“Terror and horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul, and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes and nearly annihilates them […] and where lies the great difference between horror and terror but in the uncertainty and obscurity, that accompany the first, respecting the dreaded evil?”
Ann Radcliffe wrote these words in her essay On The Supernatural In Poetry, published posthumously in 1826. She then goes on to clarify:
“Obscurity leaves something for the imagination to exaggerate; confusion, by blurring one image into another, leaves only a chaos in which the mind can find nothing to be magnificent, nothing to nourish its fears or doubts, or to act upon in any way.”
For Radcliffe, this blurring of horror means that it can never teach or improve the recipient of that horror, only “freeze and nearly annihilate them”. Horror becomes for her a denial of and turning away from the sublime. Terror, on the other hand, is the effect of staring clearly into the glare of the sublime, of suffering through an experience that “expands” us and fundamentally changes how we live.