17 May 2010

the Mysteries of UDOLPHO : the Castle Part II


Emily's chamber at UDOLPHO

Even in light of day Emily's bed chamber has dark hidden corners, with light flooding into the room just above its walking inhabitants-all is dusk and glooming. The cavernous chamber holds a carved gilt Renaissance bed and a VASARI painting that hangs over the fireplace in a Vasari decorated frame. "She now retired to her bed, leaving the lamp burning on the table; but its gloomy light instead of dispelling her fear, assisted it; for, by its uncertain rays, she almost fancied she saw shapes flit past her curtains and glide into the remote obscurity of her chamber-The castle clock struck one before she closed her eyes to sleep."

When one can hear people moving, 
one does not so much mind, 
about one's fears.
 Lady Emily, Our Heroine

Destination Udolpho

 Gondola image from here

 The destination of the Count's entourage, with heroine Emily in tow-an unwitting traveler, indeed hostage is UDOLPHO. Envisioning UDOLPHO is essential when reading the Radcliffe novel. Her descriptions are fine ones-
but in all- there is unspoken dread. Traveling to Count Morano's castle fortress, the entourage sets off in gondola- including Morano, Emily's aunt, now married to Morano, a number of servants, retainers and armed guards. Later the entourage would travel the wild terrain of the Appenines by coach. As the travelers plunged deeper along the intrepid way-Emily's sense of dread increases, and her thoughts of Valancourt overwhelm her.

the landscape in an around Udolpho
painted by Salvator Rosa

the Central Hall of Udolpho

The Central Hall of UDOLPHO, with a cantilevered staircase, where Emily ascended amidst Morlaiter frescoes and Renaissance tapestries to her chamber. "Daylight dispelled from Emily's mind the glooms of Superstition, but not those of Apprehension"

Much of Countess Morino's stay at UDOLPHO is confined to her chambers. Emily and her aunt resolve their tumultuous relationship as the Countess's health rapidly declines under the oppressive atmosphere of UDOLPHO. Her refusal to sign her name to documents releasing her property and possessions to her devious husband-further constraining their relationship as it strengthens her relationship with Emily.

the UDOLPHO vaulted dining room

Like Austen's heroine Catherine Morland, in Northanger Abbey, Mrs. Radcliffe's Emily's fertile imagination conjures fearful imaginings and horrors, giving Emily pause to doubt her own sanity. Her wanderings about the castle only multiply her sense of dread. With her Aunt's health deteriorating and Count's continued pressure for Emily to submit to his control- the young Emily sinks deeper into melancholy.

 the imaginings of  our Emily


Vanitas with Death and a Maiden, Engraving made by Andries Jacobsz

what lies behind the black draped painting? 
who is the mysterious lady that once claimed ownership of the castle?
what did Count Morano have to do with her disappearance?


& what of Emily's fate?

The Death as a nobleman leading away a woman, Engraving made by Allaert Claesz.

at the moment ,in which they let down the body into the earth,
the scene was such as only the dark pencil of a Domenichino,
perhaps,could have done justice to.
The fierce features and wild dress of the condottieri,
bending with their torches over the grave, into which the corpse was 
descending, were contrasted by the venerable figure of the monk,
wrapt in long black garments, his cowl thrown back from his pale face,
on which the light gleaming strongly shewed the lines of affliction 
softened by piety,and the few grey locks, 
which time had spared on his temples: while,
beside him, stood...a softer form who leaned on support upon Annette; 
her face half averted, and shaded by a thin veil, that fell over her figure;
and her mild and beautiful countenance fixed in grief so solemn
as admitted not of tears, while she thus saw committed untimely
to earth her last relative and friend.

 Engraving by  Matham, After Karel van Mander I

& so~

If the weak hand, that has recorded this tale, 
has, by its scenes, beguiled the mourner of one hour of sorrow, or, 
by its moral, taught him to sustain it - 
the effort, however humble, has not been vain, 
nor is the writer unrewarded.

engravings from bibliodyssey
start the Mysteries of Udolpho here
all interior images are of La Pietra-Harold Acton's 15th century Florentine Villa photographed by Massino Listri


  1. I'm starting to think I just need to print all of your posts out so that I can keep them on hand for reading (again and again) because, basically (in a Gosford Park-sort-of-way) reading once is not enough, there are too many fine details, and to go back and back is the only answer. What did they used to call that? Oh, yes. A book. Please.

  2. I am always in awe every time I look at your blog. I don't how you do it. The format, the text, it's always thought out to perfection. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Absolutely riveting! Of of my favorites to date - Thanks!!! I will reread this a few times for the pleasure of it!

  4. Oh you leave me wanting to read more!

  5. Yes we all seem to be thinking along the same lines. What about the full length book illustrated in this way - like a kaleidoscope of associations to relate to?

  6. Le style, what fun that would be!

    Victoria, too kind, it would be a project, I have thought of something of this nature with photography-Where to begin?

    Kevin- many thanks, I loved your post about your niece's wedding!

  7. cynthia, emily- I appreciate that. I was less than enchanted with this post than with the first. Most of the time these posts come very easy, this Part II of Udolpho- I found less than, so again Many thanks. Gaye

  8. What a nice gift to us readers to let us know about this Mrs. Radcliffe and Udolpho. I love those 18th century pot-boilers and the images are so evocative.
    Thank you, thank you!

  9. Again I am late with adding my praise, but such evocative images and juxtapositions. And you are so good at building up a story and an atmosphere with images and quotes. You should try your hand at exhibition design - but perhaps you already have!

  10. Now my FAVORITE post! You are brilliant!The art work is incredible, every single image...

  11. townhouse, thank you, I recommend it, highly!

    Emile-many thanks to you, I would love to try my hand at that! Do call if something presents itself. pgt

    Liz, thank you too. It is so much more pleasing to envision the story with great works or art-rather than hollywood starlets! pgt



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