Sunday, December 9, 2012


Poor Laura! She is kidnapped by the rapacious Lord Oakendale and taken to the titular abbey to be softened up, presumably for a future rape and/or seduction. And then...marriage? But Laura is a plucky sort, and explores Oakendale Abbey to track down the source of the mysterious goings-on that cause it to have such an evil reputation locally.

Written in 1797, The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey is a bit gruesome for its time. There's nothing supernatural going on here; part of the abbey is actually being used by a group of resurrectionists and body snatchers. Rather than having ghosts and curses, it's all about death and decay, and some of the descriptions are pretty ferocious given the more genteel times of which this was a product.

As far as I can tell, the identity of "Mrs. Carver" is open for debate. She may never have existed, and the real author may have been Sir Anthony Carlisle, a noted surgeon, making the "Carver" name a rather macabre pun. And given the body-snatching going on in the story, that theory has some plausibility.

How does it read? Well, it's still pretty readable by modern standards, but oddly it doesn't have any chapter divisions, so you have to KEEP READING until you find a decent place to stop. I also had trouble keeping track of the various characters, but that could be because my reading of it has been so fragmented, thanks to having less time to read because of my new commute. (Hopefully that will change in a few months...) The Zittaw edition has some oddly inane footnotes, either explaining the meanings of basic words like "enervated" or pointing out things that are already obvious to a halfway intelligent reader. 

Is it worth reading? For Gothic diehards, sure. And for those intrigued by the history of resurrection men. But this might be a slog for the general reader, so be warned.

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