The term “Gothic” was first used in conjunction with a Medieval style of ornate and intricate architecture that originated in France around the 12th century. It wasn’t until the Romantic era in the late 18th century that the word was applied to literature. The first mention of Gothic literature appeared in English writer Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, published in 1764. Walpole applied the word in the subtitle, “A Gothic Story.” The use was intended to be a sophisticated joke to suggest that the story was an antique relic even though it was mere fiction.
Walpole used the word “Gothic” in the sense of “barbarous” or “deriving from Middle Ages,” and many were even fooled into believing his story actually held truth. His tale of love, death, and supernatural elements paved the way for a fictional genre that has been explored by prominent authors from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, the Brontë sisters, and many more. Although the books from these prolific writers were published centuries ago, today they provide a strong connection to the past and an important resource for both contemporary fiction writers and avid literary collectors alike.