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. If there be any part of the story which lies open to material objection, it is that which makes Valancourt, Emily's lover, fall into disgraceful indiscretions during her absence, and into a temporary alienation of affection. This, in a young man of noble principles and exalted sentiments, after such a long intimacy, and such a series of incidents tending to give permanency to his passion and stability to his character, we must think unnatural. The performance would in our opinion have been more perfect, as well as more pleasing, if Du Pont, Emily's unsuccessful admirer, had never appeared; and if Valancourt had been, as Emily expected, her deliverer from the Castle of Udolpho. The story, we apprehend, might have been easily brought to its present termination on this supposition.
The embellishments of the work are highly finished. The descriptions are rich, glowing, and varied: they discover a vigorous imagination, and an uncommon command of language; and many of them would furnish admirable subjects for the pencil of the painter. If the reader, in the eagerness of curiosity, should be tempted to pass over any of them for the fake of proceeding more rapidly with the story, he will do both himself and the author injustice. They recur, however, too frequently; and, consequently, a similarity of expression is often perceptible.
Our readers may form some judgment of the writer's descriptive and poetical talents from the following specimen; the scene of which is at Venice:
"In the cool of the evening the party embarked in Montoni's gondola, and rowed out upon the sea. The red glow of sun-set still touched the waves, and lingered in the west, where the melancholy gleam seemed slowly expiring, while the dark blue of the upper aether began to twinkle with stars. Emily sat, given up to pensive and sweet emotions. The smoothness of the water, over which she glided, its reflected imagesâa new heaven and trembling stars below the waves, with shadowy outlines of towers and porticos, conspired with the stillness of the hour, interrupted only by the passing wave, or the notes of distant music, to raise those emotions to enthusiasm. As she listened to the measured sound of the oars, and to the remote warblings that came in the breeze, her softened mind returned to the memory of St. Aubert and to Valancourt, and tears stole to her eyes. The rays of the moon, strengthening as the shadows deepened, soon after threw a silvery gleam upon her countenance, which was partly shaded by a thin black veil, and touched it with inimitable softness. Hers was the contour of a Madonna, with the sensibility of a Magdalen; and the pensive uplifted eye, with the tear that glittered on her check, confirmed the expression of the character."
"The last strain of distant music now died in air, for the gondola was far upon the waves, and the party determined to have music of their own. The Count Morano, who sat next to Emily, and who had been observing her for sometime in silence, snatched up a lute, and struck the chords with the finger of harmony herself, while his voice, a fine tenor, accompanied them in a rondeau full of tender sadness. To him, indeed, might have been applied that beautiful exhortation of an English poet, had it then existed:
'Strike up, my master,
But touch the strings with a religious softness!',
Teach sounds to languish through the night's dull ear
Till Melancholy starts from oft' her couch,
And Carelessness grows concert to attention!'
After the remarks which we have already made, we need scarcely add our recommendation of these interesting volumes to general readers.
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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