OXFORD WORLD'S CLASSICS
ANN RADCLIFFE (neé Ward) was born in London in 1764. Her father was in trade, but she passed much of her childhood in the households of more prosperous and socially elevated relations. In 1772 her family moved to Bath, where she may have attended a school run by Sophia and Harriet Lee, early innovators in the writing of Gothic fiction and drama. She married in 1787 William Radcliffe, who later became proprietor and editor of the English Chronicle. It was apparently with his encouragement that she took up writing as a pastime. Her first attempts in the genre of romance, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne ( 1789) and A Sicilian Romance ( 1790), were published anonymously. They received some favourable attention from the reviewers, but it was The Romance of the Forest ( 1791) which established her as the supreme practitioner of the Gothic mode, then variously dubbed 'the Terrorist System of Novel Writing', 'the hobgoblin-romance', or eventually, as a tribute to her influence, 'the Radcliffe romance'. Two further novels published in her lifetime, The Mysteries of Udolpho ( 1974) and The Italian ( 1797), served to consolidate her reputation as 'the Great Enchantress'. Her works were translated into many languages. Radcliffe also was an enthusiastic traveller. She authored a work based on her sole excursion to the Continent, A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794, through Holland and the Western Frontier of Germany . . . To Which Are Added Observations of a Tour to the Lakes ( 1795). But the tours of southern Europe undertaken in the novels were more exotic, based on travel books, fashionable landscape paintings, and a vivid imagination; the scene-painting sometimes heightened by verse. Walter Scott was to describe Radcliffe as 'the first poetess of romantic fiction'. In spite of her celebrity, Radcliffe clung to privacy, and retired from publishing in 1797. In later life she suffered from asthma, and died of an attack in 1823. A final novel, Gaston de Blondeville was published in 1826, together with a narrative poem, St Alban's Abbey, extracts from her travel diaries, and a memoir of the author by Thomas Noon Talfourd.
CHLOE CHARD is a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Osijek, in Yugoslavia, and has previously taught at the University of Sheffield. Her academic research has mainly been concerned with seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century travel literature.