Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Madwomen in the Attic #2 Regina Maria Roche

Regina Maria Roche (née Dalton) was born in Waterford in 1764 before the family moved to Dublin where she grew up. Little is known about her early life other than that she was the daughter of Captain Blundel Dalton and she is quoted as claiming that books were a passion from a young age and that she had begun to write stories as soon as she could hold a pen. Her first two novels were published in her twenties The Vicar of Landsdowne (1789) and The Maid of Hamlet (1793). Her marriage in 1794 to Ambrose Roche led to a move to England and although her previous books had had some success it was the next book that made her a household name. Children of the Abbey a Gothic Romance published in 1796 was an instant hit. The book went through several editions and was translated into French and Spanish. The book appeared at the height of the Gothic novel trend and Roche quickly followed up with Clermont (1798) a novel with a much darker tone and containing all the trappings we have come to associate with Gothic fiction; a mysterious Countess, an attack by ruffians, a gloomy crypt, a forced marriage. Another huge hit Clermont was one of the seven Gothic novels that the heroine of Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland is told to read by Isabella Thorpe. Another novel followed in 1800 The Nocturnal Visit  but after this the Roches suffered serious financial setback as they were cheated out of an inheritance in Ireland by a dishonest solicitor; an unfortunate mirror of events in Children of the Abbey in which siblings Amanda and Oscar Fitzalan are cheated out of their inheritance Dunreath Abbey by a scheming relative. Regina Maria Roche returned to Ireland in the 1820s after her husband's death. She wrote another eleven novels most of them were picturesque tales of the Irish countryside but none of them reached the heights of success of Clermont and Children of the Abbey. She died in 1845 at the age of 81 in relative obscurity but was remembered fondly in a number of obituaries.

Clemont and  Children of the Abbey are available from Valancourt Books.


  1. I remember the name Clermont but didn't realize it was from Northanger Abbey that I heard it! Ha!! I must have a look for her books.

    1. Yes, she was hugely influential and then fashions changed and she was forgotten about.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.