Dacre, Zofloya (1806)

for October 17th 2000

Summary of novel with notes

  • p. 4 no checks to happiness of Victoria and Leonardo, hence wilful [vs. St. Aubert in Udolpho]
  • p. 7 Count Ardolph is a seducer of happily married wives
  • p. 14 Victoria's education could have rectified her innate faults
  • p. 16 Ardolph challenged, murders Loredani, who dies after deathbed interview with Victoria
  • pp. 19-20 dying father's injunction to his wife to protect Victoria (note emphasis)
  • p. 26 great evils develop from small vice
  • p. 27 Berenza/Victoria attraction, built on duplicity and self-deception, but unequal, p. 29; Berenza seeks to make Victoria his mistress; Victoria's delight
  • p. 44 Victoria left at Signora Modena's; mother listens to Ardolph's persuasions, complicity in sin
  • p. 45 Victoria's hatred and rage when she discovers she has been left behind
  • p. 52-3 Victoria seeks to understand Catau and how to suborn her [do we wish for her success?]
  • p. 60 Victoria escapes
  • p. 66 meets Berenza in Venice; yet Berenza regrets her free principles (note emphasis), p. 67, and sees her faults, p. 69; resolves to model her and be her friend in the meantime, p. 71 [typical male directed view]. But cf. notes, pp. 274-5 on women's education >>

46. Victoria simulates proper lady in distress.

72. Woman of mind as object for seduction.

  • p. 74 Megalena Strozzi, abandoned by Berenza, committed to revenge
  • p. 75 whether Victoria really loves Berenza and can match him on his own ground; Berenza's restraint, p. 76
  • p. 76 Victoria's qualities as seen by Berenza: finds no innocent tenderness; her reflections, includes no real love, p. 77-8

conventional view of women as necessarily innocent in love

  • p. 79-80 Victoria's strategy: convinces Berenza of her innocent love
  • p. 81-2 attempted murder by Megalena's agent (Leonardo); Victoria is wounded


  • p. 86 story of Leonardo. In house of Zappi, loves daughter Amamia, but is pursued by Signora Zappi, p. 89. Her false rape charge [echoes story of Baroness von Lindenberg's love for Raymond in The Monk]. Leonardo leaves.
  • p. 95-6 finds his way to Nina's cottage, stays to help her as replacement son. The mother's guilt, reminder (again), p. 98.
  • p.102 after Nina's death decides to revisit his home in Venice
  • p. 103 his future guilt; found asleep by Megalena
  • p. 108 after three months with her, learns story of his family from her
  • p. 111 Theresa attracts Leonardo in Venice; Megalena breaks up their secret meeting; uses it to cement Leonardo to her more securely and criminally
  • p. 116-7 Megalena sees Berenza with Victoria
  • p. 121 after attempted murder of Berenza, Leonardo hears Megalena exult over his fallen family; he appears to faint for a moment [weakness of men here]
  • p. 123 having left her dagger behind, they resolve to flee Venice
  • p. 124 narrator holds Loredani mother guilty for all these crimes and those to come


  • p. 124 ff. Victoria recovering; Berenza now believes in her love [note interposed story at moment when this is in question; cf. The Monk, Ambrosio's seduction]; he is the doating lover, p. 125
  • p. 126-7 Berenza's mistake in revealing he formerly through her unworthy of being his wife; her thoughts of revenge; he misreads her expression; they marry
  • p. 129 five years pass. Arrival of Henriquez, Berenza's brother; his love for 13-year old Lilla [paedophilic overtones]
  • p. 130 Henriquez must wait nearly a year to marry Lilla
  • p. 132-3 Victoria's character, desiring Henriquez and hating Lilla
  • p. 133 emphasis on Lilla's smallness, innocence as that of a child
caricature of unprotected, Gothic heroine; and cf. her childlike appearance, border adolescent
  • p. 135-6 Victoria's turmoil, as if supernaturally impelled; then has two strange dreams, sees the Moor, foils marriage of Henriquez and Lilla
dreams invariably anticipatory, suggesting interpretation of Victoria's desires
  • p. 139-40 the servant Latoni confesses to murder of Zofloya
  • p. 141 Victoria's interest in Zofloya; his history; he reappears, p. 142
  • p. 144 Victoria's dream of Zofloya and others
  • p. 145 the Zofloya who has returned seems much more beautiful than the old one [hint: he isn't the same!]
  • p. 147 Zofloya's visit to Victoria with roses; takes some blood of hers; then learns Victoria's secret love, offers to help, p. 149
  • p. 151 ff. Victoria confesses all to Zofloya, who instructs her how he can help
  • p. 154 Zofloya's poisons: bring death, can change love to hate, etc.
note how drugs mimic or perform the effect of passions, etc.: mechanical view of body
  • p. 160-2 poison having its effect on Berenza; but its conclusion to be completed in the mountains away from Venice at Torre Alto; Zofloya only has power through her wishes [suggests his disguise]
  • p. 164-5 journey to Appennines, to Torre Alto; sublime scenery, isolation fit for crime
  • p. 166-7 Zofloya more commanding now; Victoria meets Henriquez on return to castle, her petulance
  • p. 173-4 trial of final poison on aged Signora first agreed to by Zofloya and Victoria; the Signora's death, p. 175
  • p. 178 intimations of supernatural power of Zofloya towards Victoria, finding her in woods
  • p. 181 Zofloya seems to claim Victoria's heart as his own
  • p. 184 Victoria administers the fatal drink to Berenza; his death, p. 186
  • p. 188 Victoria's dream that night of discoloured corpse of Berenza; goes to his chamber and finds it to be true; her horror of discovery, p. 189; but Zofloya promises to ensure her safety; the next morning the body of Berenza is missing.
  • p. 193 terrible events fade in the memory
  • p. 194 Henriquez even more repelled by Victoria; her proposals to him rejected, p. 195
  • p. 199 Victoria persuaded by Zofloya to torment Lilla; Zofloya's prize will be Victoria herself, p. 200
  • p. 201 Henriquez compares Victoria with Lilla
  • p. 203 Victoria meets Zofloya in woods with unconcious Lilla over his shoulder; they imprison her in a cave, p. 204
  • p. 207 Henriquez seeks the lost Lilla frantically; after a day searching falls ill with a fever for three weeks
emotions cause illness: e.g., Falconer, William (1744-1824), A dissertation on the influence of the passions upon disorders of the body (1788)
  • p. 210 Victoria renews her vows of love, to his disgust
  • p. 214-5 Victoria to overcome Henriquez's disgust with aid of Zofloya's drug (accompanied by lightning flashes)
  • p. 216 Zofloya's Satanic behaviour in the distance as he departs
  • p. 218 Henriquez's delusion after taking drug, embracing Victoria as Lilla
  • p. 221 the next morning Henriquez kills himself in a frenzy of horror
  • p. 222-3 Victoria goes in a frenzy of hatred to Lilla in her cave; murders her, p. 226
  • p. 228 Victoria trying to rest dreams of iron chest containing corpse of Berenza
  • p. 231 Victoria pleads with Zofloya to be saved from the Inquisition, etc.
  • p. 232 Victoria awakens on the ground in the mountains, Zofloya standing nearby
  • p. 235 they are on Mont Cenis, and are found by banditti; go to their cave, where the chief's woman companion appears familiar
  • p. 242 Zofloya attracted only by destruction; declares Victoria is his, p. 244
  • p. 246 Victoria rebukes her mother for what she has become
  • p. 247 good angel warns her in a dream
  • p. 250 arrival of captive Ardolph and Victoria's mother; Leonardo the chief kills Ardolph; Victoria indifferent to her mother's wounded state
  • p. 257 Victoria continues indifferent although her mother is dying, then rails against her, p. 258
  • p. 259 mutual recriminations of Leonardo and Victoria
  • p. 260 Zofloya reports to Victoria that the banditti have been betrayed and will be attacked tomorrow
  • p. 264 Zofloya rescues Victoria from beseiged cave, only to destroy her after revealing himself as Satan [deceptive literalism of Satan's promises]



"Diseases of the nerves are essentially disorders of sympathy; they presuppose a state of general vigilance in the nervous system which makes each organ susceptible of entering in to sympathy with any other." -- Foucault, Madness and Civilization (London, 1977), p. 153.

"The sensibility which is a privilege and the sensibility which might manifest itself in the disorder of internal organs are not to be separated." -- John Mullan, Sentiment and Sociability (Oxford, 1988), p. 231.


If any thing further were required, in support of what is here said to be the consequences which result from an indiscriminate perusal of such books, the opinions of an author of a medical treatise lately published, might be referred to. While attending to the influence which the affections and passions of the mind are found to have on our system, he does not hesitate to say, that among the mournful passions, must be included, an extravagant degree of love, and into which he says, young females particularly, are precipitated, merely, by reading improper novels. After detailing a melancholy catalogue of diseases, to which this passion gives rife, he adds, "That in the houses appropriated to the unhappy victims of insanity, he generally meets with three classes: the first consist of men deprived of their understandings by pride; the second of girls by love; and the third of women by jealousy." -- Scots Magazine 64 (June, 1802), 471-2.

Poor, indeed, are the services rendered to virtue by a writer, however he may boast that the object of his performance is to exhibit the vicious as infamous and unhappy, who, in tracing the progress of vice to infamy and unhappiness, introduces the readers to scenes and language adapted to wear away the quick feelings of modesty, which form at once the ornament and the safeguard of innocence; and like the bloom upon a plumb, if once effaced, commonly disappears for ever. -- Scots Magazine 59 (June, 1797), 374-5 (extracted from Gisborne)

Reviews of Zofloya:

We are sorry to remark, that the "Monk" seems to have been made the model, as well of the style, as of the story. There is a voluptuousness of language and allusion, pervading these volumes, which we should have hoped, that the delicacy of the female pen would have refused to trace; and there is an exhibition of wantonness and harlotry, which we should have hoped, that the delicacy of a female mind, would have been shocked to imagine. -- Annual Review and History of Literature 5 (1806), 542

One is naturally led to ask how the lady came to be so well acquainted with the devil as to be thus let into the secret of his transactions. But be that as it may, we have no doubt she herself, supposing her testimony false, has been imposed upon. Now it so happens, that in such cases, ladies of her description may be, and very often are, imposed upon. The reason is that unfortunately they have the seeds of nonsense, bad taste, and ridiculous fancies, early sown in their minds. These having come to maturity, render the mind putrid and corrupt, and the consequence is the formation of millions of the strangest maggots that one can conceive. -- Literary Journal, a Review of Domestic and Foreign Literature, 2nd Series 1 (June, 1806), 631-635.

Thus ends this mass of unqualified vice and unqualified mischief, began without plan, continued without preparation, and terminated by death in all its several parts, with little of contrast and still less of judicious arrangement. It must be confessed, however, that the author tells her tales of indiscriminate horror in many instances with great force, and if the plot had been more original, we doubt not that this Novel would have obtained an higher rank in the public estimation than it is now likely to acquire. -- General Review of British and Foreign Literature 1 (June, 1806), 590-593

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Document prepared October 17, 2000