Several Gothic novels are mentioned in the book, including most importantly The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian by Ann Radcliffe. Austen also satirises Clermont, a Gothic novel by Regina Maria Roche. This last is included in a list of seven somewhat obscure Gothic works, known as the 'Northanger horrid novels' as recommended by Isabella Thorpe to Catherine Morland:
- "Dear creature! how much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read The Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you."
- "Have you, indeed! How glad I am!—What are they all?"
- "I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time."
- "Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?"
- "Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them..."
Though these lurid titles were assumed by some to be Austen's own invention, Montague Summers and Michael Sadleir discovered that they really did exist and have since been republished.
Jane Austen, who referred to Fanny Burney as "the first of English novelists," in Northanger Abbey refers to her inspiring novels:
- "'And what are you reading, Miss—?' 'Oh! It is only a novel!' replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. 'It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda'; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language."
John Thorpe, who knows little about literature, tells Catherine that he likes The Monk (an over-the-top tale of lurid Gothic horror):
- "Novels are all so full of nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out since Tom Jones, except The Monk; I read that t'other day; but as for all the others, they are the stupidest things in creation."
- "I think you must like Udolpho, if you were to read it; it is so very interesting."
- "Not I, faith! No, if I read any, it shall be Mrs. Radcliffe's; her novels are amusing enough; they are worth reading; some fun and nature in them."
- "Udolpho was written by Mrs. Radcliffe," said Catherine, with some hesitation, from the fear of mortifying him.
- "No sure; was it? Aye, I remember, so it was; I was thinking of that other stupid book, written by that woman they make such a fuss about, she who married the French emigrant."
- "I suppose you mean Camilla?"
- "Yes, that's the book; such unnatural stuff! An old man playing at see-saw, I took up the first volume once and looked it over, but I soon found it would not do; indeed I guessed what sort of stuff it must be before I saw it: as soon as I heard she had married an emigrant, I was sure I should never be able to get through it."