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~FREE E-PUB ☤ The Castle of Otranto ⚖ First published pseudonymously in , The Castle of Otranto purported to be a translation of an Italian story of the time of the crusades In it Walpole attempted, as he declared in the Preface to the Second Edition, to blend the two kinds of romance the ancient and the modern Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpole s own favorite among his numerous works The novel is reprinted here from a text of , the last that Walpole himself prepared for the press Shovel loads of gothicness with a daft plot and formulaic characters this is regarded as the first gothic novel Walpole tries to create a new genre quite consciously by combining the new romance style of eighteenth century novels and the older tradition of fantastical tales Walpole also introduces a number of gothic tropes for the first time strange and eerie goings on, things that go bump in the night, rapacious and predatory men, beautiful and endangered heroines and a spot of ghostliness Shovel loads of gothicness with a daft plot and formulaic characters this is regarded as the first gothic novel Walpole tries to create a new genre quite consciously by combining the new romance style of eighteenth century novels and the older tradition of fantastical tales Walpole also introduces a number of gothic tropes for the first time strange and eerie goings on, things that go bump in the night, rapacious and predatory men, beautiful and endangered heroines and a spot of ghostliness He uses the Shakespearean idea of making the ghost the teller of truth So it s really a case of nice ideas, shame about the plot The plot revolves around Manfred, Lord of the Castle of Otranto, his long suffering wife Hippolita, his son and heir Conrad killed in the first chapter by an oversized helmet the reason for the whole dreary tale , Conrad s intended Isabella who becomes the object of Manfred s lascivious intentions once he realises he is heirless, Matilda the daughter of Manfred Theodore, a mysterious peasant who keeps popping up at opportune moments and who isn t all he seems Oh really , Father Jerome, a cleric who is also not all he seems, Bianca the comic relief servant I think Walpole had read too much Shakespeare and finally Frederic, a mysterious knight who turns up to reveal a secret As you may have sensed it didn t really engage me, apart from the fact that it is an interesting period piece The plot works its way through and some loose ends are tied up with the odd untimely death and the realisation that as always the rich can get away with murder It is groundbreaking, but later attempts at gothic are much better Mary Shelley for one Prince Manfred of Otranto in medieval Italy is looking forward to the wedding of his only son Conrad, because the family name must continueIn those violent times, petty men try for glory against others of the same class , the era of the Crusades also Italian politics dictates noblemen have sons, to leave all their vast lands and wealth Doesn t matter that Conrad is only fifteen and rather sickly boy, the distinguished Prince s family is composed of son Conrad, Matilda the daughter, three y Prince Manfred of Otranto in medieval Italy is looking forward to the wedding of his only son Conrad, because the family name must continueIn those violent times, petty men try for glory against others of the same class , the era of the Crusades also Italian politics dictates noblemen have sons, to leave all their vast lands and wealth Doesn t matter that Conrad is only fifteen and rather sickly boy, the distinguished Prince s family is composed of son Conrad, Matilda the daughter, three years older than her little brother and pious wife of Manfred , Hippolita Isabella the intended but let s be fair , reluctant bride, a noblewoman, daughter of Frederick, fighting in the Holy Land A rival to Manfred s claim to the estate of Otranto in fact has a better one Rumors circulate poor Frederick was killed, gladdens the usurper s heart however, Isabella has been kidnapped and being forced to marry Conrad This the first Gothic novel, written in the distant year of 1764 by Horace Walpole 4th Earl of Orford , naturally very strange events occur Such as a giant helmet unbelievably out of nowhere crushes the unlucky Conrad to death, apparently from the high not so empty sky A youth tells the Prince that it resembles the helmet, of a statue from the nearby church, which is correct The distraught father suspects witchcraft and immediately arrest Theodore, a young man, whose life is in danger of being cut short, inways than one.Other apparitions are seen by servants in the castle, some too strange to be real a fact though Frustrated Manfred comes up with an odd idea quite irrational divorce his wife and marry Isabella Then a bad omen happens, the portrait of Manfred s grandfather floats from the wall, settling on the floorFrightening the unnerved Prince, Isabella takes this great opportunity to flee Going down the underground vault of the castle in the creepy darkness , an unknown threat closing inwith a lamp, alone, through the eerie passageway, she is very scared, who wouldn t be Hearing weird noises, is Manfred chasing herThen the lamp s candle goes out, what can Isabella do This scene has been copied many times down the centuries and still effective Primitive yet enjoyable romp into a world which sadly never was , still should have been By today s standard s The Castle of Otranto is a ridiculous piece of melodrama However, when it was originally published it was absolute dynamite.It had the power to shock and dazzle its earliest of readers They were innocent and unused to horror thus, it was utterly compelling for them Such a thing is comparable to early cinema Audiences were thrilled by silent movie car chases and actions scenes If we watch them today they are unexciting and laughable Truly great literature is timeless By today s standard s The Castle of Otranto is a ridiculous piece of melodrama However, when it was originally published it was absolute dynamite.It had the power to shock and dazzle its earliest of readers They were innocent and unused to horror thus, it was utterly compelling for them Such a thing is comparable to early cinema Audiences were thrilled by silent movie car chases and actions scenes If we watch them today they are unexciting and laughable Truly great literature is timeless Frankenstein will never stop being brilliant nor will Dracula or Jane Eyre Unfortunately, The Castle of Otranto is far from great literature It is too stuck in its era to be considered effective and, structurally speaking, it is dreadful.There is no set up or beginning per say, but, again, Walpole is not entirely at fault because the novel was still very, very, new at this point Austen had not yet come along to give it structure and meaning On the first page of this we are introduced to the characters, their lineages and personalities On page two one is crushed by an ethereal floating helmet of sorts It s like Walpole doesn t quite know how to pace Instead he has ideas, idea he cannot wait to blurt out at the first opportunity without first creating any sense of character Although I found myself cringing at the plot, laughing at the overdone horror moments and yawning at the resolution, it would be remiss of me to ignore the book s place in the cannon of horror literature It was the first ever horror novel, effectively, it is a piece of writing that inspired othertalented writers to go on and produce better works They took Walpole s themes and ideas and perfected them For those interested in tracking the development of the horror genre this is certainly and interesting to read The best way to approach this is as an academic curiosity, a piece of writing that carries a lot of history and significance, but, ultimately, it isn t that great to begin with The Otranto Observer Prince Gets Squashed by Giant Airborne Helmet Full News on Page Six Lord of Otranto Says Sorry, the Castle Ain t Mine FULL Interview with Covergirl Isabella He was Never the One for Me Love Advice from Star Struck Pair Theodore and Matilda Tell All How YOU Can Find True Love in Just Ten Seconds Jerome and Hippolita s Faithful s Corner Why Entering a Monastery s the Only Way to Go The Commoner s Chronicle Bianca and her Fellows Tell Why THEY RE the Ones Who S The Otranto Observer Prince Gets Squashed by Giant Airborne Helmet Full News on Page Six Lord of Otranto Says Sorry, the Castle Ain t Mine FULL Interview with Covergirl Isabella He was Never the One for Me Love Advice from Star Struck Pair Theodore and Matilda Tell All How YOU Can Find True Love in Just Ten Seconds Jerome and Hippolita s Faithful s Corner Why Entering a Monastery s the Only Way to Go The Commoner s Chronicle Bianca and her Fellows Tell Why THEY RE the Ones Who Saved Otranto Phew Sorry With a novel like Otranto it s hard not to inject a little sarcasm into the reviewing of the book In honour of Horace Walpole father of Gothic fiction I m going to write this review with as many dashes and breaks as I possibly can It s not difficult to see why Otranto is still an important book today As a novel it marks the beginning of a new form of popular fiction the Gothic which would never quite die down Its ancestors are alive and well today Just look at the shelves of any YA section in any bookstore in the world.So It s an important book It s pretty famous, too Added to that, it s short, at a measly 100 or so pages It s a quick read, even if a little challenging Primarily, it s challenging because of the way it s written kind of like this with speech bless old Horace Walpole not even graced with a new line each time it presents itself This leads to the disturbing technical difficulty of the text blending into one huge hunk You really have to concentrate on your reading or you find yourself drifting off Everything happens rather quickly, so you might find that by the time you tune in, five different things have happened and you ve completely lost the thread of the plot.And what is the plot Well, it s fairly simple The son of Manfred, lord of Otranto, is killed on his wedding day to Isabella, by the aforementioned magical flying helmet Manfred, who now needs a male heir, decides oh, that most blackhearted of villains that he s going to divorce his wife Hippolita and marry Isabella As a Gothic villain I would have expected him to try and kill Hippolita, so I guess Manfred gets points for good behaviour And there s romance a love triangle, between Theodore, Matilda daughter of Manfred and Isabella Theodore, the dashing young hero, speaks surprisingly well for a man who was a slave on a pirate ship for most of his youth But that s pirates for you.Because the book is so short, there s very little time to develop the characters Walpole seems to sit on the fence about Manfred in particular The women characters are simple and boring, as in most Gothic fiction they exist simply as victims Take Hippolita It is not ours to make election for ourselves heaven, our fathers, and our husbands, must decide for us Otranto, Chapter IV But Manfred could potentially be seen as a bitcomplex One moment he s hurrying around trying to divorce his wife I desired you once before, said Manfred angrily, not to name that woman from this hour she must be a stranger to you, as she must be to me too long has she cursed me by her unfruitfulness Otranto, Chapter I but Walpole rushes to assure us that he s not all bad he has a tender heart, we re told, which is not unsusceptible to goodness Then he goes around trying to stab his would be daughter in law because, of course, the way to solve any problem is to stab the pretty woman That ll make everything better and ends up killing his daughter Manfred, whose spirits were inflamed, and whom Isabella had driven from her on his urging his passion with too little reserve Provoked and enraged at her father Frederic , he hastened secretly to the great church the tyrant, drawing his dagger plung ed it over her shoulder Ah me, I am slain cried Matilda sinking Stop cried Matilda it is my father Manfred, waking as from a trance, beat his breast and endeavoured to recover his dagger from Theodore to dispatch himself.Matilda, resigning herself to her fate she begged the assistants to comfort her father I took thee for Isabella cried Manfred but heaven directed my bloody hand to the heart of my child Otranto, Chapter V Oh, no How embarrassing Looks quite exciting, doesn t it I must admit that bit was, though I wanted to slap Matilda for being a wet blanket Then Manfred rushes to assure us, himself, that he s not really a bad guy My ancestor was really the evil one he cries, conveniently pinning the blame on a guy who can t refute his arguments on account of being dead I would draw a veil over my ancestor s crimes but it is in vain Alfonso died by poison I pay the price of usurpation for all Otranto, Chapter V Oh Poor Manfred But don t worry Be jolly Both his kids are dead, but that s OK, because he goes into a monastery with his wife and lives happily ever after After a surprise appearance from a cloaked skeleton the one bit in the book where I sat up and said, This is going to get good Frederic is told Remember the wood of Joppa Ah, Joppa I remember it well Stopped by this apparition from doing something hasty like trying to marry the gorgeous Matilda, for instance, that sinful dog it leaves, never to grace us with its presence again We never really do find out what happened in Joppa But religious conversion brightens that oh so jolly ending Order and balance are restored Tyrants are reformed Lovers united Except for Matilda, poor dear, on account of having been stabbed in the heart by Daddy All jokes aside, though, Otranto is an interesting read It s easy to see why Walpole enjoyed writing it so much Like many Gothic texts think Mary Shelley s Frankenstein it originated in a dream The work grew on my hands, Walpole said, and I grew fond of it I was so engrossed with my tale I completed it in less than two months Letter to the Rev William Cole In blending two types of romance the old and the new Walpole pioneered a popular genre which has as yet refused to die down It really is a landmark in popular literature, and a triumph for the Gothic elements of storytelling over the seriousness of Enlightenment writers Three cheers for our boy Horace WARNING 1001 BOOK THAT THE WRITERS OF THE 1001 BOOKS LIST WANTED TO TORTURE YOU WITH BEFORE YOU DIE NB do not assume that said death will be unrelated to the reading of this book boredom kills, people This book is very Shakespearian in style and therefore metaphorically and allegorically weighty despite being such a short, light paperback book I was suckered into reading this because it was a short read You know how it is, on a whim sometime ago Christmas 2009 , you manfully pledge to r WARNING 1001 BOOK THAT THE WRITERS OF THE 1001 BOOKS LIST WANTED TO TORTURE YOU WITH BEFORE YOU DIE NB do not assume that said death will be unrelated to the reading of this book boredom kills, people This book is very Shakespearian in style and therefore metaphorically and allegorically weighty despite being such a short, light paperback book I was suckered into reading this because it was a short read You know how it is, on a whim sometime ago Christmas 2009 , you manfully pledge to read all the books on the 1001 books to read before you die list Like a premature New Years resolution for self betterment, but instead of chucking in the booze or fags that s cigarettes to you folks in the US of A , you decide to acquire an expensive habit rather than giving one up Many books later and you decide to pseudo cheat your way to a higher number of 1001 books by picking the shortest books off the list and think yourself clever for doing so uh huh not so much as it turns out because as with Don DeLillos The Body Artist and The Castle of Otranto, that kind of tactical stratagem of 1001 book cherry picking will come back to bite you on the arse good style.To say that this book can be difficult to read in places is probably a moderate understatement My Ye Olde Lingo ear eye is totally out having abandoned this kind of book after A Level English Lit was mercifully behind me, so it was like being plunged back into curriculum reading again but without the benefits of a young unscrambled mind to back it up First off, weird things happen Big helmets fall on people Why Absolutely no idea Novel way to kill off someone though I must admit falling millinery is not an obvious weapon of choice The rest of the book isserious Was the helmet not comedy Oh Mostly I enjoyed the fact that the female characters were very much at the centre of the plot which must have been unusual for the period in which the book was written, although admittedly, it isthe state of their emotions, particularly towards their men folk which puts them at the heart of this rather than their own characters and motivations Their lives are dictated by the men around them most of whom some to be self serving, self aggrandising and unfaithful Manfred gets extra evil baddie points for trying to trade in his wife for a younger model with the rather rubbish excuse that he s only doing it with the country s best interests at heart Mostly I felt that I d have enjoyed thisif someone would write this as a screen play and present it in the style of a Carry On film I don t know why but it just had that sort of feel to it.Overall a fairly slog worthy read You might find yourself hoping to get squashed by a giant helmet just to put you out of your misery Walpole invented the word gloomth , whichor less sums him up Innovative, but only while looking backwards You have to approach The Castle of Otranto as literary history, if you want to get much out of it reading it as plain literature doesn t work So effective was its aesthetic in generating an entirely new genre that its successors almost immediately made it obsolete To a modern audience, Walpole s litany of ghostly contrivances, hidden identities, heaving bosoms and earnest declama Walpole invented the word gloomth , whichor less sums him up Innovative, but only while looking backwards You have to approach The Castle of Otranto as literary history, if you want to get much out of it reading it as plain literature doesn t work So effective was its aesthetic in generating an entirely new genre that its successors almost immediately made it obsolete To a modern audience, Walpole s litany of ghostly contrivances, hidden identities, heaving bosoms and earnest declamations can only seem parodic, and even to a contemporary audience it was regarded as a bit silly.Every now and then, he ll write a sentence like Arriving there, he sought the gloomiest shades, as best suited to the pleasing melancholy that reigned in his mind, and you can immediately see how formative this must have been to the evolution of writers like Edgar Allen Poe But the basic groundwork of plot development and exposition is incredibly rough huge changes of scene and character are dispensed with mid sentence, and nonsensical revelations are tossed off right, left and centre The book is also a lot longer than it looks, since the dialogue is bunched together in single paragraphs without any speech marks.What can still be made out is the establishment of some key iconography for what would become the Gothic novel a foreign non English , specifically Catholic setting deviant sexual threat alluring heroines in peril supernatural phenomena gloomth almost the whole novel takes place either at night, or underground and a good old fashioned crumbling castle.For Walpole, this was an attempt to write medieval romances with a deliberately modern sensibility And also a deliberately political sensibility The Gothic novel as he conceived it was a specifically Whiggish thing a comfortable melancholic sigh, on behalf of Protestant parliamentarians, over all those ruined abbeys and monasteries that England had dissolved two centuries previously Walpole was a Whig MP himself, and his father had been Prime Minister Maybe this angle is a clue to understanding why this particular conjunction of themes and moods struck such a chord in eighteenth century England, which it obviously did a generation later, these ideas absolutely exploded through art and literature Most of those who took it up did it better than Walpole, but at least he got there first which perhaps is reason enough, for those who are interested, to read this dense, absurd, groundbreaking novella NB, the Oxford Classics edition is to be preferred mainly for the Fuseli picture on the cover Quite frankly one of the oddest things I ve ever read. CLASSICS can teach us a great deal about things like history, culture, customs and different literary styles From this book I learned that classics CAN ALSO REALLY, REALLY SUCK Now before continuing, I would like to be clear that when I say this book sucked, I don t meanit was well written but kinda dry and boring sucked No, I mean planets and stars being pulled toward the event horizon of a black hole suckage In other words, suckage on a grand and towering scale Now, in fairness, it CLASSICS can teach us a great deal about things like history, culture, customs and different literary styles From this book I learned that classics CAN ALSO REALLY, REALLY SUCK Now before continuing, I would like to be clear that when I say this book sucked, I don t meanit was well written but kinda dry and boring sucked No, I mean planets and stars being pulled toward the event horizon of a black hole suckage In other words, suckage on a grand and towering scale Now, in fairness, it should be noted that the book was written in 1764 and is widely considered to be the first ever Gothic novel This highlights two things First, that there was at least one really, really crappy book published in the 18th century Second, as the first gothic novel, it has the additional distinction of being the first gothic novel to really, really suck The book centers around Manfred, who is the lord of a Castle Otranto As the story begins, Manfred s day gets off to a really bad start when his sickly son gets crushed by a massive helmet that falls on him inexplicably from above You might be wondering where the giant helmet came from and how it happened to fall Well reading the book won t help.BECAUSE IT IS NEVER EXPLAINED It just sort of happens which just sort of sucks So anyway, the son s death leads Manfred to believe that an ancient prophecy is coming to pass which states that his ownership of the castle will cease should the owner be grown too large to inhabit it Begin confused look I have no idea what that means Well Manfred decides that he can best avoid the prophecy by divorcing his first wife and marrying his dead son s fianc so that she can give him a proper heir How does having another son fit in with stopping the prophecy Can t tell youdon t know.me and and the baby above are still confused Manfred tells his first wife the plan and she basically accepts being pushed aside for a younger woman without a peep Basically, Mr Walpole thought that portraying the first wife as an extreme doormat was just what the story needed Well done, Horace Way to write those strong female characters After that the rest of the book is mostly I want to marry her, but she doesn t want to marry me because she wants to marry him, who wants to marry someone else.and Manfred is a real prick That sums it up except that someboring shit happens that really sucks and there is some chasing, some hiding, a couple of deaths and some mysterious yet incredibly boring knights from a neighboring kingdom In sum, Castle of Otranto Having spent three years in Bloomington getting drunk with fiction writers, I feel that I came dangerously close to losing my ability to appreciate trash But, thankfully, not so The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole, is not only trash, but ground breaking, historical, trend setting trash It is lauded as the first Gothic novel in English published, anonymously at first, in 1764 And what a remarkable heap of words it is The Castle of Otranto is preposterous, both in content and struct Having spent three years in Bloomington getting drunk with fiction writers, I feel that I came dangerously close to losing my ability to appreciate trash But, thankfully, not so The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole, is not only trash, but ground breaking, historical, trend setting trash It is lauded as the first Gothic novel in English published, anonymously at first, in 1764 And what a remarkable heap of words it is The Castle of Otranto is preposterous, both in content and structure nearly half of the action occurs in dialogue, much of which is Walpole s apparent attempts to capture the extreme reluctance of one nobleman, through speech, to trouble another nobleman, even if lives hang in the balance A common interchange might run thusly Diego a manservant Oh, it was awful Manfred lord of Otranto What sawest thou Diego I didn t see anything Manfred What Diego Jaquez saw it.Manfred Where is he Jaquez another manservant Right here, my lord Manfred What did you see Jaquez It was horrible Manfred What was it Jaquez It was incredible Manfred What was incredible Jaquez What I saw Manfred Tell me what it was Jaquez I can t Holy crap Diego I can tell you Manfred But, I thought you didn t see it.Diego I didn t, my lord.Manfred Then how can you tell me what it is Diego I heard it Oh, awful Manfred What did you hear, then Diego It was really, really loud And so on The plot itself is ridiculous, full of stock characters, ridiculous reversals of fortune, and supernatural curses But, I found I couldn t put it away I put it down, absolutely, and frequently but I couldn t quite put it away.Manfred, the count of Castle Otranto, has arranged a marriange between his son, Conrad, and Isabella, a virtuous virgin type from the next principality The marriage has been hastily arranged at Manfred s behest, and nobody is sure why But here, around the bottom of page 1, is where we get conflict Conrad becomes crushed beneath a giant metal helmet that seems to have fallen from the sky The man Manfred believes is the criminal or necromancer, if you prefer , is imprisoned beneath the helmet Then, Manfred tries to seduce the fair Isabella, in order to produce a new male heir But wait Didn t I mention that Manfred is married already, to the fair and virtuous Hippolita What s to be done That brings you up to about page three What unfolds from there is ridiculous, the kind of story a man hopped up on crack might shout to passersby from beneath a bridge But it is, well, interesting, and though poorly written, and full of tropes, pretty inventive at the same time It won t change your life, but if your tired of books changing your life, this might be a nice pick for a rainy day