Hugely popular Gothic novelist of the 1790s (and beyond), Radcliffe crafted a brand of explained supernaturalism (which owed not a little to the early novels of Charlotte Smith) that struck a chord with British readers during the anxious 1790s. Her blend of moralism, aesthetics, and drama became definitive for what was often taken as a more genteel strain of Gothic fiction during the Romantic period, although that characterization of her work has come in for critical scrutiny in recent years, owing in no small measure to the groundbreaking biographical work of Rictor Norton (see below). Hers is one of the most famous early names of the Gothic tradition; The Mysteries of Udolpho is an essential Gothic text, though many readers prefer The Italian and the oft-overlooked The Romance of the Forest. Radcliffe suddenly quit writing despite ongoing fame and significant financial reward; her later reclusiveness, which may well be attributed to a nervous breakdown, and her acute lifelong sense of propriety, decorum, and reserve have left us with no known portraits or likenesses.
For more Romantic-era discussion of supernaturalist literary theory and practice, check out Anna Barbauld's "On the Pleasure Derived from Objects of Terror, with Sir Bertrand, A Fragment," John Wilson's "Some Remarks on the Use of the Preternatural in Works of Fiction," and Sir Walter Scott's "On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition."
While not in and of themselves "gothic," Radcliffe's poems originally appeared in her (explained supernatural) Gothic novels. The poems are here presented in their original context. [Michael Gamer, U Penn]
It's too pricey for most of us, but ask your library to buy Deborah Rogers' Ann Radcliffe: A Bio-Bibliography, a supremely helpful guide for anyone doing research on the Queen of Gothic Fiction.
Anne Radcliffe has received a lot of scholarly attention lately, much of it quite valuable. For an outstanding recent biographical study, one unlikely to be surpassed any time soon, consult Rictor Norton's Mistress of Udolpho: The Life of Ann Radcliffe:
by Diane Long Hoeveler (Penn State UP, 1998). Reviewer: Deborah Kennedy [Romantic Circles]
The same title is reviewed in Romanticism on the Net. Reviewer: Lauren Fitzgerald
This book devotes two chapters to Radcliffe: one to her early, one to her later Gothics.