Gothic Romance, 1760–1830

Authored by: Sue Chaplin

The Gothic World

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415637442
eBook ISBN: 9780203490013
Adobe ISBN: 9781135053062


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“Romance” in the early-to-mid-eighteenth century primarily referred, in literary terms, to a genre of prose fiction popular in previous centuries that celebrated medieval chivalry and adventure and that, in its more contemporary forms, combined, or even replaced, rather fantastical narrations of heroism with tales of love and intrigue. Whilst immensely popular, these fictions tended to lack literary credibility in the neoclassical period and were often the subject of satire. Commenting on the formulaic and fantastical nature of romance, Samuel Johnson observed in a 1750 essay for his journal The Rambler that, “Almost all the fictions of the last age will vanish, if you deprive them of a hermit and a wood, a battle and a shipwreck” (Greene 2008: 175). As discussed below, similar disparaging assertions were made frequently by critics in relation to the Gothic romance later in the century: the stock conventions of the genre were ridiculed and the popularity of the form lamented in terms of what it implied regarding the intellectual acuity of its middle-class readers.

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