Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mrs. Ann Radcliffe and The Romance of the Forest

If you have read Jane Austen's Emma, you may recall that Emma's protege Miss Smith had requested her love-interest Mr. Martin to read a book called The Romance of the Forest. It peaked my interested to assume that if this was a real book, then Ms. Austen would certainly have read it and, for some reason, included it in her novel. I was able to get the book from a Mobius search through our library system. I am thoroughly enjoying it!! Here are two quotes that I particularly liked:

To discover depravity in those whom we have loved is one of the most exquisite tortures of a virtuous mind, and the conviction is often rejected before it is finally admitted.

An unexpected discovery of vice in those whom we have admired inclines us to extend our censure of the individual to the species; we henceforth contemn appearances and too hastily conclude that no person can be trusted.
Romance of the Forest was written by Mrs. Ann Radcliffe in 1791. On doing further research, I found that Jane Austen also includes specific details from it when writing the fifth chapter of Volume 2 of Northanger Abbey. In addition, another of Mrs. Radcliffe's novels, The Mysteries of Udolpho, plays a prominent role in Northanger Abbey.

Mrs. Radcliffe was known as the pioneer of the gothic novel. She is said to have influenced such writers as:
Jane Austen
William Makepeace Thackeray
Sir Walter Scott
William Wordsworth
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Percy Blysshe Shelley
John Keats
Lord Byron
Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit
Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White
Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (my favorite novel)
Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Oval Portrait (drew from Udolpho and mentions Radcliffe by name
Henry James's short story The Turn of the Screw

The Romance of the Forest is available as an e-text here.
Here is an interesting bio if you'd like to learn more about Ann Radcliffe.

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