Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Horrid Novels of Northanger Abbey

“…but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?” ~Catherine

When I read Northanger Abbey I was already aware that The Mysteries of Udolpho was a real book, so I figured the other 8 mentioned were as well. Apparently for many years people thought the titles in Northanger were made up by Jane Austen. It was fun looking up the summaries of these books (but I haven’t read through all the summaries yet) as well as other books mentioned in Jane Austen novels, so I thought I’d make a post about the “horrid” ones.
First of all, I thought it was funny, saying novels were “horrid”, and supposed that it must have a slightly different meaning than how it is usually used today. I looked it up on and the first meaning was the one I was looking for:
“Such as to cause horror; shockingly dreadful; abominable”
I suppose “abominable” doesn’t quite fit, but I can just hear Catherine saying “It was shockingly dreadful, do not you think so, Miss Tilney?”

(If you click on the titles in bold it will go to a summary of the novel.)

Now the main one is, of course, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (who, by the way, also wrote The Romance of the Forest which Harriet, Mr. Martin, and Emma discuss in Emma). Udolpho is referred to frequently while Catherine is in Bath; she is enthralled and can barely keep a conversation with Isabella going without thinking of what will be behind the black veil. “Mrs. Radcliffe” is discussed as well.

The second mentioned was The Italian by Ann Radcliffe, which Isabella says she will read with Catherine after the latter has finished Udolpho. Then Isabella reads Catherine the list in her pocket-book of “ten or twelve” more of the same sort (seven, in point of fact). For my reader’s information, they were all published in the 1790s. Here they are:
Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons
Clermont by Regina Maria Roche
Mysterious Warnings by Eliza Parsons
Necromancer…of the Black Forest by Ludwig Flammenberg
Midnight Bell by Francis Lathom 
Orphan of the Rhine by Eleanor Smith
Horrid Mysteries by the Marquis de Grosse

The last one has the best title, don’t you think? ;-)

Do you ever have fun researching that sort of thing? Have you read any of the novels mentioned in Jane Austen's books?


Kathryn Ross said...

Oh - I found a copy of Udolpho at a thrift store and picked it up straight away - an old edition! Barely glanced through it, though, I am sorry to say - some time ago. I keep it displayed with my Jane books and all related Jane things. Now you've inspired me to actually leaf through the pages and see what all the horrors were about!

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

I picked up paperback copies of Mrs. Radcliffe's Udolpho and The Italian but unfortunately I've only sifted through the first few pages of each. Northanger Abbey begins very similarly to Udoplpho with a description of the heroine and her situation in life. Only Emily St. Aubert is the exact opposite to Catherine (well educated, wealthy and a fainting lady of high sentiments unlike sturdy Catherine).
I haven't read any of the others but I did once read a shorter "Gothic Mystery" from the same era and while it wasn't exactly "horrid" the story was very fanciful and far from real life like these others. Funny, a lot of the heroes in these books seem either weak and effeminate or overbearing verging on scoundrels! Where as all of Jane Austen's heroes are strong and gentlemanly. :)
I am sure they are all horrid but none is so horrid as 'The Monk' which John Thorpe recommends to Catherine. According to what I've read it was a book that young men passed around at college because of the unsavory scenes that are described in it - I remember reading this on a Jane Austen website once. It is quite "unreadable" as Catherine said.
Researching the literary works mentioned in Jane Austen novels often gives great insight into her characters and their worlds. I really enjoy looking up things like this!
Lovely post! :)

Julia said...

I just found your blog and I love it! :) I admire your dedication to Jane Austen's works... (I wouldn't disrupt it by adding Jane Eyre, but that's just my 2 cents) ;) I would never be able to focus just on all things Jane on my blog... I use it more as a journal and chronicle of my life. Anyways, I was thrilled to find your blog today and just thought I'd leave a little note! :)


Melody said...

Miss Kathy,
That's great! I love old copies of really old books. =) I hope to have a pretty good Jane Austen book collection one day; maybe I'll find Udolpho as well.

Miss Laurie,
That's funny that Emily's life is a contrast to Catherine's! I could tell in Northanger Abbey that Jane Austen was making things happen opposite of the gothic novels. ;-)
Glad you enjoyed the post. =)

I'm very glad to have you following my blog! Thanks for commenting, I love to hear from readers.

felicia said...

I decided to spend this past winter reading all of the novels mentioned in NA. I've read all of them now except for The Italian, which is the one I'm on now. It's nice re-reading NA since having read the novels. Some of them are not as exciting as the summaries suggest, but most of them were so fun to read. I highly recommend doing it!

Melody said...

Wow! Good job! =) Thanks for letting me know. I intend to get into the "horrid" novels some day or other. Which ones were your favorite?
I can tell you, if I ever visited Bath, I would definitely bring Udolpho along. ;-)

felicia said...

The Castle of Wolfenbach was one of the first ones that I had read, and I think my favorite of all of them. The Monk was, however, the most shocking one that I had read. Udolpho was really good too. It's the only one that I own out of all of them, the rest were either free PDF files or inter-library loans.

Miss Dashwood said...

We really need to read one of these Horrid Novels together sometime. Heehee. I think we're making rather a good start with POTO, honestly... Catherine would have loved that if she lived today, don't you think?

Splash Kids said...

Thank you for your blog! I am reading The Romance of the Forest right now and loving it. She has a way of leaving you wanting more. Our public library has her (Ann Radcliffe's) other works. I haven't had any luck finding the other titles or authors that are mentioned in Northanger Abbey. But it will be one of those life long hunts for treasure.

Felicia, maybe you can direct me to where you were able to find the PDF's?

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