Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock (1818)

by Rachel Baker on November 17, 2013

The Guardian’s ninth book in the 100-week series on the 100 best novels written in Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock, published in 1818. “The great pleasure of Nightmare Abbey, which was inspired by Thomas Love Peacock’s friendship with Shelley, lies in the delight the author takes in poking fun at the romantic movement.”

Nightmare Abbey, like Frankenstein (no 8 in this series), appeared in 1818. Strangely, it was also inspired by Shelley, who was friends with Peacock. His satire, however, was lighthearted and whimsical and a kind of in-joke. There’s no way of knowing if Peacock had actually read Mary Shelley’s novel, but Nightmare Abbey makes a nice counterpoint, and speaks of the importance of a new audience.

The regency was a turning point for English fiction. It was not only that the prince regent was a man of culture who adored the works of Jane Austen, there was also a wholly new market for novels: middle-class readers with money, enthusiasm and taste.

After a long gestation, literary life had arrived. More than 100 years after Daniel Defoe had sat in the stocks and John Bunyan had composed The Pilgrim’s Progress in Bedford jail, English novelists were now fully established at the centre of cultural life. Once upon a time, writers had published anonymously or under assumed names, fearing disgrace, or worse. Now they were known, talked about and sometimes even well-paid.

Book 8 of the series: Frankenstein

Book 7 of the series: Emma

Book 6 of the series: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Book 5 of the series: Tom Jones

Book 4 of the series: Clarissa

Book 3 of the series: Gullivers Travels

Book 2 of the series: Robinson Crusoe

Book 1 of the series: The Pilgrims Progress

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