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Corvey 'Adopt an Author'

Sarah Green

The Corvey Project at
Sheffield Hallam University


Synopsis of The Carthusian Friar (1814) by Sarah Green


Father Francis and his beautiful young charge, Agnes, arrive at the Castle of Montanville, the home of the widowed Madame de Coucy. They seek shelter from a violent storm, and during their stay there, Agnes immediately develops a close friendship with Madame de Coucy, realising that they share a number of interests and characteristics. Agnes tells Madame de Coucy that Father Francis has brought her up since she was a small child as both her parents are dead, and of how they have both lived a simple and solitary life in the French provinces. Madame de Coucy tells Agnes of her own lonely life since the death of her husband and daughter. Whilst at the castle Agnes recognises a portrait of Madame de Coucy’s late husband, and Madame de Coucy shows Agnes another painting of him, only to discover that it has disappeared and the words ‘PERFIDY’ are in its place, written in blood. Consequently, Madame de Coucy becomes suspicious of Father Francis’s mysterious presence at her home as she sees him wandering the grounds of the castle late at night. Shortly after, the Friar sends Agnes to the nearby Convent of St. Monica’s where she strikes up a close friendship with a young girl named Juliette, of a similar background to Agnes.

Father Francis goes to Rome and in his absence Agnes and Madame de Coucy grow closer, meeting on numerous occasions at the castle. Madame de Coucy has some Italian aristocrats visiting her, and she introduces Agnes to them as her ‘adopted’ daughter. She gives Agnes the more appropriate name of Agnes Montresor, but the Italians grow suspicious of Agnes’s lower class status. Madame de Coucy’s close friend, the Marchesa d’Albertini, has a son named St. Marco who is instantly attracted to Agnes. He reminds Agnes of Bernardo, a Venetian painter with whom she fell in love the previous summer, and St. Marco and Agnes become close friends.

Meanwhile, Father Francis returns from his trip and Madame de Coucy asks his permission to take Agnes with her on a visit to Italy with her friends, to which the monk agrees. Before Agnes’s departure, she explores the subterranean, forbidden chambers of the castle and discovers an old prisoner there. She notices that the prisoner bears some resemblance to Father Francis, but she keeps her discovery a secret.

The party arrive at Palazzo d’Albertini, near Rome, where Agnes’s suspicions of St. Marco’s similarities to Bernardo are increased. He admits to her that they are the same person and declares his love for Agnes. However, she is unsure about their union because of her lower social status and refuses his advances. The party continue to the Pallazo de Marco, the de Marco’s residence at Venice. During an excursion along the Venetian waterways, Agnes is kidnapped by disguised bandits, and is taken by her captors to Lucchensini Castle. During her captivity, she notices the De Coucy’s coat of arms on some of the furniture there, and she also sees and hears Father Francis. His involvement in her captivity is suggested because of his disapproval of her adopting an assumed name, which is above her status. She is taken to speak before the Council of Ten at St. Mark’s Place, accused of adopting a false identity, but she is released and allowed to return to Lucchensini. Once again in captivity, she is given the shocking revelation that her mother is actually still alive. Before she is able to discover any further information, St. Miguel, St. Marco’s best friend, rescues her and they set out on their journey back to Montanville. During Agnes’s absence, Juliette and St. Marco have both searched for Agnes independently. As a result of his attempts, St Marco is also captured and taken to Lucchensini Castle, but he eventually escapes unharmed.

Meanwhile, Agnes once again is kidnapped, this time by Count de Floreal who has announced his love for her. She refuses his advances but he keeps her captive at his home for a number of weeks. Juliette hears of her captivity and manages to organise her escape. Agnes eventually returns to Montanville, and returns to the underground chambers to see the prisoner. He tells her that he is related to her but that he is under a strict oath not to reveal his true identity to her. Gaspard, a servant at the Castle of Montanville, is taken seriously ill and requests to see Madame de Coucy as soon as possible to confess a great sin to her. Madame de Coucy returns and tells Agnes that she is hurt by the allegations of felony and theft that she had allegedly made against her in Italy. Of course, Agnes is innocent of this crime, but Madame de Coucy rushes off to see Gaspard on his deathbed. Shortly afterwards, Agnes is ordered to go to the castle urgently to see Madame de Coucy. Madame de Coucy reveals that she is Agnes’s mother, and that the prisoner in the underground chambers is her husband, Count de Coucy, Agnes’s father. Father Francis is revealed to be Claude, the Count’s brother, who has kept him prisoner because he was jealous of his inheritance and his wife, Cecilia. Father Francis lied about his brother’s death and hired Gaspard to attend to the captive Count in his absence. Claude brought up Agnes or Emilie de Coucy alone, telling Madame de Coucy that her daughter was also dead.

Emilie (Agnes) is reunited with her parents, and she is informed that she used to play with St Marco as a child as their fathers were close friends. St. Marco arrives at Montanville and Emilie reveals her true feelings towards him. The Count gives the couple his blessing. Juliette also returns, announcing that Count de Floreal isn’t her real father and so she is now able to reveal her true feelings for him. The Marchesa d’Albertini reveals that Juliette is her daughter, and that her real name is Victorine. When she was a baby, they were both involved in a storm and were lost at sea. However, Victorine was saved and brought up by a local fisherman, and her true identity has only now been revealed to the Marchesa.

Emilie and St. Marco are married, as are Victorine and the Count de Floreal. However, the Count de Floreal dies shortly after the wedding and Victorine later marries St. Miguel, who had secretly loved her for many years.

Claude de Coucy flees to a reclusive and strict monastery and is never seen again.


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