The Castle of Otranto by Horace WalpoleFirst 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. Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpoles own favorite among his numerous works. The novel is reprinted here from a text of 1798, the last that Walpole himself prepared for the press.
The Castle of Otranto Summary
He was born in , the year in which his father resigned office, remaining in opposition for almost three years before his return to a long tenure of power. Horace Walpole was educated at Eton, where he formed a school friendship with Thomas Gray, who was but a few months older. In Gray was travelling-companion with Walpole in France and Italy until they differed and parted; but the friendship was afterwards renewed, and remained firm to the end. His way of life was made easy to him. As Usher of the Exchequer, Comptroller of the Pipe, and Clerk of the Estreats in the Exchequer, he received nearly two thousand a year for doing nothing, lived with his father, and amused himself. Horace Walpole idled, and amused himself with the small life of the fashionable world to which he was proud of belonging, though he had a quick eye for its vanities.
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The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole, is generally viewed as the first Gothic novel. Its first edition, published in , claimed to be a translation of a work.
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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
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It is considered the first Gothic novel in the English language , and it is often said to have founded the horror story as a legitimate literary form. Walpole presents The Castle of Otranto as the English translation of a recently discovered manuscript. The manuscript tells the story of Manfred, a prince of Otranto. At the beginning of the story, Manfred impatiently awaits the marriage of his sickly son, Conrad, to the princess Isabella. In the courtyard a servant discovers that an enormous helmet has fallen from the sky and crushed Conrad to death. Upon realizing that his only male heir is dead and his wife can no longer bear children, Manfred decides to marry Isabella himself. He approaches Isabella with this proposition.
Manfred , the ruler of Otranto, is impatiently waiting for the marriage between his son Conrad and the princess Isabella , the daughter of Frederic the Marquis of Vincenza. Intending to divorce or kill Hippolita, Manfred approaches Isabella alone, proclaiming his intention to produce several sons with her. With the help of Theodore , a peasant, Isabella escapes the castle through a secret underground passageway to seek sanctuary at the church of St. Nicholas , where she is under the protection of Father Jerome. However, after Hippolita dismisses herself from the conversation, Father Jerome more frankly accuses Manfred of his crimes and urges him to repent and turn to the church.
The Castle of Otranto tells the story of Prince Manfred and his family, which includes his wife Hippolita and his children Conrad and Matilda. The wedding does not take place, however, for Conrad is crushed to death by a giant helmet moments before the event. The death of his son terrifies Manfred that a prophecy that the castle will pass on from their family is beginning to come true. Manfred plots to divorce his wife, Hippolita, on the grounds that she has failed to bear him a proper heir he also claims they are related and marry Isabella himself. Even though strange things begin to happen in the castle, Manfred is not deterred.