Written by Horace Walpole and first published in 1764, The Castle of Otranto was the first gothic novel. The term "gothic novel" comes from Walpole's subtitle - the full title of the novel was "The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story."

Blending terror, pathos, and thinly veiled sexuality, The Castle of Otranto set the conventions of the gothic novel that would later be widely imitated by authors such as Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. It tells the tale of the evil lord Manfred who tries to marry his sickly son Conrad's virginal fiancee Isabella when Conrad is suddenly smashed by a giant helmet of supernatural origin in the first few pages of the novel. Unfortunately for Manfred, an ancient prophecy controls his fate.

This was pretty sick and twisted stuff at the time, and Walpole was worried enough about the novel's reception to publish it under a false name as a "found text," but it quickly became a huge success, encouraging him to own up to writing it in time for the second edition of 1765.

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