Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823). The most popular of the late-18th century Gothic novelists. She was born in London and moved to Bath at the age of 8. Her father was in trade, managing a showroom for the pottery firm of Wedgwood and Bentley. She spent a good deal of her youth among wealthy relatives—one childhood playmate was the future mother of Charles Darwin—and married William Radcliffe, a journalist, at the age of 23. She published her first novel, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, about two years later. It is said that her husband encouraged her efforts and that she began writing as a way of diverting herself during evenings when he was away. Radcliffe produced five novels in all, the most famous being The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). She did not invent the form of the Gothic novel—credit for that is usually given to Horace Walpole (1717–1797)—but she dominated the field, almost single-handedly creating an enormous audience for horror stories. Radcliffe stopped writing fiction, for reasons that remain somewhat mysterious, while still only 33 years old. Another novel, Gaston de Blondeville (1826), was published after her death.
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]