Archive for January, 2012

09/01/2012

The English Rogue (Parts 4 & 5)

Friends and fellow Travellers, said he, from my Childhood I have had wondrous and various vicissitudes of Fortune, in so much that though the relation of several of your lives which I have had, seems very strange and eminently remarkable to me, yet when you shall hear me giving you an account of the transactions of my life, which I shall trouble you with very speedily, you will look upon them as incredible as Mounsieur St. Serfs Voyage into the Moon, or the Travels of Sir John Mandivle.

Heh! Oh, well. Easy to be wise after the event.

It does make me laugh, though, to think that I expended so much thought and effort on a forensic examination of the third part of The English Rogue, trying to determine to my own satisfaction, at least, whether Richard Head had been involved in its creation, only to be quite sure within the first few pages of this fourth part that in spite of his later denials, he had certainly written it himself.

This opening section finds Dorothy continuing her account of her relationship with the soldier of fortune, and recounting to her friends some stories that he told to her of his own “adventures”, which in tone and attitude hark back to the ugly, dog-eat-dog view of the world expressed in Volume 1.

One of them is about the time a friend of the soldier of fortune confided in him about his affair with a woman who also supplied him with money, upon which he immediately began searching for means by which to betray his friend both sexually and financially.

In the other, we hear how the soldier of fortune took a brutal revenge on a woman who refused to have sex with him unless he gave her money…even though he knew she was a prostitute.

As I said of the plagiarism towards the end of Volume 3 – it’s as good as a signature.

But in spite of these trademark touches, as we noticed in the third part there is a certain softening in the overall text of this volume, which again suggests a shift in attitude amongst the reading public towards a less wholehearted embrace of stories of successful crime and cheating. Even more surprising is a slightly less cynical attitude towards marriage. The final section of Dorothy’s lengthy monologue (which now spans three volumes!) consists chiefly of the tales illustrating the unfortunate consequences of marriage purely for gain; and while there is still plenty of lying and cheating and scheming in these stories, they tend to conclude with lovers overcoming the barriers between them. There is also an early conversation between the captain of the boat and Meriton Latroon, in which the former declares that although he may cheat the rest of the world, our central characters may depend upon his good faith—which turns out to be true (and is in keeping with Francis Kirkman’s honour-amongst-thieves attitude).

This fourth volume picks up precisely where the third broke off (which, since the two were published simultaneously, makes me suspect that this section was written last), with our adventurers on St Helena; and Richard Head makes an attempt to curry favour with me by opening with a 126-word run-on sentence featuring a shark:

Whilst we anchored at the island of St. Helena there happened a sad Accident; whilst we were recreating and refreshing our selves in the Island, one of our men (that brought us ashore in the Skiff) being an excellent Swimmer, stript himself, and over the side of the Boat he went, he had not been long in the water before such as stood on the shore to see him swim, perceived a Shark to make towards him; who cryed out, A Shark, a Shark, hasten to the Boat; which he did with incredible speed, and had laid his hands on her side as the Shark snapt at his Leg, and having it in his mouth turned on his back, and twisted it off from his knee.

Hey! – no big deal, right?—

The fellow protested to me that when this was done, he felt no pain any where but under his Arm pits; the fellow was drest and perfectly cur’d…

This little contretemps over, and the ship stocked with food and water, the party sets out again. Another travelogue section follows, with lengthy descriptions of Sicily, and a variety of adventures including a visit to an apparently haunted villa; an interlude which turns out to involve forbidden love and ends (again) in a happy marriage.

As the travellers move on, we return to our regularly scheduled talk-fest, with Dorothy concluding her story about the crone and her husband, whose misdeeds finally escalate to murder, leading to the conviction and execution of both. The tales of the soldier of fortune follow, inspiring a general rumination upon marriage. 

(In an amusing touch, an elderly husband, although accepting that his young wife will marry again after his death, makes one condition: “I only beg you not to be married to F. K., who of all your Company-keepers I had most suspition of, and therefore most cause to hate…)

Dorothy finally runs out of stories, and the narrative passes to the only one of the party who has not so far related his life story, the captain of the travellers’ ship. It appears that Richard Head finally came around to Francis Kirkman’s way of thinking, as here he seems to recognise that he doesn’t need Meriton Latroon to have a rogue’s biography.

The Captain (who, of course, is never given a name) was bastard-born and abandoned upon the parish. He was adopted by a woman who did her best to raise him right, but who (we are given to understand) couldn’t fight nature. Even so, we might be surprised the boy’s rapid adoption of criminality, and the reason for it:

My Nurse could not choose, when I was but Seven years old, but take notice of many things I committed, for which she severly chastis’d me, endeavouring so to stop me in my first proceedings, knowing my pretty Rogueries had their rise from an inclination to all manner of Vice. Above all things I loved all sorts of strong Liquors… I loved in an extraordinary manner, whatsoever was strong, yet being too young, and so could not drink for the sake of good company, I would greedily drink for its own sake, and that I might procore my satisfaction that way, I found frequent opportunities to steal small parcels out of my Nurses Purse when she was asleep… Any small trivial thing, as a Knife, &c. in any House whereever I came, I instantly seiz’d them as my proper Goods and Chattels, and converted them to the use aforesaid…

The boy’s main collaborator is the madam of a local brothel, who completes his education:

…the well-disposed Matron thereof, would not only receive what I brought, but would give me half as much Ale as it was worth… Nay, she…instructed and encouraged me in the Art of theevery, telling me the welcomer I was, the oftener I came. By this means I began to know what it was to keep Company, her Wenches being my initiators, by whose help and my forward endeavours, I commenced Master of Art, before I could sum up Twelve years; I soon became Professor of that deep Mystery, and could…swear mouthingly, (which others calls gracefully,) look impudently, talk impertinently, or imprudently, drink profoundly, and smoak everlastingly…

But all goods things must come to an end, and the boy is finally caught in the act of thievery – which has the consequence of exposing the Madam’s side-line as a fence. She manages to wriggle out of the charges against herself (let’s just say she’s an old friend of the judge), and coaches the boy in a show of repentence, which wins him the mercy of the court—which is to say, he is sentenced to transportation to Virginia, rather than hanged.

However, in the end a Bristol merchant buys the boy’s freedom, meaning to bind him as a servant. The boy plays along, naturally enough, but takes the first opportunity to bolt. After a period spent begging, he ends up being taken on at an inn in Barnstable, where his reversion to his old alcohol-fueled stealing habits brings him into conflict with the tapster; and if we needed any further confirmation that Richard Head was the author of this piece, we have it in (1) the fact that despite being the one in the wrong, the boy plots revenge against the tapster, and (2) that it involves, well…

I could find no other way but this; observing the Tapster to be very laxative, I went and consulted the House of Office, and found the middle Board to be suitable and serviceable to my purpose; for my loosing of but two or three Nails I could make it turn topsy turvy…

But even Richard Head, it seems, can learn something; and our young plotter ends up being hoist with his own petard.

Something like his “petard”, anyway.

About four of the Clock in the Morning I was awakened out of my sleep, by an exceeding Griping of my Guts, and found a great pronness to go to Stool; the fumes that ascended from the excess of my Drinking Ale the night past, had not only intoxicated my Brain, but for that time so depraved my memory, that I remembered not any thing of the Trap I had laid for the Tapster; wherefore to obey Natures commands, I ran hastily into the House of Office, and with my Breeches in my hands, and treading on the Board, it slipt up, and in I dropt…

More “adventures” – which is to say, more lying, cheating, begging and stealing – follow; and amusingly again, after the boy has successfully defrauded merchants of all different sorts and businesses, he ends up falling foul of—the booksellers:

So clapping his hands on the knees of my Breeches, discovered what I had been doing. This disgracing Villain makes no more ado, but bawls out aloud, Master, Master, come quickly, I have caught the Book-worm that hath devoured so many Books of late…

The particular escapade lands the boy on a transport to Barbados; and although the account of the journey offers some interesting historical details, such as that those being transported and those undertaking voluntary emigration are simply bundled in together, the former under no particular restraint, mostly this turns out to be an excuse for a wearying account of the life and adventures of everyone on board:

…viz. 1 Broken Tradesman. 2 Jilts. 1 Pretended poor Captain. 1 Counterfeit Libertine Minister. 1 Soldier of Fortune. 1 New Exchange Girl. 2 Button-makers. 1 Orange-Wench. 3 Crackt Maid-servants. 1 Stockin-Mender. 4 Common Prostitutes.

The captain of the transport ship takes an improbable fancy to the boy, and gives him the post of cabin-boy, thus setting him on his way to a seafaring life. After several journeys back and forth, the boy gives his master the slip in England, and many more adventures follow, in which he is sometimes the victim, most often the perpetrator. Here we begin to slip back into the old, confusing, “tale within a tale” structure, as the boy falls in with various companions who relate their own adventures (or someone else’s) to him.

This section of the volume also includes a lengthy examination of gambling, as the boy makes friends with, and is tutored by, a professional gamester, with minute accounts of the various ways of cheating (as well as an explanation of the rules of the main dice-gains of the time, such as “Hazzard”, which I actually found useful!). Unexpectedly, however, this part of the story ends with an exhortation:

Consider how few there are if any who have gotten an Estate by play, but how many thousand antient and worthy families have been ruined and destroyed thereby. It is confest there is no constant gamester but at one time or other hath a considerable run of winning; but such is the infatuation of play, that I could never hear of any that could give over when they were well. I have known those have gotten many hundreds of pounds, and have rested a while with an intention never to play more; but by over perswasion, having broke bulk, as they term it, were in again for all and lost it…

—a sad instance of Richard Head proving conspicuously incapable of taking his own advice, since he spent much of his life wrestling with the consequences of a gambling addiction.

Anyway, having thus ruined himself on land, the boy slinks back to his old master with his tail between his legs, and resumes his shipboard career—eventually emerging as “the Captain”.

The Captain’s tale done, Jinny picks up the narrative duties, contributing a lengthy tale of an apprentice brewer who schemes his way to a wife, a business and an estate, only to get his comeuppance on the form of a greedy and demanding second wife; a tale periodically enlivened by its author forgetting who’s supposed to be telling it, and calling her “Mary”—who, as those of you with a better memory than Richard Head might recall, was poisoned by Latroon’s Indian wife in Volume 3.

This story then takes an abupt turn into yet another rogue’s biography, as it focuses upon the son of the brewer and his second wife, whose habits include faking his own suicide whenever his parents try to check his headlong, downward career or punish him for any of his numerous misdeeds:

…for it was all the News of the place, that Mr R.’s son was drowned, to the great grief of his Father and Mother: he was so well pleased to hear that they were all so ill pleased; and thought how he should be revenged upon them that were resolved to be revenged on him; the consideration of his Mothers sorrow was great joy to him, and he hoped to reap this benefit that he might for the future rule, and reign in his Roguery; hoping that his Father and Mother would leave him to his own dispose; lest he should hereafter do that in earnest, that they would now find in jest: but thinking that they had not as yet suffered enough for what they made him suffer, a two days imprisonment, whereas he had not been wanting above one day…

This “young extravagant” then takes over the rest of the volume, giving Latroon himself a run for his money in the obnoxious stakes as spends his time drinking, whoring and cheating, and committing a range of “freacks” and “frollicks”, from the viciously cruel (such as his unprovoked assault of an elderly woman selling puddings in the street) to as close as his author can come to the poetically just:

He intended to have some frollick with this Barber; and the Barber gave him a very good accasion and opportunity: for the Barber having occasion to make water, and being somewhat lazy, pissed about the shop. Our Gallant asked his reason; and told him, it was a nasty trick. To which the Barber pleaded, for excuse, that it was no great matter, for he was to leave the shop in a weeks time, and to remove to another, and therefore it would not annoy him much… No sooner did [the Barber] mount up the stairs but down went our Gallants breeches, and there in the middle of the Shop he laid the biggest load he could exonerate himself of… The Barber although he had sweet powder in his hand, yet he could not only smell, but see that there was somewhat in the Shop that was not so sweet to the scent, nor pleasant to the sight; wherefore he also asked his Customer his reason for so doing? He replied, he had the very same reason for disburthening himself, as he had: for said he, I am to leave the shop presently, and it will not annoy me much…

And yet there are those who don’t believe that Richard Head wrote this.

The “extravagant” does finally get caught out, being arrested for debt; and since his mother has (belatedly) come to her senses enough not to pay it for him, he spends some time in prison, where he makes the acquaintance of a professional house-breaker and, after negotiating his release, embarks in earnest upon a criminal career—which is abruptly terminated, not by the forces of law and order, but by the 17th century equivalent of the animator suffering a fatal heart attack – AARGH!:

This adventure was like to have proved Tragical to the hard-hearted Bayliff, who with much difficulty disengaged himself. But our two Extravagants were extreamly well-pleased with the Washer-womans Revenge, as we hope the Reader will be; and now we shall put an end to this Fourth Part: And, if (as we hope) you are pleased with what is already written. we shall in short time give you greater pleasure and satisfaction in the Continuation of our Extravagants adventures, which shall be fully furnished in a Fifth and Last Part.

Yes. Well.

In spite of the “hopes” of its author, this was the last official volume of The English Rogue, if not quite the bitter end of it. After this there was, as we have seen, a falling out and a parting of the ways between Francis Kirkman and Richard Head; the former returning to his career of publishing, bookselling and copyright infringement, with occasional returns to authorship, the latter becoming trapped in a spiral of gambling and debt, dividing his time between prison and the sanctuaries, and trying spasmodically to write himself out of his financial woes. Francis Kirkman died in 1680, while Richard Head – although fittingly for such a life, the details are murky – is generally believed to have died in 1686 when the ship on which he was travelling to the Isle of Wight foundered.

What happened to the rights to the four volumes of The English Rogue after the death of Francis Kirkman, and who held them, remains obscure. However, in 1688 there was a sudden revival of the work, in an edition which carries the following rather evocative details of its publication:

London, Printed for J. Back at the Black Boy on London-Bridge, near the Draw-Bridge, 1688.

Reminding us that at the time, numerous businesses and houses were situated upon the bridge itself.

This new version of what (now that I’ve washed my hands of it) I can think of indulgently as “my old friend” carries the title: The English Rogue; or, Witty Extravagant: Described In The Life Of Meriton Latroon, before launching into a full-page summary of Latroon’s career that deserves consideration in its own right:

Containing, The Description of his Birth and Parentage. His early Waggeries and more mature Villainies. The Hardships and Punishments he endured: the many Pollicies and Strategems he invented to support himself: the the various Discoveries of Cheats and Rogueries made by him. His many Escapes from Danger; and the frequent Troubles and Pressures of Mind he lay under for his wicked Exploits. His many witty Expressions and Observations of Things and Matters. His Amorous Discourses and Entertainment. And in fine, his various Fortunes and Misfortunes through the whole Course of his Life. With the eminent Cheats and Artifices of either Sex layed open, as a Warning to all Persons to shun the Mischiefs that attends an evil Course of Life, &c.

I do like that “&c.”.

This title-page then further promises the reader, The Four PARTS. To which is added a Fifth PART, compleating the whole History of his Life.

So this should be a fairly substantial work, right? After all, each individual volume of The English Rogue was equivalent in length to 150 – 200 of today’s pages, the first volume being somewhat longer than its sequels; so let’s call it 700 pages in total. What, then, are we to make of this publication? – which in its original format consists of 232 pages – or in modern terms, about 150 pages?

As you can imagine, after fighting through that fourth volume, the last thing I wanted was more of The English Rogue; so it was with great relief and amusement that I discovered that I didn’t really have any more of it on my hands, but was instead flicking through an extreme abridgement of all four volumes – which are not just savagely cut down, but out of order – to which its…well, you can hardly say author…its compiler’s main contribution is an occasional re-write, apparently to clean up some of the language, or soften Latroon’s misconduct.

For example, this notorious passage:

That he, going about to correct me for this unlucky and mischievous fact, was by me shown a very shitten trick, which put him into a stinking condition, for having made myself laxative on purpose I squirted into his face upon the first lash given. That being upon boys’ backs, ready to be whipped, I had often bit holes in their ears. That another time sirreverencing in a paper, and running to the window with it, which looked out into the yard, my aged mistress looking up to see who opened the casement, I had like to have thrown it into her mouth; however for a time deprived her of what little sight she had left. That another time I had watched some lusty young girls, that used in summer nights about twelve o’clock to wash themselves in a small brook near adjacent, and that I had concealed myself behind a bush, and when they were stripped, took away their clothes, making them dance home after me stark naked to the view of their sweethearts whom I had planted in a place appointed for that purpose, having given them before notice of my design.

—appears in this version in this considerably shortened, and considerably bowdlerised, form:

…and then proceeded to tell her of a great many Tricks and Rogueries that I had played, as biting holes in the Boys Ears when upon their backs, squirting indecently in his Face, playing Tricks with the Maids Ware, and almost blinding my Mistress with a Sir— which I dropped upon her Face out of the Casement as she was Gauping upwards…

The bulk of this short publication is taken from Richard Head’s original work, which is the source for 141 out of its 232 pages. From that point, we hop from spot to spot, volume to volume: Gregory’s story, which makes up most of the second volume, is slashed down to just over twenty pages; this is followed by even briefer accounts of the lives of Mary and Dorothy, the “crone’s story” being entirely omitted from the latter (although not Dorothy’s own baby-selling), and then by an abrupt lurch to the poisoning of the former by Latroon’s wife; after which the remaining party sets out from India and lands in Surat without delay, where Jane (Jinny) is found.

Here the narrative becomes strangely confused, as we find Latroon recounting as his own some of the adventures of the soldier of fortune, as told by Dorothy in the third volume; an account which suddenly mutates into some of the captain’s adventures as a young man from the fourth volume, mutates again into some of the inn-cheats practiced by Dorothy’s hosts in the third volume, then becomes the haunted villa episode at the beginning of the fourth, followed by a description of various criminal activities told at third hand in the third volume, after which the fourth volume reappears with the telling of an anecdote about a homicidally jealous husband and the streetsmart apothecary who only pretends to sell him poison.

I think.

All of which takes us to page 230 of 232. By now, some people might be wondering what happened to that “Fifth PART” we were promised (or threatened with)? Well, it makes its appearance here, all one page and a half of it, in the form of a sudden fatal illness for Latroon, which gives him just enough time to repent (again) and lecture us all on how we shouldn’t do what he did:

And now expecting, in a short time, my Dissolution, it is my earnest request, That all Persons, of whatsoever Age or Sex, should be warned by my many Misfortunes, and what may yet remain abundantly worse behind if infinite Mercy interceed not with offended Justice, which I have infinitely provoked, to leave me miserable in the never-ending flight of an immeasurable Eternity.

I hope Henry Bradshawe felt he got his shilling’s worth:

.

See also:

The English Rogue (Part 1)
The English Rogue (Part 2)
The English Rogue (Part 3)

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06/01/2012

Santo Sebastiano; or, The Young Protector (Part 3)

She was conscious she had blushed, and that consciousness but heightened her confusion. “Why could she be such a fool to blush at hearing of St. Orville’s long talked of marriage alluded to?” was her mental question. She was not, could not, be in love with Lord St. Orville.—Indeed, was it a year or two after her late attachment, it might be so, and very probably; but now, it was an utter impossibility…

Recovering from the shock of her discovery, Julia at length decides that she has been unjust to Lady Storamond, whose principles she is well-acquainted with, and whose love for her husband is well-known; that St. Orville either found the locket or obtained it by some subterfuge; and that his open unhappiness is due to his guilt over loving his friend’s wife. Mingled gratitude and sympathy dominate Julia’s attitude towards St. Orville, both of which escalate when he is responsible once again for saving her life at significant risk to her own.

On her journey to Delamore Castle, Julia’s coach was followed by a man on horseback doing his best to disguise his appearance. Later, he called upon her, confirming her dismayed suspicion that her dogged pursuer had caught up with her again. The young man is Louis Laroche, whose passion for Julia will later be revealed as literal madness. Despite this, Mrs St. Clair once tried to arrange a marriage between him and Julia, only for Laroche’s outraged father to step in – later punishing Mrs St. Clair by having her twice arrested for debt. It was the obsessed Laroche who tried to abduct Julia by boat, and who finally decides that if he can’t have her, nobody can…

The Lady Selina Southerland is engaged to be married to Sir Charles Stratton, the older half-brother of Fitzroy, who was only six weeks old when his mother eloped. The outraged Sir William Stratton, convinced that the baby was none of his (although Lady Stratton leaving him behind would suggest otherwise), disinherited the child to the utmost of his ability, leaving him a penniless baronet; and we can judge how desperate he is for money by his willingness to marry Selina.

The wedding takes place; and as the party prepares to leave the church there is a sudden uproar. Laroche, who has taken it into his head that the wedding in the Southerland family is that of Julia and Fitzroy, springs towards her, pistol in hand. St. Orville, who is escorting her, instantly seizes and grapples with him; and saves Julia’s life at the cost of a bullet in the side, although the wound is not serious. Laroche flees the scene, and later takes his own life.

The triple shock – the attempt on her life, St. Orville’s injury, and Laroche’s suicide – is too much for Julia, who collapses into an illness during which her friends despair of her life, but from which she slowly recovers…only to then be almost as dangerously assailed in an emotional sense.

Since his departure from Delamore Castle, Fitzroy – now Marquis of Penmorva, following the death of his great-uncle – has been assiduous in his correspondence with Julia, with tender epistles arriving on a regular basis and assuring her of his enduring love; against which we have the revelation of how Fitzroy passed his time prior to his departure, when Julia voluntarily retired from the family circle to nurse Lady Delamore through a dangerous cold – namely, that his “flirtation” with Mrs Wellford escalated to a point where (having just freed himself from Lady Enderfield) he stands in danger of being named as the co-respondent in a divorce suit. Mrs Wellford’s mortified relatives, the Beaumonts, do succeed in averting this threat and hushing the whole thing up, but it reaches Julia anyway, via the usual channel, Lady Theodosia:

    “Fitzroy must have known all this yesterday; and this I naturally imagine to be the cause of his gloom and evident inquietude. He must tremble at this affair being known to you, whose spotless purity he cannot but be convinced will recoil from such misconduct; nor can he feel very comfortable in the idea of having this disgraceful divorce brought before the public, at the moment of his breaking off an honourable engagement with one woman, and entering into one with another.”
    “That makes, not much of flattery for me, certainly,” said Julia; “and deeply forms, wound for my affection:—but that is not the wound, which rankles direfully, and pains my heart, for deep-felt agony.— Oh! no, no! I had the thought, I had the fear, Fitzroy was the libertine; but did not, did not make imagination, that he would crime commit—the crime, so much for turpitude, that it is forbidden of commision, so expressly, by our much sacred religion’s laws.”

But even this pales beside the revelation of how Fitzroy occupied his time while Julia was on what her grieving friends believed would be her deathbed.

A recovered Julia makes a charitable call upon the elderly Dame Banks, finding her alone and stricken – and learns to her overwhelming horror that the pretty young Fanny Banks has fled from her grandmother’s house and protection. Some time after her disappearance, the girl sends home a letter of explanation :

“…I have not exhibited at the operar yet, it not being open; but I have been to a masquerade, and there my dear lord markis attended me. I was greatly delighted, we had such a gay party: and all would have been well, only they made me drink too much shampain… I never lived till now. I am as happy as a queen: and my dear markis is such an adoring lover, he spends all the time he can spare from parliament business with me; and quite sickens at the thoughts of leaving me, to go (which he must soon do) to Delamore castle, to save appearances…”

It transpires that Fitzroy has been pursuing the girl, off and on, for two years, first of all simply for the pleasure of stealing her affections from his half-brother, who first “discovered” her (although that relationship went no further than some mild flirtation). After making the girl’s acquaintance by warning her grandmother about his libertine relative and getting Sir Charles barred from the house, Fitzroy became a regular caller – and remained so under the pretence of instructing Fanny in the Bible…using these lessons, it is implied, to put his own interpretation upon the scriptures, and succeeding, by these means, in thoroughly undermining both the girl’s religious faith and her principles.

Mrs Banks gives to the shattered Julia a bundle of letters written by Fitzroy to Fanny; a glance at one is enough to confirm the worst. Stunned beyond belief, Julia is staggering back to Delamore when she slips and falls, injurying her ankle – and, unable to move, is an involuntary auditor of a violent quarrel between St. Orville and Fitzroy, newly returned, during which the latter hammers the final nail into his own coffin:

   “O Heaven! and could it be, while those whom Julia did not love were torn with agonising affliction…and found consolation only in the hope that in a better world they might again— You, Horatio, found alleviation in the gratification of your vanity!”
    “I grant it was an inexcusable profanation of my ardent affection for Julia, but it was natural to my character: I hate grief, and part with it whenever in my power. Fanny was a substantial consolation; that one of meeting in a better world, a shadow. My principles have long been undisguised to you… I live only for this world, where chance threw me; and had I lost my Julia, I had been a distracted mourner, without the credulous believer’s consolation…”

With great pain, but without hesitation, Julia steels herself to the task of cutting Fitzroy from her heart; and with the support of her faith, is soon serene if not happy. Lady Delamore having summoned Dr Sydenham to her, Julia delegates to him the task of dismissing Fitzroy, which he does simply by giving back to him his own letters to Fanny. Recognising that the jig is up, Fitzroy flees – where else? – to the Continent.

In the wake of Fitzroy’s departure, it may be seen that St. Orville is in considerably better spirits, which Julia happily puts down to him winning the battle with himself and subduing his guilty passion for Lady Storamond; although an alternative explanation occurs to all the other inhabitants of the castle.

Julia is not so caught up in her own problems as to lose her desire to bring about the reconciliation of Lord and Lady Delamore. Circumstances, however, are against her. It was intended that the Delamores should pay a lengthy visit to the newlyweds, Sir Charles and Lady Selina Stratton; but first Julia’s slow recovery from her illness, then her final break from Fitzroy, made Lady Delamore reluctant to leave her; so that Lord Delamore went alone. As she recovers her equanimity, Julia urges Lady Delamore to leave her and go to her husband, fearing the damage Selina having unhindered access to Lord Delamore for so long may have done. Lady Delamore takes her advice and leaves for Stratton Abbey. Julia declines accompanying her, instead paying a visit to a friend, Mrs Fermor, who earlier took charge of a young protégée of Lady Delamore’s, a girl called – or going by the name of – Mary Mildmay.

Santo Sebastiano is a tale filled with strange resemblances – including, of course, that of Lady Storamond to the Southerland family, to whom (as it turns out) she is not in fact related. Julia is surprised but accepting of this, as she herself bears a closer resemblance to her father’s first wife, the Lady Adelaide Montrose, than to her own mother; so close, indeed, that while visiting the Vatican one day with her grandmother, when she encountered a man she discovered to be Lord Glenbrook, Lady Adelaide’s brother-in-law, the shock of it made him faint—which he later explained as being due to Julia’s resemblance to a daughter of his, who died young. But having seen Julia once doesn’t preserve him from the shock inherent in seeing her a second time, under the roof of a relative of Mrs Fermor; upon which he collapses again, this time recovering delerious, and muttering about murders and ghosts…

The strange resemblance most prominently featured in the novel, however, is that borne by a girl called Mary Dungate, who belongs to that section of society which Lord Delamore politely calls “the scum of the earth”, and who as a child arrested the attention of Lady Delamore by being the spitting image of her husband.

It is, as it happens, a resemblance that Lord Delamore himself has no explanation for: he flatly denies the obvious one—and nobody believes him. Not his half-sister, Lady Frances Harcourt (another of the novel’s amusing supporting characters, infamous for her blunt tongue), who waves away his protestations of innocence with a snort of contempt—

    “That is, a most extraordinary, a most wonderful resemblance!” returned Lord Delamore.
    “Extraordinary and wonderful! Do not talk nonsense, Theodosius!”

—and certainly not his wife, who not only makes the child the object of her care (giving her the less “plebeian” surname of Mildmay), but reveals her belief in the girl’s paternity to Mary herself, and also to her children, meaning on one hand to encourage them to be kind to their half-sibling, while discouraging any feeling warmer than fraternal between Mary and St. Orville.

One of Julia’s charitable enterprises is the adoption of a small boy, Edward, who after the death of his mother is treated with great cruelty by his father and his father’s mistress. The boy’s sailor-uncle eventually comes looking for him, and reveals that he has recently married one Moll Dungate, Mary’s supposed mother, who he has discovered not only once received a healthy sum in exchange for agreeing to raise a certain baby as her own, but to this day, in exchange for her continued silence, receives a regular annuity paid by—the Lady Selina Southerland.

That’s right, my friends! – say it with me! – BABY SUBSTITUTION!!

And in fact, I think we’ve reached the point where I can legitimately start using “baby substitution” as one of my regular tags.

The malicious Mrs Monk is at the bottom of this, taking advantage of Lady Delamore’s enforced absence from her infant daughter during her father’s final illness to steal the child away, and leave her servant’s illegitimate baby as a substitute (a bout of scarlet fever accounting for the baby’s altered appearance)—mostly as an act of sheer bastardry, the birth of their first child having brought the new parents close together, but also – later taking the spurious Selina into her confidence – in order to have a weapon to use against the family, as needed; “Selina”‘s terror of losing her luxurious life making her willing to stoop to anything to maintain her position. (With this revelation, one particularly violent quarrel between Theodosia and Selina, during which the latter became hysterical upon being called “a changeling”, takes on a new significance.)

Of course, the real victim in all this is Sir Charles Stratton: as if being married to the Lady Selina Southerland isn’t bad enough in itself, now she turns out to be—what was that expression again? oh, yeah—the scum of the earth. This being a sentimental novel, possibly we’re supposed to say, “Serves you right for marrying money”—although it can’t be said that the text evinces anything but sympathy for his situation.

But it is quite some time before this revelation occurs. In the meantime, Julia’s fears prove only too well-founded: upon joining her husband, Lady Delamore discovers that Selina has indeed been busy poisoning his mind not just against her, but also Julia, who he now believes was involved in a secret relationship with Fitzroy from the time of their first meeting. In this attack, Selina is assisted by a young widow, Lady Hollowell, who Selina believes to be merely her tool, but who has a plan to take Mrs Monk’s place in Lord Delamore’s affections—and bank account.

When they return home, the Delamores receive a large number of houseguests, including one Sir Robert Bolton, who Lord Delamore is lured into believing is the object of Lady Delamore’s affections. (She is interested in him, but it stems from her concern for her sister, Lady Ennerdale, who is indulging in an indiscreet flirtation with the baronet.) Furthermore, Lord Delamore’s new dislike of Julia has led him, much to his son’s distress and exasperation, to press for the marriage of St. Orville with Lady Fontsevern, who is an heiress and a baroness in her own right, as well as the heir to the titles and honours of Montalvan, which were once held by the Southerland family but lost during the Wars of the Roses.

In Lady Fontsevern we have this novel’s other comic supporting character; although here the humour is woven into the text, rather than being merely a digression. Beautiful and rich, the young baroness is accustomed to hearing herself praised for her most trivial gestures and opinions, and works diligently to create situations in which the incense may be offered:

    “I am sure,” said her ladyship, with pretty meekness, “if his lordship can be happier near any one but me, I wish him to go; for I would not be the means of making anyone uncomfortable, or unhappy. I am sure every one, in all the world, would be happy, if I could make them so.”
    “Dear, amiable creature!” exclaimed her father.
    “What excellence of heart!” said Lord Delamore.
   “What fascinating philanthropy!”—“What a heavenly disposition!”—and “What an angel!”—were the ejaculations of Mr Primrose, Sir Charles, and Sir Lucius; but not one eulogium fell from the lips of Lord St. Orville.

It is Lady Fontsevern’s practice to adopt an attitude of fluttery childishness, posing as too young and innocent to understand the customs of the world and thus free to say and do whatever she likes—including declaring her passion for St. Orville, and openly pursuing him. And in fact, in her determined, almost professional, infantilism, Lady Fontsevern often seems like a forerunner to Dickens’ Harold Skimpole.

Lady Fontsevern’s arrival at Delamore brings her into conflict with Julia, whose genuine simplicity and openness throws her artifice into unflattering relief, and whose fascination for St. Orville is only too obvious. Provoked, the young baroness resorts to her other favourite tactic, used whenever she is thwarted in the slightest degree, of bursting into loud, crowd-drawing sobs:

    Here Julia was interrupted, by the violent sobs of Lady Fontsevern. Lords Delamore and Westbourn were now all-tender inquirers, Lady Delamore (drawn from her card-table by the sound), Julia and Lord St. Orville, all polite and humane ones.
    “Oh!” she sobbed out, “I am not so happy as Miss De Clifford! I possess not the power of interesting dear, dear Lord Delamore; yet he thinks (I know, he does) that I strive to do it. I am sure, I never affect any thing I do not feel. I am sure, my great affection for him is no counterfeit; and I am quite heart-broken to think that I could not interest him even sufficiently to play out one little game of chess with me. I am sure, it is not my fault. I did my best to interest him; but—I—I am a poor child of nature, very, very young, and from the retirement I have lived in, quite inexperienced in the trick of the world; and great allowances ought to be made for me. I am sure, I wish I was a foreigner too; for all foreigners have the gift to interest, and fascinate, all mankind.”

This section of the novel also reintroduces the Lady Isabella Harville, the daughter of Lady Ennerdale, who (due to her vain mother’s dislike of having a grown-up child) has been kept back in the schoolroom, and is rather young for her years—meaning that, being able to see through Lady Fontsevern, she is far too unsophisticated to pretend that she can’t:

    “Me! put in for compliments!” exclaimed Lady Fontsevern, in a soft tone of amazement: “me! who never wish to hear compliments! nay, I absolutely hate them.”
    Lady Isabella burst into a laugh of so much naïveté, that Lord St. Orville found it so infectious, he was compelled almost to smother poor Edward with kisses, to conceal his strong propensity to excessive risibility.

Back under the direct influence of Julia’s personality, Lord Delamore finds it hard to go on believing that she has been guilty of duplicitous and immoral conduct; although he is unable to entirely shake off the fear that she is deceiving him, that she is in league with Lady Delamore and St. Orville against him. A near-tragedy then gives Julia a way back into Lord Delamore’s heart, as a skating party ends in disaster. Lord Delamore falls through the ice, putting not only his but also St. Orville’s life in deadly danger, as he struggles to keep his father above water. It is Julia, of all those gathered, who keeps her head, first bending a branch towards St. Orville to give him temporary support, then bringing a rope to offer him a more secure anchorage, before running off to get assistance.

Which brings us to THE worst moment in the book, as Catherine Cuthbertson take a rare tumble out of the realm of the amusingly entertaining, into that of the simply ludicrous.

Note to writers of sentimental novels—dog rescues DO NOT WORK…no matter how “sagacious” the animal in question:

    “Neptune!” she cried again, and the dog, seeming fascinated by her voice, bounded with her, as she rapidly mounted the style into the park, when, through a vista, was the lake plainly seen, and the emperilled father and son.
    In this moment, the faculties of Lord Delamore (now completely up to his chin in water) were quite subdued, by fatigue and the agonies of his mind;—thus in the fangs of death himself, and causing the destruction of his fondly-adored son, and ever-lasting misery to his idolised Emily;—he fainted, and, as his senses fled, his hat, before disturbed from its station, fell into the water. This Neptune saw, and rushed forward to dive for; but it went under the ice; and mistaking Lord Delamore’s head for what had fallen, he seised him by the hair. Lord St. Orville now, in full faith of his father’s preservation, gave him up, in joy and gratitude, to the succouring animal; and, fearing that his additional weight might prove too much for the powers of this providential friend, let his father go; when Neptune skilfully navigated, through the now much-widened chasm, his lifeless burthen safely to the bank: and whilst in drawing Lord Delamore gently out of the water after him, this astonishing sagacious animal was employed, the almost-breathless fishermen arrived…

Question: what would they have done if Lord Delamore’s hat HADN’T fallen off?

I’m quite able to believe, of course, that Catherine Cuthbertson might have read Munster Abbey; but the thought that she might have been influenced by it…

Believe it or not, that isn’t even what made me laugh hardest about this book, which was instead this random paragraph, which occurs when Julia realises that Selina has drawn her into a trap. I don’t quite know why—perhaps it’s the use of the exaggerated word “palsied”; or the fact that Julia is so upset, it takes lemonade rather than water to help; or that crying and fainting occurs so frequently in this household, Lord St. Orville has apparently taken to walking around with a glass of something in his hand, just in case:

Horror and amazement at such monstrous duplicity, such barbarous malice, changed the tint of Julia’s cheeks to the paleness of death. Her solemn promise to Lady Selina, never to betray the occurrences of that particular morning to any of her family, she considered too sacred to violate. A visible tremor soon pervaded her whole frame; she was sick at heart; and hastily snatched at a glass of lemonade now offered to her by Lord St. Orville, to save herself from fainting, and, with a palsied hand, she raised it to her lips.

Anyway—

Lady Frances Harcourt arrives at the castle to visit the family, and immediately sets about putting everyone in their place (particularly Lady Fontsevern). Lady Frances has never made a secret of her disapproval of her brother, and conversely her love and sympathy for her sister-in-law; but seeing that a reconciliation is occurring between the Delamores, there is another between her and her brother.

We learn that in the wake of her disastrous elopement (boasting a body count of three), Lady Theodosia has been under the care of Lady Frances, and that although she is not yet up to facing her parents, she has been asking for Julia, who is now given permission to go to her—under, after some manoeuvring, the escort of St. Orville. And it is at the evocatively named Black Tower Abbey that Julia and her long-silent lover come to an understanding.

Self-control is not, it must be said, one of the more common attributes of the sentimental hero; so we can only admire the unusual wisdom of St. Orville’s proceedings—and his understanding of Julia. Recognising that she must work through her relationship with Fitzroy, that she is, in a sense, in mourning, not even Fitzroy’s departure can provoke St. Orville into a premature declaration, which he knows would only offend her and frighten her away. Instead, he devotes himself to her service, and lets his actions speak for themselves; a process greatly assisted when, though an adding up of random details, the penny finally drops for Julia:

But that was a question that Julia could by no means answer, so overwhelmed was she with amazement and agitation. At this moment, Edward was summoned to his breakfast; and Julia, now alone, reviewed the whole of Edward’s intelligence.—“Lord St. Orville love her, so long! How could it be? What could it mean?” For a moment she paused; when suddenly articulating her thoughts, with an almost audible shriek of surprise and joy from her heart— “That he, Lord St. Orville,” she cried, “is my young protector! the stranger! the stranger!”

Here the narrative devotes itself to filling in the gaps in this section of the back story – including the detail that, called back to the Mediterranean shortly after discovering Julia at the Goodwins’, St. Orville asked Fitzroy to keep a brotherly eye on her for him – and an overwhelmed Julia  learns that St. Orville has known her, and loved her, and watched over her, even longer than she could have imagined…

But while this would seem to wrap up this novel, in fact we have a whole other plot (and some 250 pages) to go, which abruptly makes its presence felt when Julia is one morning abducted by a band of masked men.

The person responsible is Lord Westbourn, the father of Lady Fontsevern, who has made up his mind that Julia is to be his wife—partly from desire for her, mostly because he has penetrated the secret that has enveloped her entire life: that she is, in fact, the daughter of Lady Adelaide De Clifford, and consequently not only the granddaughter of the Duke of Avondale but (through her maternal grandmother) the real heiress of Montalvan—and filthy rich, to boot.

The secret history of Santo Sebastiano is hardly less complicated than that revealed in Romance Of The Pyrenees, although in this case Catherine Cuthbertson gives herself only about a fifth of the space to get through it all, meaning that at this point the novel explodes into a convoluted tale of greed, hatred, murder, elopement, abduction, revenge, unrequited love, secret identities, oaths of silence, broken hearts, press-ganging, shipwreck, and early death. However, for the purposes of this summary, there are only two things that we really need to know.

The first is that the lead villain here is Lord Glenbrook, whose insane avarice led him to murder his brother-in-law in order to secure a greater inheritance to his wife (and then talked about it in his sleep – so much for that marriage); and, having gotten away with that, that he then took advantage of his father-in-law’s anger at his daughter Adelaide for her runaway marriage to try and dispose of her, too.

The second thing is that it was Lady Adelaide, knowing herself dying, who arranged the marriage between Frederick De Clifford and Ismena St. Clair (in whose character she was entirely mistaken), in order to conceal her daughter’s true identity and protect her from her murderous uncle. Granting his wife’s last request, De Clifford was nevertheless unable to conceal his undying love for Adelaide and his indifference towards, and then resentment of, Ismena, which was the basis of Mrs St. Clair’s hatred and subsequent tormenting of her supposed granddaughter.

Phew!

A variety of circumstances conspire to rescue Julia from Lord Westbourn, reunite her with her grandfather, and bring this history to light; and a great gathering of characters takes place at Valincourt Abbey, which the Duke of Avondale cedes to his newly enobled granddaughter, who shortly afterwards takes on a second title:

 “Indeed,” said his grace, putting Julia’s hand into Lord St. Orville’s, “the heiress of Montalvan must be your wife, or I shall not more know happiness myself. So pray take her, my good boy, from the hand of her grandfather; and will you not join me, my Lords Delamore and Ashgrove, in invoking Heaven to shower down every blessing upon these our children, Alfred Southerland, commonly called Lord St. Orville, and Julia Adelaide De Clifford, Countess of Montalvan!”

Our last glimpse of Julia and St. Orville finds them happily esconced at Valincourt and the parents of a baby boy. Meanwhile, Lord and Lady Delamore come together at last; the real Lady Selina Southerland is re-established (and marries Julia’s cousin, the Earl of Castlehaven, also called Frederick De Clifford); Lady Theodosia recovers from her unhappy first love and marries with her parents’ approbation; and Mrs Monk and Mary Dungate get what’s coming to them.

Which I guess only leaves the mystery of St. Orville’s strange reaction to every mention of Lady Storamond.

And you know?—I think I’m going to leave you guys to figure that one out for yourselves. I’ll just say this about it: that there was never any possibility of a guilty relationship between the two of them, since their principles were absolutely identical…

.

See also:

Rosabella; or, A Mother’s Marriage
Romance Of The Pyrenees
Santo Sebastiano; or, The Young Protector (Part 1)

Santo Sebastiano; or, The Young Protector (Part 2)

03/01/2012

Santo Sebastiano; or, The Young Protector (Part 2)

“My brother has brought home no heart to lose:—this was legibly told, in every line of his sadly altered countenance and dejected air, yesterday; but the evening disclosed the magnitude of his misery, by proclaiming the object of his unfortunate love. Oh, Julia! had you been looking at him while you were talking of Lady Storamond, had your heart been formed of adamant it must have melted in pity for him.—Oh! my brother! my brother! my amiable, inestimable, brother! doomed to the misery of inauspicious love; torn with remorse, as well as disappointment:—for well I know his upright principles will ever direfully upbraid him for loving the wife of his friend.—Oh! my brother! my brother! my amiable, now wretched, brother!”

Lord Ashgrove needn’t have worried. Although Julia was only four when her father died, before that time he managed to drum into her head the tenets not just of religion, not just of Christianity, but of Protestantism; or at any rate, he taught her that she should never, ever, ever listen to or believe a single word that a nun or a priest said to her, which is after all (as far as we can judge from this novel) one of the main Protestant beliefs. This was enough to guard Julia from contamination until, in her early teens, she was left for two years in a convent in Florence, where she met an Englishwoman, a Mrs Waldegrave, who not only completed her religious instruction but gave Julia the general education that Mrs St. Clair (intent only on training her granddaughter to be a public singer and musician, presumably with the long-term goal of selling her to the highest bidder) had previously denied her.

And in fact, it is one of this novel’s little ironies (quite possibly an unintentional one) that the two most significant friendships of Julia’s formative years were both conducted entirely within convent walls. There is a distinct tendency here to treat convents less like houses of religion than as if they were some sort of strange combination of hotel and prison: Mrs Waldegrave retires into one, in spite of being a Protestant; Julia is left in one whenever she becomes an incumbrance to her peripatetic grandmother; and the Lady Cecilia Hume is detained in one until the arrival of her angry guardian, after the frustration of her attempted elopement with the man who will eventually become her husband anyway, Lord Storamond.

And it is in the convent of Santo Sebastiano, in Naples, that the meeting of Julia De Clifford and Cecilia Hume takes place. Starved for love, and having never had a friend near her own age (her scruples having caused her to hold the nuns and novitiates at arm’s length), Julia conceives for Cecilia a passionate affection. Cecilia, who is some years older than Julia, acts as a mentor to her as well as a companion, guiding her studies both secular and spiritual; and while their time together is comparatively short, Julia’s devotion to her friend remains steadfast throughout their subsequent separation.

It is Fitzroy’s resemblance to Cecilia that first gives him a foothold in Julia’s heart, while her later relationships with  Lady Delamore, her son, the Viscount St. Orville, and the Lady Theodosia Southerland have a similar basis—while the fact that Cecilia also taught Julia to play a mean game of chess gives her, conversely, a way into the erratic affections of Lord Delamore, who hasn’t had a decent opponent since he banished his son from beneath his roof.

With the adoption of Julia into the Southerland family, Santo Sebastiano opens up. There is a sudden in-rush of supporting characters, and we begin in earnest the task of trying to keep a grip on the myriad histories and relationships presented. And it is also at this point that we are forced to consider, and not for the first time, the question of just how seriously Catherine Cuthbertson took her own novels.

Although, no doubt, there were novelists at this time capable of writing five volumes of overwrought sentimentalism with a straight face, I don’t think Cuthberston was one of them. My impression of her is, rather, that like Mary Meeke (although without the accompanying declaration of pure commercial intent), she wrote what she thought would sell. This suspicion is based partly on remarks such as the one that pops up near the end of this novel’s third volume—

Julia now, affectionately kissing Lady Delamore, departed, leaving her ladyship and Lord St. Orville overpowered by feelings we have not talents to describe, but may be easily conceived by our readers, when they have waded through our subsequent pages.

—but mostly on the recurrent appearance of minor characters who seem to exist for no reason but to amuse their creator. For one thing, Cuthberston has a propensity for comic relief Irishwomen – although to give her her due, these potentially tiresome additions are never just comic, but tend to be shrewd and loyal individuals as well, and of great help to the heroine. (Biddy O’Neil, the servant rescued by Fitzroy in Volume 1, fits this category.) More illustrative is Mrs Beaumont, a neighbour of the Delamores, who adds nothing to the plot of Santo Sebastiano but befuddlement.

Briefly, Mrs Beaumont married “up”, to the extent that her husband, in order to justify his choice, then gave her a classical education. The lady, puffed up in her achievements, took to spouting Latin and Greek at every opportunity, until her embarrassed husband finally forbade her to speak either, even again. Obedient but unwilling to give up her accomplishment, Mrs Beaumont then set about learning a rather unique version of English, which she speaks with great pride (and to the mortification of her family):

“I was too anxious to enquire after the state of your ladyship’s brindice,” said Mrs Beaumont, courtesying profoundly, “to practise much longanimity; but have festinately come, to gratify my exoptation, of hearing the redintegration of it enunciated by yourself, and not by compurgation. Your ladyship’s œcumenically desiderated return occurring sooner than was expected, has proved an inopinate oblection to me. You look admirably, madam: and your complexion quite diaphanic, considering the nocent air of that veneficial metropolis, to which your symposaick evagation led you. Son George! are you elinguid? Why so amort? Why this obmutescence? Require no further increpation from me. Do not for ever appear so acephalous; but, without despection, or nolition, do yourself the honour of entering into an enterparlance with her ladyship; and, for once in your life, be multiloquous.”

Now obviously, this too could get tiresome if overused; but Cuthbertson is sparing of Mrs Beaumont’s appearances; and my suspicion is that she brings her back whenever she starts to get bored herself with all the crying and the fainting; the material that – in her own words – must be “waded through”.

The usual response to Mrs Beaumont is a stunned silence. Amusingly, the only person who doesn’t hesitate to reply to her is Julia, who assumes that her incomprehension is due, not to Mrs Beaumont’s impenetrability, but her own shaky grasp of English. Brought up – gasp! – “on the Continent”, Julia’s native language is Italian; she reads and understands English well enough, but has only spoken it consistently since arriving in the country a year or so earlier with her grandmother, and does so in a broken idiom that her auditors find charming:

“Oh!” repled Julia with animation, “and even then, dear sir, friends do surely hope to meet again; and so shall we, Mrs Goodwin, often, and very much, often yet, I do trust me, even in this world, for thorns and flowers.—And dear Doctor Sydenham, pray excuse for me, when deeply feeling, the very much, strong, kindness, of your self, and Mr and Mrs Goodwin for me, I did lose all my stock, of firmness, when I did think, to part from you; and found, it would be much grief, for me.”

Disconcerting as this is at the outset, the reader, like Julia’s friends, eventually grows accustomed to it – which is just as well, since her English does not improve at any point in the story; and while it may be in character for her heroine to speak this way, there is nevertheless a sense that the task of constructing sentences in Julia’s idiosyncratic diction was one of the ways that Cuthbertson kept herself interested for the full 2000 pages.

(There’s a third character with whom Cuthbertson plays this sort of game; but since she is, far more than Mrs Beaumont, a “character”, we will deal with her later on.)

From the point of sheer writing, the best section of Santo Sebastiano is that which follows Julia’s entry into the Southerland household, during which, with the introduction of Lord Delamore, Catherine Cuthbertson gives us something extremely unusual in a novel of this period: a genuine attempt at psychological characterisation.

All his life, the Earl has suffered equally from a desperate need to be loved and an acute lack of self-esteem that prevents him from believing that people can and do love him. His wife and his son, who want nothing more in life than to live happily with him, find their overtures received with cold suspicion: if they do as Lord Delamore wishes, it’s only because of their sense of duty; if they do not, it’s because they don’t love him. The Earl’s constant misinterpretation of his family’s actions leads him into a self-defeating mire wherein he behaves as a domestic tyrant – which drives his family even further away – which makes him so wretchedly unhappy, he becomes even more tyrannical. His crowning misery is that he  knows he’s doing it—he simply cannot stop himself.

Along with his willingness to believe the worst, Lord Delamore’s self-affliction is compounded by his tendency to believe whoever he has last been listening to: a habit that leaves him open to manipulation by anyone with a selfish agenda—like Selina, who in the hope of making herself the chief beneficiery of her father’s mostly unentailed fortune, works tirelessly at denigrating her mother and siblings, and finding ugly explanations for what they do. Lady Delamore and St. Orville, though aware of this, will not stoop to Selina’s tactics, or to justifying themselves against her insinuations—which leaves them at a perpetual disadvantage.

When Julia arrives at Delamore Castle, she finds herself in the midst of a family in disarray: Lord and Lady Delamore are estranged; St. Orville has been banished by his father; Lady Theodosia is caught between her parents; while Lady Selina spends most of her time making a bad situation worse. Julia is a reluctant witness of a series of embarrassing family scenes, for which her hosts feel compelled to account and apologise for, with the result that the reader is offered three different versions of the family situation from three very different perspectives.

The facts, briefly, are these: in his youth, Lord Delamore became fascinated by a temptress called Mrs Monk, and set her up as his mistress. His family, worried that his infatuation might lead him to marriage, took pains to introduce him to the Lady Emily Stanmore, then not quite fifteen, and (due to her father’s notions of proper female education) having been raised in isolation to the point of having never spoken to anyone outside of her own family. Though marriage to Mrs Monk was, in fact, never a danger, due to Delamore’s pride, he was sufficiently entranced by the beautiful, innocent girl to marry her – she agreeing in obedience to her father’s commands. And although he had made no effort at all to court his bride, Lord Delamore was fool enough to ask her if she loved him? – and unreasonable enough to recoil from her, his self-esteen suffering an intolerable wound, when she simply told him the truth.

And at this vulnerable moment, the ever-hopeful Mrs Monk made her move, poisoning Delamore’s mind against his bride, and leading him to his supreme folly: establishing her in her own house, on the grounds of his estate, almost under his wife’s eyes; and with his mistress insinuating that Lady Delamore’s indifference can only mean another man, the Earl was finally brought to desert his young family and live openly with his mistress – where else? – on the Continent.

And even after their return, Lord Delamore’s madness led him to attempt to sever his children’s affections from their mother, and teach them to love Mrs Monk instead. With Selina he succeeded only too well; while his ongoing alienation from his son began with the young St. Orville’s denunciation of Mrs Monk (after one of his maternal relations had a word in his ear), from which stance even regular beatings could not move him. As the boy grew older, he became the object of his father’s resentment and jealousy when it was borne upon him that the family’s tenants adored him, while evincing indifference towards the Earl himself. Finally, the thwarting of his son becoming almost automatic, Lord Delamore refused him the naval career he desired, with the result that St. Orville took a civilian-volunteer position under his uncle, Lord Ashgrove; while the Viscount’s banishment was the result of an attempt to obtain for his mother a more generous settlement, which (since his will was necessarily mentioned) Lord Delamore inevitably interpreted as his son’s desire for his death.

Most of this, with much empassioned annotation, is conveyed to Julia by Lady Theodosia, who in many respects is the novel’s most credible character. While both Lady Delamore and St. Orville are examples of the kind of impossibly perfect characters that too often populate sentimental novels, inasmuch as they feel no anger or resentment towards their husband and father, but want only to be reconciled to him and are able to love him no matter what he does (which, as we’ve seen, covers some considerable ground), Theodosia is a bundle of believable flaws. Although she, too, wishes for a loving relationship with her father, at the the same time she burns with resentment against him for his treatment of her mother and brother, disobeys him unhesitatingly if she thinks his commands are unreasonable, and frequently talks back to him. Later, this antagonistic relationship will reach a crisis when Theodosia falls in love with a man who, although he has built a distinguished military career, has “no family” (i.e. they’re in trade). The outraged Lord Delamore responds by literally locking his daughter in her room, which provokes her into violating her own principles by agreeing to an elopement—and it all ends in worse than tears.

Intriguingly, although the text criticises Theodosia for washing her family’s dirty linen in public, her version of her father’s story is never contradicted. What we do get, however, is, first, Lady Delamore’s version of the same events, given briefly, in which she extenuates her husband’s faults as much as possible and begs Julia to look beyond his treatment of her to what is admirable in his character; and then Lord Delamore’s own version, in which he is, from first to last, a victim:

“In defiance of my mental sufferings, I enjoyed… No, I cannot say—enjoyed, for I had no joy through life: misery has been my portion!…But I had excellent, uninterrupted health; until about two years ago, when, in consequence of his dreadful risk to save the fishermen, I nearly lost my Alfred:—then, then my constitution suffered… I beheld the anguish of my Emily; but she considered me not the partner of her sorrows;—I was not to aim at soothing them, nor was considered their participator. I saw the grief, and despair, of every one; but I was left, to feel my own. I had no commiseration;—no one, to unburthen my anguish to:—I had no friend!… O God in heaven! what misery was mine! yet no bosom felt compassion for me. Like the aggressor Cain, I wandered up and down, detested, abhorred, by all… I fell ill—very ill…but Emily came not near me!—she, she whom I had seen, in distracted, tender, affection, watching by the pillow of her child, came not near her sick husband!—but that husband she abhorred! Well, well, it pleased Heaven, that I should annoy the world a little longer with my hated life…”

And so on.

One very interesting detail that emerges from all this is that during Lord Delamore’s absence in Italy with Mrs Monk, he had become obsessed with the idea that his wife loved another man. Lady Delamore was, at that time, although a mother of three, only nineteen years old. Her indignant brother, Lord Ashgrove, came to visit her during this lonely, unhappy time, bringing with him his best friend, Frederick De Clifford—and had to suffer the shock and mortification of having his sister beg him, if he valued her peace and honour, to take his fascinating friend away again.

In love with the Lady Adelaide Montrose, De Clifford remained oblivious to the young Lady Delamore’s feelings; and, left to herself, she succeeded in conquering her guilty passion – almost. A certain tenderness for him lingered in the heart of this otherwise dutiful wife, and contributed to the eagerness with which she welcomed Julia De Clifford to her home.

As a stranger and an outsider, Julia initially has more influence with Lord Delamore than anyone else, as even he cannot believe she has a selfish axe to grind; and for a time she allows heself to hope that she might succeed in bringing this unhappy family together. Ultimately, however, she succeeds a little too well; well enough that Lord Delamore begins to plan a marriage between her and St. Orville; only to collapse into another fit of monumental sulks when he finds out about Fitzroy.

Of course, given the many and varied transgressions of the two men, it is impossible not to reflect on the sympathy gap in the text between its handling of Lord Delamore and its attitude towards Fitzroy, who is (for reasons we shall get around to) finally banished from the novel, even as the neurotic Earl finds happiness in his family circle. One of the nicest and most unexpected things about Santo Sebastiano is – amongst all the misery and suffering – its subplot about the eventual reconciliation between Lord and Lady Delamore who, after being at cross-purposes for no less than twenty-five years, finally fall sincerely in love with one another: a denouement signalled by the moment in which, for the very first time in their marriage, Lady Delamore calls her husband by his first name…

    “My dear Theodosius!” said Lady Delamore, with affectionate anxiety, and tenderly taking his hand.
    The tenderness of Lady Delamore’s voice and action; the expression of interest conveyed in her short sentence; the calling him by his christian name, an appellation he remembered not to have ever fallen from her before;—inspired such sudden hope and joy, they almost overwhelmed him…

Unseen since his failure to keep his appointment with Julia at the Hargraves’, Fitzroy makes a spectacular re-entry when he saves Julia from abduction by a party that comes ashore by boat while Julia is walking on the beach near Delamore Castle. At this time he is still engaged to Lady Enderfield, and the meeting between himself and Julia is awkward, to say the least, neither one of them betraying that they are not meeting for the first time. (Selina, of course, knows they have, but has her reasons for keeping it quiet.) Not long after this, Fitzroy declares himself in a position to break with Lady Enderfield—honourably, he emphasises, although we are never told what she has done—and immediately resumes his pursuit of Julia, who allows herself to hope again; at least until Fitzroy’s unreasonable jealousy of one Lord Lindore, who proposes to her, provokes him into a flirtation with a relative of the Beaumonts, a Mrs Wellford. Julia’s distress betrays her to Theodosia, who wisely counsels her to confide in Lady Delamore, where she finds comfort but no joy:

    “And, now I have your confidence, still I am grieved; for though bright are the prospects which open for my sweet Julia, yet, yet I tremble, and fear that happiness is not very near for you. I will be candid with you; because it may prepare your mind for many troubles I see in store for you—
    “You have not, Julia (I grieve to tell you), given your affections to a mind congenial to your own. Yet Fitzroy has many, and great, virtues; and had he not been a spoiled—a darling child, educated in foreign and licentious courts, he would, I firmly believe, have been an ornament to human nature:—but I hope, I trust, nay, I am sanguine enough to believe, that Heaven has fated you to be the blessed instrument to weed from his heart every error ungenial to it, and lead it back to what it was formed to be. In doing this, my child, you will have many trials to encounter—many a grief to bear…”

Meanwhile, Theodosia goes her own way about trying to convince Julia that Fitzroy is not the man for her – although unfortunately, Julia is too innocent to catch her drift:

    “Pray,” said Julia, timidly, and wishing to change the subject— “I hope, you did pass, an exceedingly pleasant, day.”
    “As delightful a day as I could spend, away from her I love,” he replied, looking tenderly at the blushing Julia. “Lady Sophia is a woman of superior talents; and, in her own house, is always irresistibly fascinating.”
   “You have found her so,” said Lady Theodosia, drily.
    “All mankind do,” replied Fitzroy, chagrined.
    “I believe it,” said her ladyship.— “Pray, does her son, your god-son, retain his extraordinary resemblance to you?”

And even Lord Delamore, although at this time oblivious to the currents swirling about him, inadvertently adds his two cents:

“And so, this age-honouring Goody Wellford is a new flame of yours, Fitzroy!” said Lord Delamore. “Upon my word, yours is a most surprisingly-commodious heart!—its formation must be curious! Were we to analyse it, we should certainly find in its anatomy innumerable tubes, so constructed, as to hold and contain separate flames, detached and unmingled.”

Freed from Lady Enderfield, Fitzroy immediately begs Julia to marry him, but now a barrier exists in the form of Lord Ashgrove: Julia insists that his consent must be obtained before she can contract any engagement; while the concerned Lady Delamore, to the disgust of her fuming nephew, suggests a year’s trial of the couple’s mutual affection. Again and again Fitzroy assails Julia, begging her to consent to a runaway marriage, but he cannot shake her principles; and the matter still hangs in the balance when Fitzroy is summoned away from Delamore Castle by the news that his great-uncle, the Duke, is dying.

Meanwhile, summoned home by his impulsively relenting father after covering himself with glory during a naval engagement, St. Orville returns to Delamore Castle, much to the joy of his mother and younger sister and – once Julia has brokered a heartfelt reunion – his father. But their happiness is shortlived, as it is soon evident that St. Orville has something preying on his mind; something which his mother concludes is inauspicious love, its object none other than Julia’s friend, Lady Storamond:

“Well, well do I now remember the strong emotion St. Orville has ever evinced, when Lady Storamond has been accidentally mentioned before him: he always had some prompt excuse, founded on local circumstances, to account for his change of countenance, and I believed him; but now, alas! the real fatal cause is disclosed!— You, who have seen her, who knew her so well, dear Julia! tell me, if you think her affection to her husband can be shaken;—tell me, in pity, she is worthy your regard, and that, dreadful as the pang is, I shall have only to lament the destruction of my child’s peace, and not his soul-harrowing lapse from rectitude.”

Julia, convinced of Lady Storamond’s own rectitude, can give Lady Delamore the assurances for which she pleads; but it is not long before her own faith is shaken. She is out riding one morning and, a novice in the saddle, is unable to control her horse when it bolts, putting her in imminent danger of her life as it plunges towards a cliff-top. St. Orville, who with Theodosia has been one of Julia’s companions, instantly rides after her, and manages to grab hold of her horse’s bridle and turn it back to safe ground, the effort pulling him from his own saddle and severely wrenching his arm. Almost overcome by the shock of her narrow escape and her remorse for St. Orville’s injury, Julia can barely speak—while St. Orville himself is in little better condition:

    “Oh, Lord St. Orville! but for Heaven and you”… Her oppressed sensibility allowed her to add no more, for an abundant flow of tears suspended her power of articulation; but, even in this short sentence, her voice recalled his amazed senses, and restored his utterance.
    “You—you, are safe!” he exclaimed.
    “Safe, and unhurt,” she said.
    One of the sweetest smiles that ever animated the face of mortal, now diffused itself over the countenance of Lord St. Orville, as he fell at the feet of Julia, in a death-like swoon.

Of course he did.

Crying out for help, Julia kneels beside the insensible St. Orville and loosens his neckcloth and collar—only to recoil from him in horror when she sees that, suspended about his neck on a black ribbon, he wears a gold locket; a locket once given by Julia to her friend Cecilia, and which he could only have obtained from Lady Storamond herself…

[To be continued…]

03/01/2012

1688, and all that

I realise it’s probably only because I’m sensitised to it these days, but sometimes it seems as if those blasted Stuarts are everywhere.

Case in point: off-blog, I’ve been reading some of the works of R. Austin Freeman, creator of Dr John Thorndyke (the first medical detective), and I’m currently in the middle of The Great Portrait Mystery, a collection of short stories from 1918.

The title story involves strange doings at the National Gallery, with a certain painting stolen using a clever ruse, but then returned apparently unharmed. Close examination reveals that it isn’t quite the same: the portrait has been detached from the lower bar of its stretcher, and the bar itself removed and replaced. The story’s hero, on whose watch all this happened, feels compelled to get to the bottom of the mystery.

And the painting?

    The original was a portrait of James the Second by Sir Godfrey Kneller… “The picture has quite an interesting history,” said Fittleworth. “It was painted by Kneller in 1688, and the story goes that the king was actually sitting to the painter when a messenger arrived with the news that the Prince of Orange had landed in Torbay. The portrait was intended as a gift to Samuel Pepys to whom the king was greatly attached, and in spite of the agitation that the bad tidings naturally produced, he commanded Kneller to proceed and get the portrait finished so that his old friend and loyal servant should not be disappointed.”
    “And did Pepys get the picture?” Katharine asked.
    “Yes; and what’s more, it remains in the possession of the family to this day…”

It subsequently turns out that the story’s heroine, Miss Katharine Hyde, is a remote connection of Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon, and his daughter, Anne—James’ first wife—and that the key to the mystery is hidden in her inherited family house.

Kneller certainly painted James at least once (there seems some debate about whether the second portrait is actually Kneller’s own work), but this particular portrait is a figment of Austin Freeman’s imagination.