Horace Walpole and then Anne Radcliffe appeared to have triggered an anti-enlightenment movement: the Gothic that swept in Coleridge, two Shelleys, Byron, the Brontes, Walter Scott and Dickens, innumerable painters and architects, and even designed the Palace of Westminster itself.In 1765 Horace Walpole bewitched an unprepared public with the first ever Gothic novel The Castle of Ottranto. The poet Thomas Gray complained the novel made him “afraid to go to bed o’ nights”, and wind swept battlements, mysterious apparitions and armour that goes clang in the night has haunted the dungeons of popular culture ever since. But Gothic is more that novels, and from under its swirling cassock the Gothic Revival in architecture became the state style for an Empire, and the high camp of The Monk reached the acme of seriousness under the influence of John Ruskin. So how did the Gothic style manage to both sensationalise the public and form, quite literally the pillars of the establishment? Any why does a style forged in the spectral shadows of the Ages of Enlightenment still hold so such a secure position in popular culture today.

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  • Chris Baldick No other episodes
    Professor of English at Goldsmiths College
  • A N Wilson 3 episodes
    novelist, biographer, journalist
  • Emma Clery 2 episodes
    senior lecturer in the English Department at Sheffield Hallam University

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, in 1764 Horace Walpole bewitched an unprepared public with what's been claimed as the first ever Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto.