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The Castle of Otranto (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 15 Nov 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Longman; 1 edition (15 Nov. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140437673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140437676
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.3 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 384,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


with each volume having an introduction by an acknowledged expert, and exhaustive notes, the World's Classics are surely the most desirable series and, all-round, the best value for money (Oxford Times) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Horace Walpole (1717-97), 4th Earl of Orford, was the son of the Whig Prime Minister, Robert Walpole. In 1747 he moved to Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, which he transformed into his "little Gothic castle". He was at the centre of literary and political society and an arbiter of taste. He is remembered for his witty letters to a wide circle of friends.

Michael Gamer is Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of 'Romanticism and the Gothic' (CUP, 2000).

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Manfred, prince of Otranto, had one son and one daughter: the latter, a most beautiful virgin, aged eighteen, was called Matilda. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This review refers to the Oxford World's Classics edition, edited by WS Lewis, with a 26-page introduction and eight pages of endnotes by EJ Clery. There is a select bibliography and a chronology of the author, Horace Walpole. Importantly, the book includes both the first and second editions' title-pages and prefaces.

The first edition, "The Castle of Otranto: A Story, translated by William Marshal", was published in December 1764 (but marked 1765 on the title-page). It's preface tried - and succeeded for awhile - to give the impression that the tale had been "found in the library of an ancient catholic family in the north of England" and had been "printed at Naples ... in the year 1529. ... The style is the purest Italian."

The style was instead the purest Walpole and he quickly confessed; so that in the rapidly-issued second edition of 1765 (the book was an immediate hit), the revised preface became, as EJ Clery makes clear, "a manifesto for a new type of writing", and the title-page was amended to "The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story".

The inclusion of the adjective into the story's title is fundamental to the book's reputation as being the well-spring of much (all?) that followed in subsequent western literature that effected to underscore its credentials with a Gothic - or Gothick - motif. One could argue that that includes 90% of western literature (as much Thomas Pynchon as Stephen King), but this is going too far; for as Walpole himself makes plain in his second preface, his work was an attempt to marry imagination with nature, fantasy with reality, and that he had progenitors in the essay: "That great master of nature, Shakespeare, was the model I copied.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Erastus Rosemond on 17 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this quirky, outlandish, escapist, romantic tale of evil versus virtue, set in a Medieval castle, but I feel it would benefit from the input of a modern editor - not to change the text itself, but simply to make it easier to read. Could just be this edition (Pocket Penguin Classics), but there were no speech marks and no paragraph breaks either - which made it quite hard to follow!

Not only that, there was no foreword, no footnotes, no interpretation at all. I think a little editorial gloss would have helped to put the story in context and pick up on the nuances in the text. This lack of any explanation makes me wary of buying the other books in the series, despite the fact that I'm interested in reading quite a few of them! I will probably choose different editions if I do get these.

The story itself is worth reading, even if mostly from curiosity, as it conforms to many of the stereotypes of implausible romantic fiction! However, this is only from the point of view of modern hindsight: this was an innovative book when it was written. Again, a good introduction would have helped to highlight this.

In summary... a fun read, but probably best to get a different edition!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alison Moore on 8 May 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
The Castle of Otranto is not ideal for those who enjoy popular fiction as the prose and age of the novel can be a bit of a challenge.

That said it is a must read for lovers of the Gothic novel, as it is the first ever written and published in England. It opened a door in English literature for writers like Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley and created the Gothic genre.

The Author, Horace Walpole was the son of an English Prime Minister and he wrote this novel and published it in his own publishing house (Strawberry Hill) under an assumed name. The novel was claimed to come from ancient writings and Walpole didn't admit to ownership of it until a much later edition. Why? Because the gothic novel didn't exist yet, only one other Gothic novel had ever been written before this one (in Germany, The Monk), so Walpole was unsure of the reaction this kind of novel would get in England. In taking this chance with his own reputation, Walpole created a new genre in literature, the gothic novel.

The novel follows Manfred and his family in the Castle of Otranto. When his son Conrad is killed on his wedding day (being crushed by a giant helmet) Manfred feels it is a sign that his lineage is doomed, so he decides to marry the beautiful Isabella (Conrad's intended bride) himself, and do away with his own wife.

It's a dark and interesting tale, delightfully shocking for the time period and provides a wonderful insight to the Gothic genre and its beginnings. There are also some great literary themes to watch out for, sex and gender being the most predominant. I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in Gothic literature, because it is where it all began.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
I had read 'The Castle of Otranto' years ago but recently, as part of an effort on my side to (re)read all major works in the history of the English novel, I decided to include this in the list and see what I thought of it now. To be honest, I felt a bit let down. One should of course consider that it was first published in 1765 and, both in terms of being horrified and in terms of what the novel as a genre is capable of, we have come a very long way indeed and have become used to quite a different level of horror. I think not a single present-day reader will be horrified by 'The Castle of Otranto'. The problem, at least in my case, was quite simply that I could not, or at least less than when I first read it, get into the story enough to grant the proverbial suspension of disbelief.

This is not to say I am sorry having reread 'The Castle of Otranto' and feel that it is a waste of time. On the contrary, the fascinating aspect of it was this time rather the insight it clearly gives in the literary standards and expectations in those early days of the English novel, and as such it is and will always remain a must-read of course, which has heavily influenced scores of other (later) authors. So if you're an avid student/lover of the English novel I can heartily recommend it, if you're searching a good horror story I would go elsewhere.
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