Throwback Thursday – The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

throwbackthursday

Renee began Throwback Thursday at Its Book Talk as a way to share some of her old favorites as well as sharing books that she wants to read that were published over a year ago. Books that were published over a year ago are almost always easier to find at libraries or at a discounted sale price. As I have been sifting through my TBR list and purging those books that no longer hold my interest, I came across several from years past that I’d love to share with you!

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Title: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

Published: first published in 1794

Publisher (this edition): Penguin Classics

Average Goodreads rating: 3.37

With The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe raised the Gothic romance to a new level and inspired a long line of imitators. Portraying her heroine’s inner life, creating a thick atmosphere of fear, and providing a gripping plot that continues to thrill readers today, The Mysteries of Udolpho is the story of orphan Emily St. Aubert, who finds herself separated from the man she loves and confined within the medieval castle of her aunt’s new husband, Montoni. Inside the castle, she must cope with an unwanted suitor, Montoni’s threats, and the wild imaginings and terrors that threaten to overwhelm her.

This new edition includes an introduction that discusses the publication and early reception of the novel, the genre of Gothic romance, and Radcliffe’s use of history, exotic settings, the supernatural, and poetry. (Goodreads)

“A well-informed mind is the best security against the contagion of folly and vice. The vacant mind is ever on the watch for relief, and ready to plunge into error, to escape from the languor of idleness. Store it with ideas, teach it the pleasure of thinking; and the temptations of the world without, will be counteracted by the gratifications derived from the world within.”

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43220Ann Radcliffe was an English author, a pioneer of the gothic novel.

Radcliffe was born Ann Ward in Holborn. At the age of 22, she married journalist William Radcliffe, owner and editor of the English Chronicle, in Bath in 1788. The couple was childless and, to amuse herself, she began to write fiction, which her husband encouraged.

She published The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne in 1789. It set the tone for the majority of her work, which tended to involve innocent, but heroic young women who find themselves in gloomy, mysterious castles ruled by even more mysterious barons with dark pasts.

Her works were extremely popular among the upper class and the growing middle class, especially among young women. Her works included A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1791), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and The Italian (1796). She published a travelogue, A Journey Through Holland and the Western Frontier of Germany in 1795.

The success of The Romance of the Forest established Radcliffe as the leading exponent of the historical Gothic romance. Her later novels met with even greater attention, and produced many imitators, and famously, Jane Austen’s burlesque of The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey, as well as influencing the works of Sir Walter Scott.

Stylistically, Radcliffe was noted for her vivid descriptions of exotic and sinister locales, though in reality the author had rarely or never visited the actual locations. Shy by nature, she did not encourage her fame and abandoned literature as a pursuit.

She died on February 7, 1823 from respiratory problems probably caused by pneumonia. She was buried in Saint George’s Church, Hanover Square in London. (Goodreads)

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This work was required reading in, oddly, my Shakespeare class in college. I had to do an essay and, though I remember very little detail from twelve years ago, I do recall being engrossed by the novel even though it was required reading. Honestly, who actually enjoys required class reading? Despite that, it was thought provoking and overall enjoyable. Don’t let that 3.37 rating put you off. If you enjoy classic literature, this is a must read.

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