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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

February Session of Industry in Theory

Industry in Theory, Friday 22nd February, 4-5pm, Lipman 121, Northumbria University

The February session of Industry in Theory will take place this Friday (22/2) led by Sarah Winter, a 2nd year PhD student in English Literature here at Northumbria University.  This session will have a distinctly Gothic feel with us comparing Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) to two different Gothic texts, namely M. G. Lewis's infamous novel The Monk (1796) and James Boaden's Gothic play The Secret Tribunal (1795).

As with previous sessions we will be reading short extracts from the texts and then discussing the potential links between them, whilst considering how critical theory can be used to inform our process of textual analysis.  These extracts are listed below.

Refreshments will be provided and the discussion will undoubtedly continue afterwards in The Carriage.

We will look forward to seeing you all then!



Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790):

‘If they find the old governments effete, worn out, and with their springs relaxed, so as not to be of sufficient vigour for their purposes, they may seek new ones that shall be possessed of more energy; and this energy will be derived, not from an acquisition of resources, but from a contempt of justice. Revolutions are favourable to confiscation; and it is impossible to know under what obnoxious names the next confiscations will be authorized. I am sure that the principles predominant in France extend to very many persons and descriptions of persons, in all countries, who think their innoxious indolence their security. This kind of innocence in proprietors may be argued into inutility; and inutility into an unfitness for their estates. Many parts of Europe are in open disorder. In many others there is a hollow murmuring under ground; a confused movement is felt that threatens a general earthquake in the political world. Already confederacies and correspondencies of the most extraordinary nature are forming in several countries.35 In such a state of things we ought to hold ourselves upon our guard’.

‘As little genius and talent am I able to perceive in the plan of judicature formed by the National Assembly. According to their invariable course, the framers of your constitution have begun with the utter abolition of the parliaments. These venerable bodies, like the rest of the old government, stood in need of reform, even though there should be no change made in the monarchy. [...] They kept alive the memory and record of the constitution. They were the great security to private property...’

‘Yielding to reasons at least as forcible as those which were so delicately urged in the compliment on the new year, the king of France will probably endeavour to forget these events and that compliment. But history, who keeps a durable record of all our acts and exercises her awful censure over the proceedings of all sorts of sovereigns, will not forget either those events or the era of this liberal refinement in the intercourse of mankind. History will record that on the morning of the 6th of October, 1789, the king and queen of France, after a day of confusion, alarm, dismay, and slaughter, lay down, under the pledged security of public faith, to indulge nature in a few hours of respite and troubled, melancholy repose. From this sleep the queen was first startled by the sentinel at her door, who cried out to her to save herself by flight -- that this was the last proof of fidelity he could give -- that they were upon him, and he was dead. Instantly he was cut down. A band of cruel ruffians and assassins, reeking with his blood, rushed into the chamber of the queen and pierced with a hundred strokes of bayonets and poniards the bed, from whence this persecuted woman had but just time to fly almost naked, and, through ways unknown to the murderers, had escaped to seek refuge at the feet of a king and husband not secure of his own life for a moment.
This king, to say no more of him, and this queen, and their infant children (who once would have been the pride and hope of a great and generous people) were then forced to abandon the sanctuary of the most splendid palace in the world, which they left swimming in blood, polluted by massacre and strewed with scattered limbs and mutilated carcasses. Thence they were conducted into the capital of their kingdom.
Two had been selected from the unprovoked, unresisted, promiscuous slaughter, which was made of the gentlemen of birth and family who composed the king's body guard. These two gentlemen, with all the parade of an execution of justice, were cruelly and publicly dragged to the block and beheaded in the great court of the palace. Their heads were stuck upon spears and led the procession, whilst the royal captives who followed in the train were slowly moved along, amidst the horrid yells, and shrilling screams, and frantic dances, and infamous contumelies, and all the unutterable abominations of the furies of hell in the abused shape of the vilest of women. After they had been made to taste, drop by drop, more than the bitterness of death in the slow torture of a journey of twelve miles, protracted to six hours, they were, under a guard composed of those very soldiers who had thus conducted them through this famous triumph, lodged in one of the old palaces of Paris, now converted into a bastille for kings.
It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles, and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in -- glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendour and joy. Oh! what a revolution! and what a heart must I have to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists; and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise, is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness.
This mixed system of opinion and sentiment had its origin in the ancient chivalry; and the principle, though varied in its appearance by the varying state of human affairs, subsisted and influenced through a long succession of generations even to the time we live in. If it should ever be totally extinguished, the loss I fear will be great. It is this which has given its character to modern Europe. It is this which has distinguished it under all its forms of government...’

Matthew G. Lewis, The Monk  (1796):

(Source – e-text:

Volume 3, Chapter 10 – The Prioress is confronted, and the reaction of the Mob:

‘The Throne moved onwards. It was followed by the Prioress herself: She marched at the head of the remaining Nuns with a devout and sanctified air, and closed the procession. She moved on slowly: Her eyes were raised to heaven: Her countenance calm and tranquil seemed abstracted from all sublunary things, and no feature betrayed her secret pride at displaying the pomp and opulence of her Convent. She passed along, accompanied by the prayers and benedictions of the Populace: But how great was the general confusion and surprize, when Don Ramirez starting forward, challenged her as his Prisoner.
For a moment amazement held the Domina silent and immoveable: But no sooner did She recover herself, than She exclaimed against sacrilege and impiety, and called the People to rescue a Daughter of the Church. They were eagerly preparing to obey her; when Don Ramirez, protected by the Archers from their rage, commanded them to forbear, and threatened them with the severest vengeance of the Inquisition. At that dreaded word every arm fell, every sword shrunk back into its scabbard. The Prioress herself turned pale, and trembled. The general silence convinced her that She had nothing to hope but from innocence, and She besought Don Ramirez in a faultering voice, to inform her of what crime She was accused.
`That you shall know in time,' replied He; `But first I must secure the Mother St. Ursula.'
`The Mother St. Ursula?' repeated the Domina faintly.
At this moment casting her eyes round, She saw near her Lorenzo and the Duke, who
had followed Don Ramirez.
‘Ah! great God!' She cried, clasping her hands together with a frantic air; `I am betrayed!'
`Betrayed?' replied St. Ursula, who now arrived conducted by some of the Archers, and followed by the Nun her Companion in the procession: `Not betrayed, but discovered. In me recognise your Accuser: You know not, how well I am instructed in your guilt! -- Segnor!' She continued, turning to Don Ramirez; `I commit myself to your custody. I charge the Prioress of St. Clare with murder, and stake my life for the justice of my accusation.'
A general cry of surprize was uttered by the whole Audience, and an explanation was demanded loudly. The trembling Nuns, terrified at the noise and universal confusion, had dispersed, and fled different ways. Some regained the Convent; Others sought refuge in the dwellings of their Relations; and Many, only sensible of their present danger, and anxious to escape from the tumult, ran through the Streets, and wandered, they knew not whither. The lovely Virginia was one of the first to fly: And in order that She might be better seen and heard, the People desired that St. Ursula should harangue them from the vacant Throne. The Nun complied; She ascended the glittering Machine, and then addressed the surrounding multitude as follows.
`However strange and unseemly may appear my conduct, when considered to be adopted by a Female and a Nun, necessity will justify it most fully. A secret, an horrible secret weighs heavy upon my soul: No rest can be mine till I have revealed it to the world, and satisfied that innocent blood which calls from the Grave for vengeance. Much have I dared to gain this opportunity of lightening my conscience. Had I failed in my attempt to reveal the crime, had the Domina but suspected that the mystery was none to me, my ruin was inevitable. Angels who watch unceasingly over those who deserve their favour, have enabled me to escape detection: I am now at liberty to relate a Tale, whose circumstances will freeze every honest soul with horror. Mine is the task to rend the veil from Hypocrisy, and show misguided Parents to what dangers the Woman is exposed, who falls under the sway of a monastic Tyrant.
‘Among the Votaries of St. Clare, none was more lovely, none more gentle, than Agnes de Medina. I knew her well; She entrusted to me every secret of her heart; I was her Friend and Confident, and I loved her with sincere affection. Nor was I singular in my attachment. Her piety unfeigned, her willingness to oblige, and her angelic disposition, rendered her the Darling of all that was estimable in the Convent. The Prioress herself, proud, scrupulous and forbidding, could not refuse Agnes that tribute of approbation, which She bestowed upon no one else. Every one has some fault: Alas! Agnes had her weakness! She violated the laws of our order, and incurred the inveterate hate of the unforgiving Domina. St. Clare's rules are severe: But grown antiquated and neglected, many of late years have either been forgotten, or changed by universal consent into milder punishments. The penance, adjudged to the crime of Agnes, was most cruel, most inhuman! The law had been long exploded: Alas! It still existed, and the revengeful Prioress now determined to revive it. This law decreed, that the Offender should be plunged into a private dungeon, expressly constituted to hide from the world for ever the Victim of Cruelty and tyrannic superstition. In this dreadful abode She was to lead a perpetual solitude, deprived of all society, and believed to be dead by those, whom affection might have prompted to attempt her rescue. Thus was She to languish out the remainder of her days, with no other food than bread and water, and no other comfort than the free indulgence of her tears.'
The indignation created by this account was so violent, as for some moments to interrupt St. Ursula's narrative. When the disturbance ceased, and silence again prevailed through the Assembly, She continued her discourse, while at every word the Domina's countenance betrayed her increasing terrors.
‘A Council of the twelve elder Nuns was called: I was of the number. The Prioress in exaggerated colours described the offence of Agnes, and scrupled not to propose the revival of this almost forgotten law. To the shame of our sex be it spoken, that either so absolute was the Domina's will in the Convent, or so much had disappointment, solitude, and self-denial hardened their hearts and sowered their tempers, that this barbarous proposal was assented to by nine voices out of the twelve. I was not one of the nine. Frequent opportunities had convinced me of the virtues of Agnes, and I loved and pitied her most sincerely. The Mothers Bertha and Cornelia joined my party: We made the strongest opposition possible, and the Superior found herself compelled to change her intention. In spite of the majority in her favour, She feared to break with us openly. She knew, that supported by the Medina family, our forces would be too strong for her to cope with: And She also knew, that after being once imprisoned and supposed dead, should Agnes be discovered, her ruin would be inevitable. She therefore gave up her design, though which much reluctance. She demanded some days to reflect upon a mode of punishment, which might be agreeable to the whole Community; and She promised, that as soon as her resolution was fixed, the same Council should be again summoned. Two days passed away: On the Evening of the Third it was announced, that on the next day Agnes should be examined; and that according to her behaviour on that occasion, her punishment should be either strengthened or mitigated.
[...] Being anxious to keep my visit secret, I stayed with Agnes but a short time. I bad her not let her spirits be cast down; I mingled my tears with those, which streamed down her cheek, embraced her fondly, and was on the point of retiring, when I heard the sound of steps approaching the Cell. I started back. A Curtain which veiled a large Crucifix offered me a retreat, and I hastened to place myself behind it. The door opened. The Prioress entered, followed by four other Nuns. They advanced towards the bed of Agnes. The Superior reproached her with her errors in the bitterest terms: She told her, that She was a disgrace to the Convent, that She was resolved to deliver the world and herself from such a Monster, and commanded her to drink the contents of a Goblet now presented to her by one of the Nuns. Aware of the fatal properties of the liquor, and trembling to find herself upon the brink of Eternity, the unhappy Girl strove to excite the Domina's pity by the most affecting prayers. She sued for life in terms which might have melted the heart of a Fiend: She promised to submit patiently to any punishment, to shame, imprisonment, and torture, might She but be permitted to live! Oh! might She but live another month, or week, or day! Her merciless Enemy listened to her complaints unmoved: She told her, that at first She meant to have spared her life, and that if She had altered her intention, She had to thank the opposition of her Friends. She continued to insist upon her swallowing the poison: She bad her recommend herself to the Almighty's mercy, not to hers, and assured her that in an hour She would be numbered with the Dead. Perceiving that it was vain to implore this unfeeling Woman, She attempted to spring from her bed, and call for assistance: She hoped, if She could not escape the fate announced to her, at least to have witnesses of the violence committed. The Prioress guessed her design. She seized her forcibly by the arm, and pushed her back upon her pillow. At the same time drawing a dagger, and placing it at the breast of the unfortunate Agnes, She protested that if She uttered a single cry, or hesitated a single moment to drink the poison, She would pierce her heart that instant. Already half-dead with fear, She could make no further resistance. The Nun approached with the fatal Goblet. The Domina obliged her to take it, and swallow the contents. She drank, and the horrid deed was accomplished. The Nuns then seated themselves round the Bed. They answered her groans with reproaches; They interrupted with sarcasms the prayers in which She recommended her parting soul to mercy: They threatened her with heaven's vengeance and eternal perdition: They bad her despair of pardon, and strowed with yet sharper thorns Death's painful pillow. Such were the sufferings of this young Unfortunate, till released by fate from the malice of her Tormentors. She expired in horror of the past, in fears for the future; and her agonies were such as must have amply gratified the hate and vengeance of her Enemies. As soon as her Victim ceased to breathe, the Domina retired, and was followed by her Accomplices.

`I have no more to say: For what I have already said, I will answer with my life. I repeat, that the Prioress is a Murderess; That She has driven from the world, perhaps from heaven, an Unfortunate whose offence was light and venial; that She has abused the power intrusted to her hands, and has been a Tyrant, a Barbarian, and an Hypocrite. I also accuse the four Nuns, Violante, Camilla, Alix, and Mariana, as being her Accomplices, and equally criminal.'
Here St. Ursula ended her narrative. It created horror and surprize throughout: But when She related the inhuman murder of Agnes, the indignation of the Mob was so audibly testified, that it was scarcely possible to hear the conclusion. This confusion increased with every moment: At length a multitude of voices exclaimed, that the Prioress should be given up to their fury. To this Don Ramirez refused to consent positively. Even Lorenzo bad the People remember, that She had undergone no trial, and advised them to leave her punishment to the Inquisition. All representations were fruitless: The disturbance grew still more violent, and the Populace more exasperated. In vain did Ramirez attempt to convey his Prisoner out of the Throng. Wherever He turned, a band of Rioters barred his passage, and demanded her being delivered over to them more loudly than before. Ramirez ordered his Attendants to cut their way through the multitude: Oppressed by numbers, it was impossible for them to draw their swords. He threatened the Mob with the vengeance of the Inquisition: But in this moment of popular phrenzy even this dreadful name had lost its effect. Though regret for his Sister made him look upon the Prioress with abhorrence, Lorenzo could not help pitying a Woman in a situation so terrible: But in spite of all his exertions, and those of the Duke, of Don Ramirez, and the Archers, the People continued to press onwards. They forced a passage through the Guards who protected their destined Victim, dragged her from her shelter, and proceeded to take upon her a most summary and cruel vengeance. Wild with terror, and scarcely knowing what She said, the wretched Woman shrieked for a moment's mercy: She protested that She was innocent of the death of Agnes, and could clear herself from the suspicion beyond the power of doubt. The Rioters heeded nothing but the gratification of their barbarous vengeance. They refused to listen to her: They showed her every sort of insult, loaded her with mud and filth, and called her by the most opprobrious appellations. They tore her one from another, and each new Tormentor was more savage than the former. They stifled with howls and execrations her shrill cries for mercy; and dragged her through the Streets, spurning her, trampling her, and treating her with every species of cruelty which hate or vindictive fury could invent. At length a Flint, aimed by some well-directing hand, struck her full upon the temple. She sank upon the ground bathed in blood, and in a few minutes terminated her miserable existence. Yet though She no longer felt their insults, the Rioters still exercised their impotent rage upon her lifeless body. They beat it, trod upon it, and ill-used it, till it became no more than a mass of flesh, unsightly, shapeless, and disgusting.
Unable to prevent this shocking event, Lorenzo and his Friends had beheld it with the utmost horror: But they were rouzed from their compelled inactivity, on hearing that the Mob was attacking the Convent of St. Clare. The incensed Populace, confounding the innocent with the guilty, had resolved to sacrifice all the Nuns of that order to their rage, and not to leave one stone of the building upon another. Alarmed at this intelligence, they hastened to the Convent, resolved to defend it if possible, or at least to rescue the Inhabitants from the fury of the Rioters. Most of the Nuns had fled, but a few still remained in their habitation. Their situation was truly dangerous. However, as they had taken the precaution of fastening the inner Gates, with this assistance Lorenzo hoped to repel the Mob, till Don Ramirez should return to him with a more sufficient force.
Having been conducted by the former disturbance to the distance of some Streets from the Convent, He did not immediately reach it: When He arrived, the throng surrounding it was so excessive, as to prevent his approaching the Gates. In the interim, the Populace besieged the Building with persevering rage: They battered the walls, threw lighted torches in at the windows, and swore that by break of day not a Nun of St. Clare's order should be left alive. Lorenzo had just succeeded in piercing his way through the Crowd, when one of the Gates was forced open. The Rioters poured into the interior part of the Building, where they exercised their vengeance upon every thing which found itself in their passage. They broke the furniture into pieces, tore down the pictures, destroyed the reliques, and in their hatred of her Servant forgot all respect to the Saint. Some employed themselves in searching out the Nuns, Others in pulling down parts of the Convent, and Others again in setting fire to the pictures and valuable furniture, which it contained. These Latter produced the most decisive desolation: Indeed the consequences of their action were more sudden, than themselves had expected or wished. The Flames rising from the burning piles caught part of the Building, which being old and dry, the conflagration spread with rapidity from room to room. The Walls were soon shaken by the devouring element: The Columns gave way: The Roofs came tumbling down upon the Rioters, and crushed many of them beneath their weight. Nothing was to be heard but shrieks and groans; The Convent was wrapped in flames, and the whole presented a scene of devastation and horror.’

James Boaden, The Secret Tribunal (1795):

(Source: Literature Online (LION) database) 

Holstein: ‘I can acquaint you so far – All accus’d,
When the first quarter after midnight tolls,
Go to the centre of the Market-place –
Thence they are led before the Secret Judges.
If guilty, they are never heard of more’.
(Act  IV, scene i).

Underground setting beneath the market-place:

‘The Scene represents a spacious Crypt, or vaulted Court of Justice, under ground, of Gothic Architecture. At the upper end is a luminous Cross of a deep red, and over this, surrounded by Clouds, an Eye, radiated with points of fire. A Throne adorned with trophies in gold, upon a ground of black velvet. The benches of the Judges the same’.
(Act V, scene i).

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