The Northanger Horrid Novels

In Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, two teenage girls shop, socialise, talk about boys and spend their time reading Gothic Romance novels which their parents probably would not approve. The Northanger Horrid Novels are seven early works of Gothic Fiction recommended by Isabella Thorpe to Catherine Morland:

illustration from

illustration by Charles Edmund (“C.E.”) Brock for Northanger Abbey. Image Source: Solitary Elegance

“Dear creature! how much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read The Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! — What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them.”

The first book mentioned is The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) by Ann Radcliffe.  I started reading this years ago at University but had to give it back to the library and never got round to buying it to finish. My uni library had really quite a good selection of Gothic Fiction and Victorian Sensation novels. Throughout Northanger Abbey, Catherine is Reading this novel and a few clues to the plot are given. One day I need to finish it so I can discover what is ‘behind the veil…’. I have a free copy of it via iBooks but its not quite the same as a real book. The Second, The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Penitents (1797) also by Ann Radcliffe I have not yet read

Source Valancourt Books

The Seven Horrid Novels refer to the list given by Isabella. Apparently these were originally thought to be made up titles until research undertaken in the early 20th century unearthed them. The majority come from a fad in German lurid horror romances in the late 1700’s. Thanks to this Wikipedia page, I have a list of them and have found the majority of them on amazon. This is thanks to Valancourt Books who have issued reprints of rare Gothic novels spanning the period between 1790 and 1830. There are some quite lurid titles including ‘The Cavern of Death’ and ‘The Animated Skeleton’. The seven horrid novels are as follows:

My plan is to read them all, but not until I’ve finished the mountain of books I’m reading currently. My plan of reading only one book at a time went slightly wrong (and owned books always have to be abandoned in precedence of library books)

Another book mentioned in the novel is The Monk (1796) by Matthew Gregory Lewis (also free via iBooks)


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