Gothic is in the air this autumn with the opportunity to experience its dark imagination through the Terror and Wonder exhibition now showing at the British Library and a series of programmes coming soon to BBC Two and BBC Four.
Chawton House Library is to follow suit and celebrate the 250th birthday of pioneer of the Gothic Novel, Ann Radcliffe (1764 – 1823), with a study day. Talks by Professor Emma Clery and Dr Angela Wright – whose article The Fear Factor featured in the latest edition of History Magazine – will offer a new perspective on this author.
Ann Radcliffe’s writing was acclaimed in her time and was alluded to in the works of authors including Maria Edgeworth, Victor Hugo and Edgar Allan Poe. She did not, however, maintain a public profile, and very little is known about her life. The Edinburgh Review noted after her death in 1823 that she ‘never appeared in public, nor mingled in private society, but kept herself apart, like the sweet bird that sings its solitary notes, shrouded and unseen’. Dr Wright, who lectures in Gothic literature and Romanticism at the University of Sheffield and is co-president of the International Gothic Association, will shed new light on Radcliffe, combining literary analysis with insights into her shrewd marketing strategies.
Gillian Dow, Executive Director of Chawton House Library said: ‘We are delighted to be joining in the various celebrations of Gothic Literature happening this autumn. Gothic novels feature in our collection here at the library, including a first edition of Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. The dark Gothic imagination has continued to influence film, art, music and drama since Radcliffe’s day.’
Chawton House Library, a research centre for early English women’s writing, once belonged to Jane Austen’s brother, Edward. The study day also features a talk by Professor Emma Clery on the relationship between Jane Austen and Ann Radcliffe.
Gillian Dow added ‘Readers of Austen’s Gothic parody Northanger Abbey, may well think that Austen belittles Ann Radcliffe’s work, but Professor Emma Clery will explore an alternative possibility- that Austen had great affection for, and drew inspiration from, her famous precursor.’
The study day is on Saturday 8th November from 2 pm to 5 pm. Refreshments will be served and are included in the ticket price. Tickets are £20 or £15 for students and the unwaged.