In 1790, and still in her twenties, Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823) published her second novel anonymously. Radcliffe had been born into a wealthy trading family; at the age of twenty-two she married an editor who encouraged her to pursue her literary interests. Unlike her contemporaries, Charlotte Smith and Mary Wollstonecraft, Radcliffe did not have to write throughout her adult life to earn her living. Her novels fulfilled John Keats’s criterion for artistic success in that she ‘created the taste by which [she] was appreciated’, but being an avid reader herself, she also reflected the changing interests of the late eighteenth-century readership. Her blend of elements from earlier romances and from Shakespearean drama enabled the depiction of a new and intoxicating exploration of irrationality.
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