CW3 Home | Corvey Home
Author Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T V W Y Z


Contribution Page

Old Stories
    (Review / Old Stories, by Elizabeth Isabella Spence)
  Monthly Censor / JAS, 1822
  vol. 1 (1822): 707-9.
Art. XXXIX. Old Stories. By Miss Spence, Author of 'A Traveller's Tale,' &c. &c. 2 Vols. 10s.6d. Longman & Co. 1822.

The scenes of the two Old Stories contained in the volumes before us are laid, the one in North Wales, at Chirck Castle, the present residence of Mrs Myddelton Biddulph; in the reign of Edward I. the usurped property of Sir Roger Mortimer; the other in Shropshire, at Kynaston's Cave, the present abode of an old woman, who shews it as a curiosity to the traveller, and formerly the resort of a famous outlaw, called Sir Humphrey Kynaston, a sort of Rob Roy, whose exploits were matter of much sensation and alarm when he lived, about the year 1564. The former story, The Knight's Daughter, is founded on an occurrence which happened in the reign of Edward I; when Madoc and Lllewelyn [sic], the two children of a deceased chieftain, Gryffydd ap Madoc, were drowned under Holt Bridge, and their inheritances succeeded to by their murderers, John, Earl of Warren, and Sir Roger Mortimer. According to the legend, in deference to which the peasantry of the vicinity imagined their fairy forms to be visible in moonlight nights, under the arch, which from that catastrophe is called The Ladies Arch, it is to be presumed that the children really perished, but in Miss Spence's tale, they are allowed to escape the watery grave assigned them, owing to the kind intervention of a monk; and one of the boys he introduces in a lowly habit into the hereditary castle, in which one of his supposed murderers holds dominion, and there educates him as a minstrel boy, in attendance on Mortimer's daughter; the other child, whose head had been seriously injured by a fall against a rock, and who is subject to fits of phrenzy, is kept entirely in seclusion, but visited and nurtured by the same humane monk. Owen, for that is the assumed name of Llewelyn [sic], and Elwyna, the daughter of Mortimer, become attached to each other, to the rage of Sir Roger, who had destined her to be the bride of Earl Warren, his accomplice in iniquity. Elwyna steadily refuses an union with the Earl; but is at length imposed upon by his assumption of Owen's motto on his coat of arms to pass [708] himself at a tilting match for the favoured lover, and by a string of stratagems, she finds herself at the end of the nuptial ceremony, the wife of her detested persecutor. This drives Owen and his brother to the extremity of indignant rage, and their appearance with the monk, who had rescued them from death occasions a general explanation. Earl Warren falls under the weapons of both the brothers, and Lllewelyn [sic] and Elwyna are ultimately united.

The interest of the tale of Sir Humphrey Kynaston, turns on the person of his wife, Isabel Griffith, a beautiful girl, the daughter of a farmer, to whom he had been united before the course of dissipation, which, by degrees, led him to a life terminating in his outlawry. On this he retires with his horse to the cave, known by the name of Kynaston's Cave, and there he resides till seized by fatal illness. To attend and endeavour to relieve him from his malady, a woman famed for her skill in simples, is here introduced to him, and proves to be Isabel his wife, whose love for him had survived all his ill-treatment, and in whose arms he dies.

The stories are not without interest, although there is nothing particularly novel in the banquetings, and knights and esquires to which they introduce us; and to those fond of that sort of reading, we think they may prove the amusing companions of a vacant hour. But Miss Spence will, we hope, excuse us for pointing out a glaring inaccuracy in point of time, which arrest the eye at the very opening of her volumes. She does not write in her own person, but in that of an individual concerning whose age we are left in doubtful curiosity by his informing us that his mother died at the close of the seventeenth century, towards the latter end of the reign of Queen Anne, he being at that time thirty years of age; this extraordinary personage however we are led to suppose is still living, since he speaks of Wellington: and of the two ladies in the vale of Llangollen, whose retirement from the world is pretty generally known, and whose cottage he looks down on in one of his Welsh rambles. If Miss Spence wished her young man to visit Wales in the seventeenth, in preference to the nineteenth century, we see no reason to object to the arrangement; but considering the span to which the life of man has been reduced, we think it somewhat a stretch of fancy to imagine him alive also at the present time. In the same paragraph, which first opens upon us in this contradictory strain, we had rather not have seen the following passage: 'and shone on the victories of Marlborough, like the same day-star on the field of Gilgal.' We imagine the victories of Saul to be here alluded to, and surely irrelevantly, to use no harsher term; for how can the success of any hero of these latter ages be compared to that of one acting under the revealed [709] will of heaven, imparted to him through the medium of a living prophet? We mean not to speak slightingly of the present interpositions of Providence, but surely the two instances will not bear a comparison! But referring again to Miss Spence's inaccuracies of date, the fact, we believe to be, is, that occasionally she confuses herself in identity with the person in whose name she generally conveys her sentiments, and is thus led into the ridiculous errors above mentioned. When we have the pleasure of perusing her next volumes, doubtless we shall have no comments of the same sort to make. [complete]

Provided by Julie A. Shaffer, January 2000