Program > Abstracts & Papers > Paper - Beatrice Battaglia

- ACUME European Thematic Network -

Cultures of Memory/Memories of Culture
International Conference

Cyprus, 20-22 February 2004


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Ann Radcliffe in the representational history of Venice:   the influence of Udolpho’s “Venetian scenes”

Beatrice Battaglia
Università di Bologna

What poet or painter has ever surpassed (Byron has imitated) he
account of the first view of Venice?

 Chambers, 1844 [1]




The Sea Nymph….might be sung by Shakespear’s Ariel.
Barbauld,, 1810 [2]



When I seek another word for music, I always find only the word Venice.
Nietzche, 1888 [3]



For I have seen the
shadow of this thy Venice
floating upon the waters.

 Pound, 1908 [4]






1-     Radcliffe’s “Venetian scenes” as pre-text for modern Venice

As one of the great cities of the European imagination, not inferior to Rome or Paris, the fame of Venice dates back to the Middle Ages, when she was considered the door into the East, and reached its height in the Renaissance, when she became the Queen of the Adriatic and extremely powerful in the Mediterranean. In the 18th century she became a sort of obligatory stage in the Grand Tour as the most prestigious centre of Italian art, and also the city of pleasure par excellence (“ the head-quarters of pleasure”, in the well-known words of Mrs Piozzi [5] ).

Fabled for its courtesans, its carnival, its endless gaiety, Venice offered to her visitors entertainment, pleasure, and erotic adventures. This was the city where Casanova began his career, where Goldoni wrote his comedies, and where Vivaldi composed his glorious music. Venice was also home to scores of painters, most of whom served the foreign clientele - the tourists who were attracted to its many sights and amusements [6] .

In the second half of the 18th century, as a consequence of political decay, that glittering image acquired a deeper and deeper patina of nostalgia, which however did not affect the appeal of the fabulous place; a place so unique that, as Grosley explained, the travellers should admire it with their own eyes to believe in the amazing tales of a marvellous city rising out of the sea [7] .

Yet Grosley, Beckford [8] , Mrs Piozzi, though emotionally involved, still detained an 18th century detached approach to travel-writing in which the notions of observation and rational reflection still dominated [9] . In that transitional and eclectic era, the shift towards an emotive transcription of the experience of displacement was just beginning to take place as the most apt soil for the modern image of Venice to develop:  soon, in fact, the city would be humanized and  turned into a person with whom late romantic and post romantic intellectuals set up complex and conflictual personal relationships: then the magic floating city will become at turns the ground for adventures of self-definition or for metaphysical quests and inter-textual challenges. To 20th century intellectuals, such as James or Proust, Rilke, Mann, or Sartre, Venice clearly represented  the embodiment of Otherness; and what is there more Other than Femininity?

In this respect, James was both the most emblematic and explicit:

The creature varies like a woman, whom you know only when you know all the aspects of her beauty […] She is always interesting […] You become extraordinarily fond […] Tenderly fond you become. […] The place seems to personify itself, to become human and sentient and conscious of your affection. You desire to embrace it, to caress it, to posses it; and finally a soft sense of possession grows up and your visit becomes a perpetual love affair.

This magnificent creature is so strong and secure that she is gentle […] But for all this there are depths of possible disorder in her light-coloured eyes. [10]

According to James, this “so fully feminized and frankly eroticized” [11] Venice descended from Ruskin. In the 19th century the image of the city was ‘Ruskinized’ (in James’s word), which means that that it became distinctly separated in two: an enchanted Venice of perpetual rapture and a fallen Venice, dark and slightly frightening. James was right as far as he went; but that did not answer the relevant question about when and  where, that is in which texts, the double female Venice was  really born.

If James’s reference was to Ruskin, Ruskin, on his part, ascribed his Venice directly to Byron: “My Venice, like Turner’s, had been chiefly created for us by Byron” [12] . Ruskin’s emphatic assertion has become a widely circulating and undisputed commonplace to be found even in the Introduction to the last exhibition on “Turner & Venice” (Tate Gallery, Oct. 2003- Jan.11 2004) as well as in the influential Venice Desired by Tony Tanner. Tanner indeed goes even further than Ruskin implying that Byron – with his “ocean-born and earth commanding city”, on one side, and “Gehenna of the waters” and “sea-Sodom”, on the other – is to be regarded as the fore-father of the nineteenth century and modern view of Venice [13] .

In my paper I intend to contradict the mentioned commonplace and argue that the literary image of Venice as a female creature, sex appealing and elusive, was not born in Byron’s poems, but in an earlier text: the very popular and much praised “Venetian scenes” in Mrs Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho [14] . Radcliffe’s chapters on Venice were so influential throughout the 19th century that, fifty years after their publication, Chambers could still write: “What poet or painter has ever surpassed (Byron has imitated) her account of the first view of Venice?” [15] .

Before entering into a summary demonstration in support of my thesis, I cannot ignore the obvious objection it may prompt: if the “Venetian scenes” are the real pre-text at the basis of the 19th century and modern views of Venice, why then have they been overlooked so far? [16]

I don’t have the intention here to argue with Tanner, who, in his chapter on Byron, while making the inescapable reference to Radcliffe, tries to rate her text down as little more than a visionary copy of Mrs Piozzi’s. It should be sufficient to add that the reason for Radcliffe falling into oblivion is the very same for which scores of romantic women poets progressively disappeared from the anthologies in the first half of the 19th century, that is, the patriarchal attitude towards the female sphere and its suspicious distrust of female writing. This same biased and condescending attitude, which still pervades the whole of Tanner’s book ( – no “female” view of Venice is included; only male “more serious writers” [17] than Radcliffe are considered – ), was also responsible for the separation of the two Venices, which was the first step towards the subsequent fragmentation of the city into a protean and polymorphous maze.

To a male gaze, Radcliffe’s text was, and still is, particularly provoking. Radcliffe’s Venice is, in fact, as truly feminine in its essence as neither Byron nor any other male writer could have created it, simply because it comes from a woman and is the projection of female vision and desire. Besides, the woman was not only a superb writer but also (in the words of her contemporaries) a “male genius”; and that, among other things, meant that she was proud and self-conscious [18] .

The female and feminine essence of her creation appears so strong and self-confident as to constitute an irresistible challenge to a male gaze and desire or, rather, rape instinct. Tanner’s book tells but the story of a long series of attempts to appropriate and possess the alluring city. Byron was the first to project his own view of femininity on Radcliffe’s “magic city” [19] , with the effect of splitting her mythical Sea Nymph into a sea Cybele, on one side, and a sea whore, on the other [20] . He set the pattern for the subsequent male lovers to approach the female city: from Ruskin to James, Proust, Rilke, Sartre, Mann, they all wanted to enter, penetrate [21] , capture, fix and possess “her”. But, like the sea Nymph, voluptuous and narcissistic Venice [22] eluded all such attempts, thus provoking the well known fits of repugnance, ennui, wrath, insults, withdrawals and inevitable new attempts. 

In Radcliffe’s scenes Venice is shown under all her famous aspects and roles: as the city of art, music, singing, theatre, revels and amusements [23] ; as a vital link with the myth of classical Greece [24] and the door to the East [25] . Thus a fabulous scenery is staged for the genius loci, or spirit of the place, to materialize in the foreground in the form of a singing Sea Nymph. As a whole the Venetian scenes succeed in giving verbal and visual expression to a concept of spirit of place which, as in Lawrence Durrell’s “island books”, lives in the mutual interrelation of nature and memory [26] .

Water, light, music, eroticism, play, mystery: all elements coalesce to evocate the image of a marine goddess, a Venus (according to the 18th century etymology of Venice from Venus [27] ) coming out of the water, that is, the female element par excellence. Of course the Sea Nymph derives from Botticelli, the Venetian masters, Marieschi and Claude; however she conjures up a somewhat bourgeois ‘aura’ in that she appears more sexy than sensual. In these scenes and, particularly, in the poem, the abundance and richness of colours and sounds seem to be in the service less of sensual pleasure than of voluptuous unrestrained freedom. She is the materialization of a female fantasy of liberty and power. In spite of her long narcissistic parade, at bottom she remains enigmatic and unforeseeable, and this is a constant and inviting attraction. It must be highlighted that the Nymph is presented through the language of music and song, which is the language of Orpheus and the Sirens, that is to say, the language of Myth. As is well known, in our bourgeois era Myth represents the fundamental Otherness, the target of both our desire and scorn. When, a few sentences above, I spoke of the bourgeois ‘aura’ that seems to gather round Radcliffe’s Nymph, I was referring to the anxiety which, as in a challenge or a hunt, is aroused by the perfect quarry this female text can materialize.

In spite of (or because of) its deceptive simplicity and catchiness, the poem is dense and complex: it could touch all the chords of romantic sensibility, reaching deep into the contemporary collective unconscious. So much did Coleridge admire its “poetical beauty” that he could not help quoting the whole of it in his early review [28] . Letizia Barbauld felt that the Nymph’s lay might be sung by Shakespeare’s Ariel. Byron’s homage, be it imitation or plagiarism [29] , was an undisputed matter to most 19th century readers. So visibly was his imagination impressed by Radcliffe’s poetical world that, at the end of the century, Walter Raleigh could write: “The man that Lord Byron tried to be was the invention of Mrs Radcliffe” [30] ; (and Byron wouldn’t have disclaimed it, since, in a letter to Augusta, he confesses to imagine himself as a Radcliffean character going out in his gondola into the Venetian night [31] ). In the 1880s Radcliffe was still held in such high esteem that Christina Rossetti, the poet, planned to write her biography for the Eminent Women series. Finally it is worth adding that all the key words and metaphors describing the watery city, which recur in most subsequent 19th and 20th century texts, and which are drown by Tanner from Childe Harold [32] and listed as an evidence of Byron’s influence on Turner, are already present in Radcliffe’s text (with the significant exception of the verbs “divide”, “contend”, “gasp”). They are part of a far richer and finer vocabulary and imagery that may be easily witnessed in the II chapter of Udolpho’s II volume, particularly in the passages going from “Nothing could exceed Emiliy’s admiration on her first view of Venice…” to the Sea Nymph’s lay included [33] . The same may be said of the recurring metaphors concerning the marine world, such as “coral reef” [34] , crystal palaces, subterranean caves, marble columns, groves [35] and bowers, dolphins, tritons, shells, rubies, emeralds, pearls, sapphires, and even “islands of the blest”, and so forth.

However strong and undeniable the influence of Byron’s Venice might have been in the 19th century, it clearly cannot be spoken of as his original “creation” or “invention”. Written a quarter of a century later [36] than Udolpho, in a quite different cultural and political climate, Byron’s version of Venice may be deemed greater by some, but not so new and impressive as Radcliffe’s on its appearing in 1794.

Since the task of restoring Radcliffe back to her importance and influence would require an ampler demonstration than is allowed here, I will sum up its main points.

2-      The “Venetian scenes” as a “textually based text” [37] .

Radcliffe’s description of Venice includes, combines and distillates the images of the city produced in literature and visual arts over the preceding centuries, since the Renaissance–from Shakespeare and Otway to Canaletto, Guardi, Walpole and Mrs Piozzi, to quote only a few of the best-known names. Thus, far from being the product of chance or intuition, Radcliffe’s Venice is to be regarded both as a summa and a sublimation of the “cultural image” of Venice which had been recently shaped and deepened by 18th century travel literature, paintings, prints, letters and tales related by those lucky people who could embark on the fabulous journey to the mythical city.

Radcliffe’s large and eclectic knowledge of visual arts and literature is proved by both the rich quotations in her romances and her education. She grew up in the house of her uncle Thomas Bentley, a learned and brilliant man, partner of Wedgwood in the well-known pottery factory. There she could mix with the polite and learned society of the time, read the best books of art, and take part in the preparations of elegant ornamented pottery [38] . Further, her husband, William Radcliffe, was a journalist and, later, the owner of the English Chronicle, in which a special section was devoted to all fashionable novelties of the day, such as “the places of elegant amusement and arts and the lighter productions of literature” [39] .

3-      The influence of the “Venetian scenes”.

As I have already said in part, Radcliffe’s Venetian scenes exerted a powerful influence on the romantic artists of both the contemporary and the following generation. The influence extended to both vision and technique.

After the “Venetian scenes”, in fact,  the evocation of Venice in the form of marine female creature becomes a common place; from Wordsworth’s “maiden city, bright and free,/ No guile seduce, no force could violate; /And when she took unto herself a mate, / She must espouse the everlasting sea” [40] to Shelley’s “sea-girt City, thou has been/ Ocean Child and then his Queen” [41] , Byron’s “sea Cybele”, Ruskin’s “Vestal from the sea” [42] , Browning’s “exquisite sea thing”, and the numberless impressionist, allegorical, metaphorical female figures by James, Whistler, Proust, Rilke, Pound, Mann etc.

As to her technique, her celebrated word-painting, or “cinematograph- picturesque” [43] , influenced also pre-impressionist landscape painters such as Constable and Turner, some twelve years her younger.

4-      The enormous success of The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The wide influence of Radcliffe’s Venice, of course, depended on the immense popularity of the Mysteries of Udolpho, one of the greatest best sellers of all times in literary history. Translated into the principal European languages and brought onto the stage, MU became immediately a must, from the polite circles to a lower-middle-class audience (such as the Martins of Abbey Mill Farm in Jane Austen’s Emma). References to Udolpho recur in journals and letters by any sort of travellers on the Grand Tour as well as on tourist trips throughout the century. It had evidently become part of the cultural heritage of the time.

Its author was so popular that her contemporaries praised her ‘male’ genius and compared her to Shakespeare and the epic poets like Milton, Tasso, Dante and Ariosto [44] Nowadays MU has come down to us as a gothic novel, but this is also an untrue commonplace. In its earliest review, Coleridge himself, defined it as a novel of suspence; and, as such, a novel of suspence, MU was going to be felt by the romantics as expressing the epic of their generations [45] . Nature was, in fact, the true protagonist of this long poem in prose and partly in verse, eclectic and mannerist. It could answer contemporary taste by translating painting and music into literature, or rather into poetry [46] . Radcliffe was “the first poetess of romantic fiction”: by this definition Scott explained the art of “the great Enchantress” [47] . Her evident and documented influence on the romantic poets of both generations was acknowledged by Keats who called her “Mother Radcliffe” [48] .

5-      Venice, or the Picturesque incarnate.

The power to respond to a widespread and ever-growing taste for picturesque travelling was foremost among the reasons for Udolpho’s enormous success; it was also responsible for the relief in which the Venetian scenes stood out in the eyes of the 19th century readers.

As an 18th cent aesthetic category, the Picturesque implied much more than a passing fashion. As it has been amply demonstrated by recent critical debates, the Picturesque, far from being simply a quality of given objects, implies a way of perceiving, of seeing, of viewing, ultimately a life style which is basically our life style [49] . In Gilpin’s and Price’s essays on the Picturesque [50] there can be found the principles and key words which inform the Western expressive modalities in the last two centuries: point of view, perspective, prospect, variety, contrast, new combinations, composition, light and shade, love of novelty, mixture, trespassing of boundaries, the search after an effect, etc. Precariousness and elusiveness are, therefore, the essence of the Picturesque [51] .

At the beginning of the 19th century Radcliffe was commonly acclaimed to be “the most illustrious of the picturesque writers” [52] for her celebrated technique of word-painting by which she translated the picturesque principles into literature. In Udolpho the plot develops as a picturesque journey through France and Italy, in which Venice stands out as the picturesque object par excellence; and as such – as a picturesque experience – Venice was described by Ruskin and James, Proust and Sartre: a protean city, metamorphic and elusive, perpetually “becoming without ever being” [53] evanescent, “always beyond grasp” [54] , “Venise c’est là où je ne suis pas” [55] . Such descriptions sound as punctual illustrations of Gilpin’s search after picturesque beauty [56] ; with some obvious difference in mood.

While Gilpin valued Nature as an unlimited source of moments of pleasure and was content with the momentary attainment of his object, most 20th century writers, driven by their abnormal egos, cannot be content with less than the full and definitive possession of their object. They can not admit, as Ruskin did at the end of his life, that “She [Venice] is too big for me”; therefore, out of impotence and fear, they proceed to empty and annul the unconquerable magic, and, by projecting on it “the ceaseless spidery – or claw-like? – workings of their ego” [57] , they reduce Venice to “an artificial city…a mere mask” [58] , “a surface which has been left by its foundations” [59] , all ambiguity and empty appearance, or even a “nightmarish... mortal enemy” [60] . They resent and cannot accept Venice’s true nature, which is also the nature of reality: change, variability, mutability [61] . To Gilpin and Price these very words defined the necessary condition for picturesque pleasure. Venice’s many-sidedness and metamorphism would have been a valued source of pleasure to them, as it was both to Radcliffe, her characters, and contemporary readers. The two Venices therefore, far from being an invention of Byron standing on the Bridge of Sighs [62] , could not but be present in Radcliffe’s text, where they were required by both the nature of the picturesque and its rules of composition.

Since “picturesquesness appears to hold a station between beauty and sublimity” [63] and is produced in the shifting from one to the other, in a parallel contrast of light and shade, in Radcliffe’s picturesque scenes a luminous “fairy city” had to be matched by a dark “voluptuous city”, a Claudian Venice by a Rosian Venice.

Considering that the chiaroscuro is the basic picturesque technique as it presupposes the varying coexistence of light and shade, the beautiful and the sublime, it is obvious enough that, in such circumstance, while the beautiful is enhanced by the presence of the sublime, on the contrary, the ‘terrible’ power of the sublime is diminished by being constantly followed by the beautiful.

In Radcliffe’s representation of Venice, Claude’s luminous transparency triumphs over Rosa’s tense darkness. Venice rising out of the sea, the gondola sliding on the Grand Canal, Piazza St. Mark by moonlight, and above all, the materialization of Venice’s true spirit in the Sea Nymph’s lay, that is, song and music, all these scenes stand out in the imagination of both writer and readers, while the dark Venice is flattened into the background. The predominance of Burke’s beautiful within the picturesque experience may explain why the picturesque has been considered as a category fit to express femaleness and femininity (and, accordingly, applied to a lower order of things [64] ).

The Sea Nymph appears as a female figure, strong and self-confident, (in James’s words) so strong that she is gentle and playful. She sings her long lay, describing her life in the sea and her powers: she guides the mighty rivers through Neptune’s waves “to bless the green earth’s inmost shore”; she guides the bark to peaceful shore or calls on her dolphins to save the crew (like Browning’s sea-goddess). At night she “loves to prove her charmful power” attracting the young sailors with her music and then disappearing (deceitful and elusive, like Sartre’s or Rilke’s Venice); “her potent voice” is obeyed by the spirits of the air as well as by dolphins and tritons, while the “nymphs of lake or brook” wave garlands for her and sing her name (“sea-born and earth-commanding” like Byron’s Venice). Her music leads to lofty groves where sweet fruit bloom and fresh spring roves (“an island of the blest” [65] ).

No summary is adequate to the many beauties included in this song, of which the measure, rhymes, assonances and rhythm are not a secondary part [66] . The lay is clearly a fantasy of female power. The Nymph proudly displays the very traits that will be the subjects of so many future male descriptions and complaints. The fact is that, with its shifting pictures full of light, colours and sounds, the song may also be easily read as an erotic fantasy. Without entering in an unnecessary demonstration of this aspect, I will quote the final quatrain, calling attention to both the rhymes (lay/play and wave/lave) and the assonances (made of sibilants and fricatives), which reproduce the sound of the sea as if the Nymph and her voice were melting into the water:

Among the     Whoe’r ye that love my lay,

                       Come, when red sun-set tints the wave,

                       To the still sands, where fairies play;

                       There, in cool seas, I love to lave.

The Nymph merges into the sound of the sea as, in Nietzche’s imagination, Venice merges into music. This suggests an experience of wholeness, in full accordance with Coleridge definition of the true picturesque effect, which is realized “when the parts only are seen and distinguished, but the whole is felt” [67] . In a psychoanalytical study on the picturesque Punter finds such momentary experience of wholeness full of a “deep mythical resonance”, since it is “essentially confirmatory” as “it does not open avenues towards unconsoling experiences of the outer, but instead relates back direct to past” [68] .

This is the true point of the “Venetian scenes”: (for a number of reasons I cannot adequately illustrate here) they build up a fabulous dimension in which the myth of Venice can shine in all its brilliance. Let’s but compare Radcliffe’s approach to “the fairy city” with the various arrivals by Tanner’s male “more serious writers”: apart from the incomparable refined word-painting, Radcliffe’s scene, full of Emily’s enraptured awe and confident pleasure, shows the fairy city coming out of the water in her golden and harmoniously-varying shape, a figure of charm and yet of serenity and peace. There is surely no trace here of Byron’s self assurance and superiority nor the watchful apprehension of Flatland’s bi-mental males [69] .

In sum, Venice is approached by Radcliffe with such respect and humility as are imposed by a mythical presence [70] and which are not to be found hereafter.

Conceived in memory and born from memories, Radcliffe’s Venice is to live in memory because of her a-historical and mythical dimension. Turner’s early water-colours (1819) perfectly catch the mythical spirit of place in the form the most convenient to a painter: as light. Here no reference to Byron’s influence is possible, since in Childe Harold the “city of my heart” is quoted just to be declared dead and living only in his imagination, where, on the other hand, as a sea Cybele, she is conjured up to be long tormented with mourning and finally turned into a weed going deep into the water. Byron seems unconsciously afraid of Venice’s “basilisk eye” [71] and almost anxious to consign her to the past; he refuses any panic immersion among the coral bowers in the bottom of the sea.

As is in Byron’s case, Logos is always trying to conquer and dominate Myth, by using it to its purposes, as Eliot wrote in his well known essay [72] . This is perhaps the main reason for Radcliffe having been let into oblivion in the 20th century, in the company of other unfashionable and backward worshippers of myth.  However, her myth of female freedom and power was not to be easily neutralized. Indeed, though abused and variously distorted, the mythical and female dimension of her Venice survived throughout 19th century texts to trigger subsequent response as an essential part of the cultural image of the city and of our cultural memory.

[1] Chambers R., «Ann Radcliffe», Cyclopedia of English Literature, 2 vols., Edinbourgh, William and Robert Chambers, 1844, p. 558.

[2] Barbauld, Anna Leticia, The British Novelists, 50 vols., London, 1810, vol. 43, pp. i-viii

[3] Ecce Homo, written in 1888, published in 1908.

[4]   For Pound’s early Venice as “a sunny city, a bringer of energy and life”, see:

[5] .Piozzi H., Observations and Reflections made in the course of a Journey through France, Italy and Germany, 2vols, London, 1789.

[6] Carnival in Venice lasted  six months. People wearing masks were free to gamble in the Ridotto, court their mistresses in gondolas, and devote themselves to pleasure in complete anonymity.

[7] Grosley, P.J.(1764): Nouveaux Memoirs, ou Observations sur l’Italie et les Italiens; par deux gentilhommes Suedois, traduit du Suédois, 3 vols, London.

[8] Beckford, W. (1834): Italy; with Sketches of Spain and Portugal, by the author of Vathek, 2 vols., London, R. Bentley.

[9] Saglia, D., “Romantic Heterographies: Travel Writing and Writing the Self”, in Marble Wildeness, Motivi e relazioni di viaggio di inglesi in Italia, a cura di M. Pala, CUEC Ed., Cagliari 2002, pp. 15-40.

[10] Italian Hours, 1958, pp. 6-7, pp. 26-27.

[11] Tanner, T., Venice Desired, Blackwell, Oxford and Cambridge, 1992, p. 171.

[12] See Tanner, cit., p. 17.

[13] For an example among the many that may be given from Tanner’s book, see p. 29: “In these stanzas [the first 29 stanzas of canto IV of Childe Harold] Byron’s image of Venice ‘fresh from the ocean’ – part imagination, part history, part fantasy, part dream, part observation, part memory, part self-projection, part literature – is dazzling constituted. It is these opening twenty-nine stanzas, so crucial and generative for Turner and Ruskin and countless other…”. No mention of Radcliffe among the sources of Venice ‘fresh from the ocean’, in spite of the fact that Radcliffe’s 25 stanzas on the Sea Nymph had been praised and quoted in full by Coleridge. At the time Turner was about to produce his earliest views of Venice (1819; 2 water-colours now in the Tate Gallery) Byron was openly accused of plagiarism in the Gentleman’s Magazine, which means that Radcliffe’s ‘Venetian Scenes’ were all but forgotten.

[14] In the 19th century, “Venetian scenes” was currently used to indicate the chapters of The Mysteries of Udolpho set in Venice (2, 3, 4 of vol. II; pp. 170-220 in the Oxford U.P. edition by B. Dobrée, 1970). See the 19th century texts collected by D. Rogers, ed., The Critical Response to Ann Radcliffe, London and Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 1994.

[15] Chambers, R., cit., p. 5.

[16] Barbara Schaff devotes some cursory pages to “ Venetian Views and Voices in Udolpho” in M. Pfister and B. Schaff, eds., Venetian Views, Venetian Blinds, English Fantasies of Venice, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 1999.

[17] Tanner, cit., p. 5.

[18] See my introduction to Ann Radcliffe in Le poetesse romantiche inglesi, a cura di L .M. Cisafulli, Carrocci, 2003, 2 vols., I.

[19] M. U., vol. II, ch. 4, p. 216.

[20] See Tanner, cit., p.21: “in no writer is the identity...of sexuality and writing more marked than in Byron, particularly Byron in Venice…”

[21] Proust quoted in Tanner, cit., p. 244.

[22] See R. M. Rilke’s “Venetian Morning” (1908), in Tanner, cit., p.350.

[23] Radcliffe allows both herself and her readers a visit to the fabulous city and the enjoyment of all its renowned pleasures.

[24] M .U., vol. II, ch. 3, p. 206: “…she thought of Greece, and, a thousand classical remembrances stealing to her mind, she experienced that pensive luxury which is felt on viewing the scenes of ancient history, and on comparing their present state of silence and solitude with that of their former grandeur and animation. The scenes of the Iliad illapsed in glowing colours to her fancy…”

[25] See M.U., vol II, ch. 3, pp 206-208. Through Emily’s “Stanzas” (18 quatrains) Ilion’s plains, old Scamander, the distant Hellespont, Tartars and camels are distinctly evoked within the Venetian scenes.

[26] Durrell, L., Spirit of Place, ed. by A. G. Thomas, New York: Marlowe & Company, 1969. See also Prospero’s Cell (New York, Marlowe & Company, 1996) and Reflections on a Marine Venus (New York, Marlowe & Company, 1996).

[27] Piozzi, cit., p. 134.

[28] «The Mysteries of Udolpho, a Romance;…»,The Critical Review, 2nd ser.11, August,1794, pp361-372.

[29] See A, Dyce, “Plagiarism of Lord Byron”, Gentleman’s Magazine, 1818, 88, Feb., pp. 121-122.

[30] Raleigh, Sir W. A., The English Novel, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894, p. 227.

[31] Lettere dall’Italia, 19 dic. 1816, in Domini, D. ed., Lord Byron, Ravenna, Longo.1988, p. 62.

[32] Childe Harold, H, IV Bk. Tanner, p. 36: The characteristic nouns are ‘moon’, ‘sunset’, ‘clouds’, ‘colours’, ‘Iris’, ‘air’, ‘hues’, ‘purple’, ‘rose’, ‘stream’, ‘waters’, ‘dolphin’, ‘shadow’; the adjectives are blue, azure, lovely, sunny, far, odorous, deep dyed, magical, pale…; the verbs ‘divide’, ‘join’, ‘melt’, ‘float’, ‘glide’, ‘flows’, ‘stream’… glass etc.

[33]  M.U., pp. 174-181.The online text of The Mysteries of Udolpho can be found at this address;

[34] ‘Coral reef’ f. e. migrates from Byron to Browning, Melville, Proust (Tanner, cit., pp. 8,.36, 239)

[35] See the chapter on Pound in Tanner, cit.,  p. 304.

[36] The reference is to IV Canto of Childe Harold (1818).( As well-known Venice provided the settings also for Marino Faliero, The Two Foscari, Beppo and some other poems.

[37] Tanner, p. 17.

[38] In a letter Wedgwood complained in 1771 that their library was unequally divided, and Bentley had all the fine books they possessed illustrating the antique [ R.Norton Mistress of Udolpho: The Life of Ann Radcliffe, London and New York, Leicester U.P., 1999., pp. 33-34]. Besides being a successful businessman, Thomas Bentley was a lively and learned man, fond of polite society. His house, in Liverpool and later in London, at Chelsea and Turnham Green, was a regular meeting-point for intellectuals of any kind, writers, artists and scientists such as Joseph Priestly, the architect and designer James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, Ralph Griffith the editor del Monthly Review, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Darwin, the sculptor John Flaxman, Mrs Montague, Mrs Ord, Mrs Piozzi. Little Nancy, or the «little Sprightly Niece» [Lett. to Bentley, march 1772, Letters of Josiah Wedgewood, ed, by  K.E. Farrer., 2 vols, Women’s Printing Society.1903, vol. I, pp. 450] probably lived with her uncle, a childless widow, since the age of five [see Norton 1999, p.30-31]. Her mother’s sister, Elizabeth, ran the house and helped in the selection of the pottery’s patterns and design. Norton describes Ann’s family setting while preparing the imperial dinner service for Catherine of Russia: “In order to assemble the source material for this great undertaking, Bentley purchased virtually all available published landscapes as well as commissioning artists to make original sketches. He and his niece would have been surrounded by countless images of castles, abbeys, ruined towers and sublime and picturesque scenery.[ ….] She would have had the opportunity to examine the entire stock of books owned by the firm of Wedgwood & Bentley—

[39] Quoted in Haig, L. (1960): The Gazetteer 1735-1797: A Study in the Eighteenth Century Newspaper, Carbondale, Southern Illinois U. P.

[40] Adams, W. H. D., The Queen of the Adriatic; or, Venice, Past and Present, London, Nelson and Sons, 1869, p.160.

[41] Ibidem, p.1.

[42] [vol.10, p.177; vol. 7, p.440]

[43] Hussey, C. (1927): The Picturesque. Studies in a Point of View, London, Frank Cass & Co Ltd, repr. 1967.

[44] Bucke, C. On the Beauties, Harmonies, and Sublimities of Nature. [First published anonimously in 1813 under the title The Philosophy of Nature] London, Thomas Tegg and Son, 1837, pp.122-123: “…Mrs Ratcliffe,— bred in the schools of Dante and Ariosto, and whom the Muses recognise as the sister of Salvator Rosa”

[45] See the theme of the “circuitous journey” in M. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature, 1971.

[46] See my  “Poesia e Romance in The Mysteries of Udolpho di Ann Radcliffe”, in Potesse Romantiche Inglesi, a cura di C. Pietropoli, Carrocci, 2002.

[47] Scott, W., «Prefatory Memoir to Mrs Ann Radcliffe», The Novels of Mrs Ann Radcliffe. Ballantyne’s Novelist’s Library, Edinburgh, vol. 10, 1824.

[48] Keats, 14 Feb., 1819, The Letters of John Keats 1814-1821, ed. by H. E. Rollins, 2 vols., Cambridge, Ma, Harvard U. P.1958, vol.2, p.62.

[49] Copley, S. and Garside, P., eds., The Politics of the Picturesque: Literature, Landscape and aesthetics since 1770, Cambridge, Cambridge U. P., 1994. Robinson, S. K., Inquiry into the Picturesque, Chicago and London, The U. of Chicago P., 1991.

[50] Gilpin, W., Three Essays, on Picturesque Beauty; on Picturesque Travel; on Sketching Landscape: to which is added a poem, on Landscape Painting, London, Blamire, 1792. 

Price, U., Essays on the Picturesque, as compared with the Sublime and the Beautiful; and on the use of Studying Pictures, for the purpose of improving Real landscape, London, (1794), 1810,3 vols.

[51] As highlighted by John Whale in “Romantics, Explorers, and Picturesque Travellers”, in Copley and Garside, cit., p. 177. This explains the persistent relevance and unpopularity of writer who put an essentially male technique to the service of a female vision.

[52] Brown, C. Brockden, “On a Taste for Picturesque”, Literary Magazine and American Register, 2, No 9, June, 1804, pp. 163-65

[53] Rilke, R.M., cit. in Tanner, cit., p. 350.

[54] Rilke, R. M., Selected Letters 1902-1926, London, 1988, pp. 303-304.

[55] Sartre, J.P., “Venise, de ma fenêtre”, (1953), in Situations IV, Paris, Gallimard, pp. 444-49.

[56] Gilpin, cit., pp. 47-8: “The first source of amusement to the picturesque traveller, is the pursuit of his object—the expectation of new scenes continually opening, and arising to his view. We suppose the country to have been unexplored. Under this circumstance the mind is kept constantly in an agreeable suspence. The love of novelty is the foundation of this pleasure. Every distant horizon promises something new ; and with this pleasing expectation we follow nature through all her walks. We pursue her from hill to dale; and hunt after those various beauties, with which she everywhere abounds. The pleasures of the chace are universal…And shall we suppose it a greater pleasure to the sportsman to pursue a trivial animal than to a man of taste to pursue the beauties of nature? To follow her through all her recesses? To obtain a sudden glance, as she flits past him in some airy shape? To trace her through the mazes of the cover? To wind after her along the vale? Or along the reaches of the river?” (italics mine)

[57] In Copley and Garside, cit., p. 227.

[58] G. Simmel, “Venedig”, Zur Philosophie der Kunst, 1922; transl. by J. Barret in Tanner, cit., p.367.

[59] Ibid.,

[60] J. P .Sartre, cit.

[61] Gilpin, Three Essays, I. Gilpin enthusiastically show how large is the potential variety of nature (p.42: We seek it [picturesque beauty] among the ingredients of landscape–trees–rocks–broken grounds–woods–rivers–lakes–planes–vallies–mountains–and distances These objects in themselves produce infinite variety….They are varied a second time by combination; and almost as much, a third time by different lights and shades..). Sartre on the contrary complains that Venice is “an unstable compound, always mingling” (“Venise, …”, cit.).

[62] Childe Harold, Book IV.

[63] U. Price, Essays on the Picturesque, cit., vol. I, p. 68.

[64] See A. Bermingham’s essay in Copley and Garside, cit. and her Landscape and Ideology.The English Rustic Tradition 1740-1860, London, Thames and Hudson, 1987.

[65] Childe Harold, IV, v. 244.

[66] See my “Poesia e romance in Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho”, cit.; also my “L’Italia pittoresca di Ann Radcliffe”, in Imagining Italy. Literary Iitineraries in British Romanticism, a cura di L.M.Crisafulli, Bologna, Clueb, 2002..

[67] Letters, Conversations and Recollections of T. S. Coleridge, ed. by T. Allsop, London, Groombridge, 1858, pp.106-107.

[68] Punter, cit., p. 227.

[69] See E. A. Abbott, Flatland, 1889.

[70] Venice is revealed through the language of myth, as female singing and music which addresse the heart: “… The sounds seemed to grow in the air; for so smoothly did the barge glide along, that its motion was not perceivable, and the fairy city appeared approaching to welcome the strangers. The now distinguished a female voice accompanied by a few instruments, singing a soft and mournful air [….] Ah! thought Emily, as she sighed and remembered Valancourt, those strains come from the heart.” (M.U., p. 175; italics mine)

[71] See “In a By Canal”, in Selected Poems of Herman Melville, ed. by H. Cohen, New York, 1964, p.150 (cit. in Tanner, p. 9)

[72] Ulysses, Order, and Myth”, The Dial, LXXV, 5, Nov., 1923, pp. 480.83.