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Beyond the Lone Islands

Friday, 13 March 2009

Reading The Mysteries of Udolpho

Woman on a balcony by Carl Gustav Carus
(=the front cover picture on my copy of Udolpho
After finishing Wuthering Heights, I picked up another
classic novel, that I first started reading a year or two ago, but for some reason or other lay aside again. The book is Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho from 1794, and I have been curious about it ever since I first read Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, which parodies this and other Gothic novels.

After 220 pages out of 670 (which is further along than I got last time) I'm still wondering when I'll be getting to the "gothic" stuff; or if I shall have to review my whole concept of that word.

So far, the heroine has spent most of her time gazing out over tranquil landscapes, feeling generally faint. Well, she has lost her parents, and had to leave her childhood home, and her beloved fiancé, and is on the verge of being forced into marriage with another man whom she does not love (or even respect). But all is happening at a very slow pace - I suppose in a way reflecting the very slow pace of travelling by horse and carriage in those days! - set against impressive mountains, peaceful valleys full of sheep and shepherds and dancing(!) peasants, fresh verdure and colourful sunsets, French chateaus surrounded by vast parks, and Venetian palaces overlooking canals with gondolas... (We're nowhere near the mysterious Udolpho yet, but the name has recently been introduced in passing once or twice...)

The most interesting part of it all so far is really that the author herself had never actually travelled and seen the landscapes that she so meticiously describes...

However, by writing down that I intend to finish the book this time, I'm hoping this will help me keep my resolution to do so! ;-)

Here's a teaser from the last chapter I read, Volume 2, Ch IV - a conversation between heroine Emily and her aunt:

'...I wish to see you happy, and it is your own fault if you are not so. I would ask you, now, seriously and calmly, what kind of a match you can expect, since a Count cannot content your ambition?'
'I have no ambition whatever, madam,' replied Emily, 'my only wish is to remain in my present station.'


California Girl said...

You are a patient soul. 660 pages & you're 200+ through and nothing much is happening? I couldn't do it. I am currently trying to read "Arthur & George" by Julian Barnes. Problem is, the story is becoming more sad and I know it's based on a true mistaken identity/innocent goes to jail and I just don't know if I can bear it. I find as I've grown older I am less apt to want to read anything disturbing or rambling. For disturbing, I can turn on the news. As for rambling discourses with or without a point...I can blog! :)

DawnTreader said...

:) I'm not always as patient. If I just happen to pick up a book randomly, and find it hard to concentrate on, or feel that I'm not in the right mood for it, I don't usually feel obliged to finish it. But since Udolpho is supposed to be a Gothic classic, and I've made it a sort of project to read some of those, including this one, I really want to get through it. (Others I've read are Dracula by Bram Stoker, and The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. Dracula was a lot more readable than I expected. Otranto is a comparatively short story, but hard to make head or tail of.)


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