Saturday, July 07, 2007

Horror's Top Five (Historically)

Up until the last three decades of the 20th Century, horror fiction was primarily found in short story form. There were relatively few novels that had a major influence, although those that did were big. A list of the five most influential horror novels of the early days follows. All of these are in the public domain and I’ve added links where they can be found for free online.

1. Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto, 1764. Generally considered to be the first Gothic novel. Still surprisingly readable. Online here

2. Clara Reeve: The Old English Baron, 1777. The world’s first horror pastiche. The influence of Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto is clear. Download it here.

3. Matthew Gregory Lewis: The Monk, 1796. Written before Lewis turned twenty and so successful that forever after the author became known as “Monk” Lewis. For the time it was considered horrendously blasphemous and sexy. I think it still reads pretty well today. Download it here

4. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein, 1818. An influence on the development of science fiction as well as horror. Check it out online here.

5. Charles Robert Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer, 1820. An early “Deal with the Devil” novel. Find it free online here.


the walking man said...

Hey someone finally named a book that I have actually read which was Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. Wow out of all the books named on all the bogs i have bookmarked i finally feel like i belong to the readers club! All right!!!

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

I love talking about the history of horror. If you're interested, here is a great site dealing with the subject:

Donnetta said...

Oh, Mary Shelly's Frankenstein is an all time favorite of mine. So glad you put these links up. It's late right now, but tomorrow I'll come back and "click" and browse. Thank you, Charles!

Erik Donald France said...

Excellent list, Charles. Like TWM, Shelly's the one I've read (or even read about among the others). Cool to have full-text access.

Bernita said...

Thank you.
I had previously thought Ann Radcliffe's "The Mysteries of Udolpho," was the first popular and major Gothic.

Sidney said...

I gotta read "The Monk." I've had it on my iPod forever as a Notes Extra. I know just about everyone who drops by here has read it already. Oh well, I'm behind.

Michelle's Spell said...

Thanks for the suggestions! I love horror -- it's one of those genres that captured me early and never let go.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

I read Frankenstein and Melmoth the Wanderer in college. I think Maturin was better at being creepy. I think I remember reading Faust at the same time. I liked the Maturin better still.

But Frankenstein I think I saw as more scifi than horror, though with a monster, it appears horror. But it's not creepy really - not like Poe or Lovecraft or Marlowe or Maturin. It was good because of the desperate urge by the doctor to be a creator on the one hand and for the monster to be human on the other hand. Both want understanding and it's a fantastic tension. Frankenstein did one of the things scifi is supposed to do (IMHO), which is to make you think of the consequences of your actions.

Charles Gramlich said...

Walking Man, "LOL." Most of those books are not widely known so I'm sure you're not alone in having not read them.

Stewart, thanks for the link. I checked it out and see that maybe I need to look more closely at Ann Radcliffe's work. I've generally not thought of it as very scary.

Donnetta, no problem. Glad if some of these are interesting to you.

Erik, thanks. Project Gutenberg is a godsend for finding older books that are out of print and in the public domain.

Bernita, that one was certainly influential and I should probably include it on my list. It was published after the first 2 but before the 3rd.

Sid, I think you'd like it. Twisted as you are. ;)

Michelle, I'm a big fan of the genre as well.

Rachel, I can pretty much agree with you. Frankenstein certainly had many SF elements, although I did find parts of it kind of freaky.