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Mary Robinson and the Gothic

Mary Robinson‘s decision to publish in a notorious genre, the Gothic, drew further attention to her own sexual and moral notoriety. In Hubert de Sevrac, a Romance of the Eighteenth Century (1796) and Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Robinson (1801), she manipulates the publiccs taste for the type of Gothic fiction popularised by Ann Radcliffe and offers the sexually experienced heroine as a counter-ideal to Radcliffe‘s sexually naive characters. These works strategically revise conventional Gothic discourse in order to reassign the cultural significance of active female sexuality to fictional women, and, ultimately, to Robinson herself.

Gothic Studies
The medium and media of Fatal revenge

categorisation. 34 Against such amorphousness, contemporary critics of the Gothic novel were keen to impose order, a situation that often prompted writers to view the Gothic as not only sub-literary but essentially different in kind from authors’ other, ostensibly, more serious literary production. Considering the perceived contrast between Mary Robinson’s most famous Gothic novel, Hubert de Sevrac

in Charles Robert Maturin and the haunting of Irish Romantic fiction
Reading the gaps in Mary Robinson’s Memoirs (1801)

Hubert de Sevrac (1797).131 Moreover, according to Cheryl Wanko, it was not uncommon for thespian life writing to draw inspiration from the ‘unusual narrative experiments of the day – mimicking Tristram Shandy or Fielding’s narratives’.132 Robinson may even have indicated to her daughter how she wanted the Memoirs to appear, but of course there is no evidence for this. However, regardless of who made the decision, the outcome is certain. The use of printer’s ‘Beyond the power of utterance’ 165 ornaments in Robinson’s Memoirs shows that life writing could import

in Romantic women’s life writing