The ruined settings became symbols of the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations. For English Protestants the medieval buildings represented the dark period of harsh laws and tortures of Roman Catholic Inquisition of Italy and Spain.
The first wave of gothic novelists include Horace Walpole, the precursor, with his The Castle of Otranto (1764). The novel combines elements of the medieval romance and the modern novel. It represented a novelty with its superstitious elements, and without a didactical puritan intention.
Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron, balances fantastic elements with 18th century realism them Ann Radcliffe, in The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), introduced the explanation of the supernatural with natural causes. Besides she made her novels socially acceptable thanks to the impeccable behavior of her heroines persecuted by the gothic villain (precursor of the Byronic hero).
Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk (1796), is a portrayal of depraved monks, sadistic inquisitors and spectral nuns. This novel introduced new elements into the genre in particular for his corrupted vision of the Roman Church.