The Business of Morality: Francis Lathom

  • Franz J. Potter


Today Francis Lathom is remembered as a hack novelist of a horrid novel.1 A novel so horrid, in fact, that Isabella Thorpe recommended it as essential Gothic reading to Catherine Morland in the Pump Room at Bath in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1818). But from the late nineteenth century on, as Gothic fiction faded from the minds of readers, the titles (as well as the authors) soon were forgotten. It was only in the early twentieth century, when Michael Sadleir attempted to locate the missing Northanger Gothic novels, that it became clear that Austen had intended the titles to be recognisable and indicative of popular taste, and not just a parody of the Gothic. The inclusion of Lathom’s The Midnight Bell (1798) in the Northanger set, along with Eleanor Sleath’s The Orphan of the Rhine (1798), Regina Roche’s Clermont (1798), Eliza Parsons’ The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) and The Mysterious Warning (1796) and Karl Kahlert’s The Necromancer; or, The Tale of the Black Forest (1794) in many ways summarises the career of the ‘forgotten’ Goth. Francis Lathom was, without doubt, one of the most popular trade novelists of the early nineteenth century, only to be almost completely forgotten today.


Early Nineteenth Century Historical Matter Historical Discourse Historical Romance Henry VIII 
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  1. 6.
    Lathom, Francis, The Midnight Bell (1798) (London: Folio Press, 1968), p. vii. Further references to his novel are given after quotations in the text.Google Scholar
  2. 15.
    Lathom, Francis, The Fatal Vow; or, St Michael’s Monastery; A Romance (London: Crosby, 1807), p. iv. Further references to this novel are given after quotation in the text.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    Lathom, Francis, Mystic Events; or, The Vision of the Tapestry, A Romantic Legend of the Days of Anne Boleyn (London: Minerva Press for A.K. Newman, 1830), vol. 1: p. 1. Further references to this novel are given after quotations in the text.Google Scholar

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© Franz J. Potter 2005

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  • Franz J. Potter

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