The Castle of Otranto: By Horace Walpole
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The Castle of Otranto is a 1764 novel by Horace Walpole. It is generally regarded as the first gothic novel, initiating a literary genre which would become extremely popular in the later 18th century and early 19th century, with authors such as Charles Maturin, Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Daphne du Maurier.
The initial 1764 edition was titled in full The Castle of Otranto, A Story. Translated by William Marshal, Gent. From the Original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, Canon of the Church of St. Nicholas at Otranto. This first edition purported to be a translation based on a manuscript printed at Naples in 1529 and recently rediscovered in the library of “an ancient Catholic family in the north of England”. This “ancient Catholic family” is possibly the Percy family, as Walpole would have known the Duke of Northumberland and his wife Elizabeth Percy, though this is not proven.
The Italian manuscript’s story, it was claimed, derived from a story still older, dating back perhaps as far as the Crusades. This Italian manuscript, along with alleged author “Onuphrio Muralto”, were Walpole’s fictional creations, and “William Marshal” his pseudonym.