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First published pseudonymously in , The Castle of Otranto purported to be a translation of an Italian story of the time of the crusades In it Walpole attempted, as he declared in the Preface to the Second Edition, to blend the two kinds of romance the ancient and the modern Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpole s own favorite among his numerous works The novel is reprinted here from a text of , the last that Walpole himself prepared for the press Having spent three years in Bloomington getting drunk with fiction writers, I feel that I came dangerously close to losing my ability to appreciate trash But, thankfully, not so The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole, is not only trash, but ground breaking, historical, trend setting trash It is lauded as the first Gothic novel in English published, anonymously at first, in 1764 And what a remarkable heap of words it is The Castle of Otranto is preposterous, both in content and struct Having spent three years in Bloomington getting drunk with fiction writers, I feel that I came dangerously close to losing my ability to appreciate trash But, thankfully, not so The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole, is not only trash, but ground breaking, historical, trend setting trash It is lauded as the first Gothic novel in English published, anonymously at first, in 1764 And what a remarkable heap of words it is The Castle of Otranto is preposterous, both in content and structure nearly half of the action occurs in dialogue, much of which is Walpole s apparent attempts to capture the extreme reluctance of one nobleman, through speech, to trouble another nobleman, even if lives hang in the balance A common interchange might run thusly Diego a manservant Oh, it was awful Manfred lord of Otranto What sawest thou Diego I didn t see anything Manfred What Diego Jaquez saw it.Manfred Where is he Jaquez another manservant Right here, my lord Manfred What did you see Jaquez It was horrible Manfred What was it Jaquez It was incredible Manfred What was incredible Jaquez What I saw Manfred Tell me what it was Jaquez I can t Holy crap Diego I can tell you Manfred But, I thought you didn t see it.Diego I didn t, my lord.Manfred Then how can you tell me what it is Diego I heard it Oh, awful Manfred What did you hear, then Diego It was really, really loud And so on The plot itself is ridiculous, full of stock characters, ridiculous reversals of fortune, and supernatural curses But, I found I couldn t put it away I put it down, absolutely, and frequently but I couldn t quite put it away.Manfred, the count of Castle Otranto, has arranged a marriange between his son, Conrad, and Isabella, a virtuous virgin type from the next principality The marriage has been hastily arranged at Manfred s behest, and nobody is sure why But here, around the bottom of page 1, is where we get conflict Conrad becomes crushed beneath a giant metal helmet that seems to have fallen from the sky The man Manfred believes is the criminal or necromancer, if you prefer , is imprisoned beneath the helmet Then, Manfred tries to seduce the fair Isabella, in order to produce a new male heir But wait Didn t I mention that Manfred is married already, to the fair and virtuous Hippolita What s to be done That brings you up to about page three What unfolds from there is ridiculous, the kind of story a man hopped up on crack might shout to passersby from beneath a bridge But it is, well, interesting, and though poorly written, and full of tropes, pretty inventive at the same time It won t change your life, but if your tired of books changing your life, this might be a nice pick for a rainy day This granddaddy of all Gothics is still worth a read It has its flaws, but Walpole s style is crisp and economical, and the book itself is mercifully brief Manfred possesses all the important features of the classic gothic hero that Mrs Radcliffe and others would later use to great advantage, and the initial scenes particularly the surrealistic tableau of Manfred s heir flattened by a gigantic helmet and the exciting sequence of Isabella s flight through the castle s subterranean darkness a This granddaddy of all Gothics is still worth a read It has its flaws, but Walpole s style is crisp and economical, and the book itself is mercifully brief Manfred possesses all the important features of the classic gothic hero that Mrs Radcliffe and others would later use to great advantage, and the initial scenes particularly the surrealistic tableau of Manfred s heir flattened by a gigantic helmet and the exciting sequence of Isabella s flight through the castle s subterranean darkness are still powerful today Things bog down in the middle, slowed by sentimental dialogue and overcomplicated plot points, but the owner of the helmet himself appears at the end a deus ex maximus in a climax worthy of Dali and Bunuel Manfred s dynasty crumbles, and so do the walls of Otranto, in an ending that would influence Poe s Usher some seventy years later CLASSICS can teach us a great deal about things like history, culture, customs and different literary styles From this book I learned that classics CAN ALSO REALLY, REALLY SUCK Now before continuing, I would like to be clear that when I say this book sucked, I don t meanit was well written but kinda dry and boring sucked No, I mean planets and stars being pulled toward the event horizon of a black hole suckage In other words, suckage on a grand and towering scale Now, in fairness, it CLASSICS can teach us a great deal about things like history, culture, customs and different literary styles From this book I learned that classics CAN ALSO REALLY, REALLY SUCK Now before continuing, I would like to be clear that when I say this book sucked, I don t meanit was well written but kinda dry and boring sucked No, I mean planets and stars being pulled toward the event horizon of a black hole suckage In other words, suckage on a grand and towering scale Now, in fairness, it should be noted that the book was written in 1764 and is widely considered to be the first ever Gothic novel This highlights two things First, that there was at least one really, really crappy book published in the 18th century Second, as the first gothic novel, it has the additional distinction of being the first gothic novel to really, really suck The book centers around Manfred, who is the lord of a Castle Otranto As the story begins, Manfred s day gets off to a really bad start when his sickly son gets crushed by a massive helmet that falls on him inexplicably from above You might be wondering where the giant helmet came from and how it happened to fall Well reading the book won t help.BECAUSE IT IS NEVER EXPLAINED It just sort of happens which just sort of sucks So anyway, the son s death leads Manfred to believe that an ancient prophecy is coming to pass which states that his ownership of the castle will cease should the owner be grown too large to inhabit it Begin confused look I have no idea what that means Well Manfred decides that he can best avoid the prophecy by divorcing his first wife and marrying his dead son s fianc so that she can give him a proper heir How does having another son fit in with stopping the prophecy Can t tell youdon t know.me and and the baby above are still confused Manfred tells his first wife the plan and she basically accepts being pushed aside for a younger woman without a peep Basically, Mr Walpole thought that portraying the first wife as an extreme doormat was just what the story needed Well done, Horace Way to write those strong female characters After that the rest of the book is mostly I want to marry her, but she doesn t want to marry me because she wants to marry him, who wants to marry someone else.and Manfred is a real prick That sums it up except that someboring shit happens that really sucks and there is some chasing, some hiding, a couple of deaths and some mysterious yet incredibly boring knights from a neighboring kingdom In sum, Castle of Otranto Prince Manfred of Otranto in medieval Italy is looking forward to the wedding of his only son Conrad, because the family name must continueIn those violent times, petty men try for glory against others of the same class , the era of the Crusades also Italian politics dictates noblemen have sons, to leave all their vast lands and wealth Doesn t matter that Conrad is only fifteen and rather sickly boy, the distinguished Prince s family is composed of son Conrad, Matilda the daughter, three y Prince Manfred of Otranto in medieval Italy is looking forward to the wedding of his only son Conrad, because the family name must continueIn those violent times, petty men try for glory against others of the same class , the era of the Crusades also Italian politics dictates noblemen have sons, to leave all their vast lands and wealth Doesn t matter that Conrad is only fifteen and rather sickly boy, the distinguished Prince s family is composed of son Conrad, Matilda the daughter, three years older than her little brother and pious wife of Manfred , Hippolita Isabella the intended but let s be fair , reluctant bride, a noblewoman, daughter of Frederick, fighting in the Holy Land A rival to Manfred s claim to the estate of Otranto in fact has a better one Rumors circulate poor Frederick was killed, gladdens the usurper s heart however, Isabella has been kidnapped and being forced to marry Conrad This the first Gothic novel, written in the distant year of 1764 by Horace Walpole 4th Earl of Orford , naturally very strange events occur Such as a giant helmet unbelievably out of nowhere crushes the unlucky Conrad to death, apparently from the high not so empty sky A youth tells the Prince that it resembles the helmet, of a statue from the nearby church, which is correct The distraught father suspects witchcraft and immediately arrest Theodore, a young man, whose life is in danger of being cut short, inways than one.Other apparitions are seen by servants in the castle, some too strange to be real a fact though Frustrated Manfred comes up with an odd idea quite irrational divorce his wife and marry Isabella Then a bad omen happens, the portrait of Manfred s grandfather floats from the wall, settling on the floorFrightening the unnerved Prince, Isabella takes this great opportunity to flee Going down the underground vault of the castle in the creepy darkness , an unknown threat closing inwith a lamp, alone, through the eerie passageway, she is very scared, who wouldn t be Hearing weird noises, is Manfred chasing herThen the lamp s candle goes out, what can Isabella do This scene has been copied many times down the centuries and still effective Primitive yet enjoyable romp into a world which sadly never was , still should have been