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The Mysteries of Udolpho (Oxford World's Classics) 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199537419
ISBN-10: 0199537410
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Terry Castle was once described by Susan Sontag as "the most expressive, most enlightening literary critic at large today." She is the author of seven books of criticism, including The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (1993) and Boss Ladies, Watch Out! Essays on Women and Sex (2002). Her anthology, The Literature of Lesbianism, won the Lambda Literary Editor's Choice Award in 2003. She lives in San Francisco and is Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537419
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.4 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
I fear I don't have the words to fully explain just how important, enjoyable, and breath-taking this novel is to me; The Mysteries of Udolpho is simply one of the greatest written works ever produced. While this is a Gothic novel, arguably the greatest Gothic novel ever written, it is so much more than that. "Gothic" denotes dark castles, spectral haunts, dastardly deeds performed by cruel, mysterious men--certainly these elements are here. However, a large portion of this novel is simply beautiful--no one I know of has ever described the simple grandeur of life and nature or waxed more poetically on the noble merits of love and honor as does Ann Radcliffe.
Emily is one of the most memorable characters in all of fiction. To be frank, I simply fell in love with her. Through her, I was able to not only see but to better appreciate life itself and the simple beauties it manifests. When she was hurt or pained, I shared her sorrow; many times, I felt compelled to jump up and somehow defend her against the monstrous injustices inflicted upon her. I admired her morality and deep commitment to honor, a commitment so deep that she sacrificed in deference to it her own deep love for Valancourt, a love so deep that it alone allowed her to withstand the horrors of Count Montoni and the castle of Udolpho. Certainly, Emily is very sensitive and overdramatic, and she does tend to faint a lot, but she is a pure angel to someone like myself who is a Victorian at heart.
The Gothic horror is very well done, but it does not take up nearly as much of the novel as I had anticipated. Radcliffe can bring chills to readers even today.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I agree with the first reviewer and wish I had read the review before starting the book. Many sentences are left hanging. When I downloaded a Quality Classics edition for 99 cents I discovered that all poetry is left out of this free book. The poetry is not just fluff. It is crucial to the book so do not waste your time with this free edition.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I haven't read the book yet, but this free kindle edition does not include all of the text. It leaves out all of the poetry which seems to be important to the plot. I suggest buying a different version for the kindle.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been intrigued by this novel for years, but I only knew Udolpho by reputation until I finally read the novel recently. Many studies of Gothic fiction cite Radcliffe's novel as a classic Gothic text, one of the early examples that set the standard for the genre as we now think of it. Scholars of the Female Gothic subgenre in particular point to Udolpho as an early example, mostly due to Emily St. Aubert's perfect turn as the helpless female heroine who became a stock character in early Gothic fiction. Then, of course, I read Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey in a college seminar and imagined Udolpho to be a laugh-worthy, melodramatic, fake horror fest. I can't say there aren't any laughable moments (Emily's poems), or that there isn't melodrama (lots of fainting; the parting scene between Emily and Valancourt at the end of Volume I), or even that there isn't some fake horror (all of the "mysteries" are explained by the novel's close); however, Radcliffe's novel defied my expectations in more ways than it reaffirmed them.

The Oxford World's Classics edition with the introduction by Terry Castle is the only edition I've read, but I recommend it particularly because of the introduction, which I found very interesting and insightful after finishing the novel. One point that Castle makes is that despite the novel's Gothic label, Udolpho is more like "a disconcerting textual hybrid." The multi-generic nature of the novel is one of the features that most surprised me; it takes quite a while for Emily to become imprisoned in Udolpho and what precedes her time there is almost anti-Gothic. Emily has perfect parents and the perfect upbringing, though she begins to suffer relatively early on when her mother dies.
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Format: Paperback
When published in 1794, this lengthy tale of romance and intrigue became a best-seller, reportedly the first best-seller ever. When reading it, one can very well imagine the author -- a reclusive English lady -- writing this story for her own entertainment and as a record of her own day dreams, her intimate flights of fancy.
There is no question that the sweet, suffering, intelligent, compassionate, level-headed, courageous Emily St. Aubuert of the story is the author's other self, the self she imagines herself to be. The trials she faces as her other self, she faces with courage and intelligence and outstanding patience: the loss of parents, the awful tyranny of her aunt with whom she has been placed as a ward, the terror of the Archvillain Montoni who kept her captive in the remote, ghostly castle of Udolpho and her daring escape -- all were most likely Ms. Radcliffe's day dreams set to paper. Afterall, she was childless and well-bred and in those times, there was little for a well-educated lady of her class do but to read and dream and write.
And she developed her craft grandly. Her descriptions of scenery, the locations of each set-piece of her novel are vivid and memorable. She had an eye for the sweep of detail of a landscape, a forest, a plain, a mountain and she had the talent of painting her scenes under shrouds of mystery and melancholy.
Emily's love affair with the chevalier Valancourt to whom she gave her entire capacity for love, and his betrayal of it and proof of his unworthiness, comes as a disappointment. But then, at the end there is a reconciliation and appropriate romantic solution of the problem, however unlikely.
The novel is long, too long, really.
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