Thursday, May 26, 2011

The History of Bluebeard’s Six Wives by Sabilla Novello

Bluebeard Tales From Around the World

Another example of Bluebeard's popularity is The History of Bluebeard’s Six Wives, a novella by Sabilla Novello first published in 1875. The wives "whom hitherto we have known only in a decapitated condition" are presented individually and are all rather silly. This book was intended for readers young and old after all!

Its success was sufficient to garner two sequels, Bluebeard's Widow and Her Sister Anne: Their History Evolved from Mendacious Chronicles (1876) and Hoho and Haha: Their Adventures‎ (1877). The latter was an account of Anne’s children. The first is included in Bluebeard Tales From Around the World, but I wasn't able to obtain a usable copy of the second one so I didn't include it nor the third. The last one is about Hoho and Haha, the children of Sister Anne. Yes, that story has been written!

Here's the first paragraph:

PRINCE HOHO and Princess Haha were son and daughter to King Adelbren, as those know who have read the history of "Bluebeard's Widow and her Sister Anne," and of how the latter came to be Queen. The real names of these children were Adeptino and Zeffiretta, but from their birth they had been known as Hoho! and Haha!—-the interjections uttered at their appearance into this world by their grandfather, King Dunzone; and under these names shall they be transmitted to posterity through this record of their adventures.

For fun, here are sell sheets for the first two books that are quite fun and illustrate how publishing has and hasn't changed in 130 years.

The History of Bluebeard's Wives,Collected From Mendacious Chronicles.

With Chromograph Illustrations by G. Cruikshanks.

Published By Grant & Co., Turnmill Street, E.C. Price 51.


"We strongly recommend all our young friends who are not already acquainted with the veritable History of Bluebeard to procure this narrative of his career, collected from the aforesaid mendacious chronicles. Those young readers who know the old story may most profitably study this new version, which relates not a few surprising incidents needed to explain his lordship's career. Some of these were unknown to ourselves; for example, how the beard of Bluebeard became blue. On this point Miss Sabilla Novello's explanation is consistent with probability, and with the character of the wearer of the beard, and far more striking than that other explanation, or attempted explanation, for which we have been indebted to the archaeologists."—Athenaum.

"The story of Bluebeard has so often been told, that it is perhaps only fair that the story of his six wives should be set forth with equal minuteness. This labour has been undertaken by Miss Sabilla Novello, and the result is a thin square volume, containing a number of pictures printed in bright colours, with stories devoted to the biography of those unhappy ladies. Neither the artist (Mr. G. Cruikshanks, jun.) nor the authoress of the stories cites any authority for the very circumstantial details which they present to the youthful reader; but in this respect the biographers of Bluebeard himself are not more explicit, and the six wives have at least as good a right to be heard through their counsel as the famous Oriental tyrant himself."—Daily News.

"'The History of Bluebeard's Wives' is a gorgeous volume, illustrated by G. Cruikshanks, Jun. The conception is truly ingenious. Unlike our ordinary Bluebeard chroniclers, who never go further back in their researches than the nuptials of Bluebeard and Fatima, the present author has given us a veracious account of the lives of all Fatima's predecessors, whom hitherto we have known only in a decapitated condition. We can now study their biographies with the help of the most attractive pictures, and are even privileged to make acquaintance with their lord and master before his evil propensities were developed or his beard was blue."—Examiner.

"A capital book."—Graphic.

"The story accounts for much that has hitherto been obscure in the last wife and only widow; it may be found interesting to those little people who always want to get to the very beginning."—Saturday Review.

And for the second book:

Bluebeard's Widow and Her Sister Anne.

Published by WARD, LOCK AND TYLER.

PRICE 2s. 6D.


"Miss Sabilla Novello having written, from mendacious chronicles, the history of Bluebeard's Wives, has here evolved from the same mysterious source a charming little story of the history of Fatima and her Sister Anne—the last of Bluebeard's Wives who, with her Sister, proved too much for that terrible lover The story is pleasantly told, and will be an agreeable addition to this class of very light literature. Miss Sabilla Novello has shown herself as clever with her pencil as she is with her pen, for the whole story is illustrated by pretty drawings in outline of the queer, quaint society to which she introduces us."—Western Daily Mercury.

"This dianty little volume is a sequel to the 'History of Bluebeard's Wives,' by the same authoress, and it gives in half a hundred amusing pages some very astonishing and attractive, baseless and imaginative, 'facts.' The story is told with much fancy, pleasant humour, and grotesque style. The illustrations in broad outline, in sepia colour, are remarkably original and drolly grotesque, and are drawn in excellent artistic style. The little volume will well amuse an idle hour, and is neat enough in outward form to be worthy of a place on any drawing-room table, where its clever sketches would attract attention, and its story be gladly read."—Birmingham Daily Post.

"This is an admirable little work, revelling in the realms of fancy, tastefully and skillfully illustrated by the authoress. Old and young alike may derive an hour's cheerful entertainment by a perusal of the charming little volume, in which is portrayed the lives of Fatima, Bluebeard's Widow, a beautiful but heartless and selfish woman, and Sister Anne, modest, amiable and clever, a bright example of womankind This little book is full of interest, and, being artistically bound, it is an elegant adjunct to the drawing-room table. The Dedication is worth quoting."—Exeter Flying Past.

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