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The Devil's Steeplechase

 Collection — Box: BW 54, Folder: 1
Identifier: MSS 16787

Content Description

This collection contains an anonymous sketchbook containing a highly illustrated handwritten gothic story, additional watercolor paintings, and numerous pen and ink sketches. The primary story pertains to a horse race between the devil and death that takes place on March 12, 1830. It is likely a satire on the first English National Steeplechase, which was run in Bedfordshire on March 8, 1830, and was the precursor of the Grand National race at Aintree. Nine full-page watercolors are devoted to the primary gothic steeplechase story, each with a narrative on the facing page. The story is a morbid variant of the turtle and the hare fable, with the Devil taking an auspicious start but as the Devil relaxes, the Death recovers, catches up and wins, and celebrates his victory by throwing his head (which is a skull) in the air and catching it. In addition to the steeplechase illustrated story, there are three other watercolors of riding, two of these in a steeplechase or a foxhunt. There are also eleven other pages with pen and ink drawings, in varying states of finish, plus three pages heavy with text, and the endpapers are filled with sketches. The other illustration includes a page of silhouettes, which are on military or equestrian themes. Also in the manuscript is a four-page rendering of the Tragedy" from the Ingoldsby Legends" which recounts the story of Catherine of Cleves.


  • Creation: n.d, c.1830

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.


.03 Cubic Feet (one letter-sized folder)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was purchased from White Fox Rare Books and Antiques by the Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia Library on 1 May 2022.

The Devil's Steeplechase
Ellen Welch
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States