2. Tuesday · Mysteries Of Udolpho

Udolpho & Media


I have not really read enough this week to actually write another post but instead I decided to do a YouTube search and see what the title brought up, I thought I would be a fun way of seeing how my views relate to others out there.

The first thing I found was this reading, now I have not yet reached this actual passage but it is very reflective of my of the description of journeys…

The language is not too bad when read to you but on the page can be very wearisome.  I must say though the reader has a lovely voice I fear if he read the whole book to me I would struggle to stay awake.

Next up a very brief review of the book as well as a general overview of Ann Radcliffe as an author, I confess I did rewind to check if we were reading the same book because the one she was reading seems much more exciting than mine, so I am guessing it all kicks off in the second half…

And finally my favourite thing I found was this music inspired by the story, I might try listening to it as I read maybe it would help…

Normal posts resume tomorrow fingers crossed or as soon as I write them hope you enjoyed this break fro scheduled programming.

2. Tuesday · Mysteries Of Udolpho

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


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.

2. Tuesday · Mysteries Of Udolpho

Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe – Part Six Review Volume 2 Chapters I & II


I should probably have included this book as a resolution but I am determined that this year will see me finally finish it.

It was actually quite fitting that the New Year saw me pick this back up and starting the Second Volume, I think it is interesting to pause to consider the was this book would have originally been read in the separate volumes via a lending library which would have ensured a fixed period for the reading of each.  Possibly in the individual volumes the book would not seem so daunting and I do question whether the book would have been quite so influential if the reader had been faced by it in its entirety.

Volume 2 sees our heroine being removed from her aunts home following her aunts marriage and the party are journeying to Montoni’s home in Venice.

Now I have to be honest the first chapter of this volume annoyed me, when reading any story we are expected to suspend our disbelief and go with it but to suggest that Valencourt could sneak up to the side of the halted carriage and peep in to hand her a note without anyone in either of the two carriages noticing him is rather pushing it.  I would much rather she had left him looking longingly from a distance then have him claim to have been able to sneak up on people who we know would be watching for him to attempt some form of communication.

The journey is only really of note for the descriptions of the way war had ravaged the country and the interaction between the travelling party and the troops whose path they cross.  The fact that Emily shows no reaction at the sight of prisoners who are being held for ransom from their families suggests she has not led as sheltered a life as we are earlier led to believe.

Once they arrive in Venice we finally have some description which did grip me though it does feel to be briefer and less detailed than the earlier descriptions of the mountain passes.  The strolling players described beneath the window are very evocative of the period and I wish she had given the same amount of description for the wonderful cities as for the wildernesses.

I am hoping though the story will pick up pace now.




2. Tuesday · Mysteries Of Udolpho

Part Six Review Volume 2 Chapter I

the-mysteries-of-udolpho-1-480x480-75 Just the one chapter this week and a fairly short review.

This chapter sees the journey to Italy begin and really very little in the way of character or plot development.

Emily is relegated to a second carriage rather than travelling with her Aunt in order to make room for Cavigni to ride with his friend.  This does enable Valencourt to leap into the road and thrust a letter at her completely unseen, totally ridiculous of course to believe the maid travelling with her would not have noticed or the driver but we must suspend reality at times like this.

The only real character development we see if on a stop in the Italian Alps when Montoni and Cavigni discuss Hannibal, this gives us the opportunity to see that the two male characters do have a degree of learning between them although their discussion is purely academic.  Emily also considers the same subject but from a more emotional angle imagining the feelings of the soldiers as the faced the perilous peaks.  Finally Madame Cheron now Madame Montoni whose thoughts are engaged planning events to rival any of the courts of Europe believing now she has the title of wife she no longer need fear Montoni’s wandering eyes and believe his frugality displayed previously will be overcome by his desire to impress in his home town.

One rather impressive element of this chapter is the way in which Radcliffe avoids repetition, having through herself thoroughly into the Sublime and Picaresque during the previous trip through a mountain landscape she touches on it only briefly using Emily daydreaming of Valencourt superimposed from one landscape to the other, them moves on to briefly describe the Pastoral.  She then hits upon the perfect way to describe these things without long descriptive passages by having Emily write poetry which she then interjects into the text.

For this week I leave them in the Alps and you with a taster of Emily’s poetic exploits


 Ah, merry swain, who laugh'd along the vales,
 And with your gay pipe made the mountains ring,
 Why leave your cot, your woods, and thymy gales,
 And friends belov'd, for aught that wealth can bring?
 He goes to wake o'er moon-light seas the string,
 Venetian gold his untaught fancy hails!
 Yet oft of home his simple carols sing,
 And his steps pause, as the last Alp he scales.
 Once more he turns to view his native scene--
 Far, far below, as roll the clouds away,
 He spies his cabin 'mid the pine-tops green,
 The well-known woods, clear brook, and pastures gay;
 And thinks of friends and parents left behind,
 Of sylvan revels, dance, and festive song;
 And hears the faint reed swelling in the wind;
 And his sad sighs the distant notes prolong!
 Thus went the swain, till mountain-shadows fell,
 And dimm'd the landscape to his aching sight;
 And must he leave the vales he loves so well!
 Can foreign wealth, and shows, his heart delight?
 No, happy vales! your wild rocks still shall hear
 His pipe, light sounding on the morning breeze;
 Still shall he lead the flocks to streamlet clear,
 And watch at eve beneath the western trees.
 Away, Venetian gold--your charm is o'er!
 And now his swift step seeks the lowland bow'rs,
 Where, through the leaves, his cottage light ONCE MORE
 Guides him to happy friends, and jocund hours.
 Ah, merry swain! that laugh along the vales,
 And with your gay pipe make the mountains ring,
 Your cot, your woods, your thymy-scented gales--
 And friends belov'd--more joy than wealth can bring!
Mysteries Of Udolpho · Tuesday Reflections

Part Five Review Volume 1 Chapters XII and XIII


Two chapters read over the last fortnight as they were quite a long ones and quite  important ones as it introduces several new and possibly important characters though time will reveal which are the ones we really need to keep an eye on.

Chapter XII

The chapter is still relatively hard reading with overly complicated paragraphs that an editor with a Sharpie would have a field day with but as the chapter moves along it picks up pace and becomes easier to engage with simply because the subject matter is more interesting.  Simply put when writing about the complexities of human nature Radcliffe strikes a nerve that her depiction of nature misses.

The chapter sees our Heroine Emily’s removal from her family home to her Aunts home although the actual travel happened at the end of the previous chapter this is the real departure for her when she begins to become acquainted with not only her new surroundings but her new situation in fashionable company.  Her aunt Madame Cheron is determined to think the worst of her niece with accusations of inappropriate behaviour and though it may be true Emily acted imprudently receiving Valencourt alone she certainly does not merit the continued accusations in fact it begins to be suggested that she may be judging her niece by her own  imprudent standards.

It was at this point I actually began to dwell on how I thought the characters would appear as there is very little actual description of their persons.  So I decided it would be fun to google and use images from there to illustrate how I think they look, we may as well begin with our heroine…

image28240I am afraid it isn’t very flattering at this point in the story she comes across as a little bit of a wimp, constantly crying, futile in her attempts to defend herself when unjustly accused.  At the minute she make very poor heroine material in terms of the character to which we would ascribe that label to today.

Next up Madame Cheron..

1739_Anna_AmaliaThe phrase mutton dressed as lamb springs to mind as a read more of her, silly, vain and ridiculous.  She very much reminds me of Mrs Bennett in Pride & Prejudice, determined to climb the social ladder by any means necessary her nieces happiness not even a consideration only rank, wealth and position.

The next characters we meet are the two gents Monsieur Montoni and Monsieur Cavigni….

indexI have to be honest this is how I see the in this chapter but I already know my opinion will change later.  At the minute they seem pompous creeps, flattering Madame Cheron’s vanity.  There are rumours of her being courted by Montoni but it would appear he has not settled upon her yet or should that be her wealth and seems to be actively pursuing several options looking for the best financial incentive.  Cavigni seems to act as his friends wing man, ensuring Madame Cheron stays content while Montoni is engaged elsewhere.

Then we have the reappearance of our hero now I have chosen to pictures for Valencourt most of the time this is what we see….

imagesrather ineffectual, moping, and as much of a wet blanket as Emily, perhaps that is why they fall in love so easily.  Of course when he appears Madame Cheron refuses his admittance he is not to be tolerated dismissed as being without wealth or connections worthy of her niece.  Them one evening at an entertainment everything changes.

The host that evening is Madame Clairval…

siftingthepast-u_portrait-of-a-noblewoman_donat-nonotte-1708e280911785_1760Madame Clairval is a widow with a taste for enjoying herself but also in giving pleasure to others and managing to do this with taste.  Madame Cheron unable to compete with the scale and quality of these entertainments seeks to ingratiate herself with the older lady, however she almost blows it all by slandering Valencourt at a dance before discovering that he is Madame Clairval’s nephew and a favourite in her company.

Suddenly he is invited to Madame Cheron’s home and as she formulates the belief he mus inherit from his Aunt she encourages a union between them.  Madame Clairval though not overly impressed by the thought of the union does nothing to prevent it, she too is under the misguided opinion of wealth to come this time that Emily will inherit from her Aunt but the twists to come would change every thing.

Chapter XIII

From the preparations for nuptial bliss to imminent separation in the space of a chapter, in this chapter certain characters begin to show their true colours.  The first thing Emily is informed of is a delay to her wedding and that Madame Cheron will utilise her wedding clothes and decorations for her own union.  Madame Cheron very quickly could be seen to take up the role of wicked stepmother…

l274425579except that would imply she was the motivator when in reality she was a puppet at the hands of the real villain, Monsieur Montoni…

perilsofpaulinetiedtorailwaytracksyes he shows his true colours as the villain we saw glimpses of earlier.  Realising that if the marriage between Emily and Valencourt took place he may lose not only influence over Madame Cheron but also the chances of him getting his hands on her wealth, determined to ensure that he profits fully from the union he breaks the engagement of the two lovers and realising that Emily will no longer inherit Madame Clairval does nothing to oppose the young couples separation.

At times we see a different side to Valencourt…

dolceburb655_2111799aHe seems he may grow a back bone and fight for his lover but at her urging he does nothing other than to mourn their separation and throw a few false accusations of his own suggesting that her refusal to run away and marry him comes from her lack of affection for him.

The chapter ends as Montoni prepares to remove his new bride and her charge to Italy, away from Valencourt and from any friends who might offer them protection.

Mysteries Of Udolpho · Reading Challenges · Tuesday Reflections

Mysteries Resumed

195What seems like a life time ago I decided to read The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, my lovely friend MsKatykins intended reading along with me but both of us got distracted by real life.  But from next Tuesday I intend to continue reading and posting my reflection as I go.  I am not going to set strict guidelines on how many chapters a week I will read this time, instead I will read it at my own pace and for pleasure rather than it feeling like a chore and then share my feelings on what I have read that week.  I am sure that will mean some weeks I will have read loads and be gushing about it and others will have struggled through a few pages and be ranting about the style.

If you would like to catch up on the reviews of the chapters we had read before to refresh your memories (I have and had a skim through the opening chapters) then click here for a quick link to the page containing the links for previous reviews.  I am hoping that my recent wanderings round the Abbey ruins in Whitby have fired up my taste for Gothic literature enough to get me through this in time to read Dracula for Halloween.

Mysteries Of Udolpho · Reading Challenges · Tuesday Reflections

Mysteries Of Udolpho Volume 1 Chapters I, II & III

When I accepted MsKatykins offer of having a read along buddy for this book I was relieved, it is quite a daunting book (especially the version I have small print and bible paper) but one I really want to read.

This will not be an in-depth analysis of the work chapter by chapter but instead a hopefully light-hearted banter about our impressions as we read along and see whether we are left sharing opinions or whether each of us reads differently into this novel that inspired Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

Have to say the first pages reminded me why I have picked this up and placed it back on the TBR pile so many times.  The picaresque features heavily in gothic literature and this is no exception.  To us as modern readers the seemingly over detailed descriptions can be rather off-putting but I have to be fair after all we need only google a place-name to see images of it in all its glory for the regency reader only those rich enough to take the grand tours would have any idea what the Pyrenees and other areas looked like.

I guess for the first post the thing to contemplate are the characters as we are introduced to them so I will give you my first impressions…

Monsieur St. Aubert – Our would be heroines father (after all we haven’t met her yet she might not be a heroine in our eyes time will tell) and I rather disliked him after about three lines of description, he comes across as a wimp, disillusioned by the fact other men are not all kind and interested in the finer things such as literature and music he decides to uproot his family and retire to live the pastoral life.  Now I know things were different back then but even I know that keeping a young girl isolated is going to have her yearning for adventure and getting her naive little self in trouble.

Emily – Our would be heroine or as seems more likely the damsel in distress, in the first encounters I have to say she is not particularly likeable.  Due to her secluded life she is self-absorbed and slightly vain.  She is of course well versed in such accomplishments fitting a young lady she is lacking in worldly experience which you know means she is heading for adventure.

The first few chapters are hard going, the death of Emily’s mother does give an insight into the way her father thinks she should behave, no showing emotion and putting on an air of acceptance she cannot feel, and one almost does feel sorry for her in this,

The other characters we meet in these opening chapters do not really leave any lasting impressions at this point although we know some of them will prove to have pivotal roles as the story progresses.

It is not easy going, the style of writing favoured by gothic authors is very description heavy by todays standards, I look forward to seeing what MsKatykins thinks to the next few chapters and whether she agrees with my opinions of the beginning.