The Romance of the Forest is a Gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe that was first published in 1791. It combines an air of mystery and suspense with an examination of the tension between hedonism and morality. The novel was her first major, popular success, going through four editions in its first three years. Furthermore, “this novel also established her reputation as the first among her era’s writers of romance.
Monsieur Pierre de la Motte and his wife, Madame Constance de la Motte, are fleeing Paris in an attempt to escape his creditors. Pierre, Madame, and their two domestic servants, Peter and Annette, are waylaid when the path they’re on becomes too dark to follow any longer. Pierre exits the carriage and continues on foot toward a light he notices some distance away from the carriage. Upon knocking on the door of a small and ancient house, Pierre is admitted into the house by a stranger. He is given a bed and promptly locked in the room. Sometime later, the door to Pierre’s room is unlocked and a beautiful young lady, Adeline, is being dragged behind the stranger who admitted Pierre to the house. The stranger states that “if you wish to save your life, swear that you will convey this girl where I may never see her more; or rather consent to take her with you.”...
Ann Radcliffe (9 July 1764 – 7 February 1823) was an English author, and a pioneer of the Gothic novel. Her style is romantic in its vivid descriptions of landscapes, and long travel scenes, yet the Gothic element is obvious through her use of the supernatural. It was her technique of explained Gothicism, the final revelation of inexplicable phenomena, that helped the Gothic novel achieve respectability in the 1790s. Ann Radcliffe was the most popular writer of her day and almost universally admired. Contemporary critics called her the mighty enchantress and the Shakespeare of romance-writers. Her popularity continued through the nineteenth century; for Keats, she was Mother Radcliffe, and for Scott, the first poetess of romantic fiction. Radcliffe created the novel of suspense by combining the Gothic romance of Walpole with the novel of sensibility, which focused on the proper, tender heroine and emphasized the love interest.
The Critical review, 1792 — We spoke with respect of The Sicilian Romance; but this lady has greatly exceeded her first work. The novel before us engages the attention strongly, and interests the feelings very powerfully: the general style of the whole, as well as the reflections, deserve also commendation. We have die ruined abbey, a supposed ghost, the skeleton of a man secretly murdered, with all the horrid train of images which such scenes and such circumstances may be supposed to produce. They are managed, however, with skill, and do not disgust by their improbability: every thing is consistent, and within the verge of rational belief: the attention is uninterruptedly fixed, till the veil is designedly withdrawn. One great mark of the author's talents is, that the events are concealed with the utmost art, and even suspicion sometimes designedly misted, while, in the conclusion, every extraordinary appearance seems naturally to arise from causes not very uncommon. The characters are varied with skill, and often dexterously contrasted.