The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Penitents (1797) is a Gothic novel written by the English author Ann Radcliffe. It is the last book Radcliffe published during her lifetime.
The Italian has a dark, mysterious and somber tone, and concerns the themes of love, devotion and persecution by the Holy Inquisition. It also deals with issues prevalent at the time of the French Revolution, such as religion, aristocracy and nationality. Radcliffe's renowned use of veiled imagery is considered to have reached its height of sophistication and complexity in The Italian; concealment and disguise are central motifs of the novel. In line with late 18th-century sensibility and its parallel fetishisation of the sublime and the sentimentally pastoral, the heightened emotional states of Radcliffe's characters are often reflected through the pathetic fallacy.
Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) was an English author and a pioneer of the Gothic novel. Her style is romantic in its vivid descriptions of landscapes and long travel scenes, yet the Gothic element is obvious through her use of the supernaturalAnn Radcliffe is considered one of the founders of Gothic literature. While there were others that preceded her, Radcliffe was the one that legitimised the genre. Sir Walter Scott called her the ”founder of a class or school”. Jane Austen parodied Radcliffe's novel The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey.