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God & the GothicReligion, Romance, & Reality in the English Literary Tradition$
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Alison Milbank

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198824466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198824466.001.0001

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The Secret of Divine Providence

The Secret of Divine Providence

Whig Gothic and the Grotesque in Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve, and Matthew Lewis

(p.62) 3 The Secret of Divine Providence
God & the Gothic

Alison Milbank

Oxford University Press

The emphasis on political continuity in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution leads to a specifically Whig providentialism, examined in Chapter 3 through the work of Clara Reeve, Horace Walpole, and Matthew Lewis. In Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron, the country Whig version, stressing links with the medieval past, unites with Newtonian theology in which God’s finger is at work in every ‘natural occurrence’ to render the supernatural revelatory of this providential care. Divine justice and historical inexorability, romance, and realism are conjoined. By contrast, the sceptical Horace Walpole, representative of the Walpolian Whig narrative of political rupture, questions Providence in The Castle of Otranto and The Mysterious Mother, and substitutes himself as quasi-divine author, whose originality lies in the grotesque mixture of realist and supernatural elements. Matthew Lewis essays an eschewal of Providential mechanisms in The Monk but here grotesque features such as the bleeding nun disclose an aporia which reveals the limit of libertine desire and a negative supernatural.

Keywords:   Clara Reeve, Old English Baron, Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto, The Mysterious Mother, Matthew Lewis, The Monk, Providence, Grotesque, Whig

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