Stranded in a gloomy medieval fortress, an orphaned heroine battles the devious schemes of her guardians as well as her own pensive visions and melancholy fancies. Generations of readers have thrilled to The Mysteries of Udolpho,
one of the most popular of the early Gothic novels and a landmark in the realm of psychological fiction.
Set in 1584, the tale unfolds amid the secret chambers of a chateau in southern France and a castle in the remote Apennines, populated by pirates, brigands, ghosts, and specters. Emily St. Aubert, imprisoned by her rapacious guardian and his sadistic wife, struggles to reconcile her father’s teachings of reserve and moderation with her own reckless passions. Emily’s attempts to control her emotions and resolve her suspicions and self-doubts offer a haunting and hypnotic pre-Freudian exploration of the psyche.
Sir Walter Scott proclaimed author Ann Radcliffe “the first poetess of romantic fiction,” and this thriller became a bestseller upon its 1794 publication. The novel exercised a powerful influence on the Marquis de Sade, Edgar Allan Poe, and other mystery writers. It achieved further renown with a satirical treatment in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey,
in which an impressionable young character is profoundly affected by the dungeons and crypts of Castle Udolpho and their scenes of bloodshed, mayhem, and terror. The Mysteries of Udolpho
continues to enchant modern readers with the fairy-tale elements of its suspenseful plot and its dreamlike, surrealistic portrayals of human consciousness.
Unabridged republication of the work as published by G. G. and J. Robinson, London, 1794.
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