Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe – Part Six Review Volume 2 Chapters III

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Yes guess what I have dug out again in a determined effort to get this book finished and done with, I could have murdered out heroine myself and been done with it quicker so I have changed to way I am doing these posts so that I sit each day and do a few pages making notes then writing it up at the end of the week. Just the one chapter this week as it is rather a long one.

So we pick up when our heroine has just arrived in Venice with her Aunt and her aunts newly acquired husband.

From the very first moment they arrive in Venice is becomes clear that Montoni has no intention of being an attentive husband or host, Emily and her Aunt are abandoned immediately as Montoni and his friend Cavagni head straight off to the gaming tables. We also meet more of his friends and it soon becomes evident not only is Montoni a gambler but that the reports Valencourt had given of his character had validity. It is worth noting at this point the majority of the characters to which we are introduced at this point are male, this could simply be a reflection of society of the time or a deliberate action to ensure Emily makes no real friends or confidants.  When other women are introduced it is more to allow comparisons between their elegance and beauty and the misplaced arrogance and vanity of of Madame Montoni.

There are the glimmers of Venice through description but generally this is brief and far less detailed than those of the countryside, indeed Emily herself confesses her preferment of nature over the man made landscapes.  I did at this point try doing some research to find out if Radcliffe herself had visited Venice but it seems that her knowledge was gained from travel writers and journals published by others as well as by the art produced depicting the great city.  I wonder if this explains part of the reason why we have such magnificent depictions of wild open spaces, bearing in mind there are plenty of locations in the UK such as the moors that could inspire that feeling of the wonders of nature, opposed to the specifics of a certain location.

We also see the introduction of one character Count Morano which at this point intrigues and confuses me.  Other than the fact he is Montoni’s friend there seems to be nothing too bad about him, he seems attentive and generous and goes out of his way attempting to impress Emily.  What confuses me is at this point she is described as physically shrinking from him yet there has been nothing to explain why she should feel this way.  I can understand given her feelings for Valencourt she would not wish to encourage him but he has not tried to physically impose himself or acted in any way which should illicit this response neither is their any mention of her having any sort of presentiments any sort of feeling towards him, no mention of him giving her the creeps or anything else rather it just seems like Emily is being a bit of a drama queen.

Montoni having been conned into believing he had married wealth and now knowing the truth makes no effort to hide his contempt for his wife, who cannot see she has brought it on herself.  Emily pities her Aunt but personally I might like her better if she gloated just a little given her Aunts part in aiding Montoni is separating her from Valencourt, from whom Emily receives a letter.

First it surprises me that her correspondence would not be monitored and that she managed to receive the letter but secondly it is interesting to note the way the letter was written.  Rather than one single letter, it takes the form of a correspondence stretching over several days, I remember writing that way to my grandparents as a child when it was considered too extravagant to call up just to talk so we wrote letters which we posted every couple of weeks, and as life is pretty boring when you are a child going to school it would take a week or so to come up with enough things to say to fill the notelets.  I actually have a couple of them that my Grandma found and returned to me and it is amusing the nonsense one comes out with to fill the page at that age, but I have to also say how much that jars with modern technology where every thought can be sent instantly and one cannot but wonder how it would effect the plots of some of these classic stories by adding technology although as has been seen with the latest Sherlock Holmes incarnation it can add extra elements.

Yet again we find ourselves having to read through another couple of pages of poetry, and I have to say I think part of my problem with the constant inclusion of poetry is that this is not the type of poetry I personally enjoy, it is overly romantic bordering on pretentious and if I had a time machine I would travel back and slap Wordsworth and all his friends stupid.

We then have a meeting between Montoni and Emily, we as the reader begin to suspect that they are talking at cross purposes, and within a couple of pages we are proved correct and now Emily really has reason to avoid Morano.  While she believes she is discussing her property being rented out, Montoni is referring to conversations he had held with her uncle on the subject of marrying her off to Count Morano.  Obviously one can imagine the benefits Montoni can see to the match for his own gain, and he cannot understand how Emily cannot accept the match.  It is interesting as the confusion is discovered and tempers flare that it is Morano who feels he must defend Emily from Montoni and I do feel a little that she does not actually give him the credit for this and only presses against him for his continued declaration of his affections.  She could have easily spared him by confession that though her expectations were none her heart was engaged elsewhere, one cannot imagine that a man who seems as honourable as he comes across would have pursued her had she been honest with him.

The pace has begun to pick up a little this chapter and we can begin to see the darkness creeping in.  It is still very slow in comparison to modern books and plots and is far from being a page turner but at least one can start to see some development.  I think it is hard when you really have very little empathy for the heroine and half the time would quite like to give her a good talking to.

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