In a time of rapid cultural, social, and economic change, some English authors tended toward a moody impression of wistfulness and regret. The Graveyard Poets infamously wrote poem after poem on the theme of melancholy. Melancholy also suffuses the earliest of the Gothic works. Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1765) deems sorrow a proof of true love; Theodore insists he can only accept a marriage to Isabella on the condition that he would find himself "in the society of one with whom he could forever indulge the melancholy that had taken possession of his soul." He is not interested in living happily ever after; his idea of a good life is instead focused on the remembrance of his lost Matilda.
Ann Radcliffe continues in this vein in Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) by paying detailed attention to the family's grief after the deaths of two infant sons. St. Aubert retreats into mourning every night, and his daughter Emily seems to be built half of sadness, and half of sweetness. When Emily sings "To Melancholy," rather than dwelling on the negative aspects of her sadness, she seems to embrace the sweeter side, never allowing her sadness to overcome her ability to reason. Radcliffe's delicate portrayal of Emily's melancholy helps make Emily a deeper character than Lewis' heroines, perhaps helping to initiate the development of the female Gothic.
Courtesy of Wendy Fall, Marquette University
Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Encyclopedia of Gothic Literature. New York : Facts on File, 2005. Print.
Horatio and Camilla; OR, THE NUNS OF ST. MARY. A TALE OF THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY [Transcript], Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson