Giveaway Winner Announced for The Mysteries of Udolpho

The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance, by Ann Radcliffe (2008)30 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of the Oxford Worlds Classics edition of The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe. The winner drawn at random is Miss Kathleen who left a comment on August 12, 2011.

Congratulations Kathleen! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by August 24th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to our reviewer Br. Paul who helped me understand the novel a bit better, and to all who left comments, but especially to Henry Tilney for his enthusiastic recommendation of the book.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance, by Ann Radcliffe – A Review

The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance, by Ann Radcliffe (2008)Guest review by Br. Paul Byrd, OP

A deranged nun cloistered away in a convent hidden in the forests of southern France tells the story of when she used to be a beautiful, love-crazed noblewoman, the climax of which is her confession to persuading a married man to poison his wife—and that is just one of the many bizarre twists of Ann Radcliffe’s exciting classic Gothic tale, The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance,¹ the novel that inspired Jane Austen’s Gothic parody Northanger Abbey. It was because of Austen’s praise of Radcliffe’s novel, that I purchased Udolpho as summer reading—and how could I not, when sensible Mr. Tilney had this to say of it:

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days — my hair standing on end the whole time” (Ch. 14).

Udolpho is the story of the worst year in Emily St. Aubert’s life. Her mother dies, then her father dies, and she ends up in the care of an aunt with about as much sympathy and tenderness as the hideous Mrs. Norris in Mansfield Park. This same aunt blocks Emily’s marriage plans to Valancourt, the man she loves, and takes her to Italy to live under the power of the tyrannical Montoni, the handsome fiend the aunt has just married. The narrator says, “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” (210). In fact, Emily’s fears are quite justifiable. While some of the subsequent terrors, seemingly supernatural, are eventually explained, the real dangers are horrific enough. Indeed, one of the most frightening scenes has nothing to do with ghostly apparitions, mysterious voices, veiled images, and haunting music—Radcliffe’s favorite tricks—rather it has to do with two drunken men chasing after Emily through the dark passages of the castle, competing to get to her first (398).

Not surprising, the vulnerability of women is a major theme of Udolpho—a theme cleverly symbolized by a bedroom door that cannot be locked from the inside (217-218). Radcliffe exposes not only the violence of men against women, but also the social system that limited women’s decision-making power over their own futures. There is no better symbol of this than the tragic character of the marchioness, forced by her father to marry a man she did not love for the sake of money, only to be poisoned by that same man when she was falsely suspected of committing adultery (606-607). In contrast, the strength of women is also highlighted in the novel, mainly through the portrayal of women as virtuous, rational human beings, as with Emily and several of the female side characters, such as the nuns and the female servants who care for Emily. Even the two villainous female characters—Laurentini di Udolpho and Madame Montoni—have conversions. Indeed, the former  exclaims: “What are riches—grandeur—health itself, to the luxury of a pure conscience, the health of the soul; and what sufferings or poverty, disappointment, despair—to the anguish of an afflicted one!” (596).

The above points to the most important theme of the novel, virtue rewarded, a common religious theme in novels of the Georgian Era. Udolpho is an important historical text, precisely because of the way it handles the subject of religion. Although the novel is set in 1584, in Catholic France and Italy, it has tale-tell signs of Eighteenth Century anti-Catholic British prejudice. Catholic devotions are frequently labeled superstitious (29-30, 84, and 194), and the regulated life of monks and nuns is condemned by one character as pretentious and stifling to real prayer (436, 439). There are also interesting touches of Rationalism’s emphasis on self-control (7, 539, 596), typical of the Anglicanism of Radcliffe’s time, and Romanticism’s emphasis on the power of nature to help the human person experience transcendence (8, 224, 436), a combination which reminds one of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park.

Some of the less brilliant elements to the novel include the interspersion of poetry throughout the story, the interruption of the central plot by subplots, and the flatness of the characters, even the heroine. The mixing of poetry with prose in Udolpho is distracting, especially since the quality of it is not as high as that of the prose. The subplots, while tied in with the main plot eventually, are rather fantastic in subject and action. That said, they help sustain the agonizing pace that Radcliffe establishes from the beginning. These stories are designed to tantalize the reader’s imagination and keep the pages turning, which they do quite well, but they nevertheless seem to derail the main storyline. As for flatness in characters, that may be allowed for minor characters, but when the entire cast is flat, there is a problem. Even Emily, with all her tears, sighs, fainting spells, and prayers, lacks depth and development—though she is not without her moments of triumph, particularly in the wonderfully written scene in which she defends herself against Montoni when the latter attempts to bully her into a marriage with an Italian nobleman she despises (183-191).

At times, Udolpho is grossly melodramatic and sentimental, overly and simplistically pious; but despite these limitations and failings, Radcliffe’s novel is a wonderfully entertaining story, vividly described, with a roller-coaster plot that keeps the reader on the edge—a mix of the real and the imagined, with characters you love to hate, and others you would hate to see lose—all of which makes Radcliffe the rightful mother of a genre of literature that encompasses works ranging from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.  And lest we forget, Udolpho is also an interesting piece of Christian art, designed, like a parable, to teach its readers a simple biblical premise: “though the vicious can sometimes pour affliction upon the good, their power is transient and their punishment certain…innocence, though oppressed by injustice, shall, supported by patience, finally triumph over misfortune!” (620).

[1] Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2004.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance, by Ann Radcliffe
Oxford University Press, USA (2008)
Trade paperback (736) pages
ISBN: 978-0199537419

Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win a copy of Oxford World’s Classics edition of The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance, by Ann Radcliffe by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about this Gothic novel, or why you would take Henry Tilney’s excellent advice (or Br. Paul’s) and read it. Deadline to comment is midnight PT, Wednesday, August 17th, 2011. Winner to be announced on Thursday, August 18th, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Br. Paul Byrd, OP is a solemnly professed friar of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Originally from Covington, KY, he earned his bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Thomas More College and his master’s degree in theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology. In the fall of 2011, he will begin classes in the masters of writing and publishing program at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.  He is the author of the Dominican Cooperator Blog

© 2007 – 2011 Br. Paul Byrd, Austenprose

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for May

What Would Jane Austen Say? (2009), by Laurie BrownThe Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in May, so keep your eyes open for these new titles. 

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired) 

What Would Jane Austen Do? by, Laurie Brown 

Are you ready for an historical romance laced with Jane Austen’s influence for your light and fun summer reading? In this time travel fantasy, take a trip back to Regency England as the heroine attempts to alter the past and thwart a deadly duel. Publisher’s description: Eleanor is a costume designer in England for the Jane Austen festival, where her room at the inn is haunted. In the middle of the night she encounters two ghost sisters whose brother was killed in a duel over 200 years ago. They persuade her to travel back in time with them to prevent the duel. Eleanor is swept into a country house party, presided over by the charming Lord Shermont, where she encounters and befriends Jane Austen. But there’s much more to Lord Shermont than the ghosts knew, and as Eleanor dances and flirts with him, she begins to lose her heart. Sourcebooks Casablanca, ISBN: 978-1402218316 

Cousin Kate (2009), by Georgette HeyerCousin Kate, by Georgette Heyer 

Sourcebook’s continues on its quest to reissue all of Georgette Heyer’s classic novels with Cousin Kate, originally published in 1968. This novel is one of only two Heyer Gothic Regency romances, and is sure to be a treat for historical romance and Gothic novel readers. Publisher’s description: Kate, in dire circumstances, is surprised to receive an invitation to live with a distant aunt. Her aunt, uncle, and cousin welcome her to their estate, buy her new clothes, and provide all the amenities a Young lady of quality should have. Slowly, however, as strange events unfold, Kate begins to realize that her aunt’s apparent benevolence hides an ulterior motive. To assure succession of the title, her aunt intends Kate to marry her cousin Torquil, until his increasingly bizarre behavior culminates in violence and tragedy. A compelling tale exploring mental illness in the Regency period. Sourcebooks Casablanca, ISBN: 978-1402217685 

Austen’s Contemporaries  

Corrine, or Italy (2009), by Madame de StaelCorinne, or Italy (Oxford World’s Classics), by Madame de Stael 

Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766 – 1817), commonly known as Madame de Staël, was a Swiss author living in Paris whose writings strongly influenced literary tastes in Europe at the turn of the 19th century. She was highly praised by her male contemporaries during her lifetime and credited as the foundress of the Romantic Movement. Corinne, or Italy was published at the height of her writing skills in 1807 and considered her greatest achievement.   

Madame de Stael may have been a renowned authoress, but her notorious reputation preceded her when she arrived in London in 1813. Jane Austen passed up the opportunity to meet her that year when she was visiting her brother Henry in London. Nineteen years later he would explain her rejection of the invitation, “To her truly delicate mind such a display would have given pain instead of pleasure.” Madame de Stael may have privately thought Pride and Prejudice “vulgaire,” but in my estimation she redeemed herself by acquiring a copy of Mansfield Park for her home library at Coppet, Switzerland. 

Publisher’s description: Corinne, or Italy, is both the story of a love affair between Oswald, Lord Nelvil, and a beautiful poetess, and an homage to the landscape, literature and art of Italy. Stael, the subject of recent feminist rediscovery, weaves discreet political allusion into her romance, and upon its publication Napoleon renewed her order of exile. Sylvia Raphel’s new translation preserves the natural character of the French original, while the notes and introduction place this extraordinary work of European Romanticism in its historical and political context. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199554607 

The Romance of the Forest (Oxford Worlds Classics) 2009, by Ann RadcliffeThe Romance of the Forest (Oxford World’s Classics), by Ann Radcliffe 

Author Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) may be best known to Janeites for heroine Catherine Morland’s fascination with her Gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey, but another Austen character also admired her horrid novels! When Harriet Smith in Emma suggests The Romance of Forest to her beau Robert Martin, the simple tenant farmer is more inclined to read Agricultural Reports than Gothic novels, and his hesitation gives fuel for Emma Woodhouse to discredit him as a proper suitor to her little friend Harriet. Don’t delay like Robert Martin! If you have not ventured into Gothic fiction before, this is an excellent choice, full of ruined abbey’s, skeletons and mystery. Publisher’s description: The Romance of the Forest (1791) heralded an enormous surge in the popularity of Gothic novels, in a decade that included Ann Radcliffe’s later works, The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian. Set in Roman Catholic Europe of violent passions and extreme oppression, the novel follows the fate of its heroine Adeline, who is mysteriously placed under the protection of a family fleeing Paris for debt. They take refuge in a ruined abbey in south-eastern France, where sinister relics of the past – a skeleton, a manuscript, and a rusty dagger – are discovered in concealed rooms. Adeline finds herself at the mercy of the abbey’s proprietor, a libidinous Marquis whose attentions finally force her to contemplate escape to distant regions. Rich in allusions to aesthetic theory and to travel literature, The Romance of the Forest is also concerned with current philosophical debate and examines systems of thought central to the intellectual life of late eighteenth-century Europe. Oxford University Press, ISBN: 978-0199539222 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann 

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Gothically Inspired: Day 19 Giveaway

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days – my hair standing on end the whole time.” Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 14 

Even though Northanger Abbey has often been touted as the least popular of Jane Austen’s six major novels in readership and sales, I have long adored it for its burlesque humor and charming characterization of hero Henry Tilney. It has always been a puzzle to me why others did not bond with it, and felt it has never gotten a fair shake. The fact that the 1986 movie adaptation of it was really odd and not a true representation of the story or characters did not help matters either. So when PBS premiered the new Andrew Davies adaptation of Northanger Abbey (2007) last January on Masterpiece Classic, I was thrilled with the possibility that it could generate a new audience for my dark horse. 

When it aired, the reception was mixed by the public and critics. I was enchanted even though it was much too short at 90 minutes and unfortunately, much had been cut out of the story. On the positive side, it was energetic and great fun and Austen’s intensions were treated much more reverently than the previous effort in 1986, so it was step in the right direction. 

One of the benefits to being a bookseller is that I see the immediate impact on the public from television and movies as viewers seek out novelizations or related books. One weekend shortly after the PBS airing of Northanger Abbey, I had an interesting encounter with a new fan as I assisted a retirement aged woman in locating a long list of titles on an assortment of subjects, none of which was Austen or Austen inspired. Her husband joined us after a few minutes with a joyous look on his face, obviously pleased that he located the title that he had wanted to purchase. “I found it” (he holds up the cover and shows it to his wife who looks surprised but annoyed). “Oh what is it now?” she bellowed. (she had selected about six books to his one) “The Mysteries of Udolpho! They had it featured as a staff rec.” He exclaimed. (I am a silent smiling observer of their husband wife acerbic discourse, and then the wife turns to me) “My husband just loved that Jane Austen movie on television, and now he wants to know why that young girl was hooked on that book.” (She points at the book cover. He smirks at her and says coldly) “Her name was Catherine Morland dear.” 

Ok, that made my day! 

Even after ten months, this story makes me smile. In a way that some objected to, the new Northanger Abbey movie did reach people in a positive way inspiring them to read Austen’s gentle parody and the Gothic fiction mentioned in the novel such as The Mysteries of Udolpho and the other ‘horrid novels’ listed in the Northanger Canon. One of my customers even quoted Henry Tilney’s great line about “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” Talk about Gothically inspired! Now that gentle readers, made my entire year!

Further reading

  • Read my review of Northanger Abbey (2007)
  • Read a review of Northanger Abbey (2007) at Jane Austen’s World
  • Read about the Gothic novels mentioned in Northanger Abbey
  • Purchase The Mysteries of Udolpho

 

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 19 Giveaway

 

Penguin Classics – The Mysteries of Udolpho (2001) 

By Ann Radcliffe introduction by Jacqueline Howard 

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of the Penguin Classics – The Mysteries of Udolpho

(US residents only) 

Upcoming event posts

Day 20 – Oct 30          Group Read NA Chapters 29-31

Day 21 – Oct 31          Go Gothic Wrap-up

The Sunday Salon: Preview of Oxford World’s Classics: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe: Day 16 Giveaway

Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Reflection brought only regret, and anticipation terror. How often did she wish to “steal the lark’s wing, and mount the swiftest gale,” that Languedoc and repose might once more be hers! The Mysteries of Udolpho, Chapter 22

Welcome to The Sunday Salon as we discover new books and offer a review or two. Today as we continue to explore Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, I thought it quite timely of Oxford University Press to redesign and release their 1998 edition of Ann Radcliffe’s, The Mysteries of Udolpho during the Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey event here at Austenprose. Readers will kindly recall that it is one of the Gothic novels that character Isabella Thorpe recommends to her new impressionable friend, and our heroine in the making, Catherine Morland. After she quickly devours the book it ‘Gothicizes’ her view of the world, coloring her perception of real-life experiences. Having not read Udolpho myself, I am more than a bit curious about what it contains and have moved it to the top of my book queue on my nightstand. Here is an overview from the publisher’s description. 

A best-seller in its day and a potent influence on Austen, Sade, Poe, and other purveyors of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Gothic horror, The Mysteries of Udolpho remains one of the most important works in the history of European fiction. After Emily St. Aubuert is imprisoned by her evil guardian, Count Montoni, in his gloomy medieval fortress in the Appenines, terror becomes the order of the day. With its dream-like plot and hallucinatory rendering of its characters’ psychological states, The Mysteries of Udolpho is a fascinating challenge to contemporary readers. 

First published in 4 volumes by G. G. and J. Robinson of London in 1794, Mrs. Radcliffe was paid the handsome sum of £500 for her manuscript which would be worth approximately £28,015.00 today or about $44,580.06 in US funds. This amount is impressive, even for a modern day author. I dare say that Jane Austen would have been happy with that sum for her novel Northanger Abbey instead of the £10 that she originally received from Crosby & Co in 1803, only to see it languish on their shelves unpublished for six years before she bought it back. Happily, this novel did not experience such a winding publication history, was an immediate best seller, and has never been out of print. This edition includes an interesting and enjoyable introduction and explanatory notes by Terry Castle, an 18th-century literature authority and Professor of English Literature at Stanford University, textural notes, a select bibliography, and a chronology of Ann Radcliffe. Here is an excerpt from Prof. Castle’s introduction to entice you. 

Perhaps no work in the history of English fiction has been more often caricatured – trivialized, misread, remade as hearsay – than Ann Radcliffe’s late eighteenth-century Gothic classic The Mysteries of Udolpho. Some readers, indeed, will know Radcliffe’s novel only as hearsay: as that delightfully ‘horrid’ book – full of castles and crypts and murdered wives – pressed upon Catherine Morland, the gullible young heroine of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817), by her Bath friend Isabella Thorpe. After consuming the book in a great reading binge, the impressionable Catherine begins to see the everyday world around her as a kind of Gothic stage-set against which friends and acquaintances metamorphose – absurdly – into outsized Radcliffean villains and victims. The results are amusing: Northanger Abbey remains one of the great spoofs on reading-as-hallucination. But Udolpho itself is mere pretext – the intertextural cliché, or thing already known, upon which Austen builds her chic comedy of misapprehension.  Prof. Terry Castle (vii)

Mayhap Ms. Castle neglected to remember some of Mr. Shakespeare’s works before she crowned Udolpho the most caricatured, trivialized or remade in the history of English literature — but I will overlook the slight! Udolpho is a significant literary achievement, remarkably innovative for its time and profoundly influential even today. It takes a “stout heart” and “nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry” to tackle its 693 pages, and I plan to work away at it as I can over the next few months. I hope to be totally Gothicized!

Further reading

  • Read about The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  • Read about authoress Ann Ward Radcliffe
  • Read about the ‘Northanger Canon’ at Jane Austen in Vermont
  • Read about the ‘Horrid’ novels in Northanger Abbey by James Jenkins
  • Read about the Long Publishing History of Northanger Abbey at Jane Austen’s World
  • Check out this biography on Ann Radcliffe, The Mistress of Udolpho, by Rictor Norton

 

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 16 Giveaway

Oxford Word’s Classics edition of The Mysteries of Udolpho (2008)

By Ann Radcliffe 

Oxford University Press (2008). The new re-designed edition includes a full unabridged text of The Mysteries of Udolpho, an introduction by Terry Castle and loads of great supplemental material. A nice compact medium sized edition with textural notes, biography and chronology on the author, and explanatory notes 

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of The Mysteries of Udolpho (2008), by Ann Radcliffe

 (US residents only) 

Upcoming event posts
Day 17 – Oct 27          Guest Blog – Gothic Classics Volume 14
Day 18 – Oct 28          Group Read NA Chapters 25-28
Day 19 – Oct 29          NA & MU Resources
Day 20 – Oct 30          Group Read NA Chapters 29-31