Given her extensive work on and the public success of The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), it is only natural that Ann Radcliffe should react to the 1796 publication of The Monk, Matthew Lewis’s Germanic and luridly sexual effort to ‘re-masculinise’ Gothic romance in the wake of Udolpho (Ross 1991: 140–1; see also Conger 1989). ‘Eschewing what seemed to him feminine, sentimental euphemism in favour of a more visceral style’ (Ross 1991: 144), Lewis conjures up a sixteenth-century Spanish priest with the sensually pagan name ‘Ambrosio’, who embraces the voluptuousness that Protestants saw in many Catholic icons, falling in lust with a painting of the Virgin Mary (Lewis 2004: 65–6), and is consequently seduced into adultery, matricide, incest and ultimate damnation by the deceptions of a quite supernatural and briefly homosexual, as well as Catholic, Satan at work all the while behind the scenes (Lewis 2004: 243–4, 358–62). This degree of anti-Catholic irreverence still valuing aristocracy, which punishes would-be climbers across class boundaries (Brooks 1973), Ambrosio especially, defies the Dissenting Christian deism that led Radcliffe to avoid really supernatural interventions in her fiction while it also denies the balance between sentimentalism and rationality, based on the gradual empirical learning valued by the rising middle class to which Radcliffe belonged, that allows the heroine of Udolpho to achieve both property and respect in the face of villainy that is largely social and economic without her falling into the Ambrosian eroticism of a Laurentini di Udolpho.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities(all)