English Romantic Novelist
1764 – 1823 A.D.
Ann Radcliffe, an English romantic novelist, born in London. Her maiden name was Ward, and at twenty-three she married Wm. Radcliffe, who later became proprietor of the weekly English Chronicle.
Her three most famous stories, The Romance of the Forest, The Mysteries of Odolpho, and The Italian, appeared between 1791 and 1797, and from this time she published no more novels – “like an actress in full possession of her applauded powers,” says Scott, “she chose to retreat from the stage in the full blaze of her fame.”
In the history of the English novel, Mrs. Radcliffe holds an interesting place. She is too often confounded with her imitators, who vulgarized her favorite “properties” of rambling and ruinous old castles, dark, desperate an cadaverous villains, secret passages, faults, trapdoors, evidences of deeds of monstrous crime, sights and sounds of mysterious horror. She deserves at least the credit of originating a school of which she was the most distinguished exponent.
While her figures are mere shadows, without touch of reality, and her pages unrelieved by wit or humor, she was dear to the readers of her time, and so sagacious a writer as Dunlop said: “Life has few better things than sitting at the chimney-corner in a winter evening, and reading such absurdities.”
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.