The Romance of the Forest (1791) heralded an enormous surge in the popularity of Gothic novels, in a decade that included Ann Radcliffe's later works, The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian.
Set in Roman Catholic Europe of violent passions and extreme oppression, the novel follows the fate of its heroine Adeline, who is mysteriously placed under the protection of a family fleeing Paris for debt. They take refuge in a ruined abbey in south-eastern France, where sinister relics of the past - a skeleton, a manuscript, and a rusty dagger - are discovered in concealed rooms. Adeline finds herself at the mercy of the abbey's proprietor, a libidinous Marquis whose attentions finallyforce her to contemplate escape to distant regions.
Rich in allusions to aesthetic theory and to travel literature, The Romance of the Forest is also concerned with current philosophical debate and examines systems of thought central to the intellectual life of late eighteenth-century Europe.
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