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Radcliffe, Ann. (1764 - 1823).

W o r k

“On the Supernatural in Poetry” (1826, posthumously):

- a serious essay explaining her view of her own work

(a) terror = ‘awakens the faculties to a high degree of life’

(b) horror = ‘contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them’

- terror is the source of her own fictional sublime

- her notion of the sublime is closer to Edmund Burke than to the supernatural sensationalism of the later Gothic novelists

- centred her sublime on descriptions of imaginary scenery > pioneered the fictional use of landscape

- typical setting: an imaged Italy, with frequent impressions of solemn or ‘peculiar grandeur’ both to elevate and awe the spirits of her protagonists

- typical protagonist: a decorous and sensible woman finding resource in her reasonableness

- typically introduces apparently supernatural events x but: explains them afterwards carefully by natural means

- creates a bridge between the Augustans (rationalistic explanations) and the Romantics (emphasis on the imagination and the supernatural)

The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789)
The Sicilian Romance (1790)
The Romance of the Forest (1792)
The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
The Italian (1797)


"The scene of barrenness was here and there interrupted by the spreading branches of the larch and cedar, which threw their gloom over the cliff, or athwart the torrent that rolled in the vale. No living creature appeared, except the lizard, scrambling among the rocks, and often hanging upon points so dangerous, that fancy shrunk from the view of them."

From The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794).


(Picture: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    Born Ann Ward. Married Radcliffe. (1764 - 1823). British.
  • Work

    Novelist. Author of The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794).
  • Genre

    Romanticism. Gothic novel.


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Baugh, Albert C. ed. A Literary History of England. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.

Coote, Stephen. The Penguin Short History of English Literature. London: Penguin, 1993.

Sampson, George. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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