My recently acquired interest in all things Gothic has led me to reread books that I haven’t read for many years. In truth, books I only read because they were part of a syllabus! Now I’m reading Ann Radcliffe, Charlotte Smith and Horace Walpole and thoroughly enjoying them.
Having rediscovered the joys of the Gothic, I reread Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey with fresh eyes. A friend mentioned the “Horrid Novels” and I was fascinated. I’ve read Northanger Abbey so many times and yet I had never realised that these seven “Horrid Novels” actually existed. The seven novels are those recommended to Catherine Morland by Isabella Thorpe and of which Catherine asks “but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”
So, I did a bit of research and discovered that after Northanger Abbey was published in 1818, the seven novels became so rare that, until they were discovered by Michael Sadler and Montague Summers in the 1920s, many scholars and critics believed that the books had never existed and that Jane Austen had simply made the titles up.
I'm deliberating where to start with my reading of all things horrid. I think I've decided that Eliza Parsons' The Castle of Wolfenbach will be my first read. It sounds fabulously Gothic with an innocent and wronged heroine and a series of incredible incidents. I love the introductory description:
"Matilda Weimar flees her lecherous and incestuous uncle and seeks refuge in the ancient Castle of Wolfenbach. Among the castle's abandoned chambers, Matilda will discover the horrifying mystery of the missing Countess of Wolfenbach. But when her uncle tracks her down, can she escape his despicable intentions?"
Wow! This sounds like an absolute humdinger of a novel!