Five Gothic Masterpieces: The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Great God Pan, Frankenstein, Carmilla, and Dracula

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The iconic Gothic horror classics that gave birth to the monstrous myths that still inhabit our nightmares.

Tragic heroines, windswept moors, dark and stormy nights, castle prisons, and forbidden desires realized at the greatest cost—these are the elements of Gothic horror, given its finest expression in these five enduring novels.
 
Frankenstein: Obsessed with the secret of creation, Swiss scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein cobbles together a body he is determined to bring to life. When the creature opens his eyes one fateful night, the doctor is repulsed: His vision of perfection is a hideous monster. Dr. Frankenstein abandons his creation, but the furious, lonely monster will not be ignored, setting in motion a chain of violence and terror. A gripping story about the ethics of creation and the consequences of trauma, Frankenstein is as relevant today as it is haunting.
 
Dracula: Upon a visit to Transylvania, young English lawyer Jonathan Harker makes a horrifying discovery about Castle Dracula and its resident count, who survives on the blood of human beings. Thus a battle of wits ensues between the vicious count and his various adversaries in this legendary Gothic novel of horror, dark romance, and chilling suspense.
 
Carmilla: Published twenty-five years before Stoker’s Dracula, Carmilla is the passionate, thrilling tale of a mysterious young woman’s dramatic arrival at an isolated castle. The innocent Laura has never seen anyone like the seductive, secretive Carmilla, except in her dreams—and an antique portrait, which resembles the visitor perfectly, down to the mole on her tempting neck. Laura quickly realizes there is something far more dark and sinister about Carmilla than meets the eye.
 
The Great God Pan: When Mr. Clarke agrees to visit his friend Dr. Raymond, he is dubious about the proceedings he is to witness. In pursuit of what Raymond calls “transcendental medicine,” the doctor intends to make a small incision in a woman’s brain, allowing her to see past the world of the senses to a reality beyond imagining—a realm where, Raymond says, one can see the great god Pan. Stephen King has called The Great God Pan “one of the best horror stories ever written.”
 
The Mysteries of Udolpho: Orphaned heroine Emily St. Aubert has been imprisoned by Signor Montoni, her evil guardian, in his gloomy medieval fortress in the Apennines. Terror is the order of the day inside the walls of Udolpho, as Emily struggles against Montoni’s rapacious schemes and the threat of her own psychological disintegration. A bestseller in its day and a potent influence on Walpole and Poe, this dreamlike, nearly hallucinatory classic remains one of the most important works in the history of European fiction.
 
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About the author

Ann Radcliffe (1765–1823) was an influential author of Gothic literature and one of the most popular writers of her era. In addition to The Mysteries of Udolpho, her six novels include The Italian and The Romance of the Forest.
 
Arthur Machen (1863–1947) was a Welsh author and actor best known for his fantasy and horror fiction. He grew up with intentions of becoming a doctor, but followed a boyhood passion of the supernatural and occult and started to write. In 1890, Machen began publishing short stories in literary magazines. Four years later, he released his breakthrough work, The Great God Pan. Decried upon initial publication for its depictions of sex and violence, the tale has since become a horror classic and has been hailed as “maybe the best [horror story] in the English language” by Stephen King. Machen continued to publish supernatural novels but spent time as actor in a traveling player company after his wife’s death. His literary career revived once more with the publication of his works The House of Souls and The Hill of Dreams. During World War I, Machen became a full-time journalist. Though he rallied for republications of his works, Machen’s literary career ultimately diminished, and he lived much of his life in poor finances. 
 
Mary Shelley (1797–1851) was the only daughter of the political philosopher William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, celebrated author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. At the age of sixteen, Shelley (then Mary Godwin) scandalized English society by eloping with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was married. Best known for the genre-defining Frankenstein (1818), she was a prolific writer of fiction, travelogues, and biographies during her lifetime, and was instrumental in securing the literary reputation of Percy Shelley after his tragic death.
 
J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–1873) was an Irish writer who helped develop the ghost story genre in the nineteenth century. Born to a family of writers, Le Fanu released his first works in 1838 in Dublin University Magazine, which he would go on to edit and publish in 1861. Some of Le Fanu’s most famous Victorian Gothic works include Carmilla, Uncle Silas, and In a Glass Darkly. His writing has inspired other great authors of horror and thriller literature such as Bram Stoker and M. R. James.
 
Bram Stoker (1847–1912) was an Irish novelist, short story author, drama critic, and the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London. Published in 1897, his Gothic novel Dracula introduced readers to one of the most popular fictional characters of all time.

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