Tag Archives: The Mysteries of Udolpho

Hello, is that East Anglia?

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.

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The Mysteries of the Service Centre

“Where’s it gone?”

It was a warm, hazy day when the sky is grey and the air is brown with levels of pollution so far in excess of WHO safety limits that there is not even a number to measure nor a word to express its lung-eating badness. The tyres of my bike were beginning to get a little squishy and where I am normally the Porsche Cayman S of cyclists, I was becoming the engineless Trabant. I went up 人民西路 past the computer centres and the electric bikes which mass outside them. I stopped off at KFC for lunch, which was more lightly populated than I’ve seen it in some time.

But my destination was the Giant Bike Shop on the other side of 五爱路 where I can use the coiled-up orange air hose to inflate my tyres. I did the same journey yesterday under a similar sort of sky, and today met with the same result: the hose was not attached to the fitting. I mused for a moment, knowing that my front brakes needed replacing as well, and headed over to the service centre on 学前街.

When I got there, it was clear that something was wrong. The shutter was down and the shop was empty. The sign in the window said nothing useful; there were no directions to the new location of the Giant service centre. I rode away down the mean grey streets of Wuxi as the grit in the air continued to wear down the remains of my front brakes.

I went back to the Giant shop on 五爱路 after school. The air hose was no attached to the fitting and having pumped my tyres up, I went inside to have the brakes replaced. I also asked where the service centre had gone. The answer is that it’s still on 学前街, but further up the road on the other side from where it used to be.

Mystery solved!

The Mysteries of Udolpho, Volume III.

Count Morano just won’t give up on Emily, and when it seems that Barnardine is going to take her to see her aunt, he’s actually taking her to be abducted. The attempt is thwarted by Montoni, who reveals that Madame Montoni is alive and in the east turret. She’s not well, though, and Emily just manages to persuade Montoni to let her out so that she can die during a thunderstorm.

Montoni tries to get Emily to part with the estates which she has inherited from her aunt, but she refuses.

When the castle comes under threat, Emily is sent to Tuscany for two weeks where she stays in rural seclusion before being escorted back to Udolpho Castle.

There, she thinks that Valancourt might be being held prisoner, and she gets chased by Signor Verezzi. She agrees to sign away her estates to Montoni, but he refuses to release her. Emily also manages to arrange a meeting with the prisoner, who is not Valancourt but M. Du Pont, who comes from Gascony, knows Emily (though it’s not explained how she’s ignorant of him), and loves her.

They’re rumbled by Verezzi and after a short fight, they flee from the castle with the help of Annette’s boyfriend, Ludovico.

In France, Count de Villefort goes to the estates of the Marquis de Villeroi, which he has inherited, taking his snooty wife, his son, Henri, and his daughter, Blanche, whom he collects from a convent. Just as the countess is Madame Montoni Mk. II, Blanche is a second Emily. Anyway, by chance, the gang are forced ashore by a storm.

Things seem to be looking up for Emily especially when Valancourt pops up at a dance; but he’s not the same simpleton he was when they first met. All is not well.

Finally, the story moves on from Udolpho Castle, but true to form, Radcliffe is going to keep Emily and Valancourt apart for another volume and has thrown the rather decent M. Du Pont into the mix. The supernatural machinery in the castle turns out to have been Du Pont and the obligatory secret passages which all good Gothic castles are required to have.

Emily continues to be so painful that I’m surprised she doesn’t spend the entire volume vomiting in irrational terror. I kept wishing that she’d show some resolve and stop wilting and fainting at the slightest thing. Her belief that one of the prisoners must be Valancourt is inane.

I fear that Volume IV might stretch my patience as the progression of the story seems to be intended to keep Emily and Valancourt apart just that little bit annoyingly longer. My current prediction is that Valancourt is pretending to be a rogue and a scoundrel to protect his brother’s (?) good name. With Emily’s departure from Udolpho, it would seem that that archetypal Gothic setting has gone, but as fortune has it, she’s ended up in a chateau with a Dark Past™.

Are Du Pont and Blanche going to end up together? What, really, is the point of Blanche? Is the countess merely a replacement for Madame Montoni? And is, in that case, Count de Villefort a substitute for Emily’s father?

A blast from the past

Rear of the Year.

A long time ago, when Green Bamboo was in its infancy, I happened to mention Siân Lloyd after the news that her long-term relationship with Lembit Opik had come to an end when he opted for half a Romanian novelty act which was about half his age. That, as we know, has also come to an end along with Lembit’s parliamentary career. Some time not long after that, I discovered that Siân had won the Rear of the Year Award. I think I posted a picture and, as a consequence, I got quite a lot of hits for that for a time.

Fast forward to the present day. After my first few attempts to access my home page failed without even getting as far as officially failing, I skipped off to The Guardian where I was able to read the stories beyond the front page until I went to the comment section where I could get no further. I decided to go to The Independent, which seems less prone to abuse, and there – what should I find? – but the winner of Rear of the Year 2011, Carol Vorderman.

The last time I remember seeing anything about Carol Vorderman was when she wore some dress (BAFTA award ceremony about ten years ago?) which had the Mail and Mirror hacks all hot and flustered because they thought she wasn’t dressing her age.

Has the summer heat finally arrived or are we experiencing another blip?

In The Mysteries of Udolpho, Madame Montoni has finally had the decency to up and die, leaving Emily her estates in France. (Cue much gnashing of teeth and moustache twirling by Montoni.) She now thinks that the mysterious figure which haunts the battlements of the castle might be Valancourt, but I think that’s unlikely with my money still being on Signora Laurentini.

BMW are squeezing out another Mini, I see. This time its a coupé which looks like a three-way cross between a Mini, and Audi TT, and a BMW SUV. According to the story on the Evo website (New Mini Coupe news and pictures), it’s meant to be in competition with the Audi TT. I’m not sure who drives Audi TTs here, but I’m guessing that it’s a WAG car, which, depending on the model, is somewhere in the Hyundai Coupé-BMW Z4 range.

Three for the price of one

Introduction.

Welcome to today’s entry on Green Bamboo in which we have reviews of The Green Hornet and The Mysteries of Udolpho Vol. II. But first up gmail.

Gmail.

As regular readers will be aware, Google’s web-based e-mail service has been having the living shite kicked out of it for weeks now with accessibility ranging from slower than the slow boat to China to Dude, Where’s my Inbox? Although the gmail module on my iGoogle page had sort of got back to normal, the story that the imperial government was behind recent attacks on gmail users seems to have caused it to have one of its infantile temper tantrums and I started getting a message that I needed to log back in. I did, and on each occasion not only was access blocked, but my home page would also vanish along with it only to become accessible again a few minutes later.

Last night, I switched from Firefox to IE to see what might happen. IE has a little gadget which allows users to see what’s in their inbox, and when I clicked on a message, I was ferried to full gmail. The only problem was that when I clicked on the link to download a document I’d been sent (quite important for my job), nothing happened. I tried to forward the message to my Hotmail address, but it refused to accept it perhaps because the attachment was a raw Word doc. In addition to that, gmail kept reloading itself without any prompting from me.

I switched back to Firefox, logged out of iGoogle and then logged back on, fearing that I might’ve made a huge mistake and would find that I was unable to access my home page. But the page came back, though the gmail module was still telling me to sign in. Since I’d been able to get onto gmail via IE, I thought I’d trying going to full gmail in Firefox. There it was, but once again, I was unable to download the attachment I’d been sent; but when I returned to my home page, the gmail module was working properly and, as I suspected, I was finally able to download the revised English curriculum for next year.

My thought about the problems I’ve been having logging in to gmail is that it seems similar to the problem I’ve had logging in to WordPress. The service isn’t blocked, but, it seems, someone is apparently trying to prevent users from using it so that ultimately (perhaps) imperial citizens (because no one here really cares about inconveniencing 600,000 foreigners) will switch to state-authorised e-mail and blog services. That’s my theory, although I admit that it’s not especially good. It might be asked why the Empire doesn’t block WordPress altogether as it has done in the past if it’s responsible for problems logging on and why it would make it difficult to blog on a service which, I suspect, very few of the locals use anyway. My only other theory is that noscript is being a little too zealous.

The Green Hornet.

Britt Reid is the wastrel son of a media magnate who finds himself in charge of his father’s business after he dies. Reid learns that Kato, the man who makes his coffee, is a genius, and they decide to become crime fighters with a difference – everyone’s going to think they’re villains.

They fight, they kiss; they fight, they kiss. Usual sort of buddy movie. There’s Cameron Diaz as the Babe, although she looks like she should be playing Reid’s alcohol-addled mother. real The villain decides that he, too, is a little behind the times and reinvents himself. There’s another big fight in which Reid develops awesome powers of awesomeness, and the villain gets two sharp stakes thrust into his eyes.

The Green Hornet does not, fortunately, try to be all dark and brooding like Batman although I’m sure the original Green Hornet (first broadcast on the radio in 1936) was not noted for it comedic edge. It doesn’t go overboard with the comedy either as the script often plays up certain absurd situations but just manages to avoid wasting too much time on such moments. On the other hand, Seth Rogen can only play the Green Hornet as a bit of a plonker who’s out of his depth.

It was all right, but the sort of film which needs to be watched on the big screen rather than on a portable DVD player.

The Mysteries of Udolpho, Volume II.

At the start of Volume II, Emily is off to Venice, where she is threatened with marriage to Count Morano until one morning the entire household heads off to the castle of Udolpho. She’s expecting to be married off to Morano at any moment, but instead he turns up, most aggrieved because Montoni tried to do him out of his bride. The boys fight and Morano gets the worst of it. It becomes clear that Montoni put her up for sale and once the contract with Morano was broken, he was then hoping to find a wealthier suitor.

How Montoni acquired Udolpho Castle involves the mysterious disappearance of Signora Laurentini. Emily discovers that the apartments adjacent to her room, which are usually locked up, are occupied and that Montoni visits the occupant.

Montoni is also trying to get his wife to hand over her estates to him, but she is stupidly obstinate and after being accused of trying to poison her husband, she’s taken away. Emily assumes that her aunt has been murdered, but later learns the truth.

Meanwhile, Valancourt,who managed to get a letter to Emily as she left for Venice and who has had to join his regiment, has been sucked into the world of the Parisian salon and although he doesn’t forget Emily, he thinks about her with less frequency.

Emily is still wetter than a bucket of water and barely able to function. Her servant, Annette, is amusingly garrulous, a trifle dim, but more knowledgeable than her mistress. Madame Montoni remains stupidly, well, stupid, defying her husband more out of principle than out of some bold attempt to to assert her rights. Montoni is still a moustache-twirling villain who rather overdoes his declarations that he will not be trifled with. (Although there are only nine instances of “trifled” in Udolpho, its frequent use by Montoni is noticeably repetitive and, in fact, he uses the word almost exclusively.) His men are all wild and fierce-looking, but no more than mass-produced cardboard cut-outs. Valancourt gets a single chapter, but is in danger of being dried out without his exceedingly moist girlfriend to keep him wet.

Set in Udolpho Castle, Volume II is much more Gothic than Volume I. There are Emily’s nocturnal ventures which lead her to rooms with curtained pictures and blood stains, or to doors behind which Montoni is often found to be lurking with some mysterious person. (All right, I think we’ve all guessed that it’s probably Signora Laurentini; probably.) Her daylight forays are scarcely less fraught after the bandits start fighting among themselves, and her encounters with Montoni ought to have her soiling herself, given her excessive fear of just about everything.

My impression, now that I’m halfway through the entire story, is that things have got a little repetitive (e.g. Montoni’s repeated declarations about not being trifled with) and a little stuck (e.g. Emily doesn’t seem to show much development; Madame Montoni seems to learn nothing; Montoni twirls his moustache again). I’m hoping that things will move on again in Volume III.

Holiday time

Well, not really.

With the Dragon Boat Festival this weekend and the College Entrance exam immediately afterwards, I’m on a holiday of a sort for the next week. I have one final invigilation next week, but that’s only an hour and it’s in the afternoon right when I’m inclined to have a snooze.

Given how much Emily blubs in The Mysteries of Udolpho, I was curious to find out how many times the word “tears” is found in the text. The answer is 199x, which means someone (most Emily) is crying once every three pages on average in my Penguin edition. “Tear” occurs 28x, and various forms of “weep” occur 119x.

In another of Radcliffe’s novels, The Italian, we have “tears” once in just under every five A4 pages, and far fewer instances of weeping. The figures for A Sicilian Romance are in between, with tears every 3.6 pages and comparatively little weeping.

However, in spite of the excess of blubbing in The Mysteries of Udolpho, Emily did at least show some spirit when she found herself at dinner with Montoni on one side of her and Count Morano, her persistently unwelcome suitor, on the other. I’m currently reading Chapter 6 in which Emily peeks behind the black veil and sees something unpleasant enough to make her faint. My guess is a severed head or a dead baby. Well, it’s a Gothic novel. I’m not expecting frolicking puppies and kittens.

The Mysteries of Udolpho, Volume 1

By Ann Radcliffe.

Emily St Aubert lives in an idyllic rural setting with her mother and father. After her mother dies, she goes travelling with her father and they meet a young man called Valancourt, who takes an obvious interest in Emily. Unfortunately for Emily, her father is not in the best of health, and he, too, succumbs to the Grim Reaper, but not before telling Emily to destroy some secret documents without looking at them.

After Emily gets back to La Vallée, she does what her father asked, but does see the contents of a page which falls open. That information is not shared with the reader, but the smart money says that St Aubert had a liaison with the woman who became the Marchioness de Villeroi.

Emily is now under the guardianship of her father’s sister, the dim and prim Madame Cheron, who takes a dislike to Valancourt until she discovers that he’s the nephew of the rather wealthy Madame Clairval. They even arrange a match between them, only informing them afterwards, but the whole thing falls through after Madame Cheron suddenly marries Signor Montoni and the wedding between Emily and Valancourt is not only called off but all communication between them is forbidden.

Valancourt, not to be deterred, does manage to speak to Emily on a couple of occasions, but she rejects his proposal of a clandestine marriage even although it would allow her to escape from the clutches of her aunt and her new husband who, it seems, is almost certainly the villain he appears to be. The first volume ends with Emily on the verge of departure for Italy.

It is ironic that although Radcliffe’s heroes are natural and unaffected, and the villains are worldly and false, her style of writing is itself neoclassical even if the content is Romantic. Her descriptions of nature are not so much purple as ultraviolet, and although they are skilfully done, they are overdone, cloying, and hampering.

If women such as Emily were found in the late 18th century, then they must have been crying out for psychiatrists to deal with their neuroses. Emily can barely opening her mouth without the risk of a nervous breakdown lest one syllable is out of place, and I can’t imagine that she’s aware of anything between her waist and her ankles. Valancourt is not much better in many respects and their crippling obsession with propriety has you wanting to bang their heads together. In fact, I predict that I may end up cheering on the villains.

By the end of the first volume, the villains are only shadows. Montoni is proud and haughty, but the reader learns enough to confirm that he’s undoubtedly dastardly. His friend Cavigni is inferior to him, but a villain for being worldly. Madame St Aubert’s brother, Quesnel, who may feature more in later volumes is also worldly, and self-important, too, but cannot recognise his own insignificance. Monsieur St Aubert’s sister, Madame Cheron, is dim-witted social butterfly with a talent for making a fool of herself.

I wouldn’t describe the first volume as being especially Gothic. There are one or two mysterious incidents, but there’s been nothing like The Castle of Otranto – so far.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

And possibly again and again.

Last night the Internet got switched off for a time, perhaps to update Paranoia++ software (no truth ever knowingly admitted into the Empire) and, I was hoping, it would see the cessation of deliberate interference with gmail and the Internet in general. Net access did reappear and things seemed to be a little better.

I was commenting on The Guardian’s 190th birthday this morning (mock-up of 1821-style page) when I discovered that although the green light is on on my laptop, which indicates there’s a live connection, there was no Internet access and I’d lost the first draft of this entry.

Apart from the Guardian’s birthday, the other news this morning is that like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning is supposedly not quite playing with a full pack of cards. The Russians are also saying that Gaddafi has to go. Did Medvedev clear that with Czar Vladimir or has he started thinking independently?

I’ve started reading The Mysteries of Udolpho which is supposedly set in 1584, but, as the introduction says, is viewed through the lens of late 18th century sensibilities. M. St Aubert goes round picking flowers and rambling around the countryside where a real-life 16th century French squire would’ve been cutting open live dogs to see what was inside and sticking his finger in their hearts as they died in agony. While Emily might have been taught Latin, she wouldn’t have learnt a word of English or even have cared to learn it.

Radcliffe’s descriptive powers are lush, overwhelming, heady, and rather purple. It’s an ironic style in that for an Age of Nature (you know, those bloody daffodils), it’s artificial and still very Neoclassical. The language may describe nature, but it is divorced from it.