When I asked for suggestions for the classic author to feature next, one of the first responses was from Jillian, who suggested Ann Radcliffe as being appropriate for the season. I thought so, too.
Not much is known about her life, however. I found more about her influence on literature. She was notable for combining the gothic novel, which had been around for a couple of hundred years, with the novel of sensibility, more what we would think of as a romance novel. (At the time, gothic novels were considered romances, with a different meaning to the word “romance” than it has now.) Her novels focused on a proper, well-behaved heroine and her love interest. She also explained apparently supernatural phenomena in her novels, thus achieving respectability for the genre. As flat as her characters are (and they are flat), she is still credited with portraying females who are able to triumph over her wicked villains.
Although Radcliffe mixed in some distinguished circles, she was apparently too shy to make much of an impression on the people within. She married an Oxford graduate, William Radcliffe, a journalist and editor, and theirs was apparently a happy marriage. Her novels became the most popular of the late 18th century, but she stopped publishing them well before she died. Her obituary stated that she never mingled in society but kept apart.
Radcliffe’s novels are not geographically or historically correct, but she got some of her inspiration from painted landscapes, which she described effectively in her novels. Hence, the picturesque descriptions, many of places she had never been.
Of course, Jane Austen parodied one of her most well-known books, The Mysteries of Udolpho, in Northanger Abbey, but she was an inspiration to other authors, including Walter Scott, Edgar Allen Poe, and even Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Most popular works: The Romance of the Forest, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Italian
Other works: A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794, through Holland and the Western Frontier of Germany, Gaston de Blondeville