The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) by Eliza Parsons

Mystery and Imagination

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The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) is a Gothic novel in the Ann Radcliffe mould. Written by Eliza Parsons (1739-1811) for the Minerva Press, it has since become notorious as one of the ‘horrid novels’ discussed by the protagonists of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1818). However, recent critical work on the ‘Northanger novels’ has not only rescued them from obscurity, but also revealed them to be historically important works in their own right.

Parsons wrote to support her family after the death of her husband, and found a ready market in the customers of William Lane’s circulating library. Lane’s Minerva Press provided the library’s subscribers with a steady flow of thrilling Gothic fictions to fulfil their appetite for tales involving imperilled young ladies, haunted castles and mysterious pasts – not to mention playing to anti-French, anti-Catholic sentiments and a terror of social subversion, which was sweeping through Britain in the wake of…

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