Manfred, whose spirts were inflamed, and whom Isabella had driven from her on his urging his passion with too little reserve ... Provoked ... and enraged at her father [Frederic], he hastened secretly to the great church ... the tryant, drawing his dagger ... plung[ed] it over her shoulder ... -Ah me, I am slain! cried Matilda sinking ... -Stop ... cried Matilda; it is my father! Manfred, waking as from a trance, beat his breast ... and endeavoured to recover his dagger from Theodore to dispatch himself.
...Matilda, resigning herself to her fate ... she begged the assistants to comfort her father. I took thee for Isabella [cried Manfred]; but heaven directed my bloody hand to the heart of my child!
Otranto, Chapter V
Still from the 1979 film, depicting the
giant suit of armour which terrifies the
Oh. Poor Manfred. But don't worry! Be jolly! Both his kids are dead, but that's OK, because he goes into a monastery with his wife and lives happily ever after. After a surprise appearance from a cloaked skeleton - the one bit in the book where I sat up and said, 'This is going to get good!' - Frederic is told - "Remember the wood of Joppa!" Ah, Joppa. I remember it well. Stopped by this apparition from doing something hasty - like trying to marry the gorgeous Matilda, for instance, that sinful dog! - it leaves, never to grace us with its presence again. We never really do find out what happened in Joppa. But religious conversion brightens that oh-so-jolly ending. Order and balance are restored! Tyrants are reformed! Lovers united! (Except for Matilda, poor dear, on account of having been stabbed in the heart by Daddy)
|Engraving by James McArdell. Source.|
All jokes aside, though, Otranto is an interesting read. It's easy to see why Walpole enjoyed writing it so much. Like many Gothic texts (think Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) it originated in a dream. "The work grew on my hands," Walpole says, "and I grew fond of it ... I was so engrossed with my tale ... I completed [it] in less than two months..." (Letter to the Rev. William Cole) In 'blending two types of romance: the old and the new' Walpole pioneered a popular genre which has as yet refused to die down. It really is a landmark in popular literature, and a triumph for the Gothic elements of storytelling over the seriousness of Enlightenment writers. Three cheers for our boy Horace!