Smith used her writing to support
her large family of twelve children as a single mother. She is known for
influencing the Romantic era, particularly for writing with an emphasis on
nature and human emotions. Although there are no reviews of The Affecting
History of Caroline, scholarship
does attend to Ethelinde (see Hawkins).
With this context in mind, it is understandable how the illegitimate chapbook The Affecting History of Caroline was
classified as a “Romance” when rebound, as it sits at the intersection of
gothic, romance, and Romantic literature.
Narrative Point of View
The Affecting History of Caroline is narrated in the first-person
singular voice of the titular character, Caroline, who delineates the events of
her childhood and upbringing. In The Affecting History of Caroline, the narrator focuses less on
descriptive language and more on singular plot-relevant events, however, this
pattern deviates in moments of intense emotion, such as when Caroline falls in
love. The sentence structure is dense, but direct, which allows for a clear
narrative to unfold. At times the narrator mentions the second person “you,” as
if retelling the story of her life to an unnamed individual.
I will not detain you with relating the various expedients for accommodation, which were in the course of the first month proposed by the relations of the family, who knew the tenderness the late lord Pevensey had for my mother; that he considered her as his wife, and that her conduct could not have been more unexceptionable had she really been so. Still lingering in France, and still visiting a house into which his cruelty had introduced great misery, the proceeding of lord Pevensey wore a very extraordinary appearance. My mother now continued almost entirely to her room; and Montgomery concealed from her his uneasiness at what he remarked; but to me he spoke more freely, and told me he was very sure his lordship had other designs that he suffered immediately to appear. In a few days the truth of this conjecture became evident. (15)
The narrator, Caroline, uses an
individualized first-person point of view to create an intimate and engaging
voice. Referring to an unnamed “you” implies the narration is directed at an
audience outside of Caroline’s world—hence, the story becomes an attempt at
reaching out to this world. The differentiation between “late lord” and “lord”
Pevensey establishes a clarity in the narrative that stands out from other
gothic works that utilize confusion and chaos as a tool for narration. This
easy-to-follow narration is ideal when communicating to an audience unfamiliar
with these past events, suggesting the implied audience is a stranger to
Caroline’s life and irrelevant to her past. Furthermore, the characters around
Caroline are characterized primarily by their actions in relation to Caroline,
such as the mother “continued almost entirely to her room,” and Montgomery, who
“spoke more freely,” rather than through a direct description of inward
thoughts or feelings. Interestingly, even their conversations only seem to
happen in summarized instances, with no direct dialogue. This means even the
conversations Caroline has every day are ultimately translated by Caroline’s
perspective, first, before being narrated. This limited point of view creates a
story tailored to Caroline’s perspective on her life, with all of her potential
bias, allowing for a deeper understanding of Caroline as a character.
The story of The Affecting
History of Caroline begins and
ends in Scotland. The titular character retells her life story from childhood
into adulthood with all of the trials and tribulations she faced along the way.
The first tragedy in Caroline’s life is the loss of her father, a Scottish
nobleman. He died as a casualty in a military campaign for Scotland’s
independence from Britain. At the time of his death, Caroline was an infant,
and her mother became a young single mother without anyone to support them. So,
they begin the story struggling in poverty with just the remaining money left
by Caroline’s father. Although the war her father fought in eventually ended,
she along with the rest of the Scottish community continued to struggle to
rebuild stability. Despite this, Caroline’s mother soon finds out that in
Caroline’s grandfather’s will, no money was allocated to her. Soon afterwards,
Caroline’s grandfather also passes away, but he only left money for Caroline’s
uncle from England. The death of the grandfather spurs Caroline’s mother to
migrate to England in hope of seeking assistance from her brother. At first,
Caroline’s uncle appears to be welcoming and kind to his sister and niece.
However, his wife is much more reserved, and repeatedly tells her husband not
to be so hospitable to Caroline and her mother. Although the husband agrees to
pay for a small home in London for Caroline and her mother to stay in, he soon
becomes too influenced by his wife and limits the funds for Caroline’s small
family, and so the girl and her mother must continue to struggle through
Caroline’s mother has no one to
comfort her, and so she also continues to grieve for her deceased husband. It
is in this state that she comes across a gentleman one day, named Pevensey, who
falls in love with her at first sight while she walks through town with
Caroline. The man orders a carriage to take Caroline and her mother home, and
then insists on accompanying them in the carriage. On the carriage ride home,
Pevensey admits that he is from the same noble lineage of Caroline’s father,
and this is how he knew of the widow beforehand. What was once curiosity,
however, has now turned into infatuation, and so he begins courting Caroline’s
Their romance appears to go quite
smoothly until Pevensey admits that he is actually already married. Granted, it
is an arranged marriage to a woman he despises, and no longer lives with, yet,
they are still married under the law. After revealing this, the man proposes to
have Caroline and her mother live with him, where they would no longer have to
live in a shabby home and instead build a family together. This proposal causes
Caroline’s uncle and auntie to see Caroline’s mother with a new form of respect,
and so they are receptive to the nobleman. Caroline’s mother, however, is still
haunted by the loss of her husband, and the fact that they can never truly be
married, so she deliberates before ultimately agreeing to fully love the man
and live with him.
Caroline and her mother adjust
well to their new lifestyle. Her mother gains a bit more peace of mind now that
she no longer feels like her brother’s burden, and Caroline is able to live a
more enriching childhood and gain a stellar education. Unfortunately, their joy
is soon cut short when the nobleman dies from disease while on a business trip.
Even worse, all of his property rights and wealth were passed on to his
brother, leaving Caroline and her mother in poverty once again. However, this
time, they are not alone. A friend of Pevensey, Mr. Montgomery, takes them
under his wing so that they no longer have to suffer. At this time, Caroline
falls in love with Mr. Montgomery. In a bittersweet display of love, they get
married the night before her mother also passes away from illness.
Then, finally, Caroline’s luck starts to turn for the better. Her husband wins a duel against Pevensey’s brother, who finally agrees to respect Caroline’s right to her step-father’s inheritance as retribution. In another turn of events, war returns to Caroline’s life via the conflict between France and England. Montgomery enlists in the English regiment, and Caroline leaves with him so that they are not separated. Eventually, though, they are separated as Montgomery gets more involved in the war. Meanwhile, Caroline becomes pregnant and eventually gives birth to a son. They do not reunite until the war finally ends, and then retire together to live with their new family in Paris.
Their marriage remains true and
fulfilling until Montgomery dies from illness, leaving Caroline as a single
mother, just as her mother once was. She decides to raise her son back in
Scotland, where they are able to spend the rest of their lives in peace.
Hartley, Cathy. A Historical Dictionary of British Women.
London: Europa Publications, 2005.
Hawkins, Anne. Romantic Women Writers Reviewed, Taylor
& Francis, Vol 5, Issue 2, 2020, pp.40–41.
Smith, Charlotte. Ethelinde, Or The Recluse of the Lake. T.
“The Affecting History of Caroline Montgomery.” The European Magazine, and London Review, 1790, pp. 353–58, 457–62.
“The Affecting History of
Caroline Montgomery.” Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, Or, Compendium of Entertaining
Knowledge, vol.1, 1790, pp. 38–40
The Affecting History of Caroline; or, The Distressed Widow. A True
Tale. London, S. Carvalho, 1805.
The Affecting History of Caroline; or, The Distressed Widow. A True Tale. BiblioBazaar, 2015.
The Affecting History of Caroline; or, The Distressed Widow. A True
Tale. FB&C Limited, 2015.
In this 1800s chapbook by Sarah Wilkinson set in the South of France, follow Emma de Villeroy as she navigates her mysterious marriage, and the truth about her bloodline.
The White Cottage of the Valley is one chapbook bound in a collection of eighteen stories. The story itself is short, only twenty-one pages as compared to the over thirty-page length of the other stories in the book, but the text is quite dense. The text is small and close-set, and the margins between each line are thin. The book measures approximately 11cm x 18cm, allowing this chapbook to hold a lot of content. The margins of the pages vary, ranging from 0.8 cm to 1.6cm. The pages are quite thin, allowing you to see the text on the other side. Each page has the shortened title of the book, The White Cottage, printed across the top. This is uniform to every story in the book, making it easy to differentiate the separate works.
Before you begin reading the story, you are greeted with a frontispiece. The frontispiece, an illustration preceding the title page, is completely unique. Although the black outline is printed, the colors are hand painted with watercolors. You can see white space that the artist did not quite cover with color, as well as places where the colors overlap. The illustration depicts a woman clothed in red and white approaching the door of a hut where a woman and child wait. Below the illustration is a quote that relates to the part of the story the image is depicting: “Merciful Providence! Your Husband ill, & lying in that Hut.” Uniquely, the word “page” stands alone just below the quote, likely intended to list the page number where you could find this quote. However, there is no page number, and in fact this illustration does not relate at all to The White Cottage of the Valley, or to any story within this collection of chapbooks. It is possible that this was a misprint, or perhaps the story that relates to this illustration was removed from this book. The White Cottage of the Valley also does not contain page numbers, though it does include signature marks, which were used to guide bookbinders and make sure the pages were folded correctly and in the correct order. A2, B, C, and C2 appear on the first, seventh, eleventh, and thirteenth pages respectively.
The title page follows the frontispiece on the next page. The full title, The White Cottage of the Valley; or the Mysterious Husband: an Original, Interesting Romance,is printed vertically down the page, followed by the name of the author, Sarah Wilkinson. An excerpt from a poem is quoted just below, and below that the printer is listed. Finally, the price, sixpence, is printed at the very bottom of the page. The title page bleeds through almost completely to the other side of the paper, which is otherwise completely blank.
The cover of the chapbook collection follows a very popular binding technique of the time called half binding. The spine and two triangles on the corners of the front and back cover are brown leather, while the main cover is paper. The paper cover is decorated with another popular technique: marbling. This is a process in which different colors of oil paint are added to a tub of water, which the paper for the cover is then dipped in. The water forces the oil to spread, giving it a “marbled” look. The cover of this book is mostly beige, with marbling of dark blue. It is worse for wear, though, with quite a bit of the front worn off. The spine is also quite worn, with cracks appearing in the leather and tearing slightly at the top. Luckily, the book is in mostly good condition, with no large tears or extremely stained pages.
Sarah Wilkinson was a gothic writer active between 1799 and 1824. In that time, she penned approximately one-hundred short stories, including about thirty gothic works. The White Cottage of the Valley; or the Mysterious Husband is one of her lesser-known works. Unlike her more popular stories, which have well-documented and sometimes controversial histories, The White Cottage has very little written about it. This is likely due to the pure quantity of gothic chapbooks that Wilkinson penned, meaning only the most popular of them have been attended to by historians and literary scholars. The White Cottage has, however, been republished in the second volume of Gary Kelly’s 2002 Varieties of Female Gothic. This volume, titled Street Gothic, includes a number of gothic texts by female writers that Kelly suggests depict the change in the writing of the lower class. In the introduction to this volume, Kelly describes The White Cottage as “represent[ing] the revolution in cheap print of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century that saw the creation of a commercialised novelty literature for the lower-class and lower middle-class readers” (xxiii). This is one of the only modern works that analyzes The White Cottage, rather than simply listing it as one of Wilkinson’s texts.
As often as Wilkinson is described as prolific, she is also described as a “hack” writer (Kelly xxi, Hoeveler 3). This is due to the fact that Wilkinson was on the cusp of poverty, writing “at the lowest end of the literary market” (Kelly xxi). Indeed, she wrote so much because she had to in order to make a living, not necessarily out of love for the craft. In 1803, she wrote to Tell-Tale Magazine, issuing a “warning [to] every indigent woman, who is troubled with the itch of scribbling, to beware of [her] unhappy fate.” (“The Life of an Authoress, Written by Herself” 28) Obviously Wilkinson had the desire to write, self-described as an “itch of scribbling,” but it was not an easy way to make a living.
Interestingly, the publisher of The White Cottage is also somewhat well-known. In 1810, Robert Harrild invented a new tool for inking typeface, called a composition roller. This was a much more efficient method than the previously used balls of hide (Anderson & McConnell). Conversely, the illustrator for the frontispiece for The White Cottage is completely unlisted and unknown. The White Cottage of the Valley originally included a frontispiece (printed in Kelly’s Varieties of Female Gothic) but this frontispiece is not present in the University of Virginia version, which may be due to Wilkinson’s lack of resources, or it is possible that there was a misprinting or a confusion when rebinding and a different frontispiece was accidentally placed there instead. All versions of the chapbook, however, have the title-page epigraph from Thomas Fitzgerald’s eighteenth-century poem “Bedlam.”
There was at least one printing of The White Cottage in the early nineteenth century, but the publication date is not precisely known because the work itself has no date listed. WorldCat and Google Books list the date as 1815, although this is likely inaccurate because the title page of The White Cottage lists Robert Harrild as residing at 20 Great Eastcheap in London at the time of printing, a location he did not move to until 1819. He moved once again in 1824, suggesting The White Cottage was likely published sometime between 1819 and 1824, not 1815 (Anderson & McConnell).
While it has never been officially said that Wilkinson pulled content from Elizabeth Meeke’s The Mysterious Husband: A Novel, there are a few obvious overlaps between the two stories. Most notably, the works share a partial title, a character named the Earl of Clarencourt (spelled Clarancourt in Meeke’s story), a theme of marrying for money rather than love, and a main character who leaves for France for the sake of his mental health. Since Meeke’s novel was published early in 1801, it is possible that Wilkinson read Meeke’s novel and incorporated ideas from it into her own chapbook. This would not be the first time Wilkinson took inspiration from another story, either: her 1820 novel, Castle of Lindenberg; or, The History of Raymond and Agnes, is heavily derived from Matthew Lewis’s popular story The Monk. This was not all that unusual at the time: Father Innocent, Abbot of the Capuchins; or, The Crimes of Cloisters (1805) and The Castle of Lindenberg; or The History of Raymond and Agnes (1798) were also borderline plagiarisms of the same popular work.
Narrative Point of View
The White Cottage of the Valley is narrated by an unnamed narrator who is never a character in the story. They narrate entirely in third person and past tense, except at the beginning of extended backstory when they momentarily switch to present tense and use “we” to refer to the narration. The narrator often acts as an omniscient storyteller, relating how the characters feel and react to each other. Through the narrator, we are given insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. The language the narrator uses is formal and antiquated.
She instantly summoned Alise and Anetta to her presence, that she might fully apprize them of the part they had to act before the stranger could converse them, and thus frustrate her intentions.
While she is conversing with her faithful domestics, we will look back a little to the events that preceded—the distress of mind into which the amiable Emma was now plunged.
Emma de Villeroy was a native of the southern part of France; she was the only child of a very respectable medical man, a descendant of a noble family. (4)
This method of omniscient storytelling allows readers access to what the characters are thinking, enabling readers to experience events more intimately with the characters. The narration also heightens the effect of the plot unfolding in real time by suggesting that Emma’s backstory can be provided during the period of time when “she is conversing with her faithful domestics” as if Emma is talking to her servants at the exact same moment that the narration is relaying her backstory. As a result, Emma, the third-person narration, and the readers are all waiting for the rest of Emma’s story to unfold in this moment.
The White Cottage of the Valley opens with its main character Emma crying because her husband has not come home. She eventually falls into a fitful sleep until late in the night, when the gate bell rings. Emma, convinced it is her husband, quickly answers it. It is not her husband, however, but a stranger asking for shelter out of the rain. Despite her reluctance, Emma allows him in and sets him up with a bed. The next morning, when she goes down to breakfast with her children, the stranger asks which of the two is hers. Emma, alarmed by this question, lies and says only Rosalthe is hers and that Adolphus is the child of her servant, Alise.
Here, the narrator backs up to talk a bit about Emma’s backstory. Emma de Villeroy is the daughter of a woman who married against the will of her parents. Emma’s grandparents were so against the marriage that her parents left and never contacted them again. The years passed, and eventually both of Emma’s parents died. On his deathbed, her father bid Emma to seek out her wealthy, noble grandparents because otherwise she would be left destitute. Unfortunately, he died before he could give any information about her grandparents, leaving Emma with no way to contact either of them. In cleaning out her parents’ house, Emma subsequently found a miniature of her mother and began to wear it on a necklace under her clothes.
One day, Emma met a young man named Adolphus Montreville who had taken a liking to her late father’s library so much that he wanted to purchase the books. When the two of them met, there was an immediate spark. Adolphus was very kind to Emma in a way that betrayed his emotions, but he never made any formal declarations of his passion. Eventually, Adolphus explained that his father, a greedy Earl, wants to marry him off to an heiress for the money. Adolphus expressed that while he has feelings for Emma, he cannot marry her publicly due to his father. Therefore, he suggested a private marriage. Emma accepted his proposal, without mentioning her wealthy grandparents. The next week, the pair were married. Almost immediately, however, Adolphus Montreville was called back to England. He promised to return as soon as possible, leaving a pregnant Emma with one of her parents’ servants, Alise.
Eventually, Emma had twins, Rosalthe and Adolphus, and travelled to Paris to meet her husband, still concealing their marriage. There, the pair attended an opera and Emma noticed a wealthy couple who she immediately believed to be her grandparents due to their resemblance to her late mother. She did not mention her suspicions to her husband, however, and eventually left France for Wales without any conclusion of this matter.
Two months after settling in a white cottage in the valley in Wales, Adolphus visited and he expressed to Emma his fears that their marriage had been discovered. The following night, he promises that he will be more explicit when he returns. However, after this visit, he does not come back.
This is where the beginning of the story picks up again. That night, the second one the stranger stays in the cottage, Emma and Rosalthe are kidnapped by Adolphus Montreville’s father, the Earl of Clarencourt. The earl accuses Emma of deceiving him by denying Adolphus as her son. He informs Emma that her husband is also his prisoner and gives Emma a paper urging her to sign it. The paper proposes this agreement: the earl intends to fake his son’s death so that his younger brother, Edward, can marry the heiress. Emma and her family will be banished, but Emma’s son, Adolphus, will be raised by the earl. If Emma and Adolphus Montreville do not sign this paper, they will forever be confined to Milbury castle as they are now.
Emma refuses to sign, making the earl angry and scaring Rosalthe in her arms. As Rosalthe clings to her, she pulls out the necklace Emma wears. The earl immediately recognizes it as a miniature of the daughter of the Marquis De Aubigne. When Emma tells him it was her mother’s, he realizes his mistake. He apologizes to Emma, and she and her husband are freed. Emma goes on to meet her grandparents, who accept her eagerly and apologize for their poor treatment of her mother. Emma inherits all of her grandparents’ wealth, and her family lives happily for the rest of their lives.
Kelly, Gary. “Introduction.” Varieties of Female Gothic, Volume 2: Street Gothic. Taylor & Francis, 2002, pp. vii–xxiii.
“The Life of an Authoress, Written by Herself,” Tale 57 in Tell-Tale Magazine (London: Ann Lemoine, 1803), p. 28 in The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade, by Franz Potter. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The White Cottage of the Valley: Or the Mysterious Husband: An Original, Interesting Romance. Printed and Published by R. Harrild, n.d.
Set in 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.
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.
Published in 1800 without identifying an author, this shilling-shocker set during the Holy Wars tells a tale of romance, murder, terror, and mystery.
impressions upon introduction to the Sadlier-Black Collection’s edition of The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. most likely will include the frail binding holding together the
forty-two time-worn pages, as well as the curious lack of a cover. Upon closer
inspection, one can find a few remnants of what seems to be tan leather stuck
to bits of dried glue along the spine of the chapbook. This suggests that the
book was once a part of a collection of works, bound together for sale by the
publisher. Once the first blank page, acting as the cover, is turned, an
intricate frontispiece is found to inhabit the reverse. The image of a man and
a woman moving away from an oncoming knight is central to the illustration, and
is surrounded by detailing of weaponry and armor. Beneath the image the
shortened title,The Mystic Tower, is revealed, instead of a caption, creating a
sense of mystery around what might be occurring in the preceding scene.
intrigue of these yellowed pages continues onto the title page where “The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance” is emblazoned in a combination of different fonts across the top half
of the page, yet there is no author to be found. Instead, there are a few
curious clues that follow, some indicating themes present in the story and
others towards the origins of the work itself. Just below the title is another
illustration, this time depicting a woman standing in the doorway of a
low-ceilinged room with a look of astonishment on her face as she looks down
upon a knight emerging from the floorboards. Following this is an excerpt from
Shakespeare’s Macbeth that reads,
“’Tis done! The scene of life will quickly close; Ambition’s vain, delusive
dreams are fled, And now I wake to darkness, guilt, and horror…..I cannot bear
it!…………….” Both the foreshadowing illustration and the ominous quote
allude to the drama that is to come throughout the novel.
Tracking down the
page, again, there is a note that mentions this book was printed in London for
“KAYGILL, at his Circulating Library, Upper Rathbone Place; MACE, New
Round-court, Strand; and ADCOCK Charles-street, Fitzroy-square; and may be had
of all other Book-sellers in Town or Country.” This indicates where other
copies of this work could be found throughout London, specifically mentioning a
few circulating libraries at which interested subscribers could obtain the book
for sixpence, as denoted in fine print below the message. At the very bottom of
the page, the printer, W. Glindon, and the location of his shop, 48,
Rupert-Street, Covenrry-Street, are listed. Though the publisher and the
location of other copies of the book are helpful hints, the author of the work
remains a mystery. The aged, brittle pages that follow hold narrowly spaced
text, signature marks that allowed the bookbinder to order the sheets
correctly, and a handful of stains from past careless readers, but no mention
of the elusive author. There are no handwritten notes, pencil marks, stains, or
tears among the pages, leaving no physical clues about this particular copy’s
journey through the ages.
The Mystic Tower has no known author, which makes it difficult for scholars to trace the work’s publication history.
The Sadlier-Black collection’s copy of this chapbook is one of three currently recorded copies, and was printed specifically for T. Kaygill “at his circulating library” by W. Glindon (“T Kaygill,” “W Glindon”). Both of these men were British printers and publishers whose careers flourished in the early 1800’s. Though no specific publication date is available for this text, it was most likely published between 1803 and 1807. These dates encompass when T. Kaygill was at the address listed on the title page of the book (39 Upper Rathbone Place, London) (“T Kaygill”).
Many of the primary
catalogues of nineteenth-century gothic works are devoid of any information on The Mystic Tower, so there is no record
of advertisements for the book or public reception of the work. Aside from
being briefly mentioned in Montague Summers’s A Gothic Bibliography,Frederick S. Frank’s The Gothic Romance 1762–1820 holds the
most robust assessment of the book. He claims that its hurried “penny-a-line”
writing style and plot mimic John Palmer’s Mystery
of the Black Tower and ensconce
the chapbook as a typical low-brow shilling shocker (Frank 123). This criticism
leads scholars to believe that the book was not wildly popular, and was most
likely not reprinted or adapted after its original publication.
Narrative Point of View
The Mystic Tower, or, Villainy Punished. A
Romance. is written with a
third-person anonymous narrator whose identity is never revealed in the text.
The narrator adopts an omniscient perspective and offers insights about most of
the main characters, while mainly telling the story as if following Matilda along
her journey. Holistically, the narration is succinct, colloquial, and typically
devoid of characters’ inner thoughts. The sentences the narrator uses are very
long and littered with commas, but the language is clear and reads very
comfortably. Only occasionally does the narrator hint at how Matilda would feel
about a certain situation through well placed adjectives and emotionally
connotated verbs. The only time that the voice of the narrator changes is when
Matilda reads the letter titled “The Life of Lady Malvina Fitzwalter.” In this
interpolated tale presented as a letter, Lady Malvina is writing in the first
person and describing how she came to be in the curious position in which the
young women found her.
Sample passage of
“The baron and baroness having been appraised of her illness entered at this moment, when the former approaching the bed, Matilda started back, exclaiming ‘did you murder him?’ ‘murder whom?’ exclaimed de Malvern. ‘The dark spirit in the tower,’ returned Matilda; ‘what is all this?’ said the baroness, turning to Clara, who without delay told them all she knew. They made no comments on her information, but commending Matilda to her care, both retired. The simple narrative of Clara, sunk deep in the mind of the baron, his reflections in supportable; the many reports he had heard in spirits that wandered in the ruined tower, and about the walls of the castle, rushed on his mind and in a convulsive agony he threw himself on a couch, groaning most piteously.” (15)
In this passage,
Romaldi and Oswena are coming to check on Matilda after her encounter with the
ominous knight. She is terrified and is convinced that her parents must have
had something to do with the death of the de Malvern men for them to be haunted
by such a terrifying being. The beginning of the passage sticks solely to the
plot, describing the new baron and baroness approaching their daughter, but
quickly switches to the dialogue in which Matilda makes her accusations about
their involvement in the tragic deaths of the de Malverns. The narrator then
resurges to describe how Matilda is put to bed by Clara, and then follows Sir
Romaldi to detail the unrest he faces because of his deep-seated guilt for
facilitating the death of the former Baron and his son. The focus of the
passage is Matilda’s fear and her conversation with her parents, but when she
is not in the scene the narrator is able to shed light on the experiences of
some of the secondary characters.
Sample passage of
“Having the misfortune to lose my mother at an early age, I, the only child of lord Fitzwalter, was educated by an amiable woman with the utmost tenderness, and instructed in every branch of literature proper for a female mind.” (22)
This passage comes
at the beginning of Lady Malvina’s letter to Matilda, explaining her rather
tragic past. She speaks in the first person, using “I” frequently and
colloquially, which indicates the intimacy of the contents of the letter and
the authenticity of the story being told.
Readers are invited to sit in the shoes of Matilda during this break
from the established narrative style, since the letter reads as a direct
address, which highlights the flashback being recounted in the letter.
The story begins with Sir Romaldi, a poor knight returning
home from his tour in the Holy Wars, trudging towards his castle and stewing
over his jealousy of his relative, the rich Baron de Malvern. The Baron and his
son are still fighting in the wars, and his inner monologue reveals that if
they should die before they return from fighting, he himself would be next in
line to inherit their estate and riches. While he is secretly wishing that a
perilous fate befalls the father and son, a ghostly figure appears in his path,
murmuring a prophecy about how his grim wishes will come true. Frightened by
the eerie apparition, Sir Romaldi hurries home to meet his wife, Oswena, and
his daughter, Matilda.
The story then delves into a flashback, featuring Matilda.
One morning she was walking in the woods near the family castle, when a hunter
appears from the woods claiming that he has lost his companions and asking if
he can rest with her for a while. She agrees and the two exchange pleasantries.
It becomes apparent that the young hunter, named Percy, has taken a liking to
Matilda, and suddenly realizes that she is the daughter of Sir Romaldi. He
exclaims that he cannot be seen with her, due to some deeply ingrained fissure
between their families, but that he would like to meet Matilda again in the
secret of the night. She, again, agrees, but is deeply troubled by the fact
that he cannot meet her father, so after their first rendezvous she tells him
she will no longer come to their meeting spot. She adheres to this promise for
the next two years by not returning to their clandestine spot, but one evening
she passes by and sees Percy walking below the battlement. She realizes how
much she misses him, but it is too late because he is leaving to fight in the
Holy Wars. To remind him that her prayers are with him she gives him a crucifix
necklace and bids him goodbye.
A return to the present hones in on a conversation between
Sir Romaldi and Oswena, in which he explains the eerie apparition on his
journey home and she replies that he should have the Baron de Malvern and his
son slain to secure the prophecy that the ethereal figure foretold. After falling into a terrified stupor, he
gathers his resolve and agrees that the foul deed must be done.
Months later, a message arrives at Sir Romaldi’s castle that
the Baron and his son have died, and that he is to inherit the de Malvern
estate. The small family gathers their things and immediately moves into the
new castle. An ominous tension falls over the household as Romaldi walks in,
with the minstrels unable to play their instruments and other household
servants running in terror. As Matilda is walking around her new home with her
attendant, Clara, the servant girl explains to her that there is a suit of
armor rumored to wander the halls of the unrenovated part of the castle at
night, as well as a particular portrait whose inhabitant occasionally leaps
from it to walk to the same mysterious tower, said to house the spirits of the
castle. Matilda tries to mitigate the fears of Clara, but one night they are able
to see a light moving in the windows of the tower which reinvigorates terror in
both of the girls. They send for the family priest, who tells them they are
being superstitious and foolish, but all three are then confronted with the
large black suit of armor that the rumors foretold. Matilda rushes to her
parents to tell them of her terrifying encounters, and asks them if they had
some hand in killing the Baron or his son. They assure her that she has nothing
to worry about, but they share a moment of concern knowing that these hauntings
are very likely due to their nefariously plotted murder.
Tensions and fears settle, and Romaldi begins to bring
suitors to the castle to eventually find a match for Matilda. She, however, is
approached by a boy that gives her the crucifix she gave to Percy, with the
promise that he would return it to her shortly before he came home to ask for
her hand in marriage. When her father tells her that he intends to give her
hand to a particularly distasteful Lord she refuses and, in his anger, he has
Matilda and Clara locked in her room until the next day when she is to be wed.
Clara helps Matilda escape her arranged fate through a series of trap doors and
tunnels that lead from her room to the outside of the castle, and in the middle
of their flight they are met again by the darkly armored knight, and are
terrified but are still able to escape the walls of the castle. Matilda and
Clara hide in the nearby convent, but are quickly discovered by Romaldi, and
are sent a letter demanding their return home. The abbess helps the girls
escape to travel to another convent, but after becoming fatigued during their
journey, they come upon the benevolent and ethereal Lady Malvina. The girls are
showered with Malvina’s compassion and kindness in her hidden underground
dwelling in the forest.
One evening, Matilda is presented with a letter detailing
Lady Malvina’s mysterious history. Reading it, she discovers that as a girl
Malvina was the sole heir to a large estate, promised to be married to her
lover, Sir Egbert, and had met a distressed young woman, named Josephine, in
the woods and secretly took her into her own care. She lived in pure happiness
until her father died, after which Sir Egbert began to act coldly towards her
and Josephine left her to grieve the loss of her lover alone, which she later
discovered to be the result of an affair between her two closest companions.
She tried to go through with the marriage as planned, but at the altar
exclaimed that her friends were and love and should be married instead, despite
the great pain and sorrow it caused her. Later, when she was invited by Sir
Egbert to visit them, it was revealed that he was unhappy with the
ill-intentioned Josephine and asked for Malvina’s forgiveness. Having heard the
conversation between the former lovers and feeling enraged, Josephine storms in
and murders Sir Egbert. Suffering from such deep pain, Malvina moved into her
current subterranean apartments to protect herself from accusations that she
had killed Egbert and the cruel world that injured her so greatly. Matilda
weeps for her friend’s losses, and feels a deep connection with her as she is
the only mother figure Matilda has ever possessed.
Soon Matilda and Clara receive a letter stating that the son
of Baron de Malvern has survived his time in the war, and a foray outside with
Malvina results in the three women being discovered by Josephine’s men. They
are taken to Josephine’s court, but Matilda is cast aside, and is taken back to
the de Malvern castle. She is left by Josephine’s guard to get into the castle
herself and after sleeping outside for a couple days, she manages to sneak into
the castle, where she finds her father lying on the floor covered in blood. He
is only able to explain that he has slain himself, her mother has been
poisoned, and to apologize for his cruelty to her before he dies, and Matilda,
horror stricken, is only able to find her way to a chair before she
She awakes to Percy holding her and he reveals that he is
the son of the Baron de Malvern and rightful heir of the title and estate. He
also tells her that her father sent an assassin to kill him and his father,
though he only managed to murder the Baron, and that he sent a loyal friend to
watch over the castle, giving an explanation to the eerie suit of dark armor
Matilda had seen wandering the castle. Matilda then tells her story leading up
to the present, and concludes with her sorrow over the fate of Malvina. Percy
takes Matilda to Josephine’s castle to rescue her friend but Josephine,
surprised and overwhelmed by the invasion, stabs herself in the heart to avoid
capture. They find Malvina in the dungeon and bring her back to safety with
them, securing her innocence for Sir Egbert’s death with the king. Matilda
marries Percy to become Lady de Malvern and the two live long happy lives
together with their children. Malvina remains heavily involved in Matilda’s
life, and is able to spend her dying breath in Matilda’s arms.
“The Gothic Romance 1762–1820.” Horror
Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, edited by Marshall Tymn.
R. R. Bowker Company, 1981, pp. 3–175.
The Mystic Tower; or Villainy Punished. London, W. Glindon, N.D.
Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. The Fortune Press, 1940.
In this circa 1809 chapbook set in the county of Sussex and featuring royalty and forbidden love, one intriguing romance revolves around an Earl’s daughter and a mysterious man’s son who lives alone in the woods.
This particular copy of The Recluse of The Woods is especially rich in both history and mystery. At first glance, several properties of the physical appearance of the book raise questions regarding the book’s history. The binding of the book is made of plain blue paper with nothing printed on it, while also being held together by just enough stitching to keep it stable. The physical book itself is extremely thin, with its height measuring 15.5 cm and it’s width measuring 9.8 cm. Additionally, the cover of the book is completely empty and simple, signaling the inexpensive qualities of the object. Inside the book, the interior pages follow the precedent set by the exterior as the pages are very thin and worn out. The color of the pages are yellowed, representing a light cream color, however are still relatively intact without major stains.
A detailed illustration is present in the beginning of the text, showing a well-dressed man and two women greeting each other, while another man watches from the bushes afar. The illustration seems to be either hand coloring or watercoloring while still being in good condition. There’s also a castle in the background, near the upper left corner. Once again, this illustration further points to the ambiguity of The Recluse of The Woods, as there is no caption or description beneath the drawing that provides information on the meaning of the illustration. The one possible inference that can be made is that the man and two women greeting each other are colleagues, while the man watching from afar seems more suspicious and unwelcome.
The title page prints “The Recluse of The Woods” first, followed by “Or, The Generous Warrior.” Underneath the two titles reads, “A Gothic Romance.” The mysterious qualities of the book are further exemplified by the absence of the author’s name, which is nowhere present in the chapbook.
In terms of text within the book, all pages have closely-set text with wide margins due to the edges not being trimmed. The font is relatively small. For each page of text, the number of the page is written in the top left corner of the page, while the top of the even-page numbers read “The Recluse of” and the top of the odd-page numbers read “The Woods.” There are thirty-six pages of text total in the book.
While The Recluse of the Woods proves to be an interesting novel offering a unique perspective from gothic literature, the actual history of the text is quite ambiguous. A few key details about the circumstances in which The Recluse of the Woods was made are known, namely regarding the publication of the text. The novel was published in 1809 in London, printed by a man named Thomas Maiden, and the publishers were John Roe and Ann Lemoine. These three also worked together for the production of many other novels during the early nineteenth century, publishing books such as The Castle of Alvidaro and The Round Tower. Additionally, there are several copies of The Recluse of the Woods held in both the United States and England, with schools such as The University of Virginia, Yale University, and The University of Oxford each holding copies of the novel.
While this information provides some insight into The Recluse of the Woods, the biggest mystery surrounding the novel is the identity of the author. While their identity seems to be hidden, Frederick S. Frank provides substantial information on the novel in a chapter called “The Gothic Romance,” explaining how The Recluse of the Woods was “written with Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde; or, The Recluse of the Lake in view” (139). While the author of The Recluse of the Woods seems to be absent from most databases, Charlotte Smith was well known for her novels and poems during the late eighteenth century.
Charlotte Smith was an English novelist and poet, born in 1749 and living until 1806. In her career spanning twenty-two years, she produced ten novels, two translations, three books of poetry, and six educational works for children (Napier). Most of her novels earned high praise throughout the duration of her career, while also drawing some debate and criticism for her writing style and views. Among her critics, some voiced their disagreement with democratic sympathies, as well as her radical attitudes toward conventional morality and her political ideas of class equality. Some of the key qualities associated with Smith’s writing were her tendency to work self-consciously and experimentally within the fiction genre. Moreover, she often focused on the celebration of nature within her books, while also frequently adopting the prototypical figure of the wanderer as a vehicle for social commentary. Smith was also a “wanderer,” of sorts, for much of her career, making sense of her attraction towards this characterization (Zimmerman).
While Charlotte Smith saw herself as a poet first and foremost, many of Smith’s novels developed the frame of the story according to Gothic and sentimental traditions. Some of her novels even contained poetic scenes, such as the novel related to The Recluse of the Woods, namely Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake. Published in 1790 in Dublin, Ireland, The Recluse of the Lake was received with mixed reviews by critics, as many saw the novel being equal in excellence to one Smith’s best-known works Emmeline, while some disregarded this notion. One particular critic directly challenges this notion, explaining, “If we compare Ethelinde with Emmeline, it will be found less full of adventure, of sudden changes of fortune, and less interesting by its humble denouement. The characters are not too prominent, nor their outlines so broad” (“Ethelinde” 57). Because the poetic scenes revolved around natural landscapes in the The Recluse of the Lake, the novel adopts a static, lingering quality exactly suited to the tone of its heroine’s introspective melancholy (Napier). While poetic scenes play an important role in The Recluse of the Lake, the novel ultimately is characterized by containing sentimental narratives with Gothic elements, similar to her three other works that she produced during the same time period, like Emmeline and Celestina (Ravin). The Recluse of the Woods harnesses the same sentimental narratives, but ultimately did not have the same critical impact or the same staying power as Charlotte Smith’s novel.
Narrative Point of View
The Recluse of The Woods is narrated in the third person by an external narrator who does not appear in the text. The narration is quite descriptive and observational, as the narrator tends to paint a picture of the scene and describe characters’ physical characteristics prior to introducing the dialogue. Also, the narrator repeatedly tells the reader about characters internal conflict and feelings throughout the novel.
Many other lessons were given to Eliza, by her father and the Lady Gertrude, and she was then left by them to weep for Edgar, and sigh over the hardness of her fate. About the hour of noon the shrill voice of the trumpet announced to her the approach of Lord Harold; she trembled at the sound, and as the untamed fawn flies from the approach of the passenger, she ran to her chamber, anxious to avoid all intercourse with her fellow beings. (24)
With the presence of third-person narration in The Recluse of The Woods, characters’ feelings and thoughts are highlighted clearly, as shown through this sample passage. Key phrases like “she trembled at the sound” and “anxious to avoid” ultimately underline the fear of the character, Eliza, regarding her impending arranged marriage. Additionally, the narrator also highlights the uncomfortable elements present in this scene to heighten the anxiety-filled environment. Consequently, Eliza’s characterization becomes stronger, as her desire for a life with Edgar is contrasted with her fear of marrying Lord Harold, and both emotions are very strong.
The novel begins in the middle of the thirteenth century at Montville Castle, a noble edifice, which lies in the county of Sussex. The Earl of Blancy, the proprietor of Montville Castle, is away in battle for the Christian Army in Palestine while his eighteen-year-old daughter Eliza lives at the castle with Lady Gertrude, a middle-aged woman who envies Eliza’s youth, beauty, and innocence. Lady Gertrude has lived with Eliza since she was eleven years old, as her mother passed away when she was young. While the castle is rich in land, there are some neighbors living nearby, one being a solitary man named Ambrose Phillips. He lives in a poor, wooded cottage area with his teenage son Edgar; both men have a young ambiance and strong appearance. No one knows anything about either of them, but they frequently encounter Eliza and Lady Gertrude on walks through the woods.
One day, as the two groups pass each other, Eliza and Edgar share a moment of intimacy, while Lady Gertrude notices and appears unhappy with Eliza. Lady Gertrude fears a relationship forming between Eliza and Edgar, since she knows Eliza’s father would not be happy with her marrying a peasant. A few days later, the Earl returns after his long war experience, and is shocked by Eliza’s sprouting growth and beauty. Lady Gertrude tells the Earl about the neighbors the next morning, and he says they must be the poorest of his neighbors, and is suspicious of the relationship between Eliza and Edgar.
The Earl visits Phillips with his servant Robert, who knows Phillips from past meetings. He tells the Earl that Phillips is a man in love with solitude, while also saying that Phillips has seen enough of the world to dislike it now. However, he also tells the Earl that he is a worthy man, with an entertaining personality and a good heart. Once they arrive at the cottage, they see the two men outside cutting trees, and stop immediately to listen in on their conversation. They overhear Edgar telling Phillips that he wants to be a soldier because of all the stories and books that Phillips has shared with him, but Phillips ultimately shuts this conversation down by telling Edgar he can still be a good man without becoming a soldier. Edgar even offers becoming a soldier for the Earl, but Phillips maintains his position. Once the conversation ceases, the Earl makes his presence known and invites the two to the castle for dinner.
Once they arrive, the Earl has a great time with Phillips and Edgar, so they return repeatedly throughout the week. The Earl also particularly enjoys his time with Edgar, despite his suspicions of his interactions with his daughter.
One day while Lady Gertrude and Eliza are walking through the woods, Eliza demands to visit Edgar, but Lady Gertrude denies permission as a precautionary measure so as to not anger the Earl. After arguing for some time, Lady Gertrude walks away, while Eliza notices Edgar above her in a tree after a twig falls on her. After consistent pressure from Edgar, Eliza eventually agrees to kiss him, kissing until they are caught by Lady Gertrude. The two women argue for a short while before a man appears with the appearance of an aged pilgrim, clearly being elderly and fatigued. He asks to see Phillips, and Edgar takes him to see his father after Lady Gertrude and Eliza leave to return to the castle.
Later that day, the Earl questions Lady Gertrude about past meetings between Edgar and Eliza. Lady Gertrude tells the Earl about their kiss, leaving the Earl enraged. In response, he says that he has arranged a marriage between Eliza and his old friend from battle named Lord Harold de Vanes, who is sixty-four years old. Although Lady Gertrude disagrees with this action, the Earl explains how he made this promise to Lord Harold after Lord Harold saved the Earl’s life in combat. The Earl then dispatches Lady Gertrude to go notify Eliza of this impending marriage.
Once Eliza hears this news, she begins to weep, saying how she cannot bear to marry Lord Harold because of her love for Edgar. Although Lady Gertrude tells Eliza that she should be excited because Lord Harold is extremely wealthy, Eliza still cannot stop crying. A few moments later, Edgar and Phillips appear and tell the Earl and Eliza that they are leaving their cottage in the woods, but do not disclose why or to where they are heading. After Edgar begs the Earl to let him die at his feet, Phillips picks up Edgar and they both leave the Castle.
The next morning, Lord Harold arrives at the castle, and immediately voices his concern to the Earl about the marriage with Eliza, lamenting that his war wounds and bald head are not attractive to a girl Eliza’s age. The Earl disagrees, but Lord Harold is still evidently distraught. When Eliza comes down to greet the Lord, she explains how she was told a past prophecy where she would be happy and fall in love with a man, but not with a man his age. Lord Harold asks her what he can do, and Eliza asks him to persuade his father to let her marry Edgar. Lord Harold agrees to this, and tells the Earl of their discussion. He specifically tells him that it is every man’s duty to guide happiness for others, and how he should let Eliza marry Edgar.
After this exchange, the novel goes into a side note about the history of Ambrosio Phillips and his son, explaining how they are actually descendants of Sir Hildebrand De Raymond, a nobleman known for his bravery in the battle for the Christian army in Palestine. Edgar’s real name is Eudgene, and he is now the heir of the De Raymond castle.
Back in the present moment, Edgar arrives at Montville Castle under the name of Sir Eugene de Raymond, asking for a meeting with the Earl. The Earl is shocked when he sees it to actually be Phillips and Edgar, and Eliza is overcome with happiness when the two embrace in joy. Lord Harold is similarly happy for Edgar and Eliza, as the two are finally married with Lady Gerturde performing the ceremony.
“Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake.” The Critical Review, or, Annals of Literature, vol. 3, 1791, pp. 57–61.