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Rare Printed Works from the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia

Part 3: Gothic Terror: Radcliffe and her Imitators - Boaden to Meeke

"While there are other fine collections of rare Gothic titles elsewhere in the world, the Sadleir-Black Collection at the University of Virginia holds its place as the Rosetta Stone of this lost literary movement. Particularly rich in Gothic bluebooks, chapbooks, and shilling shockers, once regarded by historians and book collectors as the toxic literary waste of Gothicism, the Collection's incomparable array of minor and major Gothics will now be universally accessible to scholars and researchers by way of this industrious and timely microfilming project."
Frederick S. Frank
Professor Emeritus of English, Allegheny College, Pennsylvania (see Professor Frank's website, The Sickly Taper, and his essay on the Sadleir-Black Collection, Gothic Gold)

"The collection is of unique interest, and should have a ready sale to universities that lack the resources here. Gothic studies are increasingly popular with students and yet the texts, beyond the most famous writers, are extremely rare and hard to come by."
Alison Milbank
Consultant Editor, Department of English, University of Virginia

"An exciting project that will find a large and appreciative audience."
Peter Otto
Consultant Editor, Department of English, University of Melbourne

"There is a resurgence of interest in Gothic Literature. For a variety of Gothic material to be available in microform will appeal not only to Gothic enthusiasts but also to students and researchers in history, literary studies and gender studies."
Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Consultant Editor, Department of Literary Studies,
University of the West of England

Editorial Introduction (abridged version) by Peter Otto,
Department of English, University of Melbourne

"It was not long before the lust for Gothic Romance took complete possession of me. Some instinct - for which I can only be thankful - told me not to stray into 'Sensibility', 'Pastoral', or 'Epistolary' novels of the period 1770-1820, but to stick to Gothic Novels and Tales of Terror."
Michael Sadleir, XIX Century Fiction

It seems appropriate that the Sadleir-Black collection of Gothic fictions, a genre peppered with illicit passions, should be described by its progenitor as the fruit of lust. Michael Sadleir (1888-1957), the person who cultivated this passion, was a noted bibliographer, book collector, publisher and creative writer. According to Sadleir, the roots of his 'mania' for Gothic Romance lay in his 'youthful enthusiasm' for Baudelaire and Mallarm. These writers were 'profound admirers of Edgar Allan Poe'. Following in their footsteps, Sadleir read Poe's gothic stories and so was led to 'the work of Charles Brockden Brown; and from Brown to the English, German and French romances of the 'Terror' school'.

After 15 years of collecting, Sadleir sold his collection to Robert Kerr Black, a bibliophile and antiquarian bookseller, in 1937. During the next five years, he added approximately 100 items. Sadleir and Arthur Hutchinson (editor of the Windsor Magazine, a member of the Omar Khayyam Club and a 'bibliomaniac') had established the collection; Black attempted to fill the gaps they had left. His contributions included Beckford's An Arabian tale, from an unpublished manuscript; with notes critical and explanatory (London: J. Johnson, 1786; the first edition of Vathek); a first edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The modern Prometheus (London: Lackington, et al, 1818); Percy Shelley's St. Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian: a Romance (London: J. Stockdale,1811) and Zastrozzi; a Romance (London: G. Wilkie and J. Robinson, 1810); along with all six of Charles Robert Maturin's novels (often cited as 'the greatest as well as the last of the Goths'), including a first edition of Melmoth the Wanderer: a Tale (Edinburgh: Constable, 1820). Black also added the publisher's contract for Mrs Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1794).

Black studied first at Princeton and then, as a graduate student, at the University of Virginia. While at the latter, he was introduced to the Gothic, and his own particular interest in parodies and burlesques of the Gothic was roused by Professor Archibald Shepperson, author of The Novel in Motley: A History of the Burlesque Novel in English (1936), which contained a chapter on Gothic Nonsense. In 1942, therefore, when the need to preserve the collection became pressing, and in order to establish a public, scholarly resource, Black gave the collection to the University of Virginia, where it is now housed in the Special Collections Department of the Alderman Library. In addition to maintaining the collection, in the years since then the Special Collections Department has, 'through purchase and gift', made significant additions.

Parts 3 & 4: Ann Radcliffe and her Imitators
Described as a 'mighty enchantress' and 'the Shakespeare of Romance Writers', Ann Ward Radcliffe is the most important of the Gothic novelists, routinely credited by her contemporaries with having inaugurated a new 'school' of fiction. Her novels of suspense, sublime scenery, exquisite terror (conjured by protagonists and readers from hints, signs and possibilities) and the explained supernatural, with their remarkable heroines of sensibility and powerful villains, were enormously popular. They inspired a host of followers, imitators, and plagiarists attempting to take advantage of the almost insatiable demand for her work. This section contains all five of the novels Radcliffe published in her lifetime (all are first editions) and the most important of the writers who (in the novels included here) followed closely in her tracks. There are works by James Boaden, Elizabeth Bonhote, Eliza Bromley, Mary Charlton, Hannah Cowley, T. J. Horsley Curties, Catherine Cuthbertson, Sarah Green, J. M. H. Hales, Ann Julia Hatton, Elizabeth Helme, Anthony Holstein, Mrs Isaacs, Sarah Landsdell, Mary Meeke, Mary Pickard, Mary Ann Radcliffe, Mary Robinson, Regina Maria Roche, Rosalia St. Clair, Catharine Selden, Eleanor Sleath, Catherine Smith, Charlotte Smith, Louisa Stanhope and Sarah Wilkinson, along with novels by anonymous writers.

Despite the growing interest in 'non-canonical' Gothic authors and in the genre as a whole, most accounts of the Gothic still focus on 'canonical' authors. There is, for example, no extended study of the literary exchanges between Ann Radcliffe or Matthew Lewis and their followers. Aside from William W. Watt's fifty-four page monograph, there are few discussions of Gothic chapbooks or their illustrations. Even key writers of the genre, such as Catherine Cuthbertson, Regina Maria Roche and Charlotte Dacre have seldom been the object of extended critical discussion. Despite recent work, Dorothy Blakey's now outdated The Minerva Press (1939) remains the only book-length study of the most important of the circulating libraries and presses that 'fed' the Gothic craze. Although there have been important studies of Gothic conventions, discourses and preoccupations, most rely on only a small sample of texts. One of the hopes of the editors of this microfilm collection is that it will provide the catalyst to redress this situation.

Digital Guide
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