Four Gothic Novels

By Horace Walpole; William Beckford et al. | Go to book overview

PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

THE favourable manner in which this little piece has been received by the public, calls upon the author to explain the grounds on which he composed it. But before he opens those motives, it is fit that he should ask pardon of his readers for having offered his work to them under the borrowed personage of a translator. As diffidence of his own abilities, and the novelty of the attempt, were his sole inducements to assume that disguise, he flatters himself he shall appear excusable. He resigned his performance to the impartial judgment of the public; determined to let it perish in obscurity, if disapproved; nor meaning to avow such a trifle, unless better judges should pronounce that he might own it without a blush.

It was an attempt to blend the two kinds of romance, the ancient and the modern. In the former all was imagination and improbability: in the latter, nature is always intended to be, and sometimes has been, copied with success. Invention has not been wanting; but the great resources of fancy have been dammed up, by a strict adherence to common life. But if in the latter species Nature has cramped imagination, she did but take her revenge, having been totally excluded from old romances. The actions, sentiments, conversations, of the heroes and heroines of ancient days were as unnatural as the machines employed to put them in motion.

The author of the following pages thought it possible to reconcile the two kinds. Desirous of leaving the powers of fancy at liberty to expatiate through the boundless realms of invention, and thence of creating more interesting situations, he wished to conduct the mortal agents in his drama according to the rules of probability; in short, to make them think, speak and act, as it might be supposed mere men and women would do in extraordinary positions. He had observed, that in all inspired writings, the personages under the dispensation of miracles, and witnesses to the most stupendous phenomena, never lose sight of their human character: whereas in the productions of romantic story, an improbable event never fails to be attended by an absurd dialogue. The actors seem to lose their senses the moment the laws of nature have lost their tone. As the public have applauded the attempt, the author must not say he was entirely unequal to the task he had und rtaken: yet if the new route he has struck out shall have paved a road for men of brighter talents, he shall own with pleasure and modesty, that he was sensible the plan was capable of receiving greater embellishments than his imagination or conduct of the passions could bestow on it.

With regard to the deportment of the domestics, on which I have touched in the former preface, I will beg leave to add a few words. The simplicity of

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Four Gothic Novels
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Four Gothic Novels *
  • The Castle of Otranto *
  • Contents *
  • The Castle of Otranto *
  • A Chronology of Horace Walpole *
  • The Castle of Otranto, - A Story. *
  • Preface to the First Edition *
  • Preface to the Second Edition *
  • Sonnet - To the Right Honourable Lady Mary Coke *
  • The Castle of Otranto - A Gothic Story *
  • Chapter I *
  • Chapter II 31
  • Chapter III 44
  • Chapter IV 57
  • Chapter V 69
  • Vathek *
  • A Chronology of William Beckford *
  • Vathek *
  • The Monk *
  • A Chronology of Matthew Lewis *
  • The Monk - A Romance *
  • Preface *
  • Table of the Poetry *
  • Advertisement *
  • Volume I *
  • Chapter I *
  • Chapter II 186
  • Chapter III 220
  • Volume II *
  • Chapter I *
  • Chapter II 283
  • Chapter III 304
  • Chapter IV 325
  • Volume III *
  • Chapter I *
  • Chapter II 357
  • Chapter III *
  • Chapter IV 403
  • Chapter V 430
  • Frankenstein *
  • A Chronology of Mary Shelley *
  • Frankenstein - Or the Modern Prometheus *
  • Introduction - [1831] *
  • Preface - [1818] *
  • Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus *
  • Letter I *
  • Letter II 463
  • Letter III 466
  • Letter IV *
  • Chapter I 472
  • Chapter II 475
  • Chapter III 480
  • Chapter IV 485
  • Chapter V 490
  • Chapter VI 494
  • Chapter VII *
  • Chapter VIII *
  • Chapter IX *
  • Chapter X 517
  • Chapter XI 521
  • Chapter XII 527
  • Chapter XIII 531
  • Chapter XIV 535
  • Chapter XV *
  • Chapter XVI *
  • Chapter XVII 551
  • Chapter XVIII 554
  • Chapter XIX 560
  • Chapter XX 565
  • Chapter XXI 571
  • Chapter XXII 578
  • Chapter XXIII 585
  • Chapter XXIV 590
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