‘Banditti Mania’: The Gothic Haunting of Washington Allston. Symbiosis 11.1

Author: Carso, Kerry Dean


A Humanities-Ebooks ‘reprint’: Pdf file 305kb, 25 pages; printing allowed, copying disabled

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This essay was originally published in Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary Relations, Volume 11.1 (April, 2007). This digital version lacks seven illustrations that appeared in the print version and is five pages shorter.

Essay Topics and Keywords


Washington Allston (1779–1843); Landscape with Banditti; Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho; Salvator Rosa; Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery; Benjamin West, Gothic Novels, Henry Fuseli, Hamlet and the Ghost; etc.




“While at Harvard College in the late 1790s, American painter Washington Allston (1779–1843) and his friends Edmund Trowbridge Dana and Arthur Maynard Walter would meet in Allston’s room to share their love for Gothic novels and romantic poetry. Perhaps Allston would indulge in his delight in story telling, while the three young men huddled around a blazing fire. Engaging in this communal Gothic experience was not confined to these young Romantics, as evidenced by the satirical print Tales of Wonder (fig. 1) by British artist James Gillray of women reading Matthew Lewis’s works, of which Allston was also a reader (he imitated Lewis’s Tales of Wonder in his stories ‘The Cloud King’ and ‘The Two Painters’). Just such an event spurred Mary Shelley to write her Gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein, in 1816, after she, Lord Byron, and Percy Shelley spent an evening by the fire reading German ghost stories to ward off the cold and rainy weather outside. Like Shelley, who had internalized the ghost stories to the point where she herself became a producer of such tales, Allston infused his artistic works, which include paintings, poetry, and narrative fiction, with the Gothic.”

About the author

Author’s Affiliation: State University of New York, New Paltz



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‘Banditti Mania’: The Gothic Haunting of Washington Allston. Symbiosis 11.1

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