Part of the merits of this novel must not be overlooked. The characters are drawn with uncommon distinctness, propriety, and boldness. Emily, the principal female character, being naturally possessed of delicate sensibility and warm affection, is early warned by her father against indulging the pride of fine feelings,â (the romantic error of amiable minds,)âand is taught that the strength of fortitude is more valuable than the grace of sensibility. Hence she acquires a habit of self command, which gives a mild dignity to her manners, and a steady firmness to her conduct, she is patient under authority, without sameness or cunning. Desirous, in the first place, of her own approbation, she is equally unaffected by the praise and the censure of fools. In love, she is tender and ardent without weakness, and constant notwithstanding every inducement, from interest or terror, to abandon the object of her affection. Good sense effectually fortifies her against superstitious fear; and a noble integrity and sublime piety support her in the midst of terrors and dangers, In the character and fortunes of Emily's aunt, Madame Cheron, to whom her sufferings are solely owing, is exhibited an example of the mischief which filly pride brings on itself and others. Dazzled with shew, she wants the sense both to discern merit and to detect imposture: supercilious in her condescension, and ostentatious in her pity, she inflicts cruel wounds without intention; she admires and despises by turns, and equally without reason: she neither bears Injuries with meekness nor resents them, with dignity; and her exasperated pride vents itself in feeble lamentation, and prevents her from using the necessary means for her safety, till at length it exposes her to cruel insults, and precipitates her destruction. Montoni, her second husband, is an Italian of strong talents, but of an abandoned character and desperate fortune: he is unprincipled, dauntless, and enterprising; reserved through pride and discontent, deep craft conceals all his plans: wild and various in his passions, yet capable of making them all bend to his interest, he is the cause of cruel wretchedness and infinite terror to those who are under his power. Some gleams of comic humour play through the gloom of the story, in the character and conversation of the faithful servant Annette, who has an insuperable propensity to credulity, and an irresistible impulse to communication: but whose naÃ¯vetÃ©, simple honesty, and affection, render her character interesting. Several other portraits are drawn with; equal strength; for which we must refer to the volumes.
About: A best-seller in its day and a potent influence on Sade, Poe, and other purveyors of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Gothic horror, The Mysteries of Udolpho remains one of the most important works in the history of European fiction.
About: An excerpt of a review from The Monthly Review [published in 1794] : THE numerous mysteries of the plot are fully disclosed in this edition, which is the conclusion, and the reader is perfectly satisfied at finding villainy punished, and steady virtue and persevering affection rewarded.
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