The Romance of the Forest (1791) heralded an enormous surge in the
popularity of Gothic novels, in a decade that included Ann
Radcliffe's later works, The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian.
Set in Roman Catholic Europe of violent passions and extreme
oppression, the novel follows the fate of its heroine Adeline, who
is mysteriously placed under the protection of a family fleeing
Paris for debt. They take refuge in a ruined abbey in south-eastern
France, where sinister relics of the past - a skeleton, a
manuscript, and a rusty dagger - are discovered in concealed rooms.
Adeline finds herself at the mercy of the abbey's proprietor, a
libidinous Marquis whose attentions finally force her to
contemplate escape to distant regions. Rich in allusions to
aesthetic theory and to travel literature, The Romance of the
Forest is also concerned with current philosophical debate and
examines systems of thought central to the intellectual life of
late eighteenth-century Europe.