With the best (in my opinion) holiday right around the corner, you might want to spend some time giving yourself a fright, in the way Catherine Morland and her mischievous friend Isabella Thorpe do in “Northanger Abbey.”
Austen’s first novel was the subject of the 2018 Jane Austen Summer Program, and we compiled a list featuring some of the memorable “horrid” novels the two young ladies discussed.
To that list, which features Ann Radcliffe’s “The Mysteries of Udolpho” and “The Italian,” we’ll add the following, which should give you a right fright, or at the very least send a shiver down your spine.
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley: Also the subject of the 2018 JASP, Shelley’s 1818 monster tale is recognized as the first science fiction novel, a story of a doctor’s single-minded ambition to create a living creature and his subsequent rejection of the abomination he created. We learn that his creation is capable of thought and feeling, and are left with the question: Who here is really the monster?
“Melmoth the Wanderer” by Charles Robert Maturin: In a 2015 piece for the Paris Review, Henry Giardina described “Melmoth” (1820) as “a shapeless tale of transformation, loneliness, and evil as shown in complete isolation from good.” Melmoth, who has sold his soul to the devil, wanders the land in search of someone to take over his pact. Spookiness ensues.
"The Castle of Otranto" by Horace Walpole: Published in 1764, this is widely regarded as the first Gothic novel written in the english language. Presented as a discovered manuscript from the middle ages, it features suspicious deaths, marriage schemes and ghosts.
"The Monk" by Matthew Gregory Lewis: Referenced by John Thorpe in "Northanger Abbey," "The Monk" was written and published before Lewis was 20 years old. With themes of the supernatural, religion, sexuality and temptation, it’s no wonder it was made into several adaptations, one of the later ones a 2011 French film starring Vincent Cassel.