‘“Better known as Rosa Matilda”: Charlotte Dacre’s Authorial Doppelganger’

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

In the final frenetic chapter of Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, Ambrosio’s victim / lover / seducer Rosa Matilda is revealed to have been Lucifer in drag all along. Charlotte Dacre’s appropriation of Lewis’ femme fatale as her Satanic pseudonym acts as more than a simple homage in Zofloya; or, the Moor (1806), as it “complicates any unproblematic reliance on the moralistic elements throughout her works” (Craciun, “Introduction to Zofloya” (2006), 9). In fact, Dacre’s choice of pen name highlights her ambiguous position between the male and female Gothic traditions. As Lewis’ Matilda first appears to be a girl disguised as a male noviciate only for this female persona to be revealed as a demonic ruse in The Monk’s conclusion, so too does Dacre’s authorial voice perform a series of unsettling shifts throughout her Gothic novel, wavering between a moralising condemnation of her protagonist Victoria’s violent descent into torture and murder and an illicit approval of Victoria’s sadistic pleasures. In a novel abounding in doubles – pure, innocent and pale Lilla contrasts with the ever darkening Victoria; Victoria’s dark desires are reflected in and directed by her Satanic slave Zofloya – it is Dacre’s authorial doppelganger, Rosa Matilda, who, I will argue, underpins her narrative’s inability, or unwillingness, to settle on any certain, unproblematic moral ground, by providing a subversively demonic counterpoint to each of Dacre’s moralising interjections. Furthermore, I want to conclude that the novel’s divided ethical framework makes its most obviously immoral character, Dacre’s own Satan-in-blackface, Zofloya, also its most obvious moral guide.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen & Gothic
EditorsMaria Purves
Place of PublicationNewcastle
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Pages97-112
Number of pages199
ISBN (Print)9781443855815
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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  • Cite this

    McInnes, A. (2014). ‘“Better known as Rosa Matilda”: Charlotte Dacre’s Authorial Doppelganger’. In M. Purves (Ed.), Women & Gothic (pp. 97-112). Cambridge Scholars Publishing.