Author Picture
23 January 1729 – 3 December 1807

Clara Reeve was born in Ipswich, England in 1729.  She was a pioneering figure in the development of the gothic novel. She started writing when she was very young, and although she produced a good amount of largely forgotten novels, she is remembered for 1777 novel The Old English Baron.  Reeve described the work as an attempt to “unite the most attractive and interesting circumstances of the ancient Romance and modern Novel,” and stated that it was “is distinguished by the appellation of a Gothic Story, being a picture of Gothic times and manners.”

Known as the ‘Mother of the Gothic’, her influential work The Old English Baron set the foundation for the genre with its blend of mystery, romance, and supernatural elements. Her novel was inspired by and sought to emulate the style of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. Reeve's contributions to gothic fiction extended beyond her own writings, as she also wrote critical essays that examined the genre's themes, tropes, and literary techniques.

The novel is now seen as a major influence in the development of Gothic fiction, not least on Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

Reeve also contributed to literary history with her 1785 volume The Progress of Romance (1785), a history of the early novel.

Reeve died in 1807.