Oh, I haven’t done a book post in forever. Caveat lector: this is not a recommendation.
To this spot he had been attached from his infancy. He had often made excursions to it when a boy, and the impressions of delight given to his mind by the homely kindness of the grey-headed peasant, to whom it was intrusted [sic], and whose fruit and cream never failed, had not been obliterated by succeeding circumstances. The green pastures along which he had so often bounded in the exultation of health, and youthful freedom — the woods under whose refreshing shade he had first indulged that pensive melancholy, which afterwards made a strong feature of his character — the wild walks of the mountains, the river, on whose waves he had floated, and the distant plains, which seemed boundless as his early hopes — were never after remembered by St Aubert but with enthusiasm and regret.
THREE SENTENCES. I’m not against long sentences as a general rule — I didn’t spend four years reading art theory for nothing — but this seems to be an unwieldy managing of the subject matter. I had to reread it, very carefully, in order to make any sense of it whatsoever.
My first moment of confusion: “What hasn’t been obliterated? The fruit and cream? The grey-headed peasant (to whom I would appreciate a better introduction)? Oh, the impressions of delight. I see.”
Second moment of confusion: the entirety of the third sentence. Stop it with the dashes!
Third moment of confusion: “St Aubert had been floating on the waves of the wild walks of the mountains? Ah, no, ‘the river’ is not a parenthetical.”
The quoted paragraph was on Page 2. It doesn’t get any better.
One daughter was now his only surviving child; and, while he watched the unfolding of her infant character, with anxious fondness, he endeavoured, with unremitting effort, to counteract those traits in her disposition, which might hereafter lead her from happiness.
All in all, The Mysteries Of Udolpho is full of comma abuse, turgid sentences, and confusing syntax. The characters are one-dimensional, and for some reason they keep bursting into tears; all the characterisation is conveyed by telling & not showing; and to my horror Radcliffe keeps including poems of her own composition. They might not be bad, per se — I just don’t like Victorian poetry.
All I want is for Radcliffe to get on to the silliness, sensationalism, overwraught Gothicism, & general melodrama.
Here’s the blurb, for your edification and despair.
“Emily’s face was stained with blood . . .”
Beautiful young heiress Emily St Aubert is frightened when she finds herself orphaned and in the hands of her cold and distant aunt, Madame Cheron. But her fear turns to terror when Madame Cheron agrees to marry the haughty and brooding Signor Montoni, and she finds herself trapped in castle of Udolpho, threatened by Montoni’s terrible greed and haunted by the secrets of the medieval fortress.
Will Emily find the strength to survive this place of nightmares? Or will Montoni and his wicked schemes destroy her completely?
OH I DO HOPE SO. See, it may yet get fun! But I’m still waiting for the other parent to be killed off and for Emily to get to the “place of nightmares”.
The Independent states that Udolpho is “brilliant . . . full of terror”. At the moment my only cause for concern is, “How long will my strength of mind be able to endure all these misused commas?”
Fear not, I didn’t buy the book. I borrowed it from the library. It was republished as part of Penguin’s Victorian Bestsellers series, which includes The Woman In White and The Moonstone, both of which I’m very fond. Also in the series is Paul Clifford, from whence comes that famous phrase “it was a dark and stormy night”. I’m rather wishing I’d been able to borrow Paul Clifford instead.