Mysteries of Udolpho – Volume 1 Chapters VII, VII & IX

Today I continue with the journey in to the Mysteries of Udolpho and first I need to apologise. I have come down with a stonker of a cold hence the reason this post is coming to you late as you can see I did start it on the right day but my brain ceased functioning and I took to my bed for a day, and I have to say this book does not make good comfort reading as it requires too much concentration however I persevered though a couple of issues have arisen possibly from my own state of mind as much as the book. This post may contain slight spoilers but they are general ones rather than specific.

Okay I think the best way to handle this is to get my rant off my chest and then move on (I know its only a book and maybe it does say something that it has wound me up whether that is says something about me or the writing remains to be seen).  First of all the actual journey, now I know he had money worries but what sort of man takes his daughter on a journey with no idea at all where they are going, a driver who doesn’t have a clue where they are headed either, does not plan ahead to check that accommodation is likely to be available, and all of this along bandit infested mountains.  Now okay fair enough it wouldn’t be as much of a story if he had been sensible but St Aubert ineptitude is grating on me, the fact that he chose to ensure his daughter has been sheltered from the world and therefore as much use as a chocolate fireguard in an emergency, doubled with the fact the driver has what may be considered an unhealthy relationship with his mules (I know they are his livelihood but his reluctance to let them out of his sight even in an emergency suggests something a little weirder to me).

The other thing that is really annoying me is all the fainting, both father and daughter swoon at the drop of a hat, now okay he is ill but really if you were so ill you fainted every five minutes would you set off on a journey through the mountains? Maybe I am being unfair he is actually dying and whether he actually know this is unsure but his daughter is also a fainter and for a modern woman the idea of fainting every two minutes would have me running to the doctor to find out what was wrong, so it is difficult to really connect with a character who so far seems rather pathetic.  I am not sure who unfair I am being on the girl but while one could quite happily imagine sharing gossip with Elizabeth Bennett or chatting about books with Jane Eyre but so far Emily St Aubert would not be someone who I could ever imagine wanting to spend time with, maybe as the book develops she will come into her own but at the minute she is rather an insipid character with little to recommend her.

The death-bed scene where her father passes away is rather drawn out and while it does raise questions regarding the exact obedience that a parent felt they had the right to expect from a child it does come across as more of a lecture on morality then a tender farewell which given the type of novel I find quite amusing.   These types of novel were considered quite scandalous and young ladies were discouraged from reading them (and of course that made them all the more attractive to read) so the idea that moral instruction should be given in a book which allegedly threatened those same morals makes for an interesting paradox.  All the more so as we have had clues that the dying father delivering the lecture has his own secrets he is hiding.

The rest of this section is turned over to reflections on grief and her journey home I am hoping that this will be the turning point in the story and it will start picking up pace a little from this point.  So far I have to say I have not been blown away and had I not made an agreement to read along and post that it may very well have been consigned back to the bottom of the pile again, it reminds me of the work of Romantic poets such as Wordsworth, why use one word when you have hundreds at your disposal.  I think part of the problem is of course we as modern readers have become used to books where description for descriptions sake has been obliterated by the need to make all books as reader friendly as possible.  The fact that given we have such numbers of books to choose from which are easily accessible compared to the intended reader of this book who would most likely have borrowed it from a travelling lending library who may not return for months or have bought it on a rare trip into town therefore would have appreciated the time it takes to read it as value for their money.

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12 comments on “Mysteries of Udolpho – Volume 1 Chapters VII, VII & IX

  1. Don’t you think books written in another age reflect the slower pace and lifestyle? I think that’s why they seem to unfold so slowly to us. And the fainting and swooning? It seems to be an expression of ultimate emotion that was used by writers of days gone by.

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    • I think something else to be considered as well is that people were used to reading differently many people read aloud in an evening rather than sitting reading to yourself which possibly influences they way it is written aswell, after all if you are one of the few who could afford to buy books in those days you want them to sound as grand as possible as you read them aloud

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  2. This makes me wonder how people will judge the books of today, hundreds of years from now 🙂
    Udolpho is a book I’ve always thought about reading, but never did because I knew it would be hard to get through…
    I’m glad you’re doing it and I know you’re a JA fan so I’m very interested in your thoughts…

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    • I think the hardest thing is actually getting to grips with the story its self as it can get a little lost in the pages of description, and even then for all the detailed descriptions the language doesn’t really help you visualise the area, I keep reminding myself that these were written for people who had possibly never seen the pyrenees unlike us who see such an abundance of images from the most amazing places

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    • it was classed as a sensation novel and like many gothic novels contains supernatural elements, and young girls giving way to flights of fancies, going against parental wishes and getting themselves into all sorts of trouble, i guess the modern equivalant of the girl in the horror film who hears the noise downstairs and goes looking for it – you know it will end badly lol it was suggested at the time that it was dangerous for young ladies to read this sort of material as it would excite emotions in the that should not be excited and they may be led astray by these types of books, not sure how this one will go but others such as The Monk have corrupt priests molesting women, others young ladies are kidnapped and ravished therefore ruined I guess what they found shocking is very different to what would shock us this is after all a time when being alone with a young man at all either meant you were related or betrothed and even in the case of the latter it should only be in the parlour with your mother stood outside the door while he actually popped the question

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  3. Pingback: Excuses, Excuses… « beforeiforget

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