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The mysteries of Udolpho: A romance,…

The mysteries of Udolpho: A romance, interspersed with some pieces of… (original 1794; edition 1970)

by Ann Radcliffe, Bonamy Dombrée (Editor), Frederick Garber (Notes)

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2,299524,318 (3.36)2 / 406
`Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Rreflections brought only regret, and anticipation terror.'Such is the state of mind in which Emily St. Aubuert - the orphaned heroine of Ann Radcliffe's 1794 gothic Classic, The Mysteries of Udolpho - finds herself after Count Montoni, her evil guardian, imprisions her in his gloomy medieval fortress in the Appenines. Terror is the order of the dayinside the walls of Udolpho, as Emily struggles against Montoni's rapacious schemes and the threat of her own psychological disintegration.A best-seller in its day and a potent influence on Walpole, Poe, and other writers of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Gothic horror, The Mysteries of Udolpho remains one of the most important works in the history of European fiction. As the same time, with its dream-like plot and hallucinatoryrendering of its characters' psychological states, it often seems strangely modern: `permanently avant-garde' in Terry Castle's words, and a profound and fascinating challenge to contemporary readers.… (more)
Title:The mysteries of Udolpho: A romance, interspersed with some pieces of poetry
Authors:Ann Radcliffe
Other authors:Bonamy Dombrée (Editor), Frederick Garber (Notes)
Info:New York: Oxford University Press (Reprint, first published 1966)
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:fiction, novel, british, 18c, gothic

Work details

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (1794)


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English (49)  French (3)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
I might have given this classic 3* if it hadn't had all those unnecessary (and bad) poems! ( )
  leslie.98 | Oct 14, 2019 |
Serious overuse of the word 'melancholy' and pages of long-winded description, but that's what makes the heroine's dangerous adventures among rogues and scoundrels so charming! Still, reading the abridged version would probably not have been a bad idea. ( )
  Zaiga | Sep 23, 2019 |
This is the story about how Emily St Aubert, a modest young woman of good character, overcomes her high principles and decides that maybe her legal guardian is not correct in locking her and her aunt up in his remote Italian castle in order to obtain possession of their estates. Of stalkers suitors she had plenty, and held them off graciously in order to remain free for her pure Valancourt. To love is appropriate, even if acquaintances have observed the object of that love at gaming tables spending money he does not possess.

This novel is ridiculous. I can also see what made people so mad about it. There were long sequences of words where nothing happened except for the stopping of the carriage to take in a view. Radcliffe was opposed to the idea of "horror" over "suspense". She certainly lives up to that idea, unfortunately it all seems to have gotten out of her hands. She drops more hints and secrets and unutterable sights than she can ultimately handle. And yet, I enjoyed reading it. The impossibility of the castle, the bizarre introduction in volume 4 of a new cast all reminded me of that phenomenon of a decade ago: Lost.

'The Mysteries of Udolpho' is the 'Lost' of its century. There are mysteries in each character's past, however innocuous, and a conspiracy of silence until their isn't, and revelations that are hidden until the writer gets around to deciding what those revelations signify or what they will even be. I enjoyed 'Lost' immensely, 'Udolpho' less so, but I can appreciate how millions were drawn into the play and inspired, among many others, the fond ridicule of Jane Austen. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Goodness, this is an odd book. And this is a spoiler-rich review.
Starts with Emily being a delicate flower, with sensibilities almost too delicate to function. Poor flower, she can bvarely function as a human being, fainting at the drop of a handkerchief (have you guessed how much she annoyed me?).
On this epic trip in the mountains, Emily and her father come across a young man who aids them while lost in the passes of the mountains, this is Valencourt and he manages to fall head over heels for Emily. Only the pair of them are far too sensitive and repressed to declare themselves (I'm not sure I'd have been much good as a 18th century lady!). St Aubyn approves of Valencourt, and so the pair of them do, start, to come to some understanding of each other's heart. awww. From here, however, things go down hill for Em. Her mother has died prior to the epic trip and during the journey home, her father also succumbs. He does so at a remote abbey near to a deserted chateau and Emily is devestated. He leaves a deathbed request that Emily retrieve some papers from a hiding place in his study and destroy them. This opens a bit of a can of worms that runs as an undercurrent until its resolution at the end of the book. Radcliffe does this a number of times, starts a hare running and then leaves it, not chased down, until it suddenly pops its head up again and a bit more gets revealed. I can't decide if it's a good trick or merely an annoying one.
Emily has been left in the care of her aunt, who turns out not the be the nicest person you've ever met. She blows hot and cold on the romance, initially disapproving of Valencourt, but then, after discovering he is a relation to a society hostess she is trying to impress, turns around and encourages the young lovers. Only then she has another change of heart, and goes as far as to turn him out of the house. At the end of volume 1, there is a declaration and part of me was urging Emily to accpet, purely to end the story there and then, thus saving me several hundred more pages of her company. Alas, it was not to be.
However, for me, this is where the book starts to pick up. The aunt is taken in by and marries an Italian noble (well, we'll see about that bit) Montoni, and so the action moves to Venice, where Emily attracts admirers and declines them, her heat being otherwise engaged. After a bit of an altercation in which a friend of Montoni commits murder (casually, like you do), they all decamp to Montoni's castle in the Appennines, Udolpho. Here things take is distinctly darker turn, with the aunt being subject to pressure to turn over her lands to Montoni who, (colour me not surprised) has turned out to be a bad egg, a spendthrift and gambler. Not only has he come into the ownership of the castle in dodgy circumstances - where is the missing lady who was the heir to the estate prior to Montoni comming into ownership?. He's married her for the money and he wants it. This is in the midst of also turning into a bandit (saying it in Italian makes it no more attractive an occupation) and raiding the countryside for what he can steal. He has a number of friends staying in the castle and it's clear that they have some dark motive in mind for young Emily. During the stay here, there are a number of chills and terrors that shake Emily, but she seems to have grown some backbone, as the fainting distinctly decreases in frequency and it takes a lot more to induce such an episode. Good on ya, girl. One terror involves a veil over something that we undertstand to be a picture, and the significance of this is, again, revealed in book 4. She discovers that there is a prisioner in the castle of her native France and, with little evidence, decides that this is Valencourt. Nope. Turns out of have been a neighbour who has also fallen for her charms andm between him, her servant and her servant's admirer, they escape the castle.
Bizarrely, we then find them back in France and in the vicinty of the same chateau that was deserted in the midst of book 1. We meet the family and hear the tale of the haunted wing. Emily has to deal with her new-found admirer while dealing with some news that Valencourt has gone to rack and ruin in paris while she's been away. And here she is in danger of revertting to type, with what feels like a massive over-reaction to the news and the withdrawl of her affection from Valencourt. Oh deary me.
In the end it all comes out in the wash. There are a number of scares and those hares that had been set running earlier pop up and are caught. It all ties up very neatly, maybe rather too neatly. I still struggle with this idea of sensitivity being a virtue, Emily spends too much of her time fainting to function effectively, although she does seem to rise to the occasion when it is needed. I also struggled with the somewhat overlong and tedious attempts at poetry scattered through the book. I did read them, but it did turn into a skim read at times. I struggle with poetry at the best of times - and this was not poetry at its best. Was it worth all that frustration? Well yes. It's not going to be a book I come back to, but it does form an important point int the development of the novel. This gets referrenced numerous times, Northanger Abbey, for example, so it is a foundation work, if you like. It turned out better than it started, which is no bad thing. ( )
  Helenliz | Nov 1, 2018 |
Wow, this is one long tale of one gothic castle after another. Very convoluted tale of young girl who dad dies and is left to the machinations of her heartless aunt. Not much real horror, some spectre/ghosts but mostly this is a long gothic romance.

This is a rag to riches tale for the poor orphaned Emily and also for her penniless and somewhat weak Valancourt.

The audio read by Karen Cass is excellent. She is really great with voices for the various characters.

Point of interest, this story has a prominent role in Northanger Abbey ( )
  Kristelh | Oct 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (38 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ann Radcliffeprimary authorall editionscalculated
BarbauldEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bawden, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cass, KarenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Castle, TerryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cieślewicz, RomanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Costas Solano, Carlos JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dobrée, BonamyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dobrée, TerryToim.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dobrée, BonamyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dresner, Lisa M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eenhoorn, MichaelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farington, JosephCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
FERREIRA, LeyguardaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Forkel-Liebeskind, MetaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fournier, NicolasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
FREEMAN, R. AUSTINIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garber, FrederickContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hornát, JaroslavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hornátová, EliškaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, JacquelineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, JacquelineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
LaPointe, CatherineIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larkin, AlisonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDonald, LauraIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Niekerk, Sarah vanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Niepokólczycki, WacławTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pechmann, AlexanderEinleitungsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quayle, StevenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reynolds, S. W.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
RHYS, ERNESTEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riffel, HannesHerausgebersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanna, VittoriaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schweitzer, DarrellIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Varma, Devendra PIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Fate sits on these dark battlements, and frowns,
And, as the portals open to receive me,
Her voice, in sullen echoes through the courts,
Tells of a nameless deed.
First words
On the pleasant banks of the Garonne, in the province of Gascony, stood, in the year 1584, the chateau of Monsieur St. Aubert.
Perhaps no work in the history of English fiction has been more often caricatured - trivialized, misread, remade as hearsay - then Ann Radcliffe's late eighteenth-century Gothic classic The Mysteries of Udolpho.
How strange it is, that a fool or a knave, with riches, should be treated with more respect by the world, than a good man, or a wise man in poverty!
...never looking beyond the limits of her own ignorance, she believed she hadnothing to learn. She attracted notice from all; amused some, disgusted others for a moment, and was then forgotten.
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Book description
Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Reflection brought only regret, and anticipation terror.

Such is the state of mind of Ann Radcliffe's orphaned heroine Emily St Aubert, who finds herself imprisoned in her evil guardian Count Montoni's gloomy medieval fortress in the remote Appenines. Terror is the order of the day inside the walls of Udolpho, as Emily struggles against Montoni's rapacious schemes and the threat of her own psychological disintegration.

A bestseller in its day and a potent influence on Sade, Poe, and other writers, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) is Radcliffe's classic work of Gothic fiction. With its dream-like plot and hallucinatory rendering of its characters' psychological states, the novel remains a profound and fascinating challenge to modern readers.
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140437592, 0141191937

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