Gothic Houses: Exterior

I think all creators of Gothic books and films have a love affair with houses.

In one of my favorite stories, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, it is Manderly.  For Jane Eyre it is Thornfield Hall. Anne Rice begins most of her Gothic novels with lavish descriptions of Greek Revival houses in New Orleans.  We know Anne loves houses! Mysterious houses cast their turreted shadows over characters from Fall of the House of Usher, by E.A. Poe, to Miss Haversham’s mansion in Dickins’s Great Expectations, to the Museum of the Addams Family, or the ruined manse in Diane Setterfield’s Thirteenth Tale. I struggle to think of one Gothic tale from Horror to Romance and everything in between that does not feature a stately home, or a haunted house, or  a haunted stately home, as the setting for drama and suspense.Unless its a castle, but that’s another post.

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In all stories, the protagonist leaves their ordinary life to either set out on an adventure, or has  an adventure visited upon them. In most Gothic stories, .it is going into a strange house. Every house, and by extension every family, especially Old Aristocratic families, are worlds unto themselves. The houses must be large with many unused rooms where mysteries dwell. There may be hidden staircases, rooms behind the fireplaces, widows walks, towers and balconies that extend the world of the house into the outside, into the garden, usually a walled garden, for these interior stories that address the soul.

This is why Gothic tales often indulge in descriptive passages designed to lure the reader into the book in the same way the heroine is lured into the house. The house may be derelict and darkly eerie, or bright and beautiful, like Manderly or Bly in Turn of the Screw by Henry James, but secrets lurk in the corners, or the attic, or in the woods.

The 1970s soap opera, Dark Shadows, drew on the classic Gothic tropes, including the house Collinwood on Widow’s Hill overlooking the sea. All of these houses are haunted either symbolically, psychologically or literally. All of them are overshadowed by death and harbingers of death.

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Many of my own stories were inspired by houses, many photographed by British photographer Simon Marsden. One of these was Crawford Priory falling to ruin in Scotland. But I’ll save that for  a post on ruins.

A Gallery of Gothic Houses

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I lived near this house when I lived in London Highgate.  I used to pass all the time. And yes, it is as evocative ad it looks in the photo.

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Used as a location for Thornfield Hall in a recent film of Jane Eyer.

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A Southern Gothic house than Anne Rice might appreciate.

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We enter the Otherworld of the house through the door. Therefore are doors Gothic.

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Mysterious Gothic Books or Books About Books

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I love the use of mysterious books in Gothic novels and films.  One of the greats is El Club Dumas by Arturo Perez Revere on which the film Ninth Gate was based.  The Book of the Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows was written by a Renaissance Mage, Aristide de Torchia, in collaboration with the devil. It is full of engraving as arcane as tarot cards, that present a cosmic riddle.  Whoever figures it out…goes to Hell. 

Be that as it may, its very intriguing, if not captivating, as any good glamour should be.

 

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Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is composed almost entirely of letters and diary entries.

Mina Harker:

24 September.–I hadn’t the heart to write last night, that terrible record of Jonathan’s upset me so. Poor dear! How he must have suffered, whether it be true or only imagination. I wonder if there is any truth in it at all. Did he get his brain fever, and then write all those terrible things, or had he some cause for it all? I suppose I shall never know, for I dare not open the subject to him. And yet that man we saw yesterday! He seemed quite certain of him, poor fellow! I suppose it was the funeral upset him and sent his mind back on some train of thought.

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26 September.–I thought never to write in this diary again, but the time has come..

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26 September.–Truly there is no such thing as finality. Not a week since I said “Finis,” and yet here I am starting fresh again, or rather going on with the record….

In a sense all first person narratives are journals. We easily imagine the hero or heroine writing by firelight, with a quill or fountain pen, the story of their life as the remember it. Taking the analogy further, every author os writing a diary of their imagination. We all begin with the blank page, and inscribe our vision upon it.

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My own novel The Lady in Yellow, has a couple of strange books. The Book of UnHoly Beasts, The Grande and Petite Alberts, and the journal of the governess who taught the de Grimston twins before Veronica took the post.

My Victorian Romance

Following in the footsteps of Mina Harker and her Victorian sisters of the pen, I thought it would be fun to create a book of blank pages sparked with the magical, sensual poetry of the day, so that readers could curl up on a rainy day with a cup of coffee, and  invent their own Romantic tales. I plan to do this myself when I’m either full of ideas. or need to shake some up. You might enjoy it too!

 

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Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind…

The works of mid-Victorian artists were soaked in Romance. The Pre-Raphaelite painters and poets, the lush productions of Shakespeare’s plays, the epic poems inspired by the Arthurian Legends, the perception of women as goddesses to be adored, all coalesced to create a rich, erotic culture of torrid love stories acted out in real life. The pages of this journal are sparked with lines of Romantic poetry popular at the time, interspersed with writing prompts to inspire you to explore your own Romantic Fantasies. Remember: This is your book of secrets…

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Can you think of any Gothic novels in which books are a central theme? There are quite a few, but I am curious about what you might want to share. If you would like to explore your own Victorian Romance, I have put together a journal that is designed to inspire you. Its comes in paperback, print on demand, through Amazon’s Create Space. Here is the first. I am also putting together a  Gothic one called Dark Dreams that should be available soon.

 

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Happy and Sad

 

 

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Happy!

Happy is that Morna—-final title for Song of the Sea and Twilight—-is heading for the finish line and getting nice and tight at the same time as more layers. I find the longer I take with a book, the richer it becomes because the layering ideas come to me in layers. lol! And I juggle multiple books at the same time. I’ve read the first pages at the open mic I go to when I can, and have received lots of compliments on it. I guess its not as “too out there” as I thought!

 Sad…

Sad is that one of my top 5 authors, Tanith Lee, died in May and I didn’t even know it.  Her writing, especially her short stories, were the greatest inspiration for me. She and the late Angela Carter, made me want to write. Breast cancer got her at age 67. I wonder if I can dial her up for advice now, when I’m stuck. Muses are immortal, are they not?

Here’s a critique of her work from The Guardian:

“Lee’s style is frequently remarked upon for its use of rich poetic prose and striking imagery. Critics describe her style as weird, lush, vibrant, exotic, erotic, rich, elegant, perverse, and darkly beautiful. The technique she uses is very descriptive and poetic which works well with the themes she uses in her mythical stories. She has been praised for her ability to balance her weird style with the challenges of writing a faraway world,  but some critics counter that her style is not always easy on the reader; she sometimes leaves the reader with unanswered questions that could have easily been answered if she had gone into greater detail.”

If you have read my stuff, you will see these influences…it’s the spirit of Tanith Lee.

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Here’s the link to her obituary at TOR Books: http://www.tor.com/2015/05/26/tanith-lee-in-remembrance/

I feel very lucky to have discovered her lush horror and science fiction writing while  I was living in London. Her brilliant story Red as Blood , based on Snow White, was in an anthology of Women’s Fantasy. I have since collected her short story collections, some novels and novellas that are now collectors items. At one time, I was so excited by her work that I bought all these yearly anthologies of fantasy fiction edited by Ellen Datlow and Teri Windling, just to get a story by Tanith Lee. The quality of her prose was a huge draw for me, so don’t let anyone tell you that style doesn’t matter.

Tanith Lee’s death was on May 25th, 2015. Her passing was no doubt eclipsed by that of the famous actor Christopher Lee on June 7th. Two Lee’s in two weeks! In Gemini for you.

RIP

I shall miss both of them.

If you would like a list of suggestions from Tanith Lee’s books, leave me a comment and I shall compile one for you.

 

Christopher Lee as most people know him:

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If you are into Astrology, it is fascinating how they both died during Gemini, ruled by Mercury–excellent for writers as it rules communication. Christopher Lee was a Gemini and Tanith Lee a Virgo, also ruled by Mercury. Both are associated with tales of horror. Christopher Lee was known for playing Dracula for Hammer House of Horror in the 1960s-70s, as well as other horror genre films such as Crypt of the Vampire and Wicker Man. He was also in Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp. Anyway, he had a long career and died at 93.

The Guardian has a nice overview of his work: http://www.theguardian.com/film/christopher-lee

 

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