The Gothic Romance
The first of the Gothic romances was Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, and it was Walpole who first used the word “Gothic” to describe the type. More than any other of Mrs. Radcliffe’s Gothics, The Mysteries of Udolpho is the repository of her once admired scenic descriptions. The Italian was the last of Mrs. Radcliffe’s truly Gothic romances. A later historical romance, Gaston de Blondville, carries no clue as to the date of its composition; and it was not published until 1826, three years after her death, with a biographical introduction. Mrs. Radcliffe produced five Gothic romances, the last three of which show maturity and mastery of her medium—The Romance of the Forest, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and The Italian. The Romance of the Forest is readable, and fairly free from manufactured thrills, but none of Mrs. Radcliffe’s last three romances is unduly brief.