Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1/5)

The back says: First published pseudonymously in 1764, The Castle of Otranto purported to be a translation of an Italian story of the time of the crusades. In it Walpole attempted, as he declared in the Preface to the second edition, ‘to blend the two kinds of romance: the ancient and the modern’. He gives us a series of catastrophes, ghostly interventions, revelations of identity, and exciting contests. Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpole’s own favourite among his numerous works. His friend, the poet Thomas Gray, wrote that he and his family, having read Otranto, were now ‘afraid to go to bed o’ nights’.

I say: This was yet another painful reading experience that I had to force myself through due to that damned 100 Classics Challenge. I pretty much felt the same way about this as I did The Turn of the Screw and I’ve realised that so called gothic ghost stories are just not my cup of tea.

More like my kryptonite.

I wasn’t too annoyed with the archaic language – I can read that fine enough – but the way this was written with no quotation marks or anything just confused and irritated me to no end.

-Well, well! Said Manfred; proceed. When we came to the door of the great chamber, continued Jaquez, we found it shut.-And could not you open it? said Manfred. Oh! yes, my lord, would to heaven we had not! replied he.-Nay, it was not I neither, it was Diego: he was grown foolhardy, and would go on, though I advised him not-If ever I open a door that is shut again-Trifle not, said Manfred shuddering, but tell me what you saw in the great chamber on opening the door. - p 35


It just made my eyes weary.

The story was boring, there was no horror anywhere, and all the women were nothing short of sheer nuisances. If they weren’t fainting, they were talking nonsense and exciting themselves for no particular reason – there was just so much excessive drama. But then again, maybe this is how women acted in the olden days – what do I know?

And what do I care?

Mind me, the men were no better; Manfred and his irrational fury, Theodore and his uncanny goodness, and the Father with his deceitful ways; they were all such absurd caricatures I couldn’t take any of them seriously.

And maybe I wasn’t supposed to…


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