There are so many ways to cut the list (and such a big list it is too). I’ve selected those that stand out to me and ordered them roughly by age (for which none of the ladies on this list would thank me, I’m sure). Starting with the beginnings of gothic and horror literature, I would like to bring your gaze to rest upon:
Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) - Produced the definitive gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), in the middle of her writing career, also noted for inspiring Jane Austen. Another of gothic note, with themes of concealment and disguise, is The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Penitents (1797).
Charlotte Dacre aka Rosa Matilda (1771-1841) - Name-checked in a poem by Lord Byron and influencing Percy Shelley, this female author pulled no punches with her female characters, who could be as aggressive and violent as their male counterparts. Of her works, the standout from a gothic perspective is Zofloya; Or, The Moor (1806).
Jane Austen (1775-1817) - I’m sure you’ve all heard of her. Jane wrote Sense and Sensibilty (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815) and Persuasion (1818). However, it is to Northanger Abbey (1818) that I wish to draw your gothic attention - the first to be written and last to be published, this is the book in which characters are spooked by reading Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho!
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) - Who doesn’t know of Mary? Writer of all time literary classic Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). Mary also wrote lots of historic, romantic & poetic works, but didn’t miss out on a bit of sci-fi - The Last Man (1826) is set at the end of the 21st century!
Let me know what you think if you’ve read their works. Let me know if there are other female authors born in the 18th century that should be noted. Tune in next week as we move into the 19th century.