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Castle Of Otranto Preface Analysis

2385 words - 10 pages

Horace Walpole (1717-1797) invented the Gothic novel in his attempt to blend wildness and imagination of the old romance, in his own words "an attempt to blend the two kinds of romance, the ancient and the modern'' in one step altogether, the Castle of Otranto. A novel he claimed to have written immediately after being inspired by a dream, "I waked one morning...from a dream, of which all I could recover was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle...I saw a gigantic hand in armour. In the evening I sat down and began to write" (Letter, 9th march 1765). On the other hand many would more quickly agree that the writing of this novel was a mere `specialized development of his taste as a virtuoso and collector' (Holt et al. 230). All the same none would disagree that this novel is indeed a page turner, and this is noticeable even in his Preface to the First Novel. This three page preliminary statement serves two minor but significant roles for Walpole within and without the context of the novel. The first is foretelling his readers the flow of his novel and what they should expect. He does this by means of hinting the plot and sharing some elements of mystery, and Gothic elements of the novel. The second role of the preface was however more towards his disadvantage, although I would imagine he never intended this to happen. The preface served as a frame in which Walpole disguises himself as an objective, third party translator, or he is also known as William Marshal. This same frame which served him benefits also proved to be a large indicator that the novel could not have been written two hundred years ago. It had all the key aspect of many eighteenth and nineteenth century novels, authenticity, authority, antiquity and artistic value. All four aspects were foremost criteria when it came to writing a novel, because of the benefits they provide.

Authenticity was primary because for many years fiction was distrusted. Why would one read a book that was not true? True stories were more compelling and exciting because they were actual events. Thus it's a common pose for author, including Walpole, to claim that the storey was true. To do this Walpole fussed over the date of composition, "it was printed ... in the year 1529" (15), the probable author "from the Original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto"(title page), that the author's "style is purest Italian" (15) and so forth to create the impression that readers were holding a genuine translation of a genuine document.

The `translator' then enforced authority by supplying his own ethos (character and hence credibility) by way of revealing the characteristics of a careful scholar. He named the place of publication, "it was printed in Naples"(15) and noted that the novel was printed "in black letter"(15) as details that made him sound like a scholar. The uses of details were indicators of carefulness and factuality. General and vague accounts were usually deemed unreliable, while specific ones...

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