Gothic Bluebooks in the Princely Library of Corvey and Beyond
Peut-être devirons-nous analyser ici ces Romans nouveaux, dont le sortilège et la fantasmagorie composent à-peu-près tout le mérite, en placant à leur tête le Moine, supérieur, sous tous les rapports, aux bisarres élans de la brillante imagination de Radgliffe [sic]; [.] ce genre [.] devenait le fruit indispensable de secousses révolutionnaires, dont l’Europe entière se ressentait. Pour qui connaissait tous les malheurs dont les méchans peuvent accabler les hommes, le Roman devenait aussi difficile à faire, que monotone à lire; il n’y avait point d’individu qui n’eût plus éprouvé d’infortunes en quatre ou cinq ans que n’en pouvait peindre en un siècle, le plus fameux romancier de la littérature; il fallait donc appeller l’enfer à son secours, pour se composer des titres à l’intérêt, et trouver dans le pays de chimères, a qu’on savait couramment en ne fouillant que l’histoire de l’homme dans cet âge de fer.-Marquis de Sade (1800) 
As a commonplace in literary criticism, the political upheaval and ensuing war experienced by this (in)famous commentator’s native country at the turn of the eighteenth century are held responsible for a correlative revolutionary development in the evolution of fiction: the unprecedented rise of the Gothic novel. Whereas earlier critics have concentrated on direct representations of revolution in the genre,  more recent interpretations apply Freudian categories in order to reveal the mechanisms of Gothic: in other words, to substitute political with imaginary terrors.  Quoting from Mrs Bonhote’s Bungay Castle (1797)-‘A novel was never intended as a vehicle for politics’-and Miss Pilkington’s The Subterranean Cavern (1798)-‘My limited education, as a female, utterly disqualifies me for forming any decided opinion respecting the political problems which are constantly discussed in my presence’-Maurice Lévy, for instance, illustrates the literary counterpart of repression in the Gothic: the renunciation of political discussion in an escapist genre. 
According to the mechanisms of repression in the Gothic, however, such vocalised concerns as those cited above can be regarded as rare instances of eruption from the subconscious. In Gothic fiction in general, these anxieties are sublimated within the narrative, and fear of political and social chaos finds expression in the deliberately restricted perspective of the explained supernatural of Ann Radcliffe and her innumerable imitators. Not uncommonly, this perspective coincides with an unrestrained glorification of a vague historical past, which is itself characterised by an idealised political system grounded in feudalism. For descriptions of authentic social circumstances and their political conditions, the reader has to refer to Radcliffe’s travel journal of 1795:
Rheinberg [.] is a wretched place of one dirty street, and three or four hundred mean houses, surrounded by a decayed wall that never was grand, and half filled by inhabitants whose indolence, while it is probably more to be pitied than blamed, accounts for the sullenness and wretchedness of their appearance. Not one symptom of labour, or comfort, was to be perceived in the whole town. The men seemed for the most part, to be standing at their doors, in unbuckled shoes and woollen caps. 
Such disaffected comments illustrate the breakdown of Radcliffe’s epistemological scepticism, which typically underlies her elaborate landscape descriptions, as well as the introduction of Gothic paraphernalia in her novels. Wherever political and social terror become unbearable and can no longer be transferred to the level of the Sublime-reason in her novels being insufficiently reconstituted by the application of the explained supernatural-Radcliffe’s representations of reality inevitably approach the Gothic mode of M. G. ‘Monk’ Lewis and the ‘divine Marquis’, namely in the form of horror unexplained and unexplainable. Nevertheless, in her travel journal Radcliffe does not refer exclusively to France or Germany as the source of social insecurity, but to the whole European continent:
Wealthy and commercial countries may be injured immensely by making war either for Germany or against it [.]; but Germany itself cannot be proportionately injured with them, except when it is the scene of actual violence. Englishmen, who feel, as they always must, the love of their own country much increased by the view of others, should be induced, at every step, to wish, that there may be as little political intercourse as possible [.] between the blessings of their Island and the wretchedness of the Continent. 
I. Frontispiece to The Black Forest; or the Cavern of Horrors! A Gothic Romance (London: Ann Lemoine / J. Roe, 1802)
What reads like radical nationalism from the perspective of the present, shows the inevitable disturbance in a nation that distinguished itself from the Continent by its unprecedented economic progress, compared to which the continental states were still characterised by pre-industrial structures. The war between Britain and France, however, ultimately revealed that despite-or even because of-its economic backwardness, the Continent was able to cause incomparably greater damage to a country whose economy was increasingly built on intact international relationships.
As a result of the divergence between economic and political conditions in Radcliffe’s England and the continental Europe, the French Revolution and the war of 1793 provided only new fuel to an already established atmosphere of social disturbance, the cause of which is to be located in the native country of the Gothic itself. The publication rate of terror novels hinted at by Montague Summers and Robert B. Mayo indicates a cause-and-effect relationship between the rapid industrial progress, which took place in England from the 1760s onwards, and the rise of the Gothic mode in literature.  Additionally, striking differences between the Gothic novel and the roman noir and the respective reception of both milieux in France contradict the simplifying restriction to the French Revolution as the political factor that precipitated the rise of the Gothic novel. 
Prior to the political upheaval in France, the English Industrial Revolution not only supplied the technological but also the ideological conditions for the unprecedented rise of popular literature around 1800. Economic progress and the destruction of extant structures resulting from it must have caused fear of changed conditions of life and unsolved social problems long before the fall of the Bastille. Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, generally regarded as the first Gothic novel in English, was published as early as 1765, to be followed in 1777 by Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron.  Thus, it becomes necessary to turn to the parallels between the earlier novel of sensibility and the Gothic to trace escapism in the novel previous to the French Revolution. 
Until recently, the influence of the Industrial Revolution on the evolution of mass literature has mainly been described in terms of production and reception.  Admittedly, some account has been taken of the fact that the changes affecting the social system in the wake of technological progress also created a new readership to consume the products of a thriving publishing industry. As far as the Gothic novel is concerned, however, traditional critics rarely mention the profound social disturbances that are hardly ever alluded to in the works themselves, but which ultimately led to the deluge of such escapist fiction in the first place.  On the contrary, by disproportionately restricting the concept of the Gothic novel to a few ‘acceptable’ works, effort has been made to free the genre from the disreputable notion of ‘mass literature’. 
If the entire Gothic spectrum is examined in its entirety-as is possible for the first decades of the early nineteenth century, owing to the extensive preservation of early fiction in the Princely Library of Corvey Castle near Höxter (North Rhine Westphalia)-it becomes clear that the innovative ‘horror’ Gothic found in writers such as M. G. Lewis’s The Monk (1796) or C. R. Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) represents only a tiny minority compared to the overwhelming ‘terror’ mode practised by the imitators of Ann Radcliffe. The contents of innumerable ‘lesser novels’ on the shelves of the Corvey Library not only illustrate that the last aim of such Gothicism was to meet high aesthetic expectations on the part of a discriminating readership, but also that the term ‘Romantic’ Gothic novel is somewhat misleading. Any form of ‘high’ Romanticism in these second- and third-rate Gothics is restricted to a few standardised landscape descriptions and the occasional appearance of a rather down-to-earth ghost.
An attempted revaluation of the Gothic in ‘high’ aesthetic terms not only faces the difficulty of the widespread dissemination of the Radcliffe ‘terror’ mode in the bulk of ‘lesser novels’, but also must face the fact that, in an even weaker form, identical mechanisms of terror combined with quasi-rational explanation are applied in the ‘bluebooks’ or ‘shilling shockers’. Frederick S. Frank defines such literary forms as:
Low quality Gothic fiction denoted by its garish blue coverings or wrappers. The Gothic bluebook is a primitive paperback or ur-pulp publication, cheaply manufactured, sometimes garishly illustrated, and meant to be thrown away after being ‘read to pieces.’ [.] The reader of the bluebook received a single dose of Gothicism between the blue covers. Almost all of the hundreds of bluebooks published during the period are pirated abridgments of full-length Gothic novels. 
Compared with this depreciative description of the small-scale Gothics, which are occasionally to be found side by side with their fully fledged counterparts in public and academic libraries, a quite different sense is given in a contemporary comment by Thomas Medwin, as found in the biography of his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley:
Who does not know what blue books mean? but if there should be any one ignorant enough not to know what those dear darling volumes, so designated from their covers, contain, be it known, that they are or were to be bought for sixpence, and embodied stories of haunted castles, bandits, murderers, and other grim personages-a most exciting and interesting sort of food for boys’ minds. 
Disregarding the striking opposition in terms of valuation-resulting from the fact that those ‘who have grown up’ with the bluebooks feel inclined to treat them with leniency, whereas historical distance predisposes twentieth-century critics to adopt a rather negative view of them as degenerate Gothic novels-both definitions correlate the bluebook’s physical appearance with a specific mode of contents. Around 1800, two traditions effectively merged into a new type of cheap popular literature: whereas the bluebook’s size of thirty-six to seventy-two pages recalls the eighteenth century chapbook tradition, their inevitable blue covers, copperplate frontispieces, and above all their contents, derive from the late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Gothic romance. Apart from using the same Gothic paraphernalia, such as family feud, illicit love, and the intervention of supernatural powers, among some 220 items physically inspected by the author, no more or less than sixty-three proved to be adaptations of longer works. (A checklist of these follows this essay.)
In any case, the practise of condensing three-decker novels into thirty-six- or seventy-two-page duodecimos does not logically lead to the conclusion that bluebooks are degenerate Gothics in the sense that they represent an epiphenomenon of the Gothic rage. If the concept of the novel of terror is extended from the few innovative works that initiated the Gothic craze to the full range of the genre as it is preserved in the Princely Library of Corvey, Ian Watt’s statement that ‘[i]n the shilling shockers we are enabled [.] to appreciate the absurd extent to which the Gothic vogue was carried in the declining years of its life’ proves incorrect.  In fact, a close examination of output of thirty-six- or seventy-two-page bluebooks with Gothic novels in standard form reveals that both forms represent virtually contemporaneous phenomena, peaking in the early 1800s and diminishing by the 1810s. Furthermore, in view of evidence that-as the checklist at the end of this paper indicates-the contents of three-decker Gothics and bluebooks are more or less identical, it becomes apparent that both modes of fiction must have aimed at similar expectations from their readership, with the only difference that the triple-deckers were produced for the circulating libraries and some well-to-do buyers (such as the owner of the Corvey Library), whereas the bluebooks were printed for private purchase at either sixpence or one shilling exclusively. 
Of course, it is not only long-term attempts to revaluate the Gothic novel in the teeth of its aesthetic ‘defects’ that have been responsible for the general neglect of bluebooks, but also the evanescence of the tiny volumes themselves. Through consulting library catalogues and bibliographies such as Summers Gothic Bibliography (1940) and Frank’s The First Gothics (1987),  the author of this essay was able to locate the 220 titles previously mentioned in twenty national, academic, and public libraries in the UK and North America, with the twenty-first source being the private library situated in Corvey Castle with its astonishingly complete corpus of romantic fiction. Due to their ephemeral nature it is impossible to ascertain with certainty how many bluebooks were originally published shortly after 1800, nor in what numbers they were produced. Summers does not provide any contextual evidence to substantiate his statement ‘that these little bluebooks were sold in their hundreds upon hundreds for a tester apiece’.  Admittedly, Medwin’s comment quoted earlier encourages the assumption that bluebooks were so widely spread at the time as to become a universally known phenomenon. One should not forget, however, that-compared to the Gothic novel, which retained much of its early force far into the early 1810s-their actual publication dates with the high-tide about 1803-05 mark the bluebooks as a relatively short-lived phenomenon. This challenges Summers’s assumption that the bluebook phenomenon might well have been an experiment practised by enterprising publishers such as Thomas Tegg or Dean & Munday, which ultimately failed owing to the fact that the circulating libraries made the full-length Gothic novel accessible to a large public.
Whereas in the past the preservation of Gothic bluebooks in national or academic libraries has depended largely on chance-pencil notes in some British Library specimen still mark them as donations from private owners-the twenty-four titles in the Corvey Library survived thanks to the indiscriminate acquisition policy of the principal collectors of Romantic fiction: Victor Amadeus, Landgrave of Hesse-Rotenburg (1779-1835) and his second wife Elise (1790-1830), both of whom were connected to the British royal family. As a bibliomaniac the Landgrave bought almost every novel in German, English, and French that was advertised from the 1790s onwards, thus turning the aristocratic family library into a universal library of contemporary fiction. Although Victor Amadeus’s preferences clearly lay with the lengthy romance, the 2,500 English language fictions collected between 1790 and 1834 occasionally prove collections of tales and other forms of shorter fiction, among these The Marvellous Magazine and Compendium of Prodigies (1802-04). The Marvellous Magazine consisted of twenty-four short Gothic pieces (see Appendix I) published by various firms, most notably the ‘publisher, re-publisher, printer and book-buyer’ Thomas Tegg of St John’s Street, later of Cheapside, who was responsible for the bulk of bluebook production shortly after 1800. 
Among the colourful ‘house’ bindings of the fully fledged novels in Corvey, the two leather-bound volumes of the Marvellous Magazine with their gilded ornaments are not particularly exceptional in terms of their outward appearance. Such bindings are indicative of two salient points: firstly, the owners of the library purchased virtually every English fiction title they could acquire, regardless of mode; and secondly, that they did not read the bulk of their acquisition.  As we do not exactly know about the Landgrave’s purchase policy, except that in the field of the belles-lettres he bought almost every item that appeared on the literary scene, it is impossible to reconstruct why the collection includes what Frank describes as ‘little flowers of evil planted by rapacious publishers across the literary scene’.  There are two possible explanations, which do not necessarily exclude each other: either the Marvellous Magazine was advertised and the Landgrave did not know what he was ordering from his German bookseller,  or the small-scale novels it contains enjoyed a much different reputation from the prejudiced concept of popular literature that has long prevailed in modern literary criticism.
It is hard to imagine how a bibliomaniac like the Landgrave might have responded to titles such as Albani: Or the Murderer of his Child. Containing the Different Views of his Character, as a Libertine in Palermo, an Officer in the Spanish Service, a Planter in the Island of Cuba, and an Independent Gentleman, on his Return to Italy (c. 1803), an adaptation of John Moore’s famous Gothic novel Zeluco (1789). The Marvellous Magazine‘s series frontispiece that is bound with the work suggests that Victor Amadeus did not buy the titles in the form in which they first appeared, namely as single items, but that he ordered a reprinted version of the series as a whole, and indeed did not know about its contents beforehand. To the scholar, the twenty-four items included in the Marvellous Magazine reveal that the bluebook format embraced the whole spectrum of Gothic subgenres, from sentimental to pseudo-historical Gothic, from Robber Romanticism to orientalised Gothic fantasy. As a whole, the contents of the small incorporated volumes tend towards a mixture of genres typical of the Gothic: what is generally to be found between their flimsy covers is a sentimental love story set against the background of a picturesque, vaguely medieval landscape, decorated with the occasional appearance of such memento mori as a bleeding nun or a stately knight long-supposed to be dead, recalled to the stage of life by some imminent injury to be done to a maiden orphan or a legitimate heir.
The sensational titles found among bluebooks as a whole indicates that their authors, most of whom remain anonymous, set out to meet the expectations of as large a readership as possible. In 1803 Almagro & Claude; or Monastic Murder; Exemplified in the Dreadful Doom of an Unfortunate Nun was published by Tegg & Castleman, while a comparatively late example in this mode is The Midnight Groan; or, the Spectre of the Chapel: Involving an Exposure of the Horrible Secrets of the Nocturnal Assembly, published by T. & R. Hughes in 1808.  From the prolific pen of Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson, one of the few authors whose name has come down to the present, derives a bluebook bearing the extensive title, The Eve of St Mark; or, the Mysterious Spectre: Describing the Murder of Lady Bertha de Clifford by a Jealous and Disappointed Suitor; and Suicide of her Father: Her Singular Re-appearance after the Lapse of a Whole Century-Surprising Events in Consequence of this Marvellous Incident-Descent of the Steward of the De Clifford Family into the Vaults of Mowbray Church; Remarkable Discovery there, and the Marriage of Earl de Clifford with the Steward’s Daughter, Margaret. A Romance (London: J. Bailey, n.d.).  Corresponding to the modern blurb, the title in this and many other instances supplies a complete synopsis of the narrative, catching the eye of a public searching for sentimental at least as much as Gothic entertainment.
On the one hand, examples such as these indicate the high predictability of the bluebook plot. Apparently, readers were less interested in the ‘what?’ than in the ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ of the action, as the former category is often fully summarised on the title page. On the other hand, the authors’ ambition to satisfy the needs of Tegg’s or Bailey’s customers led to an extreme eclecticism in terms of sensational detail. Thus, in F. Legge’s The Spectre Chief; or, the Blood-Stained Banner (London: J. Bailey, n.d.), two Gothic villains with names of Romance origin attack a Scandinavian monastery with the quasi-German name of Risbatz. In the anonymous Banditti of the Appennines (London: C. Sharp, 1808), the tale’s lovers providentially escape from one gang of ferocious robbers merely to fall into the hands of another. The full title reads: The Banditti of the Appennines; or, the Singular Adventures of Alphonsus and Adela (during the Civil Wars in Italy), with an Interesting Account of their Providential Escape from a Band of Ferocious Robbers who Infested the Mountains, at that Period, and also from Another Band, still More Formidable, by Whom They Were Confined in a Dreadful Dungeon.
II. Frontispiece to The History of Arden of Feversham. A Tragic Fact of 1550 (London: Ann Lemoine / J. Roe, 1804)
Owing to such apparent absurdities as these, as already suggested, critics have come to regard the bluebook as a degenerate variant of the Gothic romance. The denigration of the Gothic bluebook in favour of the full-length novel is particularly apparent in a number of German academic publications, which differentiate between the ‘classical’ Gothic novel and the ‘popular’ or ‘trivial’ shilling shocker, both adjectives carrying distinctly negative connotations in German literary criticism.  Neither does the bluebook fare much better in America. In his primary bibliography The First Gothics, which supplies useful synopses of the longer novels in contrast to relatively unreliable summaries of bluebook contents, Frank notes:
While lengthy and elegant Gothics were still being written and published, a study of the Gothic types flooding the literary marketplace during the opening decades of the Nineteenth Century reveals the decline of the long Gothic as it was displaced by these shilling shockers. [.] The chapbooks represent Gothicism in its most decadent and rampant phase, bringing down upon the Gothic novel widespread critical denunciation and ridicule. 
Contrary to this assumption, the material in Corvey strongly suggests that the description of the Gothic novel as ‘lengthy and elegant’ and the characterisation of the so-called ‘shilling shocker’ as degenerate result from critics’ prioritisation of the triple-decker Gothic novel on its own.
As this paper has already argued, in order to arrive at the distinction of high-quality novels and low-quality shilling shockers, the majority of critical studies on the Gothic romance restrict their subject to a very limited set of innovative works published in the decade before 1800 or shortly after. Nevertheless, the vast amount of full-length Gothic novels in the Corvey Collection cannot live up to the standard of Ann Radcliffe or ‘Monk’ Lewis. Among the better of these novels one finds Netley Abbey of 1795, a Radcliffean imitation by Richard Warner, or several triple-deckers by Sarah Wilkinson, the bluebook authoress mentioned above. In contrast to these, the comparatively early work The Animated Skeleton (1798) is already characterised by all the properties of ‘degenerate Gothicism’, whereas the similarly anonymous novel, The Avenger; or, the Sicilian Vespers (1810), with its sensational plot of intrigue and revenge causes Frank to erroneously label the three-decker as a ‘Gothic bluebook’.
On a number of occasions, the titles of Gothic novels in the Corvey Library do not differ conspicuously from the bluebook titles quoted above. Alongside Radcliffe’s novels one finds works such as The Mysterious Penitent; or, the Norman Chateau (1800), The Spirit of Turretville: Or, the Mysterious Resemblance (1800), The Castle of Eridan: Or, the Entertaining and Surprising History of the Valiant Don Alvares, and the Beautiful Eugenia, Duchess of Savoy (1800), not to mention Labyrinth of Corcira: Or, the Most Extraordinary and Surprising History of the Incomparable Don Fernando D’Avalo, Hereditary Prince of Salerno, and the Beautiful and Virtuous Isidora, Duchess of Catania. Together with the Surprising Events of the Countess of Lipary his Sister (1804). Discussing the anonymous Valombrosa; or the Venetian Nun (1805), the Critical Reviewnotes that ‘[w]e cannot congratulate this gentleman (for a male performance it must certainly be) on the slightest ambition to imitate that delicacy which is one of the many beauties so profusely scattered over the writings of Mrs. Radcliffe’.  Although it would take years to undertake a full survey of the Gothic material preserved in the Corvey Library, the contents of second- and third-rate novels like these already corroborates the fact suggested by the publication dates of novels and bluebooks respectively, namely that they are not consecutive phenomena but contemporary facets of the Gothic craze.
A devaluation, however, of the Gothic novel in favour of the Gothic bluebook would mean going from one extreme to another. Despite the fact that the number of plagiarisms among the so-called ‘sixpenny shockers’ is definitely over-emphasised by Watt, Frank, and others, the checklist appended in Appendix II lists no less than five versions of Lewis’s Monk. All of the four great Gothic novels by Ann Radcliffe are present, with even two different versions of The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). Furthermore, there are condensations of Walpole’s Otranto, Clara Reeve’s Old English Baron, Sophia Lee’s The Recess (1783-85), Charlotte Smith’s The Old Manor House (1793), and Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya (1806). Secondary literature on the Gothic novel has long identified the first item on the list, The Midnight Assassin: or, Confession of the Monk Rinaldi (1802), as an adaptation of Radcliffe’s Italian (1797). Don Algonah; or the Sorceress of Montillo (1802), another item included in The Marvellous Magazine, is a seventy-two-page version of George Walker’s The Three Spaniards (1800), whereas The Wandering Spirit (1802) corresponds to Stephen Cullen’s Haunted Priory (1794). These adaptations show that the bluebooks are in no way original; however, around two-thirds of the titles could not be traced back to original novels, tales or plays and many of them, such as those by Sarah Wilkinson, will never be.
These findings encourage the conclusion that the Gothic paraphernalia favoured in fiction around 1800 are not the property of the novel in the first place, but that bluebooks and Gothic novels are variants of the same literary tradition brought about by the preferences of a readership under the impress of political and economic change. To reconstruct this readership is difficult, if not impossible, as there is scant empirical evidence. From the biographies of Percy Shelley, Robert Southey, and Sheridan LeFanu we can deduce that in their youth they belonged to the class of bluebook readers. As the emphasis on the younger generation indicates, the bluebooks were produced specifically for those parts of the reading public who wanted to participate in the Gothic rage, but who could not to afford the comparatively expensive three-decker novels. This is most likely the reason why Varma in 1957 called the bluebooks ‘poorman’s gothic novels’.  This assumption presupposes, however, that the bluebook-buyer had come into contact with the Gothic novel tradition before: otherwise, the striking similarities in the outward appearance of bluebooks and Gothic novels would have been lost on the reader. And where else could he or she have come into contact with these novels other than in the circulating libraries of the time? In fact, temporal coincidences indicate that there was commensurate growth in cheap, popular literature in the form of bluebooks and in the institution of the circulating library, both symptoms of the exponential rise in book prices that occurred during the Napoleonic Wars. People who frequented the circulating library would certainly have wished to own the novels they could only borrow there. Once these works had been reduced to thirty-six or seventy-two pages, however, readers could obtain versions at the reasonable price of sixpence or a shilling, not only in London but-as the title pages of the Marvellous Magazine suggest-from ‘every other bookseller in the United Kingdom’.
III. Frontispiece to Isaac Crookenden’s The Skeleton; or, Mysterious Discovery. A Gothic Romance (London: A Neil, 1805)
Nevertheless, this lack of empirical evidence generally forces commentators on popular literature to have recourse to the implied reader. As with the prejudice that the bluebooks belong to the aftermath of the Gothic vogue, there is strong evidence against another argument made by Frank et al.-namely that the bluebooks represent what has been termed the ‘horror mode’ of Gothicism. For instance, in The First Gothics Frank states:
the route of development taken by the Gothic novel after 1800 was down the corridor of an unrestrained supernatural and toward the absolute horror of horrors. Hasty and relentless horror became the stock-in-trade of the Gothic chapbooks and bluebooks after 1800 when the main path for Gothic fiction was mapped out by Monk Lewis, not Ann Radcliffe. These hundreds of small Gothics were the cheap and tawdry offspring of the Schauerromantik energies released by Lewis’ The Monk. 
Again, as far as the Gothic novel is concerned, this argument only applies to a very limited set of works: strictly speaking, works which derive from or are inspired by either Radcliffe or Lewis. Tracing back the bluebook adaptations to their respective originals almost exclusively leads to Radcliffean imitations. The contents of these works (examples of which have been mentioned already) reveal the prevalence of the rationalised variant of the Gothic mode typical of the early decades of the nineteenth century, whereas novels representing the more unsettling Romantic ‘horror’ variant (for instance, Lewis’s Monk) are to be regarded as rare experiments. Wherever works such as the latter have served as the quarry of prolific bluebook authors, elements of horror like torture or moral ambivalence are eliminated, a measure that conveniently contributed to the practice of cutting down the original story to the intended size of thirty-six or seventy-two pages.
As adaptations, the bluebooks belong predominantly to the so-called ‘terror’ mode which follows in the tradition of Ann Radcliffe, a tendency that does not apply only to the sixty-three miniature romances the originals of which have been identified in the checklist. The only explanation for the sensational frontispieces and multiple titles of these works is their need to attract potential readers. The contents of the bluebooks, however, quickly disillusion anybody who expects the ‘absolute horror of horrors’: quite obviously, the readership-which was attracted by the pictorial representations of skeletons and spectres-refrained from the epistemological pessimism of works like Lewis’s Monk. In reading Isaac Crookenden’s The Skeleton; or, Mysterious Discovery (London: A. Neil, 1805), for example, one recognises that the protagonist is less terrified by a supernatural apparition in the trembling rays of a midnight lamp, than moved by his discovery of the corpse of one of his ancestors. What remains of Gothicism in the bluebooks in general is the sentimental love story, adorned with a restricted set of Gothic paraphernalia, which never traverse the boundary between terror and horror, as defined by Radcliffe herself. 
Thus, in a manner similar to most of the full-length novels of the period, the Gothic in bluebooks represents an attractive alternative to the sentimental. Whereas in most cases Gothicism is reduced to a small set of comparatively harmless elements of terror adorning the action, it is the love story, handed down from the novel of sensibility, that constitutes the main plot. In this respect, the stories of the bluebooks preserved in the Corvey Library differ as little from those of the full-length Gothics and the sentimental novels to be found on the same shelf as the bindings of the respective works themselves. To the contemporary reader-whose reading habits differed as much from ours as the outward appearance of the early-nineteenth-century novels does from the literary productions of the present-they must have appeared as one coherent tradition of entertainment and recreation.
1. Donatien Antoine François Marquis de Sade, Idée sur les Romans, ed. Octave Uzanne (1800; Genf: Slatkins Reprints, 1967), pp. 31-33.
2. See, e.g., Michael Sadleir, ‘The Northanger Novels. A Footnote to Jane Austen’, The English Association Pamphlet 68 (1927), pp. 4 and 7; André Breton, ‘Limites non frontières du surréalisme’, Nouvelle Revue Française 48 (1937), 208-09.
3. Cf. Ronald Paulson, Representations of Revolution 1789-1820 (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1983), pp. 8-9.
4. Maurice Lévy, Le Roman ‘gothique’ Anglais 1796-1820 (Toulouse: Association des Publications de la Faculté des Lettres et de Sciences Humaines, 1968), p. 611.
5. Ann Radcliffe, A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794 through Holland and the Western Frontier of Germany with a Return down the Rhine: To Which Are Added Observations during a Tour to the Lakes of Lancashire, Westmoreland and Cumberland (1795; Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1975), p. 92.
6. Ibid., p. 108.
7. Montague Summers, The Gothic Quest. A History of the Gothic Novel (1938; New York: Russell & Russell, 1964), p. 185. Robert D. Mayo, ‘How Long Was Gothic Fiction in Vogue?’, Modern Language Notes 58 (1943), 58-64.
8. A significant example is Lewis’s The Monk (1796), which was criticised severely in England, while it was appreciated or at least treated indulgently in France. See Fernand Baldensperger, ‘Le Moine de Lewis dans la littérature française’, in The English Gothic Novel. A Miscellany in Four Volumes, ed. Thomas Meade Harwell (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik Universität Salzburg, 1986), IV: Collateral Gothic 2, 170-88.
9. E. J. Clery, The Rise of Supernatural Fiction 1762-1800 (Cambridge: CUP, 1995) takes account of even earlier Gothic sources.
10. On the novel of sensibility as a precursor of the Gothic novel, see Werner Wolf, ‘Schauerroman und Empfindsamkeit. Zur Beziehung zwischen Gothic novel und empfindsamem Roman in England’, Anglia 10 (1989), 1-33. Rudolf Schenda points out that literary structures aiming at a recompense of social injustice have a much older history, and it is only restriction to an ‘accepted’ canon of primary material as the subject of literary criticism that has generally led to a neglect the works in question-Volk ohne Buch. Studien zur Sozialgeschichte der populären Lesestoffe 1770-1910 (1970; Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1977).
11. See e.g. Richard D. Altick, The English Common Reader. A Social History of the Mass Reading Public 1800-1900 (1957; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1983).
12. André Parreaux, for instance, only very tentatively hints at a possible influence of the Industrial Revolution on the Gothic: ‘And perhaps the changes due to the industrial revolution, which tended to make the general environment dull and drab, affected the life of ordinary people more directly than Nelson’s and Bonaparte’s victories’-The Publication of ‘The Monk’. A Literary Event 1796-98 (Paris: Librairie Marcel Didier, 1960), p. 36.
13. Recent exceptions to this approach include: Clery’s Rise of Supernatural Fiction; Ed Jacobs, ‘Anonymous Signatures: Circulating Libraries, Conventionality, and the Production of Gothic Romances’, ELH 62:3 (Fall 1995), 603-29; James Watt, Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre, and Cultural Conflict, 1764–1832 (Cambridge: CUP, 1999).
14. Frederick S. Frank, The First Gothics. A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel (New York/London: Garland Publishing, 1987), Appendix I: ‘Glossary of Gothic Terms’, p. 433. See also Frank’s definitions of ‘chapbook gothic’ and ‘shilling shocker’.
15. Thomas Medwin, The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1913; St Clair Shores, MI: Scholarly Press, 1971), pp. 24-25.
16. William Whyte Watt, Shilling Shockers of the Gothic School. A Study of Chapbook Gothic Romances (1932; New York: Russell & Russell, 1967), p. 21.
17. One of the bluebooks consulted, Charles Giberne’s The Haunted Tower; or, the Adventures of Sir Egbert de Rothsay (London: R. Hunter, 1822), p. 3, contains a list of subscribers, whose family names hint at a readership hardly less respectable than that of the Gothic novel with the exception that aristocratic titles are to be found only in one instance.
18. Montague Summers, A Gothic Bibliography (; New York: Russell & Russell, 1964).
19. Summers, Gothic Quest, p. 84.
20. Thomas Carlyle, ‘Petition on the Copyright Bill’, in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, 5 vols (London: Chapman & Hall, n.d.), IV, 206-07.
21. Interestingly, the collection lacks Lewis’s Monk, one of the more notorious publications in the Gothic mode. Taking into consideration the Prince’s otherwise indiscriminate acquisition policy, this could perhaps be taken as indicative of the fact that the contemporary readership did not universally accept unrestrained Gothicism in the shape of moral or psychological ambivalence.
22. Frank, p. 432.
23. ‘It is probable that many of these books entered into the collection through a German bookseller from Göttingen specializing in English works, called Dr Möller’-Peter Garside, ‘The English Novel in the Romantic Era’, in The English Novel 1770-1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction Published in the British Isles, edd. James Raven, Peter Garside, Rainer Schöwerling, 2 vols (Oxford: OUP, 2000), II, 28.
24. Both titles are not included in the Marvellous Magazine, but survived as single items, the former in the British and the Bodleian Libraries, the latter in the British Library only.
25. Two examples of this title survive: one of them in the British Library, the other in the Bodleian Library.
26. See e.g. Ingeborg Weber, Der englische Schauerroman. Eine Einführung (Munich and Zurich: Artemis-Verlag, 1983), p. 135.
27. Frank, pp. xxvi-[xxvii].
28. Critical Review 3rd ser. 4 (Mar 1805), 329.
29. Devendra P. Varma, The Gothic Flame. Being a History of the Gothic Novel in England: Its Origin, Efflorescence, Disintegration, and Residuary Influences (1957; New York: Russell & Russell, 1966), p. 80.
30. Frank, p. xxvi.
31. Ann Radcliffe, ‘On the Supernatural in Poetry’, New Monthly Magazine 16 (1826), 149-50.
Bluebook Titles in the Corvey Library
(from The Marvellous Magazine)
The Marvellous Magazine and Compendium of Prodigies, 4 vols
(London: T. Hurst/Tegg & Castleman etc., 1802-04)
Marvellous Magazine I
The Midnight Assassin: Or, Confession of the Monk Rinaldi; Containing a Complete History of His Diabolical Machinations and Unparalleled Ferocity […] (London: T. Hurst, 1802).
Don Algonah; or the Sorceress of Montillo. A Romantic Tale (London: T. Hurst, 1802).
The Recess. A Tale of Past Times (London: T. Hurst, 1802).
a) The Wandering Spirit: Or Memoirs of the House of Morno: Including the History of Don Pinto D’Antos, a Tale of the 14th Century […];
b) Charles and Emma, or the Unfortunate Lovers (London: Thomas Tegg & Co., 1802).
The Cavern of Horrors; or, Miseries of Miranda: A Neapolitan Tale (London: T. Tegg & Co., 1802).
The Secret Oath, or Blood-Stained Dagger, a Romance (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1802)
Marvellous Magazine II
The Southern Tower; or, Conjugal Sacrifice and Retribution (London: T. Hurst, 1802).
The Veiled Picture: Or, the Mysteries of Gorgono, the Appennine Castle of Signor Androssi. A Romance of the Sixteenth Century (London: Thomas Tegg & Co., 1802).
A Tale of Mystery; or the Castle of Solitude. Containing the Dreadful Imprisonment of Count L. and the Countess Harmina, His Lady (London: Thomas Tegg & Co., 1803).
a) Domestic Misery, or the Victim of Seduction, a Pathetic Tale; Addressed to the Unprincipled Libertine;
b) Highland Heroism; or the Castles of Glencoe and Balloch. A Scottish Legend of the Sixteenth Century (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Albani: Or the Murderer of His Child. Containing Different Views of His Character, as a Libertine in Palermo […] (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Father Innocent, Abbot of the Capuchins; or, the Crimes of Cloisters (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Marvellous Magazine III
The Secret Tribunal; or, the Court of Winceslaus. A Mysterious Tale (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Koenigsmark the Robber, or, the Terror of Bohemia: In which Is Introduced, Stella, the Maniac of the Wood, a Pathetic Tale (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Phantasmagoria, or the Development of Magical Deception (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Ildefonzo & Alberoni, or Tales of Horrors (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Ulric and Gustavus, or the Unhappy Swedes; a Finland Tale (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Blanche and Carlos; or the Constant Lovers: Including the Adventures of Valville and Adelaide, a Mexican Tale (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Marvellous Magazine IV
De la Mark and Constantia; or, Ancient Heroism, A Gothic Tale (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Lermos and Rosa, or the Fortunate Gipsey: An Interesting Adventure, which Really Happened in Spain, about Forty Years Ago (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1803).
Maximilian and Selina; or, the Mysterious Abbot. A Flemish Tale (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1804).
Lewis Tyrrell, or, the Depraved Count; Including the Pathetic Adventures and Tragical End of Ella Clifford and Oscar Henry Hampden; or, the Victims of Treachery […] (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1804).
a) Matilda; or the Adventures of an Orphan, an Interesting Tale;
b) Fernando of Castile, or the Husband of Two Wives (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1804).
a) The Soldier’s Daughter; or the Fair Fugitive, a Pathetic Tale;
b) The Mysterious Bride, or the Statue-Spectre (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1804).
IV. Frontispiece to The Soldier’s Daughter; or, the Fair Fugitive, a Pathetic Tale (London: Tegg & Castleman, 1804)
|The Affecting History of Louisa, the Wandering Maniac, or, ‘Lady of the Haystack’ […] (1803)||P., L. L’Inconnue, Histoire Véritable (1785, trans. 1785)|
|The Affecting History of the Dutchess of C, Who Was Confined Nine Years in a Horrid Dungeon […] (n.d.)||Genlis, Stéphanie F. de. ‘Histoire de la Duchesse de C***’, in Adèle et Théodore (1782, trans. 1783)|
|Albani: Or the Murderer of His Child […] (1803)||Moore, John. Zeluco (1789)|
|Algernon & Caroline, or the Spirit of the Spirit […] (1820)||Ashe, Thomas. The Spirit of ‘The Book’; or, Memoirs of Caroline, Princess of Hasburgh (1811)|
|Almagro & Claude; or Monastic Murder; Exemplified in the Dreadful Doom of an Unfortunate Nun (n.d.)||Lewis, Matthew Gregory. The Monk (1796)|
|Barrett, C. F. Allenrod; or, the Mysterious Freebooter (1806)||Lathom, Francis. The Mysterious Freebooter; or, the Days of Queen Bess (1806)|
|The Bleeding Nun of the Castle of Lindenberg; or, the History of Raymond & Agnes (1823)||Lewis, Matthew Gregory. The Monk (1796)|
|The Castle of Otranto, a Gothic Story (1804)||Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto (1765)|
|The Castle of the Pyrenees; or, the Wanderer of the Alps (1803)||Smith, Charlotte. ‘The Interesting History of the Count de Bellegarde’, in Celestina (1791)|
|The Castles of Montreuil and Barre; or the Histories of the Marquis La Brun and the Baron la Marche […] (1803)||F., E. The Two Castles, a Romance. Lady’s Magazine 28-29 (1797-98)|
|The Cavern of Horrors; or, Miseries of Miranda (1802)||Charlton, Mary. The Pirate of Naples (1801)|
|Chapman, M. Marlton Abbey, or the Mystic Tomb of St. Angelo (1805)||Sheriffe, Sarah Correlia, or the Mystic Tomb (1802)|
|The Convent of St. Michael or the Unfortunate Emilia (n.d.)||The Convent of St. Michael, a Tale (1803)|
|The Convent of St. Ursula, or Incidents at Ottagro (1809)||Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Fugitive Countess; or, Convent of St. Ursula (1807)|
|The Convent Spectre, or Unfortunate Daughter (1808)||The Convent of St. Michael, a Tale (1803)|
|The Curfew; or, the Castle of Baron de Tracy (1807)||Tobin, John. The Curfew; a Play (1807)|
|The Daemon of Venice, an Original Romance (1810)||Dacre, Charlotte. Zofloya: Or, the Moor (1806)|
|Don Algonah; or the Sorceress of Montillo (1802)||Walker, George. The Three Spaniards (1800)|
|[Barrington, George]. Eliza, or the Unhappy Nun (1803)||Barrington, George. Biographical Annals of Suicide, or Horrors of Self-Murder […] (1803)|
|Entertaining Gothic Stories; Including Raymond Castle, or, the Ungrateful Nephew […] (n.d.)||Bacon, Mr. Raymond Castle, a Legendary Tale. Cabinet Magazine 1 (1797)|
|Father Innocent, Abbot of the Capuchins; or the Crimes of Cloisters (1803)||Lewis, Matthew Gregory. The Monk (1796)|
|Gothic Stories: Sir Bertrand’s Adventures in a Ruinous Castle, […] The Adventure James III. of Scotland Had with the Weird Sisters in the DreadfulWood of Birnan, The Story of Raymond Castle […] (n.d.)||Aikin, Anna Laetitia. ‘Sir Bertrand’, in Aikin, Anna Laetitia/Aikin, John, Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose (1773)Musgrave, Agnes. Edmund of the Forest (1797)Bacon, Mr. ‘Raymond Castle, a Legendary Tale’. Cabinet Magazine 1 (1797)|
|The Gothic Story of Courville Castle; or the Illegitimate Son […] (1803)||F., E. De Courville Castle, a Romance. Lady’s Magazine 26-28 (1795-97)|
|[Douglas, Robert?]. Highland Heroism; or the Castles of Glencoe and Balloch (1803)||Radcliffe, Ann. The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789)|
|The History and Surprising Adventures of Joseph Pignata […] (1821)||Pignate Guiseppe. Les Aventures des Joseph Pignata […] (1729, German trans. 1796, English trans. ?)|
|The History of Arden of Feversham. A Tragic Fact of 1550 (1804)||Arden of Feversham (1592)|
|The History of Cecilia, or the Beautiful Nun (1804)||Genlis, Stéphanie de. ‘Cécile’, in Adèle et Théodore (1782, trans. 1783)|
|The Horrible Revenge; or, the Assassin of the Solitary Castle (n.d.)||Parsons, Eliza. The Mysterious Warning (1796)|
|Koenigsmark the Robber; or, the Terror of Bohemia: In Which Is Included, the Affecting History of Rosenberg and Adelaide […] (n.d.)||Raspe, Rudolf Erich: unidentified (English trans. By Sarratt, John Henry, 1801/play by Lewis, Matthew Gregory 1818)|
|[Sarratt, John Henry?]. Koenigsmark the Robber, or, the Terror of Bohemia: In Which Is Introduced, Stella, the Maniac of the Wood […] (1803)||Raspe, Rudolf Erich unidentified (English trans. by Sarratt, John Henry, 1801/play by Lewis, Matthew Gregory 1818)|
|The Life, Surprising Adventures, and Most Remarkable Escapes, of Rinaldo Rinaldini […] (1801)||Vulpius, Christian August. Rinaldo Rinaldini, der Räuberhauptmann (1797, trans. 1800)|
|Lovel Castle, or the Rightful Heir Restored, a Gothic Tale […] (n.d.)||Reeve, Clara. The Old English Baron (1777)|
|Manfredi, or the Mysterious Hermit (n.d.)||Lansdell, Sarah Tenterden. Manfredi, Baron St. Osmund (1796)|
|The Midnight Assassin: Or, Confession of the Monk Rinaldi […] (1802)||Radcliffe, Ann. The Italian; or the Confessional of the Black Penitents (1797)|
|The Midnight Bell, or the Abbey of St. Francis (1802)||Lathom, Francis. The Midnight Bell (1798)|
|The Mysteries of Udolpho, a Romance […] (n.d.)||Radcliffe, Ann. The Mysteries of Udolpho (1797)|
|The Nun; or, Memoirs of Angelique (1803)||The Nun. European Magazine 25 (1794)|
|Lawler, Dennis. The Old Man of the Mountain; or, Interesting History of Gorthmund the Cruel (n.d.)||Tieck, Ludwig. ‘Der Alte vom Berge’, in Der Alte vom Berge, und die Gesellschaft auf dem Lande (1828, trans. 1831)|
|The Phantasmagoria: Or, Tales of Wonder (n.d.)||Tschink, Cajetan. Geschichte eines Geistersehers […] (178?, trans. 1795)|
|Phantasmagoria, or the Development of Magical Deception (1803)||Tschink, Cajetan. Geschichte eines Geistersehers […] (178?, trans. 1795)|
|Rayland Hall; or, the Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville (1810)||Smith, Charlotte. The Old Manor House (1793)|
|Raymond & Agnes; or, the Bleeding Nun of the Castle of Lindenberg (n.d.)||Lewis, Matthew Gregory. The Monk (1796)|
|The Recess, a Tale of Past Times (1802)||Lee, Sophia. The Recess; or, a Tale of Other Times (1783-85)|
|Rochester Castle; or, Gundulph’s Tower (1810)||Drake, Nathan. ‘Sir Egbert’, in Literary Hours; or, Sketches Critical and Narrative (1804)|
|Romances and Gothic Tales. Containing: The Ruins of the Abbey of Fitz-Martin, […] The Castle of Hospitality; or, the Spectre (1801)||Curtis. ‘The Ruins of the Abbey of Fitz-Martin’. New Gleaner 2 (1810)Radcliffe, Ann. ‘Provencal Tale’, in The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)|
|Rugantino, the Bravo of Venice (n.d.)||Zschokke, Johannes Heinrich Daniel. Abällino, der große Bandit (1794, adaption by M. G. Lewis 1804-05)|
|The Secret Tribunal; or, the Court of Winceslaus (1803)||Naubert, Christiane Benedicte Eugenie. Hermann von Unna (1788, trans. 1794)|
|The Southern Tower; or, Conjugal Sacrifice and Retribution (1802)||Radcliffe, Ann. A Sicilian Romance (1790)|
|A Tale of Mystery; or the Castle of Solitude (1803)||Parsons, Eliza. The Mysterious Warning (1796)|
|The Tartarian Prince; or, the Stranger (1804)||Gomez, Madeleine-A. de. Le Prince Tartare, in Les Cent Nouvelles (1732-39, trans. 1745)|
|Undine; or, the Spirit of the Waters (1824)||Fouqué, Friedrich Heinrich Karl de la Motte. Undine (1811, trans. 1818)|
|Vancenza or the Dangers of Credulity (1810)||Robinson, Mary. Vancenza, or, the Dangers of Credulity (1792)|
|The Veiled Picture: Or, the Mysteries of Gorgono, the Appennine Castle of Signor Androssi (1802)||Radcliffe, Ann. The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)|
|The Wandering Spirit: Or Memoirs of the House of Morno […] (1802)||Cullen, Stephen. The Haunted Priory: Or, the Fortunes of the House of Rayo (1794)|
|Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Ancestress; or, Super-natural Prediction of Horror Accomplished […] (n.d.)||Grillparzer, Franz. Die Ahnfrau. Ein Trauerspiel in fünf Aufzügen (1817, trans. 1820)|
|Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Castle of Lindenberg; or, the History of Raymond and Agnes […] (n.d.)||Lewis, Matthew Gregory. The Monk (1796)|
|Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Castle Spectre; or, Family Horror (1807)||Lewis, Matthew Gregory. The Castle Spectre. A Drama in Five Acts (1798)|
|Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Conscience; or, the Bridal Night (n.d.)||Haynes, James. Conscience; or, the Bridal Night: A Tragedy, in Five Acts (1821)|
|Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Inkle and Yarico; or, Love in a Cave (1805)||Ligon, Richard. True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (1657; note by Richard Steele in The Spectator, 11, 1711; adaptation by Seymour, Frances 1738)|
|Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The Ruffian Boy; or the Castle of Waldemar (n.d.)||Opie, Amelia Alderson. ‘The Ruffian Boy’, in New Tales (1813)|
|Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. The White Pilgrim; or, Castle of Olival […] (n.d.)||Pixérécourt, René Guilbert de. Le Pélerin Blanc. Drama en Trois Actes (1802)|
|Wolfstein; or, the Mysterious Bandit (n.d.)||Shelley, Percy Bysshe. St. Irvyne; or, the Rosicrucian (1811)|
|The Wood Daemon: Or, ‘The Clock Has Struck’ (1807)||Lewis, Matthew Gregory. One O’Clock! or, the Knight and the Wood Daemon (1811)|