Merriam-Webster.com Encyclopedia Main Entry:
European Romantic, pseudo-medieval fiction with a prevailing atmosphere of mystery and terror. Such novels were often set in castles or monasteries equipped with subterranean passages, dark battlements, and hidden panels, and had plots involving ghosts, madness, outrage, superstition, and revenge.
H. Walpole's Castle of Otranto (1765) initiated the vogue, which peaked in the 1790s. A. Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797) are among the finest examples. M. G. Lewis's The Monk (1796) introduced more horrific elements into the English gothic. Gothic traits appear in M. W. Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and B. Stoker's Dracula (1897) and in the works of many major writers, and persist today in thousands of paperback romances.