This week we are covering the second volume of the book. Here is what I think of the second volume.
We left Emily, parting with her lover Valancourt at the end of the first volume. In the second volume, Emily and her aunt and her aunt’s new husband Signor Montoni leave France for Italy. The journey through the Alps is quite beautiful. They reach Turin and then Venice. They move into Montoni’s beautiful apartment which opens out to the waterfront. Emily spends every evening with her aunt and other friends going out in gondolas, listening to beautiful music by accompanying musicians and being courted by a gentleman called Count Morano. But Emily hasn’t forgotten Valancourt and so she rejects Count Morano. Unfortunately, the count is persistent. Montoni and Morano come to an agreement and Emily is told that she has to marry the Count and if she refuses she has to face the consequences. A date for her marriage is fixed. While Emily dreads the arrival of that hour, suddenly Montoni asks everyone at home to pack up and leave. They go on a long journey through mountains and reach the castle of Udolpho. Emily feels that she has escaped from being married to the Count, but then she has to face the terrors of the castle. The castle has many rooms which are locked and there are stories of a ghost of the previous owner of the castle passing through different rooms and there is also a rumour of a veiled portrait in one of the rooms. Emily once stumbles upon the veiled portrait, but her aunt’s maid, Annette, who is with her, refuses to help her unveil it. When Emily has a chance during the day, when it is bright, to go to that room again, she lifts the veil, but what sees beneath it terrorizes her and she faints. She realizes that it is no portrait but something which is extremely terrifying. What this terrifying this is, we the readers don’t know. Morano comes to the castle and continues pursuing Emily, but Montoni has a fight with him and sends him away. Relations between Montoni and Emily’s aunt break down, as it emerges that Montoni wants his wife to give away all her estates to him. Montoni imprisons his wife in a remote part of the castle. There are strange people in the castle who look like bandits and who listen to Montoni’s orders. Emily spends every day in dread and fear. The second volume ends here.
I loved the descriptions of Emily and her family’s journey through the Alps. I also loved the description of their time in Venice. I remember reading the description of Venice in Thomas Mann’s ‘Death in Venice’ and not being too captivated by it. But when I read Ann Radcliffe’s description, it seemed like a dream world, where everyone went out in gondolas in the night, with beautiful lights all around and melodious music being played by talented musicians. It looked like it was party-time everyday evening J
The second part of the second volume changes drastically in character. The atmosphere gets drastically transformed from gay, fun-filled Venice to the dark, terrifying castle of Udolpho. I liked very much the poems which continue to come in the second volume of the book. My favourite poem in the second part of the book is ‘The Sea-Nymph’ (you need to scroll to the end of the page at this link to read the poem). However, the poems which continue to flow in fun-filled Venice, suddenly stop when we reach Udolpho.
I liked the way Signor Montoni is described in the second volume. He seems to be a man whose thinking is clear and logical. He doesn’t flip-flop as some of the villains do. I liked this description of him in the early part of the second volume.
He had, of course, many and bitter enemies; but the rancour of their hatred proved the degree of his power; and, as power was his chief aim, he gloried more in such hatred, than it was possible he could in being esteemed. A feeling so tempered as that of esteem, he despised, and would have despised himself also had he thought himself capable of being flattered by it.
It made me think of people who take criticism more seriously than praise. They like praise, but they value criticism more, even though they might not like it. Montoni seemed to be such a man.
I continued to keep an eye for interesting spellings while reading the second volume. Here are some I discovered – ‘antient’ (for ‘ancient’), ‘intestine war’ (for ‘internecine war’), ‘lagune’ (for ‘lagoon’) and ‘shew’ (for ‘show’).
I loved the wordplay in the second volume, as in the first, especially when Radcliffe describes contrasting ideas in the same sentence. For example, this sentence increases the sense of horror by beautiful wordplay :
She now retired to her bed, leaving the lamp burning on the table; but its gloomy light, instead of dispelling her fear, assisted it;
And this also does the same :
Daylight dispelled from Emily’s mind the glooms of superstition; but not those of apprehension.
And this sentence snippet plays with contrasting ideas too :
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.
And this longer snippet plays with opposites too :
Thus it is always, when we attempt to describe the finer movements of the heart, for they are too fine to be discerned, they can only be experienced, and are therefore passed over by the indifferent observer, while the interested one feels, that all description is imperfect and unnecessary, except as it may prove the sincerity of the writer, and sooth his own sufferings.
There were three mysteries which were still unresolved at the end of the second volume – the content of the mysterious packet of papers which Emily burnt, the identity of the woman whose portrait Emily has and the portrait (or whatever it was) that was there behind the veil. There was also the identity of the person who writes poems addressed to Emily in the first volume. I can’t wait to find out the secrets behind all these mysteries.
The questions I have for Delia from volume 2 are :
(1) Did you find the transition of the story from the gay atmosphere of Venice to the dark, somber atmosphere of Udolpho very sudden or was it convincing?
(2) Does the sense of horror and terror in the second volume come more because of the atmosphere rather than because of the events in the story?
(3) What do you think about the descriptions of Venice in this story, when compared to other descriptions of this city?
(4) Is the absence of poems in the second part of the volume by accident or by design? Do you think poems heighten the atmosphere of horror in a story?
I can’t wait to read the third volume of the book and find out whether some of the mysteries are revealed in it.
You can find Delia’s thoughts on the second volume of ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ here.