TO return to The Mysteries of Udolpho, the author, pursuing her own favourite bent of composition, and again waving her wand over the world of wonder and imagination, had judiciously used a spell of broader and more potent command. The situation and distresses of the heroines, have here, and in The Romance of the Forest, a general aspect of similarity. Both are divided from the object of their attachment by the gloomy influence of unfaithful and oppressive guardians, and both become inhabitants of time-stricken towers, and witnesses of scenes now bordering on the supernatural, and now upon the horrible. But this general resemblance is only such as we love to recognize in pictures which have been painted by the same hand, and as companions for each other. Everything in The Mysteries of Udolpho is on a larger and more sublime scale, than in The Romance of the Forest; the interest is of a more agitating and tremendous nature; the scenery of a wilder and more terrific description; the characters distinguished by fiercer and more gigantic features. Montoni, a desperado, and Captain of Condottieri, stands beside La Motte and his Marquis like one of Miltonâs fiends beside a witchâs familiar. Adeline is confined within a ruined manor-house, but her sister heroine, Emily, is imprisoned in a huge castle, like those of feudal times; the one is attacked and defended by bands of armed mercenary soldiers, the other only threatened by a visit from constables and thief takers. The scale of the landscape is equally different; the quiet and limited woodland scenery of the one work forming a contrast with the splendid and high wrought descriptions of Italian mountain-grandeur which occurs in the other.
In general, The Mysteries of Udolpho was, at its first appearance, considered as a step beyond Mrs. Radcliffeâs former work, high as that had justly advanced her. We entertain the same opinion in again reading them both, even after some yearsâ interval. Yet there were persons of no mean judgment, to whom the simplicity of The Romance of the Forest seemed preferable to the more highly coloured and broader style of The Mysteries of Udolpho; and it must remain matter of opinion, whether their preference be better founded than in the partialities of a first love, which in literature, as in life, are often unduly predominant. With the majority of the public, the superior magnificence of landscape, and dignity of conception of character, secured the palm for the more recent work.
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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