Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) was a pioneering English novelist and a prominent figure in the Romantic literary movement. She is best known for her contributions to the Gothic novel genre, where she skillfully blended elements of mystery, suspense, and the supernatural to create a distinct style of storytelling.
As Nick Groom explained in an interview on the Gothic: “Ann Radcliffe can be described retrospectively as using Gothic trappings in her novels. Radcliffe—who was by far the best-selling, best-paid author of the 1790s—popularized the ‘explained supernatural’. This occurs when terrifying and apparently supernatural incidents are all—like in Scooby-Doo—eventually explained as occurring through various mechanisms, instruments, or accidents.
“In Radcliffe,” he continued, “it is suggestion that gets the mind working to create a sense of infinity, or of ‘the Sublime’ (as Edmund Burke describes it). The mind’s encounter with an image it cannot comprehend is a heightening experience, but one which also annihilates the self. This was a favourite aesthetic effect of the late eighteenth century.”
Radcliffe’s mastery of the Gothic form not only entertained but also significantly influenced subsequent generations of writers and set the stage for the development of Victorian literature and horror genres.
Books by Ann Radcliffe
Q: As you describe in your Very Short Introduction, the Gothic is obsessed with the Catholic past—as we can see in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, and Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian. How did English politics square its obsession with the Catholic past and its creation of a new Whig identity in the Gothic?
A: Ann Radcliffe puts her finger on that in her essay ‘On the Supernatural in Poetry’, published posthumously in 1826. In this essay, she suggests that all the ghosts in the recent English literary tradition have their origin in the ghost of Hamlet’s father.
Interviews where books by Ann Radcliffe were recommended
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