Clermont by Regina Maria Roche - lyzard tutoring SqueakyChu

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Clermont by Regina Maria Roche - lyzard tutoring SqueakyChu

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Edited: Jun 3, 2012, 11:47 pm

Hello, all!

"All", I hope, although this is by far the most obscure novel I've had the pleasure of tutoring. Perhaps I should explain---

Earlier this year, Madeline (SqueakyChu) and I worked our way through Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. As well as being a social comedy, this novel is famously a parody of the Gothic novels that were popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries; its heroine, Catherine Morland, spends most of her spare time engrossed in perhaps the most famous Gothic novel of them all, Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries Of Udolpho.

As commonly happens, a reading of Northanger Abbey inspired Madeline with an interest in Gothic novels, and I had the opportunity of tutoring her through Horace Walpole's The Castle Of Otranto.

However---once we'd reached the end of that book, I felt compelled to observe, sotto voce, "Of course, that isn't really a Gothic novel..."

The Castle Of Otranto was, as Walpole himself explained, "an attempt to meld the old style of romance and the new". It is set in Italy some 200 years before it was written, and deals with the exposure and punishment of a usurper via supernatural means. The short novel was a great success (more so, however, before the public knew Walpole had written it), and it inspired a range of reactions - including strong disapproval of Walpole's use of the supernatural. The 18th century was, for the most part, a time of rationality; belief in the supernatural was scorned, and even ghost stories were strenuously criticised as encouraging a "superstitious" mindset, which was considered inappropriate in Protestant England.

One literary response to The Castle Of Otranto was Clara Reeve's The Old English Baron (originally published as The Champion Of Virtue), which was a similar story re-worked in acceptably English terms, concentrating on social interactions and a strong moral rather than trying to frighten the reader. There is in fact a ghost in the book, but a quiet, almost apologetic one, which appears only briefly. Although Walpole himself was disgusted with it, the novel was a success; and more authors began experimenting with stories of this kind.

The breakthrough work was Ann Radcliffe's A Sicilian Romance, the first true "Gothic novel", as that term is now understood. Although she wrote only four novels in this style, including The Romance Of The Forest, The Mysteries Of Udolpho and The Italian, Radcliffe was both enormously popular, with critics as well as readers, and hugely influential. Her success provoked an explosion of Gothic novels in the marketplace, finally leading to overload, backlash and parody. Nevertheless, for some thirty years the Gothic novel was a significant and popular genre.

One of the most famous passages in Northanger Abbey is the following conversation between Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe:

"...and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read The Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you."
"Have you, indeed? How glad I am!---What are they all?"
"I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle Of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer Of The Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan Of The Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time."
"Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?"
"Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them..."

For over a hundred years, it was assumed that Jane Austen had simply made up some titles to illustrate how "silly" the Gothic novel was. It was Montague Summers (author of The Gothic Quest) who proved that these were all real novels. More importantly, however, subsequent scholarship demonstrated that Austen did not pick these novels at random, but had in fact carefully selected them as representatives of the various subgenres of the Gothic novel - proving how well-versed she was in this kind of reading.

The novels are, correctly, as follows:

The Castle Of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons (1793)
The Necromancer by Karl Friedrich Kahlert (1794)
Horrid Mysteries by Karl Grosse (1796)
The Mysterious Warning by Eliza Parsons (1796)
Clermont by Regina Maria Roche (1798)
The Midnight Bell by Francis Lathom (1798)
Orphan Of The Rhine by Eleanor Sleath (1798)

These novels run the gamut from translations of German horror stories (The Necromancer, Horrid Mysteries) through to what we might call the domestic-Gothic.

In 1968, the Folio Society reissued all six novels for the first time since their original publication, in a set called "the Northanger Novels"; these are now collectors' items. Over the past decade or so, the specialty publisher Valancourt Books has made them available as reasonably-priced paperbacks (along with so many others that perhaps even sweet Miss Andrews would be sated).

When Madeline expressed an interest in reading a real Gothic novel, it was to the "Northanger Novels" we turned; and based upon Amazon's "look inside" feature, Madeline selected Clermont.

Regina Maria Roche was not a Gothic novelist as such, but she was one of the many who tried her hand at writing a Gothic novel in the wake of Ann Radcliffe's success. Roche was a popular writer who specialised in social novels with a moral that entertained as well as edified. Clermont, as we have said, falls into the category of the domestic-Gothic, meaning that it lifts a number of the Gothic novel tropes (which we will consider shortly) and deploys them in a contemporary setting.

So Madeline and I will be spending some time working through Clermont together, examining the ways in which it fits the classical definition of "the Gothic novel" - and the ways in which it does not. Hopefully this tutored read will also prove entertaining as well as edifying. If not, I'll settle for entertaining.

And by the way---

Clermont's heroine is called "Madeline". :)

Edited: Jun 3, 2012, 11:49 pm

So what is a Gothic novel, then?

The first thing we need to recognise is that the word "Gothic" has had a range of meanings over the years - over the centuries. It originally referred to a style of medieval architecture, marked by an emphasis on vertical lines, with features including tall towers, arches, columns, and lots of points. The style was particularly favoured for cathedrals and churches.

It is important to understand that this architectural style was not called "Gothic" at the time; "Gothic" was in fact a pejorative term, meaning crude or barbaric, which was used by people trying to re-introduce the simpler, Grecian style of design to criticise the earlier, more elaborate style. So for a long time "Gothic" in any context was an insult.

When Horace Walpole called The Castle Of Otranto "a Gothic tale" he meant it more or less literally. He loved that style of architecture, and had already built himself a villa with all the salient features. He later claimed that a dream inspired by his villa in turn inspired Otranto, which he set in the appropriate medieval period.

The writers who followed Walpole borrowed a number of features from his book and began melding them together, also adding others, until a recognisable set of tropes appeared. The descent from The Castle Of Otranto was recognised, and critics began to refer to books with these features as "Gothic novels".

The 18th century was "the Age of Reason", which saw an emphasis on the intellect, on rationality, on logic. In the second half of the century, there was a backlash against what was perceived as a cold and calculating way to live. This resulted in an increased focus upon the emotions, and things that fed the emotions - art, poetry, music, literature. "Sensibility" became a valued quality; you showed how fine and sensitive a person you were not only by wearing your heart on your sleeve, but through your empathy with others. A love of nature was a shortcut to God.

The Gothic novel is an outgrowth of the "novel of sensibility", which was short on plot and long on scenes of people suffering and crying and dying: the point of this odd subgenre was that the reader got to wallow in other people's emotions.

In the Gothic novel, the characters are impossibly virtuous, and also of great "sensibility". The central character is usually a beautiful young girl, often an orphan, who suffers through various ordeals, frequently due to scheming, wicked relatives. The action often takes place in a remote location, like a chateau in the mountains or an ancient, abandoned castle. There is an emphasis upon nature, often with long descriptions of "sublime" and "majestic" mountains and forests.

The heroine will be terrorised, either by the novel's villains or by what she believes to be genuine supernatural manifestations; although these may later be explained away. The use of "terror" (as opposed to "horror") in the Gothic novel was something pioneered by Ann Radcliffe: drawing upon Edmund Burke's essay On The Sublime And Beautiful, she argued that terror "expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life." Thus, in Radcliffe's novels the heroine may deliberately put herself into dangerous or terrifying situations - investigating a mysterious sound, or exploring a secret passage-way, for example. However, since in Radcliffe's theory the essence of "terror" was "obscurity" or "indeterminacy", sometimes the heroine will not be quite sure what she has seen or experienced.

Gothic novels are usually set in the past, and in a country other than England; although the characters tend to think and act like late 18th century English people. Most of them are set in France, Italy or Spain, which were viewed as exotic, lawless countries where anything could happen (as opposed to civilised England).

These countries were also Catholic. Anti-Catholicism, from the casual to the vicious, is a common feature of Gothic novels. At best there will be a passing reference to entering a convent being a cowardly retreat from the world, at worst the novel's villain will be the Inquisition. Corrupt, irreligious nuns and monks are common (although some good ones also appear). Catholicism is viewed as a kind of "superstition"; Catholic characters are easily frightened and see ghosts and portents everywhere. (Which ties into the disapproval of Clara Reeve and others of Walpole's supernatural phenomena.) A common subplot is the heroine being imprisoned in a convent, or forced to enter one against her will.

(This anti-Catholicism often poses a problem for the authors of Gothic novels, since their good characters are necessarily Catholic - they get around this by simply stressing how devout they are, while avoiding any mention of mass, confession, etc.)

Finally, the Gothic novel will revolve around the revelation of A Terrible Secret, which is usually revealed by the actions of the heroine (who therefore acts as a proto-detective.) This revelation may solve all her problems or ruin her life.

Now---the Gothic novel, in its classic form, was a fairly short-lived phenomenon. Basically, it burnt itself out - in that form. However, many authors adopted its tropes and put them to new uses. For example, in 1834, William Harrison Ainsworth described his novel, Rookwood, as "a home-grown Gothic", while many scenes from Dickens have a Gothic feel to them. Jane Eyre is, in essence, a Gothic novel, although one written with a wholly new attitude and purpose. The sensation novels of the second half of the 19th century (the works of Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and others) were Gothic novels in contemporary clothing.

In the 20th century, the Gothic novel revived again in works like Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, a conscious throw-back to Jane Eyre. But as time went by, "Gothic" began to refer less to particular settings or storylines, and more to the mood of a particular work. Novelists whose writing has been described as "Gothic" (or "modern Gothic", or "Southern Gothic", or "neo-Gothic", or "post-modern Gothic") include William Faulkner, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O'Connor, Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, and Patrick McGrath.

But definitions are always tricky things, and as far as a definition of "Gothic" goes, it is often a case of "I know it when I read it".

Edited: Jun 1, 2012, 6:41 am

Which brings us to Clermont.

Finally. :)

Clermont, as I have said, is an example of the domestic-Gothic novel, which means that it has adopted many of the Gothic tropes and applied them to a modern (i.e. late 18th century) story and setting.

So what should Madeline look out for on her way through this novel, which will let her know that she is nevertheless reading "a real Gothic"?

The vocabulary: Gothic novels have a language all their own, and are extremely adjective-heavy. Look out for the following:- sensibility, romantic, picturesque, dejected, melancholy, mournful, gloomy, shadows, pensive, solemn, majestic, wild, desolate, awful (in its original meaning of "awe-inspiring").

The heroine:- impossibly beautiful, innocent, full of sensibility and delicacy, frequently agitated or even overcome by emotion; she trembles and blushes a lot; she may be so emotional that she finds it difficult to walk, and so has to clutch at things for support; alternatively, she may stagger, totter, or struggle to drag her trembling limbs around. There will, of course, be fainting.

Nature:- One of Ann Radcliffe's legacies. Her long, poetic descriptions of the scenery, and the characters' appreciation of same (in which way they display their sensibility), is one of the features of her novels. Contemporary readers ate it up, but these days these passages tend to cause impatience. Most later Gothic novelists dutifully copied Radcliffe, but a shout-out to Catherine Cuthbertson, who in Romance Of The Pyrenees, in every other respect a textbook Gothic novel, flatly declared her intention of doing nothing of the sort.

Poetry:- Radcliffe has a lot to answer for here, too. Another of her innovations was to include long stretches of poetry in her novels (self-composed, but usually presented as the heroine's work). Most other Gothic novelists copied this, as well, sometimes quoting established poets, sometimes writing their own. Most of them aren't as good at it as Radcliffe.

Cry me a river:- Everyone cries. All the time. Over everything.

Crumbling castles:- No-one in a Gothic novel maintains their property. Even occupied homes tend to have "moldering battlements". Nearly everyone has "an ancient estate" deep in the country, which helps.

Picturesque peasants:- the working classes appear in Gothic novels for five main reasons:
(i) Gothic novels are full of industrious, contented peasants, who labour cheerfully all day and sing and dance at night, and allow the author to lecture on the virtues of honest work. The main characters (who are, of course, independently wealthy and do no work of any kind) often relax by peasant-watching. Strangely, the peasants do not resent this.
(ii) comic relief - the working-classes are hilarious, aren't they? Blame Radcliffe. Or Shakespeare.
(iii) to be terrified by noises / shadows / legends, and thus allow the heroine to display her superior sense and courage
(iv) to fill in the back-story - the working-classes talk a lot
(v) to act as henchpeople for the villains, although they are usually converted by the heroine's goodness.

Sympathetic weather:- Characters depressed? Look out for rain. Characters terrified? Thunder and lightning on cue. Similarly, make note of how few scenes take place in the light of day, as opposed to at dawn, dusk, or the middle of the night.

Secrets:- Everyone except the heroine has a secret. Sometimes she does, too, but she's bad at keeping them.

The Grim Reaper on the rampage:- Some of these books rack up quite a body count. But on the other hand---

"I got better!":- Never assume someone is dead just because everyone says they are.

I think those are the main things. Others we'll discover together as we go along.

Edited: Jun 1, 2012, 7:19 am

The cry of the Gothic novel---

Clermont, Volume III, Chapter 3:

"But a few days ago, and from the recollection of former calamities, I thought I could not be more wretched than I was then: but, alas! I now find I was mistaken."

Edited: Jun 24, 2012, 12:21 am

Hi Liz, welcome back!

I was really missing our tutored reads, but I'm so happy to be back. I'm also glad that Ilana was able to work her way through Persuasion with you. At some point, I'll need to go back and work my way through that book as well. This May, with our son's wedding was too busy of a month for me, but I'm all up for more tutored reads this year. No knowing where our adventures will take us. For sure, it will be uncharted reading for me!

I'm also happy that I had a chance to "share" you and hope others down the road will take advantage of your vast knowledge of 18th century British literature and your willingness and enjoyment of sharing your knowledge.

Free sailing ahead for us now, though...

Edited: Jun 1, 2012, 11:21 am

Liz, do you have a message for lurkers that you'd like to post? If so, now's your chance!

Lurkers, now's your time to unveil (introduce) yourself before going back into hiding. :)

I'll allow you to tell us all when the intermissions (when lurkers can talk about the chapters already read) will occur. You time them so much better than I do, Liz.

Edited: Jun 1, 2012, 10:35 am

> 1

There is in fact a ghost in the book, but a quiet, almost apologetic one, which appears only briefly.

How lame! :)

Castle Of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer Of The Black Forest,Midnight Bell, Orphan Of The Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries.

Besides Clermont, have you read any of the others, Liz?

In 1968, the Folio Society reissued all six novels for the first time since their original publication, in a set called "the Northanger Novels"; these are now collectors' items. Over the past decade or so, the specialty publisher Valancourt Books has made them available as reasonably-priced paperbacks (along with so many others that perhaps even sweet Miss Andrews would be sated).

...which explains the relative difficultly I had in obtaining a relatively inexpensive copy of this book to read. Sincere thanks for sending me a copy of this book, Liz.

Clermont's heroine is called "Madeline"

...which is not an insignificant reason I chose this book!

Jun 1, 2012, 10:45 am

> 2

It originally referred to a style of medieval architecture, marked by an emphasis on vertical lines, with features including tall towers, arches, columns, and lots of points. The style was particularly favoured for cathedrals and churches.

The cover design of my copy of The Castle of Otranto was just that and more!

Gothic" was in fact a pejorative term

What is the relationship betwen the use of the word "gothic" as you describe it and the current use of the word "goth" among teens and young adults?

the point of this odd subgenre was that the reader got to wallow in other people's emotions.

Oooh! I like doing that both in books and (captioned) films.

There is an emphasis upon nature, often with long descriptions of "sublime" and "majestic" mountains and forests.

That's so me! :)

Gothic novels are usually set ... in a country other than England

Hmmm? I was always under the impression that Gothic novels were set in England. I can see Italy, Spain, and France having a vastly different character than England. I've had the good fortune of having visited all four of these

the works of Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and others) were Gothic novels in contemporary clothing

Just as a heads up, my niece is giving me her copy of Wilkie Collins' book The Woman in White.

William Faulkner, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O'Connor, Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, and Patrick McGrath

I love, love, love the creepy novels of Patrick Mcgrath and feel that he is not widely enough read. I count him among my favorite authors. His books do not disappoint me.

I recently read my first Shirley Jackson novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and I found that such a fun read!

I'm not so sure about Joyce Carol Oates, though. I haven't been that taken with a few of her books that I've read. She is such a prolific author. Do recommend those that you think I'd like. I'll certainly give her another try.

Jun 1, 2012, 10:47 am

By the way, Liz, there is a Gothic literature group here on LT. Do you want to invite members of that group to lurk here or not? Your choice, of course.

Jun 1, 2012, 11:00 am

> 3

There will, of course, be fainting.

Did I tell you we had an episode of fainting at my son's wedding? (Really!!) She was beautiful and probably overcome with emotion (as this was during the wedding ceremony itself).

I think this episode of fainting was just a lead-in to our joint read of Clermont! ;)

Another of her innovations was to include long stretches of poetry in her novels

Hmmm? I'm not sure how I'll take to that. I can only endure certain types of poetry.

Gothic novels are full of industrious, contented peasants

Good! ...because I find peasants vastly more intersting than the persnickity wealthy! :)

comic relief

I love comic relief. In contemporary American writing, I find that Stephen King is a master of it.

Similarly, make note of how few scenes take place in the light of day, as opposed to at dawn, dusk, or the middle of the night.

Patrick Mcgrath, whom we mentioned above, did a super job of this in his book Spider. I kept on wanting to turn on lights and reach for an umbrella while reading that book. :)

> 4

"But a few days ago, and from the recollection of former calamities, I thought I could not be more wretched than I was then: but, alas! I now find I was mistaken."


Jun 1, 2012, 11:00 am

We two are a talkative duo, aren't we, Liz? ;)

Edited: Jun 1, 2012, 11:22 am

Clermont: Chapter 1 which we are introduced to Clermont


1. How do we address Clermont? Mr. Clermont? I was at first trying to decide if Clermont was a person's name or the name of an estate. I soon enough figured out the answer, but it initially had me confused.

2. Where is Dauphiny?

3. Was it common to play a lute? What kind of instrument was that?

4. What is a husbandman?

5. What is a paling?

"The cottage of Clermont...enclosed by a rude paling..."


I already like this book. The heroine's name is Madeline, and there is even a goat in the first chapter! :)

Jun 1, 2012, 1:26 pm

#6 Am I allowed to unveil myself as a lurker if there's not an intermission? Oh well, I'll do it anyway. I'm here, lurking and might even get a copy later this month and read along.

I've added the first two posts to my favourites because they were such good summaries - thank you Liz!

(Going back to lurking....)

Edited: Jun 1, 2012, 1:41 pm

Heather, I think it's fun to know who are our lurkers as we lure them in. :)

What do you say, Liz?

All I ask it that lurkers save any book-related questions until scheduled intermissions.

Edited: Jun 1, 2012, 5:00 pm

Hi, Madeline - great to be back!

I'm delighted to see that we do have some lurkers here, and hopefully we'll pick up a few more along the way. I wasn't sure how interesting a novel like this would be to the populatoon at large.

Lurkers are free to unveil themselves (how daring!!) at any time and make comments on comments, but please restrict new questions and anything potentially spoilerish to the intermissions. I haven't worked out yet when the intermissions will be, and it may depend on Madeline's progress and how long an individual chapter takes.

I'll leave the question of inviting the Gothic group up to you, Madeline - your tutored read, your call!

Jun 1, 2012, 5:06 pm

I'll leave the question of inviting the Gothic group up to you, Madeline - your tutored read, your call!

I think I'll do it.

Edited: Jun 1, 2012, 6:11 pm


How lame! :)

That's exactly what Horace Walpole said!

I have read The Castle Of Wolfenbach, The Mysterious Warning and Orphan Of The Rhine, but a lo-oo-oo-ong time ago. I also tried Horrid Mysterious but could only find a poor translation and gave up on it.


The word "Gothic" was originally a reference to the Goths, who were an early Scandanavian people. During the 3rd century, they invaded mainland Europe and overran an enormous area stretching from (in modern terms) Germany and part of Russia, through the Balkan states and into Greece and Turkey. Their captured territory became known as "the Gothic territory".

There's a lot more I won't get into here, but importantly the Goths played a role in the fall of the Roman Empire. They (or their various sub-tribes) also fought and conquered their way across Europe into Spain. Because they usually defeated the incumbent people and took over, they were viewed as barbarians, and "to behave like a Goth" was a common insult. To be "Gothic" was therefore to be "barbaric".

The Goths, in the modern sense, have a line of descent from Horace Walpole to Ann Radcliffe, through the classic horror literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Dracula and Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, through the German Expressionists, through the Universal and later Hammer horror films, through TV shows like Dark Shadows, through the punk movement of the 70s, and then the New Wave. So they are distant relatives, if you like.

I was always under the impression that Gothic novels were set in England.

Rarely if ever. Remember this bit from Northanger Abbey, when Catherine has just had a sharp lesson in why real life is not like a Gothic novel:

Charming as were all Mrs Radcliffe's works, and charming even the works of her imitators, it was not in them perhaps that human nature, at least in the midland counties of England, was to be looked for.

England was dignified, civilised - and Protestant. Not-England was a wilderness populated by passionate and dangerous men and women who solved their problems with knives (sorry, poignards) and poison, bands of roaming criminals, and Catholics.

The Woman In White is a great example of the kind of novel that evolved out of the Gothic.

As for modern authors, whether they are "Gothic" or not is largely a matter of opinion. It's now more a matter of the mood and atmosphere of a piece of writing, rather than any specific content.


Did I tell you we had an episode of fainting at my son's wedding? (Really!!)

That's fascinating - was it medical or emotional?? :)

I do find the constant fainting in these books rather exasperating, though I realise that (like crying) it was a way for "nice" women to demonstrate their "sensibility".

Edited: Jun 1, 2012, 6:35 pm

Right!! (she said, rubbing her hands together gleefully) - let's do this!!

1. He is correctly Monsieur Clermont - M. Clermont, in writing - as our characters are French. However, we've already had hints that that may not be his real name.

2. Dauphiny is (was) a province in south-east France. It had its own mountain-range, the Alpes du Dauphiné, which was to the west of the Alps themselves, which may be why Roche chose it as a setting.

Gothic novels are very often set near or in the Alps or the Pyrenees, so you can have "majestic mountains" in the background of the action. (A lack of mountains is one of the reasons England made an unsatisfactory Gothic setting.)

The area is famous for its food and wine. Note that M. Clermont earns a living as a wine-maker, which was sufficiently separate from mere farming for it to be an acceptably "gentlemanly" profession.

3. It was not common to play a lute. A lute was considered "romantic" and was therefore an appropriate instrument for the heroine of a Gothic novel.

4. "Husbandman" had a specific meaning in terms of property ownership, but in this context it's really just a romantic way of saying "farmer". Gothic novelists never use a simple word where a complicated one will do.

5. A paling is strictly one of the boards in a wooden fence, but here (as in #4) Roche is using a fancy word where a plain one would do: to be "enclosed by a rude paling" means they have a wooden fence around the property.

I already like this book. The heroine's name is Madeline, and there is even a goat in the first chapter! :)

Goats, like peasants, are "picturesque". :)

Jun 1, 2012, 6:47 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

Our heroine, ladies and gentlemen:

She possessed besides an exquisite taste for drawing and music, and accompanied the soft melody of her lute with a voice which, though not strong, was inexpressibly sweet... She was tall and delicately made; nor was the symmetry of her features inferior to that of her bodily form: but it was not to this symmetry that they owed their most attractive charm,---it was derived from the fascinating sweetness diffused over them. Her eyes, large and of the darkest hazel, ever true to the varying emotions of her soul, languished beneath their long silken lashes with all the softness of sensibility...

While in the vicinity of our main characters' home we find:

...the summit of one of the highest was crowned with the ruins of a once noble castle... This shattered pile, the record of departed greatness and the power of time, was carefully shunned by the peasants after sun-set, for the village legends were swelled with an ancient account of the horrid noises, and still more horrid sights, heard and beheld within its dreary walls: but though feared by superstition, it was the favourite haunt of taste and sensibility...

But despite the strong start made by "sensibility", I think I'm going to keep a running tally of Roche's uses of "melancholy", which seems to be the word du jour:

Chapter 1: 1

Not much of a beginning, but trust me, "melancholy" will burst into the lead over the chapters to follow.

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 2:03 am

I've just finished my own reading of Clermont.

Dear me.

It takes a while to get going with its "Gothic-ness", but once it has, it just doesn't stop!

I would strongly recommend, Madeline, that you remember the lessons of your Northanger Abbey read, because I think you're going to need them. :)

(Apropos, one revelation in this novel had me convulsed with laughter, with I'm very sure isn't what Miss Roche was aiming at...)

Jun 2, 2012, 8:29 am

Er, it seems that I read much more slowly than you do, Liz! :)

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 2:08 pm

Clermont: Chapter 2

in which Madeline encounters a stranger in the castle


1. What is a chauntress?

"the chauntress of the woodland"

2. "most handsomest"

Now this would be considered incorrect grammar. Was it correct grammar at the time this book had been written?

3. Who was Margarette Duvall? A neighbor, perhaps? A peasant woman?

4. Why was Madeline hesitant to tell her father about encountering the stranger?

Jun 2, 2012, 9:04 am

> 16

I think I'll do it


Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 7:58 pm

> 17

I have read The Castle Of Wolfenbach, The Mysterious Warning and Orphan Of The Rhine, but a lo-oo-oo-ong time ago. I also tried Horrid Mysterious but could only find a poor translation and gave up on it.

Are any of those books that you think I would enjoy. I'm finding Clermont fun so far, even thugh I've only read two chapters!

Rarely if ever.

I got the impression of an English setting from Patrick McGrath's modern "gothic" novels - which are really not gothic in the true sense at all (I now understand). Now I find that McGrath has moved (in real life) to the U.S. and based one of his novesl in New York City. That was not the same experience for me at all! I want his characters back in England! :)

That's fascinating - was it medical or emotional?? :)

I think it was both physical and emotional. She was a family member of the bride who was holding up one of the four legs of the wedding canopy (which required some strength to keep the heavy canopy taut and flat).

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 9:18 am


1. Fun trivia...
My niece, who started me on reading Jane Austen novels in the first place, just left this weekend for France for a one-month credit course in French. She will be entering her sophomore year at Princeton University in the fall. Funny I should be reading a novel set in France at this very time. I just love synchronicity!! :)

2. I can see how Jane Austen would pick a novel such as this over which to poke fun. JA seemed to be more in touch with reality even though a few of her books' characters were clueless. It seems as if her books were written to educate these naive young women into becoming more informed and reasonable members of their society.

Jun 2, 2012, 6:07 pm

>>#21 I did start before you, you know! :)


Quite possibly, but I think we'll wait and see how you go with the full experience of this one, before we start making plans.

Interesting. I'm wondering if this is, in some way, an American view of England? I'm thinking of Louisa May Alcott's Gothic-y short stories, which she nearly always set in England.

Real-life fainting is a world away from novel-fainting, isn't it??


Tell her to stay away from crumbling castles in the shadows of the Alps!!

Exactly. We can tell from the evidence that Austen herself enjoyed this type of reading, but her own novels had a more serious purpose - particularly at a time when it was taken for granted that women were neither informed nor reasonable.

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 6:30 pm

Chapter 2

1. A chauntress, or chantress, was a female singer - the word was derived from the chanting of nuns in medieval times, so it has religious overtones.

2. I'm fairly sure it was poor grammar at the time, too, although both spelling and grammar were still rather "fluid". The rules tightened up over the following decades. But this is a servant speaking, so poor grammar is to be expected.

3. One of the local cottagers, perhaps a farmer's wife, since she is taking some kids to market when she and Jacqueline meet.

4. Officially because, since he's already so depressed and worried all the time, she doesn't want to add to his worries by telling him there's a stranger hanging around their quiet little valley. But she's also conscious, or self-conscious, about the stranger's obvious interest in her. I don't think girls volunteered information about boys to their fathers in 1798 any more than they do now. :)

Melancholy count: 1
Tally: 2

Jun 2, 2012, 6:32 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

Industrious yet contented peasants (who sing):

"How sweet, how soothing (cried she) is this tranquil hour to the afflicted heart! it seems to give a respite to its cares, as it does to those of labour. How delightful to gaze upon the glories by which it is attended! to listen to the soft breeze that seems to die away amongst the wavering trees, and the low carol of the peasant hastening to his cottage to enjoy the meal sweetened by contentment, and earned by industry."

Jun 2, 2012, 8:02 pm

> 27

I don't think girls volunteered information about boys to their fathers in 1798 any more than they do now.


Jun 2, 2012, 8:11 pm

Clermont: Chapter 3 - Part 1 (I'm dividing some chapters in half!)

... in which Madeline meets de Sevinie


What do the following words mean?
1. benignant - as in "from those benignant eyes last night"
2. gadding - as in "who is always gadding to it"
Does this word have anthing to do with a gadfly?
3. enconiums - as in "such enconiums on de Sevignie were...pleasing to Madeline"

1. What kind of basket was an "osier basket"?

1. Did women always wear hats when they went outside or when they went visiting?

A line that made me laugh:
"She suddenly rose from her chair with an emotion that rendered her for some minutes incapable of speaking."

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 8:22 pm

I just did the calculations on an internet distance calculator and found that, when I was in Nice, France, in 1974, I was only 133.7 miles from Dauphiny, France! :)

Jun 2, 2012, 8:27 pm

Look at this great picture from Dauphiny!

Jun 2, 2012, 8:36 pm


That is a spectacular photograph, and I'm going to reproduce it here to make sure everyone understands the kind of physical setting we're talking about in this novel, and how important "nature" was to the Gothic novel generally:

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 9:13 pm

Clermont: Chapter 3 - Part 1 (I'm dividing some chapters in half!)

I think that's a good idea - many of these chapters are longer than we're used to dealing with, and it's probably easier and more practical to deal with your questions in small chunks.

1-1. "Benignant" is essentially just a more complicated way of saying "benign", meaning kind and gentle.

"from those benignant eyes last night"

Always pay attention to descriptions of eyes in books like this - there were rules and restrictions surrounding how "nice" men and women could communicate at this time, so novelists tend to get around that by having the characters communicate through looks and glances. This is also a good way of spotting the villain. He will likely have "bold" rather than "benignant" eyes, and it will make the heroine uncomfortable when he looks at her. In contrast, when de Sevignie looks at Madeline, glance from those benignant eyes last night, would at once have dissipated every terror.

1-2. "Gadding" means wandering about without any fixed purpose; Clermont is suggesting here that Madeline's evening walks always manage to lead her to the castle whether she means them to or not - "There is I believe some spell, in that castle which allures, or rather draws, people thither, whether they will or no."

I think gadfly has a different derivation.

Eta: Hmm, it certainly does have a different derivation - apparently the gadfly gets its name from the Latin term for "oestrus"!?

A more common usage is "gadding about" - meaning socialising, or always going from one place to another. In this context the word carries a hint of criticism - a suggestion of wasted time, or frivolous behaviour.

1-3. Praise. It pleases Madeline when her father says nice things about de Sevignie.

2-1. A willow basket - a basket made out of woven twigs from a particular kind of willow tree. (There is a subset of willows known as "basket-willows" because they were the basis of this part of the weaving industry.)

3-1. ALWAYS.

Thank you for asking about hats, which I think modern readers struggle with. There are many scenes in novels like this where a girl seems to fret in a ridiculous manner because she doesn't have a hat, but it was a strict rule that a lady did not ever leave the house with her head uncovered; to do so would be noticed and cause comment. And if (for example) she was escaping from the villain, her not wearing a hat would attract unwanted attention and be remembered.

The lower classes were quite big on hats too, but since they actually had to work, hats weren't always practical.

A line that made me laugh:

Good! Please feel free to laugh at anything you like. The exaggeration and over-emotionalism of these books are part of the fun, and even if contemporary readers were supposed to take them seriously (which I'm not entirely convinced of), I don't think we have to.

Besides - we know Jane Austen laughed at Gothic novels. That's good enough for me. :)

Jun 2, 2012, 9:28 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

They're made for each other!---

He appeared of the first order of fine forms; and to all the graces of person and bloom of youth, united a countenance open, manly, and intelligent, but overcast by a shade of melancholy, which seemed to declare him acquainted with misfortune, and from nature and self experience formed to sympathize with every child of sorrow; his hat lay beside him, and the breeze had wafted aside his dark hair from his forehead, and discovered his polished brows, where, according to the words of the poet, 'sate young simplicity;' in his eyes, as he sometimes raised them from the paper, was a fine expression, at once indicative of refinement and sensibility...

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 11:30 pm

Clermont: Chapter 3 - Part 2

... in which de Sevignie takes leave


Counting melancholy:
I found four more!
1. "the melancholy rippling of the water"
2. "the melancholy which oppressed him"
3. "absorbed in melancholy"
4. "antidote against melancholy"


1. Was Clermont trying to say that something was lacking in de Sevignie since he'd never travelled?
2. Why wouldn't de Sevignie tell Madeline to where he was headed?

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 11:50 pm

Clermont: Chapter 3 - Part 2

Oh, yes - the melancholy count really ramps up from this point! :)

1. No, he was suggesting that since de Sevignie is young, and probably hasn't seen all that much of the world, he can't possibly have suffered the kind of experiences that he (Clermont) has, and is therefore less in need of, or less able to appreciate, the tranquility and beauty of the valley.

Clermont is used to assuming that no-one has suffered like he has, but since Gothic novels often come down to a "I'm more miserable than you" contest, it's a dangerous assumption. :)

2. Whoo hoo!! - WAIT AND SEE!!!!

Melancholy count: 5
Tally: 7

Edited: Jun 2, 2012, 11:57 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

There is nothing in the world more shocking than letting someone know that - tee, hee - you like them:

She started, and as she turned to obey the summons, she caught those eyes she had just been admiring, the consciousness of which perhaps occasioned the blush that instantly mantled her cheeks, and an agitation that scarcely permitted her to walk...

As Madeline walked back, she regretted the confusion she had betrayed at the sight of de Sevignie, which she feared he might impute to a consciousness of his sentiments towards her; and his wish of concealing them was so obvious, that the idea of being suspected of knowing them, shocked her beyond measure.

Jun 3, 2012, 6:15 pm

No time for reading today. I'll continue tomorrow...

Jun 4, 2012, 10:50 pm

Clermont: Chapter 4: Part 1

... in which Clermont and Madeline have unexpected visitors


1. Question:
Why was Clermont so eager to receive a stranger within his own home? Here in the U.S. now, we'd be wary of inviting a stranger into our own home despite claims of an accident having befallen the stranger. We'd call the police!

2. I had to laugh out loud at this line about Madeline...:

"she burst into an agony of tears..."

...simply because she was curious about her dad's reaction to Countess de Merville?!

3. A reflection...
I see that Countess de Merville was not really tired at all. I think she had planned to retire the household to bed so that she and Clermont could later meet up with no one else up and about in the household.

Jun 4, 2012, 11:50 pm

Yay! You're back! :)

1. Hospitality rules were rather different at the time - distances were long, roads were bad, horses went lame, accommodation options were few to non-existant, carriage accidents were frequent* - and there was no police to call, although you might ask the local wrestling champion to keep an eye on things. It was not at all an unusual thing - in the country, at least - for strangers to turn up on someone's doorstep asking for a roof for the night, and usually they would be taken in. (Remember this is a largely pre-consumer good culture - nothing worth stealing!)

*Remember what we saying in Northanger Abbey - and it also came up in Persuasion - about how frequently carriages overturned?

2. No, she's angry and upset with herself for almost succumbing to temptation and eavesdropping on her father's conversation. Curiosity about other people's business was a big no-no at the time - if people didn't volunteer information, you didn't ask, other than in exceptional circumstances.

In particular, it was a HUGE no-no for women: "vulgar curiosity" is something women are repeatedly criticised for and accused of in 18th and 19th century literature; any woman having the temerity to ask a personal question of a man, particularly a father or a husband, will be considered to have behaved disgracefully. (In Wilkie Collins' The Law And The Lady, the heroine finds out her husband has married her under a false name, and when she asks him why, he gets offended: "I thought you were a woman above the vulgar curiosity of your sex!")

Of course, as with most social conventions, we note that this one just happens to coincide with what's most convenient for men...

3. Bingo!

Jun 5, 2012, 12:03 am

Yeah, Madeline!

"Good heavens! (cried she, whilst she felt her cheeks suffused with the burning blushes of shame); good heavens, what am I about doing!---going to steal meanly, treacherously upon the privacy of my father and his friend!---a father, from whose uniform tenderness I might well suppose that nothing which had a tendency to promote my happiness would be concealed!;---a father, who has so sedulously cautioned me against any action contrary to virtue, that any deviation is inexcusable.---Fie, fie, Madeline, what a wretch art thou!"

Jun 5, 2012, 12:12 am

Yay! You're back!

Yesterday I was at my rabbi's retirement festivities (after 32 years in the pulpit!). They were terrific, but I feel so sad he's leaving. The good thing, though, is that he's going into the book business! More about that later on my own thread so I won't go off on a tangent here. :)

"vulgar curiosity" is something women are repeatedly criticised for and accused of in 18th and 19th century literature

That reminds me of a story having to do with a nurse with whom I used to work. She was a *dreadful* gossip. She'd say for me not to tell others what she was going to tell me. I would immediately request that she not tell me anything I was not at liberty to tell others!

So far, I'm rather enjoying this story. I like the characters of Clermont and Madeline. I like the overwrought descriptions of Madeline's emotional states. They're fun to read!

More tomorrow...!

Jun 5, 2012, 12:18 am

My previous boss was notorious for never keeping secrets. We used to say to her, "Telling people something then adding, 'But don't tell anyone I told you!' doesn't count as not telling them, you know!"

I remember you speaking of your rabbi when his retirement was first announced - it must be hard. I'm intrigued by his change in career path, though...

I'm glad you're enjoying yourself. I'm particularly glad you're enjoying Madeline's emotional states, because that's pretty much a prerequisite for this form of literature. :)

Edited: Jun 5, 2012, 11:23 pm

Clermont: Chapter 4: Part 2

..wherein Madeline takes leave of her father


What's going on?
1. I think Clermont is telling Madeline in his own fancy way to mind her own business and not question anything that her father does or intends to do.
2. I resent the fact that Madeline has no say and feels she cannot speak up about actually being tossed out of her own home.
3. I can't believe that Madeline's father thinks that, after 17 years of living with him, she can pack up overnight and gracefully leave home with a stanger!
4. Does this have anything to do with the fact that Madeline has no mother?
5. What possessions do you think Madeline took with her?
6. What would make Countess de Merville even want to take Madeline with her?
7. What happened to the Countess's broken (?) or overturned (?) carriage?

1. What does "sedulity" mean?

as in..."watch you with the sedulity of a friend"

Edited: Jun 5, 2012, 11:04 pm

1, 2, 3. It's all part of the one big overarching convention that we discussed in #41, which boils down to the necessity of unquestioning obedience on the part of the woman, whether she likes it or not. And if she doesn't (i) too bad, and (ii) she needs to get over it, by "exerting herself" (or some such phrase). You'll find Madeline having many stern conversations with herself on this point over the next few chapters.

Without necessarily defending Clermont, I will say that he has reasons for doing this - it remains to be seen whether you consider them sifficient or not. :)

4. Yes, in the sense that Madeline is alone in the world except for her father, with very little money and no way of earning more in the event of his death. No, if you mean that her mother's opinion and feelings would necessarily sway Clermont.

5. Well, she doesn't have many possessions, so apart from her clothes, probably just her lute. Oh - and a hat.

6. Wait and see. :)

7. It got fixed. Villages like the ones near to where Clermont and Madeline live would certainly have a blacksmith and a carpenter, and as carriages were the only wheeled form of transport, such men would be skilled at repairing them. Remember, when the Countess's servant first turned up, he explained, "...she cannot proceed on her journey until it has been repaired: at a loss, in the mean time, for a place to stay in..."

"Sedulity" means diligence, or effort - in this case, it means that the Countess will look after Madeline as carefully as if they had been friends for years.

Hmm... No "melancholy"-s, but three "dejection"-s. Things are getting serious. :)

Jun 5, 2012, 11:01 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

Anti-Catholicism, albeit a mild dose:

"Lord, what an unlucky thing it was that Father Pierre dined here today; he has always such an appetite; only for him some of the fowl at least would have been left..."

"...the asylum of a cloister was the only one I had the means of procuring you; but to that you ever manifested a repugnance, and I could not therefore influence you to it; the free-will offering of the heart is alone acceptable to heaven: besides, I do not thoroughly approve such institutions; I think they are somewhat contrary to nature; and I can never believe that beings immured for life, can feel gratitude so ardent, piety so exalted to the Almighty, as those who, in the wide range of the world, have daily opportunities of exploring his wonders, experiencing his goodness, and contemplating the provision of his gifts."

Jun 5, 2012, 11:06 pm

Now---given the nature of the beast, I'm not sure that we actually do have lurkers, so I don't think I'll bother with an intermission. Instead, I will ask anyone who might be lurking to please identify yourself - even if you already have!

Jun 6, 2012, 4:54 am

I'm lurking (as I did throughout The Castle of Otranto). Unfortunately I don't have the book this time - it's not on Project Gutenberg - so the more questions Madeline asks, the better for me!

Jun 6, 2012, 6:46 am

I'm still here too! Still considering getting the book (via the kindle Valancourt edition) later this month.

Edited: Jun 6, 2012, 10:43 pm

Clermont: Chapter 5 which Madeline arrives at the chateau


1. The melancholy count:
a. "melancholy shake of the head"
b. "shade of melancholy"

2. Thinking out loud:
I really don't see how Clermont's sending Madeline away is supposed to make him happier.

3. the age of 17...
So Madeline is seventeen. That is also the same age at which Count de Montmorenci's son was murdered. Is the same age a coincidence?

4. The arrangement of the buildings:
I don't know if I have this right. There is the crumbling chateau of Countess de Merville. Then there is a nearby castle. There is also a religious house near the castle which is, of course, connected to the castle by a tunnel. My rhetorical question is who, in this book, will be the first character to be in that tunnel? I'm guessing it will be Madeline.

I kept thinking of The Castle of Otranto throughout this chapter. :)

5. There is a point made that the Countess de Merville has no heir via her daughter. Enter a role for Madeline, maybe?

6. Is Agatha the head housekeeper for Countess de Merville?

Countess de Merville is made to be a good person as she does not believe in being haughty. She attends to the townsfolk and believes that evil should and will be punished.

7. Is a "rook" a crow?

Jun 6, 2012, 10:39 pm

#49, 50: Welcome and thank you our intrepid bookless lurkers! Yes, rather hard to join in without the book! I hope you've been enjoying the quotes I've been posting, which at least give you a taste of the text.

Edited: Jul 3, 2012, 7:26 pm

1. She's back to melancholy from dejection - that's something.

2. Only by relieving his anxiety about her (as per #46-4). He's afraid something could happen to him and leave her alone in the world. Being befriended by a woman in the Countess's position rescues her from a lot of potential dangers.

3. He was murdered seventeen years before, he wasn't seventeen. In her seventeenth year actually means sixteen; she hasn't had her 17th birthday yet.

4. Ah, yes! The crumbling castle! And the chateau which is "crumbling" in spite of being constantly occupied! And the mostly-crumbled religious house!...

My rhetorical question is who, in this book, will be the first character to be in that tunnel. I'm guessing it will be Madeline.

There's a point when that tunnel gets surprisingly crowded... :)

I kept thinking of The Castle of Otranto throughout this chapter. :)

As you should be! The underground tunnel was one of the most significant lifts from Otranto.

5. Wait and see.

6. Yes - she's been in the family all her life so the Countess is "familiar" with her, sitting with her and so on.

The Countess is an example of the line that could be walked between remembering your dignity and doing your duty by the less fortunate. She is also a very English conception! I need to point out here that although there are not up until now any in-text signifiers (there is one later), this story - published in 1798 - must be set a good many years before the French Revolution (1787 - 1789), because random aristocrats would not be wandering around the countryside unhindered if not. Also, French aristocrats were not exactly famous for doing their duty by the less fortunate. :)

This is a common tendency of domestic-Gothic English novels, to simply pretend that the Revolution never happened. Mary Meeke, another popular author of the time, did it constantly.

7. It's a member of the crow family but not a crow as such. (Rooks are more "romantic" than crows.)

Are you finished with Chapter 5? I don't want to post a quote (or do the melancholy tally) if not.

Edited: Jun 6, 2012, 11:27 pm

He was murdered seventeen years before, he wasn't seventeen. In her seventeenth year actually mean sixteen; she hasn't had her 17th birthday yet.

Er, I seem to have a problem counting tonight. :(

There's point when that tunnel gets surprisingly crowded

LOL! Funny how it was clearly mentioned that the tunnel is "now never used".

The underground tunnel was one of the most significant lifts from Otranto.

So is this supposed to be just a "lift" from another story or a real feature of castles and their connection to "religious houses" in that area of France?

Wait and see.

You're so predictable, Liz. I knew you'd say that! :)

Rooks are more "romantic" than crows.

Yeah. I never considered crows very romantic at all! ;)

Are you finished with Chapter 5?

I'm finished with Chapter 5.

In the future, if I don't finish a chapter, I'll just write "Part 1" as I did previously.

As a heads up, I might not have much time for reading over the weekend (Friday through Sunday) as this is LT Meet-Up weekend here in DC, but I'll let you know.

Jun 6, 2012, 11:35 pm

LOL! Funny how it was clearly mentioned that the tunnel is "now never used".

You say something like that only to disprove it. :)

We tend to associate these sorts of secret passageways with countries where Catholics were persecuted, but I suppose that there may have been times when a direct connection between the castle and the religious house was desirable. However, I think it's likely that English novelists were using Otranto as their guide rather than history books.

In the future, if I don't finish a chapter, I'll just write "Part 1" as I did previously.

Thanks, I'd appreciate it. I thought I'd better just check in case you'd forgotten.

I hope you enjoy your Meet-Up! Don't worry about your reading, we'll pick it up whenever it's convenient.

Edited: Jun 7, 2012, 6:34 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

Home maintenance, Gothic-novel style: was built at a very distant period, and its architecture was rude in the extreme; for the pride of its possessors would not permit the smallest polish or improvement, considering its rudeness an honourable date of their own antiquity. Time, however, had been less sparing, and marked it in many places with visible decay; some of the windows were dismantled from the failure of the stone work, and many of its battlements had mouldered away...

Melancholy count: 2
Tally: 9

Edited: Jun 7, 2012, 10:57 pm

Clermont: Chapter 6

... in which Madeline attends a cotillion

1. How far is a league?

2. What does it mean to "have a collation in the banqueting-house?" Is the banqueting-house like a gazebo?

3. How nice that de Sevignie shows up!!

4. Is it usual for a woman to expect to become engaged after such a short time just because a man and woman seem to be attracted to one another?

5. I got the feeling that there was something about de Sevigne that the Countess did not like? Was I supposed to know why? I didn't.

6. Why did Madeline not want to dance with de Sevignie? I thought it was because she either did not like or did not know how to dance. Was it not to seem too eager? Then she seemed to dance so well with others. *sigh*

7. I'm beginning to see patterns here of the behavior of characters. This chapter reminded me of Northanger Abbey when Catherine went to the dance in Bath. Were young women always so predictable? It seems that they mostly do what they "should" do, not what they want to do.

Edited: Jun 7, 2012, 11:11 pm

1. Originally it was how far a man could walk in an hour, but later it was formalised to three miles. (On land; under the sea, as in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, a league is three nautical miles, or about five and a half land miles.)

2. Yes, it's a structure built outside for accommodating large numbers of guests at mealtime - meals (usually supper) at indoor parties were notoriously crowded and uncomfortable.

3. Oh, he gets around. :)

4. Heh! No, "engaged" as in engaged to dance with him, not engaged as in wedding bells!

You might remember in Emma and Northanger Abbey we discussed the rules about dancing, and how a girl couldn't refuse to dance with one man and then dance with a different one. Madeline hesitates to accept the second request to dance because she thinks if she's going to dance with anyone, it should be de Sevignie...but then she doesn't want to dance with de Sevignie because she's afraid the two of them sitting aside has already attracted attention and caused talk.

5. The Countess is now responsible for Madeline and doesn't quite like de Sevignie appropriating her and putting her in a situation that causes gossip. She also isn't certain how Clermont might feel about the two of them (and remember, Clermont did ask de Sevignie to go away), so she's feeling a bit disapproving at this point. De Sevignie should have asked to be introduced to the Countess, and then asked for her permission to talk / dance with Madeline, instead of sweeping her off for a private conversation (and - gasp! - hand-holding).

6. She's shy - she hasn't danced in public before - she's self-conscious, and she thinks people are looking at them (and they are). She doesn't dance with anyone else, but the other man who wanted to dance with her gets to take her into the banqueting-house for supper. (The Countess is by this time running interference between Madeline and de Sevignie.)

It seems that they mostly do what they "should" do, not what they want to do.

Yup - welcome to the female gender!

Jun 7, 2012, 11:20 pm

She's shy - she hasn't danced in public before - she's self-conscious, and she thinks people are looking at them

My daughter always said she didn't want to jog because she didn't want anyone "looking at her". I think that's also why she wants to elope instead of having a wedding. I think that shy people imagine people are looking at them much more than they, in reality, do look at them. :)

Jun 7, 2012, 11:23 pm

With Madeline it's a bit of both - she's probably too sensitive, but this was a time when slight deviations from the predictable path did attract attention. (Also, she's a very beautiful girl - some people are staring just because they're staring.)

I sympathise with your daughter. Myself, I only dance like no-one's looking if no-one is looking. :)

Edited: Jun 7, 2012, 11:29 pm

Just a passing thought: your observation about predictable female behaviour probably had a lot to do with the rise of the Gothic novel. (And indirectly to the natural / heroic dichotomy of Northanger Abbey.) It was hard for novelists when their heroines were "supposed" to only act one way. Some of them dealt with this by placing a perfect heroine in the middle of extravagant adventures. The adventures entertained the reader if the heroine's character didn't, and if occasionally she didn't behave exactly as she "should" there was a good excuse at hand. (To give you a slightly spoiler-ish example, later on in Clermont, Madeline reads someone else's letters. The circumstances justify her; ordinarily, nothing would.)

Edited: Jun 9, 2012, 12:44 am

Clermont - Chapter 7

... in which Madeline receives a letter


1. What does the title of Chevalier signify?

2. Why is that seond gentleman referred to as M. Chalons? Am I supposed to know what the M stands for?

3. So the Countess is taking Madeline home to do a bit of research about de Sevignie!

4. More melancholy:
a. "a melancholy contrast"
b. "dissipated her melancholy"

5. I have a feeling there was more to de Sevignie's walk than "merely a walk".

Edited: Jun 9, 2012, 12:47 am

Ooh, yay! I wasn't expecting you! :)

1. "Chevalier" is an actual French title, indicating a knighthood - so the equivalent of the English "Sir"; but here it's being used as a courtesy, probably indicating that the servants have pegged de Sevignie as belonging to the upper classes in spite of his reticence about his background. The Countess, on the other hand, firmly calls him only Monsieur de Sevignie.

2. The "M." is short for "Monsieur", the French form of "Mr".

3. Remember in Northanger Abbey how Mr Allen "checked out" Henry Tilney as soon as he showed an interest in Catherine? The Countess has an even greater responsibility here because de Sevignie is being dangerously secretive about his origins, and because (we gather) there's more than meets the eye about her guardianship of Madeline.

4. Yes, for a while there she was neither "melancholy" nor "dejected" - although she was agitated - but now she's melancholy again. :)

5. I feel you feel right!

Jun 9, 2012, 12:50 am

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

The idea that a girl might use her own judgement is just too shocking to be contemplated:

Madeline dropped the pen she had taken up. She began to think that to write to de Sevignie, without consulting the Countess, or shewing her his letter, was not only a breach of respect to her, but of duty to her father, who had put her under the care of his friend, with a form conviction, that she would never follow her own judgement without having it sanctioned by hers...

Melancholy count: 2
Tally: 11

Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 10:13 pm

Stopping by to say I'll resume my reading tomorrow evening...

Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 11:15 pm

Clermont: Chapter 8 which de Sevinie declines an invitation


1. she could not wonder if she soon recalled her"

I'm not sure what that means,

2. return to her raillery

What does "raillery" mean?

3. M. Chalons seems rather practical in that he doesn't allow himself to continue to dwell upon Madeline.

4. I'm not sure why de Sevignie shared the reason he is being so evasive with Madame Chatteneuf and Olivia but not with Madeline.

5. So Madeline ends up trying to not like de Sevignie so much, but she only ends up liking him more. I guess it's all in the chase! :)

Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 10:58 pm

1. The Countess will miss Madeline so much, that she wouldn't be surprised if she ended up sending for her to come back to the castle earlier than they now anticipate. (But then Madame Chatteneus says that if the Countess wants Madeline back, she will have to come herself and fetch her.)

2. Teasing or joking. In novels of this time, often teasing regarding love matters.

3. M. Chalons is a small illustration of one of the "lessons" that novels like this loved to teach, that an individual must learn to control his or her emotions - particularly when duty dictates. It is frequently asserted that people can make themselves feel what ought to (or stop feeling what they ought not) if they "exert themselves". We will get a more significant example of this later on. And here Madeline tries to follow this path - "Let me endeavour to expel from my heart an attachment which, it is evident, can only end in unhappiness" - although not with any notable success. :)

4. Well, chiefly because Olivia won't let him wriggle off the hook, but persists in questioning him until she forces him to give some answer. (Madame Chatteneus isn't there, which might be why Olivia feels she can push the issue past politeness.)

5. See #3. :)

Jun 11, 2012, 11:02 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?


The sun was already set, and all was soft, serene and lovely: beneath the ramparts lay a delicious plain, scattered over with clumps of thick and spreading trees, a few neat cottages, and groups of cattle now reposing in sweet tranquility. The river, that flowed in beautiful meanders through the plain, had already assumed the sable hue of evening, and thus heightened the brilliancy of the stars it reflected. The majestic Alps bounded the prospect, their feet hid in gloomy shadows, and their summits just beginning to be touched by the beams of a rising moon...

Melancholy count: 1
Tally: 12

Jun 11, 2012, 11:17 pm

It sounds so beautiful. I wish I were there.


Jun 11, 2012, 11:20 pm

I enjoy Roche's scenery - and that she doesn't overdo it. A rare quality in Gothic novelists. :)

Edited: Jun 13, 2012, 12:22 am

Clermont: Chapter 9 - Part 1

... in which Madeline receives a letter


1. "Olivia's nurse" means what? The woman who used to be her nanny? Her health care provider?

2. Why were mules drawing the chaise and not horses?

3. What color were the "dun shades of twilight"?

4. What kind of pipes did the shepherds play?

5. Melancholies...
"a tender melancholy"
"a melancholy in union with the scene"
"nothing could make him so melancholy"
"melancholy of his countenance"
"melancholoy of his voice"

6. What does this mean: "We shall be quite benighted."

7. I think it's creepy that de Sevignie just wanders around being melancholy.

8. An observation:
De Sevignie seems to know Olivia quite well. She can tease him and demand things of him. He responds right away to her beck and call.

Jun 13, 2012, 12:12 am

1. In context this is most likely the woman who breastfed her when she was a baby. It was common practice at the time for high-born women not to nurse their own children, for a variety of reasons we needn't get into except to say that the most positive reason was that country women, often farmer's wives, were regarded as giving more nourishing milk. In some cases the children were handed over for the first few years of their lives, and often stayed very attached to their nurses, regarding her own children as their foster-siblings. Looking after your nurse and her family (financially, or giving them a cottage) was afterwards a duty, but in many cases (as here) there was genuine affection, too.

2. Probably because they're in a mountainous region and mules are considered sturdier and more sure-footed.

3. Greyish. "Dun colours" is more romantic. :)

4. No particular kind, but possibly a fairly simple one like a recorder.

5. Yes, we're getting into it now. :)

6. Benighted means "overtaken by the darkness", as happens if you stay out too late (no streetlights or headlights, remember).

7. For a character in a Gothic novel, it was often a career choice!

8. It was a common authorial trick at this time to give the perfect heroine a less perfect friend who could do things like asking embarrassing questions or teasing someone else - the characters (and the reader) get the answers they want without the heroine stepping off her pedestal. It wasn't gentlemanly to tell a woman to mind her own business, so as long as Olivia asks, de Sevignie pretty much has to give some kind of answer.

Edited: Jun 13, 2012, 12:25 am

For a character in a Gothic novel, it was often a career choice!


I'll finish this chapter tomorrow night. I ran out of time.

Jun 13, 2012, 12:26 am

I'm not surprised - it is a very long chapter!

Jun 13, 2012, 11:49 pm

Clermont - Chapter 9 - Part 2

... in which Madeline returns to the Countess


1. counting melancholies:
"the most melancholy earnestness"
"her melancholy musing"
"impute my melancholy to illness'
"this melancholy parting"
"with greater melancholy"

2. What is "durst"? Is that like "darest"?

3. How can Madame Chatteneuf be sure that de Sevignie is not dangerous?

4. I think that Madeline will find out what's ailing de Sevignie.

5. It makes me crazy that Madeline cannot talk to de Sevignie truthfully!

6. The end of this chapter is for sure foreshadowing evil to come.

7. I love this, although it makes me sad:

"Perhaps no sound strikes the heart with greater melancholy than the sound of the carriage which conveys from us the friends we tenderly love, in whose society we have been happy, and whom we know not when we shall behold again."

That passage reminds me of when a very dear, long-time friend and her family moved away from the United States and to Israel. We keep in touch in many ways, but it's just not the same nor will it ever be.

Jun 14, 2012, 12:40 am

1. I went ahead of you yesterday and did the chapter count - 11 melancholy-s!!

I think this about the point in the book where I thought the first time, "I wish I'd kept count..." :)

2. It's the archaic form of "dared".

3. She can't - or at least, only in the way that characters in Gothic novels can ever be sure of anything: "...there is an elegance, a sweetness in his manner, which declares a soul of benevolence and refinement..." - but "a dangerous acquaintance" isn't exactly the same thing as a dangerous person - it's more like an improper acquaintance, someone you shouldn't know socially. Again, it refers as much to de Sevignie's silence about his background as to his character.

4. I think she already knows. :)

5. Well, this was the great paradox at the time - a woman had to be "modest" and "retiring" and not speak frankly to a man, until she was engaged to him - and then it was often too late.

6. ...and plenty of it...

7. Even with all their emotional excesses, Gothic novels can sometimes strike a true note.

Edited: Jun 14, 2012, 12:45 am

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

As George A. Norton and Maybelle E. Watson put it in 1912, "Come to me, my melancholy baby..."

Unable to bear the dejection of his looks, Madeline fixed her eyes upon the card-table, as if intently watching the game, though in reality she knew not what was played. But she could not, by this measure, save her heart from one pang; for, though her eye was averted from the melancholy of his countenance, her ear was still open to the soft melancholy of his voice...

Melancholy count: 11 (I repeat - !!)
Tally: 23

Edited: Jun 14, 2012, 9:55 pm

Clermont (Volume 1): Chapter 10 - Part 1

... in which Madeline meets Floretta


1. I wonder what the Countess's illness is?

2. Why doesn't Madeline return to her father if the Countess is ill?

3. We meet Floretta...and now I know from whom we shall learn many of the secrets in this book.

4. Madeline is being so well behaved and so restrained in warding off gossip.


I'll finish this chapter tomorrow. It's been a long day and my eyes are closing...

Jun 14, 2012, 10:16 pm

1. Wait and see.

2. Because (i) he doesn't want her back at this stage, (ii) she would have to be accompanied by Agatha or Floretta, which would deprive the Countess of service, and (iii) having her there makes the Countess feel more cheerful.

3. Some. There are many, many, MANY secrets that Floretta doesn't know about!

4. Which just happens to have the useful side-effect of maintaining the suspense... :)

Alrighty - see you next time!

Jun 15, 2012, 4:46 pm

Clermont (Volume 1): Chapter 10 - Part 2 which the Countess recovers from her illness


1. I think the Countess was sick because she found out disturbing things about de Sevignie.

2. Counting melancholies...
"melancholy mediation"
"melancholy kind of pleasure
"relapsing into melancholy"

3. The Countess says that "medical skill could be of little avail in my malady". I take that to mean that she was not at all physically ill.

4. Does Madeline still have contact with her father?

5. What is the "matin" of the birds?

6. What would Madeline have been reading to the Countess?

7. Regarding Madeline's faltering in her ability to recount her recent experience...

"by trying to omit what she wished to conceal, rendered what she would have told almost unintelligible".



I'm wide awake now! :)


We're headed into Clermont: Volume 2...

Edited: Jun 15, 2012, 6:27 pm

An early post - how nice to wake up to!

1. Wait and see. :)

3. Yes, she has something preying on her mind.

4. They would be writing to one another (although Madeline would have the same problem of how NOT to talk about certain things).

5. "Matins" is a religious service that ends at dawn, and the word "matin" can be used to refer to the early part of the day. I would say that Madeline is comparing the birds' dawn chorus to an early morning church service.

6. Serious works on religion and philosophy. NOT novels. Certainly not! (Probably not poetry either, given Madeline blushing over having "given such latitude to her imagination" when the Countess says she speaks like a poet.)

7. :)

I wondered whether your copy had the volume breaks marked!

Edited: Jun 15, 2012, 6:36 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

The heroine is confronted by Bluebeard's Chamber:

"Madeline (said the Countess in a solemn voice), in my concern for your father, I spoke unguardedly; and I already repent having done so from the situation I see you in: but, as some atonement for doing so, I will take this opportunity of cautioning you against all imprudent curiosity; let no incentive from it ever tempt you to seek an explanation of former occurrences; be assured your happiness depends entirely on your ignorance of them: was the dark volume of your father's fate ever opened to your view, peace would for ever forsake your breast; for its characters are marked by horror, and stained with blood."

(And, by the way, that is a pretty spectacular run-on sentence!)

Melancholy count: 4
Tally: 27

Jun 15, 2012, 9:01 pm

*rubs hands in glee, waiting for the evil to begin...*

Jun 15, 2012, 9:08 pm

I don't think you'll be disappointed... :)

Jun 15, 2012, 9:33 pm


Jun 16, 2012, 12:07 am

Clermont (Volume 2): Chapter 1 - Part 1 which de Sevignie again appears!

1. What melodrama!

2. Counting melancholies...
"melancholy cries of waterfowl"
"wrapped in melancholy meditation"
"those melancholy glooms"
"the melancholy rippling of the water"
"melancholy evidence of his sufferings"

3. Why wasn't Madeline afraid to venture out alone at dusk? Was she that sad that she didn't fear for her safety?

4. Why was de Sevignie cold to the touch?

5. Why can't Madeline make up her mind as to how to respond to de Sevignie and then follow through with her desires?

6. Are we to expects ghosts to come out of the grottos...or is de Sevignie a ghost?

7. So de Sevignie is also ill? Call the doctor!! ;)

Jun 16, 2012, 1:00 am

1. You ain't seen nuthin' yet!

3. Dusk is a favourite time for Gothic novel walks, but yes, she's too wrapped up in her own problems to be as externally aware as she normally would be: Wrapt in melancholy meditation, heedless almost of whither or how far she went...

4. Short answer: dramatic licence. :) Less cynical answer: he's almost dead with sorrow!

5. Because she's caught between what she wants to do and what she knows she ought to do - and it's interesting that Roche draws Madeline as having a serious struggle with herself in this respect, because a lot of novels of this kind make it seems as if doing your duty is easy and simple.

Anyway, both her father and the Countess disapprove her relationship with de Sevignie, which means she should have nothing to do with him. Her feelings, therefore, are theoretically beside the point - only of course it's not that easy. So she vacillates. But there's no question of her "following through with her desires". Nice girls don't do that (at least, not when they're the heroines of Gothic novels).

6. Mwoo-ha-ha...!

7. Canst thou minister to a mind diseased? I think de Sevignie has a dose of what the Countess is suffering from!

Edited: Jun 16, 2012, 9:17 am

> 87

he's almost dead with sorrow!


Anyway, both her father and the Countess disapprove her relationship with de Sevignie, which means she should have nothing to do with him.

But do either of them really know that much about de Sevignie about which to disapprove?



I think de Sevignie has a dose of what the Countess is suffering from!

I figured. Call the psychotherapist!

Jun 16, 2012, 6:13 pm

But do either of them really know that much about de Sevignie about which to disapprove?

But that's exactly the point - they don't know anything - where he comes from, or who his family is, or his social standing. It was a time when you started out disapproving of people - shunning them as dangerous acquaintances if they weren't completely transparent about themselves - and only approving them when their credentials were made clear.

Jun 16, 2012, 7:06 pm

...but I thought that the Countess was going to learn about de Sevignie during the time Madeline was with Madame Chatteneuf. So she didn't research de Sevignie after all?

Edited: Jun 16, 2012, 7:33 pm

She found out there was nothing to find out---no-one knows who he is or where he comes from. This is less important for his male friends, the soldiers, who aren't socially damaged by a dubious acquaintance the way a girl is. They take de Sevignie at face value and are content to know nothing more about him than that he's good company (or used to be, before he fell in love and started dying of sorrow), but this isn't good enough with respect to Madeline, who has to be protected from him - or better yet, separated from him.

The fact that he keeps following Madeline around when it's been made quite clear that her friends disapprove of him is another mark against him.

Edited: Jun 16, 2012, 7:39 pm

"dying of sorrow"


The fact that he keeps following Madeline around when it's been made quite clear that her friends disapprove of him is another mark against him.

Stalker!!! :D

I like how he always appears out of nowhere! :)

Jun 16, 2012, 7:46 pm

Stalker!!! :D

What is it they say? When a man does it, it's romantic; when a woman does it, she's pathetic. :)

I like how he always appears out of nowhere!

Just as well, because he's not going to quit doing it any time soon!

Jun 16, 2012, 7:53 pm

Just as well, because he's not going to quit doing it any time soon!

Haha! That's good to know!

Jun 16, 2012, 8:40 pm

Clermont (Volume 2) - Chapter 1 - Part 2 which Madeline sheds some tears


1. "against whose side he suddenly threw himself, as if for support"

This passage made me laugh. I now can see why Jane Austen would poke fun at novels such as this.

This particular scene reminds me of when my daughter was a toddler. She wanted something which I would neither do nor give her so she threw herself onto the ground and banged her head on the floor. The she looked up to see if I was paying attention to her. As with de Sevignie in this scene, I just laughed at her. It was so obvious what they both were doing!

2. Counting melancholies...
"melancholy evidence"

3. There is no win-win situation with this pair. They keep vacillating in their decisions from moment to moment.

4. She says for them not to meet each other again. Then he says we shall meet again. People! It's time to agree!!

5. they united in that heaven"

I hope this is not foreshadowing death.

6. his eyes "loured" on her

What does loured mean?

7. want of fortune

So was the issue really that de Sevignie lacked money or the ability to earn a living?

8. Hooray!! A secret tryst. Tomorrow night! Stay tuned!!

9. "meeting much worse than thieves"

Such as?

10. I know that Floretta is just dying to reveal the tales of the grotto.

Edited: Jul 3, 2012, 7:49 pm

1. I can only emphasise that all this emotion (and self-throwing-about) is meant to be taken quite seriously.

It's nice that Madeline and de Sevignie have "inability to stand when highly emotional" in common, though.

3. Well, they're both in the wrong and they know it. Novels of this sort like to stress that violating "duty" will not bring peace of mind or long-term happiness. (And in fact we get a lot more of this kind of thing by the end.)

4. But again, at least this novel admits that doing your duty is hard...

(This bit reminds me of a joke from the Michael Palin / Terry Jones series, Ripping Yarns: "Goodbye, mother! You may never see me again until tomorrow!")

5. Wait and see...

6. "Lour" means to glare or look darkly at someone, so "his eye loured upon her" would mean that he's giving Madeline a look that suggests he isn't thrilled by her mentioning "his connections" (i.e. his family).

7. The main things that could form a barrier between Madeline and de Sevignie would be his lack of birth or his lack of fortune. The way he speaks and acts convinces Madeline that his birth is good enough, so she assumes that he won't ask her to marry him because he has no money and won't ask her to live in poverty with him.

Of course, she's just guessing. And he does mention care, obscurity, and danger... :)

8. And in books like these, those never end well! Stay tuned indeed...

9. That would be Subtle again, wait and see.

10. But of course!

Jun 16, 2012, 10:45 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

There's a grotto---

...a spacious grotto, whose sides and roof were formed of rugged stone, ornamented by beautiful crystaline substances, which sparkled in the rays of the sun, that sometimes pierced through crevices in the roof like the finest brilliants; its floor consisted of smooth pebbles curiously inlaid, and its arched entrance was nearly overgrown by a thick foilage of ivy, whose dark green was enlivened by the bright tints of several wild flowers; while thick around the myrtle, the laurestine, and the arbutus, reared high their beauteous and fragrent heads, stretching their fantastic arms through its crevices...

---a haunted grotto!

She paused, for at this instant a deep sigh, from the innermost recesses of the grotto, pierced her ear, and made her start with terror from her seat... Every fearful story, which she had heard of the grotto and other caves of the mountain, now recurred to her memory, and she almost feared the spectres they described would start into her view; for of a human creature being in the grotto at an hour of darkness, such as the present she had not an idea, from the dread she knew entertained of it. She was hastening away as fast as her trembling limbs would carry her, when the sound of an approaching step took from her all power of motion, and she sunk to the earth in an agony of fear...

Melancholy count: 4
Tally: 31

Jun 16, 2012, 10:46 pm

Jokes aside, I love that description of the grotto.

Edited: Jun 16, 2012, 10:51 pm

Yeah, Madeline! (#2)

"Gracious heaven! (she exclaimed within herself) how mean, how despicable should I have appeared in his eyes, who can so nobly triumph over his own passion, had I followed the impulse of mine, and offered my hand unsolicited, unsanctioned, by the approbation of a parent or a friend. Ah, Madeline, you may well blush for your weakness."

Jun 16, 2012, 10:51 pm


"Against your inclination I will not detain you, (said he) and yet (contradicting his words by still holding her to his breast)..."

Jun 16, 2012, 11:54 pm

"Goodbye, mother! You may never see me again until tomorrow!"

...which reminds me of the night after my younger son moved in with his girlfriend (in another state). He came back home to me and his dad for dinner!! I told him to learn how to cook! :)

Jun 17, 2012, 11:10 pm

Clermont (Volume 2) - Chapter 2

...wherein Madeline tells the Countess about meeting de Sevignie again


1. I'm surprised that the Countess is not upset that Madeline has been in contact with de Sevignie again.

2. "Unbosom it now..."

Interesting expression!

3. Am I correct in understanding that the Countess simply wants de Sevignie to account for his meager circumstances?

Jun 17, 2012, 11:22 pm

1. Probably she's reserving judgement at the moment, because she can tell from Madeline's expression that something good has happened. She doesn't want to distrust de Sevignie, but he's making it very hard for her to trust him.

2. The origin of the expression "to get something off your chest". More usually phrased as "unbosom yourself". Meaning to speak honestly and fully from the heart.

In other words - dish! :)

3. And his obscurity - it isn't his apparent want of fortune alone but his continuing silence about his circumstances that is troubling the Countess; but if he can explain himself, she's certainly willing to listen.

Basically, she wants to be assured that his situation isn't his own fault - that, for example, he hasn't done something disgraceful, and been forced to go into hiding.

Edited: Jun 18, 2012, 10:54 pm

Clermont (Volume 2) - Chapter 3 which de Sevignie arrives late


1. Counting melancholies...
"melancholy of his countenance"
"The deepest melancholy"

2. What?! De Sevignie is saying good-bye...again?!

3. Why doesn't de Sevignie want to be in the presence of the Countess (or should I not yet know the reason)?

4. So de Sevignie might had "designs of a dishonorable nature" upon Madeline.

Such as?

5. her own animadversions

What are animadversions?

6. Madeline *still* cannot take a stand about de Sevignie and wavers back and forth about how she feels about him. Make up your mind, Madeline!! :)

Edited: Jun 18, 2012, 10:56 pm

You say yes / I say no / You say stop / And I say go, go, go / Oh, no / You say goodbye / And I say hello...

Happens to the best people. :)

3. It isn't so much that as that something has happened that makes him believe that there would be no point to their meeting, that he and Madeline can't be together even if the Countess did give Madeline a dowry. (You will find out what's going on eventually.)

4. Persuading her to run away with him and get married without permission...or persuading her to run away with him and not get married...

The Countess assumes that de Sevignie's reluctance to be introduced to her, and his annoyance when he finds out that Madeline has confided in her, are because he sees her as a barrier to some (unrevealed) wicked scheme.

5. Criticisms or complaints.

6. She has. That's the problem. :)

Shockingly enough, there were no accurrences of "melancholy" in the preceding chapter, but now we're back in the game:

Melancholy count: 2
Tally: 33

Jun 18, 2012, 10:54 pm

You will find out what's going on eventually.

Well, that's good! At least there's hope. :)

Jun 19, 2012, 1:19 am

I stress eventually...

Jun 19, 2012, 11:13 pm

Clermont (Volume 2) - Chapter 4 which we are introduced to Father Bertram


1. Counting melancholies:
"her melancholy was...encreased"

2. I see evidence of a first ghost! It's the spirit of Caroline who might be beckoning to Father Bertram.

3. I guess this is the Countess's lesson to Madeline...

"Those who yield to impetuous passions, will sooner or later have reason to repent doing so."

4. So now Madeline feels that the world teems with calamity?

5. Why is the word "deprest" spelled one way in the first part of this chapter and later spelt (just being funny!) "depressed" later.

6. So the Countess expects Madeline to be cheerful? The Countess is not doing much to help her be so.

7. So Madeline is still taking walks at night? It sort of surprised me that de Sevignie didn't show up yet again! :)

Jun 19, 2012, 11:33 pm

Yay! Questions!!

(Work is a complete grind just now, and your posts are a real relief - I usually have a "Yay, Clermont time!" moment. :) )

2. Whooo-ooo-OOO-ooo-ooo...

3. Actually, you could say that's the moral of the book!

4. In a Gothic novel the world does teem with calamity - remember what I said about these books being a "I'm more miserable than you" contest??

5. Perhaps because the spelling hadn't been nailed down at the time - Roche may have been trying out both (she generally seems to prefer the -est spelling). Or it might just be a type-setting anomaly.

6. Cheerfulness as a duty - yecch! But yes, you see that a lot in this sort of book.

7. In the dusky hour of twilight... No, not this time...but we are about to get much more Gothic-y... :)

Melancholy count: 1
Tally: 34

Jun 19, 2012, 11:47 pm

Glad to be here to entertain you! :)

Jun 20, 2012, 10:38 pm

Clermont (Volume 2) - Chapter 5 which there is a serious incident at the monastery


1. What is a "lawn dress"?

That expression reminds me of the Hawaiian "grass skirt". It also makes me think of the word "laundress". :)

2. I find it strange that the Countess doesn't want to avenge the person (or the two people) who harmed her.

3. It seems as if both the Countess and Agatha know the two men who attacked the Countess pretty well.

4. She (the Countess) fainted away.

Well, it's about time that someone actually faints! :)

5. "like an affrighted lapwing"

What is a lapwing? is it a kind of bird?

6. The reason for the assault seems to me to be for self-interest, and it seems to have been a relative of the Countess who performed the assault.

7. Madeline "did not see his face".

From this, am I to assume that one of the men was, in fact, de Sevignie? No. Don't tell me. I'll wait and see. :)

8. Counting melancholies:
"a melancholy death"

9. What is a "sliding wainscot". Is it like a closet or a cupboard?

10. "putting on a wrapper"

What is a wrapper? Is it like a bathrobe?

Jun 20, 2012, 11:06 pm

1. Lawn is a fine material, like muslin, used for making girls' dresses; it is glossy, with quite a tight weave (muslin has an open weave).

2 & 3. Moving along...


5. A lapwing is a member of the plover family. I have no idea whether a lapwing gets "affrighted" any differently from any other bird. :)

6. Maybe. Then again...

7. Don't worry, I wasn't going to!

9. It's a recess built into a wall, with a hidden, sliding door, used to conceal valuables (and sometimes people).

10. Yes, a floor-length dressing-gown.

You'd better brace yourself: things really hot up from this point onwards... :)

Jun 20, 2012, 11:16 pm

Don't worry, I wasn't going to!


You'd better brace yourself: things really hot up from this point onwards

Can't wait!!

Jun 21, 2012, 1:29 am

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

Moments like this. LOTS of moments like this:

A figure as terrific as the one she now exhibited, they had never, either in reality or imagination, seen; her face was pale as death, her hair dishevelled, and her cloaths torn and stained with blood. She attempted to speak, but her voice died away inarticulate; in about a minutes she made another effort, and, in a voice so hollow, that it seemed issuing from the very recesses of her heart, exclaimed, "Fly!---your lady---there's murder in the chapel!"

Melancholy count: 1
Tally: 35

Jun 21, 2012, 10:23 pm

Clermont (Volume 2) - Chapter 6 which the Countess ir ready to draw up her will


1. How is "de Sevignie" pronounced?

2. Counting melancholies:
"its melancholy to her"
"this melancholy account"

3. Why would the Countess want Madeline as a companion to her daughter only when M. D'Alembert is not around?

4. Was it her son-in-law who tried to kill the Countess in order to get the inheritance?

5. Is that why the Countess is so eager to write her will?

6. Is the Countess thinking of leaving her fortune in its entirety to Madeline instead of to her daughter?

7. What would the Countess have been drinking when she had a "reviving cordial"?

8. Did all the beds in the chateau have curtains or only that of the Countess?

9. ...and there goes Madeline...out into the evil night air once again. It figures!!

Edited: Jun 22, 2012, 12:51 am

1. "Dee-sev-in-yee"...I think. :)

3,4,5. A great big collective WAIT AND SEE.

6. No, just a "competence" - not a fortune, but enough to make a good dowry should she marry, or to live upon if not.

7. 18th century medicine? Yike! I'd hardly like to guess!



Well, this has to be it! Here's an interesting passage from a book published in 1768 that discusses the medicinal properties of plants:

The essential oil from lavendar was used to treat numerous feminine disorders. The traditional theory centered on the notion that it “raises the spirits”. Unlike other medicines with similar applications, such as Asafoetida, Castoreum, and Skunk Cabbage, this aromatic medicine has a rather pleasant aroma, which most traditional herbalists have taken to be soothing and calming. Therefore Lavendar was considered to be valuable in tonics and restorative medicines for those experiencing faint, giddiness, spasms, tremors, and colic. In 1807, Harral summed it up by writing: “This is a grateful, reviving cordial, much and deservedly used in all kinds of langour, weakness of the nerves, and lowness of the spirits.”

A recipe for the Compound Spirit of Lavendar is given by Estes as: Lavendar, Cinnamon, Caryophyllum, Nutmeg, and Haematoxylon. It served as a Tonic and anti-rheumatic.

The value of Lavendar to colonial physicians centers on its use for “all Indispositions of the Heart and Head…” Fuller recommends it in the form of a Compound Spirit for “decayed Strength, Palpitations of the Heart, Fainting, and Melancholy.”

8. Certainly all of the better beds; servants would have been given something simpler, although perhaps Agatha the housekeeper would have a more elaborate piece of furniture. It was late in the 19th century before fresh air was perceived as a good thing (it was believed to be a means of disease transmission), and before that many houses had windows that weren't designed to open. On top of that, beds were designed with curtains all around to block out light, noise and air.

9. Didn't I tell you that in a Gothic novel, nothing ever happens during the daytime??

Jun 21, 2012, 10:50 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

Sympathetic weather:

Madeline arose with a heaviness of heart which left her scarcely power to move; the day was as gloomy as her mind, and added, perhaps, by its melancholy to hers...

Melancholy count: 2
Tally: 37

Edited: Jun 21, 2012, 11:20 pm

> 116

7. That *has* to be the reviving cordial! I could make it here at home (as I have lavendar plants outside blooming now plus cinnamon and nutmeg as ground spices in my kitchen). It's just that I don't have any Caryophyllum or Haematoxylon. Now, if I only knew what those were, I could make my own reviving cordial to chase away any melancholy I feel for too long a lapse of time between reading chapters of Clermont. :)

from book published in 1768

Er, Liz...your books seem to continue to be moving back in time!

Hey! We're doing well. I've made it a third of the way through this book. I'm finding it a fun read so far.

Edited: Jun 21, 2012, 11:24 pm

Caryophyllum = cloves or clove oil
Haematoxylon = extract of logwood; it seems to be a dye, so I'm not sure how that works...


Definition of HAEMATOXYLON
1 capitalized : a genus of tropical American bushy and usually thorny leguminous trees with clusters of small yellow flowers that include the logwood (H. campechianum)
2: the wood or dye of logwood

to chase away any melancholy I feel for too long a lapse of time between reading chapters of Clermont.

As long as you're not feeling melancholy because you're reading chapters of Clermont. :)

Jun 21, 2012, 11:31 pm

Cloves! I have ground cloves! In my kitchen!!

Now, where would I find logwood? Maybe take a trip to Central America?

As long as you're not feeling melancholy because you're reading chapters of Clermont. :)


I look forward to reading a chapter each night. The archaic style of writing would preclude me from reading more than a few pages at a time, but I think that the size of these chapters has been just about right for me.

Jun 21, 2012, 11:34 pm

I was looking to see who in LT might have a copy of this obscure book. I see that christiguc does so I'm going to try to talk her into reading it now! :)

Edited: Jun 21, 2012, 11:50 pm

Point of interest: The founder and publisher of Valancourt Books is also an LT member:


Jun 21, 2012, 11:52 pm

Clermont has no reviews on LT. I think you, Liz, should be the first and only person to write a review of this book! ;)

Edited: Jun 22, 2012, 12:44 am

No, I think you need to do it when we finish - This was my first Gothic novel and... :)

Jun 22, 2012, 12:55 am


Jun 22, 2012, 11:58 pm

Clermont (Volume 2) - Chapter 7

... in which a violent storm occurs and two stories are told


1. Counting melancholies:
"melancholy intimation"
"the melancholy prospect"

2. So a violent storm and screaming birds birds seem to foretell an imminent death.

3. Issues with out-of-place armor...shades of The Castle of Otranto, perhaps?

4. I could not follow the story of Agatha at all. I read it twice, and it made no sense to me either time. What I got out of both Floretta's and Agatha's stories, though, was that, whoever commits a crime, eventually gets his just punishment.

5. The end of this chapter...finally, there seems to be a real reason for Madeline to be acting frightened!

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 12:31 am

2. Ah, sympathetic weather! - actually, a nice example of a novelist having it both ways: exploiting the terrors of the storm while providing a rational explanation for its manifestations (by which, we note, Madeline doesn't entirely convince herself!).

3. ...and a nice example of Otranto's over-the-top horrors being toned down to an acceptably shivery level! (Rather than eliminated entirely; a successful compromise.)

4. Both Floretta and Agatha's stories can be pared down to "murder will out", but Agatha's story is of an extra importance inasmuch as it deals with the early history of the family of Montmorenci (not named at this point), the owners of the "crumbling castle" near the Countess's chateau, who will later play a part in this story. It is a story of murder, secret marriage, disinheritance, usurpation, guilty consciences and (faked) ghostly manifestations...all of which may or may not be relevant. :)

5. Seems to be... More importantly, this is a typical Gothic novel example of the heroine deliberately investigating a frightening and possibly supernatural incident.

Jun 23, 2012, 12:38 am

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?


The light she held but partially dispersed its awful gloom, and her tremor and palpitation increased, as she proceeded to the extreme end, at which hung the ominous armour. She found this in its usual situation, and she was hastily moving from it, too much depressed and agitated to think of searching elsewhere for the cause of the noise, when a door opposite to her (which led to a suite of rooms that had been appropriated solely to the use of the Count, and since his death, shut up), slowly opened, and a tall figure, clad in black, came forth...

Melancholy count: 2
Tally: 39

Jun 23, 2012, 9:19 am

I'll go back and try to understand Agatha's story then...before I move forward to Chapter 8. I might need your help in this.

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 6:09 pm

Don't stress about it - it's more in the nature of foreshadowing than details you absolutely need to know.

Briefly, the heir to a title marries secretly, without his father's approval; he and his wife have a baby. The father dies, and on his way home to claim the title the husband is murdered, and his wife dies of grief. A cousin inherits because the proofs of the secret marriage have been accidentally destroyed and the faithful servant can't prove the baby's identity. However, the servant does manage (by faking supernatural manifestations) to frighten the cousin into confessing to the murder.

One thing Gothic novels are not is concise. :)

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 7:50 pm

Thanks for explaining this. I'll give it a quick go then, but I don't want to get off on any long reading tangents!

ETA: Who is Peter? Is that the cousin or the butler?

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 7:53 pm

Clermont (Volume 2) - Chapter 8 which the Countess dies


1. Why does Father Bertram sneak so silently into these scenes? He does that twice in this chapter! Is that for effect?

2. Counting melancholies:
"melancholy accounts"
"a melancholy contrast"
"the melancholy tidings"
"with a melancholy air"
"the melancholy event" (x2)
"her melancholy meditations"

3. I think the Countess died very quickly! One "fit", and that was it!!

4. ...Have vitiated my taste

What does "vitiated" mean?

5. What "restoratives" might have been given to Madeline this time?

6. I like the expression "bedewed".

7. ...with refulgent glory

What does "refulgent" mean?

8. Who does the cover of the book depict? Is that the Countess's daughter in the black veil? Is Madeline the one with braided hair? What are those circular things they are holding? Wreaths? Of what are they made? It looks like lambskin!

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 9:08 pm

1. The author's effect, rather than Father Bertrand's. :)

What Roche seems to be doing here is a cut-down version of one of Ann Radcliffe's favourite tricks: she would have the heroine terrified by something, then either not reveal to the reader what it was for several chapters (or even volumes!), or finally explain that "it" wasn't what the heroine thought it was. Roche seems to prefer terrifying her heroine but explaining the cause away almost immediately.

The fact that Father Bertrand would be wearing long dark robes makes him a good choice for the role of faux-ghost.

2. Yes, it's all very melancholy!

3. "Fits", like "brain fever", were a popular, non-specific way of killing someone off. ("Brain fever" in a real-world sense was probably meningitis, but novelistic brain fever is something else.)

4. Spoiled, or weakened. (I can't find it - can you write out the whole sentence, so I can see the context?)

Eta: Ah, got it! Madeline is saying that living in luxury with the Countess hasn't spoiled her, and she can still be content living the simple life with her father.

5. Smelling-salts, probably - ammonia or something similar.

7. Bright, or brilliant. Here, it's used to describe the sunrise after the storm.

8. I'm not sure if it's actually meant to be a scene from the novel, or just an appropriately Gothic-y image. (The family has a crypt in the chapel, remember, not a graveyard.) Perhaps you should PM "Valancourtbooks" and ask him?? :)

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 9:23 pm

4. Spoiled, or weakened. (I can't find it - can you write out the whole sentence, so I can see the context?)?

I can't find that word now either. I'll still look for it.

Perhaps you should PM "Valancourtbooks" and ask him?? :)

I think I will!

I did! :)

Jun 23, 2012, 9:36 pm

Found it!

I am not now worse with respect to fortune than when she took me under her protection: the luxuries I enjoyed with her have not vitiated my taste, or rendered me unable to support with contentment the humble situation I am destined to.

Jun 23, 2012, 9:47 pm

Yup! - see above (#133).

Jun 23, 2012, 9:54 pm

From Jay (valancourtbooks):

"We just liked the image. It's by William Bouguereau (not Bouguegeau, as the typo on the back cover says). I love to see that you're reading and discussing Clermont... I think it is a lot of fun. All the seven "horrid novels" are wonderful, although my favorites are probably The Midnight Bell and The Necromancer. Not sure exactly where you are in Clermont, but the scene on the front cover actually seemed fairly appropriate for one of the episodes in the book...."

Jun 23, 2012, 9:57 pm

Cool!! :)

Jun 23, 2012, 10:05 pm

I thought you'd like that! :)

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 10:06 pm

Have you read any of the other "horrid novels"?

(I'm sure I asked you this before, Liz, but I can't remember when or on what thread!)

Jun 23, 2012, 10:15 pm

You did! Right here! Asked in #7, answered in #17. :)

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 10:40 pm

I have read The Castle Of Wolfenbach, The Mysterious Warning and Orphan Of The Rhine, but a lo-oo-oo-ong time ago. I also tried Horrid Mysterious but could only find a poor translation and gave up on it.

So my next question is if you plan to read any more of them...

You did! Right here! Asked in #7, answered in #17.

My excuse is that was at least 123 messages ago!

Did you like the ones you read - other than Horrid Mysterious Mysteries?

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 10:38 pm


You're not hinting at anything, are you?? :)

(I do mean to read the rest of them, but then I "mean to read" so many things, I hyperventilate when I think about it...)

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 10:39 pm

You're not hinting at anything, are you?? :)

Hmmmmm????? LOL!!

Jun 23, 2012, 10:39 pm

Ooh! And that's Horrid MysterIES - my bad!

Jun 24, 2012, 11:38 pm

Clermont (Volume 2) - Chapter 9 which Madame D'Alembert arrives


1. Counting melancholies:
"the melancholy event"
"how melancholy a scene"
"the melancholy notes"

2. I find it very bizarre (and am astounded) that the funeral of the Countess was able to take place without her daughter in attendance, although I understand the reason for this.

3. Wouldn't the fact that the funeral took place at night be suspicious to others?

4. It seems as if Madame D'Alembert is using this mourning period to maintain a place of solitude and away from her usual busy life. I think she likes this, although she is in despair over the loss of her mother.

5. I take it that Madame D'Alembert and her husband don't get along very well. I'm sure he's an evil character! She didn't seem very exited about getting a letter from say the least! :)

We've reached the end of Volume 2!

Jun 25, 2012, 12:02 am

2. Women did not commonly attend funerals during the 18th and 19th centuries. It's more unusual that Madeline is there, than that Madame D'Alembert isn't, even though she gets angry when she finds out it's over.

3. Funerals in Gothic novels are always at night, so in this context, no. :)

4. I think you might be right. Although novels like this always have their good characters prefering a quiet life in the country to the obligations of the city.

5. To say the least...

We've reached the end of Volume 2!

And still going strong!

Jun 25, 2012, 12:10 am

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

A funeral at midnight in a ruined crypt:

The solemn requiem chaunted by the monks, as they preceded the body, the glimmering light of the torches, carried by the servants, which as it fell in partial directions upon the old trees that canopied the garden walk through which they past to the valley, produced a thousand quivering and grotesque shadows... The chapel was lighted up, but the light which gleamed from its windows, by rendering the decay anf desolation of the building more conspicuous, served rather to increase than diminish its horrors; from its shattered towers the owls now hooted, and the ravens croaked amidst the surrounding trees, as if singing their nightly song of death, o'er the mouldering bodies which lay beneath them...

Whoops! Forgot the previous chapter's tally!

Melancholy count (V II, 8): 9
Melancholy count (V II, 9): 5
Tally: 54

Jun 25, 2012, 12:34 am

Funerals in Gothic novels are always at night


Jun 25, 2012, 12:35 am

Because it's spooky!! :)

Jun 25, 2012, 12:54 am


Jun 25, 2012, 1:03 am

Spooky for the sake of spooky is a very important aspect of the Gothic novel. :)

Jun 25, 2012, 12:24 pm

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 1 - Part 1*

...where Madame D'Alembert comes up with a plan

*Part 1 is through the line:
"No Madame, (answered she faultingly) I have not."


There is too much going on here to proceed at a fast pace! I have come up with my own idea for what is going on. However, I shall tell you my idea after we finish this book, and I really know what happens.

1. It is revealed here by Madame D'Alembert that M. D'Alembert must not see Madeline. I think it's because he knows who she is (although that's not what his wife later says) and he wishes to do her ill.

2. If I would have been Madeline, I would have opted to go back to the safety of her father's house. I guess I am Madeline, but, if I'd have been that Madeline... :)

3. Counting melancholies:
"in a melancholy voice"

4. I think that Madeline was right to protest what Madame D'Alembert urged her to do. She did promise the Countess to not be at the chateau when M. D'Alembert was there. I think she should have paid more attention to the person who had been most gracious to her.

5. Here I see where Madeline goes against her better judgement due to her sense of "duty" to her new friend, Madame D'Alembert. Bad move, I predict!

6. Cool!! Madeline will be staying in the chamber of the recently-departed Countess where there might be ...ghosts!! :)

7. Who is Lubin?

8. What might Madeline's "riding habit" have looked like? Was she going to be mounted on a horse at departure or be transported by carriage?

Edited: Jun 25, 2012, 12:26 pm

Spooky for the sake of spooky is a very important aspect of the Gothic novel.

Well, no one could read Stephen King books back then! Horror does make for some lively reading. :)

Jun 25, 2012, 12:29 pm

I have to add here that a novel like this is one I'd never have touched by myself in a million years. It's just that the process of learning and exploring the content of these pages in minute detail (with encouragement and support) makes the whole process fun.

Now, back to the book...

Jun 25, 2012, 6:33 pm

My goodness, an out-of-hours post! Such enthusiasm! :)

Yes, events do move pretty rapidly for the remaining two volumes... I suspect I'll be spending a lot of time saying "wait and see".

1. Wait and see.

2. This is an interesting passage because it is very much like one of those scenes that Jane Austen is so good at, in which a young girl is pressured into doing something she feels is wrong - caught between duty and friendship, and hesitant to insist upon her own way (at a time when women weren't supposed to insist upon their own way). And Madeline can only get back to her father if she does flatly insist.

4 & 5. And in this specific case, Madeline is also caught between her promise to the Countess that she won't stay if M. D'Alembert comes, and her other promise to the Countess, to stay with Madame D'Alembert. We can see, of course, that the first promise should take precedence (since in one way or another, it is clearly about Madeline's safety), but, well, #2.

6. Spooky! :)

7. One of the manservants, probably a groom.

8. A dress with a long, straight skirt, meant for riding side-saddle. She will be "leaving" on a horse.

Jun 25, 2012, 7:05 pm

2. This is an interesting passage because it is very much like one of those scenes that Jane Austen is so good at, in which a young girl is pressured into doing something she feels is wrong - caught between duty and friendship, and hesitant to insist upon her own way (at a time when women weren't supposed to insist upon their own way). And Madeline can only get back to her father if she does flatly insist.

...and I remembered this from what you taught me during our reading of the two Jane Austen novels. I'm proud that I could identify what was going on here! :)

3 and 4. I thought that the Countess specifially wanted Madeline away when M. D'Alembert would be there - even if she would be leaving Madame D'Alembert there alone.

8. Why is Madeline not being transported by carriage? Did all young women know how to ride? Riding is not at all easy!

Jun 25, 2012, 7:13 pm

I'm proud that I could identify what was going on here! :)

You should be!

3 & 4. Yes, but since then all Madeline has heard is that she has to stay and be a comfort to Madame D'Alembert (from the Countess and from Father Bertrand), so she's torn.

8. Because she's not really leaving; easier to leave and circle back by horse. And yes, everyone was taught how to ride, although women sometimes still rode pillion at this time.

Jun 25, 2012, 7:38 pm

"rode pillion"?

What's that?

Edited: Jun 25, 2012, 8:18 pm


Sorry - Ilana just asked that in the Wolf Hall thread. :)

It was a way of doubling up: there was a seating platform attached behind the saddle. Usually the man controlled the horse and the woman sat sideways behind him (or a child could sit behind a woman). It was common when horseback was the only way to get around and meant that you only needed one horse per two people.

Edited: Jun 25, 2012, 8:48 pm

Sounds uncomfortable.

Those poor horses!!


Jun 26, 2012, 10:04 pm

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 1 - Part 2

... in which Madeline returns to the chateau


1. I like Lubin. He seems like a nice chap.

2. Ha! I knew that both Agatha and Floretta would find one excuse or another to keep from staying with Madeline in the Countess's room.

3. So does M. D'Alembert now own the chateau?

4. Counting melancholies:
"the melancholy of the Countess"
"tedious and melancholy"

5. Floretta weeping? Something terrible must have happened!

Jun 26, 2012, 10:14 pm

1. Yes, he seems so...but in novels like this, it can be dangerous to trust anyone! :)

(Not that I'm saying you can't trust Lubin..!)

2. It looks like her secret stay is going to be very, very dull - or what's worse, not dull at all...

3. Under the property laws of the time, probably; I'm not sure how far, in 18th century France, an inheritance could be secured to a wife so a husband couldn't touch it. (That did eventually happen in England.) It has been explicitly stated that the Countess inherited the chateau from her father, but specific ownership may not have been an issue between her and the Count. M. D'Alembert, on the other hand...

5. I like the way Roche finishes her chapters - lots of mini-cliffhangers!

Jun 26, 2012, 10:16 pm

I think that Madeline got through her first night in the Countess's room surprisngly well...and there were no ghosts! :)

Jun 26, 2012, 10:19 pm

Not yet...

Jun 26, 2012, 10:53 pm


Jun 27, 2012, 11:11 pm

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 2 - Part 1

... in which Agatha is poisoned

...ends with "...Madeline with a scream of mingled joy and terror then started from the ground, and flying to the door opened it and beheld Madame D'Alembert and Floretta."


1. Agatha, suddenly dead? Now that is a shock!

2. Madeline was deemed too pretty to be seen at the chateau? Then why wasn't she allowed to leave earlier? If she were at her father's house, M. D'Alembert would never have the opportunity of seeing her.

3. Why would Lubin inherit Agatha's money? Wouldn't that have made him a suspect as the person who poisoned Agatha ... as the monetary inheritance would have been his motive?

4. How can Madeline know that she also won't be fed poison while at the chateau? Especially since Agatha has already been poisoned?

5. A man coming out of the closet?! So wonderfully creepy!!!!!!

6. "the closet window"

Closets had windows? Whatever for?!

Edited: Jun 27, 2012, 11:25 pm

1. And they just keep coming!

2. Assuming that's the real reason...

3. Agatha had no immediate family, and Lubin is her godson.

It is only Madeline who really believes that Agatha has been murdered, rather than accidentally poisoned, because she knows what happened to the Countess and that someone has a motive.

4. She can't - although presumably if no-one knows she's still at the chateau, logically it couldn't happen...

5. ...unless, of course, someone is watching her from the shadows of her closet...

6. A "closet" wasn't a closet in our sense of the word; it was a smaller room opening off a main room, which might be used to hold books and a desk, or other personal belongings. A closet was usually considered private, and in some novels of this period you find a closet being used as a prayer-room.

Edited: Jun 27, 2012, 11:47 pm

2. Okay. I won't assume anything. :)

3. Agatha herself thought she was being poisoned, at least according to Floretta's story. So, if Agatha were "accidentally" poisoned, perhaps Madame D'Alembert was supposed to have been the victim of the posioning?

4. It could happen because she is eating the same food that the others at the chateau are eating. But, of course, you already know the end of the story...and she won't be poisoned! :)

6. Too bad that Madeline didn't use the closet as a prayer room. She could have discovered "the man in the closet" even sooner! :D

Jun 28, 2012, 12:06 am

2. "I am poisoned" might mean "I am dying of food poisoning" as well as "Someone has poisoned me". As you say, on the face of it only the trustworthy Lubin has a motive; who else would bother to murder a housekeeper? (The other servants know that the Countess was stabbed, but they don't know that Agatha saw the murderer.)

3. She could get food poisoning that way, yes; deliberate poisoning implies that her presence in the chateau is known.

Jun 28, 2012, 11:12 pm

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 2 - Part 2 which Madeline is removed from the Countess's room

ending with "Oh! heavens, (cried she, shuddering and leaning against the wall) whither are we going?"


1. Oh, yes, Madame D'Alembert! Place a guilt trip on Madeline!!

2. At this point, I cannot even imagine where Madame D'Alembert wants to hide Madeline.

3. How did M. D'Alembert get wind that Madeline might be in the chateau?

4. How could Madeline even think to enter that hideous, damp vault? Has she taken complete leave of her senses?

5. Maybe Madame D'Alembert is so jealous of Madeline's beauty that she's really trying to get rid of Madeline, and her friendly devotion is all a big show...and fake!

6. I think things are much worse than merely "melancholy" at this point. :O

Jun 28, 2012, 11:26 pm

Ah-HA!! I was hoping your administrative duties weren't going to keep you from your reading! :)

Although...hmm...I'm not sure there's a lot to answer here, beyond a comprehensive WAIT AND SEE. There's still quite a distance to go in this chapter, and I don't want to anticipate anything.

I think things are much worse than merely "melancholy" at this point.

That's exactly what I was thinking! - although in fact there is a little flurry of melancholy-s a bit further along...

Edited: Jul 2, 2012, 10:39 pm

Sorry about my unexcused absence. We had a storm on Friday night, followed by a power outage that lasted until this evening. I had no computer access at all (and was terribly bored!) The temperatures here have been unseasonably high. On Friday, it was 104 degrees Fahrenheit - which was a record high for that date.

Back to the book...

Edited: Jul 2, 2012, 11:09 pm

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 3

... in which Madeline is told she may return to her father's house


1. Why wouldn't Madale D'Alembert tell Madeline to where she was taking her?

2. Counting melancholies ... a "two-fer"
"melancholy, deepest melancholy"

3. the poignard of the murderer"

What is a poignard?

4. Why does Lubin wave a rusty sword? What good would a rusty sword be?

5. What was the "iron hook"?

6. When Madeline fainted, did the strange man think she was dead?

7. It's about time that Madame D'Alembert lets Madeline return to her father's house!

8. Is what Madeline is saying in the last few paragraphs that the chateau has now lost its glory?

Edited: Jul 2, 2012, 10:59 pm


Phew! Good to see you back - I was getting a little worried. And now that I know everything's okay, I can tell you that your absence has been just as painful for me. :)


Edited: Jul 2, 2012, 10:57 pm


I thought that might happen. :)

Jul 2, 2012, 10:58 pm

1. Because she probably wouldn't go - would you??

3. A long, narrow knife which was often carried as a sidearm. Actually, I don't know that they were still carried in the 18th century, but they certainly always are in Gothic novels!

4. Just to show that he's armed. The sword is an old relic of the chateau, which hasn't been cared for - and I guess he thinks it's better than nothing!

5. A convenient obstacle?? Possibly something fixed into the wall to hold a lamp or something similar, or perhaps to hold a door open.

6. Perhaps. Or perhaps he took the opportunity to have a good look at her, and found that she wasn't who he was looking for. Or that she was who he was looking for. :)

7. I should say so!

8. She's getting a little carried away, is what she's doing... Yes, she's comparing the chateau as it was when the Countess was alive to what it must become belonging to M. D'Alembert (in both cases, morally speaking), but doing so in a very over-the-top way.

Jul 2, 2012, 11:10 pm

1. No!! :)

It's going to be so boring for Madeline at her father's house now. Well, I'll see what happens tomorrow...

Edited: Jul 3, 2012, 8:06 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic novel?

Strangers with poignards:

...but 'ere her efforts had succeeded her arm was rudely seized; she immediately turned her head and beheld the inflamed countenance of a man glaring upon her; the moment he saw her he started back with a look that seemed to intimate she was not the person he expected to have seen, but the faint pleasure which this idea gave was quickly destroyed by his drawing a small dagger from his breast with which he again approached Madeline. Her death she now believed inevitable, and staggering back a few paces, "Ah! heaven have mercy upon me!" she said, and dropped lifeless on the floor...

Melancholy count (V III, 1): 2
Melancholy count (V III, 2): 3
Tally: 59

Jul 3, 2012, 11:09 pm

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 3

... in which Madeline arrives ather father's house


1. Why would Madeline's taking of Lubin's arm increase the speed of their travels?

2. Is there some reason that Lubin was trying to scare Madeline?

3. What is a "gothic window"? Is it an arched window?

4. Counting melancholies...
"melancholy retrospection"
"melancholy shake of the head"
"melancholy meditation"

5. What are "banditti"? Bandits?

Edited: Jul 3, 2012, 11:28 pm

1. Because women were weak and helpless and had to be helped along.


2. He's not trying to - but doing a remarkable job of it all the same! (This kind of hideo-comic scene with a servant always saying the wrong thing is fairly typical of the genre.)

3. Yes, a tall, narrow window with a round or pointed arch.

5. Yes. The word is actually singular but it was almost invariably used to mean a gang of armed marauders.

Jul 3, 2012, 11:25 pm

Because women were weak and helpless and had to be helped along.


Edited: Jul 3, 2012, 11:28 pm

Okay---we've reached the point in this novel where the mysteries start to pile up on themselves and subplots to multiply, with details scattered through the text. In the interests of maintaining your sanity, I suggest careful reading and concentration, in shorter bursts if necessary. :)

(For example: here in Volume III, Chapter 3 we have a remark about the murder of Count St. Julian, which was first referred to in Volume I, Chapter 5.)

Jul 3, 2012, 11:49 pm

Will do.

I already forgot about the murder of Count St. Julian in the first chapter. I can see that this is going to be where I'll need your help the most.

Should I take notes about the subplots to try to keep things straight?

Jul 3, 2012, 11:58 pm

I don't know what the best way of proceeding is. I certainly don't want to start pointing out things you should be watching for, because that will spoil it for you.

On the other hand, I can tell you that even by Gothic novel standards this novel gets thoroughly bewildering before it sorts itself out!

If taking notes would help, sure, but I don't want you to feel this book comes with homework attached. :)

Anyway, don't hesitate to ask more questions if you need to, about who people are and their relationships. And don't worry about repeating yourself. I'm more than happy to help you sort stuff out.

Edited: Jul 4, 2012, 8:19 am

Taking notes on reading to help clarify what happens is not like homework to me. I sometimes resort to that tactic if I find a plot line too confusing or if a novel has way too many characters. I think that was a helpful hint that you gave me. I'll start taking notes as I proceed with my read.

Thanks for preventing the melancholy of confusion further down the road. :)

Jul 4, 2012, 11:58 pm

...with melancholy turning to dejection as the confusion grows. :)

A character list, or perhaps a connections-between-characters list, might not be a bad idea.

Edited: Jul 6, 2012, 2:35 pm

My apologies again. Liz. After my electricity came back, my internet service went down. It finally came back about two hours ago. I intensely dislike not having computer access, although I did get a lot done on my family tree. It's now over 1,000 entries! :)

Back to the book...

Edited: Jul 6, 2012, 2:51 pm

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 4

... in which Madelie discovers her father's relationship to the Marquis de Montmorenci


1. So we now know that Clermont is the son of "an unhappy and much injured woman". Do we know anything else about his wife now, other than she died before Madeline got to know her?

2. "like a froward child..."

What does froward mean?

3. I like Madeline's attitude. Though she regrets leaving the tranquil beauty and simplicity of her father's home, she plans to use her new wealth to help others. A Madeline after my own heart! :)

4. I find it amusing to see that now it's Madeline who's telling others not to ask questions. Hmm?

5. It seems as if Jaqueline was having delusions of grandeur after Madeline left to stay with the Countess.

6. "four out-riders and three postillions"

What are out-riders and postillions?

7. Counting melancholies...
"deepest melancholy"

I did see the word "melancholy" in another book (Observatory Mansions) I'm currently reading. Sadly, I cannot add it to your "melancholy" count! ;)

8. I liked the poem in this chapter, although other poetry in this book has not impressed me much. I'll post it here as it talks about the lovely gardens and fields in which Madeline grew up and which she is about to leave.

"Farewel, ye flow'rs, whose buds, with early care,
I watch'd, and to the chearful sun did rear;
Who now shall bind your stems, or, when you fall,
With fountain streams your fainting souls recall."

(I think I need to go water my garden about now!)

"No more, my goats, shall I behold your climb,
The steepy cliffs, or crop the flowery thyme;
No more extended in the grot below,
Shall see you browsing on the mountain's brow;
The prickly shrubs, and after on the bare,
Lean down the deep abyss and hang in air".

This week my niece is returning home from France. I think I'll send her a copy of this poem. I think she'll be able to identify with it! :)

Jul 6, 2012, 5:51 pm

You're killing me, you know that!? :)

(Actually, a few days' loss of internet access would probably be very good for me; the amount of housework that's just sitting there...)

1. No, not at the moment, except that she died when Madeline was about two years old; more will be forthcoming.

2. Difficult, or temperamental.

3. But aren't all Madelines like that?

4. It runs in the family. Although telling a servant to mind their own business isn't quite the same thing.

5. Well, servants lived in the reflected glory of their employers, so certainly Jacequiline was hoping for indirect elevation!

6. When there was a carriage with more than two horses (amongst the wealthy, four was usual for speed), a post-boy would ride the leader and help to control and guide the team. Out-riders were armed guards who rode before and behind the carriage to protect it from banditti. (Or highwaymen; but in a Gothic novel, certainly banditti.)

Here, the Marquis has sent a carriage with six horses and three postillions, which is a sign of how urgently he wants Clermont and Madeline at Montmorenci.

7. Heh! I've been noticing melancholy-s in Our Mutual Friend, too!

8. Yes, Roche's poetry is pretty but not particularly distinguished.

Jul 6, 2012, 6:17 pm


Well, no electricity topped by no internet service certainly was not my idea!!

Edited: Jul 7, 2012, 10:41 am

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 5 - Part 1 which Madeline reads a letter

through "that some dangerous rival had taken entire possess of his heart."


1. I was so confused. At first, I could not tell who wrote that letter. Then, when I figured out it was Clermont's mother, I had to go back and reread everything.

I am taking notes as I would never remember everyone. Even with notes, I feel that I might be apt to get some characters confused. Oh, well.

Could you please summarize who did what to whom (very briefly) so far in this chapter? Thanks!

2. What is an "India box"? A box made in India?

3. Why is Julian given the title of St.? Isn't that "saint"? That seems weird!

4. By the way, this is what I usually don't like about contemporary mysteries. Nothing happens for the entire book and then, in the last chapter, a confusing myriad of things gets explained. To me, it would be more fun, as a reader, to try to untangle a mystery during the entire reading of a novel. *sigh*

Edited: Jul 7, 2012, 6:41 pm

Well, I did warn you! :)

I'll answer your other questions first, because one of them will (hopefully) clarify what follows).

2. Yes, originally, but this usage implies a small, lockable box that is decorated in a particular style (perhaps with pictures of Indian scenes).

3. It was (is) not uncommon to incorporate "Saint", abbreviated St., in names and titles in either France or England. It depends upon the specific derivation of the title, which might refer to a place, an event or something else of historical importance to the family in question.

In this case, the oldest son and heir of the Marquis of Montmorenci carries the title of Count St. Julian; he would be addressed by those close to him simply as "St. Julian". (He would have an ordinary name behind the title, but it would rarely be used.)

4. "Untangle" being the operative word. :)

And speaking of which---

1. I haven't spotted your cut-off point, so I'll just summarise the whole letter; let me know if you need anything more at this point.


You need to pay careful attention when family histories involving people with titles are involved. Novels like this were written at a time when readers were accustomed to the inheritance of titles and people suddenly changing their names as a consequence, and they often don't stop to spell out that this has happened. (On top of which, within this section of the narrative, three different people are referred to by the title "Count St. Julian".)

What we have here is a family scandal going back two generations. This letter is from Clermont's mother - whose name is also Madeline - explaining to him why he has been brought up in someone else's family, and under an assumed name (Monsieur Lausane).

Briefly (or as briefly as I can!):

Clermont's mother, Madeline St. Foix, is orphaned when she is sixteen. She is taken in by her uncle, and while staying at his house meets the Count St. Julian (i.e. the present Marquis of Montmorenci). The two of them fall in love but St. Julian knows that his father wouldn't approve of their marriage - he wants his son to make a "great match" and will cut him off if he disobeys.

However, St. Julian is expecting to inherit a fortune from an elderly relative. He persuades Madeline to get married secretly and promises her that he will acknowledge her as soon as he inherits and can afford to defy his father. That get married and have a son (i.e. Clermont).

Soon after the baby's birth, St. Julian tells his wife that he isn't getting the inheritance - that he can't afford to anger his father - and that he's decided to repudiate her and never acknowledge their marriage - and she can't prove otherwise.

Madeline decides to confront the Marquis and demand justice but when she gets there she finds St. Julian has anticipated her and told his father that a wicked woman is blackmailing him by claiming to be his wife. Madeline is locked up, prior to being handed over to the law, but a young servant girl feels sorry for her and helps her to escape with the baby.

Madeline does escape but she has nowhere to go (and no way of getting there anyway). She wanders around for a while and finally collapses by the side of the road, where she just happens (things are always "just happening" in books like this!) to be found by friends of hers, the Count and Countess de Valdore, who are the parents of a baby called Elvira (i.e. our Countess). They take her in and look after her. Soon afterwards they hear that Count St. Julian has married - or "married" - a great heiress.

Madeline is afraid that St. Julian will try to find her and have her locked up to protect himself, so she chooses to hide out at the deserted monastery (i.e. the one near the chateau) and leaves her baby with her friends. She dies two years later, leaving behind this letter to explain everything. "Lausane" is brought up by the Count and Countess de Valdore and is a young man when he is given the letter after the deaths of his guardians.

Edited: Jul 7, 2012, 10:44 pm

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 5 - Part 2

... in which Madeline finishes reading the letter written by her grandmother

ends with... bedew with the filial drops of sacred affection the grave of your mother.



1. From where did Clermont get the name "Clermont"?

2. I wept, I upbraided, I supplicated...

What is "upbraided"?

3. What is a house of penitants?

4. I couldn't figure out who the woman was who helped Madeline escape, but you did tell me above that it was a servant.

5. ...a profusion of viands will overpower the famished wretch.

What are viands?

6. Thank you for the summary of the letter. That helps a lot!
I think of your summary as kind of "tutored read Cliff's notes"!

Jul 7, 2012, 11:10 pm

Ah, that phrase was in the letter! I thought it might have been, but I missed it, and from my own point of view it was easier to just keep going. :)

1. Strictly, he hasn't got it yet. (I don't remember it having any particular meaning; we'll see.)

2. To criticise, but with a sense of moral judgement - to throw someone's wrongdoing in their face.

3. A kind of prison, or reformatory, but attached to and run by a convent, where wicked girls were sent to repent (and where, if you were rich and powerful, you could get someone locked up for life, if they were inconvenient to you).

5. Food. (The old "use a fancy word instead" trick.)

6. Some "summary"! :)

We're not in the least finished with our flashback yet; Grandma Madeline's letter is only the first part of it.

But for the moment, the point is that Clermont is the real Count St. Julian, and the heir to the Marquis of Montmorenci, but can't prove it.

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 8:57 am

from my own point of view it was easier to just keep going.

That was fine. I stopped reading what you wrote when I reached the end of what I read. Then I resumed what you wrote when I finished what she wrote. Heh!

Grandma Madeline's letter is only the first part of it.

Oy vey! :)

But for the moment, the point is that Clermont is the real Count St. Julian, and the heir to the Marquis of Montmorenci, but can't prove it.

I'm confused again. So who are the three Count St. Julians?

I know one was murdered (the son of the current Marquis of Montmorenci).

Clermont is the second (yet unrecognized) one.

Is the current living Marquis of Montmorenci a former Count St. Julian? Is that the person with whom Madeline St. Julian was in love and married?

Do you think Jane Austen would be rolling over in her grave if she'd see how seriously we're getting into Clermont? :) So far, I'm finding this book lots of fun. Maybe it's because I'm sort of getting into the groove of what to expect.

Jul 8, 2012, 12:22 am

Yes, that's right: he was carrying the title Count St. Julian when he met and married Madeline St. Foix (which is why she signs her letter Madeline St. Julian; she is correctly Countess St. Julian).

Then his father died, making him Marquis of Montmorenci (as he still is); the title Count St. Julian, as we know, rightly belongs to Clermont; but instead it was carried by the Marquis's second son, the child of his second, bigamous marriage, up until the time he (the son) was murdered.

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 9:03 am

I'm *really* glad you are here to explain all of this to me. Had I read the book myself, all of these people with the same name would have totally confused me and left me in the dark as to what the plot really was. My educational process about this began when we were working on Emma together.

Names are really funny, though. Even if titles aren't passed down, names usually are. In the Jewish religion, Sephardic Jews commonly pass the names of the parents on to their children. Among Ashkenazi Jews, however, names are usually given to a child based on the names of beloved, but deceased, relatives.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm currently working on a family tree (my father's side of the family) which goes back to the 1700's in Germany. I found a relative with my father's same name! In addition, I found one name that repeated with the same spelling 5 times and another that repeated with similar spelling 6 times in 200 years (9 generations)

Another thing I noticed was that the more modern generations seem to be named less after deceased relatives and more after "popular" names of others.

I found that, to keep these people with the same name differentiated, I have to assign them numbers. I, naturally, assign the #1 to the oldest of the individuals whose birth date I know. I guess I Have to do the same thing with novels in which you tutor me! :)

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 9:14 am


Clermont is turning out to be my favorite book of those we've worked on together so far!

Just sayin'. :)

It is really a pity that more people would not generally read this book on their own. If anyone else wants to be your tutee for this book later, Liz, just let me know, and I'll mail my copy of it to that person so that we can "share the wealth". I'd be very happy to "pay it forward" so this book could be enjoyed by others. I will mail this book internationally.

A note about appreciation of subject matter:

I did learn in college that any subject is approachable if it is taught in an interesting and understandable manner by a teacher (tutor) who is also deeply interested in the subject matter. I had two college professors who made me love their courses in in (1) Modern American History and (2) Organic Chemistry. Now I can add 18th centruy British literature to that list. Heh!

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 10:56 am

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 5 - Part 3 which Elvira expresses agony

ends with...

"...the adopted son of her parents, the friend of her youth, the brother of her heart."


1. I am now thoroughly confused as to who's who. :(

How is M. Valdore related to Elvira's father? I thought he was her father. :(

Could you do a (very simple) family tree for me, but use all the aliases for each person? I can't keep them straight, and I don't want to proceed until I can tell who's who and who's doing what to whom.



2. This is an interesting line:

"...the author of my injuries was also the author of my being."

That's a sad statement of fact that too often happens even in modern times. :(

Jul 8, 2012, 5:48 pm

I have to admit, I'm not a great fan of family names - certainly not in the first generation - it seems as if the second person isn't being allowed to find their own identity but is somehow just an adjunct of the first person. (The copy of Our Mutual Friend I read had a preface by "Charles Dickens the Younger". How would you like to go through life as "Charles Dickens the Younger"?)

But it was certainly the way some 200 years ago - and one of those things we just have to cope with when reading novels of this vintage. Although a second oddity of the time is that even in close relationships, men tend to be addressed only by their surnames, and sometimes we don't ever find out what their first names are!

(I can warn you now that there's a patch later on with two characters of the same name that I found horribly confusing - but forewarned is forearmed, right?)

I'm thrilled that you're enjoying this novel, Madeline; with my reading tastes, it often gets very lonely! I'd love to think you'd find a taker for your Clermont offer - share the wealth, indeed! And of course, there's nothing I'd like better than to go on working with you through some more 18th and 19th century novels. Actually, after enjoying The Trail Of The Serpent, Heather and I are planning on reading more novels by Mary Elizabeth Braddon - you might enjoy those, too!

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 5:59 pm


No, no, stay calm - no need to be confused at this point! :)

1. Elvira's parents are - were, since they are now both dead - the Count and Countess de Valdore. M. de Valdore - M. meaning "Monsieur", Mr de Valdore - is a male relative of the Count's, who has been appointed Elvira's guardian.

With titles, both English and French, and again according to their derivation, there can be a family name and a title, or the family name can be part of the title.

The only person with an actual alias at this point is Lausane, who we will later know as Clermont.

2. Novels of this period are very big on "Honour thy mother and thy father" - basically, no matter what crap your parents dish out, you're supposed to suffer in silence and never stop loving them, or have any trouble forgiving them.

Ooh! A continuation link! What do you think? - do we need a new thread, or shall we carry on here?

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 10:27 pm

Mr de Valdore - is a male relative of the Count's, who has been appointed Elvira's guardian.

How confusing!

Sure. You can make a continuation thread. I'm going back to finish more of this chapter...if I can keep the characters straight! :(

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 10:44 pm

Why don't we do the continuation after you finish this chapter? Just to keep things together.

Eta: Ah! Looking forward through the rest of this (extremely long!) chapter, we hit something very interesting to me: the only concerete indication of the date at which this story is supposed to be taking place. But we can talk about that later...

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 11:03 pm

Clermont (Volume 3) - Chapter 5 - Part 4

... in which Clermont finishes telling Madeline his story


1. Counting melancholies...
"a melancholy contrast"
"my melancholy total abstraction"
"a melancholy kind of pleasure"
"the melancholy intelligence"

2. Why did Clermont address his brother as "my love"?!

3. Why did Lord Dunlere want Lausane to keep silent about his grievances?

4. Why did Elvira's guardian stop her from writing to Lausane?

5. So did St. Julian really die of illness or due to murder?

*still feeling confused (although a bit less)*

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 11:03 pm

> 201

there's nothing I'd like better than to go on working with you through some more 18th and 19th century novels.

Aww!!! These have been fun for me. The only thing is that I definitely would need your help as I'd get too confused doing any of these alone. I looked at the opening paragraph of The Trial of the Serpent, and from that little bit of Braddon, I think I'd be willing to give her works a go. Which books of hers will you and Heather be reading? Are they easy to get hold of? Maybe you could tutor me in one of those after you figure out which one would be a good fit for me?

Jul 8, 2012, 11:08 pm

1. We're back!!

2. He doesn't: that marks the point in his telling of his story when he pauses to speak directly to Madeline. It is a bit abrupt, although in my edition it's marked by a change in punctuation.

3. Because he doesn't want the whole world to know he's allowed his daughter to marry Monmorenci's illegitimate son (as Clermont is supposed to be, since he can't prove otherwise), since that would be regarded as degrading.

4. Elvira is her parents' heiress. M. de Valdore is trying to push her into marrying his son, to bring Elvira's fortune into his side of the family. However, M. de Valdore suspects that Elvira is actually in love with Lausane / Clermont, and so to help his scheme along, he's trying to put all the barriers he can between the two of them.

5. Wait and see.

*still feeling confused*

But some of that is intentional! :)

Jul 8, 2012, 11:12 pm


The easy answer to that is Lady Audley's Secret: it's her most famous book, it's in print and fairly easy to get hold off, and it's comparatively short.

Heather and I don't have any definite plans, but when we organise anything, we will let you know. We're booked for Anthony Trollope's The Warden in August, though, so it won't be too soon.

Jul 8, 2012, 11:19 pm

Now---the bit here that interested me was this:

Lord Dunlere (so my friend was called) was one of the most faithful and zealous supporters of James the Second, and in consequence of his attachment to that unhappy Prince, became an exile from his native country, Ireland...

This is the period I'm dealing with at my blog. Since Lord Dunlere is Irish, probably he was involved in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 (Irish forces under James versus English forces under William of Orange; the Irish were defeated). If he went into exile as a young man, we can assume (since he now has grown-up daughters) that this particular part of the story is taking place around 1720, which means that the main story - Madeline's story - is taking place around 1740 - nearly sixty years before Clermont was published.

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 11:34 pm

How do we know we're reading a Gothic Novel?

The Grim Reaper works up a sweat:

"I will not pain your gentle soul, my Madeline, by describing the situation in which I found your mother, or relating the numerous train of calamities that followed the death of her sister; it is sufficient for me to say that within a few months after her decease I lost my brother and my wife... Lord Dunlere soon followed his children to their grave..."

Melancholy count (Volume III, Chapter 3: 3
Melancholy count (Volume III, Chapter 4: 1
Melancholy count (Volume III, Chapter 5: 4
Tally: 67

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 11:51 pm

4. I didn't know that M. de Valdore even had a son. How am I missing such big chunks of this story?!

5. It must be...murder!! :)

Jul 8, 2012, 11:39 pm

> 208

So, down the road apiece, assign me a book to find of which you could tutor me. Do that at your leisure, and we'll continue the fun! :)

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 11:49 pm


It is very common in novels of this time for writers to mention something once and then expect people to remember it volumes later. I wonder if it was because of the way novels were approached? - that they were the main form of light entertainment and often read out loud in family groups; perhaps this allowed details to be absorbed and retained more easily than they are in our "information overload" times? :)

Jul 8, 2012, 11:49 pm



Jul 8, 2012, 11:49 pm

New thread ahoy!

Jul 8, 2012, 11:50 pm

> 209

I purposely omitted asking you anything about that piece of history as I was having so much trouble just keeping the story line straight. I know barely anything about English/Irish history so I didn't want to make things even harder on myself. my own family tree on which I'm working this week (of Germany), the oldest date on it is an ancestor, seven generations removed from me, with a birth date of about 1735 (only five years earlier than Madeline's story!). Too bad the characters only went from France to Italy and never made it to Germany. They could have met Samuel Bonum Braunschweiger, my great-great-great-great grandfather, there! :)

Jul 8, 2012, 11:53 pm

The history of the Dunlere family is quite irrelevant to the main story, and I find it odd that Roche suddenly included a detail like that out of the blue.

I've never studied history as such - mostly I've picked it up through novels and films and documentaries. It is exciting, though, when you suddenly find yourself being able to join the dots!

Jul 8, 2012, 11:53 pm

> 213

It is very common in novels of this time for writers to mention something once and then expect people to remember it volumes later.

LOL! Boy, do they have the wrong reader with me!!

So...when are you coming over to read Clermont to me? It has to be better than The Alchemist which a friend insists on really reading to me. I keep trying to make her forget about doing that as I find that book shallow and boring. Oh, well. Don't tell her I said that! ;)

Jul 8, 2012, 11:55 pm

Believe me, if I could just drop in, I probably would! :)

Jul 8, 2012, 11:57 pm

History, to me, only makes sense when I can actually attach it to something else beside a history book. I usually try to avoid reading historical novels, but sometimes I get one that really grabs me, with the most recent one being Sister Teresa : the woman who became Saint Teresa of Avila by Barbara Mujica.

Jul 9, 2012, 12:09 am

I don't often read historical novels, either - I prefer novels written at a particular time, which tell you all about that time without really meaning to.