The Gothic Archive is a growing digital collection of late eighteenth and 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 and linked to summaries and supplemental materials. Questions related to the Gothic Archive should be directed to Wendy Fall, email@example.com.
Tales of Wonder. Containing The Castle of Enchantment or The Mysterious Deception. The Robbers Daughter or The Phantom of the Grotto. The Magic-Legacy & c.
Tales of Wonder contains four short gothic stories. Their titles are: The Castle of Enchantment or The Mysterious Deception, The Robber's Daughter or The Phantom of the Grotto, The Magic Legacy, and The Enchanted Knight; or Phebe. For a more detailed summary of each, please see the Gothic Archive's supplemental materials.
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.
Luvido di Brindoli, Florentine nobleman, had two children—a son, Vincentio and a daughter, Herselia. Vincentio bitterly envied Herselia believing that his father loved her more. One night Brindoli received two guests—Count Fovolli and his handsome young son, Henri Velasquez. Herselia instantly fell in love with Henry and confided the matter in his brother who contrived a plot to ruin her happiness forever. Accordingly, he encouraged Herselia to elope with Henry the next day, and, secretly informed Brindoli about it.
The next morning, Brindoli apprehended Herselia outside the palace, and condemned her to a life in a remote convent. After weeks in desolation, Henry got to know about the fate of Herselia and left in search of her on horseback. An old lady, Maria, welcomed him in her hut for night’s rest.
Back in Florence, soon after Herselia’s mother’s death Fovolli, challenged Brindoli to a duel. When they met, Brindoli killed Fovolli with his pistol. After this, Brindoli fell seriously ill and died shortly after. Then Vincentio instructed the abbess to impose barbarous punishment on Herselia. The abbess imprisoned Herselia in a dark dungeon near the convent. Henry, meanwhile, left the hut the next day and wandered in search of Herselia. And accidently discovered the place of her confinement. He quickly rescued her and took her to the safety of Maria’s hut. Back in Florence, the Vincentio married an Italian whore who killed him with poison and ended her life too. Just then, people came to know about Herselia and Henry who arrived at the palace to the delight of all. After a period of mourning, they married uniting the two nobilities in love and harmony.
The Gothic Story of Courville Castle; or the Illegitimate Son, a Victim of Prejudice and Passion: Owing to the Early Impressions Inculcated with Unremitting Assiduity by an Implacable Mother Whose Resentment to Her Husband Excited Her Son to Envy, Usurpation, and Murder; but Retributive Justice at Length Restores the Right Heir to His Lawful Possessions. To Which is Added the English Earl: or the History of Robert Fitzwalter
The Gothic Story of Courville Castle begins with Alphonso de Courville returning to his ancestral castle after traveling through foreign lands. During Alphonso’s German travels, he had been attacked by banditti and fallen in love with Julia, a baron’s daughter. However, when Alphonso returns home to gain his uncle’s consent for his marriage, Alphonso is shocked to find Courville Castle entirely abandoned. Alphonso finds a note from his uncle explaining that Alphonso is the true owner of Courville Castle and that the uncle can no longer bear to reside there. Alphonso explores the castle and finds a decaying female corpse hidden in a chest, as well as a number of hidden rooms and passages.
Alphonso leaves the castle to return to Julia to explain the situation. While at an inn, however, Alphonso discovers Julia tending to his dying uncle, who had just saved her from an attempted kidnapping. The uncle leaves Alphonso a letter detailing his crimes against Alphonso’s parents – the murder of his father and imprisonment of his mother. Alphonso inters his uncle’s remains at Courville Castle, and is attacked during the night by a man who was his uncle’s partner in the attempted murder of Alphonso’s father. This man reveals that Alphonso’s father escaped the fate intended for him. Soon thereafter, both of Alphonso’s parents are located and are reunited with Alphonso and Julia at Courville Castle.
“The English Earl; or the History of Robert Fitzwalter” describes Robert Fitzwalter’s conflicts with his evil brother Edwin and repeated rescues of the fair Elfrida.
Andalusian-born Nicolas Pedrosa is a shaver, surgeon, and male-midwife living in Madrid. One day, after assisting in a birth, Nicolas is returning home when his mule becomes obstreperous and he beats it, rejecting the offered advice of a group of passing friars who counsel patience. Angered by Pedrosa's reaction, the friars sweep on only to be trampled when the mule loses control because of the sound of their bells.
The next morning, Pedrosa receives a summons from the Inquisition, an especially worrisome situation for him as he is secretly a Jew. Imprisoned and tortured briefly, Pedrosa The interrogation by the Inquisitor General (Don Ignacio de Santos Apparicio, a name with obvious associations to the Jesuit Ignatius) is ended when Pedrosa reveals that he had been returning from the childbed of a woman named Donna Leonora as the Inquisitor General takes Pedrosa aside and commissions him to slip a vial of what he claims is medicine to Donna Leonora.
Suspicious of the Inquisitor General's motives, Pedrosa flees to Portugal and accepts employment as a ship's surgeon. Under the tutelage of the British captain, Pedrosa experiences freedom from fear of the Inquisition and is able to act to save Don Manuel, the husband of Donna Leonora, who is captured and brought aboard the ship. Though initially skeptical, Don Manuel is persuaded of the Inquisitor General's evil intent when he receives a letter written by the dying Leonora.
Pedrosa and Don Manuel go to England. Once there, they receive word that the Inquisitor General has either disappeared or is dead so a return home would be safe. Pedrosa is happier, however, living in glorious and tolerant England where he can live as a Jew without fear of the Inquisition.
The History of Zoa, the Beautiful Indian, Daughter of Henrietta de Bellgrave; and of Rodomond, Whom Zoa Releases from Confinement, and with Him Makes Her Escape from Her Father, Who Was the Occasion of Rodomond's Imprisonment and Dreadful Sufferings. To Which is Added the Memoirs of Lucy Harris, a Foundling, Who, at Sixteen Years of Age Was Discovered to be Daughter to the Countess of B- A True Story
This story is told by an unnamed narrator to a woman he calls “Madam.” The narrator begins by explaining that Rodomond is the child of his longtime friend, whose untimely death left his three children, including Rodomond, penniless. Consequently, the narrator took the boys under his care, and Rodomond grew into a successful interpreter for the East India Company in Bombay. While there, Rodomond eventually became an enemy of the natives because he demanded fair business practices. One day, Rodomond was kidnapped by five mercenaries for “the banyan,” a powerful local. Luckily, the Banyan’s daughter, Zoa, heard of her father’s plot, and she freed Rodomond in exchange for his promise to leave India and take her with him, and to never exact revenge on her father. Rodomond complies, and he and Zoa left India on the next boat. They fell in love on the voyage to England, where Rodomond taught Zoa English and Christianity. Upon arriving in England, Rodomond went to the narrator, seeking his approval in marrying Zoa. Once Zoa’s conversion to Christianity was secured, the narrator approved of the union, and Rodomond and Zoa were married. As the narrator concludes, he assures the listener that Rodomond and Zoa are living under his roof, and that everyone is very happy with the union.
Henrique, a rich young French noble, overcomes the tragic death of his parents, proves his worth in battle, and is inducted into the order of the Knights of the Broom Flower, whose humility is only matched by their bravery. Henrique undertakes a journey to his uncle's estate, where he grew up, with his squire Lorenzo. They travel through the night; a storm arises, and they seek shelter in a nearby building. It proves difficult to gain admission; the “tall, robust” porter, Almagro, only lets them in when a female voice, roused by their knocks, allows it. They are well-treated and stay the night, but the next day they are not allowed to leave. Instead Almagro brings the woman, Elvira, who gave them admittance; she starts to tell them her story. The building they are in is a former priory which belonged to her parents, Elenora and Fernando, both nobility; its former prior, Ambertus, was a kidnapper, rapist, and murderer. She stops her story, but returns the next day to continue it: the crimes of the prior had polluted the building, so her parents were given it, and went to live in it. One day Elenora discovered Fernando murdered by Lermos, one of her old suitors, now a bandit, who invaded the priory and forcibly married her. Sixteen years later, she died. Now, says Elvira, Lermos plans to marry her to one of his henchmen. Henrique bribes Almagro, and Elvira, Henrique, and Lorenzo escape. Henrique and Elvira marry, and Lermos' bandit gang is punished.
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.
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 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.