Copyright 2020 by Gary L. Pullman
Although Horace Walpole's 1764 novel of mistaken identities, The Castle of Otranto, is the first work of Gothic horror, women writers popularized the new genre.
Uncanny rather than marvelous, Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1874) focuses on the attempt by her uncle to marry of the orphaned Emily St. Aubert to his friend, Count Morano, in a scheme to divest both his own wife and the count's bride of their property. Radcliffe (1764-1823) influenced several notable male authors, including Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849).
Not only did Mary Shelley (1797-1851) create a horror icon when she penned Frankenstein, or; The Modern Prometheus in 1818, but she may also have kept a part of the body of her late husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, as a memento.
Charlotte Dacre (pen name of Charlotte Byrne) (c. 1771-1825) shocked the literary world of her day with the publication of her 1806 novel Zofloya; or, the Moor, a feminine version of Matthew Lewis's The Monk. Lewis's novel was regarded as salacious; it included a lusty monk and a cross dresser; Dacre's book, which was full of the adventures of harlots and courtesans, was even more scandalous.
Other volumes, as lascivious as Zofloya, followed, including The Libertine (1807) and The Passions (1811). The former was published under the pseudonym Rosa Matilda, a reference to a women who, seduced by Lewis's monk, became a seductress herself.
To read further about these authors of the not-so-gentle sex, check out the fascinating 2019 tome Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kroeger and Melanie R. Anderson.