THE CASTLE SPECTRE (1797)
MATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS (17751818)
M.G. Lewis was more prolific as a dramatist than as a novelist; his plays performed at Drury Lane or Covent Garden include Adelmorn, the Outlaw (1801), Alfonso (1802), The Harper’s Daughter (1803) (adapted from Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe), Rugantino; or The Bravo of Venice (1805) (adapted from J.H.D. Zschökke’s novel Abällino, der grosse Bandit), The Wood Daemon; or The Clock Has Struck (1807), and Venoni; or The Novice of St. Mark’s (1808). The section on Raymond and Agnes (and the Bleeding Nun) from his novel The Monk was adapted for the stage by himself and by others, and even became the basis for a ballet pantomime. Several of his plays became the basis of toy theatres designed by James Skelton ‘penny plain and tuppence coloured’. His most popular play The Castle Spectre, a ‘Dramatic Romance, in Five Acts’, was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on 14 December 1797. Boaden, the manager of rival Covent Garden, noted that the play ‘filled the treasury nightly’. It is estimated that Lewis earned some £18,000 for the first three months of its performance. Coleridge told Wordsworth that ‘The merit of the Castle Spectre consists wholly in its situations. These are all borrowed and absolutely pantomimical’ (letter, 23 January 1798).
(Copyright 2000, 2013 Rictor Norton)
EARL OSMOND. Yellow tunic, trimmed with silver spangles and buttons; purple velvet belt, white pantaloons spangled, short blue velvet robe trimmed with fur only, open sleeves. Second dress. Handsome satin morning-gown.
FAR from the haunts of men, of vice the foe,
F. Phil. ’Tis near midnight, and the earl is already retired to rest. What if I ventured now to the lady’s chamber? Hark! I hear the sound of footsteps!
F. Phil. (R.) How, Alice, is it you?
Saib. The earl then has forgiven me! A moment longer and his pardon whould have come too late. Had not Kenric held his hand, by this time I should be at supper with St. Peter.
Has. Your folly well deserved such a reward. Knowing the earl’s hasty nature, you should have shunned him till the first storm of passion was past, and circumstances had again made your ministry needful. Anger then would have armed his hand in vain; for interest, the white man’s God, would have blunted the point of his dagger.
Saib. I trusted that his gratitude for my past services
Has. European gratitude? Seek constancy in the winds, fire in ice, darkness in the blaze of sunshine! But seek not gratitude in the breast of an European!
Saib. Then why so attached to Osmond? For what do you value him?
Has. Not for his virtues, but for his vices, Saib; can there for me be a greater cause to love him? Am I not branded with scorn? Am I not marked out for dishonour? Was I not free, and am I not a slave? Was I not once beloved, and am I not now despised? What man, did I tender my service, would accept the negro’s friendship? What woman, did I talk of affection, would not turn from the negro with disgust? Yet, in my own dear land, my friendship was courted, my love was returned. I had parents, children, wife! Bitter thought, in one moment all were lost to me! Can I remember this, and not hate these white men? Can I think how cruelly they have wronged me, and not rejoice when I see them suffer? Attached to Osmond, say you? Said, I hate him! Yet viewing him as an avenging fiend sent hither to torment his fellows, it glads me that he fills his office so well! Oh! ’tis a thought which I would not barter for empires, to know that in this world he makes others suffer, and will suffer himself for their tortures in the next! [Crosses, R.]
Saib. (L.) Hassan, I will sleep no more in the lion’s den. My resolve is taken: I will away from the castle, and seek, in some other service, that security
Osm. [Within, M.D.] What, hoa! help! lights there! lights!
Has. Hark! Surely ’twas the earl!
Osm. (C.) Save me! Save me! They are at hand! Oh! let them not enter! [Sinks into the arms of Saib.]
Saib. (L.) What can this mean? How violently he trembles!
Has. (R.) Speak, my lord! Do you not know us?
Osm. [Recovering himself.] Ha! whose voice? Hassan’s? And Saib too here? Oh! was it then but a dream? Did I not hear those dreadful, those damning words? Still, still they ring in my ears. Hassan! Hassan! Death must be bliss, in flames or on the rack, compared to what I have this night suffered!
Has. Compose yourself, my lord. Can a mere dream unman you thus?
Osm. A mere dream, say’st thou? Hassan, ’twas a dream of such horror! Did such dreams haunt my bitterest foe, I should wish him no severer punishment. Mark you now how the ague of fear still makes my limbs tremble? Roll not my eyes as if still gazing on the spectre? Are not my lips convulsed, as were they yet pressed by the kiss of corruption? Oh! ’twas a sight that might have bleached joy’s rose cheek for ever, and strewed the snows of age upon youth’s auburn ringlets! Hark, fellows! Instruments of my guilt, listen to my punishment! Methought I wandered through the low-browed caverns, where repose the reliques of my ancestors! Suddenly a female form glided along the vault; it was Angela! She smiled upon me, and beckoned me to advance. I flew towards her; my arms were already unclosed to clasp her; when, suddenly, her figure changed, her face grew pale, a stream of blood gushed from her bosom! Hassan, ’twas Evelina!
Saib and Has. Evelina!
Osm. Such as when she sank at my feet expiring, while my hand grasped the dagger still crimsoned with her blood! ‘We meet again this night!’ murmured her hollow voice! ‘Now rush to my arms – but first see what you have made me! Embrace me, my bridegroom! We must never part again!’ While speaking, her form withered away: the flesh fell from her bones; her eyes burst from their sockets; a skeleton, loathsome and meagre, clasped me in her mouldering arms!
Saib. Most horrible!
Osm. And now blue dismal flames gleamed along the walls; and tombs were rent asunder; bands of fierce spectres rushed around me in frantic dance; furiously they gnashed their teeth, while the gazed upon me, and shrieked in loud yell ‘Wellcome, thou fratricide! Welcome, thou lost for ever!’ Horror burst the bands of sleep; distracted I flew hither: But my feelings words are too weak, too powerless to express them. [Crosses, L.]
Saib. (C.) My lord! my lord! this was no idle dream! it was a celestial warning; ’twas your better angel that whispered, ‘Osmond, repent your former crimes! Commit not new ones!’ Remember, that this night should Kenric
Osm. Kenric? Oh, speak! Drank he the poison?
Saib. Obedient to your orders, I presented it at supper; but ere the cup reached his lips, his favourite dog sprang upon his arm, and the liquor fell to the ground untasted.
Osm. Praised be heaven! Then my soul is lighter by a crime! Kenric shall live, good Saib. What though he quit me, and betray my secrets? Proofs he cannot bring against me, and bare assertions will not be believed. At worst, should his tale be credited, long ere Percy can wrest her from me, shall Angela be mine. [Crosses, C.] Hassan, to your vigilance I leave the care of my beloved. Fly to me that instant, should any unbidden footstep approach yon chamber-door. I’ll to my couch again. Follow me, Saib, and watch me while I sleep. Then, if you see my limbs convulsed, my teeth clenched, my hair bristling, and cold dews trembling on my brow, seize me rouse me snatch me from my bed! I must not dream again. Oh! how I hate thee, sleep! Friend of virtue, oh! how I hate thy coming! [Exit with Saib, through M.D.]
Has. Yes, thou art sweet, vengeance! Oh! how it joys me when the white man suffers! Yet weak are his pangs, compared to those I felt when torn from thy shores, oh, native Africa! from thy bosom, my faithful Samba! Oh! when I forget my wrongs, may I forget myself! When I forbear to hate these Christians, God of my fathers, may’st thou hate me! Ha! Whence that light? A man moves this way with a lamp! How cautiously he steals along! He must be watched. This friendly column will shield me from his regards. Silence! He comes.
Enter KENRIC, softly, with a lamp, R.
Ken. All is hushed! the castle seems buried in sleep. Now then to Angela! [Exit, L.]
Has. [Advancing.] It was Kenric! Still he moves onwards Now he stops ’Tis at the door of Angela’s chamber! He unlocks it! He enters! Away then to the earl: Christian, soon shall we meet again!
[SOURCE: M. G. Lewis, The Castle Spectre (London: John Cumberland, n.d.), pp. 11, 1314, 4651]
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