Mourning, memory and melancholy
Constructing death constructing death in the 1790s–1820s
in Gothic death 1740–1914
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This chapter explores the Romantic Gothic and the construction of a culture of mourning. Ann Radcliffe’s poem ‘To Melancholy’ in The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) begins with an evocation to a Muse of melancholy. This emphasis on the literary construction of melancholy provides a starting point for a reconsideration of the inter-textual aspects of Charlotte Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets (1784), which suggest that mourning should be seen as a textual production. Memory, as a form of mourning, and its links to creativity was addressed by Samuel Rogers in The Pleasures of Memory (1792). For him the imagination works to unite us with others (including the dead) through a magnetic affinity that implicates Anton Mesmer’s idea of animal magnetism. Mesmer appears in James Boaden’s The Man of Two Lives (1828), which explores ideas about reincarnation. Boaden’s novel is read as a riposte to Frankenstein. The implicit doubling between Frankenstein and his creature is reworked by Boaden through reincarnation as the subject attempts to make amends for the conduct of an earlier self. Feelings of mourning are aesthetically constructed in increasingly self-conscious ways in the Romantic Gothic which emphasises the role of the writer, or artist, as a creator.

Gothic death 1740–1914

A literary history

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