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The Cambridge History of the Gothic The Cambridge History of the Gothic
Volume 1: Gothic in the Long Eighteenth Century
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1.11 - Early British Gothic and the American Revolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 July 2020

Angela Wright
Affiliation:
University of Sheffield
Dale Townshend
Affiliation:
Manchester Metropolitan University
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Summary

This chapter focuses on Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron (1778), published during the early years of Britain’s war in America. It discusses how Reeve responded to Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), not only by rejecting the extravagance of his work but also by situating her tale in fifteenth-century England. Attempting to recover the political significance of this decision in the context of the American war, it considers the way in which the novel offers an allusive narrative of national reconciliation and repair. Even as Reeve claimed that her ‘picture of Gothic times and manners’ served the improving purposes of ‘Romance’, however, her work also acknowledges that its resort to the Gothic past is unable entirely to escape the ‘melancholy retrospect’ of ‘History’. With Reeve’s distinction between history and romance in mind, the chapter concludes by suggesting that, through its mediation of OtrantoThe Old English Baron helped to make the diverse resources of the Gothic past available to subsequent writers, and at the same time to ensure that its questioning of Britain’s Gothic inheritance remained integral to the tradition of ‘domestic Gothic’ that it inaugurated.

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The Cambridge History of the Gothic
Volume 1: Gothic in the Long Eighteenth Century
, pp. 243 - 261
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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