Currently reading Jane Harvey’s Anything But What You Expect, first published in 1819. We have discussed Harvey’s work before, her earlier works, published around the turn of the nineteenth century, such as Tynemouth Castle and Brougham Castle drew strongly on the local history of the North of England where she lived. Although not fully fledged Gothic novels, they certainly drew on Gothic themes, and the castle settings lent themselves to descriptions of the picturesque in true Radcliffean style.
It is interesting to note therefore that in the first volume of Anything But What You Expect she twice makes reference to “gothic”, but her use of gothic by this time is much more derogatory. She is now using gothic to represent both old fashionedness and to retsore an earlier notion of its being somewhat uncouth.
In both cases the expression is used by Lady Walpole, a middle aged widow to her newly discovered step-daughter Cordelia whilst discussing and directing her conduct
In chapter 7, in discussing ideas on marriage she derides the ideas of romantic love so prevalent in the gothic novel
“I do not mean to insinuate that you had fallen in love with him – no well educated young person now cherishes such vulgar gothic notions – they are only solicitous to marry above their rank and expectations – when they do otherwise, they not only lessen their own respectability, but give cause to their unfortunate offspring through life to deplore a union which has called them into an existence replete with difficulties and degradations”
and in Chapter 6
“I cannot describe, my beloved girl, how much I am charmed by the display you have made of your good sense, good breeding, address and knowledge of the world, so greatly superior to what might have been expected from your youth and secluded education; nothing could have been more gothic, vulgar, illiberal and foolish than the appearance of remembering an old rusty family quarrel.”
By 1819, Harvey’s new novels would be in the hands of the daughters of those heroines of the 1790s who devoured the out pourings of Radcliffe, Roche and Sleath. As always, the youth of the day were eager to rebel, and the entertainment their parents found cool and exciting was now dull and old fashioned. Whilst I am sure they would not accept Lady Walpole’s views on the importance of fijnance over romance in selecting a husband, they could enjoy the allusion to the datedness of the romantic and chivalric ideals so prevalent in the gothic novels
Certainly Harvey in 1819 was using “gothic” to generate very different feelings to those that she would have expected with her use of the same word some 20 years earlier.