The Mysteries of Udolpho
Set in the sixteenth century, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe opens in the idyllic setting of Emily St. Aubert’s home in La Vallee. The happiness of her life here is quickly dissipated, however, when her mother dies. She moves to the Pyrenees with her father, and there meets and falls in love with Valancourt. Her father soon falls ill and upon his deathbed commands Emily to burn a number of letters and documents, strictly forbidding her to read any of them. After he dies, Emily dutifully burns the letters, but she accidentally chances to read a passage from one of them. Although the content of the letter is never revealed to the reader, the passage she reads, which apparently refers to a woman whom her father had once loved, deeply disturbs Emily.
With her parents gone, Emily goes to live with her aunt, Madame Cheron, a vain, selfish, and unpleasant woman. More unpleasant and menacing still is her suitor, the villainous Montoni, who has squandered his own money and is in league with a group of bandits. Cheron marries Montoni, though it is clear he is only interested in her estates. Valancourt has followed Emily to her aunt’s home in Toulouse, and, at first, is given permission by Montoni to marry Emily. However, Montoni changes his mind and sends Valancourt away. Montoni takes Emily and his wife to Udolpho, a castle in the Italian Apennines. Here, he tries to force one of his associates, Count Morano, upon Emily, who resists his proposals. Montoni then tries to force Emily’s aunt to give him all her property. When she refuses, he locks her away in a secluded room where he neglects and eventually starves her to death. Meanwhile, Montoni also pursues Emily for her money and land. During her stay at Udolpho, many bizarre and seemingly supernatural occurrences frighten Emily.
Emily manages to escape from Udolpho. She is shipwrecked on the French coast, where she is rescued by the Count de Villefort, who takes her to live with his family in the chateau he has inherited from the Villerois. The chateau is near the convent where her father’s grave is located, and Emily spends some time there. Back at the chateau, Emily experiences frightening sights. When one of the servants, Ludovico, bravely spends the night there to prove that there are no ghosts, he disappears the next day. Emily finds out that she bears a striking resemblance to the Marchioness de Villeroi.
Vallancourt appears once again, but Emily rejects him this time because she has heard that he engaged in gambling and other bad behavior while he was in Paris. She returns to La Vallee to learn that the lands Montoni has stolen from her have been returned to her possession and that Montoni is now in jail. Ludovico is also rediscovered. He had been taken by bandits, who had been using part of the chateau to hide their ill-gotten booty. It is discovered that it was the bandits who had been haunting the chateau to scare away anyone who might discover them and their secret. Emily further learns that the rumors about her love, Vallancourt, were untrue, and the couple marry and live happily at La Vallee.