THE CASTLE SPECTRE (1797)

MATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS (1775–1818)


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)


Costume

          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.
          PERCY. – Slate-coloured shirt tunic, trimmed with black galloon, flesh pantaloons. Second dress. – Green old English suit, with puffs trimmed, steel breastplate, long scarlet satin sash, leather belts; black velvet hat, white feathers, gauntlets, russet boots, ruff.
          KENRIC. – Brown velvet shape, puffed with blue, cloak of the same, brown stockings.
          HASSAN – White body with sleeves looped up, trowsers of same, black leggings and arms, black velvet flys, silver buttons, sandals.
          SAIB. & MULEY. – Ditto.
          ALARIC. – Not quite so good.
          ALLAN. – Touchstone’s dress.
          FATHER PHILIP. – Friar’s grey gown, with Falstaff’s belly, a cord round the waist, flesh stockings and sandals.
          ALLAN. – An old English dress, drab trimmed with black.
          HAROLD. – Blue tunic with yellow binding, blue stockings, short breeches.
          EDRIC. – Blue Flushing great coat, blue trowsers, striped Guernsey shirt, blue cap, fishing stockings and boots.
          REGINALD. – Brown tunic and pantaloons, with a loose torn cloak or drapery, flesh legs and arms, old sandals, the whole dress much torn.
          SOLDIERS. – Green tunics with scarlet bindings, and stockings, boots, and breastplates.
          ANGELA. – Handsome embroidered white satin dress.
          ALICE. – Black open gown trimmed with point lace, red stuff petticoat, black hood, high heel’d shoes, with buckles.
          SPECTRE. – Plain white muslin dress, white head dress, or binding under chin, light loose gauze drapery.

Prologue

FAR from the haunts of men, of vice the foe,
The moon-struck child of genius and of woe,
Versed in each magic spell and dear to fame,
A fair enchantress dwells, Romance her name.
She loathes the sun, or blazing taper’s light.
The moon-beam’d landscape and tempestuous night,
Alone she loves; and oft, with glimmering lamp,
Near graves new open’d, or ‘midst dungeons damp,
Drear forests, ruin’d aisles, and haunted towers,
Forlorn she roves, and raves away the hours!
Anon, when storms howl loud, and lash the deep,
Desperate she climbs the sea-rock’s beetling steep;
There wildly strikes her harp’s fantastic strings,
Tells to the moon how grief her bosom wrings;
And while her strange song chants fictitious ills,
In wounded hearts Oblivion’s balm distils.
          A youth, who yet has liv’d enough to know
That life has thorns, and taste the cup of woe,
As late near Conway’s time-bowed towers he stray’d,
Invok’d this bright enthusiast’s magic aid.
His prayer was heard. With arms and bosom bare,
Eyes flashing fire, loose robes, and streaming hair,
Her heart all anguish, and her soul all flame,
Swift as her thoughts, the lovely maniac came!
High heav’d her breasts, with struggling passions rent,
As prest to give some fear-fraught mystery vent:
And oft, with anxious glance and altered face,
Trembling with terror, she relaxed her pace,
And stopt! and listened! – then with hurried tread
Onwards again she rushed, yet backwards bent her head,
As if from murderous swords or following fiend she fled.
          Soon as near Conway’s walls her footsteps drew,
She bade the youth their ancient state renew.
Eager he sped, the fallen towers to rear:
’Twas done, and Fancy bore the fabric here.
Next, choosing from great Shakspeare’s comic school;
The gossip crone, gross friar, and gibing fool –
These, with a virgin fair and lover brave,
To our young author’s care the enchantress gave;
But charged him, ’ere he bless’d the brave and fair,
To lay the exulting villain’s bosom bare;
And, by the torments of his conscience, shew,
That prosperous vice is but triumphant woe!
          The pleasing task, congenial to his soul,
Oft from his own sad thoughts our author stole:
Blest be his labours, if with like success
They soothe their sorrows whom I now address.
Beneath this dome, should some afflicted breast
Mourn slighted talents, or desert opprest,
False friendship, hopeless love, or faith betray’d,
Our author will esteem each toil o’er-paid,
If, while his muse exerts her livelier vein,
Or tells imagin’d woes in plaintive strain,
Her flights and fancies make one smile appear
On the pale cheek, where trickled late a tear;
Or if her fabled sorrows steal one groan,
Which else her hearers would have given their own.

ACT IV.

SCENE I.The Castle-Hall. The lamps are lighted.

Enter FATHER PHILIP, R.

          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!

Enter ALICE, L.

          F. Phil. (R.) How, Alice, is it you?
          Alice. (L.) So, so! have I found you at last, father? I have been in search of you these four hours! – Oh! I’ve been so frightened since I saw you, that I wonder I keep my senses!
          F. Phil. So do I; for I’m sure they’re not worth the trouble. And, pray, what has alarmed you thus? I warrant you’ve taken an old cloak pinned against the wall for a spectre, or discovered the devil in the shape of a tabby-cat.
          Alice. [Looking round in terror.] For the love of heaven, father, don’t name the devil! or, if you must speak of him, pray mention the good gentleman with proper politeness. I’m sure, for my own part, I had always a great respect for him, and he hears me, I dare say he’ll own as much, for he certainly haunts this castle in the form of my late lady.
          F. Phil. Form of a fiddle-stick! – Don’t tell me of your –
          Alice. Father, on the word of a virgin, I saw him this very evening in Lady Angela’s bed!
          F. Phil. In Lady Angela’s? On my conscience, the devil has an excellent taste! But, Alice! Alice! how dare you trot about the house at this time of night, propagating such abominable falsehoods? One comfort is, that nobody will believe you. Lady Angela’s virtue is too well known and I’m persuaded she wouldn’t suffer the devil to put a single claw into her bed for the universe.
          Alice. How you run on! Lord bless me, she wasn’t in bed herself.
         F. Phil. Oh! was she not?
          Alice. No to be sure: but you shall hear how it happened. We were in the cedar-room together; and while we were talking of this and that, Lady Angela suddenly gave a great scream. I looked round, and what should I see but a tall figure, all in white, extended upon the bed! At the same time I heard a voice, which I knew to be the Countess Evelina’s, pronounce in a hollow tone – ‘Alice! Alice! Alice!’ three times. You may be certain that I was frightened enough. I instantly took to my heels; and just as I got with outside of the door, I heard a loud clap of thunder.
          F. Phil. Well done, Alice! A very good story, upon my word. It has but one fault – ’tis not true.
          Alice. Odds my life, father, how can you tell any thing about it? Sure I should know best; for I was there, and you were not. I repeat it – I heard the voice as plain as I hear yours: do you think I’ve no ears!
          F. Phil. Oh! far from it: I think you’ve uncommonly good ones; for you not only hear what has been said, but what has not. As to this wonderful story of yours, Alice, I don’t believe one word of it; I’ll be sworn that the voice was no more like your lady’s than like mine; and that the devil was no more in the bed than I was. Therefore, take my advice, set your heart at rest, and go quietly to your chamber, as I am now going to mine. Good night.           [Exit, L.]
         
          Alice. There, he’s gone! – Dear heart! dear heart! what shall I do now? ’Tis past twelve o’clock, and stay by myself I dare not. I’ll e’en wake the laundry-maid, make her sit up in my room all night; and ’tis hard if two women a’n’t a match for the best devil in christendom.           [Exit, R.]

Enter SAIB and HASSAN, L.

          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!

OSMOND rushes in wildly at M.D.

          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.
          [Retires, L.S.E.]
                    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!
                    [Exit, M.D.]


[SOURCE: M. G. Lewis, The Castle Spectre (London: John Cumberland, n.d.), pp. 11, 13–14, 46–51]

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