The Northanger Horrid Novels

In Northanger Abbey, Isabella Thorpe recommends seven Gothic novels to Catherine Morland:

‘Dear creature! how much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read The Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.’

‘Have you, indeed! How glad I am! — What are they all?’

‘I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.’

‘Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?’

‘Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them.’

For a century it was assumed that Jane Austen had invented these titles, but then Montague Summers and Michael Sadleir discovered they were actual novels. Here’s an excerpt from Horrid Mysteries, which is certainly well named:

‘Thank God, Countess,’ one of them began, ‘that you have been rescued from the cruel hands of that barbarian, and are now in the company of more humane beings!’

‘From what cruel hands?’ I replied, with astonishment.

‘From those of your pretended lover, the Marquis Carlos of G******.’

‘Be silent, vile reptile,’ I exclaimed, ‘and dare not to asperse the name of a man whom I adore!’

Ironically, Austen’s parody may have rescued these titles from an oblivion they otherwise deserved. Announcing his discovery in a 1927 article, Sadleir wrote, “So long as Jane Austen is read — which will be for at least as long as there are readers at all — [these novels] will survive as tiny stitches in the immense tapestry of English literature.”