The Gothic Archive is a large digital collection of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century British gothic chapbooks held in a variety of private and research libraries in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The chapbooks have been digitized or transcribed through the efforts of Dr. Diane Long Hoeveler, Professor of English at Marquette University. Many are accompanied by summaries and other supplemental materials. Questions related to the chapbooks should be directed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
William H. Hillyard
Published in The London Miscellany and written by William Heard Hillyard (1811-1870), this 22 chapter story must have been considered a guaranteed blockbuster with the newspaper’s intended reading audience.
The Mysteries of a London Convent relies most immediately on the sensational categories that we saw delineated in The Mysteries of the Inquisition, as well as another and earlier penny dreadful production with an almost identical plot, Smiff’s The New Mysteries of London (1858), written in imitation of Reynolds’s blockbuster The Mysteries of London (1844-48).
The Affecting History of the Duchess of C*** Who Was Confined Nine Years in a Horrid Dungeon, Under Ground, Where Light Never Entered, a Straw Bed Being Her Only Resting Place, and Bread and Water Her Only Support, Conveyed by Means of a Turning-Box, by Her Inhuman Husband; Whom She Saw but Once During Her Long Imprisonment, Though Suffering by Hunger, Thirst, and Cold, the Most Severe Hardships, But Fortunately She Was at Last Discovered, and Released from the Dungeon, By Her Parents. [Transcript]
Stéphanie Félicité Genlis
The narrative is given in the first person by the Duchess of C**** herself. She relates the circumstances of her easy, wealthy upbringing and tells of how she fell in with a dangerous friend, the Marchioness de Venuzi. While staying with her friend, she becomes enamored of the exiled Count de Belmire, but is instead forced into a marriage with his villainous uncle, the Duke of C****, by her parents. When the Duke discovers incriminating letters from the Duchess of C**** to Belmire at the Venuzi residence, he locks the Duchess of C**** in a castle dungeon and takes their infant daughter away from her until she tells him the name of her lover. She refuses to tell him, so the Duchess of C**** remains in an underground prison (presumed dead) until she is rescued by the Count of Belmire nine years later. The Duke of C**** dies shortly after the Duchess' escape, but she has no desire to wed again after her long captivity. When the Duchess' daughter comes of age, she marries the Count of Belmire.
Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson
The Archbishop of Rouen had the ability to pardon a condemned criminal once a year. One such pardon was that of Lewis Chabot, Count de Valvé.
Intrigued by an overheard conversation, Lewis goes to the Priory of St. Clair where he witnessed Julietta reluctantly making her nun's vows. He is unable to forget her, so bribes the under gardener, Alexis, to carry letters proclaiming his passion and desire to free her from the nunnery. Julietta refuses him.
Lewis then procures a potent liquor that will, when drunk, simulate death. Julietta drinks it unknowingly and Alexis and Lewis carry away the coffin that contains her body. When she wakes, Julietta continues in her refusal of him. Since Julietta is obdurate in her refusal, Lewis makes her his unwilling mistress. One night he catches her trying to escape through the chapel in his castle and murders her as she clings, shrieking, to the altar.
Six months later, Lewis marries, but his marriage is troubled by his odd behaviour, brought on by the fact that he's being haunted by the spectre of Julietta. He is also being blackmailed by Alexis and attempts to murder him. This attempt results in his arrest and condemnation to burn at the stake. Granted the pardon by the Archbishop of Rouen, Lewis goes abroad, enters a monastery, and dies, penitent, three years later. Isabel remarries and her son grows up and marries the niece of the murdered Julietta.
The Mysterious Murder; or, the Usurper of Naples: An Original Romance. To Which is Prefixed, The Nocturnal Assassin; or, Spanish Jealousy.
Estaphana, daughter Lusigni, and Belfoni fall in love. When Estaphana tells her father, however, Lusigni is notably averse to the match. Instead, Lusigni arranges for Estaphana to marry the Duke de Savelli. When Estaphana objects the Duke kidnaps her and takes her to a castle tended by an old servant, Jacquilina and her husband. In the meantime, Lusigni catches Belfoni outside his home imprisons him in a secret dungeon.
Locked in the Duke’s castle, Estaphana is visited by the Duke who attempts to rape her. Fortunately, Jacqulina bursts in and reveals that Estaphana is the Duke’s daughter, proven by a miniature of the Duke’s former wife that Estaphana wears. Jacqulina reveals herself to be Emily de Salerno, one of the Duke’s former lovers, who kidnapped Estaphana as an infant as revenge against the Duke. Estaphana was left on the doorstep of Lusigni to be raised as his daughter.
Duke stabs Emily de Salerno and himself. As the Duke dies, Befloni enters (having secretly escaped from Lusigni’s dungeon). Belfoni and Estaphana enter through a secret door from which they hear groans, and discover the Duke’s dying wife, Estaphana’s mother.
Upon returning to Naples, Belfoni and Estaphana find Lusigni on his deathbed. Lusigni reveals to Belfoni that he is Belfoni’s uncle. Lusigni explains that he imprisoned and murdered his older brother, Belfoni’s father, to gain his inheritance, making Belfoni the heir the estate. As a dying qish, Lusigni asks that Belfoni and Estaphana be married.
Fatal Jealousy; or, Blood Will Have Blood! Containing the History of Count Almagro and Duke Alphonso; Their Combat in the Dreadful Tournament and the Death of the Beautiful Bellarmine, Through the Artifice of Sophronia, Her Rival
Fatal Jealousy opens during a Spanish campaign against the Moors. Count Almagro, a Spanish knight, is spared during combat by an old African prince, Razallah. Almagro later returns the favor by pledging to protect a dying Razallah’s daughter, Almora. The two are married, despite objections to the bride being an infidel, and Almora turns out to be the daughter of a Spanish couple imprisoned by a licentious Moor. Upon their return to Spain, Almagro and Almora retire to the country. Their only daughter, Sofronia, is betrothed to Alphonso, Duke of Tenedos. While in Madrid for a tournament, Alphonso falls in love with the daughter of a goldsmith, Bellarmine. Upon learning of Alphonso’s marriage to Bellarmine, Sofronia and her father swear revenge. Almagro challenges Alphonso to a duel, during which Alphonso decapitates Almagro. A guilt-ridden Alphonso decides to join the crusades as penance for killing the count. Before he leaves, Alphonso entrusts his faithful hound, Fidelio, to Bellarmine’s care and claims that keeping the dog with her at all times will be an assurance of her fidelity. Upon learning this, Sofronia enlists a monk to steal Fidelio from Bellarmine. Bellarmine sets up a tent at nearby crossroads in order to ask knights returning from the crusades to seek Fidelio, but Sofronia, disguised as a knight, intercepts Alphonso and convinces him of Bellarmine’s adultery. Alphonso kills Bellarmine in a fit of jealous rage and dies of grief a year later.
Calini discovers he is a foundling, abandoned as an infant with a ring left among his. The story continues with Calini as an adult, returning from the home of his beloved, Alexa. Calini is suddenly taken hostage and locked in a dungeon by Sceloni, a monk. It is later discovered that Calni’s kidnapping is a plot by Signor Holbruzi to steal Alexa. The plot was to kill Calini, but Sceloni chooses to secretly imprison Calini instead. Holbruzi pursues Alexa. He is unsuccessful, as Alexa remains devoted to Calini. Frustrated in his attempts, Holbruzi demands that Sceloni kidnap Alexa and bring her to Holbruzi, after which he refuses to pay Sceloni for his services. Sceloni decides to leave Holbruzi and revenge himself against himby luring Holbruzi to an empty dungeon where Sceloni claims Calini is hidden. When Holbruzi enters the dungeon to kill Calini, Sceloni, shoots him.
Sceloni decides to kill Calini as well. However, when he goes to Calini, he discovers the ring Calini was left as a baby. Sceloni reveals he is Calini’s true father. Sceloni reveals that he married an unwilling maiden. Because of their unhappy marriage, Sceloni suspected his wife of adultery, believing her ring was a token from a lover and that the infant Calini was illegitimate. In a jealous rage, Sceloni kills his wife and abandons his son, only to discover that his wife was innocent. Sceloni releases Calini who deduces that Alexa must be a captive in Holbruzi’s home. Calini rescues her and the two are married. Sceloni retires to the convent.
Thomas Isaac Horsley Curties
A corrupt Baron exploits the monks of St. Catherine's monastery by publicizing the acts of one Sr. St. Anna, a nun from the monastery that broke her vow of chastity. Under pressure from the scandal, the monks hand over the monastery to the Baron, who converts it into a secular property that swiftly falls into ruins. Many years later, Thomas Fitz-Martin and his daughter Rosaline, the last descendants of this Baron, move into these ruins and discover that the Baron himself seduced Sr. St. Anna under the name of Vortimer, leading her to her ruin and eventual death. The ghost of Sr. St. Anna haunted the Baron until his own death.
The Monkish Mysteries; or, the Miraculous Escape: Containing the History and Villainies of the Monk Bertrand, the Detection of His Impious Frauds, and Subsequent Repentance and Retribution.
Monkish Mysteries recounts the life of Edward Stanley, The son of a disgraced knight, who is taken in by Pascal and entangled in the hatred between Pascal and the son of a priest and his seduced parishioner, Bertrand, who assumes the name Mystere. One day, Pascal is taken away by four men on horseback under orders by Mystere. Edward pleads for Pascal’s release but to no avail and departs back to Switzerland, followed by Mystere. He returns to find Albina, his love, has left for Germany after being told of Edward’s death.
In the meantime Mystere ingratiates himself with the Franciscans in the area. Edward goes in search of Albina and Remeau, Albina’s brother, stays behind secretly views Mystere practicing his ‘miracle’ which is really just a trick. Edward goes to the church at night and confronts him. He is discovered and is put in a cell in the abbey. Edward escapes and goes in search of Remeau and Albina. Edward, Remeau and Pascal reunite in Switzerland. Remeau has written a history of Edward that reveals Mystere’s trick and sends it to the Prince that Mystere currently advises who subsequently throws him in jail. Mystere escapes to the woods where he runs into Albina who has recently escaped from her own imprisonment. Mystere has a crisis of conscious and repents for his actions. He protects Albina from capture and helps her escape again. Mystere, prompted by a dream, repents to Edward and all go on to lead happy lives.
The Count de Cronstadt retires for unknown reasons to his remote family castle with his wife, the Countess, and daughter, Joanna. The family dwells there in complete isolation for ten years until their peace is interrupted by the arrival of a young nobleman, Villeroy, who appears at the castle while the Count is away. His servant, Martin, has been gravely injured defending his master from desperadoes. The Countess agrees to care for Martin on the condition that both men remain hidden and depart without the Count knowing of their stay. Villeroy, who has taken an interest in Joanna, is curious about the Count’s self-inflicted exile. One night, a ghost-like figure appears before Villeroy and leads him to an underground vault. When he relates the incident to Martin, his servant becomes convinced the Count de Cronstadt is a murderer. The two men are interrupted by the Countess, who enters the apartment in tears and leads Villeroy to her husband, who is dying from a self-inflicted stab wound. Before he dies, the Count takes Villeroy’s hand and begs his forgiveness. The Countess explains to Villeroy (who is actually Henry, the Marquis Mont Aubin) that before his suicide, the Count confessed to having kept Henry’s father locked in the castle for the last ten years. Remembering his mysterious visitor, Henry returns to the underground vault and discovers a cellar containing his emaciated father. The entire party sits down to hear the contents of a confession left by the Count. Years before, he was good friends with the elder Marquis and Chevalier Lannoy, until the Count fell madly in love with Lannoy’s wife, Julia. The two began an affair while Lannoy was abroad and Julia became pregnant. The Count conspired with a servant, Rodolpho, to murder the chevalier on his return journey. The elder Marquis eventually discovered the affair and the Count imprisoned him to maintain the secret. The Count was finally driven to suicide when he learned Rodolpho, under torture, had recently confessed his part in the murder. The chapbook concludes with Henry and Joanna’s marriage.