Macabre and melodramtic, set in haunted castles or fantastic landscapes, Gothic tales became fashionable in the late eighteenth century with the publication of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764). Crammed with catastrophe, terror, and ghostly interventions, the novel was an immediate success, and influenced numerous followers. These include William Beckford's Vathek (1786), which alternates grotesque comedy with scenes of exotic magnificence in the story of the ruthless Caliph Vathek's journey to damation. The Monk (1796), by Matthew Lewis, is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest, set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid. Frankenstein (1818, 1831) is Mary Shelley's disturbing and perennially popular tale of young student who learns the secret of giving life to a creature made from human relics, with horrific consequences. This collection illustrates the range and the attraction of the Gothic novel. Extreme and sensational, each of the four printed here is also a powerful psychological story of isolation and monomania.
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