According to the period’s dominant imaginary conspiracy was ‘totalizing’; it explained everything. Against this was the urgent task of imaging a form of agency that could effectively countermand the spirit of tyranny. Why was the Gothic necessary for Shelley? Part of our answer lies in the fact that Gothic precedents addressed both these crucial points. At the heart of the post-Walpolian Gothic’s ‘symbolic constitution’ lies the ‘dead hand of the past’, a metaphor for the way the past not only reaches into the present, but holds it in its palsied grip. The Gothic is a means of imagining vicious circles of transgression and violence repeating themselves down through the generations. As we shall see, the inherited vicious circle is precisely the crux that motivates The Cenci. But by the time Shelley started his Gothic experiments crucial modifications had been made to its symbolic constitution that made it even more eligible for his purposes. These changes were instigated by Friedrich Schiller, in Der Geisterseher (1789; translated as the Ghost-seer, 1795) and William Godwin in Caleb Williams (1794).
Schiller’s primary contribution to the Gothic was to provide a narrative form for representing the threat of conspiracy, whether revolutionary or Counter-Reformational.
It was Godwin who urgently raised the question of historical agency. When he refers to the “Gothic and unintelligible burden of past institutions” he is just one of many radicals responding to Burke’s defense of the Gothic constitution and chivalry, the legal and social customs he celebrates as the ties that bind the English present.
All these constituents of the Gothic’s symbolic constitution (as it stood in the late 1810s) come together in The Cenci:
As a work of abstracted Gothic, The Cenci explores the problematic nature of modern systems of power by drawing upon the symbolic constitution of the Gothic as it stood post-Schiller and post-Godwin. In the preface to The Cenci Shelley references the key elements of the Gothic’s symbolic constitution that will concern him: the dead hand of the past; the baleful influence of Gothic institutions that live on in the present; the tendency of this influence to leave us living in vicious circles of abuse; a moral antinomy that prods the reader into analytical action as a way of rising above such circles; the self-defeating nature of conspiracy; a belief in the totalizing power of tyranny; the strenuous difficulty of regaining historical agency; the delusive glamour of the sublime; and, finally, and certainly not least, critique of Burke. After noting these key Gothic elements, Shelley’s thought takes a surprising turn. Rather than freeing us ‘self-anatomy’ is shown to lead to more Gothic entrapment. The Cenci suggests that the way to lighten the “Gothic and unintelligible burden of past institutions” is through the austere prescriptions of the categorical imperative.
In effect Shelley is telling us that he has moved on from his juvenile, jejune understanding of conspiracy (the sublimity of the secret societies) to a more abstraction proposition in which counterproductive conspiracy (any literal endeavour) is compared unfavourably with a conspiracy to make the reader think.
The Cenci: Gothic Shelley
University of Victoria
1. The Cenci is one the few undisputed masterpieces of British Gothic/Romantic drama. The awkward “Gothic/Romantic” is unavoidable. One might call The Cenci Gothic, but the locution begs the qualification provided by Tilottoma Rajan: “Thus in Shelley’s major poems the Romantic is never free of the constraint of the Gothic. . . . But equally. . . the Gothic is never free of the Romantic, which is to say that Shelley allows us to grasp a transformative potential in the violence and perversity of the Gothic that is less evident in more popular uses of the genre” (para 4). As a belated work of meta-Gothic The Cenci is at an abstracted distance from a popular form that was, by 1819, already undergoing its first revival after a twenty-year slump. As Jerrold Hogle argues in Shelley’s Process, The Cenci is a complex meditation on a spirit of tyranny Shelley experienced as all-pervasive (95). Until about twenty years ago the honorific for this spirit of aesthetic adventure was “Romantic,” whereas “Gothic” served as the abject shadow-term for non-penetrative pulp fiction. But as Rajan further observes, matters are now much different:
2. However, the matter is not a simple one of substituted terms, so that we use “Gothic” where we used to use “Romantic,” or “Romantick” where we formerly employed “Gothic.” Still less is it one of accepting the terms as synonyms describing phenomena (such as the simultaneous architectural and poetic revivals) unaccountably separated at birth. Rather it is to follow Jerome McGann in acknowledging the necessity of articulating the twin impulses of the period, one towards a Romantic idealization that obscures history’s ruined forms and a countervailing Gothic revelation of their gloomy persistence.  This is the point I understand Rajan to be making: that we cannot grasp the aesthetic energies of the period without acknowledging a ceaseless dialectical play within them. Gothic and Romantic are indispensable and interchangeable terms for delineating a whole that is larger than either.
3. But to understand how this works we also have to answer Hogle’s vital question: “what is really most fundamentally Gothic—and what is most fundamentally symbolized because of that Gothicism—in what continues from” Shelley’s Gothic juvenilia “all the way to the unfinished Triumph of Life?” (para 1), including, obviously, The Cenci. If literary Gothic is a kind of narrative language, what does it enable Shelley to say that cannot be said in any other fashion? Why was the Gothic necessary? And why so central? If we are to understand The Cenci as a Gothic/Romantic work, where Gothic and Romantic voices are both in play, we need to understand precisely what was Gothic about it, in the sense Hogle means when he asks the question of Shelley’s sui generis syntheses (their characteristic “overdetermination of social and psychic texts,” as Rajan puts it): “are these semi-transgressions almost entirely Shelley’s, given how emptied-out the Gothic seemed by 1810-11, or are they really creative extensions of what the post-Walpolean Gothic most basically does in the conflicting tendencies endemic to its symbolic constitution?” (para 2).
4. I agree with Hogle that the answer to his question is irrefutably the latter. Despite the popularity of the Gothic in recent years criticism of The Cenci has been strangely resistant to the Gothic strain that runs through the play. Outside the contributors to this volume, examples of sustained discussion of Shelley’s Gothicism are hard to come by.  This is a very strange omission, not least because, as my fellow contributors all stress, Shelley begins, and ends, as a Gothic writer, starting with the ultra-Gothic works Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne. My take on his early Gothicism comes from Shelley’s friend and intellectual collaborator, Thomas Love Peacock:
5. The conjunction is not an accidental one. During the late 1790’s, when the English print media was saturated with startling tales of a world-wide conspiracy of freemasons hell-bent on fomenting revolution—a conspiracy master-minded by the Ingoldstat philosopher, free-thinker, and libertine, Adam Weishaupt, ably supported by that betrayer of little platoons, Baron Knigge  —a plot so heinous and dangerous the House of Commons conducted a special inquiry into the workings of secret societies, vindicating Barruel and Robison in the process  —in this unprecedented plot against the peace of Western nations, Kant and Weishaupt were presented as twin horns on the same revolutionary beast.
6. For the generation coming to maturity in the aftermath of the French Revolution, few developments possessed the irresistible glamour of the secret societies allegedly plotting European-wide revolution. De Quincey’s retrospective essay on secret societies eloquently expresses the attraction:
7. De Quincey’s essay probes the reasons why, as a young man, he so deeply wanted to believe in masonic conspiracy, which, as an adult, he now realizes was an “extensive monument to elaborate humbug” (255). The essay starts with a humorous account of the extended debate he developed with his governess, who was morally certain Augustin Barruel was correct, and that they were all hourly menaced by conspirators who even now were hatching their plots, and his pre-adolescent self, who would have ardently agreed, for very different reasons, save for the gnawing presence of his rational mind, which insisted on stumbling over the improbability. Peacock catches the attraction for the young Shelley in his description of Scythrop, who had “become troubled with the passion for reforming the world” (362), so much so that he “built many castles in the air, and peopled them with secret tribunals, and bands of illuminati” and slept with Horrid Mysteries “under his pillow” (363). One of the Northanger Abbey “horrid” novels, Horrid Mysteries features, in scintillating detail, the machinations of the illuminati with their torch-lit crypts, cells of conspirators, and revolutionary maidens willing to do anything to advance the cause. Scythrop (like the young Shelley and De Quincey) dreams gothic thoughts of the Schiller kind, just as Catherine Morland dreams hers through Radcliffe.
8. Reading Barruel was formative for the young Shelley in two regards. It was here that he first encountered, methodically laid out in four stuffed volumes, tantalizing extracts from the greatest hits of the radical enlightenment—the atheistical horrors of Voltaire, the spine-tingling materialism of Spinoza, the rousing promise of Rousseau’s general will—and it was here that he encountered a sublime conspiracy, where, with De Quincey, his overwhelming response was a fervent prayer to the Deity begging Him/Her to make Barruel’s phantasies come true.  So devoted to conspiracy was the young Shelley, that he started his own at school to extirpate the “Gothic”—that is to say, feudal—practice of “fagging” (Memoir 241).
9. As regards Shelley’s creative extensions of the “conflicting tendencies” endemic to the “symbolic constitution of post-Walpolean Gothic,” two crucial points emerge from this material. The first relates to the “mentalité” or “imaginary” of radical members of Shelley’s generation. While Shelley’s generation might subscribe to the notion of a progressive “spirit of the age,” they understood it to be one—and this was how Hazlitt himself saw it—continuously buffeted by the headwinds of a spirit of tyranny that was as all pervasive as it was systematic. The period did indeed appear to be an age of conspiracy, although the conspiracy that mattered—or rather, the truly effective conspiracy that shaped lives—was the one emanating from the government side, from the “system of terror” administered through Pitt’s spy networks, to the gagging acts, suspension of habeas corpus, and other repressive measures taken by the central authorities, in a concerted effort to subvert the ancient liberties—and natural rights—of the British populace. The illuminati, alas, might be fiction, but the police state, with its press in the grip of the “paranoid style of politics,” was not. “Obsessed with the threat of revolution, users of the paranoid style—conspiracy theorists by definition—ascribe to their enemies the ability to effect large-scale social and political change” (para 2). So Kim Wheatley on the reviewing culture that targeted the Hunts, Keats, Shelley, and other suspicious personages. Quoting Richard Hofstadter, she notes that for the “paranoid rhetorician, ‘History is a conspiracy, set in motion by demonic forces of almost transcendent power’” (para 29). As Orrin Wang comments in his introduction to the volume in which Wheatley’s essay appears, “the rhetoric and epistemology of conspiratorial thought also acted in varying, emphatic ways upon the imaginary of the second generation Romantics” (para 4). Shelley may have awoken from the self-incurred immaturity of believing in a secret, Europe-wide brotherhood bent on sublime ends, but it was only to a deeper appreciation of the systems of tyranny that gripped contemporary life.
10. For those in the grip of the paranoid style, “the Illuminati were responsible for both the American and French Revolutions. At such a point conspiracy absorbed all other narratives, becoming the totalizing motor behind history itself” (Wang, para 3). For those opposed to the paranoid style, the key issue was producing “a more complex historical causality” than simple conspiracy (Wang, para 5). Thus the lead article of the first issue of the Edinburgh Review, written by Francis Jeffrey himself, which reviews Joseph Mournier’s memoir of his time as a Girondin in the heart of the Revolution, which sets out to expose Barruel’s work as utter fantasy, on the grounds that he was there, and there wasn’t a Freemason to be seen, no matter how many beds one might lift, let alone a German member of the illuminati. In his review Jeffrey advances economic and social causes for the revolution.  The prominence given to Jeffrey’s article reflects the importance Whig circles set on moving past the notion that history was caused by malevolent individuals armed with a plan.
11. According to the period’s dominant imaginary conspiracy was “totalizing”; it explained everything. Against this was the urgent task of imaging a form of agency that could effectively countermand the spirit of tyranny. Why was the Gothic necessary for Shelley? Part of our answer lies in the fact that Gothic precedents addressed both these crucial points. At the heart of the post-Walpolian Gothic’s “symbolic constitution” lies the “dead hand of the past,” a metaphor for the way the past not only reaches into the present, but holds it in its palsied grip. The Gothic is a means of imagining vicious circles of transgression and violence repeating themselves down through the generations. As we shall see, the inherited vicious circle is precisely the crux that motivates The Cenci. But by the time Shelley started his Gothic experiments crucial modifications had been made to its symbolic constitution that made it even more eligible for his purposes. These changes were instigated by Friedrich Schiller, in Der Geisterseher (1789; translated as the Ghost-seer, 1795) and Willian Godwin in Caleb Williams (1794).
12. Schiller’s Ghost-seer is the first work of conspiracy fiction in the Western literary tradition. A young German prince from a Protestant principality with a “love of the marvellous” falls under the spell of the mysterious “Armenian” while visiting Venice during carnival. The Armenian has a habit of popping up at unexpected moments whispering hints to the Prince respecting forms of immanent danger, including a séance arranged by the “Sicilian,” an obvious reference to Count Cagliostro, magus, friend of mankind, and secret agent of the Illuminati ever since he passed through Ingolstadt following his expulsion from St. Petersburg for plotting revolution with the Swedish freemasons.  The Armenian exposes the Sicilian as a trickster employing the mummery of the illuminati: mystic symbols, oaths, and the technology of the phantasmagoria. So impressed is the Prince by the Armenian that he eventually comes to repose all his trust in him, suspending his critical faculties in the process. The Armenian, we eventually learn, is an agent of the Inquisition (the same Inquisition that was later to arrest, torture, and imprison Cagliostro). The exposure of the Sicilian was the first step in an elaborate sting designed to turn the impressionable Prince away from Protestantism, back to Catholicism, as a last ditch effort of the Counter-Enlightenment. Schiller’s novel was immensely influential. Besides such works as Cajetan Tschink’s The Victim of Magical Delusion: or, the Mystery of the Revolution of P----l; A Magico-Political Tale (1795) and Karl Grosse’s Horrid Mysteries (1796), it inspired Shelley’s Juvenilia. Schiller’s primary contribution to the Gothic was to provide a narrative form for representing the threat of conspiracy, whether revolutionary or Counter-Reformational.
13. It was Godwin who urgently raised the question of historical agency. When he refers to the “Gothic and unintelligible burden of past institutions” he is just one of many radicals responding to Burke’s defense of the Gothic constitution and chivalry, the legal and social customs he celebrates as the ties that bind the English present. For Wollstonecraft in The Rights of Man “Gothic” serves as a synonym for “feudal,” a note she sounds whenever she touches upon Burke’s idealisations of social and legal traditions; for Thomas Christie the Reflections’ “tuneful periods” entomb a “deformed Gothic idol”; while for Thelwall Burke’s constitution is a Gothic customary, a mental Bastille.  For all four breaking the vicious circle of past wrongs that forms our Gothic inheritance, with its dead hand reaching into the present, starts with demystifying the glamour with which Burke wraps the “Gothic idol.”
14. In Caleb Williams the task of demystification follows a severe logic. The present system of tyranny is indeed all pervasive. No point, then, in railing against chivalry (loaded as it is with its Burkean freight). Godwin shows the totalizing system in action, down to the institutional forms of conspiracy Falkland is able to bring to bear upon the errant individual, and from which there is no escape, as Caleb discovers. Instead the task of puzzling the contradictions, and so breaking free from the immaturity of customary thought, is left to the reader.
15. All these constituents of the Gothic’s symbolic constitution (as it stood in the late 1810s) come together in The Cenci: the dead hand of the past; the baleful influence of Gothic institutions that live on in the present; the very notion of a vicious circle; a moral antinomy that prods the reader into analytical action; conspiracy; a belief in the totalizing power of tyranny; the strenuous difficulty of regaining historical agency; the delusive glamour of the sublime; and, finally, and certainly not least, critique of Burke. To this mix Shelley adds, I believe, the categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant.
16. “A few to think, and many to act; that is the only basis of a perfect society” (Peacock 315). Peacock’s phrasing is exact. The comic timing of the line lightly obscures two crucial points, both of which touch upon The Cenci. Firstly, it ironically underscores the reason why conspiracy theories flourished during the period. Conspiracy theories wax when the public sphere wanes. In the aftermath of the French Revolution the republic of letters was in serious trouble.  The public sphere is a “metatopical” space for mediating power in a rational and inclusive manner.  When the public sphere falters conspiracy fills the vacuum, then, as now. In parodying the Illuminati’s political credo as “A few to think, and many to act” Peacock mordantly notes the way the followers of Weishaupt replicate the very power structure they look to supplant. The line references a key issue that led to the breakdown of the public sphere—the demonizing of universal (male) suffrage—while drawing its principle lesson: to fight fire with fire is self-defeating for the obvious reason that it simply replicates the problem. Whatever solution is needed to the present discontent, it is not more conspiracy.
17. As a work of abstracted Gothic, The Cenci explores the problematic nature of modern systems of power by drawing upon the symbolic constitution of the Gothic as it stood post-Schiller and post-Godwin. As is to be expected of such a belated, self-conscious work, much of the meaning is placed before us on the surface, is indeed collected for us in the preface:
18. The preface’s other de rigeur note is the acknowledgement that the horrors passing before us do so in a Catholic country:
19. Shelley’s statement of the play’s lesson appears to be a mere bromide:
20. Shelley’s statement of the process does indeed sound strenuous:
21. That seems to be the drift of Shelley’s preface, and, indeed, of the play’s argument. However, I believe this inference to be mistaken. The clues to this misreading lie in the words “casuistry,” “anatomising,” and “superstitious.” In contemplating Beatrice’s “wrongs and their revenge” the reader initially reacts with “superstitious horror.” Whatever Shelley has in mind for the reader, it surely involves more than terrified stupefaction. Presumably it involves some kind of critical introspection through our sympathetic engagement with the moral antinomy of Beatrice’s revenge, perhaps into our own dark heart. However, as Mary Fin points out in her analysis of the play, “casuistry” held a particular, negative, valence for Shelley. She persuasively quotes De Quincey as someone likely to have had an understanding of casuistry similar to Shelley’s (indeed, De Quincey may be recalling Shelley’s preface and play). The problem with casuistry was that it
held aloft a torch for exploring guilty recesses of human life which it is far better for us all to leave in their original darkness. Crimes that were often all but imaginary, extravagancies [sic] of erring passion that would never have been known as possibilities to the young and the innocent, were thus published in their most odious details. (qtd. in Fin 190)
22. Henry S. Richardson explains what it is De Quincey is complaining about:
23. The notion is directly canvassed in the play. Orsino, in a soliloquy, lets us in on his conspiracy to seduce Beatrice. “From the devices of my love,” he tells us, he shall form a net from “which she shall not escape.” Yet he fears
Her subtle mind, her awe-inspiring gaze,
Whose beams anatomize me nerve by nerve
And lay me bare, and make me blush to see
My hidden thoughts. (1.2.84-7)
I had disposed the Cardinal Camillo
To feed his hope with cold encouragement:
It fortunately serves my close designs
That ’tis a trick of this same family
To analyse their own and other minds.
Such self-anatomy shall teach the will
Dangerous secrets: for it tempts our powers.
Knowing what must be thought, and may be done,
Into the depth of darkest purposes:
So Cenci fell into the pit; even I,
Since Beatrice unveiled me to myself,
And made me shrink from what I cannot shun
Shew a poor figure to my own esteem,
To which I grow half reconciled. I'll do
As little mischief as I can; that thought
Shall free the accuser conscience. (2.2.105-19)
With what but with a father's curse doth God
Panic-strike armed victory, and make pale
Cities in their prosperity? The world's Father
Must grant a parent's prayer against his child
Be he who asks even what men call me.
Will not the deaths of her rebellious brothers
Awe her before I speak? For I on them
Did imprecate quick ruin, and it came. (4.1.104-11)
A brief yet specious tale, how I had wasted
The sum in secret riot; and he saw
My wife was touched, and he went smiling forth.
And when I knew the impression he had made,
And felt my wife insult with silent scorn
My ardent truth, and look averse and cold,
I went forth too . . . (3.1.319-25)
He is so innocent, I will bequeath
The memory of these deeds, and make his youth
The sepulchre of hope, where evil thoughts
Shall grow like weeds on a neglected tomb. (4.1.51-4)
You were not here conspiring? You said nothing
Of how I might be dungeoned as a madman;
Or be condemned to death for some offence,
And you would be the witnesses?—This failing,
How just it were to hire assassins, or
Put sudden poison in my evening drink?
Or smother me when overcome by wine?
Seeing we had no other judge but God,
And he had sentenced me, and there were none
But you to be the executioners
Of his decree enregistered in heaven?
Oh, no! You said not this? (2.1.137-148)
24. The Gothic’s symbolic constitution once again illuminates the drift of Shelley’s thought. Receiving an answer from Lucretia he does not like, Cenci once again explodes into a curse:
Blaspheming liar! You are damned for this!
But I will take you where you may persuade
The stones you tread on to deliver you:
For men shall there be none but those who dare
All things—not question that which I command.
On Wednesday next I shall set out: you know
That savage rock, the Castle of Petrella,
’Tis safely walled, and moated round about:
Its dungeons underground, and its thick towers
Never told tales; though they have heard and seen
What might make dumb things speak. (2.1.162-172)
25. One might think of this strand of Shelley’s imagery, from the Preface on, as a crypt. Cenci’s victims are encrypted, as it were, buried alive or sepulchured inside the perverted “mentalité” Cenci represents, incarnates, and spreads; while the crypts or caverns of the mind disgorge poisonous mists. Self-anatomy simply speeds the process, taking characters down to a place from where none return. Most critics of The Cenci note at some point that the play seems to end, disappointingly, with the simple truth of the vicious circle entrapping both Cenci and the conspirators; that in conspiring against Cenci’s undoubted evil, the conspirators, but especially Beatrice, replicate the evil incarnate in the paternal principle.  Illuminating the nature of The Cenci’s vicious circle is certainly central to Shelley’s purposes, but his thought does not end there.
26. The thread of his thought is to be found in the Jacobin Gothic carefully unspooled in the play. The source for Jacobin Gothic was Burke’s project (and this was how Archibald Alison understood matters in retrospect  ) of making the world once again safe for feudalism. Like other Jacobin-Gothic writers, Shelley tilts at Burke. In the final analysis the problem with casuistry was that it was based on case law; it stands to morality as English common law does to jurisprudence. It is based in practical reason, and is anti-theoretical in its stance. Casuistry works—or worked—in the context of a settled society with established norms of moral thought. “If we lack the kind of broad consensus on a set of paradigm cases on which the Renaissance Catholic or Talmudic casuists could draw, our casuistic efforts will necessarily be more controversial and tentative than theirs . . .” (Richardson, 2.3 para. 5). As moralists as diverse as Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor have stressed, modernity is what it is because all such bases for consensus evaporated in the course of the Enlightenment. As Taylor puts it, we live in a mental universe where there are competing and incommensurable frameworks and “hypergoods.”  Moral antinomies are the order of the day. To rely upon “case law” is simply to replicate the particular system of power—its particular frameworks woven deep into the fabric of life—of a particular social interest. Faced with moral antinomies our reflex prejudices, even if expressive of our morals and manners—in other words, even in the best case Burke presents—can only replicate the system.
27. We need to put the matter like this in order to grasp the radical nature of Shelley’s thought. It begins with his response to Burke who was, for Jacobins, the high priest of case law, the English common law, the unwritten constitution, and the inherited stock of wisdom bound up in manners. As a moralist, Burke was a casuist. In The Cenci Shelley is a militant Kantian. Burke offered “adoration, faith, submission, penitence, blind admiration”—slavishness, according to his Jacobin critics—not rules for moral conduct. In the Gothic world Shelley depicts—which is clearly also our world—live burial is all pervasive, like conspiracy. Or to change the register, and once again draw upon Hogle, our present is uniformly distorted by the dark powers of transference. Damaged by the system, we project that damage onto others, in infinite series. In the current system, self-anatomy is casuistrical, because uninstructed by theory, by abstract, universalizable, rules of conduct. Insofar as the reader is caught up “in the restless and anatomising casuistry” of justifying Beatrice’s action he/she is caught up in the very gestalt that is the problem. No amount of anatomizing will solve it. By the same token introspection—visiting our own caverns of the heart—is a fallacious route to enlightenment. Nothing good comes of those Gothic spaces.
28. As Shelley’s best critics note, his thought is dialectical. No single work encapsulates his thought. To read The Cenci correctly, one must counterbalance it with Prometheus Unbound. In Rajan’s terms, we must be alert to the complex dialogue between the Gothic and Romantic Shelley. In The Cenci, Gothic Shelley is at his most militant. As an abstracted work of Gothic, it is explicitly darker—and more radical—than the work of any other contemporary writer, for no other writer of the period is so uncompromising about our inability to emancipate ourselves into free agency while drawing upon inner resources unaided by the austere, Kantian, rules of conduct floating free of casuistry, case law, or manners. Unaided by theory our attempts at visiting our inner caverns will only replicate the horror show. Imagining agency begins with the recognition of the need of impersonal theory at the level of ethics. Self-knowledge is likely to be as effective for us as it is for Orsino.
Alison, Archibald. “The Historical Romance.” Blackwood’s Magazine 58 (1845): 341–56. Print.
Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England. Quoted in E. J. Clery, The Rise of Supernatural Fiction 1762-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. Print.
Butler, Marilyn. Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in his Context. London, Boston & Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979. Print.
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Fin, Mary E. “The Ethics and Aesthetics of Shelley's ‘The Cenci.’” Studies in Romanticism 35.2 (Summer, 1996): 177-197. Print.
Haywood, Ian. Romanticism and Caricature. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013.
Hogle, Jerrold. Shelley’s Process: Radical Transference and the Development of His Major Works. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.
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McGann, Jerome. Romantic Ideology: A Critical Investigation. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983. Print.
McWhir, Anne. "The Light and the Knife: Ab/Using Language in The Cenci." Keats-Shelley Journal 38 (1989): 145-61. Print.
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 The relative scarcity of criticism on Shelley and the Gothic is explored by David Brookshire in Percy Bysshe Shelley and the Gothic (Unpublished PhD Thesis, U. of Maryland, 2009). John V. Murphy, The Dark Angel: Gothic Elements in Shelley’s Works (Cranbury, New Jersey: Associated University Presses, 1975), is an early exploration of the subject but largely focuses on generic features. Another exception would be Dale Townshend, The Orders of Gothic: Foucault, Lacan, and the Subject of Gothic Writing 1764–1820 (New York: AMS Press, 2007), which focuses on The Cenci as an anatomy of an extreme form of the “Gothic father.” BACK
 For the basic background to Barruel, Robison, and the Illuminati, including Adam Weishaupt and the Baron Knigge, see Markman Ellis, “Enlightenment or Illumination: The Spectre of Conspiracy in Gothic Fictions of the 1790s,” in Recognizing the Romantic Novel: New Histories of British Literature, ed. C. Sussman and J. Heydt-Stevenson (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008), 77-98; Daniel Pipes Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where it Comes From (New York and London: the Free Press, 1999). BACK
 For the details of Cagliostro’s life, and death, see Francois Ribadeau Dumas, Cagliostro, trans. Elisabeth Abbot (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1966); Roberto Gervaso, Cagliostro: A Biography, trans. Cormac O' Cuilleanain (London: Victor Gollanez, 1974); Iain McCalman, The Last Alchemist: Count Cagliostro, Master of Magic in the Age of Reason (New York: HarperCollins, 2003). BACK
 Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Men (London: J. Johnson, 1793); Thomas Christie, Letters on the Revolution in France (1791), in E. J. Clery and Robert Miles, eds., Gothic Documents: A Sourcebook, 1700-1820 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), 244-45; John Thelwall, The Rights of Nature, against the Usurpations of Establishments. A Series of Letters to the People of Great Britain, on the State of Public Affairs and the Recent Effusions of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke. 3rd ed. (London, Norwich: H.D. Symonds, J. March, 1796). BACK
 The classic study in the transformation of the public sphere during the Romantic period is to be found in John P. Klancher, The Making of English Reading Audiences, 1790-1832 (Madison, Wisconsin: the University of Wisconsin Press, 1987); but see also Kevin Gilmartin, Print Politics: The Press and Radical Opposition in Early Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Paul Keen, The Crisis of Literature in the 1790's: Print Culture and the Public Sphere (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) and my “Trouble in the Republic of Letters: the Reception of the Shakespeare Forgeries,” Studies in Romanticism, 44:3 (2006): 317-340. BACK
 The classic work of theory on the public sphere is Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger with the assistance of Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990). For its “metatopical character” see Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries (Durham and London: Duke UP, 2004), 102. BACK