The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole - lyzard tutoring SqueakyChu

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The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole - lyzard tutoring SqueakyChu

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gen. 23, 2012, 6:13pm

Welcome, all to my tutored read, once again by my favorite (and so far only!) tutor lyzard (Liz). I'm expecting Smiler 69 (Ilana) to be jumping into this thread as a co-tutor as well.

Why I chose this book:
1. The tutored read was such a fun and enlightening experience for me. I learned a lot and was previously able to read a book (Emma by Jane Austen) that I probably would never have read under any other circumstance as it never appealed to me.

2. I decided that maybe reading books other than contemporary ones would be a good experience for me. I'm always trying to s-t-r-e-t-c-h other people's reading, so why not do that with my own reading experience?

3. I love really dark and creepy books. They are often tagged as "gothic" novels. I don't really understand the concept of "gothic", but when I learned on wikipedia that the "first gothic novel" was considered to be The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, I asked myself, "Why not?"

Where I found the copy of my book:
I bought this book at Second Story Books, a used book store in Rockville, Maryland, USA. The book is a small paperback (no ISBN, of course!). It was on its Tenth Printing in 1978 (copyright 1963 by MacMillan Publishing Company, but the original story had first been published in 1764. Whoa! Not my usual type of reading!! :)

My thoughts prior to reading this book:
I have great hopes for liking this story as I loved reading Bram Stoker's Dracula and have always been a great fan of Edgar Allen Poe, even when I was a child.

So here we go...!

Editat: gen. 23, 2012, 6:20pm

Whoah! You might give a girl some warning!? :)

But nice to have an enthusiastic tutee! It is a public holiday here on Thursday, and I was planning on spending some time then writing out some brief introductory notes about both Horace Walpole and the Gothic novel that I hope will be helpful to you. Do you plan to start reading right away?

ETA: So now we have six books in common??

gen. 23, 2012, 6:23pm

Before beginning this book, I really would like to know for sure what a "gothic" novel is. Can you tell me?

I read a lot of contemporary novels that are labelled "gothic", but are these tags really wrong? Are gothic novels really older novels? For example, those published in previous centuries?

My idea of a gothic novel is one with a dark, mysterious story that takes place in a large creepy, place. The characters are bizarre. There is often mental illness or characters that seem like they suffer from mental illness. The weather always seems to be bad (snow, sleet, rain, or fog). Most of the novel takes place at night or in the fog. I read a lot of Patrick McGrath, who is probably my favorite contemporary "gothic" novelist. So...are his books not really gothic novels at all?

Editat: gen. 23, 2012, 6:29pm

> 2

Whoah! You might give a girl some warning!? :)

That was the next thing I was going to do. You didn't give me time!

Do you plan to start reading right away?

I am going to start reading it right away (just a few pages) , but feel free to take as long as you want to reply. We can slow this waaaaaaay down. Do NOT feel compelled to reply right away. Take your time with it. It will be more relaxing and fun if we talk to each other without pressure on either side.

I won't post anything else until you post your introductory notes. I'll only read about 5 pages this week (like with Emma) so there is no way I'll get ahead of you. Don't worry!

ETA: So now we have six books in common??

I guess so. Hooray!! :D

P.S. I am much more excited about reading this book than I ever was about reading Emma. Ha!

Editat: gen. 23, 2012, 6:33pm


That's one of the things I was planning on addressing. There is a bit more to it than that - but if you don't mind, I will get back to you on this a bit later, when I have the time to answer you properly (i.e. I'm at work right now!!).

P.S. I am much more excited about reading this book than I ever was about reading Emma. Ha!

You know, I'm not sure that's a good sign... :)

Editat: gen. 23, 2012, 6:34pm

Get back to work, Liz!!

Your boss is going to start sending me dirty emails. ;)

You know, I'm not sure that's a good sign...

LOL!! Why not?!

Editat: gen. 23, 2012, 6:37pm

Just at this moment she's off doing interviews, so I'm able to sneak in some responses...

We got so much mileage out of your dislike of Emma, I'm worried your excitement about this is going to backfire!

(Don't mind me, I'm just a bit nuts!)

gen. 23, 2012, 6:35pm


gen. 23, 2012, 7:17pm

> 7

I'm worried your excitement about this is going to backfire!

No, it won't. Trust me. I really love reading creepy stories. Just think of how engaged I'll be in what we read together!

I already read the first five pages (at which point I am now going to stop COMPLETELY)...and I love it already! :)

What I really learned from our previous tutored read:
I learned that slowing a read waaaay down leads me to appreciate it much more.

gen. 23, 2012, 7:20pm

My confession is that I haven't got my hands on a copy yet - yikes!!

(Planning on slipping out to the library in a couple of hours...)

Glad you're enjoying it! I'll catch up as soon as I can. Which is a terrible thing for the tutor to be saying - tsk! :)

gen. 23, 2012, 8:31pm

>10 lyzard:

Really, Liz. Take your time. There's no need to hurry.
I was just so lucky that I found exactly what I wanted in the book shop today as I have to go to work the rest of the week.

I'm reading another book now anyway. I always have at least two or three books going at the same time. It's not as if I had nothing else to read (...or didn't need to be working on business taxes at the very same time I choose to read!).

gen. 23, 2012, 10:04pm

Update: book is now in hand...

gen. 23, 2012, 10:05pm

That was quick! :)

gen. 23, 2012, 10:09pm

The academic library I go to is about 15 min walk from work, so it makes a nice lunchtime trip.

gen. 23, 2012, 10:11pm

I want to add a note here to say that I'm not reading any introductory notes to this book other than what my tutor is going to tell me. I always like to come into new books "cold", that is, without any preconceived idea of what the story is trying to say or even what the plot of the story is. I like to read all notes after I read a work. I will be doing that with this book.

gen. 23, 2012, 10:13pm

> 14

The academic library I go to is about 15 min walk from work, so it makes a nice lunchtime trip.

Yeah. You're lucky it's warm in your part of the world. The last thing I wanted to do today was go out in the cold. I did need to go grocery shopping and to the library, though...

which reminds me...

I have to cancel The Castle of Oranto that I just placed on hold at the library!

Editat: gen. 23, 2012, 10:17pm


I'm not a believer in reading introductions beforehand - even where you don't find actual detailed analysis, there are far too often casual spoilers.

gen. 24, 2012, 9:38am

I haaaaate reading introductions before the story! If I really liked the story, I'll read the introduction afterwards. If I don't like the story, I forego it completely.

gen. 24, 2012, 11:02am

>17 lyzard: and 18 I totally agree with this. I read a handful of intros as a teenager and it gave waaay to much away. I sometimes go back and sometimes don't, but I never start with the introduction now.

gen. 24, 2012, 12:27pm

S'ha suprimit aquest usuari en ser considerat brossa.

gen. 24, 2012, 2:48pm

The Castle of Otranto is a real treat!

gen. 24, 2012, 4:14pm

>>#20 Martin, there are groups especially set up on LibraryThing for authors to promote their work - please don't do so on general threads. You might try this group instead.

gen. 24, 2012, 10:02pm

S'ha suprimit aquest usuari en ser considerat brossa.

gen. 24, 2012, 10:31pm

That's okay - very easy to get lost here!

gen. 24, 2012, 10:52pm

I've got my popcorn, and I'm getting comfortable.

Editat: gen. 24, 2012, 11:34pm

I've got my popcorn, and I'm getting comfortable.


I've got my first set of questions ready for Thursday, or more likely Friday (no rush, Liz!), and will post them after Liz posts her introduction (which she wants me to read first). :D

For those who are reading with me, I'll only be reading about 5 or 6 pages per day. I've started by reading Chapter 1, pp. 27-32, ending with:

"...clapped the door against the terrified Matilda"

Editat: gen. 28, 2012, 5:08pm

The Castle Of Otranto - Background and Introduction

First of all, I want to try and provide some background information about this novel and the time it was published, and also its influence, which I hope will be helpful.


Horace Walpole was the son of Sir Robert Walpole, who was Prime Minister during the first half of the 18th century. He was a Member of Parliament most of his adult life, and towards the end of it inherited the title Earl of Orford from his nephew. He was also an art historian and an antiquarian. In 1747, he began rebuilding a property outside of London in "the Gothic style" - modelling different parts of it after 15th and 16th century architectural styles used for castles and cathedrals - lots of turrets and spires - and continued working on it over the next twenty-five years. The house was called Strawberry Hill villa, and it drew hordes of visitors and popularised a Gothic style of design. More to our point, Walpole claimed that its interior design inspired much of The Castle Of Otranto.

Otranto is an important work historically because it signalled a major social change. The 18th century was the time of the Age of Reason, which valued progress and learning, but insisted upon rationality, logic and calculation; the mind over the emotions. In the second half of the century there was a backlash against what was perceived as a cold way of living. There was a shift towards indulging the imagination and the emotions; it went along with a love of nature, and of the arts, particularly music and poetry. It was sympathetic to the emotions and senses and impulses. Eventually it all went overboard and got silly with too much extreme sentimentalism, but it nevertheless paved the way for the Romantic movement.

So Otranto is important because it sits at the beginning of this movement towards a greater appreciation of the imaginative and emotional, and was popular in that way. It's also an important work because, although it is not really what we mean today by the term "the Gothic novel", it certainly inspired those later novels that are.

The main characteristic of the true Gothic novel is its "other-ness"; its unEnglishness. Gothics are almost invariably set in the past, and in another country - usually Italy or Spain - both of which, being Catholic, offer freedom to be extravagant (foreigners - anything's possible!) and the Inquisition, the Gothic novel's perpetual Big Bad. They usually centre around what horror analysts call The Bad Place - which may be a castle, or a bandit's stronghold, or a convent (wicked nuns and monks are popular), or just an isolated house in the country - but which is the scene of violence, often with sexual overtones. In the best Gothic novels, there is a psychological aspect to the story, for example The Bad Place as a representation of the dark side of the human psyche - locked doors, secret passageways, false identities... Also of the heroine (occasionally hero) as a stand-in for the reader, unable to look away from / stop reading things that terrify.

At the outset of a Gothic novel, there will often be a claim made of the story's authenticity - it will be translated from a manuscript found in a trunk in the attic of an old house, or something similar. The stories usually focus on a young woman, who is trapped in The Bad Place. There's a sense of fairy-tale about this: the girl will be an orphan, or have a Wicked Step-Parent. In the course of the story she will not only be in danger, but deliberately put herself in danger. She will often be imprisoned and threatened, or there will be an attempt to trick or force her into marriage. There is usually an overriding mystery which must be solved, and may have to do with the heroine's true identity, or the true heir to a property or title. There will be scenes of terror and supernatural occurrences, which may or may not be explained away.

The main difference between the traditional Gothic novel and the contemporary Gothic is, I think, the latter's assertion that these things can and do happen anywhere - including right here - other-ness in our midst.

Well, that should be enough to keep you going! - but in the unlikely event I haven't said enough about anything, please don't hesitate to ask questions.

And now---I shall go and read the first 32 pages!

gen. 25, 2012, 7:34am

Hope you guys don't mind if I follow along. I put this one on my Kindle last fall when I read Life Mask in which Horace Walpole is a major figure and there is much mention of TCoO. Charging up the Kindle now...

Editat: gen. 25, 2012, 8:45am

Love the introduction!

lots of turrets and spires

*flips back up to message #1 to enjoy (once again) the cover art of my copy of this book"

Liz, I can see how those characteristics which you described are present in contemporary novels that I see labelled as "gothic". I think what I like most about such novels is the psychological havoc that takes place within the main character. I look forward (!) to look back (!!) in time to see this, though...

Editat: gen. 25, 2012, 8:51am

Chapter I:

pp. 27-32 which a wedding is planned

ending with:

"...clapped the door against the terrified Matilda".


1. Is Otranto a real place? If so, where is it? How about Vicenza?

"the Marquis of Vicenza's daughter"

2. What is a Marquis?

3. What is a casque?

"more large than any casque ever made for human being"

4. What does poignarded mean?

"Manfred...would have poignarded the peasant in their arms."

5. What is a necromancer?

"He gravely announced that the young man was certainly a necromancer"

I know that there is a well-known science fiction novel called The Necromancer and have always wondered what that word meant...but I never looked it up! :)

gen. 25, 2012, 8:49am

> 28

The more lurkers, the merrier, I say!

What might be fun is if lurkers wrote down their own questions now but ask them *after* I finish reading this novel. In that way, I won't be distracted, but also our lurkers will then have an opportunity to ask their own questions and/or further discuss this novel when I have finished it. What do you think, Liz?

By the way, if you are a lurker, feel free to announce yourself! :)

gen. 25, 2012, 8:55am

I'm lurking, and reading along, although I think I've gone further than you as my kindle copy doesn't seem to have chapters.

gen. 25, 2012, 8:56am

A necromancer is someone who can communicate with or bring back the dead. And since that's about all I expect this fantasy reader to be able to contribute, I will go back to lurking. :)

gen. 25, 2012, 8:57am

> 32, 33

Hi Kerry and Mary!

gen. 25, 2012, 9:07am

Well, if you insist - I'll be lurking. I read Otranto a hundred years ago back in high school. It was an honors English class and we loved it so much that we were allowed to produce a film version of the story. (I was a camera operator and got to wear the big headphones so that I could hear what was being said up in the control booth. Couldn't laugh out loud, though, because my voice would have been audible on the film.) A couple of years ago I decided to read it again. I actually got an audio version which I listened to on a car trip together with my teenage son. We both loved it. A fun, and funny, story. I'm looking forward to Liz's explanation of the story and its more subtle meanings which I'm sure I missed on my own.

Editat: gen. 25, 2012, 5:28pm

Yikes!! Nose to the grindstone!

Okay, first I have a question for you: did your copy have the first edition preface attached to it, and if so, did you read it? (This begins, "The following work was found...")

1. There is a real Otranto, right on the tip of the "heel" of Italy, and it has a real castle. Vincenza is a province in the north of Italy.

However, the preface (which pulls the "found manuscript" trick) asserts that the tale was originally written / printed in Naples, which is why some of the names are Spanish. Many of the areas in Italy used to be independent kingdoms, and France and Spain fought for possession of Naples and occupied it in turn up until the early 19th century.

2. In most hereditary honour systems, a Marquis is the second-highest title you can hold - a Marquis ranks below a Duke but above an Earl or Count.

3. "Casque" is French for helmet. Get used to Gothic novels always using the fanciest / most obscure term they can for an object!

4. Ah, the poignard! Get used to lots of poignards, too!

A poignard is a long, thin knife which was a weapon carried by the upper classes in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries, the way Englishmen wore a sword. BUT - in English literature, and not just Gothics, there is a great tendency to associate poignards with "hot-blooded" Italians. Look at an Italian the wrong way and he will hire "bravos" to "assassinate" you with a "poignard". :)

So "Manfred would have poignarded him" means that Manfred would have pulled his knife and stabbed him.

5. Yes, a necromancer is someone with the power to communicate with the dead, either by actually raising them or by summoning their spirit; but the term is often used more broadly to suggest black magic or evil powers.

gen. 25, 2012, 7:53pm

> 36

Okay, first I have a question for you: did your copy have the first edition preface attached to it, and if so, did you read it? (This begins, "The following work was found...")

Yes. Am I supposed to read that now?

I also have a preface to the Second Edition (which I also have not yet read). Should I read that now as well?

gen. 25, 2012, 7:54pm

> 36

Hi, Sandy. Enjoy your lurkdom!

gen. 25, 2012, 8:22pm


Not necessarily. Don't read them now, but leave them until the end; back-to-back, they tell us a lot about the state of writing and publishing at the time. (But you don't have to read them at all if you don't want to!)

gen. 25, 2012, 8:36pm

Chapter One:

pp. 32 - 37 which Isabella tries to escape from the prince

ending with:

"...standing close against the wall"


1. Isabella knows of a tunnel that connects the castle to a church. Was that common for a castle to be connected to a church?

"the vision sighed again and made a sign for Manfred to follow him"

2. Did a ghost come out of the picture?

3. Is Manfred now trapped in a room by himself, or is he still free to pursue Isabella?

4. Was the wedding of the sickly son just a trap by the prince to get Isabella to the castle?

"she was still in one of the cloisters"

5. What is a cloister? I assume that has something to do with a church or a convent.

gen. 25, 2012, 8:38pm

> 39

I'll read the two prefaces with delight...but only *after* I read the whole story.

I don't like to know what's ahead in spooky stories (or any story really). This story is great fun. I love it already! :)

gen. 25, 2012, 9:00pm


I'm glad you're enjoying it!

1. Yes. These were feudal times and wars and sieges were common - but the sanctuary of the Church was absolute. Under the feudal system, communal life was built around the stronghold of the ruler of an area, and so here we have the church next to the castle. A secret connection between the two would be a way of smuggling people to safety - usually the women and children, if things were going badly.

In later Gothic novels, they often don't bother to explain the secret passages, but just take for granted that there would be secret passages. :)

2. Yes - the spirit of Manfred's grandfather, Ricardo.

3. No, the spirit entered the room and slammed the door in Manfred's face, preventing him from following - so he is still able to pursue Isabella.

4. No, but Manfred wanted his family united with Isabella's for reasons that will become clear; and with Conrad out of the way, there's only one way now of making that happen...

5. In the non-religious sense, a cloister is a covered walkway, often with a roof held up by pillars. It is most commonly found outside, usually around the edge of a garden or a lawn. However, these cloisters are within the castle.

gen. 25, 2012, 9:28pm


...arriving there, he sought the gloomiest shades, as best suited to the pleasing melancholy that reigned in his mind...

There we have a real Gothic novel passage - the matching of nature to an individual's mood, and the indulgence of the emotions, even - or particularly - negative emotions: pleasing melancholy.

Editat: gen. 25, 2012, 9:34pm

the indulgence of the emotions

In contemporary "gothic" novels I've read, people seem to thrive in their negative emotions. That negativity oddly seems to empower them.

What are some other gothic novels you think I might enjoy (and learn from)?

gen. 25, 2012, 10:03pm

In the earlier novels, the bad guys often are empowered by their negative emotions - there's often a moment when they deliberately, thoughtfully commit themselves to an evil path; while the good guys do things like dwelling on memories that make them cry.

I hesitate to recommend any Gothic novel to you, for the simple reason that most Gothic novels are LONG. Seriously, Radcliffe's The Italian, which is a shorter one, three volumes, is nearly five hundred pages; The Mysteries Of Udolpho is about eight hundred, which was also the length of Catherine Cuthbertson's Romance Of The Pyrenees. I can make recommendations, but you need to know what you're getting youself into. :)

Editat: gen. 25, 2012, 10:59pm

I think I'd rather skip the long novels. Not that I wouldn't like them. It's just that I'd rather be reading a variety of books, and and reading longer novels ties me down too much.

I just joined the group here on LT called Gothic Literature. I thought I might get some ideas for future reads from them. I must admit that the names of teh members of that group (other than drneutron) do not sound familair to me. Off I go into alien territory! :)

I have one more question:

If the action of my book takes place in Italy, why does the prince and his son have names that sound German (i.e. Manfred, Conrad)?

Editat: gen. 25, 2012, 11:27pm

Foreigners. :)

Possible nothing more than Walpole thought those names sounded "noble". Or he might have got himself confused - there's a passage in this book suggesting that the action takes place in Naples, which is nowhere near the real Otranto. These sorts of slips are fairly common, at a time when a lot of people had little first-hand knowledge of other countries.

Regarding the Gothics, I certainly don't mean to put you off, just to be realistic. Perhaps we can find you a (relatively) shorter one? The ones I was thinking of were Clara Reeve's The Old English Baron, which was the first major work directly influenced by Otranto, and Ann Radcliffe's Romance Of The Forest, which was her first Gothic Novel. It's been a long time since I read either one, but I think they may be less of an undertaking than the "main" Gothic works (I will check). If you were interested in trying to tackle either one, I would be very happy to go through it with you.

ETA: Okay - The Old English Baron is much the shorter of the two, around 250 pages, while Romance Of The Forest is close to 400; but Romance is a real Gothic novel while the Baron is still a transitional work.

gen. 25, 2012, 11:29pm

I just glanced at the opening pages of both books on Amazon. I'll have to nix The Old English Baron. It doesn't interest me at all. Romance of the Forest might be okay in the future, though. I'll keep it in mind.

gen. 25, 2012, 11:31pm

Okay - just give a shout! :)

Editat: gen. 26, 2012, 12:10am

Chapter 1:

pp. 37-46 (the end of this chapter) which the prince is looking for Isabella


1. Why are these paragraphs so long? It's making me tired reading them! :)

2. What is durance?

I thought thee in durance above in the court."

3. What are dotards?

"Peace, dotards!" said Manfred.

4. Why wouldn't the prince have suspected that Isabella escaped through the trap door? After all, he couldn't find her anywhere else.

5. Would a divorce be granted to a man on the grounds that his wife did not or could not produce a son?


I'm off to bed now. It's a work day for me tomorrow.

Editat: gen. 26, 2012, 12:28am

1. Because this is supposed to be translated from an old manuscript that was written that way. And because in 1764, what we would consider "modern" punctuation was still in its infancy. (The novel had a lot to do with settling what was "right", in that respect.)

2. Under restraint, imprisoned. He thought the young man was still under the helmet, where he'd left him to confess or starve.

3. Idiots. :)

4. It occurs to him later. He may have been so distracted by finding the young man there that he didn't think of it then, or he may not have realised that Isabella knew the secret to the trap-door. Either way, he's interrupted by the terrified "dotards" before he can get to the bottom of it.

5. No, there's something else going on here. At various times and in various countries, there were laws governing the degree of blood-relationship permissable between husband and wife. In England under the Puritans, for example, pretty much any relationship, no matter how distant, was considered incest and punishable by imprisonment or worse. Here, there's a mention of the fact that Manfred and Hippolita are something like third-cousins, and that consequently they needed "a dispensation" - that is, permission from the Pope - to marry. What Manfred wants now is to have the dispensation revoked, and the marriage declared invalid. (He will probably argue that the marriage's failure to produce a string of sons is a sign that it is "sinful", though.)


Me, too. :(

gen. 26, 2012, 9:15am

I am thoroughly enjoying your discussion here!

gen. 26, 2012, 9:24am

Hi, Luxx! Good to have you following us.

gen. 26, 2012, 4:27pm

The more lurkers, the merrier!

Editat: gen. 26, 2012, 9:35pm

Chapter 2

pp. 46 to 53
, ending with "...and has asked for you."

... in which Isabella is found.


1. Why did Conrad have an astrologer as a tutor? Was that common?

2. What are "orisons"?

The orisons which she has enjoined me to pour forth at his tomb


I will remember you in my orisons.

3. Who is Lopez?

4. What was the bell signalling?

They heard the bell ring at the postern of the castle.

5. What does "taking the veil" mean?

"she always opposed my taking the veil"

gen. 26, 2012, 9:48pm

1. I don't know how much historical truth there is to it, but many novels set at this time have an astrologer at court as a kind of general advisor and all-around "wise-person".

2. Prayers. The fancy word thing again. :)

3. Just another one of the servants, like Diego and Jacquez.

4. The postern-gate is the rear entrance to the castle; someone is ringing for admittance. This is simply a way of interrupting the conversation between Matilda and the young man, as the bell is on or near the tower they are occupying and they can't hear over its ringing.

5. Entering a convent, becoming a nun. English Gothic novels are generally pretty anti-Catholic, and a girl wanting to "take the veil" is usually viewed with disapproval. Many novels have young women being forced into convents against their will (which did happen, usually for financial reasons).

gen. 27, 2012, 10:08am

Thanks to the magic of Kindle, I've gotten hold of this book and will be reading along!

gen. 27, 2012, 11:00am

> 57

I've gotten hold of this book and will be reading along!

Hooray for Judy! It's a small book so you should easily catch up.

gen. 27, 2012, 3:59pm


gen. 27, 2012, 9:42pm

Yep - according to my Kindle, I'm already 25% through it. Really? I won't plunge ahead without you.

gen. 27, 2012, 10:00pm

And on that subject, perhaps when Madeline gets to the end of the second chapter (which by my reckoning is more than halfway through the book!!), we might pause to allow any lurkers to make comments and/or ask questions about anything that has happened up to that point. Would that be helpful?

Editat: gen. 28, 2012, 1:39am

Chapter 2

pp. 56-64 (to the end of Chapter 2) which the friar pleads for the life of his son


I'm mostly not understanding the vocabulary:

1. Am I to be bearded in my own palace?

2. Cant not to me.

3. I will retire to my Oratory.

4. ...he ordered him to be called and shrieve the prisoner.

5. What makes this story "gothic"? It doesn't seem all that dark to me. It's a tale of royalty, the prince in this case, wanting his own way and being willing to do whatever it takes to get his way. Is it because it takes place in a castle? Because it was dark when Isabella escaped through a secret trap door?

6. We learn that Jerome has a son. Were friars able to marry? Were men who were friars able to father children and then join a monastery? Were they not supposed to be chaste?

7. We learn that Jerome is really Count Falconara. Is that also a real place in Italy? What is a "Count"?

All lurkers, please fell free to jump in here now for a short intermission and throw your comments and questions toward Liz!

Tomorrow I will begin Chapter 3.

Editat: gen. 28, 2012, 12:37am

> 61

we might pause to allow any lurkers to make comments and/or ask questions about anything that has happened up to that point. Would that be helpful?

Liz, that is a great idea!

It give people the chance to come out of lurkdom for a short while without interfering with the flow of our question-answer agenda. Then they'll have to go back into lurkdom, though. :)

Sit down, everyone, with your pocorn and soda, while the lights are on. They will soon go out again and you'll be back in Lurkdom once again! :D

Editat: gen. 28, 2012, 5:14pm

Phew! :)

>>#62 (Part 1 - we've got to stop cross-posting like this!)

1. To be defied or confronted.

The word is more often used by the person doing the bearding (or by someone asking why someone won't) - the common expression is "to beard the monster in its den", meaning to tackle a difficult or dangerous problem head on.

2. Cant is jargon, or terminology confined to a particular set of people. In this context, Manfred is objecting to Father Jerome threatening him with the wrath of God - accusing him of using religious cant.

3. An oratory is a private chapel, or some other area outside of a church that is set aside for prayer or services.

4. To hear the prisoner's confession and offer him absolution.

Editat: gen. 28, 2012, 1:20am

>>#62 Part 2.

5. I won't give you my favourite answer, "wait and see", but I will ask you to ask this question again when you've finished the book, because my answer would involve spoilers.

6. Many of these stories involve men and women entering a monastery or convent late-ish in life, after suffering some kind of disappointment or loss. It's a good way to have them both parents and holy. :) The vow of chastity only begins with the official renunciation of the world; what happens before that is confessed and forgiven.

7. There are several regions in Italy called "Falconara Something", so it's hard to tell which one Walpole is referring to. From the way the story goes, possibly Falconara Albanese, which is on the south-west coast.

"Count" is another title of the nobility, equivalent to the English Earl, but less than a Marquis.

And "phew!" again. :)

These books do tend to use archaic terms in an effort to sound Ye Olde Time, and yes, they often just end up obscuring their own meaning.

gen. 28, 2012, 6:44am

De-lurking to say how much again I'm enjoying both the questions and the answers. It's interesting that it's mostly vocabulary that is causing difficulties.

On 'bearded' - the origin of the phrase includes the idea not only of tackling an adversary head-on but grabbing them by the beard to do so (presumably that means one would not 'beard' a woman)! The expression may be derived from a biblical story that young (not-yet-King) David tells about himself in 1 Samuel 17.35, when he attacked a lion that had stolen one of his sheep, and 'caught him by his beard and smote him' (King James version). The expression is still in use today, though I don't imagine people are usually implying that beards are actually being grasped...

On 'oratory' - oratories are places where 'orisons' take place. Both of these words are derived from the Latin 'orare' which means 'to pray'. 'Orison' is not in current use any more, but the word 'oratory' is probably a bit more familiar still, at least in the UK, as there are some quite well-known Roman Catholic chapels and schools with Oratory in their name - like The Brompton Oratory. I suspect that it sounds less alien and 'foreign' a term than it did when Walpole was writing, at a time when the Catholic church was officially suppressed in England.

gen. 28, 2012, 11:43am

I don't imagine people are usually implying that beards are actually being grasped...

Don't give me any ideas! ;)

gen. 28, 2012, 3:47pm

I, of course, bow to Genny's superior knowledge of all things orare-related. :)

I'm interested and amused by the conflict introduced in these books by religion. They're always anti-Catholic, yet need their heroes and heroines to be devout and pious - so they usually end up being very generically devout and pious - i.e. no Mass, no confession!

gen. 28, 2012, 5:02pm

*pant pant pant*

Are we there yet?

I just now discovered this thread. Having a heck of a time keeping up with all the activity in this group this year. Madeline, I didn't realize I had offered my services as a co-tutor, as you said in message #1. I think we would all be very badly served in that sense! But I'll get my hands on TCoO, asap and start reading so I can follow along. I don't think this is a book I'd be likely to approach otherwise. I'll probably download the free eBook from Project Gutenberg later today.

I've read Liz's excellent introduction to the Gothic novel and to The Castle of Otranto, and stopped there for now, but I'll be back soon enough!

gen. 28, 2012, 5:05pm

Welcome, Ilana! Very glad to have you here. You shouldn't have too much trouble catching up. (No offence, Madeline!)

Editat: gen. 28, 2012, 5:10pm

> 69


You're off the hook, Ilana. No need to be my co-tutor if you choose not to. Do come and join us, however!

This novel is short and fun. It should not interfere much with anything else you plan to read now or in the near future.

Editat: gen. 28, 2012, 5:07pm

> 70

Heh! No offense taken.

gen. 28, 2012, 6:05pm

Madeline, what I mean is I'll happily be your co-tutee, but I've got no business actually tutoring anyone about this book! Maybe we've got our terminology mixed-up!

gen. 28, 2012, 6:10pm

Ilana, I'd rather be a lone tutee, if you don't mind. However, feel free to pop in with your own questions now (during this "intermission") and at the next "intermission" (which might turn out to be the end of the book).

gen. 28, 2012, 6:18pm

Oh yes, of course, how could I forget we were only having one tutee per thread? Which makes perfect sense.

I guess I just got really confused about what you said up top then. Where did you get the idea that I could co-tutor you about this book then Madeline? I don't believe I've ever read anything written prior to the 19th century before, and the Gothic genre is wholly new to me! *scratches head in wonder*

gen. 28, 2012, 6:24pm

Although The Castle Of Otranto is structured strangely, in a general sense I'm liking the idea of regular "intermissions" in a tutored read, so that the focus and the tempo stays with the main tutee, but lurkers have a chance to participate.

gen. 28, 2012, 6:41pm

*Stopping in to say I'm lurking and will catch up on everything soon* Continue on.

Editat: gen. 28, 2012, 10:22pm

> 75

Where did you get the idea that I could co-tutor you about this book then Madeline?

I have no idea. I might have misunderstood something that had been posted elsewhere. No problem.

> 77

Glad to have you with us, Katie.

gen. 28, 2012, 9:08pm

Intermission is over! :)

Editat: gen. 28, 2012, 9:14pm

Chapter 3

pp. 64-68 (ending with "...join their intercessions with his for Theodore") which Isabella disappears


I'm still having a hard time with vocabulary. Please help me with these terms:

1. Do you go to the wicket?

2. ...he cast down his warder.

3. Frederic's ancestors has assumed the stile of princes of Otranto

4. What is a herald?

5. How does the prince get away with treating a friar (and a friar's son) so badly?

6. Who is Martelli? Why are characters introduced without telling readers who they are?

Editat: gen. 29, 2012, 1:43am

Yike!! - again. :)

1. "Go to the Wicket Gate" is a phrase from The Pilgrim's Progress meaning, I think, "go to the church" - it may have an earlier, Biblical meaning and Genny might be able to help us with that one.

In this context, I think that "go to the wicket" means simply "go to the opening in the fence" - there was always a peephole in the gates / fences / walls so that you could see who was outside before you let them in.

2. A warder is a rod or staff; in this context, casting it down means issuing a challenge or making a claim - like "throwing down the gauntlet".

3. Stile = style = manner of saying something. Here, meaning "assumed the title of" - Frederic's ancestors called themselves the Princes of Otranto.

4. A herald is a sign or harbinger of something - swallows returning are harbingers of spring. But in this context, a herald is someone sent ahead to alert you (or warn you) that someone else is coming, and that you need to prepare for their arrival.

5. Power was absolute; bad princes could do whatever they liked.

6. Martelli is one of the friars (monks). The context is supposed to give readers sufficient information to imply who they are, but (obviously) doesn't always.

gen. 29, 2012, 9:55am

Chapter 3

pp. 68-73 (ending with "demanded immeidate access to him") which Manfred pleads his case before a visiting knight


What do the following mean?

1. " ...their beavers down..."

2. "the knight's confessor, telling his beads"

3. What is a "confessor"?

4. Why did the visiting knight bring such a large entourage?

5. What is a squire?

6. Does each knight have his own colors?

7. What does it mean to "take my gage"?

8. Is the word "hospital" used to mean a hostel?

9. Is there some significance to the fact that the visiting entourage took so long to start speaking?

10. Wasn't it out of character for Manfred to weep (as weeping seems to be a sign of weakness)?

11. Is this scene supposed to be funny?

I found this section of the story highly amusing, especially because Manfred was having a one-sided conversation. It was as if he were only speaking of his own insecurities without anyone having to elicit these thoughts from him. Especially funny was the following sentence. It really made me laugh.

"The knights gazed on each other wondering where this would end."

12. By the way, has this story ever been made into a film?

gen. 29, 2012, 9:56am

If you haven't noticed, I'm dividing up my reading sections by how many questions I have each time I start back reading! :)

I am having great fun with this story!

gen. 29, 2012, 4:38pm

Yes, I have noticed... :)

1. These knights are in full armour, with a helmet protecting the head. The piece at the front that covers the face has two sections - the visor covers the eyes and nose and the beaver covers the mouth and jaw. The whole thing can be raised and lowered, and in some designs the visor and beaver move separately (so you could talk without revealing your face).

2/3. His priest - "confessor" in that he was the person who would hear the knight's confession. This may be the priest who belongs to the knight's own household (important Catholic families would include a domestic priest) or it may be a priest attached to the whole military entourage.

4. To show how important and powerful and wealthy he is, and how Manfred had better not try anything.

(Actually, the correct answer is, because Walpole wanted to show off his research to the reader. Gothic novels often contain these passages that are supposed to evoke the past, but often just feel as if they'd been copied out of a history book.)

5. The knight's esquire, or squire, was like his personal assistant - a young man who travelled with him and looked after his armour and horses and carried his messages. It was an honourable position and often how aspiring knights started out. (Knighthood had to be earned in battle.)

6. Yes. When everyone was in armour you couldn't tell armies apart, so everyone had "team colours" that would be drawn from the family or families leading the army.

7. A gage was a ring bearing a family crest. It could be used as proof of identity - if you sent a message with your gage, the person receiving it would know it was really from you. Handing over your gage was also a pledge of your honourable intentions. Manfred is offering the knight his ring as a sign that he need not fear any treachery on Manfred's part. (But...)

8. A hospital was originally a refuge for the poor and those unable to work, often run by a monastery. There were also hospitals that were resting-places for travellers. The sense is "hospitality".

9. Ask again a little later - if you need to. :)

10. Not really. Everyone is overly emotional in stories like these, even the bad guys.

11. Not ha-ha funny, but I think Walpole was enjoying himself here. The bad guy's guilty conscience meltdown is another common Gothic trope, but here as you say it has has a comical side as Manfred repeatedly gives himself away and you are simultaneously able to see his very nervous retainers wondering what the heck is going on.

12. I'm not sure if it's ever been filmed, but it was adapted for the stage.

gen. 29, 2012, 8:14pm

Just wanted to pipe in and say I read chapter 1 yesterday and once again (the first time being with Emma) find that Madeline's questions about details I may not have thought to ask about, along with Liz's incredibly helpful explanations make for a really fun reading experience. I'll try to complete chapter 2 today, but then again, there's no good reason to rush ahead either, considering there are books I want to finish this month.

gen. 29, 2012, 8:17pm

By all means don't rush! These reads should be fun, not an imposition. Take your time, and if your reading extends past Madeline's finishing of the book, there's no harm done, and you can ask anything you need to on your own account.

Editat: gen. 29, 2012, 8:23pm

> 85

I think that Liz makes the experience of reading more difficult books fun, Ilana. Glad you're here reading along with me!

Save your questions until I get to the end of Chapter 3, and then I'll call for another "intermission". I find that these intermissions help me feel that I won't encounter spoilers along the way, and that I'll be able to proceed at my own pace.

When I'm finished the book, this thread will then be open to everyone for more questions and discussion (I hope).

gen. 29, 2012, 8:26pm

#86 After this I'll be all set to read Northanger Abbey with your tutorship Liz!

#87 Madeline, you seem to be a much more thorough tutee than I probably would be, and will have to think to keep paper and pad with me as practice for when my turn comes 'round, because otherwise it's doubtful I'll have any questions at all to ask when Liz tutors me on my next Jane Austen novel. So far, thanks to your questions I've learned more than I probably would have had I been the tutee on this one.

gen. 29, 2012, 8:41pm

Looking forward to it, Ilana!

Editat: gen. 29, 2012, 9:00pm

Chapter 3

pp. 74-81 (to the end of Chapter 3)

...whereby Isabella's father is taken back to the castle


I only have one question now (believe it or not!).

1. For what reason did Matilda want to save Theodore?

ETA: One more question...

2. How does a knight harm another knight who is full armor? Into where does he stick his sword? As you can see, I know very little nothing about knights. :)

ETA2: I have to say that the closing scene of Chapter 3 reminded me of Darth Vader in Star Wars. :D

gen. 29, 2012, 8:48pm

Lights on! Intermission!

Lurkers, come forward and ask Liz questions about anything up to, but not past, Chapter 3.

gen. 29, 2012, 8:54pm

> 88

Ilana, I keep an index card in my book as a bookmark and a pen nearby. I found that, if I later tried to go back to find a word or phrase I had a question about earlier, it then became invisible, and I never could find it again!

Write down your questions *as soon as* you don't understand something in the text or in the context.

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 12:10am


What!? Unheard of!! :)

Because she knew her father had condemned him unjustly, because she's attached to Father Jerome - and because Theodore resembles Alfonso, who she has a kind of celebrity crush on, via his portrait and her mother's insistence that she pray to him.

ETA: Figures.

It depends what kind of armour it was - how it was designed and what it was made of - but no armour is guaranteed protection, since people still do have to bend and walk and move in it. There were weaknesses at the joints and around the neck. Sometimes (due to the need to ride a horse) the leggings were incomplete so the thighs were vulnerable. And if you got sufficient power into the blow, a sword could penetrate it.

gen. 29, 2012, 9:05pm

Madeline, I'm still completely new to reading eBooks, though I have played with the functions a little and found that it's easy enough to highlight sections and even make notes, which can come in handy when I'm reading in that format as I am for this book.

Not as handy when listening to audiobooks though, as I'm frequently up and about doing things which don't lend themselves to carrying pen and paper, but I'll figure something out.

I know just what you mean about certain parts becoming invisible if you don't' take them down immediately.

Editat: gen. 29, 2012, 9:16pm

Deleted (posted twice by accident)

Editat: gen. 29, 2012, 9:17pm


What!? Unheard of!!


ETA: Figures.


My reflections...
I can't imagine anyone fighting in a suit of armor. I can hardly imagine anyone even walking around in a suit of armor. As for riding a horse in a suit of armor...?!

gen. 29, 2012, 9:17pm

Pity the horse.

gen. 29, 2012, 9:18pm

Haha! I do!!

gen. 29, 2012, 9:20pm

My husband was just now explaining to me how heavy a knight really was with his whole suit of armor. Then he pointed to where you just wrote, "Pity the horse". Now I've got tutors all over the place! :)

Editat: gen. 29, 2012, 9:32pm

Hee, hee!

Of course, there have been instances of the remains of conquistadores being found in old river beds several hundred years after they fell off their armour. (*shudder*)

gen. 29, 2012, 9:28pm


gen. 29, 2012, 11:54pm

Intermission over!

Back to our story...

gen. 29, 2012, 11:58pm

You know, I'm not altogether certain your Intermissions are designed for people in other time zones. :)

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 12:03am

Chapter 4

pp. 81-87 (ending with "...justify its curiosity") which Isabella returns to the castle


1. What are corsairs?

Referring back to the beginning of the story:

I'm still not certain of the significance of the giant helmet in the opening scene.

2. How did Theodore get into the castle in the first place? Why was he there?

3. Who was Alfonso? Was that the prince's enemy?

4. Why does Manfred think at first glance in this chapter that Theodore is Alfonso?

I'm eager to see what Theodore does next with Isabella and Matilda both eyeing him.

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 12:06am

1. Pirates. In this case, Turkish pirates, who used to capture white (Christian) people and enslave them.

(The helmet is part of a prophecy to do with the rightful prince of Otranto. It becomes clear-ish by the end.)

2. Wait and see. :)

3. Alfonso was the prince of Otranto three generations back, and a great and good man - but he went off to the Crusades and died without children. When he was dying, he named Manfred's grandfather Ricardo (the ghost from the portrait) his heir.

4. Because Theodore looks like him - or like the portrait of him - which is what attracted Matilda, too.

gen. 30, 2012, 12:06am

You know, I'm not altogether certain your Intermissions are designed for people in other time zones. :)

Sometimes they'll be longer, but I like this story and keep reading ahead. I'm also reading a second book that's boring. Short intermissions would not normally happen during the week when I have to go to work. I think I'll be finished this book before I return to work so we'll just have a grand discussion when I'm done.

There's only 15 more pages. I might just finish the story tomorrow.

See what happens when I like what I'm reading?! :)

gen. 30, 2012, 12:09am

Yeah - you spoil my fun by hurrying through! :)

gen. 30, 2012, 12:10am

Alfonso was the prince of Otranto three generations back, and a great and good man - but he went off to the Crusades and died without children. When he was dying, he named Manfred's grandfather Ricardo (the ghost from the portrait) his heir.

Oh, yeah. I did read that somewhere in the beginning of this book. It just didn't stick with me that well. :(

gen. 30, 2012, 12:12am

That's what I'm here for. Me and my impractically tenacious memory. Don't ask me to remember anything important, but random details of any kind, you betcha.

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 12:24am

Yeah - you spoil my fun by hurrying through!

Not to worry! I'm up for doing more of these kinds of reads. They are really a s-t-r-e-t-c-h for me and are forcing me to learn so much as I read. Yesterday I actually picked up two Thomas Hardy books at a Bookcrossing meeting. One is Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and the other is Far from the Maddening Crowd. I think you have me hooked on these tutored reads.

In addition, I think it will be fun to follow along on other tutored read threads if, later, other individuals pick the same books through which I've already been tutored. I'm so happy that Morphidae and Samantha_Kathy are enjoying their own tutored read experiences.

This is a brilliant experience for me!!

ETA: My niece said I'd probably enjoy reading Wilkie Colllins's The Woman in White. What do you think (now that you know my reading grumbles!)? :) My good friend is reading some Edith Wharton novel now. Woudl I like anything by that author?

gen. 30, 2012, 12:31am

I think The Woman In White is wonderful, tremendous fun - the kind of "sensation" novels Collins wrote were the Victorian descendents of the Gothic novel - but it is also LONG. I think you would enjoy the content but maybe not the number of pages. It would be a major undertaking for you.

Edith Wharton is brilliant but very socially detailed, more in the manner of Austen - although writing about a different time and place. I'm not sure how you would feel about her writing but she does have some shorter works that you could use to get a feel for her. There were group reads of some of her books last year that people seemed to enjoy very much.

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 12:40am

How about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein? Would that be a good one for me? My daughter might have that book somewhere in my house still.

ETA: Yeah. Woman in White at 500-some pages would be a bit much for me. I'll stick to something shorter. How about some other "gothic" novels. I loved Dracula!

ETA2: pbadeer gave me a copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray. How about that?

gen. 30, 2012, 12:39am

It's a lot shorter. :)

It's hard to say how people will react to Frankenstein because these days we're so conditioned by the movie adaptations, most of which stray a long way from the book. It's quite dense prose and philosophical as much as horrifying, but of course it was hugely influential.

I did think of a book that you might find interesting: The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner by James Hogg, from 1824. It's not Gothic, but it is disturbing and creepy - and short.

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 12:46am

I did think of a book that you might find interesting: The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner by James Hogg, from 1824. It's not Gothic, but it is disturbing and creepy - and short.

I love creepy!! If I can find the book, would you tutor me through it?

*heads off to bed now...*

gen. 30, 2012, 2:17am

I would...

...although I do feel compelled to remind you that you need to find someone else for Thomas Hardy. :)

gen. 30, 2012, 2:36am

I missed the intermission but hopefully Madeline will forgive me if I interrupt with a small comment.

Going back to knights in armour..

#97 "Pity the horse."

Also pity the poor person who had to take the armour off them after a battle. I watched a fun TV programme a while ago called The Worst Jobs in History which pointed out that there were no bathroom breaks during battle so one of the 'worst' jobs was the squire's as he would have to remove the armour from the knight at the end of the battle when he was covered in blood and sweat and quite possibly also covered in other, even less sanitary things.

Of course, all that is worlds away from the knights in books like Otranto who were always clean knights.

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 5:23am

The movie version of Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, with Sean Connery and Miles O'Keefe, deals with that - "You mean you didn't go before you put the armour on!?" :)

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 10:49am

> 116

Yeah, disregard my "intermissions". They're not working well (although they *are* fun to announce!).

I guess the most important thing for me is that no one introduce spoilers at any point in my reading (although I'm almost finished this book!).

Comments on comments are always fun. Just jump in with further comments from now on, lurkers.

gen. 30, 2012, 6:38pm

S'ha suprimit aquest usuari en ser considerat brossa.

gen. 30, 2012, 7:53pm

Chapter 4

pp. 87 - 97 (to the end of this chapter) which everyone is making plans for everyone else and disagreeing with each other


What a confusing chapter!! I think that what all the characters need is just to sit down and chill.

I like this line:

"I can forget injuries, but never benefits."

How unlike us in our modern litigous world! :)

Help me with these expressions:

1. What does this whole expression mean?

"Here I lance the anathema at thy head."

2. "He, I ween, is no sacred personage."

3. What is a "started-up son"?

4. Who does Manfred think is going to seek refuge in the church at the end of this chapter.

My plan for finishing this book:
I hope to have this book finished before 12 midnight 1/31/12 so that I can keep it in the January 2012 TIOLI challenge to read a book written by someone who was already famous for something OTHER than writing. In this case, as I was told by lyzard, Horace Walpole was also a politician, an author of art history books, and an owner/builder of his Gothic villa.

gen. 30, 2012, 8:06pm

1. "I curse you and condemn you to excommunication."

2. "He, in my opinion, is no sacred personage."

3. An up-start. Although in this specific sense, it means that no-one was previously aware of his existence, but now suddenly he's there and making all sorts of claims for himself.

4. He thinks Theodore and Isabella are meeting secretly.

Madeline, please DO NOT stress over finishing this book by the end of the month. If it happens, great, but I'd rather you ran over than rush yourself. Seriously.

gen. 30, 2012, 8:38pm

I think I can handle 15 pages in 24 hours! :)

gen. 30, 2012, 8:40pm

Allrighty, then... :)

gen. 30, 2012, 9:06pm

Chapter 5

pp. 97-102 (ending with ...forbid me matching into it")

...wherein Bianca become startled by what she has seen


Vocabulary again... :(

1. What is an "oriel" window? Is that like a window in a cubby?

2. What are "vulnerary" herbs?

3. swear by my halidane
...which actually sounds like a pretty cool thing to say - if I only knew what it meant! :)

4. I can't remember who Diego is. Was that one of the friars?

More questions:

5. What does Manfred intend to do at the court of Rome? Is that where he would get his marriage annulled and marry Isabella?

6. Why does Frederic suddenly back out of his agreement with Manfred? Does it have something to do with the curse (which I don't clearly remember from the beginning of the book)?

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 9:29pm

1. It's a window that juts out of the outside wall of a building.

2. Herbs used for medicinal purposes.

3. A halidane is a holy relic of some sort - so it's like swearing on a crucifix (but not quite that serious).

4. No, Diego is one of the servants - one of the two who interrupted Manfred when he was originally searching for Isabella.

5. To see the Pope and ask that his marriage be annulled.

6. Yes and no. Frederic realises that if Manfred marries Isabella and they have sons, his own chance of inheriting Otranto will be tiny, and not worth going into partnership with someone like Manfred for, even to get Matilda. But it was Frederic who found the giant sword with the prophecy engraved on it, and he knows there's more going on than Manfred is admitting.

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 9:46pm

I'll reconsider swearing on a halidane then - as I'm Jewish! :)

I had to go back and look again at the prophesy because, of course, I couldn't remember it. Fortunately, for me, I found it once again, written in Italics, on the first page of the story.

...the castle and Lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it

...a sentence which doesn't make sense to me.

Okay, there are was a large helmet and a large sword. Now there is a large hand...

Perhaps if I read a bit more...

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 9:48pm

Can you tell I don't want to work in my medical coding exam book? :)

I love doing these readings where I read, you comment, and I end up understanding what I'd normally either would never read or simply not "get" half of what is written. It's like being back in school. So nice!

gen. 30, 2012, 9:54pm

I'll reconsider swearing on a halidane then - as I'm Jewish! :)

There are plenty of relics you could swear on - I don't think "halidane" is denominational. :)

Okay, there are was a large helmet and a large sword. Now there is a large hand...

...and a large foot attached to a large leg...

I had to go back and look again at the prophesy

Don't forget what was engraved on the sword.

Can you tell I don't want to work in my medical coding exam book? :)

Can you tell I don't want to be working on guidelines for human resources management?? :)

And thank you!

gen. 30, 2012, 10:07pm

- I don't think "halidane" is denominational.


Don't forget what was engraved on the sword.

Oy vey! I have no idea what was on the sword. Where do I go back and look for that?


As you can see, this is why I never read murder mysteries.

Can you tell I don't want to be working on guidelines for human resources management??

Yeah. Really. Want to trade our work stuff? Yours has got to be more interesting than mine.

gen. 30, 2012, 10:13pm

Chapter 5

pp. 102-106 (ending with..."laying violent hands on himself"

...wherein the marquis meets a spectre


Please help me with these:

1. "threw in such artful ecomiums Matilda"

2. one in a long woollen weed"

I am blown away by how this story is constructed. Everything is so interwoven, but so tightly. How in the world did the author ever plot out this story, especially who is where, with whom, and when? It's truly amazing!

3. Am I suppose to know what the "wood of Joppa" is yet?

gen. 30, 2012, 10:29pm

The engraving on the sword is given quite early in Chaper 4, when Frederic is telling his story.

1. Ecomiums are compliments or praise.

2. A black robe. "Weeds", in later years, were mourning clothes.

3. Wood just means forest - Joppa is now called Jaffa - I presume you know where that is? :)

I am blown away by how this story is constructed.

I'm glad!

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 10:59pm

I'm noting here that the lines on the sword are found on page 83 (just in case I need it for reference later). :)

Wood just means forest - Joppa is now called Jaffa - I presume you know where that is

Yep. I do know all about Jaffa and have been there in person more than once. I didn't see any woods there, though. It's a predominantly Arab city on the Mediterranean Sea.

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 11:04pm

Well, there don't have to be woods for Walpole to say there were woods...although to be fair things might have been different in the 15th century. :)

gen. 30, 2012, 11:19pm

Chapter 5

pp. 106-112 (to the end of the story) which the castle returns to its rightful owner


1. Is "corse" another word for corpse?

2. What is a chamberlain?


The end. That was really good!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear Liz. This was such fun...and a great story, to boot!

I'm now off to bed.

gen. 30, 2012, 11:20pm

> 133

Well, there don't have to be woods for Walpole to say there were woods...although to be fair things might have been different in the 15th century.

Maybe he just meant a few trees in the midst of the desert sand. :)

gen. 30, 2012, 11:30pm

I'm going to take some time tomorrow to read the prefaces and Walter Scott's introduction. I think the most amazing thing about this story was the way Walpole wove all the characters interactions' together so tightly that the reader had no way of knowing who would appear where, when, or why. Amazing!

I looked at some other reviews here on LT. Most don't seem to favor this book. All I can say is that having a tutor helped me appreciate what a great read this book really is. I'd recommend it to others ... with a tutor, of course! :)

I'm off to bed for real now...

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 11:38pm

Maybe he just meant a few trees in the midst of the desert sand. :)

Fair point!!

1. Yes.

2. The person who looks after a king or a lord personally and/or looks after his household and runs things.



I will be back later with some general comments about The Castle Of Otranto's place in the history of the Gothic novel.

In the meantime---lurkers, please have at it!!

ETA: Shared read!! Yay!! :)

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 11:46pm

From an educational (heh!) point of view, Madeline, try to note all the differences between the first preface, when The Castle Of Otranto was published anonymously, and the second, when Walpole "came out" (so to speak!).

gen. 31, 2012, 4:59am

Congratulations Madeline!

gen. 31, 2012, 8:15am


Editat: gen. 31, 2012, 4:56pm

The Castle Of Otranto and the Gothic novel

What makes this story "gothic"? It doesn't seem all that dark to me. It's a tale of royalty, the prince in this case, wanting his own way and being willing to do whatever it takes to get his way. Is it because it takes place in a castle? Because it was dark when Isabella escaped through a secret trap door?

Which brings us to this important question about The Castle Of Otranto's place in the timeline.

There is a certain conversation that takes place around here on a regular basis, that goes something like this:

"I want to read Northanger Abbey, but I'm afraid I won't get it because I haven't read any Gothic novels. I know! - I'll read The Castle Of Otranto. It's a Gothic novel, and it's short!"

To which I reply:

"It's not a Gothic novel!!"

And it isn't.

The Castle Of Otranto is not a Gothic novel - it's a "romance", in the original literary sense of that word, a tale of adventure set amongst the high-born, featuring many improbable events - but it was very influential on the development of the Gothic novel, thanks to the way that other writers reacted to it.

One of the most important differences between Otranto and the true Gothic is that its supernatural events are presented straightforwardly as real. Although many people enjoyed being scared by Otranto, there was a lot of strong disapproval of the novel because of this aspect.

This created a paradox: people wanted to be scared, but they didn't want their terrors to be real - which is to say, unreal. One of the main characteristics of the Gothic novel is a sequence of scenes in which the heroine is terrorised by manifestations which are later explained away either as deliberately faked, or as the heroine being so frightened, she misinterprets what she experiences. In this way, readers could have their cake and eat it.

The Gothic was also far more a product than Otranto of the increasing demand for more emotional and sentimental stories - the later novels dwell on descriptions of nature, and often include passages of poetry. There is a deliberate attempt to evoke the "sublime". They demand a heightened response to everything, scenes of beauty and love and scenes of terror alike.

So the novels that were influenced by Otranto were quite different from it, because their authors responded predominantly to what they didn't like about it.

BUT - all that said - there are many aspects of Otranto that did get carried over into the later Gothic novels:

- nearly all the action happening in a one location, The Bad Place
- a heroine threatened with an unwanted marriage
- love at first sight
- a usurped title
- a mysterious resemblance
- secret parent / child relationships
- a priest with a past
- the revelation of a secret identity
- a well-educated "peasant" who turns out to be something else
- a missing heir recognised by a birthmark
- secret passageways
- the labyrinth of caves

So ultimately we can say that The Castle Of Otranto is not a Gothic novel, but that it is the progenitor of the Gothic novel.

gen. 31, 2012, 7:47pm

..and all along I thought I was going to be reading a gothic novel. Funny, it didn't seem quite that to me.

Do all gothic novels deal with all of the characteristics you noted above?

Editat: gen. 31, 2012, 8:08pm

No, but the pattern was established fairly early. Ann Radcliffe was the person who was the leader in writing "the" Gothic novel - she figured out how to use all these tropes to their best advantage. Most of the other writers of Gothics were copying her, some of them also writing standard Gothics, and some of them using the tropes in other forms of writing. For example, Sophia Lee's The Recess is a (heavily fictionalised) historical romance that uses a LOT of the Gothic novel's tropes - secret marriages / children / identities / hiding-places.

But one reason the Gothic novel didn't last very long as a form of writing is that it was so defined and self-contained; there weren't many ways you could work the same story. What happened then was, it split in half: the Romantics took the spooky, evocative stuff and made it their own, and the Sentimentalists began writing very English, very domestic novels that nevertheless employed plot touches like the heroine with a hidden identity and usurped titles. (If you have been following my blog, Catherine Cuthbertson is an exponent of this sort of novel).

It is interesting that today we have the development of the modern Gothic, reviving the old forms in a new way. (Not that this form of literature ever entirely went away - the works of people like Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carol Oates are fairly "Gothic" in their approach.)

gen. 31, 2012, 8:49pm

I recently read Shirley Jackson's We Have Lived in the Castle, but haven't read Joyce Carol Oates's more bizarre works for many years. I love the creepiness of such novels though.

So what do contemporary "gothic" novels take from their predecessors, and what do they leave out?

With The Castle of Otranto, I can't believe that I was so interested in the story of a royal family and knights, with a bit of romance thrown in. I *never* read that kind of stuff. However, make it creepy, and you have me mesmerized. :)

gen. 31, 2012, 8:50pm

"It's not a Gothic novel!!"

Did you not tell me this ahead of time, fearing I then wouldn't read The Castle of Otranto}? :)

gen. 31, 2012, 8:57pm

I thought I did tell you!?

Maybe I told Ilana - yes, probably - she's going down the Northanger Abbey path - perhaps I was under the impression that you were in on that conversation? A lot happened in a hurry and I must have lost track.

But anyway!! - you tried something new and enjoyed yourself. That's what matters. :)

As for contemporary Gothics, it's been too long since I read any for me to give you a proper answer. I have read Shirley Jackson and some Patrick McGrath, but lately I've been too busy reading the originals.

gen. 31, 2012, 9:11pm

Susan Hill's The Woman in Black is about as Gothic as modern can get. It's got the crumbling old house, a ghost, a family full of secrets, the works!

gen. 31, 2012, 9:20pm

Thank you, Jim. If anyone else would like to chip in with recommendations for modern Gothics, please do!

gen. 31, 2012, 9:43pm

I thought I did tell you!?

You didn't tell me, but I probably would have read it anyway. I saw on the "gothic" group here on LT that it had been recommended.

I *love* Patrick McGrath's stories. He's a favorite author of mine.

In novels, I like the surreal, magical realism, experimental writing, that sort of thing. I don't like writing that is over my head or is so experimental that I can't understand it.

I really enjoy what Stephen King does to his stories. Some are frightening, but some are merely surreal in the same way that Haruki Murakami's stories are.

One of the problems I have with reading older fiction, as you quickly found out, is that I don't know the terms they use. Without asking what they are or looking up a multiplicity of words, I'd be missing so much. I guess the fun of reading these novels, for those who do read, is that they are already familiar with the style of writing, the customs of the characters, and the vocabulary that's being used.

I feel that, with my tutored reads, I've been introduced into just the kind of works I've always been trying to avoid. I now see that I don't have to be afriad of such books. I just need to get some assistance in reading them. Spark's notes don't make it for me. I like interaction with others. I think that's why I'm so fascinated, not only by the two tutored reads I've already completed, but also by the other tutored reads that are now in session.

gen. 31, 2012, 9:47pm

I'm perfectly happy to go on helping you within my area of expertise, Madeline. I don'y imagine I can lure you into the Northanger Abbey read, but it's nice to know you'll be lurking nearby. :)

Editat: gen. 31, 2012, 9:56pm

I don't imagine I can lure you into the Northanger Abbey read

1. When are you and Ilana starting that tutored thread?

2. Is that a book you think I'd like? You sort of know what I like now.

3. Yikes! Dare I read another Jane Austen book?! :)

4. Would you do parallel tutored threads? Wouldn't that be a bit overwhelming for you?

Editat: gen. 31, 2012, 10:05pm

Since I'm overcommitted like crazy, I may have to!

Ilana and I haven't locked in a time yet, but soon. She's still finishing up Otranto (and, I see, has it listed for February TIOLI!) so we certainly won't be starting until she's comfortably through with that.

Northanger Abbey is a lot easier than Emma - and a lot shorter (sorry, I know I keep saying that!) - but it's not for me to say whether you're up to another Austen. Like all of her novels, it's domestic and full of social details; but on the other hand it does have some fun with Gothic novels and the people who read them (or who take them seriously) - while at the same time offering up one of the greatest defences of novel-reading generally ever written!

gen. 31, 2012, 10:05pm

By the way, I read the two prefaces to The Castle of Otranto today. I found it very amusing that Walpole pretended the work was taken from an old Italian manuscript and only later, after it was praised, revealed that he was the actual author of the story. Then, as soon some people began to be openly delighted in it, other, then with the new knowledge that he was the author, suddenly began to find fault with it. Go figure!

What I liked learning the most about Walpole was that he was trying to take the "stuffiness" out of the kind of writing that was done during his time. A man of my own heart! I've been trying for years to take the "stuffiness" out of LibraryThing. ;) For that reason, I'm impressed by Walpole's willingness not only to be different but to take on subjects that were taboo as part of his writing.

I might just like to try some more of his books. Have you read any of his other works?

gen. 31, 2012, 10:08pm

Let me see if I can get a copy of Northanger Abbey. I'm in no special hurry to read it. It sounds kind of fun, though. If you have some free time, we can do it. If not, that's okay. Give your attention first and foremost to Ilana.

Editat: gen. 31, 2012, 10:10pm

>>#153 What made me laugh is that the "translator" of the first preface keeps going on about how clever and talented the "author" was!

That sudden switch in opinions of a work when the author became known was a very persistent thing, and most obvious in the change in the tone of reviews when it became known that the author was a woman, not a man. That happened to Currer Bell / Charlotte Bronte, and also to Elizabeth Gaskell, who published anonymously.

I don't think Walpole wrote any other novels. He wrote mostly non-fiction, and a play called The Mysterious Mother which I haven't read.

gen. 31, 2012, 10:13pm

>>#154 Well, we're putting together quite a potential reading list for you, so I guess we can add that to the pile. I won't push you, but if you decide to tackle any of the books we've discussed, let me know.

gen. 31, 2012, 10:18pm

Don't I need to share you with other LTers? :)

gen. 31, 2012, 10:19pm

I think I'll be on the lookout for Northanger Abbey. I just added it to my wishlist.

Editat: gen. 31, 2012, 10:20pm

You're a special case - my answer to people who wrinkle their noses and say that 18th century writing is boring. :)

ETA: Whee!!

gen. 31, 2012, 10:26pm

ETA: Whee!!


You're a special case - my answer to people who wrinkle their noses and say that 18th century writing is boring

The point is that I'd never like doing this kind of reading if I had to do it alone. If I have someone like you to complain to, that's what makes me happy! :)

gen. 31, 2012, 10:30pm

Bring it on, sister!!

Editat: gen. 31, 2012, 11:14pm

I just have to share this with you. I was reading reviews of The Castle of Otranto here on LT. Most people didn't care for it that much, but this review by cherylpeeves (who gave it 5 stars) stuck out in its simplicity:

"One of the least boring classics I've ever read.


gen. 31, 2012, 11:18pm

Poor classics...why are people so unkind?

feb. 1, 2012, 2:43am

#141 That's very helpful Liz - thank you.

Another modern(ish) recommendation might be Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and more recently, The Shadow of the Wind perhaps?

I'm hoping Madeline won't mind if I ask Liz a question:

The more I think about it, modern novels or even 19th century novels that I might call gothic only have a few of the characteristics you listed above whereas each 18th century gothic novel that I've read seems to have most of those characteristics. Is it correct to refer to the modern and 19th century works as gothic novels or is it more accurate to say they were influenced by gothic novels and they're actually something else? I suppose I'm thinking of something like Jane Eyre which I always thought of as gothic but only includes some of the elements you listed in msg #141 and #27.

Editat: feb. 1, 2012, 4:39am

As I said up above, as a genre the "real" Gothic novel probably only lasted twenty years - perhaps less. It was 1791 when Ann Radcliffe published Romance Of The Forest, and before the end of the decade Jane Austen was poking fun at them. That's a pretty short lifespan, although Gothic novels did continue to be published through the early years of the 19th century. But increasingly, what you see is novelists taking the tropes of the Gothic novel and turning them to their own purposes.

And Jane Eyre is the supreme example. If you break it down into its crude elements, it *is* a Gothic novel - but it's so much more than just that: a story of independence and self-determination, and religious faith versus religious hypocrisy, and love and passion.

So yes, you can call these later novels Gothic, but for most of them it would probably more correct to say that they are Gothic and---something else; or something else with Gothic overtones. I'm not well versed enough in the contemporary stuff to know for sure, but my suspicion is that many of these modern Gothics are closer to the original ones than most of what came in between, because they exist chiefly to freak out the reader...only without explaining it all away. :)

feb. 1, 2012, 8:34am

> 164

Ask Liz your questions now, everyone. There are no more spoilers for me as I've already finished reading my book.

I read Jane Eyre when I was much younger, but I might now be due for a re-read of that classic as I remember liking the story.

I read The Angel's Game, liking that book very much as well. At the time I read it, I hadn't realized that it was the sequel to The Shadow of the Wind. I liked The Angel's Game and will note to read The Shadow of the Wind sooner rather than later.

feb. 5, 2012, 12:07am

I finished it last night! It was great fun. You sure pulled a fast one on us Liz, I don't remember you saying that it wasn't actually a Gothic novel. But close enough I guess? Very much enjoyed following along with this thread.

As for Northanger Abbey, I'm not ready to jump into that yet. I was thinking in a month or two...

Actually, just checked my planning and it would have to be either March or May (or later) but not April.

Thanks Madeline for sharing this experience with us.

And thanks Liz for being such an amazing tutor!

feb. 5, 2012, 12:20am

You're very welcome, Ilana - I'm glad you enjoyed it!

(Hmm...I'm sure I told someone it wasn't really a Gotic novel...who on earth...?)

feb. 5, 2012, 12:25am

> 167

Ilana, I'm glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did.

Editat: feb. 5, 2012, 8:27am

I just want to put in a plug for Northanger Abbey as a really enjoyable Austen. OK, fair warning, I love her work and reread Pride and Prejudice at least twice a year, but still- having just read The Castle of Otranto, I think you will find it quite amusing.

feb. 10, 2012, 11:48am

#165 A belated thank you for the explanation Liz.

feb. 17, 2012, 11:22pm

Sarah Waters's book The Little Stranger is an example of Gothic. The crumbling isolated, English manor house, a mysterious presence perhaps mixed in with changing social ways after WWI and the downfall of aristocracy. I liked it.

feb. 17, 2012, 11:47pm

Thanks for your recommendation, macart3. I'll keep that book in mind.

feb. 18, 2012, 12:51am

The Little Stranger is right behind me on my shelf. Can't wait to read it. Will do, eventually since I feel that way about most of my books. Thanks for the recommendation.

gen. 8, 2015, 3:29pm

It is January 8th, 2015 and I must thank you Liz for tutoring Madeline on The Castle of Otranto. The three years later I certainly enjoyed the fruits of your labor. Madeline you asked the perfect questions.

I posted a link to this thread over in the Horror Group. A few of us are reading this book and The Monk this month.

Thank you ladies!

gen. 8, 2015, 3:46pm

Hi, Roberta - I'm very glad that the old thread was of use to you! :)

gen. 14, 2015, 8:36pm

I echo the thanks. This thread made me continue with the book when I might have set it aside. I really enjoyed reading this "with" you both.

gen. 14, 2015, 8:38pm

Hi, Nancy - that's great to hear!

Editat: gen. 16, 2015, 9:11am

>175 luvamystery65: >177 nancyewhite:
It was so much fun reading The Castle of Otranto with Liz. I liked The Monk even better so be sure to use the tutored thread available for that book as well. I'm so happy that you're revisiting this thread and finding it useful.

>178 lyzard: Liz, I can't believe it's already been that long since we read The Castle of Otranto together. I think of that experience of learning about a "real" gothic novel more often that I thought I would. I should be ready to get back to Italian Mysteries by this coming Monday. Thanks for your patience with me.