Rewriting Radcliffe in the age of Victoria: Sarah Harriet Burney's The Romance of Private Life

Stephanie Russo*

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Sarah Harriet Burney's little-known 1839 novel The Romance of Private Life is a novel that, in many ways, seems to belong to the 1790s, rather than to the early years of Victoria's reign. Burney constantly draws attention to both her own work's deviance from the Gothic plot, and her reliance on this plot to structure the two stories that comprise the volume. While 'The Hermitage' is arguably the world's first murder mystery, 'The Renunciation' represents a process of thinking through the afterlife of the Gothic plot in a rapidly changing world, anticipating the works of the Brontës and Dickens. 'The Renunciation' represents a conscious reworking of what Italy had come to mean in the early Victorian period, reframing Italy as an artistic wonderland where women were given the means and opportunity to pursue artistic and other independent professional existences. I argue that Burney's story represents an ambitious, critically overlooked attempt to reframe the literature of the eighteenth century for a new age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-90
Number of pages18
JournalGothic Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • 1890s
  • Ann Radcliffe
  • Italy
  • Sarah Harriet Burney
  • travel writing
  • Victorian Gothic


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