Tag Archives: ann radcliffe

Legendary Tales (1830) by H. Fox Talbot

William_Henry_Fox_Talbot,_by_John_Moffat,_1864

This collection of stories in verse and prose was published in London in 1830 by James Ridgeway. Most of the pieces contain supernatural elements and all of them are in the tradition of the Gothic “first wave” of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Talbot translated or adapted them from various sources which had themselves collected them from the folklore of various European countries. The fashion for such stories is attested in Talbot’s correspondence (which you can read at the excellent website from which much of this biographical information is drawn) in which he states that he has written them to be published specifically to coincide with the London “season”.

Talbot was born in 1800. His father was William Davenport Talbot, who died when his son was only months old. Talbot’s mother, Elisabeth Theresa, remarried in 1804 to Captain Charles Fielding, who came to occupy in Talbot’s affections the place of his biological father.

Talbot is a well-known figure to historians of nineteenth-century culture, but not for his literary ventures (Legendary Tales is his only literary work). Rather, he is known as a pioneer of photography. While he was not the first to create a method of producing light-fast and permanent photographic images, Talbot is credited with the invention of the negative-positive process of reproducing pictures – that is, the method by which one negative is used to produce several positive reproductions. The image below, of a window of the family estate at Lacock Abbey, taken in 1835, is the earliest known surviving camera negative.

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In 1844-46, Talbot was also responsible for the first commercially-published photo-illustrated book – The Pencil of Nature, which is both a book of photographs, and a book about the process and art of photography, then a cutting-edge science.

While Talbot is well-known as a pioneer of photographic reproduction, his volume of Gothic tales relies on the mind’s eye in its evocation of the supernatural sublime and is an enjoyable reminder of the fashionable tastes of early-nineteenth-century society.

Legendary Tales [Kindle]

Legendary Tales [Epub]

Legendary Tales [PDF]

I have made very few edits to the text and have largely retained the original’s somewhat erratic use (or non-use) of speech marks and the convention of capitalising random nouns. In some cases, adjusting the settings of the e-reader display from ‘portrait’ to ‘landscape’ will ensure that poems with longer lines display correctly.

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The Italian (1797) by Ann Radcliffe

italian

At last, the first lady of the Gothic makes a long-overdue debut on the blog. The last of her novels to be published in Ann Radcliffe’s lifetime, The Italian: or the Confessional of the Black Penitents was written in response to Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796). Whereas Lewis’s novel employed a panoply of demons, ghosts and gore that bordered on camp, Radcliffe’s more subtle account of the machinations of the evil Father Schedoni puts into practice her preference for terror (the sublime stimulation of the nervousness or anxiety that foreshadows horrific events) over horror (the abject revulsion that inevitably greets the horrific reality of catastrophes and abominations directly observed). Presented in the form of an assassin’s confession, the resultant psychological drama is amongst the best the genre (and Radcliffe) has to offer.

The Italian [Kindle]

The Italian [Epub]

The Italian [PDF]

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The Castle and the Abbey – A Christmas Tale (1846)

Back Entrance of Caldicot Castle, South Wales, engraved by J. Greig published 1811 by Edward Dayes 1763-1804

This little-known Gothic novel was published anonymously at Maidstone in 1846 by J.V. Hall and Son (presumably for the Christmas market). A curious mixture of the Gothic narratives of Ann Radcliffe and the ‘silver fork’ novels so popular in the 1840s, it tells the story of a persecuted heroine whose happy marriage to the handsome young heir of Beaulieu Abbey is threatened by the appearance of the terrible spectre of the Black Monk. Meanwhile, her companion and childhood friend, Cecilia Herbert, has to deal with the sufferings of her mad half-sister. Eventually, the supernatural elements of the novel are rationalised in Radcliffian fashion – but not before a sensational family secret has been revealed.

The Castle and the Abbey [Kindle]

The Castle and the Abbey [Epub]

The Castle and the Abbey [PDF]

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The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) by Eliza Parsons

holyroodcastle1830w 
The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) is a Gothic novel in the Ann Radcliffe mould. Written by Eliza Parsons (1739-1811) for the Minerva Press, it has since become notorious as one of the ‘horrid novels’ discussed by the protagonists of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1818). However, recent critical work on the ‘Northanger novels’ has not only rescued them from obscurity, but also revealed them to be historically important works in their own right.

Parsons wrote to support her family after the death of her husband, and found a ready market in the customers of William Lane’s circulating library. Lane’s Minerva Press provided the library’s subscribers with a steady flow of thrilling Gothic fictions to fulfil their appetite for tales involving imperilled young ladies, haunted castles and mysterious pasts – not to mention playing to anti-French, anti-Catholic sentiments and a terror of social subversion, which was sweeping through Britain in the wake of the French revolution.

The text used as the basis for this e-book is from the Celebration of Women Writers project. My thanks to Mary Mark Ockerbloom for allowing me to use her HTML edition.

The Castle of Wolfenbach [Kindle]

The Castle of Wolfenbach [Epub]

The Castle of Wolfenbach [PDF]

Critical edition:

The Castle of Wolfenbach, edited and introduced by Diane Long Hoeveler (Valancourt Books, 2006)