(E-)Book Read! THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO by Ann Radcliffe
Author: Ann Radcliffe
Publication date: 1794
Original Language: English
Read in: English
Number of Pages: 953
Where From: Smashwords
First sentence: "On the pleasant banks of the Garonne, in the province of Gascony, stood, in the year 1584, the chateau of Monsieur St. Aubert."
P. 99: "Emily could no longer stifle the anguish of her heart; her tears fell fast upon her father’s hand, which she yet held."
Last sentence: "Ludovico had some difficulty to prevent her going into the supper-room, to express her joy, for she declared, that she had never been so rejoiced at any accident as this, since she had found Ludovico himself.
From Wikipedia: Emily St. Aubert is the only child of a landed rural family whose fortunes are now in decline. Emily and her father share an especially close bond, due to their shared appreciation for nature. After her mother’s death from a serious illness, Emily and her father grow even closer. She accompanies him on a journey from their native Gascony, through the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean coast of Roussillon, over many mountainous landscapes. During the journey, they encounter Valancourt, a handsome man who also feels an almost mystical kinship with the natural world. Emily and Valancourt quickly fall in love.
Emily’s father succumbs to a long illness. Emily, now orphaned, is forced by his wishes to live with her aunt, Madame Cheron, who shares none of Emily’s interests and shows little affection to her. Her aunt marries Montoni, a dubious nobleman from Italy. He wants his friend Count Morano to become Emily′s husband, and tries to force her to marry him. After discovering that Morano is nearly ruined he brings Emily and his wife to his remote castle of Udolpho. Emily fears to have lost Valancourt forever. Morano searches for Emily and tries to carry her off secretly from Udolpho. Emily refuses to join him because her heart still belongs to Valancourt. Morano′s attempt to escape is discovered by Montoni, who wounds the Count and chases him away. In the following months Montoni threatens his wife with violence to force her to sign over her properties in Toulouse, which upon her death would otherwise go to Emily. Without resigning her estate Madame Cheron dies of a severe illness caused by her husband′s harshness. Many frightening but coincidental events happen within the castle, but Emily is able to flee from it with the help of her secret admirer Du Pont, who was a prisoner at Udolpho, and the servants Annette and Ludovico. Returning to the estate of her aunt, Emily learns that Valancourt went to Paris and lost his wealth. In the end she takes control of the property and is reunited with Valancourt.
I struggled to read this book… I struggled really hard. Because, as you perhaps already know, I hate not finishing a book I started So I wanted to finish it, but it took me a really long time.
First of all I want to say, this lengthy gothic romance was written at the end of the 18th century, although the story was set in the 16th century. On publication it became very popular, but now it is merely known because it is mentioned in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (the reason why I read it in the first place).
The reason why I didn’t like it are manifold, but the main one was the fact that it was too long, due to the endless description of landscapes, especially mountains. These go on for pages and pages; I think that if they were left out, the novel wouldn’t have been half this long. Of course, this fits completely into the period the novel was written, as was the use of the word "sublime" , a concept that dates from the 18th century, and that was further developed by John Burke in 1756 (A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful). So ‘They had no words to express the sublime emotions they felt", or something was ‘sublime beyond any thing that Emily had ever imagined’, or they didn’t "look back without some regret to the sublime objects they had quitted’, or they indulged in ‘sublime spectacles’, and so on. It just was too much. Connected to this are all the ruins that are mentioned in this book. Ruins of castles and forts are everywhere, because, at that period, they were thought to be the height of romantic element in a landscape (more information about ruins here).
And then the fainting… Emily is always fainting, and if she isn’t, somebody else is. Or the secrets everyone has. When asked about them, they are never told immediately, but are revealed a few hours later, most of the time around midnight. And they are never as shocking as you are made to believe.
However, although this book clearly wasn’t meant for me, I can see what the attraction of it was when it was first published. So if you like a fainting heroine with an angel-like character, connected to some shady characters and some seemingly supernatural events, you’ll have to read this book.