"Tintern Abbey" and the Gothic

Prose extracts from Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho (chapters III and V) are juxtaposed with passages from "Tintern Abbey."

There is no direct evidence that Wordsworth had read Udolpho prior to writing "Tintern," but it seems certain he had read Romance of the Forest (1791) and The Italian (1797) (see Duncan Wu, Wordsworth's Reading 1770-1799, Cambridge, 1793). In November 1794 Coleridge had published a review of Udolpho in the Critical Review, and in June 1798 a review of The Italian for the same journal. Even if Wordsworth did not read Udolpho, extracts similar to those shown below from Udolpho could readily be found in Radcliffe's other novels.

1. Pastoral landscape

The scenes, through which they now passed, were as wild and romantic, as any they had yet observed, with this difference, that beauty, every now and then, softened the landscape into smiles. Little woody recesses appeared among the mountains, covered with bright verdure and flowers; or a pastoral valley opened its grassy bosom in the shade of the cliffs, with flocks and herds loitering along the banks of a rivulet, that refreshed it with perpetual green. (Udolpho, V)

lower still, appeared the tufted tops of the chesnut woods, that clothed their base, among which peeped forth the shepherd's cottage, just left by the travellers, with its blueish smoke curling high in the air. (Udolpho, V)

These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees (11-19)

2. Nature as teacher

They [Emily and Valancourt] appeared like two lovers who had never strayed beyond these their native mountains; whose situation had secluded them from the frivolities of common life, whose ideas were simple and grand, like the landscapes among which they moved, and who knew no other happiness, than in the union of pure and affectionate hearts. (Udolpho, V) In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being. (109-112)

3. Half-creating

Sometimes, the thick foliage excluded all view of the country; at others, it admitted some partial catches of the distant scenery, which gave hints to the imagination to picture landscapes more interesting, more impressive, than any that had been presented to the eye. The wanderers often lingered to indulge in these reveries of fancy. (Udolpho, V)                                all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create
And what perceive (106-8)

4. Corruption of the city

'How then are we to look for love in great cities, where selfishness, dissipation, and insincerity supply the place of tenderness, simplicity and truth ?' (Udolpho, V)                                                       so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgements, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us (128-33)

5. Places of beauty haunted by human presence, suffering

(Evidence in "Tintern" is somewhat generalized; for more specific evidence see Lyrical Ballads poems, such as "The Last of the Flock," and Salisbury Plain, The Ruined Cottage.)

The loneliness of the road, where, only now and then, a peasant was seen driving his mule, or some mountaineer-children at play among the rocks, heightened the effect of the scenery.

tears often swelled to his eyes, which Emily observed, and the sympathy of her own heart told her their cause. The scene before them bore some resemblance, though it was on a much grander scale, to a favourite one of the late Madame St. Aubert, within view of the fishing-house. (Udolpho, III)

St. Aubert, on enquiring the occasion of her sorrow, learned that her husband, who was a shepherd, and lived here in the summer months to watch-over the flocks he led to feed upon these mountains, had lost, on the preceding night, his little all. A gang of gipsies, who had for some time infested the neighbourhood, had driven away several of his master's sheep. (Udolpho, V)

This spot seemed the very haunt of banditti; and Emily, as she looked down upon it, almost expected to see them stealing out from some hollow cave to look for their prey. Soon after an object not less terrific struck her,--a gibbet standing on a point of rock near the entrance of the pass, and immediately over one of the crosses she had before observed. (Udolpho, V)

With some uncertain notice, as might seem,
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some hermit's cave, where by his fire
The hermit sits alone. (20-23)

With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again (60-62)

                                For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Not harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. (89-94)

6. Unified view of nature: prospect views

Emily could not restrain her transport as she looked over the pine forests of the mountains upon the vast plains, that, enriched with woods, towns, blushing vines, and plantations of almonds, palms and olives, stretched along, till their various colours melted in distance into one harmonious hue, that seemed to unite earth with heaven.

while the muleteer led his animals slowly over the broken ground, the travellers had leisure to linger amid these solitudes, and to indulge the sublime reflections, which soften, while they elevate, the heart, and fill it with the certainty of a present God! (Udolpho, III)

Through a vista of the mountains appeared the lowlands of Rousillon, tinted with the blue haze of distance, as they united with the waters of the Mediterranean; where, on a promontory, which marked the boundary of the shore, stood a lonely beacon, over which were seen circling flights of sea-fowl. (Udolpho, V)

                                a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. (96-103)

7. A revenant -- five years . . .

(The Radcliffe novel is typically haunted by apparently supernatural presences that turn out to have rational explanations. In many cases, an agent from the past has a critical role to play in explaining or resolving a predicament in the present.)

This was such a scene as Salvator would have chosen, had he then existed, for his canvas; St. Aubert, impressed by the romantic character of the place, almost expected to see banditti start from behind some projecting rock, and he kept his hand upon the arms with which he always travelled. (Udolpho, III)

This spot seemed the very haunt of banditti; and Emily, as she looked down upon it, almost expected to see them stealing out from some hollow cave to look for their prey. Soon after an object not less terrific struck her,--a gibbet standing on a point of rock near the entrance of the pass, and immediately over one of the crosses she had before observed. (Udolpho, V)

again I hear / These waters (2-3)

How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
Oh sylvan Wye! (56-7)

With many recognitions dim and faint (60)

     in this moment there is life and food
For future years. (65-6)

                                    more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. (71-3)

If I should be, where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence (148-50)

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Document prepared October 22nd 2001