Ann Radcliffe was an English author in the Gothic style at the turn of the nineteenth century. Among the many interesting points in her remarkable career though, one little story is but poorly known. In 1796 she sent a friend a draft (copy here) of her latest novel to peruse. While his response is not preserved, we can perhaps learn something of it from the letter she sent him in reply (text here; image here; these (with the novel above) are all you need to solve the puzzle):


Can you follow Radcliffe's directions and find what exactly was so unexpected about this first draft of her novel? Surprising as it may have been initially, perhaps the punchline will be in fact far from unexpected by the time you find Radcliffe's message...

Edit: @GarethMcCaughan has pointed out that it is not desirable that a puzzle depend on a file contained on a site external to the stack.exchange or stack.imgur networks. For that reason, to satisfy any who may be concerned that the link to the novel may die, I have attached an image containing the entire novel. Each non-white pixel (reading left-right bottom to top) represents a single letter (the letters a-z, A-Z map straightforwardly to the 52 rainbow hex colours from #00008F to #920000, exact colours in the sequence a-z,A-Z here). This image is not necessary to use for the solution, as it contains the exact same information as the text file above, but were the text link to break, the text could be trivially recovered from the following image (the question already has a steganography tag).

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ The draft seems to be a modified version of The Italian $\endgroup$
    – David Dima
    Jun 9, 2020 at 10:20
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    $\begingroup$ Is this solvable without reference to the large external file? We generally want puzzles here to be self-contained... $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jun 9, 2020 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think there's perfect unanimous consensus on exactly how bad it is to depend on external files. In this case the file is plain text, which helps, and it's on what seems like it should be a pretty stable server, which helps, but there's still no guarantee it won't disappear or change in the future. So let's hope this puzzle is really good so as to justify the regrettable use of an external resource :-). $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jun 9, 2020 at 23:06
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    $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan I've added an image that trivially contains the entire novel with a straightforward pixel-letter correspondence. This is not of course necessary to use to solve the puzzle, but should the text file link die, all the information in it is contained in this file in the stack.imgur network, and can be trivially recovered from it. I don't know if the close vote was yours, but please let me know if anything further would be necessary to satisfy your concerns about the appropriateness of this puzzle for this network. $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Jun 10, 2020 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, that's an ingenious way to make sure the puzzle data is accessible even if other sites shut down! $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Jun 10, 2020 at 15:27


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