The Castle of Otranto

The Castle of Otranto : A Gothic Story

3.17 (15,391 ratings by Goodreads)
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First published pseudonymously in 1764, 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'. He gives us a series of catastrophes, ghostly interventions, revelations of identity, and exciting contests. Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpole's own favourite among his numerous works. His friend, the poet Thomas Gray, wrote that he and his family, having read Otranto, were now 'afraid to go to bed o'nights'. The novel is here reprinted from a text of 1798, the last that Walpole himself prepared for the more

Product details

  • Paperback | 164 pages
  • 127 x 193.04 x 10.16mm | 113.4g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0192834401
  • 9780192834409
  • 641,549

Review quote

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Review Text

Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, written in 1764, was the earliest Gothic novel. He deployed all the theatrical scenery and stereotypes that characterized such novels for generations. Savage landscapes, wild weather and lonely ruins evoke the puniness of human powers - there is an oppressive castle with terrifying subterranean passages owned by a cruel tyrant, whose untrammelled lusts are not an expression of sexual desire but of his need to control and humiliate his subordinates. Much of the novel, however, is a camp send-up: that the first edition was presented as a translation from an imaginary Italian edition suggests that it was conceived in a spirit of comedy, although Walpole had acknowledged authorship in time for the second edition. The cruel tyrant is a figure of fun. One can best understand Walpole's intentions in the book by imagining it read aloud by Frankie Howerd in his most insinuating Up Pompeii manner ('No, don't mock'). Review by Richard Davenport-Hines, whose books include 'Gothic: Four hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin' (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

15,391 ratings
3.17 out of 5 stars
5 11% (1,659)
4 24% (3,728)
3 42% (6,390)
2 19% (2,881)
1 5% (733)
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