Regina Maria Roche (1764-1845) is considered today to be a minor Gothic novelist who wrote in the shadow of Ann Radcliffe. She was, however, a bestseller in her own time. The popularity of her third novel, The Children of the Abbey, rivalled that of Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho.
The Children of the Abbey was one of the period's most popular novels, a sentimental Gothic Romance. Her book, Clermont, was Roche's only real attempt at writing a truly Gothic novel, and is decidedly darker in tone than anything else she wrote. Both novels went through several editions and were translated into both French and Spanish. Clermont was one of the Northanger Horrid Novels satirized by Jane Austen in her novel Northanger Abbey.
Roche was born in Waterford in 1764, moving to Dublin as a child and then to England in 1794 after her marriage. Her first two novels were published under her maiden name of Dalton before the success of The Children of the Abbey and Clermont. Both were translated into French and Spanish and went through several editions. However, after her fifth novel, The Nocturnal Visit, was published in 1800, Roche suffered financial difficulties, after falling afoul of a duplicitous solicitor and did not write again until 1807, when she received aid from the Royal Literary Fund. She wrote 11 more novels, most of them set in the rural Ireland to which she returned in the 1820s, but none matched her earlier successes. After bouts of depression, she died in relative obscurity in the town of her birth at the age of 81.
Roche's obituary in The Gentleman's Magazine remembers her as a "distinguished writer (who) had retired from the world and the world had forgotten her. But many young hearts, now old must remember the effect upon them of her graceful and touching compositions."