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The Castle of Wolfenbach
(1793) is the most famous novel written by the English Gothic novelist Eliza Parsons. First published in two volumes during 1793, it was one of the seven "horrid novels" recommended by the character Isabella Thorpe in Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey.
“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 pocketbook. 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?” – Northanger Abbey, ch. 6.
It helped establish the gothic tropes of the blameless young woman in peril, the centrality of a huge, gloomy, ancient building to the plot, the discovery of scandalous family secrets and a final confrontation between the forces of good and evil. Its resolutely anti-French Roman Catholic, pro-English Protestant sentiment is also a feature of the genre.
The novel details the adventures of Matilda Weimar, who escapes the clutches of her lecherous uncle to find sanctuary in the imposing German castle of the title. Exploring its eerie chambers she discovers a terrible secret regarding the disappearance of the Countess of the estate.
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