The Mysteries of Udolpho

Ann Radcliffe

Volume 2

Chapter 1

The verse, by Goldsmith, indicates that Emily will continue to love Valancourt, even though far away.

Emily sets off on her journey, receiving a letter from Valancourt that he hands to her through the carriage window. It's a very romantic letter about watching the same sunsets. Nature & sublimity follows, but as Emily moves further away from home the landscape becomes more threatening; words like "chaos", "deep precipices" and "waving blackness" are used. There's lots in this landscape to be afraid of, both real and imagined. As they approach civilisation, the landscape loses its harshness. They hear some music-playing peasants, and some Wordsworthian moralising follows on the corrupting dangers of city life. This refers to the musician who is going to Venice, but I think we are also meant to apply it to Valancourt, especially in the light of M. St. Aubert's observations about people being corrupted by Paris. Emily writes a bad poem about it - when doesn't she?

Chapter 2

More nature, more sublimity. A little character study of Montoni is given on p.171 - 172 and we may wonder if Valancourt's fears were indeed well founded, especially since he seems to be on good terms with one of the warring captains. As they approach Venice the nature becomes more calm and sublime.

On first sight Montoni's house seems to be respectable. On closer inspection it proves to be all show. It's worth noting that a past exam question has asked about how houses reflect the characters of their owners. Consider this in terms of the houses and owners we have encountered in the novel so far.

Emily pines for Valancourt & writes another poem. I wish she wouldn't.

Chapter 3

The verse at the chapter head is from Julius Caesar, and was written by Shakespeare to describe Caesar. In this novel it describes Montoni, and is a useful thumbnail sketch of him. The chapter introduces him further, mentioning his gambling habit and the fact that he has enemies. We are also told that

"He delighted in the energies of the passions"

which puts him in opposition to Augustanism which is to do with reason rather than passion. In similar opposition is Verezzi "the slave of alternate passions". We also meet the unpromising and cruel Orsino, and Morano who will prove to be a thorn in Emily's side by fancying her furiously and seeking to marry her against her will. Her natural simplicity is contrasted favourably by Radcliffe with the artifice of the other ladies and she makes herself more attractive to Morano by getting all sublime in the moonlight. Bad move. His attentions towards her increase, and she even regrets the departure of Montoni, who might protect her, though heaven only knows from what. Morano is clearly being presented as a threat to Emily.

They go to the opera, and again the superiority of nature over art is stressed:

"Emily was not so charmed but that, when she remembered the scene she had just quitted, she felt how infinitely inferior all the splendour of art is to the sublimity of nature." (189)

This is very Wordsworthian, and links the novel in with the Romantic Movement in poetry, as we have previously discussed.

It becomes obvious that Montoni married Madame Cheron for her money and is now rather chagrined to find she hasn't got any. Madame Cheron is in the same boat. Now, we may feel they deserve one another, but it doesn't bode well for our Emily's happiness to be trapped in such a situation. It may be because of this that Montoni continues to encourage Morano even while Emily rejects him. His financial situation may also be connected with his all night meetings with Orsino... unless something really suspicious is going on, and we are meant to feel that you can never be too sure with Montoni.

Quesnel has inherited a new villa and invites Montoni et al to visit. A letter comes from Valancourt, full of sentiment and endearment. It's enough to make you sick, but this is a novel with a strong romantic thread, and it does demonstrate the lack of steel in Valancourt's character. In the letter he informs Emily that Quesnel has let La Vallee and sacked Theresa. Emily goes to talk to Montoni about this, and from this arises an awkward misunderstanding. By the end of the conversation Emily thinks she has reluctantly agreed to the let of La Vallee but Montoni thinks she has agreed to marry Morano! Don't even ask! I think the plot gets very weak at this point. Next day Morano arrives, proposes, is rejected and a huge strop ensues, with Montoni getting very irate with Emily, Morano with Montoni, and Emily trying to be Augustan and not cry. Morano won't let Montoni threaten Emily, but neither will he take no for an answer, and Emily is left fearing a forced marriage, even though her reason tells her this could not happen. We see her reason fighting her imagination and instinct again. Meantime she writes a poem. Oh dear. She also entertains fancies that she will never see Valancourt again. The chapter ends with the Quesnels and Montonis trying to out-boast one another. Plainly we are meant to see them as equally corrupt and inferior.

Chapter 4

Emily tries to get Quesnel's help over the Morano affair, but he too would like to be related to an Italian nobleman, has no concern for Emily and is no help whatsoever. Surprise. Morano continues to pursue her and the idea of a forced marriage becomes more explicit, to be arranged

"if that was necessary, without her consent." (216)

The extent of her isolation is stressed on 217 when Montoni says

"I now remind you, for the last time, that you are a stranger, in a foreign country."

The punishment for non compliance is kept vague, probably so we can indulge our own worst imaginings. Emily is afraid, but won't give in.

There is a short interlude when Orsino, involved in a murder, goes into hiding at Montoni's house, but as soon as he leaves the forced marriage is on again, to take place the next morning. Madame Montoni is no consolation, and the chapter ends with Emily facing a sleepless night followed by who knows what other terrors. We certainly don't , and aren't meant to. Our imaginations work overtime inventing our own nightmare scenarios.

Chapter 5

The opening verse is taken from a piece by one of the Graveyard Poets. Remember them? Emily had gone to sleep - eventually- the previous night anticipating a forced marriage to Morano in the morning. Instead she is bustled into a gondola and thence a carriage, and conveyed to Udolpho. The reason for this is left unclear, to us as to Emily, so that, identifying with her, we share all her agonies of suspense. (We do, really we do!) The scenery Emily passes is described using the words "gloom" and "gloomy" to such an extent that I begin to wish someone had bought Radcliffe a thesaurus. The point is, however, that at this point the landscape is reflecting Emily's internal emotional state in a characteristically Gothic fashion; as Emily contemplates "whatever punishment or revenge, and that Italian revenge, might dictate," her mood sinks further into gloom. nature still has the power to exert a sublime influence, however (p.225) and "Emily lost, for a moment, her sorrows, in the immensity of nature." We are reminded of the Romantic notion of the healing power of nature.

When, on p.226, we arrive at Udolpho itself, it is shown to be a classically gothic setting, productive of sublime terror. Everything about Udolpho is archaic, desolate and doleful. It's a perfect location to scare an heroine, and can be expected to be full of ghosts. (Jane might even find the odd sucky thing. Maybe that's what's behind the black veil.) The location both influences and reflects Emily's emotional state and she temporarily loses her Augustan control as "One of those instantaneous and unnaccountable convictions, which sometimes conquer even strong minds, impressed her with its horror.". Montoni refuses to explain the journey to Emily and, in a scene reminiscent in a warped way of her conversations with her father, advises her to eschew superstition and behave rationally. (p.230) At this point we can see connections with St. Aubert, and indeed Montoni is now the closest thing to a father figure Emily has, which doesn't bode well for her at all.

In this chapter we meet Annette who will become Emily's confidante, after a fashion, and provide comic relief, as she's really a bit of an idiot. She represents superstition unrestrained by reason, and we are able to note Emily's decline in terms of how much like Annette she is behaving; in her better moments she can laugh at Annette's superstitions and fears, but she comes increasingly to share them. It is in this chapter, too, that we first hear of the black veil, and the mystery behind it. As soon as we hear about it, we want to know what the secret is. Tough! This is one of those irritating bubbles of mystery that rises repeatedly to the surface, teases us, then disappears, unresolved. It generates suspense and an atmosphere of mystery and fear, especially given Emily's response to it. Annette's story about Montoni's frustrated love for Signora Laurentini (p.236) and her subsequent disappearance, so close to the black veil reference is, I feel, meant to provoke the reader into making a connection between the two. Annette is described as having "infected" Emily with her terrors, and Emily settles down to another of those disturbed nights so beloved by heroines. (remember this when we read Northanger Abbey, which is in many respects a parody of Gothic in general and Udolpho in particular.

Chapter 6

When Emily wakes up the next morning, having contemplated the sublimity of nature and God, she notices that someone has been tampering with her bedroom door in the night! Montoni refuses to take her fears seriously, describing them as a "slavery" (p.244) Again, he sounds as Augustan as her father, but without her father's compassion. Much follows in which Annette shows herself to be superstitious, and the veil is mentioned again, with what could be used as a definition of sublime terror. (p.248) "a terror of this nature, as it occupies and expands the mind, and elevates it to high expectation, is purely sublime..."

When Emily enters the room and looks behind the veil, she faints! Why am I not surprised? The killer is that it's hundreds of pages before you get to find out what is actually behind that veil (I already know!) Continued reference is made to it for many pages now, so that we are kept wondering.

In this chapter the fortification of Udolpho is discussed, and the place fills up with soldiers. What is Montoni cooking up?

Morano arrives, Emily can barely stand with fear, but she is not called.on the way to her bedroom she passes her aunt's room and sees her sitting there with a man who is neither Montoni or Morano, crying. Why? Who? Before she goes to bed Emily thinks fondly of her father and remembers the picture and the words she shouldn't have read. Just as we'd forgotten, too.

Emily is afraid, because of the door tampering, and possibly the castle full of soldiers, and doesn't undress. It's not spelt out, but Emily feels under sexual threat. Given that Morano appears in her bedroom with a sword, I feel this is a reasonable fear. But why does Morano now seem to have fallen out with Montoni? Morano's accusation that Emily loves Montoni is, of course, rubbish, but in a later Gothic novel it might not be; though in this one good and bad are clear cut, and villains are not attractive, later Gothic novels take a more realistic approach. An appreciation that the human character is in fact a mix of good and bad develops (see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and characters are presented who can be seen as possessing both heroic and villainous attributes (see Rochester in Jane Eyre) This idea is developed in the horror genre today, with characters such as Hannibal Lecter possessing a strange attraction, despite being morally repulsive.

Morano and Montoni fight, Morano loses but doesn't die. He leaves saying he will "not leave another murder" on Montoni's conscience. So who was the first? Was it Signora Laurentini? Is it her corpse behind the black veil? These are the questions that throwaway comment of Morano's are intended by Radcliffe to provoke in the reader. And what are the "more serious interests" that Montoni has to pursue? What is he up to?

Chapter 7

This chapter fills in the gaps between our two encounters with Morano. It seems that Montoni found Morano not too be so rich as he had thought - the story of Montoni's life, but at least he didn't marry Morano! He assumes that, because of this lack of wealth, Morano will not keep his side of the bargain to hand over to Montoni Emily's inheritance. Note that no-one asked Emily what she though of this, before you start going too gooey over Morano, whom some of you are claiming to be quite a decent bloke. As Emily said, when Morano accused Montoni of being a villain who would have sold her

"is he less, who would have bought me?"

Montoni decamps to Udolpho, as we know, whence Morano follows him. Finding that he cannot persuade Montoni to let him have Emily, he hatches an abduction plan - classic Gothic plot element here, a midnight abduction - with the help of a disgruntled servant of Montoni. Villains often have conveniently disgruntled servants to fulfil such plot requirements. Carlo, the faithful servant, discovers all this, checks its truth, then alerts Montoni, hence the rescue despite the fact that great play has been made of the "in Udolpho no-one can hear you scream" idea.

Madame Montoni tries to get Emily to witness a bullying interview between herself and her husband, and makes a tantalising reference to

"the command I have so often refused to obey"

but Montoni sends her away, so this command is left as another suspended bubble in the plot.

Annette tells Emily the story of Signora Laurentini, and , though Emily chastises Annette for imagination and superstition, we are told that Emily "could temble with ideal terrors, as much as herself."

Emily visits Madame Montoni, and the two fail, as ever, to communicate, they are each on such a different plane of being. Madame Montoni's claims to be innocent and ill-used are presented in a consciously comic way -"with a vehemence of gesticulation and of countenance, that turned the whole into burlesque."

Emily thinks about what Morano had said about, Montoni's right to the castle, and murders, and she frets. Wouldn't you? She tries to distract herself by reading and playing the lute (not simultaneously) but fails, then Annette comes in and ever so tactfully tells her that Madame Montoni has been spreading it around Venice that Emily is a loose moralled nuisance. Emily proves her virtue by trying to avoid resenting this

"But now, let me only remember, if possible, that she is unfortunate."

She goes for a walk on the ramparts to look at the view and is seen and commented on by some fierce looking soldiers. At dinner all the soldiers praise Emily's beauty and Montoni comes to tell how he got his hands on Udolpho. Whilst he is telling his story, though, he is interrupted by a mysterious and untraceable voice, which everyone claims not to believe is a ghost, whilst secretly being convinced that it is.

Chapter 8

Radcliffe takes us back to Valancourt who is by now in Paris, so we have little hope for him, bearing in mind what St. Aubert thought of the effect upon young men of that city. We find that he has at first been true in his mind to Emily, but has been teased by his fellow officers and has fallen into bad company to heal the wound of missing her. Then he has felt guilty about this company and has avoided thinking of Emily because he knows he's letting her down. He gets into gambling and is mentioned in connection with two other women. We are left to assume that he has affairs, though this is never clearly stated.

Chapter 9

Ironically, Emily remains devoted to Valancourt, reading his letters over and over again to assure herself of the love we know to be faltering. Emily is really beginning to lose her grip on reality by now; we read

"Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted." (P.296)

Annette tells Emily of strangers come to the castle with, as Annette believes, wicked intent. On p.299 Annette is described as being "on the wing for new wonders". Annette enjoys terror, like the reader who is called to have contempt for her.

Later Emily hears a loud thud behind her door which, when she plucks up courage to investigate, turns out to be Annette who has fainted as a result of seeing what she took to be a ghost.

More soldiers arrive and we are informed by Annette that they are part of a robber band being set up by Montoni, who is going into business as a bandit. Montoni comes to demand Madame Montoni's estates, with threats of imprisonment and even death. Emily pleads for her, but is flung to the ground and injured. Carlo, the faithful servant, obviously does not approve of these goings on, and I wonder if Emily may have found a new ally. Madame Montoni explains to Emily that she, Emily, is next to inherit the estates, but Emily says Madame Montoni should give them up anyway. She doesn't even want to think about the security they would provide for herself and Valancourt exclaiming

"do not let my mind be stained with a wish so shockingly self interested."(p.308).

On her way back to her room she passes the room where Annette thought she saw the ghost, hears voices within and sees Montoni come out. The plot thickens.

Chapter 10

It becomes clear that Madame Montoni will not listen to the voice of reason, but is plotting an escape. It also becomes clear that Montoni is himself plotting, and that this plot involved Emily, whom he compels to dress as attractively as possible. We suspect that he is planning to auction her off again. At what appears to be the pre auction dinner we meet the potential bidders, none of whom appear very prepossessing! The dinner is interrupted by a dramatic discovery of an attempt to poison Montoni. Knowing that Madame has been planning escape, our minds, and indeed Montoni's mind (though he doesn't know she's been plotting) , leap to the conclusion that she is to blame. Montoni locks Madame and Emily up, and much tumult is heard below. In a while some ruffians arrive with Montoni and are instructed to "execute your orders", a lovely line, as we wonder just how terminal this execution is to be! Madame is dragged off, and the door left unlocked for Emily.

Showing all the sense we have come to expect of our beautiful heroine, Emily chooses this moment, with the castle in chaos and sounds of battle all around, to go for a stroll. OK, so perhaps I'm being uncharitable, but she hardly seems to keep a low profile. One might argue that all thoughts of personal safety are cast aside in concern for her aunt. One might equally say she is behaving like a typical, non realistic, Gothic heroine. (On page 319, paragraph 3, we read of Emily's inability to control her thoughts; plainly, at this point, she has lost Augustan discipline.) So, having returned to the comparative safety of her room, Emily ventures out again on the stroke of midnight. I mean, I ask you! Whilst walking around looking for Madame, she discovers that Annette has been locked up but is more than usually incoherent, unable to say anything other than "Ludovico!" It turns out that L. has locked A. up for her own safety in this house full of reprobates. Now he was showing some sense. There is a comic scene in which A. wavers between concern for L. and hunger pangs, and then E. goes out to walk the ramparts. (p.322). At this point the weather is used to reflect E's emotional state - I refer to the "heavy clouds" and "thicker darkness".

On page 323 we have a strong build up of tension as E. appears to be approaching the discovery of something gruesome, only to be brought down to anticlimax. This is not untypical of Anne Radcliffe's style of writing. E. feels faint(!) and returns to her room, where she once more fails to sleep much.

Chapter 11

The verse which opens this passage suggests that someone is going to die, and we expect it to be Madame. We expect the answer to "who?" to be Montoni. Annette is still locked in, and hungrier than ever. Montoni will not say where Madame is, but reveals that she "is taken care of", which could mean anything. This maintains the suspense surrounding her disappearance, and thus keeps E's anxiety at maximum, reducing her ability to think reasonably. (You must remember that there was a time when E. was capable of reasonable thought.) Carlo brings E. fruit. No cream though. He says, suitably mysteriously, that "strange things are about to be done." (p.327) The vagueness of this generates maximum speculation and suspense.

E. goes to break the news of L's death to A. only to find that he is still alive, despite what Montoni has said. E. spends 2 days holed up in her room, being brought food by A. One night she looks out of the window and sees the same planet in the sky that she had seen on the night before her father died. Do we expect Madame to die too? Then she hears music. Do we believe it to be supernatural, or do we think of the mysterious lute player, possibly V., and assume he's here. She goes to bed determining to listen again the next night, on the odd assumption that ghosts don't play two nights running, so if she hears it again, the music must be human.

Chapter 12

The verse which opens the chapter suggests yet more evil to come.

A. arrives, with news of who the mystery person, whom she had mistaken for a ghost is. The scene in which she makes an ever more frustrates E. guess, is reminiscent of the scene in Romeo and Juliet in which Juliet's nurse won't give a straight answer about what Romeo said.

Is this meant to make us think that E. has been holding out hopes of V., or am I jumping the gun?

There is a scene of many pages (too many, in my opinion) in which E. enters into an agreement with Barnardine to meet him late at night and be conducted to Madame. Barnardine behaves most suspiciously throughout, very like a villain of stage melodrama or even pantomime; I as reader want to call out "Don't trust him, Emily", or "Look out, he's behind you." The point I'm labouring to make here is that the writing is of that stagey nature. The reader is definitely made aware that there is something going on.

It is on this cliff hanger that volume 2 ends; will she go or not? If she goes, will she be betrayed? Cue fast and rolling piano music from the orchestra pit as the lights fade.