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Gothic Literature in Special Collections

An overview of Gothic Literature held in Special Collections at Hornbake Library

The Grandfather of Gothic Literature

Horace Walpole (September 24, 1717 – March 2, 1797),  was an English writer and collector who is considered by many to be the grandfather of the Gothic genre. His novel The Castle of Otranto, published in 1764, is widely considered to be the first Gothic novel and is one of the earliest literary horror stories. In 1747 Walpole purchased a villa that he transformed into a pseudo-Gothic showplace known as Strawberry Hill. Over his lifetime Walpole added cloisters, turrets, and battlements, filled the interior with pictures and curios, and amassed a valuable library. Strawberry Hill was a stimulus for the Gothic Revival style in English domestic architecture. Walpole established a private press on the grounds of Strawberry Hill, where he printed his own works and those of his friends, including poet Thomas Gray.

The Grandmother of Gothic literature

Clara Reeve (January 23, 1729 –December 3, 1807) was an English writer who was educated by her father. After his death Reeve began writing and translating. She published her Gothic novel The Old English Baron in 1777 as a potential rival of Walpole's text. Both novels are considered to have been an enormously strong influence on subsequent gothic and horror authors. The focus in both novels is on the fantastic and the supernatural, plus their similarly creepy settings, can be seen in many Gothic novels that follow.