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THE LIBRARY OF CLASSICAL HISTORICAL FICTION
Blow the dust off the pages of history: The 1873 Press is pleased to bring you thousands of lost treasures from the golden age of historical fiction, from the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth century.
For as long as novels have been written, readers have thrilled to delve into the past through the pages of fiction. Usually appearing as serials in scores of publications, these tales were the popular entertainment of their time, much as television is today, crafted to lift their audience above their ordinary existence with exotic locales, heroic deeds, and driving narrative. Hundreds of authors, many of them still household names, learned their craft by mixing documented events, period details, and liberal measures of imagination. Napoleon and Josephine, Oliver Cromwell, Robespierre, Dick Turpin (the greatest highwayman of all time) — these and countless others, and the events that they shaped, emerged from history as full-blooded characters in stories of intrigue, crime, passion, and adventure, with motley supporting casts including swashbucklers, cavaliers, courtesans, dutiful servants and dedicated ministers.
Yet for more than a hundred years, most of these volumes have been unavailable - until now. The editors of the 1873 Press have assembled a unique collection, and, utilizing the newest publishing technology, have the privilege of offering these books to modern readers in a variety of printed and electronic formats at prices anyone can afford.
Now you can treasure your own copies of these long-lost works. Join us in relishing the stories of the exciting lives and struggles of famous, infamous, and barely remembered men and women.
Welcome to unforgettable reading.
William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) was among the most popular novelists of the Victorian era. A brilliant student, he intended to join his father's prominent law firm until his ambition turned to publishing and literature — in particular the genre of historical fiction. His first novel, Sir John Chiverton, was published in 1826. After traveling in Europe in 1830, Ainsworth returned to England and began work on Rookwood (1834), based largely on the life of the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin. This "Newgate" novel (referring to the prison) enjoyed extraordinary success and launched the author into London's highest social and literary circles. Strikingly handsome and rather dandified, Ainsworth counted Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, and William Wordsworth among his many friends.
A tireless writer and editor, Ainsworth produced thirty-nine novels, and directed and owned a succession of prominent literary journals, including Bentley's Miscellany, Ainsworth's Magazine, and the New Monthly Magazine. His historical novels, noted for their accuracy and pageantry, were usually first published in serial form, many of them illustrated by George Cruikshank and "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne), both outstanding 19th century illustrators. Ainsworth took great care in reproducing historical settings, and his vigorous and pleasing style is punctuated with broad, farcical humor. His works give readers a true taste of the pleasures and conventions of the Victorian novel, and they will reward and satisfy those who seek an intimate look into England's past.
Published in three volumes anonymously in 1834 and under the author's name in many succeeding editions, Ainsworth's second novel was a great literary and commercial success that catapulted its author into celebrity. Ostensibly based on the criminal career of the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin (1705-1739), some critics have said that the story probably owes as much to the life of John (Swift Dick) Nevison. Ainsworth's thrilling account of Turpin's famous ride to York on his mare Black Bess is probably the greatest example of Ainsworth's skill both as a writer and as a writer of fiction—not only is it exciting but also pure invention, drawing, as the author acknowledged, on Yorkshire oral tradition. The novel is a glorious part of the romantic vision of the highwayman, as portrayed so often in ballads, poems, novels, and, of course, in films.
Read what the critics had to say about Rookwood
This is one of the most spirited and romantic of "the season's" production. Full of life and fire, it excites the reader and carries him onward — much as the true heroine of the tale, the mare Black Bess, does the true hero of it, the ROBBER TURPIN — with mingled sensations of terror and delight. It is a wild story, told with exceeding skill, and wrought up to the highest pitch of which so singular a subject is capable. The book is an excellent one, and the author may take a high station among the romance authors of our time. — New Monthly Magazine.
Will have a RUN in the true Turpian style. — Fraser's Magazine.
This story never flags. — Quarterly Review.
Possesses great variety of talent. — Literary Gazette.
Exhibits great power and strong interest. — Morning Post.
Will be extensively read and admired. — Courier.
Will interest and amuse readers of every class. — New Sporting Magazine.
"By the powers! But it shall do, anyhow … You've bullied me long enough."
A Romance By
W. HARRISON AINSWORTH
Illustrated by Pierre le Touche
First Published 1834
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
Published in the United States by 1873 Press, New York.
1873 Press and colophon are trademarks of Barnes & Noble, Inc.
Book Design by Ericka O'Rourke, Elm Design
BOOK I.—THE WEDDING RING
The Skeleton Hand
Sir Reginald Rookwood
Sir Piers Rookwood
An Irish Adventure
An English Adventurer
The Chamber of Death
BOOK II.—THE SEXTON
The Funeral Oration
BOOK III.—THE GIPSY
A Morning Ride
A Gipsy Encampment
St. Cyprian's Cell
BOOK IV.—THE RIDE TO YORK
The Rendezvous at Kilburn
The Hue and Cry
The Short Pipe
The York Stage
A Road-side Inn
The Phantom Steed
BOOK V.—THE OATH
The Hut on Thorne Waste
The Dower of Sybil
"By the powers! But it shall do, anyhow … You've bullied me long enough."
"Sir Reginald passed his rapier through his brother's body"
"An Individual known at the hall as Jack Palmer."
"Disobey me, and your blood be upon your own head."
"By heaven! It is the fiend himself upon a Black Horse."
"Thunders of Applause."
"I am Sir Luke Rookwood."
"Bess charged and cleared the lower part of the mouldering priory walls."
"And art thou gone, Bess!"
"Luke drew in the rein beneath one of the largest of the trees."
THE WEDDING RING
It has been observed, and I am apt to believe it is an observation which will generally be found true, that before a terrible truth comes to light, there are certain murmuring whispers fly before it, and prepare the minds of men for the reception of the truth itself.
Case of the Count Saint Geran
WITHIN a sepulchral vault, and at midnight, two persons were seated. The chamber was of singular construction and considerable extent. The roof was of solid stone masonry, and rose in a wide semicircular arch to the height of about seventeen feet, measured from the centre of the ceiling to the ground floor, while the sides were divided by slight partition-walls into ranges of low narrow catacombs. The entrance to each cavity was surmounted by an obtusely-pointed arch, resting upon slender granite pillars; and the intervening space was filled up with a variety of tablets, escutcheons, shields, and inscriptions, recording the titles and heraldic honours of the departed. There were no doors to the niches; and within might be seen piles of coffins, packed one upon another, till the floor groaned with the weight of lead.
Against one of the pillars, upon a hook, hung a rack of tattered, time-out-of-mind hatchments; and in the centre of the tomb might be seen the effigies of Sir Ranulph de Rokewode, the builder of the mausoleum, and the founder of the race who slept within its walls. This statue, wrought in black marble, differed from most monumental carved-work, in that its posture was erect and life-like. Sir Ranulph was represented as sheathed in a complete suit of mail, decorated with his emblazoned and gilded surcoat, his arm leaning upon the pommel of a weighty curtal-axe. The attitude was that of stern repose. A conically-formed helmet rested upon the brow; the beaver was raised, and revealed harsh but commanding features. The golden spur of knighthood was fixed upon the heel; and at the feet, enshrined in a costly sarcophagus of marble, dug from the same quarry as the statue, rested the mortal remains of one of "the sternest knights to his mortal foe that ever put speare in the rest."
Streaming in a wavering line upon the roof, the sickly flame of the candle partially fell upon the human figures before alluded to, throwing them into darkest relief, and casting their opaque and fantastical shadows along the ground. An old coffin upon a bier, we have said, served the mysterious twain for a seat. Between them stood a bottle and a glass, evidences that whatever might be the ulterior object of their stealthy communion, the immediate comfort of the creature had not been altogether overlooked.
At the feet of one of the personages were laid a mattock, a horn lantern (from which the candle had been removed), a crowbar, and a bunch of keys. Near to these implements of a vocation which the reader will readily surmise, rested a strange superannuated terrier with a wiry back and frosted muzzle; a head minus an ear, and a leg wanting a paw. His master, for such we shall suppose him, was an old man with a lofty forehead, covered with a singularly shaped nightcap, and clothed, as to his lower limbs, with tight, ribbed, grey worsted hose, ascending externally, after a bygone fashion, considerably above the knee. The old man's elbow rested upon the handle of his spade, his wrist supported his chin, and his grey glassy eyes, glimmering like marsh-meteors in the candle-light, were fixed upon his companion with a glance of searching scrutiny.
The object of his investigation, a much more youthful and interesting person, seemed lost in reverie, and alike insensible to time, place, and the object of the meeting. With both hands grasped round the barrel of a fowling-piece, and his face leaning upon the same support, the features were entirely concealed from view; the light, too, being to the back, and shedding its rays over, rather than upon his person, aided his disguise. Yet, even thus imperfectly defined, the outline of the head, and the proportions of the figure, were eminently striking and symmetrical.
Attired in a rough forester's costume, of the mode of 1737, and of the roughest texture and rudest make, his wild garb would have determined his rank as sufficiently humble in the scale of society, had not a certain loftiness of manner, and bold, though reckless deportment, argued pretensions on the part of the wearer to a more elevated station in life, and contradicted, in a great measure, the impression produced by the homely appearance of his habiliments. A cap of shaggy brown fur, fancifully, but not ungracefully fashioned, covered his head, from beneath which, dropping, in natural clusters, over his neck and shoulders, a cloud of raven hair escaped.
Subsequently, when his face was more fully revealed, it proved to be that of a young man, of dark aspect, and grave, melancholy expression of countenance, approaching even to the stern, when at rest; though sufficiently animated and earnest when engaged in conversation, or otherwise excited. His features were regular, delicately formed, and might be characterised as singularly handsome, were it not for a want of roundness in the contour of the face which gave the lineaments a thin, worn look, totally distinct, however, from haggardness or emaciation. The nose was delicate and fine; the nostril especially so; the upper lip was short, curling, graceful, and haughtily expressive. As to complexion, his skin had a truly Spanish warmth and intensity of colouring. His figure, when raised, was tall and masculine, and though slight, exhibited great personal vigour.
We will now turn to his companion, the old man with the great grey glittering eyes. Peter Bradley, of Rookwood (comitatû Ebor), where he had exercised the vocation of sexton for the best part of a life already drawn out to the full span ordinarily allotted to mortality, was an odd caricature of humanity. His figure was lean, and almost as lank as a skeleton. His bald head reminded one of a bleached skull, allowing for the overhanging and hoary brows. Deep-seated, and sunken within their sockets, his grey orbs gleamed with intolerable lustre. Few could endure his gaze and, aware of his power, Peter seldom failed to exercise it. He had likewise another habit, which, as it savoured of insanity, made him an object of commiseration with some, while it rendered him yet more obnoxious to others. The habit we allude to, was the indulgence of wild screaming laughter at times when all merriment should be checked; and when the exhibition of levity must proceed from utter disregard of human grief and suffering, or from mental alienation.