09 jul 1764
Ann Radcliffe was an English author who is widely regarded as a pioneer of the gothic novel. She was born in Holborn, London in 1764, but apart from this fact, much of Radcliffe’s life remains a mystery. She lived a sheltered and private life, refusing most opportunities to appear in public. The famous poet Christina Rossetti started to write a biography of Radcliffe, but she soon gave up after she failed to find enough information.
Throughout her literary career, Ann Radcliffe published 6 novels and a book of poetry. These works all belong to the gothic tradition, and are some of the earliest examples of English gothic literature. Radcliffe’s works went on to inspire and influence many famous writers. Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Walter Scott and the Marquis de Sade all have recognisable traits in their writing which were pioneered by Radcliffe. Most of her novels include elements of the supernatural which turn out to have completely rational and logical explanations.
Rather than drawing her inspiration entirely from literature, Radcliffe was greatly influenced by art in her writing. Painters such as Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa had a huge influence on Radcliffe as she aimed to describe landscapes in the same romantic and picturesque manner.
Ann Radcliffe died in 1823, aged 58. Her husband reported that she died during an asthma attack, although this remains unconfirmed.
Radcliffe’s writing continues to be enjoyed and studied as representative of the gothic tradition. She features as a character in the film Becoming Jane, played by Helen McCrory.