The Mysteries of Udolpho

The Mysteries of Udolpho Quotes and Analysis

I would not annihilate your feelings, my child, I would only teach you to command them; for whatever may be the evils resulting from a too susceptible heart, nothing can be hoped from an insensible one.

Monsieur St. Aubert, p. 20

Monsieur St. Aubert delivers this speech to Emily when she is grieving after the death of her mother. St. Aubert is empathetic to his daughter's grief, but he does not want her to lose herself entirely in her emotions. This quotation shows St. Aubert's keen understanding of human psychology, and also his gentle approach to parenting. He compassionately points out that he does not want Emily to lose her sensitive and gentle heart; in fact, in his mind, it is worse to be a person who is insensitive and does not feel things deeply. St. Aubert is able to be empathetic to Emily's sensitive nature because he is also highly emotional, and has in fact encouraged his daughter to be sensitive and responsive to feelings. Throughout his lifetime, St. Aubert will encourage Emily to make choices based on reason rather than emotion—but he never shames or faults her for having emotions. This balanced approach shows that St. Aubert is wiser than many other more impulsive characters. Although the full context will not be revealed until the end of the novel, St. Aubert might be thinking about his unfortunate sister, the Marchioness de Villeroi, and how a tension between feelings and reason led to her unhappy fate.

Valancourt had known little of the world. His perceptions were clear, and his feelings just; his indignation of an unworthy, or his admiration of a generous action were expressed in terms of equal vehemence. St. Aubert sometimes smiled at his warmth, but seldom checked it, and often repeated to himself "This young man has never been at Paris."

Narrator, p. 41

This quote occurs early in the novel, when Valancourt meets Emily and her father during their journey, and St. Aubert becomes fond of the young man. The quotation shows that St. Aubert respected and liked Valancourt; this is important, because by the time Valancourt and Emily are more explicitly pursuing a relationship, St. Aubert will have passed away, and yet his approval remains very important to Emily. This quote makes it clear that St. Aubert would have been happy to see his daughter married to Valancourt. The quotation also shows some similarities between Valancourt and Emily: they are both sensitive, sheltered, and idealistic. These similarities make them a good match, but also sets up some of the obstacles for why they will struggle to be together. The quotation also foreshadows some of the problems Valancourt will encounter: because he starts off naïve and idealistic, he will fall prey to some of the vices and temptations of Paris when he goes there after Emily's departure for Italy. St. Aubert's wistful comment about Valancourt's innocence directly foreshadows Valancourt's temptation and lapses during his time in Paris.

Poverty cannot deprive us of intellectual delights. It cannot deprive you of the comfort of affording me examples of fortitude and benevolence, nor me of the delight of consoling a beloved parent... Pleasures, such as wealth cannot buy, will still be ours. We retain then the sublime luxuries of nature and lose only the frivolous ones of art.

Emily, p. 60

Emily speaks these lines to her father after he explains that the financial circumstances of the family are very uncertain, and they may even lose their home. Emily would be distressed to lose La Vallee, but she is otherwise unconcerned by the news, and tries to console her father. This response shows that even though she has grown up wealthy, Emily is modest, unselfish, and prioritizes being a good person and fostering loving relationships. This attitude is particularly poignant because it stands in such contrast with how many other characters will behave; many other characters such as Madame Cheron/Montoni, Signor Montoni, Signor Cavigni, and others are extremely motivated by greed and money. Emily's disinterest in money marks her as actually being deserving of wealth and property, but it also shows that she will be endangered when others try to manipulate her. Emily would never think to try to safeguard her own financial interests, or act strategically. Because there are people who do not have her best interests at heart, Emily can easily find herself endangered.

He is the Italian, whom I fear, and I conjure you for your own sake , as well as for mine, to prevent the evils I shudder to foresee. O Emily! let my tenderness, my arms withhold you from them—give me the right to defend you!

Valancourt, p. 158

Valancourt speaks this quotation to Emily after their engagement is broken off, and they learn that Emily is going to be forced to go to Italy with her aunt and Montoni. Valancourt is not only understandably upset, he is also fearful of what might happen to Emily once she is isolated in a foreign country, far away from her other friends and relatives. Valancourt's fears foreshadow the dark events that are to come at Udolpho, and increase the suspense for readers. His comments also show how Radcliffe makes use of cultural stereotypes: because of his Italian heritage, Montoni is viewed as suspicious, deceptive, and potentially even violent. Valancourt also hints that Montoni will not necessarily show Emily the type of chivalrous respect that she has come to expect as a French noblewoman. Valancourt is so worried about what could happen to Emily that he begs her to marry him; if Emily were to legally become his wife, she would be under his protection, and could not be required to go to Italy. Emily, however, feels a moral obligation not to marry without the permission of her guardians, even though she loves Valancourt. This moment marks a turning point where Emily could have prevented all of her future suffering if she had been willing to marry Valancourt in secret, but her commitment to honor and integrity requires her to be obedient, and therefore vulnerable.

I am endeavoring to convince you of your good fortune, and to persuade you to submit to necessity with a good grace... I would ask you, now, seriously and calmly, what kind of match you can expect, since a Count cannot content your ambition?

Madame Montoni, p. 220

Madame Montoni speaks these words to her niece Emily in Venice, while she is trying to reconcile Emily to her forthcoming marriage to Count Morano. The quotation adds increased complexity to Madame Montoni's character, and also shows how marriage is viewed differently by different female characters in the novel. Madame Montoni has seemed very cold and heartless, but she does feel some pity for Emily's distress, and makes some attempt to comfort her niece. The quotation also shows that Madame Montoni truly thinks the marriage is in Emily's best interest: for Madame Montoni, the point of marriage is to secure wealth and social position. At this point, it seems like Morano would provide both of those things to Emily, and so for Madame Montoni, any feelings of affection or attraction are irrelevant. In fact, Madame Montoni fundamentally misunderstands what Emily is upset about, and thinks Emily is resisting the marriage because she hopes to marry an even richer and more powerful man. The idea of marrying for love is fundamentally unthinkable for her. This quotation is important because it shows how Madame Montoni has internalized the patriarchal logic of the society around her: she married Montoni (and possibly her first husband as well) because of his wealth. Unfortunately, she will later suffer the consequences of this choice when Montoni abuses her and even precipitates her untimely death at Udolpho.

Silent, lonely and sublime, it seemed to stand the sovereign of the scene, and to frown defiance on all, who dared to invade its solitary reign. As the twilight deepened, its features became more awful in obscurity.

Narrator, p. 227

This quotation describes the first glimpse of Udolpho presented to Emily (and in turn, to readers). The quotation is significant because the title of the novel has set the stage for readers to expect that Udolpho will be a significant component of the novel: and yet, it takes Emily quite a long time to get there! The lengthy delay before the readers get a description of the castle heightens the anticipation and drama. It is significant that Emily catches her first glimpse of the castle as twilight is falling; this functions as an example of pathetic fallacy, wherein something in the external environment mirrors the inner state of a character. While Emily has tried to be hopeful and trusting about Montoni's intentions, seeing the castle makes it hard to avoid seeing that her position has become perilous. She will be totally isolated and at Montoni's mercy. The darkening twilight also makes the castle appear even more ominous and eerie, furthering the idea that mysterious or supernatural happenings may lurk within. It is also notable that Radcliffe uses the word "sublime" to describe the castle, since this term had specific philosophical and aesthetic connotations at the time she was writing. In 1756, Edmund Burke had written about the quality of an object (often something found in nature, such as a mountain peak or the ocean) provoking a feeling of intense awe and even terror.

Am I to stay here by myself all night! I shall be frightened out of my senses, and I shall die of hunger; I have had nothing to eat since dinner!

Annette, p. 322

Annette speaks this quotation amidst a chaotic scene at Udolpho; fighting has broken out, and Ludovico has locked her in a room for her own safety. Emily tries to comfort Annette, but Annette laments that she will have to remain in the room indefinitely. The quotation is important because it shows how Radcliffe slyly embeds moments of comedy within a novel that is often intended to provoke fear and suspense. Annette is understandably frightened by the chaos and violence around her, and given that there have been strange and unexplained happenings in the castle, she is also afraid of ghosts and other supernatural beings. However, Annette is also distracted by the much more pragmatic discomfort of not having enough to eat. Emily finds this juxtaposition funny, and Annette's comments position fear as a somewhat silly and irrational response. Annette and other servants are often the characters who show the strongest superstition and fear, whereas Emily and other aristocratic characters are presented as more rational and calm. By showing Emily thinking that Annette's fears are silly, this quote implies that being unnecessarily fearful can be a type of weakness to be overcome. However, it is also somewhat ironic that Emily thinks Annette's fears are comical, because Emily herself will often be timid and overcome by fear.

"You speak like a heroine," said Montoni, contemptuously, "we shall see whether you can suffer like one."

Montoni, p. 381

Montoni speaks these chilling words to Emily after her aunt's death, when she is under his sole protection and stubbornly refusing to sign her property over to him. This quotation highlights the moment when Emily is actually at her most vulnerable, and also potentially at her most courageous. The novel mostly uses mysterious or potentially supernatural events as sources of fear or threat: whatever Emily sees under the black veil, strange noises at night, the seemingly haunted rooms of the Marchioness. When these events occur, Emily is often very fearful, and sometimes faints or flees in terror. However, Emily is also under threat from a much more real source: she could be abused, killed, or raped by Montoni himself, or by any of his friends and soldiers. Montoni has shown himself to be ruthless and cruel, and unlike the vague possibility of ghosts, he is a real threat to Emily, especially when she prevents him from accessing her money and property. While Emily can be timid about other things, she is actually very resilient and courageous on this topic, which is what leads Montoni to be so explicitly threatening. The quotation also represents a moment of metanarrative, since Montoni compares Emily to the heroine of a novel, implying that she might have romantic ideals of self-sacrifice, but lack the fortitude to actually withstand suffering.

What would you have—what is it you come to demand—Retribution?—It will soon be yours—it is yours already... My crime is but as yesterday—Yet I am grown old beneath it; while you are still young and blooming—blooming as when you forced me to commit that most abhorred deed!

Sister Agnes / Signora Laurentini, p. 644

Sister Agnes (later revealed to be Signora Laurentini) speaks this quotation on her deathbed, when she sees Emily and confuses the young woman with the Marchioness de Villeroi. The quotation begins the gradual process of revealing Agnes' history and connection to Udolpho, and to Emily's family. It has been hinted throughout the novel that there is some connection between the Marchioness de Villeroi and Emily's family history, and several other characters have observed that Emily resembles the Marchioness. The quotation reveals Agnes' guilt and torment; even after years of trying to redeem herself by living a virtuous and holy life, she is still haunted by her crime, and believes that the Marchioness has come back to exact revenge. The quotation shows that unlike some of the other villainous characters, Agnes is sincerely repentant for her crime, and has had to live with the torture of a guilty conscience for years. However, it also shows that Agnes is still under the sway of passion, because she blames the Marchioness, and refers to how the Marchioness "forced" her to commit the crime.

Had she dared to look again, her delusion and her fears would have vanished together, and she would have perceived, that the figure before her was not human, but formed of wax.

Narrator, p. 662

This quotation occurs at the end of the novel, when all of the mysteries referenced in the title are being explained. The quote references a much earlier event, when Emily lifted a black veil at the castle of Udolpho, and caught a glimpse of something. This mystery is particularly striking because readers were never told what Emily saw, or thought she saw: readers find out simultaneously that Emily believed she saw a decaying corpse, but that what she actually saw was a wax figure. Notably, the quotation makes it clear that Emily's mistake occurred because she only looked very briefly, then dropped the veil and never went back. The quotation provides a broader reflection on the nature of fear, and how it can keep people trapped or misinformed. Throughout the novel, many characters have been fearful of things that seemed terrifying but turned out to have logical explanations. Emily has also sometimes been too timid to stand up for herself, and to assert what she wants, and this fear has put her in difficult situations, and nearly cost her her relationship with Valancourt. While specific to the black veil, the quotation also encapsulates one of the primary messages of the novel: people should think carefully and logically, investigate the situation, and not simply fall prey to their fears.