Horace Walpole – The Castle of Otranto, 1764


Manfred rose to pursue her, when the moon, which was now up, and gleamed in at the opposite casement, presented to his sight the plumes of the

fatal helmet, which rose to the height of the windows, waving backwards and forwards in a tempestuous manner, and accompanied with a hollow and rustling sound. Isabella, who gathered courage from her situation, and who dreaded

nothing so much as Manfred’s pursuit of his declaration, cried

“Look, my Lord ! see, Heaven itself declares against your impious intentions ! ”

“Heaven nor Hell shall impede my designs,” said Manfred, advancing again to seize the Princess.

At that instant the portrait of his grandfather, which hung over the bench where they had been sitting, uttered a deep sigh, and heaved its breast.

Isabella, whose back was turned to the picture, saw not the motion, nor knew whence the sound came, but started, and said

“Hark, my Lord ! What sound was that” and at the same time made towards the door.

Manfred, distracted between the flight of Isabella, who had now reached the stairs, and yet unable to keep his eyes from the picture, which began to move, had, however, advanced some steps after her, still looking backwards on the portrait, when he saw it quit its panel, and descend on the floor with a grave and melancholy air.

“Do I dream ? ” cried Manfred, returning ; “or are the devils themselves in league against me? Speak, infernal spectre ! Or, if thou art my grandsire, why dost thou too conspire against thy wretched descendant, who too dearly pays for ‘

Ere he could finish the sentence, the vision sighed again, and made a sign to Manfred to follow him.

” Lead on ! ” cried Manfred ; ” I will follow thee to the gulf of perdition.”

The spectre marched sedately, but dejected, to the end of the gallery, and turned into a chamber on the right hand. Manfred accompanied him at a little distance, full of anxiety and horror, but resolved. As he would have entered the chamber, the door was clapped to with violence by an invisible hand. The Prince, collecting courage from this delay, would have forcibly burst open the door with his foot, but found that it resisted his utmost efforts.

” Since Hell will not satisfy my curiosity,” said Manfred, ” I will use the human means in my power for preserving my race ; Isabella shall not escape me.”

Horace Walpole, 1717-1797.   The Castle of Otranto, 1764.  (Chapter 30)

Image: Marcus Geeraerts, the younger, 1561-1635. Portrait of Henry Cary, 1st Viscount Falkland, (c.1576-1633), c.1603. Strawberry Hill

Author: jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space

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