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About This Book
This is the biography of the Gothic novelist, Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823), author of "The Mysteries of Udolpho", the world's first
"best seller". The text clarifies Radcliffe's emergence from a Dissenting Unitarian, rather than a conventional Anglican, background. This places Radcliffe within the circle of other women writers nurtured in radical Dissenting backgrounds (such as Wollstonecraft, Hays, Inchbauld and Barbauld). Radcliffe's childhood and family background are documented and the rumours of her madness and reclusiveness investigated leading to an evaluation of the resons for her probable mental breakdown. The text constitutes a "cultural history" of a writing woman, demonstrating her place within radical culture, literary tradition and aesthetic discourse, and examining her role in the rise of the professional woman writer. Her novels are analyzed mainly in the context of her biography and sources.