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In the latter half of the 18th century the English novel after Fielding suffered a serious set back owing to various reasons. However, during this period there flourished a peculiar school of novelists variously called ‘Gothic’, ‘terror’ of ‘horror’ novelist. 

The Gothic novel or the novel of terror is the peculiar product of the later 18th century. It owes its rise and popularity to the general awakening of feeling and sensibility about the middle of the 18th century. It was a conscious protest against the rational, realistic creed of the earlier novelists. it is a new species of romantic fiction which drew its inspiration from the general revival of interest, during this period, in medieval life and art, in pseudo-Gothic castles, and artificial ruins, in ancient ballads, and in Gothic churches and cathedrals. The writers of this type of novel sought to supply the reader’s perennial craving for mystery and violent emotion with narrative remote in time and place, with ghosts, portents and satanic forces, and with descriptions of old, unhappy, far-off things, and battles long ago. 

A sombre, restless villain is the central figure. The heroine, beautiful; innocent and full of sensibility, always waits to be rescued by a chivalrous lover. The scene is invariable laid in a haunted castle or a haunted castle or a dark cloister of a ruined abbey, equipped with secret passages and private chambers. Wild and desolate Nature provides the congenial landscape, supernatural forces and incidents of physical violence and mental anguish. The thread of romantic love runs through all this melodramatic matter. 

The Gothic novel made fiction walk along the road of romance. Horace Walpole is the father of the ‘Gothic’ novel, the novel of mystery and horror. 

The Castle of Otranto is an attempt to use the middle ages as a setting, and it pretends to be a translation from an early Italian work. There is all the paraphernalia of terror and villainy in it, such as the ghost, the hunted castle, the villain etc. It started a vogue that was to be an important factor in the growth of the Romantic Movement. 

Mrs. Ann Radcliffe continued the tradition of ‘Gothic’ novel established by Walpole. She is the author of a number of terror novels. The best known of her novels, Zhe Mysteries of Udolpho is a book teeming with mysterious passages, disappearing walls, shrouded figures, unexplained groans and clanking of chains. It shows the school of terror at its most extravagant. Mrs. Radcliffe is able to make her terror seem very real and to raise intense excitement and suspense as to the future course of events. She is an adept in chilling the spine and raising the hair. She also exhibits the modern tendency in horror stories to eventually explain the apparently supernatural as being due after all, to natural phenomena. The popularity of Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels did u.uch to accelerate the onset of the Romantic Movement that was just beginning to come into its own when she wrote. 

Matthew Lewis, Miss Clara Reeve, Mrs. Marry Shelley, Charlotte Smith, Sophia Lee are some other practitioners of this form of the novel. Of course, the romantic note in the English novels was perceived first in the 18" century in the ‘terror tales’ of Walpole and Mrs. Radcliffe. In their interest in the mysterious and the unknown, in their vision of the invisible, those terror novelists certainly struck a romantic note. Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Mrs. Charlotte Smith’s The Old Manor House, Clara Reeve’s Old English Baron and Mrs. Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Rodolfo and The Italian Night might be well taken as the first remarkable specimen’s of romantic novels. These novels are found to bear romantic note in their setting as well as mysticism. The tales are simple, laid in the bosom of wild nature, and full of passion, thrill and excitement. They are generally characterized as Gothic romances. 


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