Would you please come and collect your rain.
The weather continues to be foul and vile, and I’m sure until I came back from Trust Mart after lunch, it did not let up all morning. In the past six days there might’ve been an odd moment or two when it’s not been raining or mostly not been raining, but there’s no sign that the sun is about to make another appearance any time soon.
The Mysteries of Udolpho, Vol. IV.
Now that the little darlings are doing their IELTS and TOEFL exam prep, I have had plenty of time for reading while I’ve been babysitting them. And thus it was this morning that I finished the final part of The Mysteries of Udolpho in which all the mysteries were brought to a neat, tidy and rational conclusion.
The scene shifts from Udolpho to Chateau-le-Blanc, which is furnished with its own things that go bump in the night. Stories about the Marchioness de Villeroi’s death contribute to that along with the mysterious music which only eventually the Count de Villefort himself becomes aware of.
On the interpersonal relationships front, it seems that Valancourt is a thorough-going villain, but in spite of the Count advocating M. Du Pont to Emily, she can’t really let go of Valancourt. Blanche, the Count’s daughter, is quickly engaged to M. St Foix, the son of a good friend of her father’s. Annette goes a bit spare when Ludovico vanishes.
As the fourth volume progresses, Emily’s fortunes improve as she regains what she had lost, and she finds that even her indifferent uncle, M. Quesnel treats her a little better.
Eventually, the truth is revealed. Valancourt was foolish, but never fell from grace. (We get hints of what a total Boy Scout he actually is.) The Marchioness was Emily’s aunt. The deranged Sister Agnes was Signora Laurentini, whose death left Emily even better off than before, and who was responsible for the death of the Marchioness and the mysterious music. The mystery of Ludovico’s disappearance and then his unexpected reappearance among some banditti is also solved without having to resort to supernatural explanations.
I’m not against Radcliffe’s preference for supplying rational explanations for the supposed unnatural doings in the book although she does, perhaps, undermine herself. For example, any self-respecting pirates would’ve killed Ludovico.
I did not especially like Emily with her excessive wilting, withering and blubbing. Her obsession with decorum and propriety also crippled her and it was only because the whole novel could not have had her becoming catatonic with clinical depression or terror that she was ever able to do anything. Her dithering over Valancourt does irritate because we know that even although he seems to have fallen from grace, he and Emily are destined to be together in spite of M. Du Pont, who is also a Nice Man.™
Valancourt spends most of the novel off stage, and he’s no knight in shining armour. I suppose if he was more active, Emily would be even more of a cardboard cut-out than she is. In a fight with Mr Darcy, I suspect Valancourt would cry like a little girl on the first slap; and that’s really how I view Valancourt: he’s a girl in trousers.
Montoni is a monster, but he’s never really that monstrous. He is apparently poisoned after his capture and that’s the end of him. But apart from telling Emily that he’s not to be trifled with, he’s never actually a hardcore villain, and most of the time he, too, is off stage, though not quite so far off as Valancourt.
Overall I’m inclined to describe The Mysteries of Udolpho as female Gothic, reflecting the fears of women in the late 18th century, viz. finding a Nice Man™, money and property (i.e., financial independence once the Nice Man™ has shuffled off this mortal coil), hypocrisy (we like you now that you have money), propriety (doing and saying the right thing), power (“I’m not to be trifled with,” said Montoni again. “Perhaps I could blancmange you instead,” suggested Emily), and uncaring relatives (Madame Montoni and M. Quesnel).
I have The Poem of the Cid to read next, but I’m wondering whether another turn with The Monk might be in order to cleanse my palate.