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review 2017-02-08 21:38
The Castle of Wolfenbach: A German Story - Eliza Parsons,Diane Long Hoeveler
The Complete Northanger Horrid Novel Collection (9 Books of Gothic Romance and Horror) - Eliza Parsons,Ann Radcliffe,Ludwig Flammenberg,Marquis de Grosse,Francis Lotham,Regina Maria, Roche,Eleanor Sleath,M. Mataev

Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) by Eliza Parsons: sort of a Nancy Drew opening

I'm cross-posting my own review because eventually I hope to have read the entire horrible book, and I'd like to have all the sub-reviews collected.

  Wow. So it's clear why this didn't remain a popular book for long. All of the creepy gothic stuff takes place at the beginning. Then there's a section of characters acting like normal (aristocratic) people and traveling and having large house parties, and crushing on each other, and oh, if I had read this book before reading Mansfield Park I would never have cast any aspersions upon Fanny. Mathilda is rather unusually perfect in every way, such that everyone who meets her is immediately smitten and keen to support her for the rest of her life; and, yeah, that's not the most unbelievable part. Hard to say what is, though. There's the way two different villains repent of the horrors they have done and are immediately forgiven by the only survivors. Or the way everyone talks in monologues that last for pages of dense paragraphs. Or the pirate who was planning to retire anyway, so he might just as well help Mathilda out...Really, there isn't a single believable bit in the whole book, neither in the story nor in the telling. To sum up: gruesome, and not in a fun way (unless you enjoy reading awful books, which apparently I do, if they're old enough). First of The Complete Northanger Horrid Novel Collection

personal copy.

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review 2015-12-15 00:00
The Mysteries of Udolpho (Oxford World's Classics)
The Mysteries of Udolpho (Oxford World's Classics) - Ann Radcliffe,Bonamy Dobrée,Terry Castle This is the story about how Emily St Aubert, a modest young woman of good character, overcomes her high principles and decides that maybe her legal guardian is not correct in locking her and her aunt up in his remote Italian castle in order to obtain possession of their estates. Of stalkers suitors she had plenty, and held them off graciously in order to remain free for her pure Valancourt. To love is appropriate, even if acquaintances have observed the object of that love at gaming tables spending money he does not possess.

This novel is ridiculous. I can also see what made people so mad about it. There were long sequences of words where nothing happened except for the stopping of the carriage to take in a view. Radcliffe was opposed to the idea of "horror" over "suspense". She certainly lives up to that idea, unfortunately it all seems to have gotten out of her hands. She drops more hints and secrets and unutterable sights than she can ultimately handle. And yet, I enjoyed reading it. The impossibility of the castle, the bizarre introduction in volume 4 of a new cast all reminded me of that phenomenon of a decade ago: Lost.

The Mysteries of Udolpho is the Lost of its century. There are mysteries in each character's past, however innocuous, and a conspiracy of silence until their isn't, and revelations that are hidden until the writer gets around to deciding what those revelations signify or what they will even be. I enjoyed Lost immensely, Udolpho less so, but I can appreciate how millions were drawn into the play and inspired, among many others, the fond ridicule of Jane Austen.
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text 2014-11-24 21:52
The Gothic novel
The Gothic: 250 Years of Success. Your Guide to Gothic Literature and Culture - A J Blakemont

* * *

In December 1764 appeared a curious book titled The Castle of Otranto. Its preface stated:

 

"The following work was found in the library of an ancient Catholic family in the north of England. It was printed at Naples, in the black letter, in the year 1529. How much sooner it was written does not appear. The principal incidents are such as were believed in the darkest ages of Christianity; but the language and conduct have nothing that savours of barbarism."

 

The preface went on to speculate that this story had been written during the Crusades, between 1095 and 1243. A haunted castle, a mysterious prophecy, an evil and manipulative aristocrat, two young and beautiful heroines, a forbidden love and lots of action – such are the ingredients of this wildly imaginative melodrama.

 

Despite an initially positive critical reception, this unlikely story could have remained a footnote in the history of literature, as did other literary curiosities. However, the following year, a second edition of this book was published, and, this time, its true nature was revealed by the author. The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story was a work of fiction written by Horace Walpole, a forty-eight-year-old English aristocrat known for his passion for the medieval period and Gothic architecture.

 

In this stylish, rationalist 18th century, dominated by the baroque and the Classicism, Walpole was viewed as an eccentric. He went as far as to transform his villa at Strawberry Hill (just outside London) into an imitation of a Gothic castle. In the preface to the second edition of The Castle of Otranto, Walpole explained that his book was “an attempt to blend the two kinds of romance, the ancient and the modern”. In other words, he transposed his love for medieval art into literature and thus created the first neo-Gothic fictional work in history.

 

In the 1760s, the world was not yet ready for the onslaught of the Gothic. However, two decades later, England was ready, as were other European countries that went through radical social changes.

 

The Gothic novel exploded in the 1790s and the 1800s, when, in England, up to 20 per cent of all published titles belonged to this type of literature. Paradoxically, the effects of this cultural phenomenon were as profound as the books that caused it were shallow. Few Gothic novels published in the 18th century had literary merit (those by Ann Radcliffe being among the rare exceptions). More than their intrinsic quality, it was their ability to excite the imagination of a broad readership that made them so influential. The 18th-century Gothic fiction was probably the first popular genre in the history of Western civilization; it was the prototype of what we call a genre nowadays.

 

The success of this early wave of terrifying novels was short-lived, and, in the 1820s, readers grew tired of this kind of story. Nevertheless, 19th-century literature would not be the same without the spark of wild imagination brought by the Gothic novel. This genre created a portal between the mysterious past and the rational present through which the power of medieval fancy could relive to inseminate the modern culture. It inspired Jane Austen to write her first novel, Northanger Abbey, a satirical, yet respectful parody of the Radcliffean Gothic. It influenced Walter Scott, the father of historical fiction. It paved the road for the budding Romantic Movement, in particular its darker forms, and we can see its imprint in Byron’s poems or in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

 

Some literary critics viewed the Gothic as biologists view extinct species, like a relic of the past, something that had a role in evolution, but was now history. As a genre the Gothic is no more; nevertheless, as an artistic style it is as strong nowadays as it was two centuries ago. It was its ability to evolve beyond the boundaries of a genre that made it so influential and widespread.

 

By the first decade of the 19th century, the Gothic had invaded literature and, to a lesser extent, theatrical drama and visual arts. By the first decade of the 21st century, the Gothic was everywhere: cinema, TV, comic books, music, internet, role-playing games, video games, digital art, and fashion. Not only was it adopted by every form of art and media, but it also penetrated most genres; we can find its influence in fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, romance, historical fiction, and literary fiction.

 

* * *

 

From The Gothic: 250 Years of Success by A J Blakemont. Copyrighted material.

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text 2014-10-11 21:27
Announcing a read-along
The Mysteries of Udolpho - Ann Radcliffe
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen,Alfred Mac Adam

My GR group - The Dead Writers Society - is planning on a buddy read of The Mysteries of Udolpho for next month, which I will personally be pairing with a reread of Northanger Abbey.

 

Northanger Abbey has always been my least favorite Austen. I am hoping that my current foray into Victorian gothics will help me to make sense of it. I've never really gotten it, if you know what I mean.

 

I will be posting over here as well, if anyone is interested in joining in here. If you are on GR and want to participate, you can find the group by searching the name and ask to join. Just mention you are interested in the Mysteries of Udolpho buddy read & one of the mods will approve your request to join. In the alternative, send me a PM here or there, & I will send you an invite link.

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review 2014-08-05 07:01
The Mysteries of Udolpho - Ann Radcliffe

Even though this was a book that I had wanted to read for sometime, I struggled with it.  While reading the book, I found that I really couldn't keep my interest with the book and found it to be a bit of a chore, even though at times I could get myself engrossed with the story.  I found it to be something that I read for long periods of time without figuring what was going on and all of a sudden I got interested in the story for a bit and the process would repeat itself.

Source: jaynesbooks.blogspot.ca/2014/08/the-mysteries-of-udolpho-ann-radcliffe.html
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