Important acquisitions

Narcisse, ou le Chateau d'Arabit

Author Castera, Desiree de
Title Narcisse, ou le Chateau d'Arabit
Imprint Paris: Dentu, Imprimeur-Libraire, Palais du Tribunal, galeries de bois, no.240
Date of Publication 1804
Language French
Notes This rare and obscure French gothic novel with a Scottish setting begins with 'miss Narcisse', who has reached the age of eighteen without knowing anything of her origins. In the course of the novel, she uncovers the story of her own birth and the strange and romantic histories of other characters, recounted in a series of retrospective narratives and discoveries of packets of letters, until the happy ending which ties up all the strands. As a depiction of Scotland in European fiction before Scott's novels, it offers some interesting points. The history of how a noble family lost power and influence on the downfall of the Stuarts is linked not to Jacobite rebellions but to the execution of Charles I. While there is no explicit discussion of the religious affiliations of the characters, 'miss Narcisse' begins the novel being educated in a convent in the Highlands, and elsewhere a hermit, Pere Antoine, inhabits a grotto. Volume 3 contains an imitation of Ossianic bardic raptures, supposedly produced by one of the characters while in Wales, in homage to his Scottish love, with an authorial note explaining the connection to 'M. Mackferson' [sic]. Some care has been taken by de Castera with regard to the geographical setting, which seems to derive ultimately from the descriptions found in Blaeu's Atlas of 1654. While 'Chateau d'Arabit' seems fictional, it is located in 'Chanrie' (or Chanonry, now Fortrose) and may be based on Ormond Castle, and the other main fictional location, 'Rosenthall' manor, may derive from nearby Rosemarkie. Many of the Scottish placenames are accompanied by authorial notes explaining their location such as 'Innerlothe, otherwise Fort William, capital of Lochaber' (vol. 2, p.154). It would not be impossible to plot Narcisse's journeys on a map of Scotland - and one wonders if this is, in fact, what the author did. Finally, each volume comes with a frontispiece in which characters and buildings and landscapes are presented without any of what would soon become the defining markers of Scottishness such as tartan and baronial castles.
Shelfmark RB.s.2760
Acquired on 14/10/09
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