Thursday, June 21, 2018

Jane Austen and the Mysteries of Udolpho

From Regency History:
Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey, is painted as a very ordinary girl, with a very ordinary life, who has read rather a large number of novels. She becomes totally engrossed in The Mysteries of Udolpho and eagerly discusses it with her friend, Isabella Thorpe:
“But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning? Have you gone on with Udolpho?”
“Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”
“Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are you not wild to know?”
“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? – But do not tell me – I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it, I assure you; if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.” (1)
There are times when the book grips Catherine’s imagination so much that it seems more exciting than reality:
“I do not pretend to say that I was not very much pleased with him; but while I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable. Oh! the dreadful black veil! My dear Isabella, I am sure there must be Laurentina’s skeleton behind it.” (1)
If you want to find out what was behind the black veil, scan to the end of my plot summary of The Mysteries of Udolpho. (Read more.)

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