Like many in Walpole’s own day, my appreciation of The Mysterious Mother prior to the staged reading at the Yale Center for British Art in May 2018 was largely textual, and, as a reader of the play, I have long admired Walpole’s blank verse, his deft use of dialogue, the intricate network of metaphor, imagery, and allusion that he weaves from the opening lines of the Prologue onward. Of course, it is a cliché to say that performance brings an otherwise moribund play-script to life, but in this case, the claim could not be truer. Misty Anderson’s masterful direction of David Worrall’s careful abridgement of the play charged The Mysterious Mother with new vitality, by turns amplifying its tragic dimensions, exploring the full extent of its horror, and even bringing to light some rather unexpected moments of humor. To say that my understanding of Walpole’s play has been enriched through this experience is an understatement, and my participation in this extraordinary event is bound to remain a highlight of my academic career.
Dale Townshend is Professor of Gothic Literature at Manchester Metropolitan, UK. He is completing two books: Writing Britain's Ruins (co-edited with Michael Carter and Peter Lindfield) and a monograph entitled Gothic Antiquity: History, Romance and the Architectural Imagination, 1760–1840 (forthcoming from Oxford University Press in September 2019). He was awarded an AHRC Leadership Fellowship, Writing Britain's Ruins, 1700–1850: The Architectural Imagination (2015–2017). With Angela Wright (University of Sheffield) and Catherine Spooner (University of Lancaster), he is editing The Cambridge History of the Gothic, a major, three-volume collection of essays to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2020.