& pioneer of the Gothic novel
‘The Château into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance…
was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur
which have so long frowned among the
no less in fact than in the fancy
of Mrs. Radcliffe.’
'The Oval Portrait', by E.A. Poe
Little is known about Ann Radcliffe's life as she never appeared in public. Christina Rossetti attempted to write a biography about her life, but she had to abandon it for lack of information. And, unfortunately, there are no images available of Ann Radcliffe. The one you see on this page is just a stock image circulating on the internet.
Even if other writers had preceded her in writing Gothic novels, she is considered the founder of Gothic literature as she was the one that legitimized that genre thanks to her technique
Throughout her life, Ann Radcliffe published six novels and a book of poetry. In these works her style is romantic for her vivid descriptions of landscapes and of long travel scenes, yet it is mingled with numerous Gothic elements, such as her settings and her use of the supernatural. Moreover, in her stories she always gives a final revelation of inexplicable phenomena. It was just this method of ‘explained Gothicism’ that helped the Gothic novel achieve respectability in the 1790s.
One of his most famous novels is ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ (probably the best example of Gothic romance), later parodied by Jane Austen in ‘Northanger Abbey’.
1584 in southern France and northern Italy, this story is full of physical and psychological terror; of remote and terrifying buidings; of seemingly supernatural events; with a bad and scheming villain (an Italian brigand!); and with a poor, orphaned and persecuted heroine suffering imprisonment in the castle Udolpho.
|Castle Udolpho by James Nasmyth,|
from Mrs. Radcliffe's 1794 edition