Gothic Readings, compiled by Rictor Norton

Edited by Rictor Norton
(London and New York: Leicester University Press, 2000)

Cover of the book Gothic ReadingsGothic Readings: The First Wave, 1764–1840 is an anthology of Gothic literature, set within the context of contemporary criticism and readers' responses. It includes selections from the major practitioners (including Horace Walpole, William Beckford, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Godwin, Mary Shelley, Charles Robert Maturin and Edgar Allan Poe) and many of their followers (including Clara Reeve, Charlotte Smith, Charlotte Dacre, Joanna Baillie, Charles Brockden Brown, Hannah Cowley, Catherine Cuthbertson and Eliza Parsons), as well as contemporary reviews, private letters and diaries, chapbooks, and contemporary anecdotes about dramatic performances and the design of theatre sets.

The collection provides representative samples of the major genres: historical Gothic, the Radcliffe school of terror, the Lewis school of horror, tragic melodrama, comic parody, supernatural poetry and ballads, book reviews, literary criticism and anti-Gothic polemic. It covers the major Gothic issues, such as the aesthetics of the sublime, religion and the supernatural, and the influence of ancient Romance, 'hobgoblin machinery' (including vampires, spectres, orphans, the Inquisition, banditti, nuns, storms, ruined castles) and social and political themes (such as prison reform, revolutionary politics, mother-daughter relationships, incest and madness). A general introduction reviews the major approaches to Gothic literature, and short introductions place individual selections in context. All the texts are based on first editions. The collection is suitable as a textbook for courses on the Gothic novel or on Romantic literature, and will appeal to all Gothic enthusiasts. Rictor Norton is the author of Mistress of Udolpho: The Life of Ann Radcliffe.

23.4 cm, 384 pages, 10 illustrations, bibliography and index.
Paperback price £18.99 - ISBN 0-7185-0217-5
Hardback price £50.00 - ISBN 0-7185 0216 7
PUBLISHER: Leicester University Press, an imprint of Continuum.

Frontispiece to <i>Tales of Terror, 1801

Frontispiece to Tales of Terror (1801)


Praised by Fred Frank, the foremost bibliographer of the Gothic, on the International Gothic Association webpage:

'A superlative collection of excerpts from mulifarious sources .... The major aim of the volume, 'to establish the literary-cultural context of the Gothic,' is fulfilled admirably. The introduction views the aim of first wave Gothic writers to be the evocation of 'dreadful pleasure,' a welcome rejoinder to those literary theorists who would weigh down the genre in its earliest phase with the onus of too much ideology, psychology, ontology, and polemical subtextuality. ... Gothic Readings provides a spectrum of material essential to a cultural and literary understanding of the Gothic's greatest era.'

Table of Contents


1 Historical Gothic

1764 The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
1773 Sir Bertrand, a Fragment by John Aikin
1777 The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve
1785 The Recess by Sophia Lee
1786 Vathek by William Beckford
1790 Review of James White's John of Gaunt
1794 The Sorceress by William Julius Mickle
1795 Mysteries Elucidated by Anna Maria Mackenzie
1796 The Haunted Cavern by John Palmer
1796 Hubert de Sevrac by Mary Robinson
1802 The Perjured Nun by Anne Bannerman
1806 The Novice of Saint Dominick by Sydney Owenson

2 Radcliffe and the School of Terror

1790 Velina de Guidova by Mary Anne Radcliffe
1793 The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons
1794 The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
1793–7 Grasville Abbey George Moore
1796 Camilla by Fanny Burney
1796 The Children of the Abbey by Regina Maria Roche
1797 The Italian by Ann Radcliffe
1798 The Orphan of the Rhine by Eleanor Sleath
1798 Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown
1803 Romance of the Pyrenees by Catherine Cuthbertson
1806 Secrets of the Castle by David Carey
1809 Manfroné by Mary Anne Radcliffe
1830 'Spalatro' by Washington Allston
1837 Rookwood by William Harrison Ainsworth
1839 'The Fall of the House of Usher' by Edgar Allan Poe

3 The 'German' School of Horror

1794 The Necromancer trans. Peter Teuthold
1794 The Adventures of Caleb Williams by William Godwin
1796 The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis
1797 Horrid Mysteries trans. Peter Will
1798 The Midnight Bell by Francis Lathom
1802 Koenigsmark the Robber by Victor Jules Sarret
1806 Zofloya, or, The Moor by Charlotte Dacre
1808 The Midnight Groan
1812 Tales of the Dead trans. Sarah Brown Utterson
1818 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
1819 The Vampyre by John Polidori
1820 Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin
1824 'The Adventure of the German Student' by Washington Irving

4 Drama

1768 The Mysterious Mother by Horace Walpole
1783 Memoirs of Mrs Siddons by James Boaden
1794 A Ghostly Performance by James Boaden
1797 Review of Boaden's The Italian Monk
1797 The Castle Spectre by Matthew Gregory Lewis
1797 Reminiscences of M. G. Lewis by Michael Kelly
1798 De Monfort by Joanna Baillie
1800 On the Absurdities of the Modern Stage by 'Academicus'
1800 A Performance of Julia and Agnes by Mary Russell Mitford
1816 Bertram by Charles Robert Maturin
1816 On 'German' Drama by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1820 The Vampire by James Robinson Planché

5 Poetry

1771 The Minstrel by James Beattie
1784 Written on the Seashore by Charlotte Smith
1784 The Emigrants by Charlotte Smith
1787 Invocation to Horror by Hannah Cowley
1790 Superstition: An Ode by Ann Radcliffe
1791 To the Visions of Fancy by Ann Radcliffe
1791 Night by Ann Radcliffe
1795 The Genius of Melancholy by William Ashburnham
1798 To the River Dove by Ann Radcliffe
1798 Ode to Superstition by Nathan Drake
1796 Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine by Matthew Gregory Lewis
1800 The Mad Monk by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1801 Tales of Terror by Matthew Gregory Lewis
1806 The Vigil of St. Mark by James Montgomery
1807 Song by Percy Bysshe Shelley
1807 Ballad by Percy Bysshe Shelley
1810 The Vampyre by John Stagg
1811 Eugene by Anna Maria Porter
1849 Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

6 Parody

1797 Azemia by William Beckford
1798 Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
1799 The Scribbler by Mary Alcock
1804 A Village Circulating Library by Charles Dibdin
1810 To Make a Novel (anon.)
1810 The Age; A Poem (anon.)
1813 The Heroine by Eaton Stannard Barrett

7 Theory and Criticism

1773 On the Pleasure Derived from Objects of Terror by Anna Laetitia Aikin
1783 Illustrations on Sublimity by James Beattie
1790 Of the Sublimity and Beauty of Sound by Rev. Archibald Alison
1791 Review of Radcliffe's A Sicilian Romance
1794 The Banished Man by Charlotte Smith
1794 Review of Count Roderic's Castle
1794 Review of Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho
1796 The Mysterious Warning by Eliza Parsons
1796 Preface to Emma Courtney by Mary Hays
1797 The Pursuits of Literature by Thomas James Mathias
1797 Review of Lewis's The Monk by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1797 The Terrorist System of Novel-Writing (anon.)
1797 On the Titles of Modern Novels
1798 Vindication of The Monk (anon.)
1801 Ancient Records by T.J. Horsley Curties
1801 Review of Lewis's Tales of Wonder
1802 Novels and Romances by 'Rimelli'
1802 On the Supernatural in Poetry by Ann Radcliffe
1803 Flowers of Literature by Rev. F. Prevost and F. Blagdon
1810 Review of Maturin's Fatal Revenge by Sir Walter Scott
1810 Critique of Walpole's Castle of Otranto by Sir Walter Scott
1818 The Preternatural in Works of Fiction (anon.)
1819 William Godwin's Novels by William Hazlitt
1819 A Tale for a Chimney Corner by Leigh Hunt
1821 Review of Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer
1822 Description of Fonthill Abbey
1826 Review of Radcliffe's Gaston de Blondville
1850 Monk Lewis and His Coterie by David Macbeth Moir
1896 Literary London by Thomas Rees

8 Readers' Responses

Late Eighteenth Century
     Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi
     Maria Edgeworth
     Joseph Ritson
     Henry Francis Cary
     Anna Seward
     Thomas Green
     Mary Hartley
     Elizabeth Carter
Early Nineteenth Century
     Anna Laetitia Barbauld
     Samuel Taylor Coleridge
     Percy Bysshe Shelley
     Charles Knight
     Henry Crabb Robinson
     Mary Russell Mitford
     Charles Bucke
     William Makepeace Thackeray
     Cyrus Redding
     Charlotte Brontë

List of Plates

1 The staircase at Horace Walpole's villa at Strawberry Hill (1774)
2 William Gilpin's watercolour of Furness Abbey (1786)
3 The Lady's Magazine for September 1795
4 Frontispiece to The Midnight Assassin (1797)
5 James Gillray's caricature of ladies reading Lewis's sensational novel The Monk (1818)
6 Frontispiece to The Midnight Groan (1808)
7 A toy theatre version of Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1841)
8 Frontispiece to Tales of Terror (1801)
9 Frontispiece to T.J. Horsley Curties's Ancient Records (1801)

Copyright © 2000, 2014, 2022 Rictor Norton