Contested pasts
David Hume, Horace Walpole and the emergence of Gothic fiction
in Sinister histories
Abstract only
Log-in for full text

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

manchesterhive requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals - to see content that you/your institution should have access to, please log in through your library system or with your personal username and password.

If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/extracts and download selected front and end matter. 

Institutions can purchase access to individual titles; please contact for pricing options.


If you have an access token for this content, you can redeem this via the link below:

Redeem token

This chapter examines the complex, often antagonistic relationship between Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and Hume’s The History of England (1754–62). As Walpole’s correspondence reveals, he had read numerous volumes of Hume’s history before writing Otranto (the first Gothic novel) and did not think very highly of its content or the methods used to write it. Reassessing the significance of the Gothic in the eighteenth century, this chapter discusses the extent to which Walpole’s novel can be viewed as a bold response to, and critique of, Hume’s historiography. Discussing the proliferation of violent and supernatural occurrences in Otranto, it is argued that the Gothic functions as Enlightenment history’s other; it exploits its insecurities, plagues its vulnerabilities, and imaginatively provides fictional presences for its many absences and omissions. Taking into account a wealth of historical evidence, this chapter proposes that Walpole’s novel can be read as an imaginative revolt against Hume’s multi-volume work of historiography and that it marks the beginning of the genre’s contentious relationship with Enlightenment historiography and the philosophy that underpins it.

Sinister histories

Gothic novels and representations of the past, from Horace Walpole to Mary Wollstonecraft


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 93 42 2
Full Text Views 28 1 0
PDF Downloads 26 6 0