The Mysteries of UdolphoAnn Radcliffe
horror > gothic horror
Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Reflection brought only regret, and anticipation terror.
Such is the state of mind of Ann Radcliffe's orphaned heroine Emily St Aubert, who finds herself imprisoned in her evil guardian Count Montoni's gloomy medieval fortress in the remote Appenines. Terror is the order of the day inside the walls of Udolpho, as Emily struggles against Montoni's rapacious schemes and the threat of her own psychological disintegration.
A bestseller in its day and a potent influence on Sade, Poe, and other writers, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) is Radcliffe's classic work of Gothic fiction. With its dream-like plot and hallucinatory rendering of its characters' psychological states, the novel remains a profound and fascinating challenge to modern readers.
Cover illustration: detail from Woman on a Balcony by Carl Gustav Carus.
Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823) was an English author and the pioneer of Gothic fiction. Her technique of explaining apparently supernatural elements in her novels has been credited with gaining Gothic fiction respectability in the 1790s. Radcliffe was the most popular writer of her day and almost universally admired; contemporary critics called her the mighty enchantress and the Shakespeare of romance-writers, and her popularity continued through the 19th century. Interest has revived in the early 21st century, with the publication of paperback reprints and three biographies.