The Mysteries of Udolpho

The Mysteries of Udolpho Summary and Analysis of Volume 3, Chapters 7-13


Emily wakes up and is comforted by the beauty of the Tuscan landscape. She also makes friends with Maddelina, the daughter of the peasant couple, Dorina and Marco, who own the cottage where she is staying. Maddelina treats Emily kindly, but Emily is anxious because she starts to worry that Marco may have been involved in the death of Signora Laurentini. Emily also realizes she left the papers from her aunt at the castle. Meanwhile, readers learn that after Morano made it back to Venice, he was falsely arrested on trumped up charges. Montoni had made false reports about him, and since Morano already had a lot of enemies, he was readily imprisoned. Montoni has been facing his own problems with his castle being besieged. Once the safety of the castle is secured, he orders Emily to return from Tuscany, where she has been staying for about two weeks. Accompanied once again by Ugo and Bertrand, Emily returns to Udolpho, where she is greeted warmly by Annette. However, Emily feels increasingly threatened by Verezzi and Bertolini. Montoni continues to pressure her to sign over her property, although Emily tries to stall while waiting for Ludovico to find out if the mysterious prisoner might be Valancourt. In desperation, Emily finally signs the documents, only to learn that Montoni is still going to keep her in Udolpho.

The next day, Ludovico reports that he is still not sure if the mysterious French prisoner is Valancourt or not, but the man definitely knows Emily. In fact, he tells Ludovico to bring something to her: the portrait of Emily that had once been contained in the bracelet worn by her mother, and lost in the fishing house at La Vallee. Emily is increasingly excited that the man might be Valancourt. Helped by Ludovico, they hatch a plan for Emily to meet with the prisoner late one night. However, when the man shows up in her room, he is not Valancourt, bur rather a different Frenchman who introduces himself as Du Pont. He briefly explains that he formerly lived in Gascony, near Emily's estate. He caught sight of her in the neighborhood and fell in love with her (hence why he stole and treasured the portrait of her). Before he can explain further, he is interrupted by Verezzi, and the two men fight. Du Pont knocks Verezzi unconscious, and then Ludovico, Annette, Emily, and Du Pont flee from the castle. They manage to make it out, since Montoni and his fellows are distracted by a group of guests who have just arrived. Outside of the castle, they manage to steal some horses, and begin their journey away from the castle. They are heading for the port of Leghorn, where they will be able to board a ship and sail away.

Along the way, Du Pont explains more to Emily. He was serving as a French soldier, and ended up in combat with some of Montoni's men by chance. He was taken prisoner and taken to the castle, where he befriended his jailer and was able to gradually find out that Emily was also living in the castle. Du Pont started to sing French songs at night, and also to wander around the castle ramparts hoping to get a glimpse of Emily. Du Pont reassures Emily that even though she signed papers, she can likely still retain her French estates. Emily's plan is to go to the convent of St. Clair, write to Monsieur Quesnel, and then try to reclaim her property, where she still hopes to one day live with Valancourt. The group arrives at Leghorn, and arrange for passage on a ship leaving for the French port city of Marseilles.

The narrative shifts to introduce a new group of characters. Back when Emily and her father passed through the region of Languedoc, just before his death, they passed by the mysterious Chateau Le Blanc and learned a bit about the story of the Marchioness de Villeroi, who had once lived there. At that time, the chateau was empty, since the Marquis had not lived there for years, and had also recently died. After his death, the Chateau Le Blanc passed to the Count de Villefort, and the Count eventually moves in with his family. His wife, the Countess de Villefort, is very unhappy to leave behind Parisian society and live in rural isolation. In general, the Countess is an embittered and jealous woman. The Count has two children, Henri and Blanche, from his first marriage, and the Countess dislikes her stepdaughter because she is young and beautiful. When the family arrives at the chateau, they meet Dorothee, an elderly servant who has lived there for many years. When they arrive, Blanche marvels at the beauty of the estate, and composes poems as she walks around. The family also makes a visit to the monastery of St. Claire, which is quite nearby.

Shortly after their arrival, a violent storm takes place, and a ship is forced to come ashore at the chateau. It is the very ship bearing Emily, Annette, Ludovico, and Du Pont. Fortunately, Du Pont and the Count are friendly acquaintances, and the whole group is invited to stay at the chateau while they recover from the journey and the ordeal of nearly being shipwrecked. The next day, Emily and Blanche quickly strike up a friendship. They chat with Dorothee, and try to get her to tell them more about the Marchioness de Villeroi, but Dorothee won't reveal anything. Even though Emily is anxious to get to the convent, she agrees to stay at the chateau for a few days. She pays a visit to La Voisin. Du Pont tells the Count Villefort of his hope to eventually marry Emily, but leaves the chateau since he knows she does not yet return his feelings. Emily also moves into the convent. She writes to Monsieur Quesnel, but he is not very interested in helping her, and doesn't have much information about what will happen to her money or property. He advises her to stay at the convent until they know more.

The Villefort family is eager for Emily to return for another visit, and she eventually agrees. Emily is anxious because she has written to Valancourt to let him know that she is back in France, but has not yet heard anything in response. While Emily is staying at the chateau, Dorothee comments on how much Emily looks like the Marchioness. Dorothee also finds the picture that Emily found in the papers her father entrusted to her and confirms that it is indeed a portrait of the Marchioness. Emily promises that if Dorothee will tell her more about the Marchioness, she will keep the story secret. Dorothee agrees, but won't confirm when she will share the story. That night, Emily and the family go to a peasant celebration in the forest, and Emily is shocked to find that Valancourt is present there. Valancourt had finally gotten her letter and hurried to the convent where she was staying. However, it was shut up for the night when he arrived, so he decided to go and stay at Chateau Le Blanc since he and Henri are good friends.

Emily and Valancourt are delighted to reunite, and Emily shares a bit about her experiences with Montoni. Valancourt is horrified by what he hears, but also seems to be acting strangely. Later, the Count de Villefort pulls Emily aside and asks about her relationship with Valancourt. Emily openly tells him about their history together, and the Count warns her that he does not think Valancourt is worthy of her. Emily thinks that the Count must be confused or misinformed, but the Count tells her about Valancourt's gambling, and that he has even been imprisoned for debt twice. Moreover, the Count tells Emily that a wealthy woman paid off Valancourt's debts, and that last he heard, Valancourt and this woman had been living together in Paris. Emily faints from the shock of this news. When she comes to, Valancourt is trying to assist her, but she sends him away, and tells him that she will meet with him the following day. Emily thinks about all she has heard, and miserably decides that she will have to break off the relationship with Valancourt.


Emily's journey to Tuscany ends up being essentially meaningless, furthering a sense of stasis and being trapped. If anything, it reveals that she is entirely under Montoni's power, and he can move her around like a piece of property. Upon her return to Udolpho, Emily's situation is becoming more and more grave, as Montoni becomes more and more impatient. While many of Emily's fears at Udolpho have revolved around potential supernatural threats, the much more immediate danger is that Montoni or one of his henchmen will rape or assault her. Emily continues to desperately pin her hopes on the strange French music she hears echoing through the castle: as a sensitive and artistic soul, the music is an inspiring and hopeful sign for her. Emily's attachment to the music also highlights how isolated she has felt in Italy, cut off from her native language and culture.

The revelation of Du Pont as the French prisoner, and his role in finally helping Emily to escape, allows Radcliffe to connect plot threads from the earliest part of the novel, showing her skill in creating complex narratives. While Emily has been pinning all of her hopes on Valancourt, she actually has another suitor who is present and able to step into the role of heroic rescuer. While he is chivalrous and honorable, Du Pont reveals the potentially threatening and lurking presence of masculine desire in the novel. He took on the role of voyeur in watching Emily without her knowledge or consent, and then furthered this by stealing her portrait. This incident with Emily's portrait aligns with other examples of women's images being passed around and used as stand-ins for their actual identities and agency. Nonetheless, Du Pont does play an important role of finally instigating action within the oppressive atmosphere of Udolpho. It is almost comical how quickly Du Pont is able to engineer an escape for not only Emily, but also Ludovico and Annette. Despite the almost exaggeratedly powerful presence of Montoni as a controlling villain, it turns out to not actually be that difficult to escape.

Emily's escape is important because it gets her away from Montoni, and back on to French soil where even people she has not met before are likely to act as friends and allies. The support she receives back in France is strongly juxtaposed with the constant threats and isolation she encountered in Italy. However, Emily's woes are not entirely resolved by her escape from Udolpho, which introduces plenty of space for further plot development. Emily is now presumably free from any threats of violence or control from Montoni, but Monsieur and Madame Quesnel are essentially disinterested in her fate, which leaves Emily still in limbo and thus in potential peril. Montoni was able to gain control of her because she lacked either her own authority, or someone in a position of authority who would take responsibility for her, and at this juncture, Emily has not regained a stable family structure, or formed her own by marrying. This lack of relational stability is intertwined with her lack of economic stability. Emily literally has nowhere to go, because La Vallee has been rented out, and her financial future is deeply uncertain: the St. Aubert family finances remain in limbo, and it remains to be seen whether Emily or Montoni will end up in control of Madame Montoni's fortune.

Amidst all this instability, a surrogate family is made available via the Villefort family. Since they live at Chateau Le Blanc, they evoke associations with Emily's father, who died nearby. The somewhat implausible coincidence that Emily and her companions get blown ashore just at the location of Chateau Le Blanc allows Radcliffe to resume the plot threads and mysteries associated with the earlier hints around the Chateau Le Blanc and the mysterious Marchioness de Villeroi. While the castle of Udolpho is prominent in the novel's title, it actually only occupies a fairly small amount of the plot. The Chateau Le Blanc, however, even while located on the safety of French soil, shares some significant similarities with Udolpho: there have been mysterious happenings in the past, rumors circulate about an unhappy woman who lived there, and there seems to be the possibility of supernatural hauntings. These patterns reoccur because they reflect the threats to Emily more than any specific locale: for as long as she remains single and without a home of her own, she is at the mercy of ending up a tragic figure like Signora Laurentini, Madame Montoni, or the Marchioness. Emily cannot achieve a secure and happy conclusion to her story until she achieves stability, and unlocks the "mysteries" associated with the fates of these women who have gone before her.

Unfortunately for Emily, her return to France and reunion with Valancourt does not lead to her being able to move forward with their relationship. Her time in Italy may have made her bolder and more willing to choose a partner for herself, rather than rely on permission from a guardian, but she has equally stringent standards about what she will accept in a partner. Especially given all the suffering that Emily has endured, the news that Valancourt has spent that time indulging himself in Paris would feel like a slap in the face. Emily has already had to contend with the disappointment that Valancourt was not going to rescue her, and that her fate relied on the good fortune of another man who happened to be in love with her, and this further news is even more jarring. Emily has very high standards for virtue and integrity, which is part of why she fell in love with Valancourt in the first place. However, it also makes her rigid and judgmental when she is confronted with evidence of Valancourt's indiscretions. In this case, the presence of a new surrogate guardian in the form of the Count de Villefort does not work to Emily's advantage. The Count de Villefort steps into a pseudo-parental role given that Emily is alone, and has no one to look out for her interests. He is certainly more caring and honorable than Quesnel or Montoni, but he is in fact so protective of Emily that he encourages her to end the relationship with Valancourt, lest she end up with a disreputable or unfaithful husband. Despite all her experiences with being manipulated by guardians and family members, Emily still puts her trust in Villefort, and chooses to break off the relationship.