The Castle of Wolfenbach

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The Castle of Wolfenbach
Author Eliza Parsons
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Gothic fiction
Publisher Minerva Press
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages c.200 pp

The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) is the most famous novel[1] written by the English Gothic novelist Eliza Parsons. First published in two volumes during 1793, it was one of the seven "horrid novels" recommended by the character Isabella Thorpe to Catherine Morland in Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey and was an important early work in the genre, predating both Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Monk Lewis's The Monk.

Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read The Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.

Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?

I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.

Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?

Northanger Abbey, ch. 6

Jane Austen names The Castle of Wolfenbach in her novel, Northanger Abbey to portray the Gothic novel as forming around a society of its own, giving evidence of readership and cross-class and cross-gender interest in the Gothic novel[2] The Castle of Wolfenbach contains the standard gothic tropes of the blameless young woman in peril, the centrality of a huge, gloomy, ancient building to the plot, the discovery of scandalous family secrets and a final confrontation between the forces of good and evil. Its resolutely anti-French Roman Catholic, pro-English Protestant sentiment is also a feature of the genre.


Major characters[edit]

Matilda Weimar: a supposed orphan, raised by her incestuous, murderous uncle in Germany. She's a damsel in distress, but also the novel's heroine; "bearing the conventional attributes of a Gothic hero: honesty, beauty, and courageousness.” She falls in love with the Count De Bouville, befriends the Countess of Wolfenbach and the Marchioness de Melfort, and strives to find her ancestral background throughout the novel.
Mr. Weimar: Matilda’s uncle, who has plans to rape and marry her. It is revealed that he loved Matilda’s mother and killed Matilda’s father (his own brother) in his drastic attempts to win the love of his sister-in-law. He is the villain of Matilda’s story line, but is eventually pardoned by her.
Victoria, Countess of Wolfenbach: The lady of the “haunted” Castle, wife of the Count. She has been held hostage in the castle for nineteen years by her vengeful husband the Count, as punishment for accepting letters from her true love, the Chevalier. She eventually escapes and finds comfort in the friendship of Matilda. (her pseudonym while in London is Madame LeRoche)
Count Wolfenbach: The evil owner of the Castle, and the villain of Victoria’s story line. His villainy abounds, from his imprisonment of his wife, his absconding of their son, his murder of countless characters, and his penchant for arson.
Count de Bouville: Matilda’s true love, French by birth. He promises to marry her, even though they are of two different social classes. His heroism is exhibited as he ventures across Europe in search of the missing Matilda.
Charlotte, Marchioness de Melfort: Victoria’s sister, aid and friend to Matilda in France.
Marquis de Melfort: Charlotte’s husband.
Mademoiselle de Fontelle: A French coquet who lusts after the Count de Bouville, and is the avowed enemy of Matilda.
Mrs. Maria Courtney: The protectress of Victoria in London, she is also amorous towards the Count de Bouville and grows to hate Matilda.
Lord Delby: Mrs. Courtney’s uncle, he later weds Victoria.
Mother Hermine Magdalene: Matilda’s favourite nun at the Annunciate Convent in England.

Minor Characters[edit]

Albert: Matilda’s loyal servant, who escapes to the Castle of Wolfenbach with her.
Margarite: Victoria’s elderly servant while imprisoned in the Castle, she is murdered by the Count of Wolfenbach.
Adelaide de Bouville (later de Clermont): the young Count’s sister.
Monsieur de Clermont: Adelaide’s fiancée, and later her husband.
Chevalier de Montreville: Victoria’s first true love, slain by the Count of Wolfenbach before Victoria’s imprisonment.
Count Berniti: Matilda’s murdered father, a Neapolitan.
Countess Berniti (nee Morlini): Matilda’s mother.
Joseph: the gardener and caretaker of the Castle of Wolfenbach. He knows that the Countess of Wolfenbach resides in the other tower of the castle and took an oath to never reveal the secret to anyone.
Bertha: Joseph’s wife and the other caretaker of the castle. Although she is married to Joseph and lives in the castle, she doesn’t know the Countess of Wolfenbach resides there.
Captain: of the Turkish ship that overtakes Matilda and Weimar's vessel. A virtuous pirate.


Volume 1[edit]

Matilda Weimar and her servant Albert arrive at a cottage inhabited by two peasants, Pierre and his wife Jaqueline. Matilda is ill for unknown reasons and there is no bed for her to rest in, so they go to the neighbouring haunted Castle of Wolfenbach. Bertha and Joseph, the castles’ caretakers, take in Matilda and Albert. That night, Matilda hears chains and groans and Matilda asks Joseph about the noises the next morning. He says he and his wife never hear them. Bertha then explains that Count Wolfenbach is the owner and he is a cruel man who locked up his wife and children and they died. They are the ghosts that one hears. Matilda ventures up into the tower where the noises came from and encounters a lady and her servant. Matilda tells them the story of her life: her parents died while she was an infant and she was brought up by her uncle. She had a good upbringing with her servants Agatha and Albert, but her uncle started to “caress” her and she overheard his plan to rape her, so Matilda and Albert fled. The lady then says that she has a sister, the Marquis de Melfort in France and that Joseph knows she resides up there. The lady offers Matilda to live with her sister in France.

The next day, Matilda goes to converse with the lady of the castle again, but she is gone and the room is in disorder. Joseph and she find the lady’s servant murdered on the bed. Matilda leaves to go to France and tell the lady’s sister about her kidnapping. Count Wolfenbach arrives after Matilda leaves and tells Joseph that he has sold the property and Bertha and he are moving to another property of his. That night, Joseph wakes up to a fire in his room and escapes, but Bertha does not. The castle is burnt to the ground and Bertha is dead.

In France, Matilda is staying with the Marquis de Melfort and we learn that the Lady of the Castle is the Countess of Wolfenbach. Matilda tells Charlotte, The Marquis, of her sister's kidnapping. Matilda receives a letter from Joseph telling her about the castle and Bertha’s ill fate. She shows the Marquis, and the Marquis decides to tell her about the Countess of Wolfenbach’s past. Victoria was in love with a man, Chevalier, but their father made her marry Count Wolfenbach because he was rich and powerful. The Count later sent the Marquis a letter saying that Victoria had died in childbirth along with their newly born child. A few weeks after that, the Marquis received a letter from Victoria saying she was alive. Matilda sees the Count de Bouville and falls in love with him right away and the love is reciprocated.

Matilda’s uncle shows up at the Hotel de Melfort to get Matilda to marry him, but the Marquis sends him away and Matilda falls desperately ill after hearing this news. Matilda agrees to see him under the circumstance that the Marquis is in the other room listening to their conversation. Matilda and her uncle, Mr. Weimar, meet and he explains that she misunderstood his intentions of raping her. He then says that he is not her uncle, but rather Agatha found her at the gate and they decided to keep her and he now wants to marry her. The Marquis receives a letter from Victoria saying she is safe with a lady named Mrs. Courtney in England. Mr. Weimar tells Matilda she has to marry him, but she refuses, saying she is joining a convent.

The Marquis and Matilda go to London where they meet up with the Countess of Wolfenbach and she tells them the story of her kidnapping. The Count and a servant burst into her apartment at the Castle of Wolfenbach accusing her of breaking her oath by talking to Matilda and Joseph when she is supposed to have no communication with anyone. They killed Margarite, her servant, so she wouldn’t tell any more secrets and they took Victoria to the woods to kill her. The Count’s horse threw him off and the servant went to aid him while Victoria escaped. Mrs. Courtney found her and went with her to London.

Next, the Countess tells the reader of her fatal marriage to the Count; she was exchanging letters with her true love, Chevalier, but the Count intercepted one of them and killed Chevalier right in front of the Countess and locked her in a closet with his bloody corpse. The Countess went into labour and delivered a son whom the Count took away from her and faked both of their deaths. Her punishment for communicating with the Chevalier was having her son taken away and she was to be locked up in the Castle and he made Joseph take an oath to never tell anyone, even Bertha, of her occupancy there.

Volume 2[edit]

The second volume of The Castle of Wolfenbach begins immediately after The Countess of Wolfenbach reveals the story of her past. Then the reader finds out that Mr. Weimar is in England and has spoken to the French Ambassador in an attempt to regain control of her. The reader also finds out that the Count de Bouville has travelled to England to join his friends after the wedding of his sister and the death of his mother. The Marquis consults first the French Ambassador and then the German Ambassador concerning Matilda’s situation. It is agreed that Matilda will remain under the protection for one year, during which time her parentage will be investigated. If no information about her ancestry is discovered, Mr. Weimar will regain custody of Matilda. The Count de Bouville, realising he loves Matilda, proposes to her.

“Your story, which the Marquis related, convinced me you had every virtue which should adorn your sex, joined with a courage and perseverance, through difficulties which might do honor even to our’s. Since I have been admitted a visitor in this house, I have been confirmed in the exalted opinion I entertained of your superiority to most women, and under this conviction I may justly fear you will condemn my presumption, in offering myself and fortune to your disposal.”[3]

Matilda rejects the Count de Bouville’s proposal, not because she doesn’t love him, but because she comes from an obscure background.

“Ah! Sir, (said she, involuntarily) hate you! Heaven is my witness, that did my birth and rank equal yours, it would be my glory to accept your hand; but as there exists not a possibility of that, I beseech you to spare me and yourself unnecessary pain; from this instant determine to avoid me, and I will esteem you as the most exalted of men.”[4]

Attending the ball at night in the Lord Chamberlain’s box, Matilda meets Mademoiselle De Fontelle once again. Unbeknownst to Matilda, Mademoiselle has spent her time in England spreading vicious rumours about Matilda’s past and causing harm to Matilda’s reputation in the eyes of society. Once Matilda learns of the rumours Mademoiselle de Fontelle has spread about her, she decides to retire into an Ursuline convent in Boulogne, France. At the convent, Matilda strikes up an intimate friendship with Mother Magdalene, a nun who has lived at the Ursuline convent for ten years.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Courtney has misconstrued the niceties and pleasantries of the Count de Bouville as overtures towards a more intimate relationship. In short, she becomes convinced that the Count wishes to marry her. For this reason, Mrs. Courtney writes a letter to Matilda informing her of the so-called romance between herself and the Count and intimates that they will soon be married. Matilda, now under the false impression that the Count’s affections were only cursory, congratulates Mrs. Courtney on the match. She incorrectly assumes that the marriage has already taken place and resigns herself to an austere life at the convent.

One day the Marquis receives a letter from London from the German Ambassador. The letter states that the Count of Wolfenbach is dying and wishes to make amends to his wife. The Countess of Wolfenbach travels to see her dying husband and hears his confession before his death.

After Matilda’s friends leave the area on matters of either business or pleasure, Mr. Weimar travels to the convent where she is staying and demands that she accompany him. The Mother Superior tells Matilda that she cannot legally protect Matilda. Mother Magdalene advises Matilda to write a few lines explaining her situation to both the Marquis and the Countess of Wolfenbach before leaving with Mr. Weimar, who, after a long journey, embarks with Matilda on a boat to Germany.

A few days into their voyage, the boat is attacked by Barbary Corsairs. Mr. Weimar, thinking he is undone, stabs Matilda before turning the knife on himself.

"I am undone, unfortunate girl; you have been my ruin and your own, but I will prevent both.”[5]

The pirates spare Matilda's life and, upon her request, nurse Mr. Weimar back to health. While on his sickbed, Mr. Weimar reveals that Matilda is actually the daughter of his older brother, the Count Berniti (who Mr. Weimar murdered) and the Countess Berniti, who is still living with her family in Italy. The pirate captain, unhappy with his profession, promises to deliver Matilda to her newly discovered mother.

Meanwhile, the Count de Bouville has learned of Matilda's abduction and follows her path through Europe before finally finding her in the company of her mother, the Marquis and Marchioness, Lord Delby, and the Countess of Wolfenbach.

The novel ends with Lord Delby's marriage to the Countess of Wolfenbach and Matilda's marriage to the Count de Bouville. Mr. Weimar enters a Carthusian monastery and plans to spend the rest of his life in penitence for his criminal and immoral actions.

Historical context[edit]

The French Revolution was a major event taking place while Eliza Parsons was writing the Castle of Wolfenbach and there are a lot of references to it throughout the book. The moment that “began” the French Revolution was the burning of the prison Bastille. The Bastille resembles a castle-like structure, and that relates to the burning of the Castle of Wolfenbach in Parson's novel. This correlation shows the influence of the French Revolution on Parson's writings because she's using scenes from the French Revolution, ideas/feelings from the Revolution, and politics of the Revolution to form her novel. The Revolution mounted the first effective challenge to monarchical absolutism on behalf of popular sovereignty. This creation of a republican government in France and the diffusion of republican ideals in other European countries influenced the evolution of European politics.[6] The French Revolution cried for Natural Rights and novelists had enthusiasm for liberty and the sovereignty of the people.[7] Like Matilda, the heroes of Gothic novels have been robbed of their birthrights, so they must go to war to get back those natural rights.[8] Matilda has to run away and confront her uncle to get back her natural right of knowing who her true parents are. The French Revolution not only impacted France, but Europe (including Britain) as a whole. “As a response to fears of a lost British identity, Gothic novels (like the Castle of Wolfenbach) reaffirm authentic cultural values culled from the past. They do this first by copying the ways of the past, rather than breaking sharply with it. Further, some Gothic novels do more than rehearse the past or figure it as a presence that haunts the present in an unwelcome manner; they may alternatively (or simultaneously) figure the past as a lost Golden Age that can be recovered”.[8] The Castle of Wolfenbach, like many Gothic novels, takes place in the past and in a distant land, yet the novel deals with contemporary issues, such as loss of identity, marriage, and choices.[8] The rise of supernatural fictions correlates to that of the rise of contemporary consumerism. The reading public was expanded; there were new methods for distributing and marketing books. The Gothic novel correlates to the French Revolution because of the outbreak of Terror and the explosion of demand for terror fiction is very obvious.[9]

Theme of Hiding and Secrecy[edit]

In The Castle of Wolfenbach, the theme of hiding (and remaining hidden) and secrecy is found throughout the story. In fact, a British Critic reviewer makes reference to the theme of secrecy and hiding by discussing how the plot of the story is written in such a way as to “vanish into thin air” ([10]). In addition to being a reference to the way the plot of the story is constructed, the theme of hiding and secrecy is seen in Parsons’ novel by characters physically hiding and evading detection or by keeping their past and history a secret from others. In fact, the book contains several characters who are trying to hide or find their past.

The novel begins with Matilda and her servant Albert coming to the home of Jacqueline and Pierre as she seeks refuge from her Uncle, Mr. Weimar. Matilda arrives as someone who is totally dependent on Jacqueline and Pierre and has no friends, family, or history ([11]). This makes it easier for her to hide from her Uncle as there is nothing through which she can be readily identified. An ill Matilda asks to stay with Jacqueline and Pierre, however they have no place for her and she and Albert go to the Castle of Wolfenbach, a place rumoured to be haunted. As Matilda seeks refuge in the castle, the book provides the first example of the theme of hiding and secrecy. Matilda enters the castle to find refuge from her Uncle, but has no idea that the castle has secrets of its own. The castle is rumoured to be haunted, but the so-called “haunting” of the castle is actually a product of the caretaker, Joseph. Joseph has been instructed by the Count of Wolfenbach to keep his (the Count’s) wife, Victoria (the Countess), locked in the castle and to keep her status as an occupant of the castle a secret. Joseph must even keep this secret from his wife Bertha, the second caretaker of the castle. The Count of Wolfenbach had previously faked the death of Victoria and their son. The Count has kept Victoria from being seen so as not to arouse suspicion. Not only is Joseph given the task of keeping Victoria hidden from others, but he is also assigned with making the castle seem haunted. He does this by rattling chains and making other “haunting” and “scary” noises to keep others away from the castle and in the process further reduces the chance of Victoria being found. Joseph has a vested interest in keeping the Countess’ whereabouts a secret as he would be murdered if he ever “betrayed her place of residence, or life, to any one” (,[12] p151).

The employment of seemingly supernatural events or an “invisible hand” to keep the truth from being discovered is not a new strategy being employed by Parsons, but is consistent with other gothic novels of the time such as The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho ([13]). The concept of the invisible hand is evident when Matilda discovers lines written in the window which detail the grief and torment of Victoria, who at the time Matilda reads it, is unknown to her. The anonymity of the writer of the lines etched into the window provides another example of how identities in this novel are kept secret. As the reader of the lines, Matilda is able to learn only what the writer wants her to know while the other aspects of the author’s life are kept secret and hidden ([14]).

A very prominent storyline in Parson’s novel is what the Count did with Victoria and their child after faking both of their deaths and keeping her locked in his castle. This secret is revealed in the latter parts of the novel as the Count explains that Victoria’s son is not only alive but is an “officer now in the Emperor’s service” (,[12] p151). After revealing this to Victoria, the Count goes onto to tell the story of what transpired since he faked Victoria’s death and his son’s death and then left. The Count admits that he was unable to live peacefully as what he did weighed heavily on his mind. He also confesses how fearful he was that what he did would one day be discovered, going so far as to admit that “life became a burthen (burden) to me” (,[12] p151). Furthermore, the Count details how he searched the Countess’ apartment, found evidence of Matilda being there and soon after drugged Joseph with opium, locked all the windows and doors, and then set fire to the castle. The Count goes on to discuss how he left the castle and waited for the news of it being burned down. He then feigned distress and sadness about the loss of Joseph and his wife and was consoled by others for his loss with no one suspecting that he was the one who actually started the fire. In addition, the Count discusses his plans to murder both Victoria and her servant, Margarite, so that there would be no remaining people who could reveal his secret. He was able to kill Margarite and as he took Victoria to the woods to kill her, he was thrown from his horse and Victoria was able to escape as the Count and his servant were distracted.

Another example of secrecy in this novel is the true identity of Mr. Weimar. He raised Matilda as her Uncle for her entire life, but Matilda flees his care after he began making advances, attempting to seduce, and even rape her. Upon finding her, Mr. Weimar reveals to Matilda that he was never really her Uncle, but that he became her caretaker after he found her abandoned on his property ([15]). Mr. Weimar does his best to convince Matilda of this lie which would give him license to attempt to convince her to marry him, but Matilda avoids this by going to a convent. Later in the novel, as Mr. Weimar is close to death, he again changes his story and tells Matilda what he says is the truth about her past and his involvement in it, especially in his role in the death of her father and how he came to be her primary caretaker. In doing so, he also reveals Matilda’s previously unknown history by telling her who her real parents are. Matilda learns that her father was Count Berniti (Mr. Weimar’s brother) and how Mr. Weimar hated him because he married the woman who Mr. Weimar lusted after. She also learns that Mr. Weimar killed her father by ambushing him in the woods and stabbing him repeatedly until he died. Mr. Weimar then made it look as though Count Berniti had been a victim of robbers by taking Count Berniti’s valuables from his pockets and leaving the body. He continues by describing how there was a search for the murderer of Count Berniti and how he was able to thoroughly convince the Count’s sister of his sorrow so that he was not a suspect in the murder. In addition, he describes how he went to Agatha’s room and found her child had died and then asked her to substitute the dead child with the Countess’ living child. After this sequence of events, Mr. Weimar states that he was unable to stay in the same location and moved away, buying property under the name Weimar and in the process creating his new identity.

Literary Themes[edit]

Fainting and Weeping[edit]

As the novel as a legitimate literary form emerged throughout the 18th century, sensationalist and theatrical elements of fiction were being explored as grossly popular characteristics of the gothic. A common trope of the gothic novel was an excess of sentimentality, and Parsons’ The Castle of Wolfenbach is no exception. This excessive sentimentality presented itself in the inabilities of its heroines to take control of their worldly bodies in the face of supernatural terror, villainous deeds, or romantic gestures. Heroines swooned, wept, and “acted as if enraptured, delirious, or frenzied,” [16] whenever confronted with something out of the ordinary.

In The Castle of Wolfenbach, both the heroine Matilda Weimar and the secondary heroine, Victoria Wolfenbach, are subject to constant fits of fainting. Sometimes they are saved from actually passing out by material objects in their path of descent; these material objects could be a chair, "She sunk fainting into a chair,”[17] smelling salts, “she turned sick and faint, was obliged to have recourse to her salts,"[18] or most deliciously, the arms of a lover, “down she dropped, and had not the Count been attentive to her motions, and caught her in his arms, she must have fallen to the ground."[19] More often than not, however, the heroines have no dashing men, furniture, or chemicals to protect their fall, and must finish their frenzied descent into sentimentality on the cold, merciless ground, as in “[I] fell senseless”;[20] “in a few minutes afterwards I fell senseless from my seat."[21]

While fainting in The Castle of Wolfenbach is excessive, lachrymosity is even more so. Victoria and Matilda cry four times as often as they faint, and their tears are as varied in cause as they are copious in amount. They cry to deplore their fates, “What can I – what ought I to do? Cried she, shedding a torrent of tears,";[22] to exit a room heroically, “She quitted the apartment with a flood of tears";[23] to express relief, “A friendly burst of tears relieved her beating heart”;[24] to express gratitude, “Matilda’s grateful heart overflowed; speech indeed was not lent her, but her tears, her expressive looks forcibly conveyed the language she could not utter”;[25] and as an emotional outlet, “I must have vent for my feelings, or I shall be opprest to death. She burst into tears”.[26] Crying also accompanies the mourning of dead children, the reunion of lost family members, and the hearing and telling of personal tragedies. Wherever she can, Parsons has her characters weeping. In fact, Matilda and Victoria spend most of their time throughout the novel alternately weeping and fainting, as though it were their favourite pastime.[27]

As William Beckford satirises the nonsense of the gothic romance in Azemia, and Jane Austen the dangers of subscribing to a gothic lifestyle in Northanger Abbey, the fits of fainting and lachrymosity so common to the works of Parsons and her contemporaries are parodied in countless responses, from 1807's anonymous Men and Women, to Eaton Stannard Barrett's The Heroine.[28] Barrett's heroine is named Cherry, and for her, the model of a heroine in the gothic sense is one who, "blushes to the tips of her fingers, and when mere misses would laugh, she faints. Besides, she has tears, sighs, and half sighs, always ready.” The conception of the gothic heroine as a woman who alternately fainted and wept was strongly rooted in literary and popular culture.

This parodying of the heroine is not baseless. As scholar Angela Wright has commented, "The character of a Gothic heroine is seemingly a tabula rasa which exists to be over-written by emotions and overwhelming memories.”[29] It is as if the gothic heroine were a blank slate, and all that is needed to fill in that character is emotion and tragic circumstances. This is a recipe that Parsons utilises unabashedly for Victoria and Matilda. It is this poor characterisation, based solely on emotionalism, that causes many to criticise the gothic novelist as inferior, and gives way to easy parody.[30]

The Castle of Wolfenbach walks a fine line between realistic and theatrical. As scholar Robert Kiely has pointed out, the gothic literally abounds in theatricality, and "the works [of romantic novelists] often seem about to turn into plays or poems”.[31] It's almost impossible not to parody such unrealistic and sentimental plots. In terms of fainting and weeping, the most theatrically ridiculous action occurs when Matilda Weimar saves herself from fainting by a "copious flood of tears”.[32] Aside from that, the plot of Wolfenbach seems as though it could be easily adapted to a Shakespearean format; the story contains heroines on a quest, starcrossed lovers, property scheming villains, bumbling servants, and “ghosts” on top of all that. It might be Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, and All’s Well That Ends Well all rolled into one; that is, if it were in the least bit realistically theatrical, rather than being irredeemably ridiculous in its theatricality.

Finding an Identity[edit]

Another theme of The Castle of Wolfenbach, and often of gothic novels as a genre, is that of secret parentage, unknown identity, and questing to find oneself. As Diane Long Hoeveler points out in her Introduction to the Valancourt Edition of the novel, “[Matilda’s] challenge in the novel is to discover the secret of her birth, find her parents, and inherit her rightful property.”[33] Robert Miles, in his genealogy of Gothic Writing, claims that in these novels, "the usurped and disposed find their rights restored; the lost are found, and a true genealogy reasserts itself.”[34] In fact, these things do happen for Matilda; she discovers her parentage, finds her mother, and inherits her noble class title. The gothic and romantic genres are obsessed with perfect, unsullied aristocratic lineages, and it is Matilda's unwritten and unknown history that keeps her so long apart from her true love, the Count de Bouville; she cannot admit that she loves the Count until she discovers her ancestry. As she discovers, "she was of noble birth; no unlawful offspring, no child of poverty: then she thought of the Count”.[35]

As is often the case with heroines, most of their friends are convinced of their goodness and beauty even before their noble lineage comes to light. Matilda’s true identity is hinted at multiple times throughout the novel:

Marquis de Melfort: If there is a mystery in her birth, time may yet bring it to light (71).

Marquis de Melfort: I have no doubt but one time or other a discovery will take place to her advantage (78).
Matilda: Yes, I have a pre-sentiment that I am no base-born unworthy offspring (83).
Marquis de Melfort: For my own part I have little doubt but her birth is noble; her person, her figure, the extraordinary natural selection she possesses confirms my opinion that so many graces seldom belong to a mean birth or dishonest connexions (72).
Marchioness de Melfort: You sprung not from humble or dishonest parents, – the virtues you possess are hereditary ones, doubt it not, my dear Matilda; if nobleness of birth can add any lustre to qualities like your’s, you will one day possess that advantage (124).

Mother Magdalene: ‘tis possible you have parents still living, who may one day fold you to their bosoms […] you have no right to dispose of your future destiny, whilst there is the least probable chance you may be reclaimed (148).



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  2. ^ Wein, Toni. British Identities, Heroic Nationalisms, and the Gothic Novel New York, 2002
  3. ^ Parsons, Eliza. The Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City: Valancourt Books, 2007. Pg 118
  4. ^ Wolfenbach, 119–120
  5. ^ Wolfenbach, 162
  6. ^ Merriman, John. "A History of Modern Europe." W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2004
  7. ^ Gregory, Allene. The French Revolution and the English Novel.Kennikat Press: Port Washington, NY, 1915.
  8. ^ a b c Wein, Toni. British Identities, Heroic Nationalisms, and the Gothic Novel. Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2002
  9. ^ Clery, E.J. The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1762–1800 Cambridge University Press: New York, 1995
  10. ^ “Art. 21. Castle of Wolfenbach, a German Story, In Two volumes.” British Critic, 3 (1794:Feb) p199-200
  11. ^ Copeland, Edward. 1995. Women Writing about Money: Women’s Fiction in England 1790–1820. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press
  12. ^ a b c Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books.
  13. ^ Andriopoulos, Stefan. (1999). The Invisible Hand: Supernatural Agency in Political Economy and the Gothic Novel. ELH, Vol. 66(No. 3), 739–758
  14. ^ Beer, Gillian. (1982). ‘Our unnatural No-voice’: The Heroic Epistle, Pope and Women’s Gothic. The Yearbook of English Studies, Vol. 12, 125–151
  15. ^ “The Castle of Wolfenbach; a German Story.” Critical Review, or, Annals of literature, 10 (1794:Jan) p.49-52
  16. ^ James R. Foster, D’Arnaud, Clara Reeve, and The Lees [in History of the Pre-Romantic Novel in England (New York, 1949)], 190–191
  17. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 27
  18. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 122
  19. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 60
  20. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 97
  21. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 49
  22. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 28
  23. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 32
  24. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 69
  25. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 79
  26. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 166
  27. ^ "Jane Austen Centre Website". Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  28. ^ Winfield H. Rogers, "The Reaction against Melodramatic Sentimentality in the English Novel, 1796–1830,” [in PMLA 49 (1934)],103–106
  29. ^ Angela Wright, "To Live the Life of Hopeless Recollection: Mourning and Melancholia in Female Gothic, 1780–1800,” [in Gothic Studies Journal 6 (2004)], 22
  30. ^ James R. Foster, D’Arnaud, Clara Reeve, and The Lees [in History of the Pre-Romantic Novel in England (New York, 1949)]
  31. ^ Robert Kiely, Introduction [in The Romantic Novel in England (Cambridge, 1972)], 11
  32. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 14
  33. ^ Diane Long Hoeveler, Introduction, [in The Castle of Wolfenbach (Kansas City, 2007)], xi
  34. ^ Robert Miles, Narratives of Descent, [in Gothic Writing 1750–1820: A Genealogy (New York, 2002)], 100
  35. ^ Parsons, Eliza. 1793. Castle of Wolfenbach. Kansas City, MO: Valancourt Books, 171