Picture of author.

Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823)

Author of The Mysteries of Udolpho

50+ Works 5,790 Members 113 Reviews 21 Favorited

About the Author

Ann Radcliffe was born Ann Ward in England on July 9, 1764. She was the only child of William Ward and Anne Oates Ward. In 1788 she married William Radcliffe. They had no children. Ann published The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne in 1789. Other works include A Sicilian Romance, The Romance of the show more Forest, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and The Italian. She found much success with The Romance of the Forest and it established her as a Gothic novelist. Her later novels influenced other authors including Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, and Mary Wollstonecraft. She died on February 7, 1823 from respiratory problems. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Anne Ward Radcliffe. Wikimedia Commons.

Works by Ann Radcliffe

The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) 2,916 copies
The Italian (1796) 1,228 copies
The Romance of the Forest (1791) 643 copies
A Sicilian Romance (1790) 505 copies
Graphic Classics: Gothic Classics (2007) — Source Author — 64 copies
Gaston de Blondeville (1826) — Author — 48 copies
O italiano - 2ºVol (1797) 2 copies
[Works] 1 copy
Poems (Dodo Press) (2008) 1 copy

Associated Works

Eighteenth Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology (1989) — Contributor — 121 copies
Northanger Abbey/Castle of Otranto/Mysteries of Udolpho (1963) — Contributor — 56 copies
A Skeleton At the Helm (2008) — Contributor — 28 copies
Fairy Poems (2023) — Contributor — 15 copies
Witches' Brew: Horror and Supernatural Stories by Women (1984) — Contributor — 10 copies
The Queen’s Story Book — Contributor — 2 copies
The King's Story Book — Contributor — 1 copy

Tagged

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Radcliffe, Ann
Legal name
Radcliffe, Ann Ward
Other names
Mrs. Radcliffe
Birthdate
1764-07-09
Date of death
1823-02-07
Burial location
St. George's Church, Hanover Square, London, England, UK
Gender
female
Nationality
UK
Country (for map)
England, UK
Birthplace
Holborn, London, England, UK
Place of death
England, UK
Places of residence
Bath, Somerset, England, UK
Occupations
novelist
poet
Relationships
Ward, William (father)
Radcliffe, William (husband)
Lee, Sophia (friend)
Short biography
Mrs. Radcliffe was the most popular writer of her day! She was born Ann Ward and in 1787 married journalist William Radcliffe. She created six spooky novels with a blend of the supernatural, morals, romantic descriptions of landscape, and drama that British readers just could not get enough of. Although she was not the first to write Gothic fiction, she's considered a pioneer of the genre and a major influence on many other writers. (See for example, Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.)

Members

Discussions

Mrs. Radcliffe in Gothic Literature (February 2022)
The Mysteries of Udolpho in Gothic Literature (September 2018)
The Italian by Ann Radcliffe - lyzard tutoring SqueakyChu in 75 Books Challenge for 2014 (May 2016)
1001 Group Read May, 2012: The Mysteries of Udolpho in 1001 Books to read before you die (September 2012)

Reviews

The Mysteries of Udolpho is probably now the best-known of Ann Radcliffe's novels, and holds an important place as one of the earliest works in what came to be known as the Gothic genre. If, like me, you're interested in the history and development of Gothic literature, I would say this is a must-read. However, I probably wouldn't recommend it to the average reader. I think a lot of the criticism directed at this book is based on something of a cultural disconnect - the literary style of the late 1700s, as well as reader expectations around storytelling and prose, were quite different from what we're accustomed to now. For the modern reader, The Mysteries of Udolpho probably comes across as tediously long, there are grammatical choices that seem odd (so many commas!) and the characters lack the psychological nuance that we usually expect. That said, I think the story itself is compelling. It takes a long time to get going, but the middle part of the book in particular is very tense and atmospheric. I also thought the gender dynamics at play were fascinating - a lot of readers nowadays likely find Emily annoying and weak, but I think that ignores the facts of the time when this book was written and set (it's supposed to take place vaguely in the 1500s). Emily truly has no power in the situations in which she finds herself, and in my opinion that adds to the terror. At one point I found myself thinking "why doesn't she just run away?" and then I remembered that not only are they in the middle of the wilderness, but Emily as a minor noblewoman has no survival skills. She can't hunt food, she can barely light a fire, she's been kept in a state of learned helplessness that renders her particularly vulnerable. That said, she's also consistently shown to be logical and practical, even more so than the male protagonists (Valancourt in particular is an emotional mess most of the time), and resilient in the face of suffering. She does faint a lot, yes, albeit usually in situations where she's just seen a corpse or has witnessed a man being shot or is being kidnapped - situations of high stress in which I think fainting is maybe a forgivable, if dated, response. Furthermore Ann Radcliffe seems very aware of the sexist dynamics at play - Montoni in particular both compliments and berates Emily on the basis of her gender at various points, threatens her with sexual harm, and has a history of violence towards women.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book (save for the last hundred pages or so, which were unnecessary and largely boring), despite its many imperfections and dated style of writing. I'd recommend it for readers passionate about Gothic literature - it's essential for an understanding of the history of the genre. But if you know you don't like classic literature, lots of description, or the tropes that have come to define Gothic literature (many originated with this book and Radcliffe's other novels), then I'd suggest giving this one a pass.
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jaspersbookshelf | 61 other reviews | Feb 1, 2024 |
The Mysteries of Udolpho came within pages of being the third book off one of my reading lists that was left unfinished. Ann Radcliffe's novel relating the ordeals of Emily St. Aubert is an exasperating slog which taxes your patience through the tedious repetition of mundane details intended to elicit sympathy for her melancholy protagonist and multiple ineffective attempts to create mystery by the withholding of crucial facts by an otherwise intrusive narrator.

The first hundred pages of the book see Emily lose both parents in a manner more akin to batteries draining than the effects of disease, as well as losing Valancourt, the man who wins her lifelong affection despite the lack of meaningful interaction between them leading up to her infatuation. Her tearful brooding over these tragedies occupies all her spare time during this period.

After fulfilling her father's dying wish by burning his secret letters, Emily is placed in the care of her aunt, the first of several characters masquerading as wealthy while seeking to enrich themselves through favorable marriages to someone of actual wealth. Forced to travel from her native France to Venice, Emily is stalked by Count Morano, another charlatan who is so besotted with Emily that he forgets he is royalty and she nothing. His repeated proposals are enthusiastically supported by her aunt's villainous husband Montoni, who conceives to force Emily to wed the Count despite her strenuous objections. In the first but not last unbelievable turn of events, Emily unwittingly agrees to wed Morano while believing she is discussing a different topic.

On the morning before her coerced nuptials, Emily is again forced to flee in the company of her aunt and uncle, this time to Udolpho castle, where she and her aunt are held prisoner by Montoni and his despicable henchmen. During her captivity, she sees a sight so horrible she faints but tells no one what it is, including the reader and alternates between brooding over her lost love Valancourt, investigating the mysterious music and singing outside her window, and vacillating whether to sign over her birth right to Montoni in exchange for her freedom.

Unfortunately, you are only halfway through the novel at this point, and have another three hundred pages of—among myriad other nuisances—Emily's constant tears, tiresome references to her father's mysterious letters and the sight at Udolpho that caused Emily to faint, a chateau haunted by mysterious music and singing (yes, again) and a dying, disreputable nun with a secret upon which the whole novel turns.

Most disappointing about The Mysteries of Udolpho is that it is actually an entertaining and ultimately redeeming story ruined by the way Radcliffe goes about supposedly building mystery and suspense through tiresome repetition of known and uninteresting facts (which adds a significant number of unnecessary pages) and summarizing events she should have instead spent time narrating, as well as swooping in like Agatha Christie's Poirot to reveal—in two unsatisfying pages near the very end of the book—the mystery of Emily's father's letters and the horrid sight at Udolpho. If that is typical of the gothic style, this will be my only venture into the genre.

If you keep in mind the era this novel was written in, the level of sophistication of readers of the time and perhaps the lack of entertainment alternatives that would leave readers no choice but to tolerate writing of this nature, you might enjoy this book more than I did.
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skavlanj | 61 other reviews | Nov 17, 2023 |
Read for a graduate seminar on Romantic Era Women Writers at CU Boulder.

I'd give this novel 3.5 stars, if such an option existed. As is, I'm rounding up!

I love how intricate the plot of this Gothic romance is - there really isn't a dull moment and the foreshadowing is not at all as obvious as it appears. That said - I could do without the excessive exclamation points (Perhaps Jay Anson was an avid reader of Radcliffe!) or the excessive exultations of the numerous servants/guides throughout the novel to which the main characters frequently failed to listen. As a plot device, I found that pretty weak - admittedly because my 21st Century sentiments were a bit vexed at the prospect of action moving forward because the rich guy ignored the poor guy.

That said - I'd recommend giving this one a read at some point in your life.
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BreePye | 13 other reviews | Oct 6, 2023 |
Read for a graduate seminar on Romantic Era Women Writers at CU Boulder.

I'd give this novel 3.5 stars, if such an option existed. As is, I'm rounding up!

I love how intricate the plot of this Gothic romance is - there really isn't a dull moment and the foreshadowing is not at all as obvious as it appears. That said - I could do without the excessive exclamation points (Perhaps Jay Anson was an avid reader of Radcliffe!) or the excessive exultations of the numerous servants/guides throughout the novel to which the main characters frequently failed to listen. As a plot device, I found that pretty weak - admittedly because my 21st Century sentiments were a bit vexed at the prospect of action moving forward because the rich guy ignored the poor guy.

That said - I'd recommend giving this one a read at some point in your life.
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Flagged
BreePye | 13 other reviews | Oct 6, 2023 |

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J. Sheridan Le Fanu Source Author
Maria Weber Editor, Translator
Jacqueline Howard Introduction, Editor
Frederick Garber Contributor, Editor
Devendra P. Varma Introduction
Karen Cass Narrator
Catherine LaPointe Illustrator
Jaroslav Hornát Translator
Nicolas Fournier Translator
S. W. Reynolds Cover artist
Lisa M. Dresner Introduction
Roman Cieślewicz Illustrator
Vittoria Sanna Translator
Hannes Riffel Herausgeber
Laura McDonald Introduction
Edward Bawden Cover artist
Terry Castle Introduction
Joseph Farington Cover artist
Darrell Schweitzer Introduction
R. Austin Freeman Introduction
Alison Larkin Narrator
Sarah van Niekerk Illustrator
Barbauld Editor
E. J. Clery Introduction
Nick Groom Editor

Statistics

Works
50
Also by
13
Members
5,790
Popularity
#4,260
Rating
½ 3.4
Reviews
113
ISBNs
333
Languages
12
Favorited
21

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