Classic Gothic Books by Women Authors | Top Ten Tuesday

Hi, folks,

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme originally created by The Broke and the Bookish and currently hosted by Jana at That Artsy GirlThis week’s topic is

‘Halloween Freebie’

and I decided to approach this topic by listing ten Gothic titles (by women) I am most excited to reread this season.

Without further ado, here is my list:

  1. The Castle of Wolfenbach: A German Story, by Eliza Parsons (1793)
    • Blurb: “Matilda Weimar flees her lecherous and incestuous uncle and seeks refuge in the ancient Castle of Wolfenbach. Among the castle’s abandoned chambers, Matilda will discover the horrifying mystery of the missing Countess of Wolfenbach. But when her uncle tracks her down, can she escape his despicable intentions?
  2. Clermont, by Regina Maria Roche (1798)
    • Blurb: “Clermont is the story of Madeline, a porcelain doll of a Gothic heroine, who lives in seclusion from society with her father, Clermont, whose past is shrouded in mystery. One stormy night, their solitude is interrupted by a benighted traveller, a Countess who turns out to be a friend from Clermont’s past.”
  3. The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe (1794)
    • Blurb: “With The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe raised the Gothic romance to a new level and inspired a long line of imitators. Portraying her heroine’s inner life, creating a thick atmosphere of fear, and providing a gripping plot that continues to thrill readers today, The Mysteries of Udolpho is the story of orphan Emily St. Aubert, who finds herself separated from the man she loves and confined within the medieval castle of her aunt’s new husband, Montoni. Inside the castle, she must cope with an unwanted suitor, Montoni’s threats, and the wild imaginings and terrors that threaten to overwhelm her.”
  4. Barozzi; Or the Venetian Sorceress, by Catherine Smith (1815)
    • Blurb: “The unfortunate Rosalina St. Almo is torn from her father’s arms by vicious banditti, who slaughter her father before her eyes. Fortunately she is rescued from the villains by young Rosalva di Barozzi, who takes her to his father’s palace in Venice. But more terror awaits her there when a hideous sorceress at a masked ball prophesies her doom! Is the mysterious sorceress trying to help Rosalina escape her enemies’ clutches, or is she scheming to sacrifice her in a demonic ritual? Can Rosalina evade the assassins sent to destroy her and solve the mystery of the sorceress in time?”
  5. Six Gothic Dramas, by Joanna Baillie (misc.)
    • Blurb: “A melancholy nobleman, consumed with hatred, commits a brutal murder. A beautiful woman is imprisoned by her abusive guardian in a haunted castle, driving her mad. A prophetic dream leads a group of monks to a buried corpse and leads to justice for the murderer. A family feud drives a clan to strand a rival on a rock to be drowned by the rising tide. A joyful wedding turns sinister when a ghost appears to reveal the tragic secret of her death. A group of women, condemned as witches, are doomed to be burnt at the stake. These are the plots of the six plays in this collection by Scottish dramatist Joanna Baillie.
  6. The Old English Baron, by Clara Reeve (1777)
    • Blurb: “When Sir Philip Harclay returns to England after a long absence, he finds that his childhood friend, Arthur, Lord Lovel, is no longer alive, and that the castle and estates of the Lovel family have twice changed hands. But a mysteriously abandoned set of rooms in the castle of Lovel promises to disclose the secrets of the past. After a series of frantic episodes and surprising revelations, culminating in a trial by combat, the crimes of the usurper and the legitimacy of the true heir are finally discovered.”
  7. The Two Emilys, by Sophia Lee (1798)
    • Blurb: “In The Two Emilys, masquerade, an earthquake, bigamy, insanity, blackmail, and duels serve the demonic Emily Fitzallen in her drive for revenge on her counterpart and the novel’s heroine. Emily Arden, and the man over whom they do battle, the Marquis of Lenox. Will the good Emily or the evil one prevail? Featuring a wild, improbable plot and action that ranges from Ireland and Scotland to Switzerland and Italy, The Two Emilys remains an unpredictable and thrilling Gothic tale.”
  8. Zofloya, by Charlotte Dacre (1806)
    • Blurb: “‘Few venture as thou hast in the alarming paths of sin.’ This is the final judgement of Satan on Victoria di Loredani, the heroine of Zofloya, or The Moor (1806), a tale of lust, betrayal, and multiple murder set in Venice in the last days of the fifteenth century. The novel follows Victoria’s progress from spoilt daughter of indulgent aristocrats, through a period of abuse and captivity, to a career of deepening criminality conducted under Satan’s watchful eye. Charlotte Dacre’s narrative deftly displays her heroine’s movement from the vitalized position of Ann Radcliffe’s heroines to a fully conscious commitment to vice that goes beyond that of ‘Monk’ Lewis’s deluded Ambrosio. The novel’s most daring aspect is its anatomy of Victoria’s intense sexual attraction to her Moorish servant Zofloya that transgresses taboos both of class and race. A minor scandal on its first publication, and a significant influence on Byron and Shelley, Zofloya has been unduly neglected. Contradicting idealized stereotypes of women’s writing, the novel’s portrait of indulged desire, gratuitous cruelty, and monumental self-absorption retains considerable power to disturb.”
  9. The Old Manor House, by Charlotte Turner Smith (1793)
    • Blurb: “In The Old Manor House (1794), Charlotte Smith combines elements of the romance, the Gothic, recent history, and culture to produce both a social document and a compelling novel. A “property romance,” the love story of Orlando and Monimia revolves around the Manor House as inheritable property. In situating their romance as dependent on the whims of property owners, Smith critiques a society in love with money at the expense of its most vulnerable members, the dispossessed.”
  10. The Orphan of the Rhine, by Eleanor Sleath (1798)
    • Blurb: “Seduced and betrayed by a rake, Julie de Rubine lives in seclusion with her infant son, Enrîco. One day, their calm retirement is interrupted by the Marchese de Montferrat, who promises to provide for Julie and her son if she agrees to care for an unfortunate orphan, Laurette, whose origin is shrouded in mystery. Under the assumed name of Madame Chamont, Julie raises the two children, whose youthful friendship eventually blossoms into love. As Laurette matures, she resolves to learn the identity of her real parents. Her only clues are a painted miniature of a beautiful lady and the whisperings of a sinister monk, who warns her to avoid the Marchese de Montferrat. But when Julie is kidnapped by banditti and Laurette is taken to the gloomy castle of the lascivious Marchese, will she be able to uncover the truth and marry her beloved Enrîco, or will she fall victim to the lustful Montferrat?”


  1. Mary Anne RadcliffeManfrone; Or, the One-Handed Monk, by Mary Anne Radcliffe (1809)
    • Blurb: “Manfrone; or, The One-Handed Monk” (1809) opens with one of the most unforgettable scenes in all of Gothic literature when a lascivious monk enters the lovely Rosalina’s room in an attempt to rape her, but suffers the gruesome severing of his hand when he is caught in the act. Yet other dangers await Rosalina: her father, the haughty Duca di Rodolpho is determined to marry her to the cruel Prince di Manfrone and imprisons her true love, Montalto, in the dungeons of his castle. And then there is the mysterious monk Grimaldi, who seems to be an ally of the Duca. What are his inscrutable plans, and is he trying to aid Rosalina or destroy her?”
  2. The Recess, by Sophia Lee (1783)
    • Blurb: “First published in an era when most novels about young women concentrated on courtship and ended with marriage, The Recess daringly portrays women involved in political intrigues, overseas journeys, and even warfare. The novel is set during the reign of Elizabeth I and features as narrators twin daughters of Mary, Queen of Scots, by a secret marriage. One of the earliest Gothic novels, The Recess pioneered the genre of historical fiction. The novel was also one of the first to describe characters and events from conflicting points of view and was wildly popular in its day.”
  3. The Children of the Abbey, by Regina Maria Roche (1796)
    • The heroine of Roche’s novel, Amanda Fitzalan, and her brother Oscar, are unfortunate siblings defrauded of their rightful inheritance, Dunreath Abbey, by a will forged by a wicked relative. Beset on all sides by danger, including the schemes of the haughty Marquis and Marchioness of Rosline and the sinister intentions of the villainous libertine Belgrave, can Amanda reclaim what is rightfully hers and win the love of the dashing Lord Mortimer?”

That’s it for now, folks! To me, all of these would make great Halloween reads. Have you read any of these books? And which Gothic books would you recommend?

Yours truly,


William Worchester Churchill. Woman Reading on a Settee, circa 1910.

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