Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I couldn't bear to cut this one to more digestible length. She was a bestselling author who influenced Sir Walter Scott, among others, and she's still considered worth studying in English Lit classes...but, well, young women liked her books and—oh, see for yourself, and tell me what you think of this.
MRS. ANN RADCLIFFE.—This lady died at Pimlico, on the 10th, February, in the 54th, year of her age. She stood at the head of our Romance writers, in which species of composition she had no rival until Miss Jane Porter arose. The-popularity of Mrs. Radcliffe was at one period of her life so great, that she received considerable sums of money for the use of her name and writing prefaces; thus it stands upon many a title page, though she never wrote a line of the book; this trick of authorship benefited her purse but injured her reputation. Her principal work "The Mysteries of Udolpho," will always be read and admired.* In her description of Alpine scenery, the grandeur and sublimity of her language will never be excelled; those who have visited "Alpine Solitudes," and meditated amongst ruined castles, chateaus and monasteries, embosomed in woods nearly inaccessible from rifted rocks, and fallen torrents, with all the tremendous variety of uncultivated nature, will, in reading Mrs. Radcliffe's descriptions, imagine they have trodden the very places she delineates, it is a singular thing that she never visited the scenes she paints with the ardent imagination of an enthusiast in such gloomy colours; probably the highest hill she ever ascended, was Highgate or Shooter's Hill—the thickest wood she ever explored, Kensington Gardens, and the most amazing torrent that ever met her eye, the tide rushing through the arches of London bridge; imagination and exuberant fancy led her on to the eminence on which she rests. Her life was passed in dull uniformity, never going further than a watering place from Pimlico, where, for thirty years, she resided, her only companion being a huge pampered spaniel, for whose future support she has left £ 10. per annum.
She was very charitable, and never known to be out of temper. The greatest failure in her Romances, is where she attempts to describe the passion of love; but it is not to be expected that she could portray what she never felt, the only object of her affection being her dog, which is very remarkable. Mrs. Radcliffe actually believed in ghosts and apparitions, and foretold the hour of her dissolution: when the clock struck one, she doubled down the little finger of her right hand, and said to her attendant, " I shall die at four o'clock," as the hours struck she doubled her fingers, and at four o'clock, pressing down her fore finger, she said, " It is past," and turning her face on the pillow, expired without a groan. Her memory will be cherished by boarding school misses and romantic old maids, but on the shelf of literature her works will ever stand as a memorial of her talents which like her character can only be called, respectable.
From The Rambler's Magazine, Vol. II, 1823.
*They got that right.