Talk:The Castle of Otranto

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WikiProject Novels (Rated C-class, High-importance)
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I have turned this into a microstub. The book itself is important because it is one of the earliest examples of the Gothic novel. Danny 22:30, 10 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I've seen the book spelled "Ontronto", including in this article in the New York Review of Books. While it seems that "Ontranto" is what is used most commonly, does anyone know if the other spelling is legitimate? kerim 22:50, 7 August 2005 (UTC)

  • Otranto (with an "a," no "n") is standard. There is a real place called Otranto (Walpole got the name by looking at a map), even a castle there (though he didn't know that). Zafiroblue05 00:26, 6 December 2005 (UTC)

The book was apparently turned into a play in 1793. It is listed as one of the plays available as topics for my Theater History class. I cannot find any other information available on the play version, despite repeated searches with all variants of search terms I can think of. The date, however, is different from the publishing date for the book, so I think it's legitimate. My professor is trying to find the information she had on it for me. (unregistered user) 18:02, 1 February 2006 (UTC)


how do i move the contents to the top of the page?

is this looking better?

Should we not include that Walpole first claimed this story an italian work and himself only as the translator,in fear of mis-succes (in the firt and second introduction) New Babylon

The absurdity of the box[edit]

This novel is in public domain and is published by half a dozen companies. Therefore, there is not "a publisher." The novel box was an absurdity: It was not published in 1764 by Penguin. Not only did Penguin not exist, I'm not sure English scientists had even discovered penguins themselves, and it did not have a cover illustration by a man who had not yet come to England, and it did not have an ISBN before the system existed, nor an UPC before that had been invented, etc. In other words, this application of a box is, like the novel itself, either very funny or very scary. Geogre 10:28, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

The birds we know as Penguins today were note widely known in Europe at the time of publishing. However the word 'Penguin' was used to denote a similar-looking bird, the [Great Auk]].Peter Napkin Dance Party (talk) 08:22, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
Quite. Thank you. Yet more indiscriminate mayhem caused by these miserable boxes. Moreschi Talk 11:53, 28 April 2007 (UTC)
This raises a point that I had previously mentioned on one of the Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Novels pages: the infobox works well for recently published works, where there is a clear date of first publication, and the novel is only available from a single publisher per country or language. For older works, the infobox doesn't work well, because of the (possibly) unknown date of first publication, the availability of the novel from multiple sources, and the existence of multiple reprints per company. --Kyoko 20:50, 28 April 2007 (UTC)
The general point of application, I would suppose, is something that the "opponents" of boxes like I have been saying for a while (sorry about that syntax): where a subject has reliable, common points of importance, a template or box can be useful. In the case of a plant, for example, one might well say that scientific name, taxonomy, and toxicity would be points of importance for all plants, and therefore a taxonomy or template with those fields would be (and is) useful. However, even when a subject is generally predictable (a plant), one has to select only the features that would be predictably important to all members. "Number of lobes of leaf" might seem really important to the people doing oak trees and ferns, but I doubt the pine tree people would agree.
So, in the case of novels, we have to ask if novels have any irreducible and entirely predictable points of interest. I would say that they simply do not. Even a field like "author" is not reliably important. (Look at the number of volumes written by "Anonymous.") If even something that elementary isn't an universal, what hope of "publisher" and "edition" and "best seller list weeks?" However, even if we were to say that there were universal features of importance for novels (heaven forbid something as vague as "books"), ISBN, publisher, and paper/plastic/hard cover distinctions are hopelessly naive attributes to pick. Putting an image of the current cover is even worse, as, in the cases of public domain and old texts, it amounts to preferential treatment for a single publisher (and therefore a baby step toward advertising). Geogre 00:44, 29 April 2007 (UTC)
If you would like, you can mention your concerns at the Novels WikiProject. I'm not sure which of their talk pages would be most appropriate. --Kyoko 18:58, 29 April 2007 (UTC)
For myself alone, I will say that I have never had a dispute with the people at the Novels project, as they have said from the beginning that boxes are optional and that an article with active editors who reject the box have right of way. The biography people are a bit more insistent. I write a lot of hagiographies. They seem easy and automatic, so I will write a saint's life a day, sometimes. The Saints project likes infoboxes. I don't think the boxes are terribly wonderful, but I never get in the way, there, as most saints almost are reduced to the level of a series of attributes already by religious practice, and there is usually so little known about the saints that being reductive isn't possible. In other words, there are times when even I won't object, but I do rankle at the idea of "all articles on X must," because "all" is a very bad word to use when dealing with human beings. Geogre 20:48, 29 April 2007 (UTC)
Is there possibly an original publisher from all those years ago that could be named in an infobox? I always thought infoboxes go with the first print, so it's possible the publisher of the first imprint may be tracked down. LuciferMorgan 21:42, 29 April 2007 (UTC)
I thiknk LuciferMorgan is correct, that the first publisher is favoured for the infobox. I don't personally care either way with the boxes for novels, meaning that their presence doesn't offend me, but I might not be motivated to put one myself. It's been interesting to see the dispute between members of the biography project and the classical music/opera projects about whether boxes should be used. Many articles on Wikipedia fall under the scope of multiple projects, each with their own ideas of what is proper. --Kyoko 00:08, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
Unbelievable ignorance, there, suggesting an "original publisher." Please, please, please, people, take some time to find out before you insist. Is it worth breaking the truth, the form, and meaning in order to satisfy one idiotbox's demands? Oh, people could ask when copyright was codified. They could ask when publishers developed from booksellers. They could, if very energetic, read our articles on these subjects. None of that, apparently, occurs. Instead, "Box want publisher. Box A#1 OK. Authors enemy. Authors die. Box must be happy." The only thing more amazing than the question is Lucifer Morgan's sudden interest in an article he's never seen before. I believe the term for that is "trolling." Geogre 02:17, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
Hmm, yes, you have a good point that in many cases, there would be no original publisher. Take for example The Tale of Genji, or the Iliad. Works that were first published in serial form also complicate the issue. I would however be more willing to assume good faith on LuciferMorgan's part. It is quite conceivable that he or she may have stumbled upon this article by looking at recent changes. For my part, I have it on my watchlist because of a general interest in Gothic fiction, and in particular, Ann Radcliffe. Like I said before, I don't personally care either way regarding novel infoboxes. --Kyoko 02:53, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
I have no reason, after a long history, to assume good faith with LM's contributions. My general complaint was a sort of Occam's razor of window dressing at Wikipedia. If a graphical element requires torturing all of creation to maintain, it's not worth having. At what point do we know that the fault lies not in our articles, but in the forms people are attempting to apply to them? I found the article, by the way, through 18th century interests and being tipped off that the Gothic novels were getting batted about. The Gothic novel is a thing I have never enjoyed, and Horace Walpole is interesting to me precisely because of how well he frustrates contemporary champions. He isn't anything enough for them (and often the people who are examplars are people they do not want to speak for). Geogre 10:29, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
Just as a point of interest (though I agree with Geogre's complaint about the ignorance encouraged by boxes), it's actually quite hard to find good coverage of the history of publishing in Wikipedia's articles. There's certainly nothing that would help (say, to clarify things for someone like LuciferMorgan) in our article on publishing; much less than you might think in history of the book; scattered mentions in articles like movable type don't really help; the best we can do seems to be a few paragraphs in the article on printing and a bit in bookselling (which is confusingly not linked from bookseller, poorly linked and hard to find by linking around from related articles). I went looking around when I read Geogre's remark, thinking how nice it was that Wikipedia's articles could now be pointed to as basic summary sources on the history of publishing, but I don't see that they're in good enough shape yet. Did I miss something? -- Rbellin|Talk 04:10, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
I vaguely remember something about the complicated publication history of Shakespeare's plays, but I don't know if that was pretty much the rule for all published works prior to more recent times. --Kyoko 04:29, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
I admit that I didn't look it up before I made the comment. Indeed, we absolutely do need an article. In the 1990's, there was a major cottage industry in writing about publication history and bookseller history. It's an interesting topic (really!), but I never went along for the ride. The essentials I was getting at, though, are that copyright did not exist as we know it now. For a living author, booksellers had a limited ownership of the works they bought, so long as the author lived. For dead authors, things are essentially by gentleman's agreement, where the booksellers bought previous manuscripts. When there was a dispute... there was no clear rule. The booksellers did not become the publishing houses, at least early on. The earliest publishers seem to have emerged from 19th century printer/booksellers. Oh, the privileged presses survived, but that's another matter. Geogre 10:29, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
Adding on to this discussion, I distinctly remember that in the past, if an author gained fame/notoriety, other people would seek profit by publishing works that were claimed to be by the same author. --Kyoko 12:08, 1 May 2007 (UTC)
Oh, absolutely. Cervantes had to write the second part of Don Quixote because of pirated "continuations." John Cleland was probably prosecuted for a pirated edition of Fanny Hill (one that inserted a graphic, celebratory description of male homosexuality). The champion, from our point of view, would have to be Edmund Curll, who pirated editions, claimed to have further works, etc., as well as published things from "J. Gay" to sap sales from "John" Gay (an enemy). This is after the emergence of superstar printers/booksellers. Before that, it was absolutely commonplace, and not even looked down upon, to claim to have a new work by a pseudonymn. Robert Gould wrote Love Given O'er anonymously, and any number of "answers" from "Sylvia" appeared, as well as answers to them by "Philemon, author of Love Given O'er." Imagine a situation like the contemporary Primary Colors, which was published anonymously: it would have been fair game for someone to write "Mixed Colors, by the author of Primary Colors," were we to operate under the old rules. Geogre 19:26, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

I have added the box back to this article. I did so before I saw this entire discussion - oops.

  • I would like to mention that although I have significant problems with boxes that require excessive information, I do not think that boxes are in and of themselves necessarily bad. And, Geogre, I believe that you are presenting a slightly skewed picture of 18c publishing. Yes, it is true that copyright did not exist as we know it (we can discuss Queen Anne's laws and Hogarth's reforms in detail, if you want), but authors did sell their manuscripts to publishers and those publishers did print a "first edition." Often that edition was quickly pirated by other printers, but that does not negate the fact that there were still many what we would call identifiable "first editions" in the 18c. That is what I believe should be put into the infobox. The extensive bibliographical research that scholars do detailing all of the various editions should obviously go elsewhere.
  • Also, I understand your reticence to privilege first edition title pages. For many works this does not make sense because it was the later editions that were more important (Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a case in point - it is the fifth edition that is definitive), but I do like the idea of having title pages that reflect the time that the books were published. It helps give the reader a "feel" for the book in a way that other kinds of illustrations do not.
  • I do also understand the complaint that boxes encourage ignorance. I have eliminated the "Hardcover and paperback" phrase from so many eighteenth-century book boxes that it is not funny. That distinction did not exist during the eighteenth century since many people bought their books as pages and had them bound separately. But I do not think that this is a reason to do away with the box altogher. It keeps the facts about the book together in a nice little package. My beef is when the boxes expand to include categories such as "subject" or "influences" or even "genre" which can quickly become very subjective. Awadewit Talk 08:08, 5 May 2007 (UTC)
    • To respond: booksellers purchased books, but the printers often did the "first edition," and when we do bibliographic research we are far more concerned with the printer than the man (or, if Anne Dodd, woman) who "owned" it. Thus, we have a bit of a controversy over A Tale of a Tub because Swift used John Nutt. As printers and booksellers became the same thing, and as the printers faded to become just the workers, we near a recognizable publisher. As a textual scholar, I care about the bookseller, but I really care once the "publisher" emerges as a person who edits. That's when the publisher is now absolutely vital. When publishers are so well established that they accept certain types of book (and yes, this was, in fact, happening with Lintott and Curll and Tonson, but not quite yet), then they become part of the critical commentary.
      • Oh yes, of course, there is that division between booksellers and printers and binders that is quite different from now - I don't want to obscure that. I agree with you that usually we are more interested in who printed the text than who owned it (as owning meant next to nothing in the 18c) and it was printing that got people in trouble (1794 Treason Trials). That is why the term "publisher" itself is problematic in the infobox, as you know. But I feel that it conveys the general idea well enough - printed and distributed the text. Perhaps "Released by" would be more accurate. Awadewit Talk 00:46, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
    • I had not in any way said that a picture of the title page isn't valuable. I add them in every place I can. On "my" Oroonoko and "my" Robert Gould and "my" A Tale of a Tub, I put in title pages, and, as you point out, I chose the significant edition. For Gould, it was the first edition of Love Given O'er, for Oroonoko the first edition was the last authorially sanctioned edition, for Tale of a Tub it was the first or fifth (1705, the addition of the "notes," last major edition overseen by the author). The box won't know these things. In such a case, all we have, in fact, is, "Hey, folks, if you can find an image of the title page of the first edition, please insert it." The box's desire for a cover picture encourages naive authors to lay their Norton Critical Edition on the scanner and go to town. We learn vast amounts from the title pages of first editions (including, if we're really clever and have a very high resolution scan, things like the printer), but we learn nothing from "book cover" except "in the 50's they preferred line art after Edward Gorey, and in the 70's they preferred geometric designs, and in the 90's they preferred salon paintings on the covers."
      • I'm sorry that I misinterpreted you. I would suggest that the little peach alert in the box not say "first edition preferred" but something like "insert carefully chosen book cover" - that would discourage people from adding covers willy-nilly. I have been on a mini-quest to remove those atrocious Penguin covers from 18c pages over the past few days and at least put up 18c title pages. That is how I arrived here. Awadewit Talk 00:46, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
    • I do not say that boxes cannot ever be used. I regard them as GIGO. I do object, and strenuously, to the idea that they are mandatory for anything. In those articles I mentioned above, I had the first edition title pages, but I had them where I believed they would suit the text best, where they would illustrate rather than (and this is my general complaint) compete with the article. A short article like this particular one is fine with a box, but I rankle at the high handed attempt to say that all must have a box, that it must be in a certain place, that it must be filled out. Sometimes, articles suit themselves well to a box, and sometimes they don't, and "always" is never "sometimes." That's what bothers me about the general topic.
      • I would also agree that they should not be mandatory. I cannot see a box working well for the Iliad, for example. Also, I agree that fields should not be mandatory. No field is always applicable (even in science!). Awadewit Talk 00:46, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
    • I have no problem wih the box as it exists now. Geogre 11:36, 5 May 2007 (UTC)


Uh, allow me to discreetly put the box controversy apart for a second. I think the Spoiler warning here is unnecessary: the plot summary does not reveal anything that is not in the first ten pages of the novel, so...

Which doesn't mean you've got to take the warning out. I would rather suggest that someone should expand the summary. Because i am reading the novel right now, i don't understand sh*t, i came here for some guidance notes and here i am, all disappointed.  :(

N.b. the resident 18th c. novel experts have not worked on this article, so far as I am aware, and I'm all for getting rid of the spoiler warning altogether in all regards. Speaking as one of the 18th c. people, all I can say is that I've always regarded the novel as a nothing and never allow my students to read more than the few pages excerpted in anthologies. I'd rather they read something with meat in it, like Caleb Williams or even stupid old Hermsprong or weepy old The Man of Feeling -- anything but Castle of Otranto. Geogre 02:24, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Plot summary[edit]

At over 4,000 words, the "plot summary" wasn't so much a summary as a blow-by-blow account of the plot. I've replaced it with a much briefer summary from an older revision summary. --Tony Sidaway 02:00, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Good idea. I watched as the article grew a full summary, but it was gradual, and I'm not very involved here. One might break down section by section of a work, but only if the sections are hard to understand and what you're doing is encyclopedic (contextualizing, amplifying). A novel article with "chapter 1, 2, 3, 4" is not so hot. Geogre (talk) 11:18, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

The long version was quite cumbersome, but this shorter summary is nothing more than superficial and should probably be expanded. I think it should obviously stay quite smaller than the old version, but it could help the class-rating if we improve the summary. Snatalya (talk) 04:42, 16 December 2009 (UTC)

Working bibliography[edit]

I'd like to start working this article up to FA status. This weekend, I will suggest a working bibliography here for sources of criticism. If anyone watching this article knows of good sources off the top of your heads, feel free to add them here. --Laser brain (talk) 22:58, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

Historical criticism[edit]

  • A Society of Gentleman (1765), The Critical Review; or, Annals of Literature 19, pp. 50–51 
  • Several Hands (1764) [1765], The Monthly Review; or, Literary Journal 32, pp. 97–99 
  • Several Hands (1764) [1765], The Monthly Review; or, Literary Journal 32, p. 394 

Modern critcism[edit]

  • Cameron, Ed (May 5, 2003), "Psychopathology and the Gothic Supernatural", Gothic Studies: 11–42 
  • Clemens, Valdine (1999), The Return of the Repressed: Gothic Horror from The Castle of Otranto to Alien, New York: State University of New York Press 
  • Geary, Robert (1984), "From Providence to Terror: The Supernatural in Gothic Fantasy", in Morse, Donald E., The Fantastic in World Literature and the Arts: Selected Essays from the Fifth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, New York: Greenwood Press 
  • Mehrotra, K.K. (1934), Horace Walpole and the English Novel, New York: Russell & Russell