Meantime, there had begun in England, as elsewhere, that complex reaction against the intellectualism of the eighteenth century known as the Romantic Movement. Among its more obvious phases was the revival of interest in remote places and periods, and especially in the Middle Ages. The extent to which this interest was ill-informed and merely sentimental is nowhere better illustrated than in the rise of the so-called “Gothic Romance.” This variety of fiction is usually regarded as beginning with “The Castle of Otranto” of Horace Walpole, the son of the great Whig minister, Sir Robert Walpole, and the type of the fashionable dilettante of the London of his day. Walpole had no real understanding or sympathy for the spirit of the Middle Ages, but one of his fads was mediæval armor, furniture, and architecture, and out of this arose his curious half-sincere experiment in fiction. The real leader in the production of this sort of “thriller,” however, was Mrs. Radcliffe,〖For example “The Mysteries of Udolpho.”〗 who was followed by Clara Reeves〖As in “The Old English Baron.”〗 and scores of minor imitators. The novels of these ladies were set in a vaguely remote period of chivalry, their scenes were ancient castles, with concealed panels, subterranean passages, and family ghosts; their plots turned upon the usurpation of family estates by wicked uncles or villainous neighbors, and on the reparations and sufferings of missing heirs and heroines of “sensibility”; and their characters were the stereotyped figures of ordinary melodrama. A special development of this type appeared in the “School of Terror” headed by M. G. Lewis, whose nickname of “Monk” Lewis was derived from his novel of “Ambrosio, or the Monk,” in which the terrifying and, it must be said, the licentious possibilities of the Gothic romance were carried to a high pitch. 11This, on the whole, rather worthless species, which had been accompanied by many feeble attempts at a more definitely historical type of novel, culminated surprisingly in the romances of Sir Walter Scott. Scott, however, had in his training and in his vast reading a basis for historical and romantic fiction all his own. He stripped the Gothic type of romance of its sentimentality and absurdity, strengthened it with his great fund of historical and legendary information, gave it stability with his sanity and humor, and interest by his creation of a great series of vigorous and picturesque creations. The art of fiction has gained in technical dexterity since Scott’s day, stories now begin sooner and move more rapidly, conversation is reported with a greater life-likeness, the tragedy in human life is more often given its due place; but the entrancing narratives of Scott, with all their deliberation, are likely to retain their charm, and his men and women still have blood in their veins. He created the historical novel, not only for Britain but for Europe, and all its writers since have been proud to sit at his feet.

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