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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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    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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    The Mysteries of Udolpho

    A beautifully crafted tale of gothic romance. Fresh with grief for her recently-deceased father and forced to live with an aunt who doesn't want her, Emily is plunged into a nightmarish world in this terrifying gothic classic by Ann Radcliffe. Having been forced apart from the man she loves, Emily finds herself at the mercy of her aunt's husband, the threatening Count Montoni, who imprisons her in the eerie Castle Udolpho. The cold intimidating fortress walls echo the desolation of Emily's own mind as she confronts the waking terrors of the castle and the machinations of Montoni. Steeped in atmosphere and full of dark sweeping landscapes, Radcliffe offers a disturbing tale couched in seductive language. FLAME TREE 451: From mystery to crime, supernatural to horror and fantasy to science fiction, Flame Tree 451 offers a healthy diet of werewolves and mechanical men, blood-lusty vampires, dastardly villains, mad scientists, secret worlds, lost civilizations and escapist fantasies. Discover a storehouse of tales gathered specifically for the reader of the fantastic. Each book features a brand new biography and glossary of Literary, Gothic and Victorian terms.

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    The Monk

    'He was deaf to the murmurs of conscience, and resolved to satisfy his desires at any price.' The Monk (1796) is a sensational story of temptation and depravity, a masterpiece of Gothic fiction and the first horror novel in English literature. The respected monk Ambrosio, the Abbot of a Capuchin monastery in Madrid, is overwhelmed with desire for a young girl; once having abandoned his monastic vows he begins a terrible descent into immorality and violence. His appalling fall from grace embraces blasphemy, black magic, torture, rape, and murder, and places his very soul in jeopardy. Lewis's extraordinary tale drew on folklore, legendary ghost stories, and contemporary dread inspired by the terrors of the French Revolution. Its excesses shocked the reading public and it was condemned as obscene. The novel continues to beguile and shock readers today with its gruesome catalogue of iniquities, while at the same time giving a profound insight into the deep anxieties experienced by British citizens during one of the most turbulent periods in the nation's history. 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 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 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 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 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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    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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    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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