Letters to a phantom sister, wills, transcript, journal entries, newspaper entries; Gothic narratives are punctuated with embedded writings in the form of letters and entries that are both a pastiche and fragmented, the sum total of which makes up the complete text. Letters while seemingly presenting objectivity on one level through the assumed tone of factuality, are also simultaneously open and subject to interpretation. It is linked to a reading of words as well as a misreading. There are letters that are not replied in Frankenstein, letters that may not have reached their destination, letters of secrecy in Jekyll and Hyde, letters that chronicle events—these letters attempt to present to us an understanding of what happened, reiterated with the supposed advantage of retrospect and an over-arching perspective that is allowed by the passing of time. However, as the paths of these letters are always dubious, it calls to attention its own in-authenticity and hence the potential for a misreading since we are never always sure if what we are reading is accurately represented. In other words, what has happened is always fragmented and there can be no complete reading of events.
These fragments also call to attention the reliability of information in an age where information is becoming increasingly available, as seen from the inclusion of newspaper reports in Dracula and the fact that distance is no longer a barrier to words. Some letters and entries, instead of being handwritten, are now type-written which displaces the personal touch of the writer from the reader and handwriting can no longer be a measure of authenticity. Anything, including words, can be reproduced. This links the idea of letters to modern communication and technology. The use of problematic embedded narratives illustrates an anxiety about the increasing ease of communication and whether more information really means knowing more. Narratives within narratives draw to attention its own artificiality and the question of whether there can be an original sequence of events behind what is narrated. Letters open the doors to the multitude of readings and misreadings in the Gothic world.
Manuscripts are also part of the structural stage-setting of the Gothic novel, as described by Eino Railo in The Haunted Castle: The Castle of Otranto is presented as a translation of an Italian manuscript discovered in the north of England. Radcliffe's Sicilian Romance and Reeve's Old English Baron are both founded on the accidental discovery of a manuscript.
Courtesy of Wendy Fall, Marquette University and Felicia Chan, National University of Singapore
Railo, Eino. The Haunted Castle; a Study of the Elements of English Romanticism. New York, Humanities Press, 1964. Print.
Books from 1812
The Affecting History of the Duchess of C**** Who Was Confined Nine Years in a Horrid Dungeon, Under Ground, Where Light Never Entered, a Straw Bed Being Her Only Resting Place, and Bread and Water Her Only Support, Conveyed by Means of a Turning-Box, by Her Inhuman Husband; Whom She Saw but Once During Her Long Imprisonment, Though Suffering by Hunger, Thirst, and Cold, the Most Severe Hardships, But Fortunately She Was at Last Discovered, and Released from the Dungeon, By Her Parents. [Transcript], Stéphanie Félicité Genlis
Books from 1808
Books from 1805
Books from 1802
The Distressed Nun [Transcript], Isaac Crookenden