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The Italian (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 1, 2001

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140437541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140437546
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #708,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


An ingenious performance. -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

About the Author

Ann Radcliffe was born in 1764, the daughter of a London tradesman. In 1786 she married William Radcliffe, later the manager of The English Chronicle. She set her first novel, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789), in Scotland, and it received little critical or public attention. Using more exotic locations in Europe, notably the 'sublime' landscapes of the Alps and Pyrenees, she wrote four more novels within ten years: A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1791), The Mysteries of Udolfo (1794) and The Italian (1797), as well as a volume of descriptions of her travels in Holland, Germany and the Lake District.

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 Romance of the Forest in Northanger Abbey), and influenced the work of Sir Walter Scott and Mary Wollstonecraft.

The Italian was the last book she published in her lifetime; a novel, Gaston de Blondeville, and St. Albans Abbey: A Metrical Tale were published posthumously. Despite the sensational nature of her romances and their enormous success, Radcliffe and her husband lived quietly—she made only one foreign journey and barely glimpsed the Alps that she wrote about so vividly. She died in 1823 from respiratory problems probably caused by pneumonia.

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Customer Reviews

It is a great story line that keeps you guessing.
R. Martin
This book is a compilation of scanned text from an original version of the novel, reprinted with absolutely NO editing.
That said, this is my first (and so far only) book that I've read by Radcliffe.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Tsuyoshi on August 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book in Japanese translation years ago, and recently read it again in the original language in order to write a paper. And I can say, both times the book gave me a good, healthy amount of thrill and joy.
Published in 1796, "The Italian" became an instant success, cementing the fame of Ann Radcliffe among the liteary circle. Her name has been already well-known with her previous work "The Mysteries of Udolpho" two years before, but in my book this follow-up is better than the other. Of course, it depends on your view which is superior, but it is commonly agreed that Ann Radcliffe's position in the history of English literature is secured by those two Gothic classics, which clearly gave inspiration to Jane Austen, who wrote the joyful "Northanger Abbey."
The story is rather simple in the beginning. It tells of a romantic love of young dashing nobleman Vivaldi in Naples, who falls in love with a girl Ellena. But his plan of marriage is soon interrupted by the vicious monk Schedoni. Then ensue abduction, murder (attempted or not), and the Inquisition. There are lot of suspense, terror, and thrill that come from the fluent narrative of Radcliffe, who knows how to engage the readers' attention. (And thankfully, "The Italian" is free from any lengthy poems that are found aplenty among "Udolpho.")
To be sure, the third part of the book is damaged by its too complicated relations between characters, and too rapid pen of the author to wrap up the events with rational explanations about the mysterious things in the first part of the book, but the whole book manages to sustain our interest to the end.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Sesho on April 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
First published in 1797, this was the culmination of Ann Radcliffe's writing career. She was seen as the darling of the Gothic mode, which we would probably put into the genre of "thrillers" or "horror". All the appropriate dungeons are here, the hint of demonic influence, the seperation of star-struck lovers, revenge, the searching of dark ruins, and the diabolical and angelic facets of the Church. Radcliffe does go deeper than that though through her paced plotting and and the limited use of sentimentality that destroyed so much of writing back then. The gothic novel would run out its course eventually, but had a great effect on the talent of its day. Keats, Byron, and Shelley all owe at least some of their subject matter and modes of expression to Radcliffe.
Well, back to the novel itself. The story opens in the year 1764 in Naples, Italy as a group of English tourists are visiting a church. They notice a diabolical looking man who they are informed can never leave the safety of the church walls because he is an assasin. The place is his last sanctuary from those who wish to kill him. Of course the group asks to hear the tale of the assasin and The Italian begins.
The story opens as a young nobleman named Vincentio di Vivaldi spots the beautiful but common Ellena Rosalba during church service and falls in love with her. From this Dantesque beginning we are led into a Romeo and Juliet scenario in which Vivaldi begins to woo her without the approval of his parents. Then we have the apperance of a cowled priest who appears to warn Vivaldi of future events before they happen. Vivaldi chases him a couple of times but all he ever finds is thin air. As the book continues, Vivaldi's mother will stop at nothing to keep her son from marrying his one true love.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Martin on March 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
I had never heard of Ann Radcliffe until I read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austin. Northanger Abbey is a paraody that "makes fun" of the gothic type novels that were popular at that time. Ann Radcliffe and some of her writings are mentioned by name in Northanger Abbey. I went to find out more about Ann and get one her novels.

Ann was really the first gothic writer and set the scene for the other gothic writers that followed her in the late 1700's and early 1800's. Another reviewer accuses her of copying the novel The Monk - but it is actually the opposite. The author of The Monk copied her!

Anyhow...I loved this book! Vivaldi and Ellena fall in love but Vivaldi's mother is against the match because Ellena is not from a "proper" family. The mother and a monk initiate a plot to keep them from marrying each other. I don't want to say much more, because there are so many interesting plot twists that I don't want to give anything away. It is a great story line that keeps you guessing. There is romance, suspense, mystery, intrigue, evil villians, evil plots, creepy landscapes, and more!

It is a long book that took me several weeks to read but was more than worth my time!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
I have just finished "The Italian" by Ann Radcliffe. I wish this woman were still alive to write about more memorable charcters, like Vivaldi, Ellena, Shedoni and Spalatro. A wonderfully wielded story with romance and edge of your seat adventure through the Italian hills and vales of Naples in the late 1700's. Plot twists and scary evil, deceitful goings on. You feel sorry for the couple torn assunder by the machinations of a haughty mother, and in the end you even feel sorry of the villians because they too realize (however late) that what they did was wrong. I only hope I can find another story like this soon.
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