Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Timeline of Gothic Literature published in England during the "Long 19th Century"...

1764… Horace Walpole publishes The Castle of Otranto, which is widely acknowledged to be the first Gothic novel. He labels it a “gothic story” and includes in the preface of the first edition the disclaimer: “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….If the story was written near the time when it is supposed to have happened, it must have been between 1095, the era of the first crusade, and 1243, the date of the last, or not long afterward.” In the preface to the second edition, Walpole abandons the pretense, stating that “The favorable manner in which this little piece has been received by the public, calls upon the author to explain the grounds on which he composed it.” The tale is that of the doomed Manfred, prince of Otranto, seeking by any means moral or immoral to shelter himself and his family from the prophecy that will bring about their ruin and end.

1778...Clara Reeve publishes The Old English Baron, and states in the preface to this work that it is "the literary offspring of The Castle of Otranto, written upon the same plan, with a design to unite the most attractive and interesting circumstances of the ancient Romance and modern Novel, at the same time it assumes a character and manner of its own, that differs from both."

1791...Ann Radcliffe publishes the first of her Gothic n
ovels, Romance of the Forest. In Ann Radcliffe: The Great Enchantress (1995) Robert Miles writes that Radcliffe's work is "a consolidation of the plot of the female Gothic" (101).

1794... Ann Radcliffe publishes The Mysteries of Udolpho. In Gothic and Gender, Donna Heiland writes that "Radcliffe's interest all along seems to be less in dismantling patriarchy than exposing its workings and exploring the roles open to women within it" (69). In this novel, E mily St. Aubert, orphaned and penniless, is imprisoned by her evil guardian Count Montoni within the walls of his gloomy, medieval fortress and must find a way to escape his schemes for her future if she is to find and marry the man she loves, M. Valancourt. Radcliffe herself is careful to point out that hers is a work of terror and not horror, and she relies heavily on a reworking of the Burkean philosop hy of the sublime within her novel. In the same year, William Godwin publishes Caleb Williams, in which the main character discovers that his employer, Ferdinando Falkland, has committed a murder and allowed two other men to be sentences and executed for his crime. Horrified by this knowledge, Williams calls his employer out publicly and Falkland is tried and confesses. When Falkland dies shortly thereafter, Williams becomes cons umed with guilt over his deed.

1796...Matthew Lewis publishes The Monk. Labeled as a work of "horror gothic," the graphic violence of this novel shocked readers.

1797... Radcliffe publishes a third Gothic novel, The Italian. Of this novel, Heiland writes that it "explores the placement of women in patriarchy...again scrutinizing the social structures that conspire to render women invisible, and again recognizing the Burkean su blime as the aesthetic that serves to mask these structures" (63-64).

1798...Samuel Taylor Coleridge publishes "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." The story of a man doomed to walk the earth relating the tale of his dealings with the supernatural following his slaying of an albatross at sea has become a time-honored favorite poem. One of the greatest instances of foreshadowing in narrative poetry occurs near the beginning of the second part, as the Mariner says:

"And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe :

For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch ! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow !

Famously, Gustave Dore the French engraver created a series of special illustrations for the poem (1877)

1816...Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes (but does not complete) the poem "Christabel." The story deals with Christabel and her encounter with a stranger called Geraldine, who claims to have been abducted from her home and ravished by a band of errant knights. Christabel takes Geraldine home with her and appears to fall in love with her. Disgusted by his daughter's evident sexual attraction to Geraldine, her father, Sir Leoline, turns his affections from Christabel to Geraldine, ordering a g rand procession to announce her rescue and appearing to want to marry her. Geraldine is one of the most vague and controversial female characters in literary history, being called by various critics a vampire, a demon, a ghost, and a lesbian. The poem serves as an influence for the character of Christabel Lamotte in A.S. Byatt's novel, Possession.

1818...Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is published posthumously. Written in 1798, the novel famously pokes fun at the Gothic style and the typical heroines of eighteenth-century novels. The heroine, Catherine Morland, leaves her parents and many siblings to spend some time with the Tilney family at their home, Northanger Abbey, where she has trouble distinguishing between reality and the fantasy she concocts in her head surrounding the Tilney family and the secrets of their home. In one memorable passage, Austen has Henry Tilney deliberately work Catherine into a frenzy with his satirical rendition of the Gothic; this passage can be found online at:

Of course, this good-humored satire pales in the Gothic tradition alongside another novel published in the same year - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Among the most beloved horror novels of all time, this story of the young scientist Frankens tein and his attempts to create life from death has spawned numerous copycat tales, satires, parodies, sequels, an entire genre of horror films, and even a Broadway play (Young Frankenstein). Dealing with themes of physical and emotional transgressions, religion, racism, prejudice, science versus nature, good versus evil, morality, beauty, and creation versus destruction, the novel was an incredibly ambitious undertaking and assures Mary Shelley of a place among the literary immortals.

1819... John Polidori publishes The Vampyre. The first book-length tale dealing with these legends from the eastern European region, Polidori took the lower class creature and polished it up a bit, bringing the vampire story to the middle classes. It is widely believed that he stole the idea, if not a good bit of the wording itself, from a piece abandoned by Byron, to whom Polidori was personal physician.

1820...John Keats publishes "La Belle Dame Sans Merci." In this poem, the poet comes across a knight who lies wasting away in a field. The knight tells the poet his story - he met a wild woman here who did not speak his language but made him love her, to whom he gave his horse to ride and upon whose hair he pla ced flowers. She lulled him to sleep with a song and in a terrible dream he learned from the spirits of her other victims that he has become enslaved to her. Now he lies in the field, enchanted and waiting to die for love. According to Ed Friedlander, "Keats had a voluminous correspondence, and we can reconstruct the events surrounding the writing of "La Belle Dame Sans Merci". He wrote the poem on April 21, 1819. It appears in the course of a letter to his brother George, usually numbered 123. You may enjoy looking this up to see how he changed the poem even while he was writing it. At the time, Keats was very upset over a hoax that had been played on his brother Tom, who was deceived in a romantic liaison. He was also undecided about whether to enter into a relationship with Fanny Brawne, who he loved but whose friends disapproved of the possible match with Keats. Shortly before the poem was written, Keats recorded a dream in which he met a beautiful woman in a magic place which turned out to be filled with pallid, enslaved lovers. Just before the poem was written, Keats had read Spenser's account of the false Florimel, in which an enchantress impersonates a heroine to her boyfriend, and then vanishes. All these experiences probably went into the making of this powerful lyric" ( Alternately, critics have determined the poem to be an allegory about addiction and have cast the lady of the poem as a banshee. The poem famously inspired some of the foremost artists of the nineteenth century Pre-Raphaelite movement, including Sir Frank Dicksee (below), John William Waterhouse, and Frank Cadogan Cowper.
1847....Charlotte Bronte publishes Jane Eyre, one of the great masterpieces of Victorian Gothic literature. Emily Bronte publishes Wuthering Heights, her only novel. The impassioned and tormented love affair between Catherine and Heathcliff met with mixed reviews from critics, but posterity has awarded it a place as on of England's great literary classics.

1860...Wilkie Collins publishes The Woman in White. In the Penguin Classics edition, the book is hailed as "the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism."

1886...Robert Louis Stevenson publishes the short story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Another instance in which a scientist attempts to improve upon mankind through the use of science, in this case Jekyll experiments upon himself, unleashing by means of an elixir the monster Hyde. A longtime cult favorite, this tale of split personalities and science versus nature has been adapted numerous times to theatre and film, most recently on broadway with Frank Wildhorn's "Jekyll & Hyde: The Gothic Thriller."

... Oscar Wilde publishes The Picture of Dorian Gray. His only novel, the book deals with the decandence and homoeroticism commonly found in Wilde's works, and has strong Faustian undertones, as Dorian grapples with his mortality. Although it was
controversial in its time and poorly received by critics, the book is now considered one of the last great masterpieces of 19th century gothic fiction.

AND, last but not least, in 1897 Bram Stoker rounds out the long 19th century with his masterpiece, Dracula. This novel takes the vampire tale to a new level of sophistication and style. It is still one of the most popular classic stories of all time, and has spawned numerous copycat tales, satires, theatrical pieces and films. Anne Rice's vampire series owes much in terms of influence to this novel, and Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of the novel in 1992 won three academy awards. A musical version of Dracula by Frank Wildhorn and a musical version of Anne Rice's Lestat by Elton John each had a short-lived run on Broadway in the past decade.

For image credits, double - click on the images. This will take you to the website from which the image was taken.

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