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Ludupiru in the Daunted Chamber.
FROM THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO.
Mrs. RADCLIFFE, a beautiful little woman of delicate constitution and sequestered habits, as fond, as her own heroines, of lonely sea-shores, picturesque mountains, and poetical meditations, perfected that discovery of the capabilities of an old house or castle for exciting a romantic interest, which lay ready to be made in the mind of every child and poet, but which (if Gray did not put it into his head) first suggested itself to the feudal dilletanteism of Horace Walpole. Horace bad more genius in him than his contemporaries gave him credit for; but the reputation which his wit obtained him, the material philosophy of the day, and the pursuit of fashionable amusement, did it no good. He lost sight of the line to be drawn between the imposing and the incredible; and though there is real merit in the Castle of Otranto, and even grandeur of imagination, yet the conversion of dreams into gross daylight palpabilities, which nothing short of iron-founders could create-swords that take a hundred men to lift them, and supernatural yet substantial helmets, big as houses and actually serving for prisons -turns the sublime into the ridiculous, and has completely spoilt an otherwise interesting narrative. Mrs. Radcliffe, frightened perhaps by Walpole’s failure (for this great mistress of Fear was too often a servant of it), went to another extreme; and except in what she quoted from other story-tellers, resolved all her supernatural effects into commonplace causes. Those effects, however, while they lasted, and every thing else capable of frightening people out of their wits-old haunted houses and corridors, mysterious music, faces behind curtains, cowled and guilty monks, inquisitors, nuns, places to commit murders in, and the murders themselves--she understood to perfection. To dress these in appropriate circumstances, she possessed also the eye of a painter as well as the feeling of a poetess. She conceived to a nicety the effect of a storm on a landscape, the playing of a meteor on the point of a spear, and the sudden appearance of some old castle to which travellers have been long coming, and which they have reasons to fear living in. It has been objected to her that she is too much of a melodramatic writer, and that her characters are inferior to her circumstances; the background (as Hazlitt says) of more importance than the figures. This in a great measure is true; but she has painted characters also, chiefly weak ones, as in the querulous duped aunt in Udolpho, and the victim of error, St. Pierre, in the Romance of the Forest. It must be considered, however, that her effects, however produced, are successful, and greatly successful; and that Nature herself deals in precisely such effects, leaving men to be operated upon by them passively, and not to play the chief parts in the process by means of their characters. Mrs. Radcliffe brings on the scene Fear and Terror themselves, the grandeurs of the known world, and the awes of the unknown; and if human beings become puppets in her hands, it is as people in storm and earthquake are puppets in the hands of Nature.
The following passage, from the Mysteries of Udolpho, is one of the most favourite in her writings. Mr. Hazlitt thinks the Provençal tale in it “the greatest treat which Mrs. Radcliffe's pen has provided for the lovers of the marvellous and terrible.” Sir Walter Scott says, “The best and most admired specimen of her art is the mysterious disappearance of Ludovico, after having undertaken to watch for a night in a haunted apartment; and the mind of the reader is finely wound up for some strange catastrophe, by the admirable ghost-story which he is represented as perusing to amuse his solitude, as the scene closes upon him. Neither can it be denied, that the explanation afforded of this mysterious accident is as probable as romance requires, and in itself completely satisfactory.”
What that explanation is, the reader will find at the close of the extract.
THE count gave orders for the north apartments to be
opened and prepared for the reception of Ludovico; but Dorothee, remembering what she had lately witnessed there, feared to obey; and not one of the other servants daring to venture thither, the rooms remained shut up till the time
when Ludovico was to retire thither for the night, an hour for which the whole household waited with the greatest impatience.
After supper, Ludovico, by the order of the count, attended him in his closet, where they remained alone for near half an hour, and on leaving which his lord delivered to him a sword.
" It has seen service in mortal quarrels," said the count, jocosely, “ you will use it honourably no doubt in a spiritual
To-morrow let me hear that there is not one ghost remaining in the château.”
Ludovico received it with a respectful bow. “You shall be obeyed, my lord,” said he ; "I will engage that no spectre shall disturb the peace of the château after this night."
They now returned to the supper-room, where the counts guests awaited to accompany him and Ludovico to the north apartments; and Dorothee, being summoned for the keys, delivered them to Ludovico, who then led the way,
followed by most of the inhabitants of the château. Having reached the back staircase, several of the servants shrunk back and refused to go further, but the rest followed him to the top of the staircase, where a broad landing-place allowed them to flock round him, while he applied the key to the door, dnring which they watched him with as much eager curiosity as if he had been performing some magical rite.
Ludovico, unaccustomed to the lock, could not turn it, and Dorothee, who had lingered far bebind, was called forward, under whose hand the door opened slowly, and her eye glancing within the dusky chamber, she uttered a sudden shriek and retreated. At this signal of alarm the greater part of the crowd hurried down, and the count, Henri, and Ludovico were left alone to pursue the inquiry, who instantly rushed into the apartment, Ludovico with a
drawn sword, which he had just time to draw from the scabbard, the count with a lamp in his hand, and Henry carry. ing a basket containing provision for the courageous adventurer.
Having looked hastily round the first room, where nothing appeared to justify alarm, they passed on to the second; and here too all being quiet, they proceeded to a third in a more tempered step. The count had now leisure to smile at the discomposure into which he had been surprised, and to ask Ludovico in which room he designed to pass the night.
“ There are several chambers beyond these, your excellenza,” said Ludovico, pointing to a door, “ and in one of them is a bed, they say. I will pass the night there; and when I am weary of watching, I can lie down." “Good,” said the count;
6 let us go on.
these rooms show nothing but damp walls and decaying furniture. I have been so much occupied since I came to the château, that I have not looked into them till now. Remember, Ludovico, to tell the housekeeper to-morrow to throw open these windows. The damask hangings are dropping to pieces; I will have them taken down, and this antique furniture removed.”
Dear sir," said Henri," here is an arm-chair so massy with gilding, that it resembles one of the stato chairs in the Louvre more than anything else.”
“ Yes," said the count, stopping a moment to survey it, “there is a history belonging to that chair, but I have not time to tell it ; let us pass on.
This suite runs to a greater extent than I imagined; it is many years since I was in them. But where is the bed-room you speak of, Ludovico ? these are only ante-chambers to the great drawing-room. I remember them in their splendour."
“The bed, my lord," replied Ludovico," they told me was in a room that opens beyond the saloon and terminates the suite."
“O, here is the saloon," said the count, as they entered the spacious apartment in which Emily and Dorothee had rested. He here stood for a moment, surveying the reliques of faded grandeur which it exhibited, the sumptuous tapestry, the long and low sofas of velvet with frames heavily carved and gilded, the floor inlaid with small squares of fine marble, and covered in the centre with a piece of rich tapestry work, the casements of painted glass, and the large Venetian mir. rors of a size and quality such as at that period France could not make, which reflected on every side the spacious apartment. These had also formerly reflected a gay and brilliant scene, for this had been the state room of the château, and here the marchioness had held the assemblies that made part of the festivities of her nuptials. If the wand of a magician could have recalled the vanished groups—many of them vanished even from the earth !—that once had passed over these polished mirrors, what a varied and contrasted picture would they have exhibited with the present! Now, instead of a blaze of lights, and a splendid and busy crowd, they reflected only the rays of the one glimmering lamp which the count held up, and which scarcely served to show the three forlorn figures that stood surveying the room, and the spacious and dusky walls around them.
“Ah!" said the count to Henri, awaking from his deep reverie,“ how the scene is changed since last I saw it! I was a young man then, and the marchioness was alive and in her bloom; many other persons were here too, who
There stood the orchestra, here we tripped in many a sprightly maze—the walls echoing to the dance, Now they resound only one feeble voice, and even that will,
now no more.