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Ten Early Gothic Novels

Sometime described as an extreme form of Romanticism, Gothic fiction is a genre combining elements of horror, fantasy, realism, and the macabre which became extremely popular in eighteenth-century England and Germany. These sublime and terrifying books are perfect for traipsing about ruins and spelunking.

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Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1764) is widely regarded as the first example of the Gothic genre. Anne Radcliffe and Clara Reeve quickly followed suit with their own horrifying stories. 

The subject material of Schiller, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Meinhold's Schauerromans is similar to that of the English Gothic novelists, but these novels tend to centre around robbers, necromancy and the activities of secret societies.

Romantic authors, Shelley, Reynolds, and Polidori introduce the Byronic hero into the misty atmosphere of the Gothic setting. Polidori is credited with inspiring the vampire fiction craze which continues today.

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    Zastrozzi

    Zastrozzi, the arch-villain of the tale, is sworn to avenge the wrongs done to his mother. Prepared to go to any lengths to execute his horrific plans, he enlists the help of the willing Matilda. Together they vow to destroy Verezzi and Julia, the subjects of their wrath, and embark upon a fateful chain of events that can lead only on catastrophe.

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    The old english baron

    'Though I have been dead these fifteen years, I still command here, and none can enter these gates without my permission.' When Sir Philip Harclay returns to England after a long absence, he finds that his childhood friend, Arthur, Lord Lovel, is no longer alive, and that the castle and estates of the Lovel family have twice changed hands. But a mysteriously abandoned set of rooms in the castle of Lovel promises to disclose the secrets of the past. After a series of frantic episodes and surprising revelations, culminating in a trial by combat, the crimes of the usurper and the legitimacy of the true heir are finally discovered. 'The literary offspring of the castle of Otranto', as Reeve described it, The Old English Baron provides an ambitious rewriting of Horace Walpole's groundbreaking work, transporting the trappings of the Gothic to medieval England. Innovative and original in its day, Reeve's historical romance is increasingly recognized as a major influence on the development of Gothic fiction. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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    The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre

    'Upon her neck and breast was blood, and upon her throat were the marks of teeth having opened the vein: - to this the men pointed, crying, simultaneously struck with horror, "a Vampyre, a Vampyre!"' John Polidori's classic tale of the vampyre was a product of the same ghost-story competition that produced Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Set in Italy, Greece, and London, Polidori's tales is a reaction to the dominating presence of his employer Lord Byron, and transformed the figure of the vampire from the bestial ghoul of earlier mythologies into the glamorous aristocrat whose violence and sexual allure make him literally a 'lady-killer'. Polidori's tale introduced the vampire into English fiction, and launched a vampire craze that has never subsided. 'The Vampyre' was first published in 1819 in the London New Monthly Magazine. The present volume selects thirteen other tales of the macabre first published in the leading London and Dublin magazines between 1819 and 1838, including Edward Bulwer's chilling account of the doppelganger, Letitia Landon's elegant reworking of the Gothic romance, William Carleton's terrifying description of an actual lynching, and James Hogg's ghoulish exploitation of the cholera epidemic of 1831-2. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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    The Devil's Elixirs

    The charismatic monk Medardus becomes implicated in a deadly mystery against his will. As he travels towards Rome he wrestles with the enigma of his own identity while pursued by his murderous doppelganger. The monk's only hope for salvation lies with the beautiful Aurelie; but in order to escape the curse which lies over his family, he must evade the sinister powers of the living and the dead. In this lively and disturbing gothic tale, Hoffmann combines elements of the fantastic and the sublime to analyse the seductive ambiguities of art and the deeply divided nature of the human imagination.

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    The robbers and wallenstein

    Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) was one of the most influential of all playwrights, the author of deeply moving dramas that explored human fears, desires and ideals. Written at the age of twenty-one, The Robbers was his first play. A passionate consideration of liberty, fraternity and deep betrayal, it quickly established his fame throughout Germany and wider Europe. Wallenstein, produced nineteen years later, is regarded as Schiller's masterpiece: a deeply moving exploration of a flawed general's struggle to bring the Thirty Years War to an end against the will of his Emperor. Depicting the deep corruption caused by constant fighting between Protestants and Catholics, it is at once a meditation on the unbounded possible strength of humanity, and a tragic recognition of what can happen when men allow themselves to be weak.

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    The monk

    'The Monk was so highly popular that it seemed to create an epoch in our literature', wrote Sir Walter Scott. Set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, The Monk is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The great struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions leads its main character, the monk Ambrosio, to temptation and the breaking of his vows, then to sexual obsession and rape, and finally to murder in order to conceal his guilt. Inspired by German horror romanticism and the work of Ann Radcliffe, Lewis produced his masterpiece at the age of nineteen. It contains many typical Gothic elements - seduction in a monastery, lustful monks, evil Abbesses, bandits and beautiful heroines. But, as the Introduction to this new edition shows, Lewis also played with convention, ranging from gruesome realism to social comedy, and even parodied the genre in which he was writing. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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    The mysteries of udolpho

    'Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Rreflections brought only regret, and anticipation terror.' Such is the state of mind in which Emily St. Aubuert - the orphaned heroine of Ann Radcliffe's 1794 gothic Classic, The Mysteries of Udolpho - finds herself after Count Montoni, her evil guardian, imprisions her in his gloomy medieval fortress in the Appenines. Terror is the order of the day inside the walls of Udolpho, as Emily struggles against Montoni's rapacious schemes and the threat of her own psychological disintegration. A best-seller in its day and a potent influence on Walpole, Poe, and other writers of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Gothic horror, The Mysteries of Udolpho remains one of the most important works in the history of European fiction. As the same time, with its dream-like plot and hallucinatory rendering of its characters' psychological states, it often seems strangely modern: 'permanently avant-garde' in Terry Castle's words, and a profound and fascinating challenge to contemporary readers. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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    The Castle of Otranto

    'Look, my lord! See heaven itself declares against your impious intentions!' The Castle of Otranto (1764) is the first supernatural English novel and one of the most influential works of Gothic fiction. It inaugurated a literary genre that will be forever associated with the effects that Walpole pioneered. Professing to be a translation of a mysterious Italian tale from the darkest Middle Ages, the novel tells of Manfred, prince of Otranto, whose fear of an ancient prophecy sets him on a course of destruction. After the grotesque death of his only son, Conrad, on his wedding day, Manfred determines to marry the bride-to-be. The virgin Isabella flees through a castle riddled with secret passages. Chilling coincidences, ghostly visitations, arcane revelations, and violent combat combine in a heady mix that terrified the novel's first readers. In this new edition Nick Groom examines the reasons for its extraordinary impact and the Gothic culture from which it sprang. The Castle of Otranto was a game-changer, and Walpole the writer who paved the way for modern horror exponents. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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    Joanna is a Front-End Developer at Bookwitty. You can actually find a coffee cup from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw artist lounge on her desk. She has twice won certificates of honour (and a free ... Show More

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