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When Walpole admitted to his authorship in the second edition, its originally favourable reception by literary reviewers changed into rejection.The reviewers' rejection reflected a larger cultural bias: the romance was usually held in contempt by the educated as a tawdry and debased kind of writing; the genre had gained some respectability only through the works of Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding.The basic plot created many other staple Gothic generic traits, including a threatening mystery and an ancestral curse, as well as countless trappings such as hidden passages and oft-fainting heroines.

Though Lewis's novel could be read as a pastiche of the emerging genre, self-parody had been a constituent part of the Gothic from the time of the genre's inception with Walpole's Otranto.

Among other elements, Ann Radcliffe introduced the brooding figure of the Gothic villain (A Sicilian Romance in 1790), a literary device that would come to be defined as the Byronic hero.

Radcliffe's novels, above all The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), were best-sellers.

The result is that she spurned specific aspects to Walpole's style such as his tendency to incorporate too much humor or comic elements in such a way that it diminishes the Gothic tale's ability to induce fear.

In 1777, Reeve enumerated Walpole's excesses in this respect: a sword so large as to require an hundred men to lift it; a helmet that by its own weight forces a passage through a court-yard into an arched vault, big enough for a man to go through; a picture that walks out of its frame; a skeleton ghost in a hermit's cowl...

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