Books

Book 182: The Mysteries of Udolpho – Anne Radcliffe

Radcliffe, Ann - The Mysteries of UdolphoWordPress decided to move this post to the trash bin and I, assuming it was duplicate draft, permanently deleted it. The first three paragraphs are verbatim as I was able to recover them via caching, however after that is a poor substitute of what I spoke about previously.

I had to add this to my Classics Club list because of its reference in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I wish I would’ve spaced things to read Northanger Abbey immediately before or after, but I didn’t and I’m sure I will enjoy it just as much when I next read it.

The Mysteries of Udolpho counts for every challenge I’m currently participating in. It is first and foremost the 20th book in my Classics Club list and signifies my 1/5th completion (right at the year mark, so keep an eye out for a longer post later this week)! In addition it counts for my Mount TBR Reading Challenge, Back to the Classics Challenge and through a bit of questionable math as a bonus book for my Tea and Books Reading Challenge (the physical copies average out to 666 pages).

What really impressed me about this novel was Radcliffe’s ability to keep me guessing and her very slow revelation of facts. Sometimes I get annoyed at the ‘a ha’ moments in murder mysteries, but for some reason this one didn’t bother me. It tied everything up nicely and explicitly explained why I was fooled into thinking what I did and that’s because Radcliffe wanted you to think that way! I’m still not sure I forgive a certain character and I definitely still consider him a villain, but that’s because of how Radcliffe revealed his story and had you hate him for a good long portion of the book.

In addition I truly enjoyed reading this novel for it’s influences on Jane Austen’s works. Not only does she have an entire novel, Northanger Abbey, dedicated to gothic novels which prominently features this novel, I feel as if she’s incorporated it in other ways. Mrs. Norris from Mansfield Park I definitely feel is a similar character in terms of the treatment of their nieces as Madame Cheron/Montoni. Their baseness and focus on what one needs to survive in life, or to succeed at a higher station in life is eerily similar. I had much more sympathy for Montoni in the long run.

I also have to take into account the twist at the end. I had an idea of what was coming, but I was clearly wrong on at least two levels because of the details revealed in the last 50-100 pages. And this is how Radcliffe wanted things to be.

Recommendation: I thoroughly enjoyed this and even though it was a trek I would recommend it to others. I would consider a re-read, but it’s length is definitely daunting. However, reading this awesome novel showed me how much the classics and older horror novels have affected the current horror and mystery genres.

Opening Line: “On the pleasant banks of the Garonne, in the province of Gasony, stood, in the year 1584, the chateau of Monsieur St. Aubert.”

Closing Line: “And, if the weak hand, that has recorded this tale, has, by its scenes, beguiled the mourner of one hour of sorrow, or by its moral, taught him to sustain it—the effort, however humble, has not been vain, nor is the writer unrewarded.” (Whited out.)

Additional Quotes from The Mysteries of Udolpho
“‘A well-informed mind,’ he would say, ‘is the best security against the contagion of folly and of vice. The vacant mind is ever on the watch for relief, and ready to plunge into error, to escape from the languor of idleness.”

“How then are we to look for love in great cities, where selfishness, dissipation, and insincerity supply the place of tenderness, simplicity and truth?”

“Emily had frequently heard Madame Cheron use the word delicacy, but she was now more than usually perplexed to understand how she meant to apply it in this instance, in which her whole conduct appeared to merit the very reverse of the term.”

“As the carriage-wheels rolled heavily under the portcullis, Emily’s heart sunk, and she seemed, as if she was going into her prison; the gloomy court, into which she passed, served to confirm the idea, and her imagination, ever awake to circumstance, suggested even more terrors, than her reason could justify.”

“But a terror of this nature, as it occupies and expands the mind, and elevates it to high expectation, is purely sublime, and leads us, by a kind of fascination, to seek even the object, from which we appear to shrink.”

“‘You speak like a heroine,’ said Montoni, contemptuously; ‘we shall see whether you can suffer like one.'”

“O! useful may it be to have shewn, that, though the vicious can sometimes pour affliction upon the good, their power is transient and their punishment certain; and that innocence, though oppressed by injustice, shall, supported by patience, finally triumph over misfortune!”

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8 thoughts on “Book 182: The Mysteries of Udolpho – Anne Radcliffe”

  1. I’ve been curious about this one ever since first read NA. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it so much! I’ve been half afraid it would be rather pretentious and predictable, but it sounds like it is worth keeping on my Classics Club list!

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    1. I didn’t think it was too predictable and I usually catch things earlier in the novel and there were a few shockers for me at the end. It helps I took what I was told at face value. It is definitely worth a read, just make sure to break it up.

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  2. I read this years ago – a bit like you when I was in my Austen/Bronte era and in fact that’s how I found out about the novel because it’s referred to in Northanger. I really liked it although the majority of the plot I’ve now forgotten. I seem to recall it had quite a bit of poetry – which to be honest isn’t really my thing but I liked the gothic feel.
    I should probably have a reread of this – although I think the fact that it’s quite chunky usually puts me off!
    Lynn 😀

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    1. There was a lot of poetry! And the first kindle version of the book I had some how managed to screw up that portion of the book, but to be honest I think by the end I skipped over most of the poetry.

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