Don Algonah: Or the Sorceress of Montillo. A Romantic Tale
Publisher: T. Hurst
Publication Year: 1802
Book Dimensions: 10cm x 17.5cm.
University of Virginia Library Catalog Entry, Sadleir-Black Collection: PZ2 .D651 1802
Don Algonah: the Sorceress of Montillo, published in 1802 and republished several times, is a tale of adventure, magic, violence, and a quest for unforbidden love that takes place in Madrid, Spain.
Don Algonah: Or the Sorceress of Montillo. A Romantic Tale consists of 71 pages and is approximately 10 cm by 17.5 cm. The author is unknown because there is no author name printed on any of the pages. At first glance, the book appears very aged because of the missing cover and discolored pages that are loosely hanging onto the binding. You must be careful while looking through the book as to not accidentally fold the brittle and thin pages. Some pages can be seen peeking out from the side because they are no longer attached to the rest of the book. The outer edges of the book are also discolored and shriveled. Surprisingly, none of the pages are missing and the text is still very clear and readable.
The original front and back cover of the book is missing, leaving a blank page on both sides. This is most likely because this book was originally part of a pamphlet consisting of multiple stories. It was very common for multiple stories to be printed into one pamphlet. As a result, some booksellers thought they could make a larger profit by selling the stories individually, so they would rip the stories out of the pamphlet. Although both front and back covers are missing, we can still see traces of brown, fuzzy leather with blue and gold designs on the binding. It is very likely that the covers of the book were made of the same leather material. There are also three small holes near the binding on every page and a piece of string strewn between a different set of holes. The pages were originally sewn with a needle, but someone pulled the pages apart and then bound it back together again. The blank front page also has the word “romance” written on the top left corner.
On page three there is a title page with the book’s full title printed at the top and a detailed black and white illustration of men sitting around a fire. There is another black and white illustration on the left page of a tall man with a knife. Both illustrations use hatching which is a technique used to create different shades. This book was probably produced very cheaply because non-colored illustrations were much cheaper. A previous owner of the book also handwrote their name on the top corner of page three.
Every page has a page number printed on the top. Some pages also have a capital letter followed by a number at the very bottom. The pages of a book were printed on a large sheet of paper and the book binder would have to fold the paper with multiple pages on the front and make and make sure the pages were in the right order. The letter and number pair was for the book binder to make sure the pages were in order without having to know the page numbers.
Don Algonah: Or the Sorceress of Montillo is the second edition published by T. Hurst in 1802. The first edition was published the same year. The book does not explicitly state who the author is, but the bottom of the title page mentions that the book was printed for T. Hurst and sold by J. Wallis. The authorship is unknown. Thomas Hurst was a publisher in London during the nineteenth century. The novel does not explicitly state who the illustrator is, but underneath the black and white image, the names Rhodes Sculp and Craig Pinx are printed in a tiny font. There are several other digitized books online with a similar illustration style on the cover and the name Rhodes Sculp written underneath.
The book was printed by J. Cundee, a British printer located at Albion Press, Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row in London. The book was originally printed in English as a chapbook. A chapbook is a small inexpensive booklet containing short literature. There is a third edition printed the same year, 1802, and it is the second story in volume I of The Marvellous Magazine and Compendium of Prodigies. The entire magazine comprises of four volumes and each volume consists of many gothic stories from the nineteenth century. All four volumes were published individually between 1802 and 1804. In the version of Don Algonah that appears in The Marvellous Magazine, the story is the same and there is a new illustration of an owl on the front title page.
The entire text was digitized by the Internet Archive in 2017 with funding from University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Alternates. The digital version includes an image of the vignette design on the front and back cover that is missing from the copy in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library. The book has also been reprinted multiple times in the twenty-first century. There are hardcover and paperback copies available to be ordered online through Amazon. These newer versions shortened the title to just Don Algonah. The space where the author’s name is usually written, just has “Algonah (Don, fict. name.).”
It is unknown whether or not the book sold well or poorly. A short snippet of the work was included in the Georgia Courier, a weekly newspaper for Albany, Doughtry County Georgia. On June 7, 1827 pages 13–16 of the book were printed in two columns of the newspaper and left to be continued (Georgia Courier). Michael Kelly, a playwright who produced dozens of works between 1797 and 1821, composed a play called Algonah, which was performed in Drury Lane, London on April 30, 1802 (“Reminiscences of Michael Kelly”). There are no details on the play in The Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, but it appeared the same year as Don Algonah: Or the Sorceress of Montillo.
Although this book has been reprinted, digitized, and well preserved, this work has not been referenced frequently within academic scholarship. William Whyte Watt wrote a book published in 1932, called Shilling Shockers of the Gothic School: A Study of Chapbook Gothic Romances. In this book, Watt analyzes different gothic works including, Don Algonah: Or the Sorceress of Montillo (29).
Narrative Point of View
Don Algonah: the Sorceress of Montillo is narrated in the third person for the majority of the text. There are also some interpolated tales in the middle of the story when some characters, such as D’Antares and Marano, share their past experiences. In these interpolated tales, the stories are told in first-person narration. During these moments when the character is sharing his own story, the narration focuses more on how that character feels as he relives his past experiences. When the characters finish telling their stories, the narration switches back to the third-person narrative. In both the interpolated tales and the third -person narration, there is a lot of dialogue between multiple characters.
Sample Passage of Third-Person Narration:
The Inquisitors themselves saw it, and looked terrified. –“Tell what the chamber contained!” exclaimed the Suprema, “or the rack shall force it from you!” –“I know nothing of the chamber alluded to,” replied the Don, hardily. “You deny also,” said the Suprema, “any knowledge of your two wives?” –“I do,” said Algonah. A sigh was heard from the corpse of Amaranta. (66)
Sample Passage of an Interpolated Tale told by D’Antares:
“Marano, every day more enraptured with the portrait, sought for the original every where: lamenting the singularity of his fate, which precluded him from knowing if his mistress were old or young, dead or alive. Quitting Grenada in about a fortnight after this adventure, we entered the inn yard of a village in Andalusia. — Here a travelling fortune-teller, mounted on a tub, was amusing the gaping countrymen with his nostrums and gestures. Observing us to smile, he turned to us and said, ‘Senors. I know that which one or both of you would give the world to know; mark that, Senors!’ Marano immediately whispered me that the speech applied to himself, and, continued he, ‘I will have this man to sup with us when the villagers are gone.’” (10)
The third-person narration stretches across multiple plots and characters. As the passage above indicates, this narration frequently relies on dialogue to express different characters’ emotions. Within this overarching third-person narration, the many personal tales told by the characters means that the narration jumps between different characters’ storylines, which can be disorienting. During the characters’ interpolated tales, they sometimes leave open questions that will not be answered until other characters relay their own separate experiences in the future. The interpolated tales span across a large period of time so they feel fast-paced, and they focus on specific characters, thus developing more individual complexity.
On the day of a grand festival in Madrid, Duke d’Axala hosts a large celebration and invites every wealthy family. Don Algonah and his daughter Aramenta arrive at the party at midnight. Olivaro immediately notices Aramenta and expresses to his friend, Marquis d’ Antares, his admiration for the girl. Marquis d’Antares proceeds to tell Olivario that Aramenta’s father is forcing her to live in a convent, leaving Olivaro in sadness.
Later that night, a fire erupts in a saloon and Olivaro runs to the scene to find Aramenta trapped in the building, so he saves her and carries her to a garden. When Aramenta awakes, she confirms to Olivario that she is retiring from the world to live a life of monastic seclusion. Before Olivaro can respond, Algonah appears and orders Aramenta to leave with him. When Olivaro is leaving the garden, he meets Marquis d’ Antares again, who asks Olivaro to follow him. When they both arrive at Marquis d’ Antares home, he tells Olivaro a story.
Marquis d’ Antares tells a story about his adventures with his close friend, Marano de Pinato. One day, the two men were on a small boat exploring Grenda when it suddenly began to storm. They lost sight of Grenada as the skies became dark, and they came across a ruined Moorish castle and decided to use it for shelter. As they look around the castle, Marano finds a dagger rusted with blood and he decides to preserve it because he believes it is the blood of an innocent soul. When the rain stops, they find out their boat had been destroyed by the storm. Marano tells Marquis d’ Antares that the same agent that led them to the castle will guide them back to Grenada. Marano says his belief in magic is confirmed by an event that happened to him nine months ago, and he proceeds to tell Marquis d’ Antares the story.
Marano’s story begins with him foraging for food for his comrades. During his search, he sees a lame soldier and Marano asks him why he is straggling behind his comrades. The soldier says that he has received a deadly blow in his heart and that Marano was the only person who could save him. The soldier asks Marano to swear to avenge his wound or a terrible fate will fall upon his house. Marano agrees and the wounded soldier disappears. Marano says that the dagger they found in the castle reminded him of this story.
The two friends wait in the castle until the next morning to find that the castle had been partly destroyed by a fire ordered by Philip to prevent resistance from the Moors. Marano also finds a small portrait of a beautiful woman. He proclaims his admiration for the woman in the portrait, and Marquis d’ Antares tells him that the lady is wearing a Moorish dress which means she most likely died from the cruel edict of Philip’s orders. The two men safely travel back to Grenada on foot.
Marano becomes obsessed with the woman in the portrait and tries to find her everywhere. When the two friends leave Grenada for Andalusia, they meet a fortune teller, Rimanez. Marano shows Rimanez the portrait and asks him if the woman lives. Rimanez says the woman is gone forever and quickly leaves, but Marano and Marquis d’ Antares do not believe him. The two friends continue on their journey to Tolosa, where Marano complains about superstitious activities. One night a pale soldier appears at Marquis d’ Antares bedside and asks him to follow him into the woods. Marquis d’ Antares agrees and the soldier orders Marquis d’ Antares to observe something hidden in the branches of a tree. Suddenly, Marquis d’ Antares hears two men approach the tree and the wounded soldier disappears. The two men under the tree talk about losing a dagger to two travellers in a Moorish castle and a dreadful deed they committed. Marquis d’ Antares hears this and jumps out of the tree and stabs one of the murderers, Perez. The other man, Pedro, shoots Marquis d’ Antares with a pistol and escapes.
Two sisters, Clementia and Aramenta, find the wounded Marquis d’ Antares and takes him to the Castle of Montillo for assistance. Marano comes to the castle and tells his injured friend that he is the nephew of Don Algonah, the castle’s leader. Marquis d’ Antares learns from Marano that Algonha’s first wife, Juliana, died. He married his second wife, Lady Cleona, around the time of Philip’s persecution of the Moors. She also died, leaving a daughter, Amaranta. Vertola, an old stewardess living in the castle, sees Marano’s small portrait and says that it is Lady Juliana. Vertola tells the two friends about Lady Juliana’s suspicious death. On the day her coffin was screwed, Lucilia, Juliana’s maid, saw Juliana kneeling in her old bedroom. Algonah caught Lucilla and carried her to her chamber. After Lucilla told Vertola this story, he never heard from her again. Vertola continues to talk about Algonah’s second wife. Lady Cleona was married to Count Alvarez and had a daughter with him. Algonah was a friend of Count Alvarez and fell in love with Cleona. The edict of Philip at the time tried to exile Moorish families, so Don Alvarez attempted to escape to Algnoah’s castle, disguised as a soldier. Unfortunately, Don Alvarez was murdered along the way by assassins. Algonah then transported the Countess and her daughter to Grenada. Shortly after, he married Lady Cleo in his castle. During the wedding reception, the figure of a murdered Alvarez threatened Algonah. The first daughter of Lady Cleona was sent to Grenada by Algonah, and was reported to have died.
During Marquis d’ Antares stay at the castle, he begins to feel affection towards one of Algonah’s daughters, Clementia. When Algonah arrives home to his castle, the two men decide to see what was in the chambers of the castle. As Marquis d’ Antares is travelling across the stairs, he hears Algonah and the assassin, Pedro, conducting a plan to keep the two friends at the castle for a few days longer so that Pedro could assassinate them. The next morning, the two men immediately leave the Castle of Montillo. Marquis d’ Antares and Marano say their sad goodbyes and separate to leave for their individual homes.
When Marquis d’ Antares finishes his story, Olivaro tells Marquis d’ Antares that they will free Clementia and Amaranta from Algonah. Marquis d’ Antares is excited to hear this and he visits the palace of Count de Bellara where Aramenta is staying and requests to speak to her. He tells her about Olivaro’s plans to marry her so she can be free. Right after Marquis d’ Antares leaves, Algonah confuses Marquis d’ Antares as Aramenta’s lover. He is so upset that he orders his daughter to be sent to the convent that night. When Olivaro hears of this news he asks his cousin Emelina to help Amarenta escape, who agrees to enter the convent to help her cousin. Olivaro requests Amarenta to meet him in the garden for her escape. When the day arrives for the two lovers to meet, Amarenta and Emelina meet Olivaro in the garden. Before they could escape, Amarenta is stabbed by Pedro hiding in the bushes. Pedro tries to escape and Olivaro chases after him. Algonah is waiting outside the convent and accidentally stabs Pedro, mistaking him for Olivaro. Before Algonah could plunge the sword again, Marano fires a pistol at Algonah. Olivaro rushes back to Amaranta, where she dies in his arms. The Inquisition appears at the murder scene and arrests everyone.
Marano tells his story about finally finding his mistress, Seraphino, after he and Marquis d’ Antares went on their separate ways. Seraphino was a slave in a castle owned by Lady Juliana’s brother, Solyman. Marano expresses his love to Seraphino, and he finds out that Seraphino is Count Alvarez’s daughter who was sent to Grenada and sold as a slave. Rimanez and Lady Cleo also arrive at Solyman’s castle and the conjurer explains how he was hired by Algonah to kill Lady Cleona. He pitied the lady, so he spread a rumor that she had drowned and then confined her in a castle for all these years. Marano, Rimanez, Seraphino, and Lady Cleo are travelling together when they find Lady Juliana locked in the eastern chamber of the Montillo castle. Juliana explains how Algonah was the only person who knew about the secret passage. Her maid and old stewardesses were also locked up because they found out Algonah had buried a wax figure in her coffin. The group then set off to Madrid.
During the examination, all of Algonah’s past wrongdoings are revealed. Algonah stabs himself with a dagger and dies. During the trial, a sorceress also revealed that the soldier who was haunting Marano was Count Alvarez, and he wanted his remains to be buried.
After the trial ends, Marano performs the funeral rites for the remains of Count Alvarez and buries his daughter Amarnata beside him. Algonah’s widows get to choose which apartments of the castle they want to live in. Clementia and Marquis d’ Antares are reunited again and Marama is happily in love with Seraphino. After Amaranta is respectfully buried, Emelina consents to marry Olivaro. The three friends and their relatives live the rest of their lives in happiness.
Don Algonah: Or the Sorceress of Montillo. A Romantic Tale. London: Printed for T. Hurst, 1802.
“Don Algonah, Or the Sorceress of Montillo: A Romantic Tale.” Georgia Courier, 7 June 1827.
The Marvellous Magazine and Compendium of Prodigies. London: Printed for T. Hurst, 1802.
“Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, of the King’s Theatre, and Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Including a Period of nearly Half a Century; with Original Anecdotes of Many Distinguished Persons, Political, Literary, and Musical.” The Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, vol. 7, no. 28, 1825, pp. 475-498.
Watt, William Whyte, 1912-. Shilling Shockers of the Gothic School: a Study of Chapbook Gothic Romances. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932.
Researcher: Helen Lin