Radcliffe and Wordsworth: Nature, Travel, and Memory

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Radcliffe and Wordsworth: Nature, Travel, and Memory

In preparation for my presentation on the character of M. St. Aubert in Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, I examined various passages from the novel's first few chapters which described St. Aubert's responses to nature in terms of the picturesque, the sublime, and sensibility. One passage which especially attracted my attention, but which ultimately fell outside the coverage of our group's presentation, is Radcliffe's account of St. Aubert's feelings about the "small estate in Gascony" (Radcliffe 6) where he and his family lived:

To this spot he had been attached from his infancy. He had often made excursions to it when he was a boy, and the impressions of delight given to his mind . . . had not been obliterated by succeeding circumstances. The green pastures along which he had so often bounded in the exultation of health, and youthful freedom - the woods, under whose refreshing shade he had first indulged that pensive melancholy . . . the wild walks of the mountains, the river, on whose waves he had floated, and the distant plains, which seemed boundless as his early hopes - were never after remembered by St. Aubert but with enthusiasm and regret. (Radcliffe 6)

This passage was interesting to me because many of the travel writings we have read so far tend to focus more on the travellers' immediate responses to relatively new and unfamiliar environments which they are visiting for the first time, rather than on a return to a familiar place or the memories evoked by those familiar places. However, St. Aubert's emotional responses to familiar places - as well as his responses to less familiar places he sees on his travels - form a significant part of his characte...

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...remembered them when we had been there before - in a similar manner to the way in which Wordsworth does this in Tintern Abbey. As well, though on the more recent trips I have been more acutely aware of the ways in which my relationships with my family have changed over the years - perhaps a side effect of travelling with three other people in a small space for a period of ten days - it is still easy for me to sympathize with Radcliffe's evocation of "the memory of those we love . . . all tender and harmonious as this landscape" (47).

Works Cited

Radcliffe, Ann. The Mysteries of Udolpho. 1794. Ed. Jacqueline Howard. London: Penguin, 2001.

Wordsworth, William. "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, 13 July 1798." 1798. Romanticism: An Anthology. Ed. Duncan Wu. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998. 265-269.

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