The Gothic elements expressed in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto were so new and controversial during the Romantic period that it caused an extreme rise in reputation amongst Romantic writers and readers, creating a ground-breaking genre that would remain popular within entertainment today. These literary elements, alongside the turning of a literary age and the unofficial fight for recognition between the Romantic and Gothic writers, were the key turning points that would maintain the Gothic’s literary form within history. By reviewing Walpole’s work, it can be seen where the Gothic genre was born and what elements from this writing has trickled down to the modern day.
In the first edition of The Castle of Otranto, Walpole writes in the Preface that it was the translated work of an Italian novel found in the library of an ancient Catholic family in northern England (4). Yet, when the second edition of this work was published, Walpole had changed the preface to the story, calling it “A Gothic Story”, making it the “first” of its genre (Watt, 12). It is believed however, that “Walpole constructed the Gothic as a form of private and recreational class property, to which he was able to lay claim because of the status he had forged for himself as a licensed risk-taker” (Watt, 13). This status is mostly prominent due to the renovations he made on his estate, Strawberry Hill, in which Walpole’s interests in the Gothic led him to recreate his estate in a style incorporated with the use of towers and buttresses, making it closely resemble that of a medieval castle (Watt, 15-16). These cultural “risks” were only the beginning for Walpole, for several years after Strawberry Hill was built, Walpole released the first edition of The ...
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