The discussion of pen names recently came up on my Gothic Literature course this semester, notable because in the earliest days of gothic fiction, many authors resigned their stories to the ownership of “Anonymous,” as to add to the mystery of the text’s publication or discovery. What better way to write untold horrors than through the eyes of the unknown narrator? Horace Walpole didn’t disclose his authorship of Castle of Otranto until after it had become such a massive success, and many shorter, less famous works have never been credited to a proper author. My class chuckled about this at times, particularly in stories like “Ruins of The Abbey of Fitz-Martin,” where the unknown narrator, upon reading an old text’s contents, conveniently finds that parts of the story are “too decayed” to be deciphered and so skips scenes. A mighty fine way to avoid fixing a plot point when readers and critics don’t even know who penned the tale to begin with.
Caitlin Jones is an author, film editor, and lover of all things Victorian and fantastic. Please check in for information on her upcoming series.