Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 July 2020
This chapter investigates the grounds upon which we might address the question of Gothic literature before the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto in late 1764. In line with much criticism, it begins by identifying traces of the Gothic in a selection of earlier texts, including Shakespearean drama and the Graveyard poetry of the 1740s. Proposing that this question is best thought of in historical terms, however, it considers how late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century critics themselves conceptualised the nation’s ‘Gothick’ literary inheritance, surveying, as it does so, such Whig writers as William Temple, John Dennis, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Joseph Addison and Mark Akenside, as well as works by the Tory John Dryden. Having situated Walpole’s fiction alongside contemporary works by Richard Hurd, Thomas Percy and Samuel Johnson, it argues that a self-conscious spirit of ‘Revival’ is crucial to what would later become known as ‘Gothic fiction’. By way of conclusion, the chapter turns to the case of Thomas Leland’s Longsword, Earl of Salisbury (1762), assessing the extent to which it might be described as an example of pre-Walpolean Gothic.