The Tower of London. A Historical Romance. Illustration for Book the Second, Chapter XL. — "Of the vision seen by Mauger and Sorrocold on the Tower Green," providing a suitably gothic note after the kitchen comedy and political aside afforded by the image of Bret's severed head. 10 cm high by 14.7 wide, framed, facing p. 413: running head, "The Apparition." The trio of turnkeys interpret the arrival of the shade of Anne Boleyn as an assurance of Lady Jane Grey's execution in the coming day; if Mary were contemplating a reprieve, the spirit would not have walked: "There will be no further respite. Jane will die to-morrow" (414). Although in conversation with his biographer Cruikshank later affectionately recalled broaching the subject of torture in the dungeons of the Tower in supposedly introducing the essential conception of the novel to Ainsworth, he mentions none of the supernatural elements that one would associate with a gothic romance. Consequently, although the book may owe something to Cruikshank in its emphasis on the tragic history of Lady Jane Grey and the physical setting, it seems logical that the comic characters associated with the Stone Kitchen, the lovers Cuthbert and Cicely, and their persecutor Nightgall, the libidinous jailer and sadistic practitioner of mediaeval torture, are Ainsworth's inventions, as is the scene with the ghost of Anne Boleyn. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]— George Cruikshank. Final, double-number, December 1840. Ninety-sixth illustration and thirty-ninth steel-engraving in William Harrison Ainsworth's
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Mauger and Sorrocold took no notice of [Wolfytt], but began to converse in an undertone about the apparition. In spite of himself, the executioner could not repress a feeling of dread, and the chirurgeon half-repented his curiosity.
After a while, neither spoke, and Sorrocold's teeth chattered, partly with cold, partly with terror. Nothing broke the deathlike silence around, except the noise of the hammer, and ever and anon, a sullen and ominous roar proceeding from the direction of the Lions' Tower.
"Do you think it will appear?" inquired Sorrocold, whose blood ran cold at the latter awful sounds.
"I know not," replied Mauger — "All! there — there it is." And he pointed towards the church porch, from which a figure, robed in white, but unsubstantial almost as the mist, suddenly issued. It glided noiselessly along, and without turning its face towards the beholders. No one saw it except Mauger and Sorrocold, who followed its course with their eyes. The carpenters continued their work, and Wolfytt stared at his companions in stupid and inebriate wonderment. After making the complete circuit of the scaffold, the figure entered the church porch and disappeared.
"What think you of it?" demanded Mauger, as soon as he could find utterance.
"It is marvellous and incomprehensible, and if I had not seen it with my own eyes, I could not have believed it," replied the churgeon. "It must be the shade of Anne Boleyn, she is buried in that chapel." [Chapter XL. — Of the vision seen by Mauger and Sorrocold on the Tower Green," pages 413-414]
This was Cruikshank's last instalment, and therefore one of his last opportunities for a Rembrandtesque composition. Using chiaroscuro to highlight the activities of the carpenters working by lamplight, the illustrator focuses on Mauger, pointing at the shadowy figure to the right, presumably the ghost of Anne Boleyn. The illustrator has elected, despite Ainsworth's description of an apparition "robed in white," to drape the figure in a black shroud. Despite the Shakespearean dialogue about the reaction of the terrified surgeon, Sorrocold, which echoes the response of Hamlet's university friend, Horatio, in the first act, the scene fails to convey the eerie atmosphere of the text, perhaps because (as Ainsworth stipulates) the carpenters are oblivious to the supernatural manifestation. Although Ainsworth attempted to adapt his historical material to the conventions of the Gothic Novel which Anne Radcliffe, Sir Walter Scott, and Matthew G. Lewis had established four decades earlier, this is the only genuine instance of the supernatural that he provides. The earlier instance of the supposedly supernatural, Cuthbert Cholmondeley surprised by a mysterious figure in the dungeon adjoining the Devilin Tower (Book I, Chapter VII), turns out to be a mere preternatural phenomenon as the "mysterious figure" that the esquire encounters is only a fellow-prisoner, "Alexia" (in fact, Angela Mountjoy, Cicely's mother).
Ainsworth is not writing a gothic romance per se; rather, he is incorporating certain gothic elements that he has borrowed from such novels as Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, Lewis's Ambrosio; or, The Monk, and Scott's The Bride of Lammermoor. The thwarted romance of the unlikely hero, Cholmondeley, and the lost heiress, Cicely, is clearly derivative, as is the sexually obsessed jailer Nightgall's separating the lovers, and the suitably eerie setting of the Tower of London, with its secret passages and dungeons — and sublime views of London. The supernatural element contradicts the eighteenth-century notion that ours is a rational universe, and challenges the growing belief in scientific rationalism. Thus, the appearance of the ghost of Anne Boleyn is a necessary gothic element in that, as is consistent with the tenets of Romantic literature, its presence reinforces traditional, folk beliefs and underscores the importance of the non-rational and the subconscious in our lives.
Although Cruikshank affectionately recalls broaching the subject of torture in the dungeons of the Tower, he mentions none of the supernatural elements that one would associate with a gothic romance. Consequently, although the book may owe something to Cruikshank in its emphasis on the tragic history of Lady Jane Grey and the physical setting, it seems logical that the comic characters associated with the Stone Kitchen, the lovers Cuthbert and Cicely, and their persecutor Nightgall, the libidinous jailer and sadistic practitioner of mediaeval torture, are Ainsworth's inventions. When Cruikshank later asserted to his biographer, Laman Blanchard, that the novel's dealing principally with the tragic reign of Lady Jane Grey and her judicial murder was entirely his own conception, he did not directly address the gothic aspects of the composition, which we may be reasonably assured was largely, if not entirely, Ainsworth's idea:
Mr. Ainsworth was delighted with the idea of such a partnership, and at once acceded to the proposition; and when I told him I had a capital subject for the first work, he inquired what it was; and upon my telling him it was the Tower of London, with some incidents in the life of Lady Jane Grey, he was still more delighted, and then I told him that I had long since seen the room in the Tower where that beautiful and accomplished dear lady was imprisoned, and other parts of that fortress, to which the public were not admitted; and if he would then go with me to the Tower, I would show these places to him. He at once accepted my offer, and off we went to Hungerford Stairs, now the site of the Charing Cross Railway Station; and whilst waiting on the beach for a boat to go to London Bridge, we there met my dear friend, the late W. Jerdan, the well-known editor and part proprietor of the Literary Gazette, who inquired where we were going to. My reply was, that I was taking Mr. Ainsworth a prisoner to the Tower. With this joke we parted. I then took Mr. Ainsworth to the royal prison, and when we arrived there, I introduced him to my friend Mr. Stacey, the storekeeper, in whose department were these 'Chambers of Horrors'; and then and there did Mr. Ainsworth, for the first time, see the apartment in which the dear Lady Jane was placed until the day she was beheaded, or, in other words, the day on which she was murdered! and which place I had long before made sketches of, for the purpose of introducing them in a "Life of Lady Jane Grey," and which for many years I had intended to place before the public. I have now most distinctly to state that Mr. Ainsworth wrote up to most of my suggestions and designs, although some of the subjects we jointly arranged, to introduce into the work; and I used every month to send him the tracings or outlines of the sketches or drawings from which I was making the etchings to illustrate the work, in order that he might write up to them, and that they should be accurately described."[Cruikshank, cited in Jerrold, Chapter 9, "Illustrations to Harrison Ainsworth's Romances"]
That Cruikshank brilliantly realizes the architectural scenes and the dramatic combat scenes involving the Tower of London as backdrop suggests that he had studied the subject for some time, and may indeed have prepared preliminary sketches for a Life of Lady Jane Grey. However, that his gothic scenes, including Lady Jane benighted in St. John's Chapel, Cholmondeley's seeing Alexia in the dungeon, and the ghost of Anne Boleyn's visiting the scaffold across from St. Peter's Chapel on Monday, 12 February, 1554, are among the less effective realisations in his narrative-pictorial sequences of wood- and steel-engravings would seem to support the contention that Cruikshank was not the originator of the conception of adding elements of gothic romance to the history of the Tower of London.
The time-sequence, from the triumphal parade of Sir Narcissus Le Grand and his lady and their being entertained by Hairun the bearward at the Lion's Tower on Saturday, 10 February 1554, through the banquet at the Stone Tower to the appearance of the apparition at 1:00 A. M. (The Wtching Hour) on Monday, 12 February, is clear enough in the text. Consequently, Cruikshank's entitling the marriage party Xit, now Sir Narcussus Le Grand, entertaining his friends on his wedding day involves a significant error. Apparently Cruikshank has conflated the entertainment at the Royal Menagerie and the dinner the next evening (Sunday, 11 February) into a single event. Mauger specifies that work on the scaffold outside the Chapel of St. Peter on the Green cannot commence until the sabbath has concluded. Thus, the spirit of Anne Boleyn's haunting the scaffold as Mauger is inspecting it occurs on the Monday rather than the Sunday morning.
Ainsworth introduces the scene involving the apparition through the conversation of the turnkeys at the wedding banquet:
It has already been stated that Mauger, Sorrocold, and Wolfytt were among the guests. The latter had pretty nearly recovered from the wound inflicted by Nightgall, which proved, on examination, by no means dangerous; and, regardless of the consequences, he ate, drank, laughed, and shouted as lustily as the rest. The other two being of a more grave and saturnine character, seldom smiled at what was going forward; and though they did not neglect to fill their goblets, took no share in the general conversation, but sat apart in a corner near the chimney with Winwike, discussing the terrible scenes they had witnessed in their different capacities, with the true gusto of amateurs. 
The three characters drinking in the settle, upper left, by the fireplace in Xit, now Sir Narcussus Le Grand, entertaining his friends on his wedding day accordingly are Sorrocold, Wolfytt, and Winwike. However, in the text Mauger is clearly a part of the conversation about the "strange tales concerning that place" (408) where the carpenters are going to raise the scaffold scaffold. The illustrator therefore should have added the headsman to this low-key group in the corner, since Ainsworth would have intended this part of the illustration in Chapter 39 to prepare the reader for the ghostly "vision" in Chapter 40.
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Last modified 4 November 2017