Some would say that the best time to read a scary story is at night when the imagination is more susceptible to the terrifying ideas such tales can conjure. However, we decided that we wanted a fun atmospheric juxtaposition and do our Gothic reading during the sunny summer with Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen and The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe.
Why those two novels when the first isn’t even really a Gothic novel at all?
Fans of Austen will understand.
The premise of Northanger Abbey features Catherine Morland as she accompanies family friends Mr. and Mrs. Allen to Bath for a holiday. In Bath Catherine makes new friends, finds herself the object of someone’s affections, and falls in love herself. Catherine is invited to visit the estate of Northanger Abbey, and because Catherine is a fan of Gothic novels, particularly Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, she allows her imagination to run wild just a bit.
Several Gothic novels are mentioned by characters within Northanger Abbey including another of Radcliffe’s novels The Italian. In fact there is even a list some refer to as the “Northanger Horrid Novels,” which is a list of novels kept by Catherine’s friend Isabella within her pocket-book. Isabella says it is a list of “ten or twelve,” but then lists only seven:
- Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons
- Clermont, A Tale by Regina maria Roche
- The Mysterious Warning, a German Tale by Eliza Parsons
- The Necromancer; or, The Tale of the Black Forest by Ludwig Flammenberg
- The Midnight Bell by Francis Lathom
- Orphan of the Rhine by Eleanor Sleath
- Horrid Mysteries by the Marquis de Grosse
Now, we could make an epic read of every book mentioned, and perhaps some of us may; however, we decided upon reading The Mysteries of Udolpho to see just how such a novel could influence the imagination of Austen’s Catherine Morland because this is the one that Catherine is said to be currently reading. The others are only recommended as future reads, and so we can add them to our future read list as well.
We hope you join us for our Gothic summer reading. Have you read any of the novels listed above? Which would you recommend we read next?