Ann Radcliffe, 1764-1823

Portrait

Biographical note

English author, and pioneer of the gothic novel.

She was born Ann Ward in Holborn, London, England. She married William Radcliffe, an editor for the English Chronicle, at Bath in 1788. To amuse herself, she began to write fiction, an avocation her husband encouraged.

She published The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne in 1789. This set the tone for the majority of her work, which tended to involve innocent, but heroic young women who find themselves in gloomy, mysterious castles ruled by even more mysterious barons with dark pasts.

Her works were extremely popular, especially with respectably sheltered young women who were starved for something a bit more exciting than needlepoint. Her works included The Sicilian Romance [1790], The Romance of the Forest [1791], The Mysteries of Udolpho [1794], and The Italian [1796].

The success of The Romance of the Forest established Radcliffe as the leading exponent of the historical Gothic romance. Her later novels met with even greater attention, and produced many imitators, and famously, Jane Austen's burlesque of The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey, as well as influencing the works of Sir Walter Scott and Mary Wollstonecraft.

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