Tower leading to the Iron Gate. — George Cruikshank. Seventh instalment, July 1840 number. Fifty-second illustration and and thirtieth wood-engraving in William Harrison Ainsworth's The Tower of London. A Historical Romance. Illustration for Book the Second, Chapter XVI. 8.2 cm high by 9.3 cm wide, vignetted, bottom of p. 224: running head, "The Salt Tower." The tranquil scene in 1840 prepares the reader for Nightgall's succeeding in removing his fair prisoner, Cicely, from her cell in the Salt Tower. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

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In struggling to free herself from him, Cicely fell upon the ground, regardless of this, Nightgall dragged her by main, force through the doorway, and so down the secret staircase. She continued her screams, until her head striking against the stones, she was stunned by the blow, and became insensible. He then raised her in his arms, and descending another short flight of steps, traversed a narrow passage, and came to a dark chamber beneath the Tower leading to the Iron Gate. [Chapter XIV. — "What bifel Cicely in the Salt Tower," pp. 223]

Illustrations of the Salt Tower in Chapter XVI

Left: The wood-engraving of the mysterious staircase as it looked in 1840, Secret Staircase in the Salt Tower (July 1840). Centre: Chamber in the Salt Tower as it appeared, elegantly decorated, in 1840 (July 1840). Right: The brutal jailor callously trying to shift his victim's location in order to avoid detection, Lawrence Nightgall Dragging Cicely Down the secret stairs in the Salt Tower (July 1840). [Click on images to enlarge them.]


Seventeen years after Ainsworth published the novel, architect Anthony Salvin restored the Salt Tower's exterior and windows; perhaps the attention he devoted to it was the direct result of the importance of the Salt Tower in the novel. The Salt Tower appears first in North View of the Salt Tower, and again in Masque in the Palace Garden of the Tower, Secret Staircase in the Salt Tower, Chamber in the Salt Tower, and Arched Door in the Salt Tower Communicating with Secret Staircase, Basement Chamber in the Salt Tower, as well as torture scenes probably enacted in the dungeons of the Salt Tower, significantly Elizabeth confronted with Wyat in the Torture-Chamber in Chapter 34 in the final instalment. Ainsworth's firing the public imagination probably led to the government's commissioning Salvin, at the behest of Prince Albert, to undertake a comprehensive restoration of the Tower's mediaeval and Tudor​ buildings.

Ainsworth now concludes the plot from the realm of Gothic romance with a pair of illustrations associated with Nightgall's abduction of Cicely, a plot gambit which he borrowed from Matthew G. Lewis's Abrosio; or, The Monk (1796), with the psychopathic Nightgall replacing the lustful monk, and Cicely the constantly-threatened, virtuous heroine Agnes. Fearing that the young esquire may have detected where he has been holding Cicely prisoner, Nightgall attempts to move her. Her screaming and refusal to leave her place of confinement voluntarily prompt Nightgall to drag her down a secret staircase to a dark chamber beneath the Tower leading to the Iron Gate.


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Last modified 18 October 2017