Monday, July 9, 2012

The First Poetess of Romantic Fiction


Ann Ward was born in London on July 9, 1764, about 7 years before Walter Scott.  Like Scott, her first novel - The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789) - was published anonymously.  This novel was published in the year following her marriage to journalist William Radcliffe.

The title of today’s post is a comment on Ann Radcliffe made by Walter Scott.  Radcliffe was influential in her time, and according to Scott’s journal entry of February 3rd, 1826, the author consciously dealt with that influence:

‘…James Ballantyne is severely critical on what he calls imitations of Mrs.
Radcliffe in Woodstock. Many will think with him, yet I am of opinion
he is quite wrong, or, as friend J. F[errier] says, vrong. In the
first place, I am to look on the mere fact of another author having
treated a subject happily as a bird looks on a potato-bogle which scares
it away from a field otherwise as free to its depredations as any one's
else! In 2d place, I have taken a wide difference: my object is not to
excite fear of supernatural tilings in my reader, but to show the effect
of such fear upon the agents in the story--one a man of sense and
firmness--one a man unhinged by remorse--one a stupid uninquiring
clown--one a learned and worthy, but superstitious divine. In the third
place, the book turns on this hinge, and cannot want it. But I will try
to insinuate the refutation of Aldiboronti's exception into the
prefatory matter…’

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