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The Mysteries of Udolpho

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  14,396 ratings  ·  1,260 reviews
With The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe raised the Gothic romance to a new level and inspired a long line of imitators. Portraying her heroine's inner life, creating a thick atmosphere of fear, and providing a gripping plot that continues to thrill readers today, The Mysteries of Udolpho is the story of orphan Emily St. Aubert, who finds herself separated from the man ...more
Paperback, 654 pages
Published April 26th 2001 by Penguin Classics (first published 1794)
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Hanne Northanger Abbey was in part created as a parody of Mysteries of Udolpho....
Julie Gastler Not at all. Some of the things hinted at in Northanger Abbey actually kept me interested in Udolpho because I really wanted to know what they were tal…moreNot at all. Some of the things hinted at in Northanger Abbey actually kept me interested in Udolpho because I really wanted to know what they were talking about in Northanger Abbey. I'd recommend reading Northanger Abbey first, actually.(less)

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Average rating 3.40  · 
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Bill Kerwin

This mammoth, prolix book--the first wildly popular gothic novel--is indifferently written, poorly planned, and inconsistent in purpose and tone. Radcliffe's style is irritating, filled with continual redundancies, superfluous commas and dialogue that is often stilted and improbable. The plot doesn't even get in gear until a third of the way through(two hundred pages!), and it loses its focus and dissipates its power in the last one hundred and fifty pages or so when Radcliffe introduces some pa
Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic
“A well-informed mind is the best security against the contagion of folly and vice. The vacant mind is ever on the watch for relief, and ready to plunge into error, to escape from the languor of idleness. Store it with ideas, teach it the pleasure of thinking; and the temptations of the world without, will be counteracted by the gratifications derived from the world within.”

 photo CastleUdolpho_zps3d98bdeb.jpg
Castle Udolpho

Emily St. Aubert has done her best to prepare her mind for the outside world, but when both her parents
Justin Tate
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rarely read the same author back-to-back, but after devouring A Sicilian Romance and The Romance of the Forest I haven't wanted a break from Ann Radcliffe. Her writing is breezy and enthralling—uncommon for 18th century literature. Perfect for the 2020 bookshelf, when there's no better distraction from a gloomy world than pastoral romance and haunted dwellings.

The Mysteries of Udolpho is considered Radcliffe's most enduring literary achievement. At nearly 700 pages it's certainly her longest.
Henry Avila
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Emily St. Aubert has it all, loving parents a nice little charming estate she lives on in southern France, Anno Domini 1584. The young gentlewoman adores walking around her father's land looking at the nearby exotic Pyrenees Mountains, watching the calm Garonne River flow by hearing it making soft noises as it goes along. The lady likes playing an instrument, singing songs to her affectionate father and mother while sitting on a hill with a great view an enchanting moment, never forgotten. The C ...more
Carolyn Marie Castagna
If I could describe this book using only two words, they would be verbose and melancholy!
Ann Radcliffe’s writing is breathtaking and enchanting! At first I was swept away by the lyricism of each scene, but after a while the repetition and continuation of these long descriptions started to take me out of the story.
The first few “melancholy’s” set the tone, but after reading this word countless times, it lost its affect.
The story itself and it’s characters are intriguing and hilariously dramati
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
"'You speak like a heroine,' said Montoni, contemptuously; 'we shall see if you can suffer like one.'"

And if all the sentences in this book were half as good as that one, we'd be looking at a five-star book here, but sadly the rest of it is just hella boring. You might be reading a lame book if you have this thought: "Oh great, it's one of the heroine's long, shitty poems; that's three fewer pages I'll have to actually read." And if you think Montoni's threat means that the torture device you br
Sara (taking a break)
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
3.5 rounded up.

Ye Gads! I started this book back in July, had to table it, and started over the first week in December. Still took me a month to finish. I have to say, what Ms. Radcliffe could have used the most in her writing career was the services of a good editor. I can appreciate long descriptive passages, but how many in depth descriptions of someone collapsing into tears does one need. By halfway through the book, she could have just said "Emily wept" and I would have known she was colla
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gothic
I'm reading this book again to get back in touch with some of the early English gothic novels. I'm struck, in these early pages, by the extreme romanticization and lush description of nature. The natural world has a sort of earthy goodness that draws Emily and her father in. By contrast, the characters who are more urbane are invariably depicted as manipulative and ruthless. ...more
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Take a shot every time Emily cries and you’ll be dead by page 15. fantastically ridiculous.
A hefty slice of eighteenth century gothic famously satirised by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. It is set in the late sixteenth century and follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of Emily St Aubert. It is set in southern France and northern Italy and there are lots of descriptions of majestic landscapes, all of which came from travel books as Radcliffe never went to the areas she described. Here’s a description of a castle, which looks, well, very castley:
“Emily gazed with melancholy awe upon
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

Every author and aspiring author should read this book. Not because it is a great book (it really wasn't) but because they will look at their proofreaders, copy editors and beta readers with a whole new appreciation!

Another reader I know decided to read the audio version - & fell asleep. When she awoke (a few hours later) Emily & her father were still endlessly travelling through Europe. A ruthless, modern day editor would have halved this book in size - & would have produced a far better b
Debbie Zapata
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gutenberg
I chose to read this book the same way many other people did. I was reading the Jane Austen novel Northanger Abbey as part of a group read, and the topic of 'The Horrid Novels' came up. The Mysteries Of Udolpho was the only one I had access to, so it was the one I read.

This is a long book, old-fashioned in style (naturally, being published in 1794) but I enjoyed it very much, even though I had my doubts going in because I lost my taste for the Gothic genre years ago. I expected to give up on it,
Alain Gomez
Mar 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
"I believe that memory is responsible for nearly all these three-volume novels"
-Oscar Wilde

One thing I will say for this book is that it made Oscar Wilde's plays even more entertaining for me. I now know what he was talking about when he trashes books of "unusually revolting sentimentality." And what he says is very true. I am absolutely certain that Ann Radcliffe wrote this book as a sort of extended journal for her travels. At least half of it is devoted to scenery descriptions. Now this is
A.E. Chandler
Published in 1794, the pacing of this novel is different from what 21st century readers will expect. Once I got into the book, it was definitely enjoyable. Written over two hundred years ago, and only seventy-five years after the first novel was published (and went largely unnoticed by the literary in-crowd), The Mysteries of Udolpho is structured for a late 18th century audience, and needs to be approached that way – this isn’t the way 21st century authors write, which is part of what makes it ...more
Jane Greensmith
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
These days, most people who know about Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho know about it because Catherine Morland read it and Jane Austen parodied it in Northanger Abbey. However, back when it hit the streets for the first time in May of 1794, it was a blockbuster…I like to think of it as the Twilight of its day.

I finally go around to reading it this month, after threatening to for years, and here are my thoughts on it.

If you are only going to read one Gothic novel, to see what all the fus
As British literary scholar Bonamy Dobree notes at the outset of his introduction to the 1966 Oxford Univ. Press edition of this late 18th-century classic, Radcliffe's best-known novel held its place in the canon of British literature for half a century. It was subsequently eclipsed by more accomplished works, and by changing stylistic tastes; but its historical prominence and influence testify to some literary strengths which merit attention for it even today in its own right, as well as for it ...more
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars for this classic gothic novel.
This was an engaging read and is considered to be one of the first gothic novels. I loved the language, I loved the characters (except for the evil M. Montoni and Madame Charone) , but I did dislike the extensive descriptions of scenery that seemed to go on forever. I'm glad that I read it, but I doubt I will ever tackle it again for a re-read.
Aug 07, 2007 rated it it was ok
dry your eyes! if you get bored while you're reading this (and trust me, you will!) count how many times people cry or have their eyes glisten with tears while looking at a beautiful scene or are moved to tears by pity....argggghhh. really. ...more
Wanda Pedersen
3.5 stars

I read this book to fill the Gothic square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.

This is the mother of all Gothic romance, originally published in 1794. Twenty-first century readers may find themselves challenged by the style. Here are Wanda’s recommended reading instructions for The Mysteries of Udolpho:

1. Practice your patience. Readers in the 18th century weren’t in a rush and didn’t expect lean prose or fast plot development. Don’t read to a deadline if you can help it—trying to rush thro
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can’t beat Ann Radcliffe’s masterpiece for pure escapism. Written in 1794, it was an immediate sensation, and has been popular ever since. It was published between her ‘Romance of the Forest’ (1791) and ‘The Italian’ (1797), her other two great works of Gothic fiction, and its fans included Byron, Scott and Coleridge. For years after its first appearance there were oblique references to it in Keats and Jane Austen, showing that they assumed familiarity with the book.

Containing all the classi
Apr 04, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars rounded up

I'm really glad I read this, even if it is LONG! The Mysteries of Udolpho is a classic of gothic romance and it's a very interesting (often enjoyable) read for anyone who is a fan of the genre. Emily is a great heroine and she goes through a lot from the tragic loss of her parents, to attempted forced marriage, to being imprisoned by her creepy guardian in a possibly haunted castle, but she stays strong through it all. One thing I found interesting was a conversation she has
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bingo-2016
A classic of the Gothic Genre. Probably the most fainting I've ever read in a book, but I did enjoy it. It takes the long way around to get to the story. The scenery is described well and we follow the stories & background of many characters. ...more
Mar 13, 2010 rated it liked it
I have never seen the word "melancholy" used as much as in this book, nor in such widely varied situations.

Do not go to Udolpho for character development (there's none -- people are wholly good, wholly servant-funny, wholly evil, or wholly conniving) or for rapid plot developments (we spend a lot of time looking at melancholy vistas, worrying about whether banditti may linger in the forests, or seeing peasant children from a distance and finding them picturesque). However, if you created the "Gr
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
First of all, I’d like to thank my family, for without the endless laundry and dishes I had to do each day, this day would never have come. 😂 The hours spent over the kitchen sink and folding laundry while listening to The Mysteries of Udolpho were quite enjoyable. I’m surprised at all the low reviews!
I read Northanger Abbey, along with The Literary Life Podcast, and Jane Austen’s characters mentioned this book. 30 hours did seem like a large investment. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the b
Olivier Delaye
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This Gothic story is overlong, redundant, long-winded, punctuation-happy, info-dumping-friendly, exposition-enthusiastic-to-a-major-fault, hair-pullingly frustrating, teeth-gnashingly slow.... so why do I like it so much?

Author of the SEBASTEN OF ATLANTIS series
The Forgotten Goddess (Sebasten of Atlantis, #1) by Olivier Delaye
Nov 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this more than I did, but in truth I found it too long and laborious in places. Nonetheless it's still a great book, with fantastically descriptive writing, an atmospheric setting and a plot to keep you turning the pages. Mixed feelings, but a solid 3 stars. ...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
An excellent book considered one of the masterpieces of early Gothic literature, it left me with the best impressions and filled many hours with literary beauty. Where to start and where to end? From the sweet melancholy and intense emotion that permeates every page? From the wonderful writing that fills you with beautiful poetic images? From the characters, like the sweet protagonist of the story, that we know them to such a depth that it is like getting to know them up close? From the beautifu ...more
Oct 16, 2009 rated it did not like it
Ugh, I am so glad that's over with. STOP CRYING YOU STUPID WHINY BITCH. Sorry for that outburst, but the 'heroine' of this novel got on my nerves so much. Seriously, her automatic response to absolutely anything is either to faint or, more commonly, to turn away to hide the tears that welled unbidden into her eyes. Literally every third page or so Emily is unable to stop herself from weeping. Yes, her father dies, which is pretty sad, but must you really cry because the mountains are so beautifu ...more
Naia Pard
Apr 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, litere
Supposedly, it is marketed as containing a love triangle, but I can`t say that I saw one in here. Or maybe, it was veiled to the eyes of a casual reader of 21st century.

This reader for sure was paying more attention to the landscape descriptions than the love affairs.
Not that I have an unrequited love for long descriptions of hills covered in grass, but that was what was presented in the book for at least a quarter of its entirety. I did not mind them as much as I would have though to. They w
Kathleen Flynn
This is a crazy book that has greatly enhanced my appreciation of Northanger Abbey.

I had the same feeling I did reading Don Quixote (which I was reminded of many times) -- that the novel was still a very young, sort of crude product, and people were just flailing around trying to figure out how to write one. Of course, people still flail around now -- but we have more examples, more rules to follow, and break.

Radcliffe does a great job of bringing all the plot threads together, solving the myst
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Ann Radcliffe was an English author, a pioneer of the gothic novel.

Radcliffe was born Ann Ward. Her father, William, was a haberdasher, who moved the family to Bath to manage a china shop in 1772. Radcliffe occasionally lived with her uncle, Thomas Bentley, in Chelsea, who was in partnership with a fellow Unitarian, Josiah Wedgwood. Although mixing in some distinguished circles, Radcliffe seems to

Articles featuring this book

In the mood for brooding heroes, windswept moors, and creepy manors with creaky floors? Then there's nothing quite like picking up a Gothic...
112 likes · 12 comments
“A well-informed mind is the best security against the contagion of folly and vice. The vacant mind is ever on the watch for relief, and ready to plunge into error, to escape from the languor of idleness. Store it with ideas, teach it the pleasure of thinking; and the temptations of the world without, will be counteracted by the gratifications derived from the world within.” 83 likes
“I ought not to doubt the steadiness of your affection, yet such is the inconsistency of real love, that it is always awake to suspicion, however unreasonable; always requiring new assurances from the object of its interest, and thus it is, that I always feel revived, as by a new conviction, when your words tell me I am dear to you; and, wanting these, I relapse into doubt, and too often into despondency.” 64 likes
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