Character List

Can’t separate Merrill from Bernadette? Who’s Bro again? Here’s a quick run-down of everyone in Cordelia’s life.

 

Cordelia Hewett—our protagonist. Cordelia is just your average, everyday Regency-Era heroine…except, y’know, dark. She’s a high-born lady plagued by the dark spirits of the past and her own personal demons, which naturally makes her the perfect guide to the strange world of the Gothic Romantic. She presents the day-to-day troubles of living the life of a tortured aristocrat, from getting distracted from spiteful wasting away to discovering her husband’s yet another wife hidden in the attic.

  • Despite this bad habit, Cordelia and her husband Merrill do love each other. A lot. Like, a lot. They also have a son, but, according to Cordelia, he’s not relevant to her present plotline, so he’s mostly ignored.
  • She’s semi-aware of her status as a (faux) literary character. She realizes that she’s somewhat different than other women and is better than most at seeing conveniently-timed life events that may, in fact, be a metaphor for her status as a “fallen woman.” That said, she’s very into her role.

Merrill Hewett—Cordelia’s husband. He has an obsession with collecting wives and sticking them in strange places, but ultimately he is devoted to Cordelia. Probably too devoted.

  • That said, he went through quite an ordeal to marry her. Before his addiction to overly-contrived marriages, he fell in love with her at a ball. But alas! She was already betrothed! But that night, under the stars, he promised himself, body and soul, to devote his life to her, and that they would find a way to be together forever. Conveniently enough, Cordelia’s previous fiancé was carried away by “consumption or smothering or whatever” (to quote Cordelia). She and Merrill were married at once, but the elaborateness of his plan had been addicting, leading to his current problem with wives.
  • That said, he knows just how many poison rings Cordelia has ready, just in case he crosses the line. He thinks it’s kind of hot.

Cordelia’s brother (Bro)—A doctor. He keeps trying to suggest that she needs help; she counters every suggestion by  blaming everything on ghosts.

  • If you ask, he’ll tell you that their childhood was perfectly fine, and that no, Cordelia’s mother had not seen the devil in her and tried to drown her—it had just been a bath she hadn’t wanted to take.

The Maid—She doesn’t get paid enough.

  • Continuously cleans up after Cordelia and Merrill, in addition to nursing the child that everyone forgets about. Every now and again she gives good, maid-type advice, but no one listens.

Bernadette Matthews—Cordelia’s “rival”. Basically the Ned Flanders to Cordelia’s Homer Simpson.

  • Bernadette is the traditional Romantic heroine. She is inherently good and ever-so-pure, though she does dabble in spiritualism from time to time. Overall, though, she is a testament to anyone being able to rise in the ranks by being pretty and pleasant enough, and is the perfect representation of Regency womanhood.
  • Tries her best to be friends with Cordelia. It’s not very effective.

The Child—As mentioned earlier, Cordelia sees him as wholly unrelated to her current arc, but she does hope he’ll take after her and have “something of the devil about him”.

  • She later learns that, no doubt due to her neglect, his life is shaping up to be the first few chapters of a Dickens story—despite being four, he can give long monologues on the goodness of people and thinking the best of them despite his own dire situation of having two mad parents. Cordelia secretly hopes he’ll pull a “Little Nell” and just be done with it.
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Recommended Reading

Can’t get enough of that RomGoth feeling? Here are some works that influenced various posts.

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte– the pièce de résistance of the Romantic Gothic novel. We’ve got alcoholism, orphans, upward social mobility, obsession, marriages out of spite, wasting away, screeching madness, and, my personal favorite, digging up the worm-infested corpse of an old love. Starring Heathcliffe and Cathy, the original obsessive lovers.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte—while not quite as intense as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre boasts some impressive RomGothing: namely a secret, insane, alcoholic wife hidden in an attic who sets the house on fire, and Mr. Rochester disguising himself as a palm-reading gypsy in order to get Jane’s attention after he dismisses her. Rochester is essentially the same dark and brooding as Heathcliffe with just a fraction of the crazy.
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman Perkins—While this is technically not a Romance (it was written in 1892, which puts it outside of the Romantic period), it still has a ton of RomGoth elements: namely insanity due to poor mental health regulations and post-partum depression. Also ghosts.
  • “The Black Cat” and “Morella” and others by Edgar Allan Poe—The man perfected the Gothic Romance. While nearly all of his works have some way of inspiration, these two (dealing with vaguely creepy dead women the narrator love) stand out in particular.
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle –One doesn’t usually think of Sherlock Holmes with the Gothic Romance, but Hound delivers: not only is there a “devil dog” tied with a spooky story haunting the moor, but we’ve also got a married couple posing as siblings so the husband can marry another girl.
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne—While the Hewetts live in England, The Scarlet Letter deals with sins manifesting as horrific actions (a guy flays himself for having pre-marital sex, basically) and fallen women and disconcerting children. It definitely gets a shout out here.
  • “Crimson Peak” dir. Guillermo del Toro—True, this is a film, not a book, but it has everything you could want in a Gothic Romance: incest, ghosts, murder, dubious marriages and creepy siblings. Also, fun fact: this is the film that inspired me to start this Twitter!

A Gothic Romantic Crash Course

If you’re at this page, then you’re probably a little confused on what a GothRom Heroine is, so let’s have a little crash-course on the Gothic Romantic.

The Romantic period was a short few years where authors revolted against the methodical and society-based literature of the very early 1800s and the start of the Industrial Revolution, focusing on imagination, the human spirit, the ultimate good in man, the awesome and terrifying power of nature, etc. Probably the most famous group of writers to come out of this were the Romantic Poets: William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, and king of partying George Gordon, Lord Byron. Who are all interesting to read about, but not the focus of what Cordelia Hewett represents.

As Romanticism progressed, a darker sub-genre came out of it: the gothic (or dark) romance. Imagination and nature still played an important part in these novels, but the good of man was absent. Instead, these focused on man’s hubris, man’s pettiness and inherently monstrous nature. We’re talking Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Edgar Allan Poe levels of monstrous nature. Aesthetically, there was a lot of emphasis on mood and atmosphere—stormy seas, misty moors, haunted houses. The sort of thing that humans can’t change and leaves them creeped out is pretty much the description for any Gothic Romance setting.

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

Caspar David Frederich’s “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog”-a.k.a. the picture that every professor will show you when they talk about the Romantic movement.

The 1850s is where things started getting crazy though. There’s a TON of different genres pouring in. We’ve got Sentimentalism coming from people like Charles Dickens and George Eliot (technically their novels are labeled as “realism,” but you tell me a baby crawling into a house from its dead mother’s arms isn’t some kind of sentimental.), we’ve got Nathaniel Hawthorne over in Massachusetts with his Puritan Romances, we’ve got people still talking about Jane Austen and her work. Out of this mess of genres rise the main influence behind my Twitter.

The Bronte sisters.

Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Bronte wrote novels most in-line with what one would consider a Romance today. Novels like Agnes Grey and Shirley follow what most consider the traditional Romantic plotline still used today: girl starts out as poor via some misfortune outside of her control (abandonment, poverty, abuse, etc.), girl befriends some high-born woman, girl meets high-born man, high-born man is instantly smitten but must say nothing, propriety and social climbing hijinks ensue, girl and high-born man are married and live happily ever after. This, for the record, is the kind of Romantic Bernadette represents.

And then there’s novels like Jane Eyre and, of course, Wuthering Heights. And these are the core of the RomGoth twitter.

This is where the delightfully bonkers aspect of Cordelia and Merrill’s life come from: the multiple wives hidden about, the fits of madness and wasting away out of spite, the convoluted plans to get a wife. It’s a strange mixing of the society-based aspect of the Regency era (Jane Austen’s heyday) and the doubt of humanity’s goodness of the dark romances.

And that’s the history behind GothRom Heroine! If you want to learn more, take a look at the inspirations/recommended readings page.

For more reading and to see where I got this info from: http://www.britannica.com/art/Romanticism