14 November - Ann Ward Radcliffe (1764 - 1823) Jul 14, 2008 21:58:58 GMT 2
Post by moira on Jul 14, 2008 21:58:58 GMT 2
Ann Ward Radcliffe (1764-1823)
Another 18th century foremother, a central novelist, the "mother" of
the female gothic.
I include a drawing which is thought to be of Radcliffe, but it's not certain.
It's reproduced in scholarly biographies. If it is, she dressed unusually.
Ann Radcliffe is really at her best as a poet in her prose,
but as verse is what we have been limiting poetry too, here's her
Song of a Spirit
In the sightless air I dwell,
On the sloping sunbeams play;
Delve the cavern's inmost cell,
Where never yet did daylight stray:
Dive beneath the green seawaves,
And gambol in the briny deeps;
Skim every shore that Neptune laves,
From Lapland's plains to India's steeps.
Oft I mount with rapid force
Above the wide earth's shadowy zone;
Follow the day-star's flaming course
Through the realms of space to thought unknown.
And listen often celestial sounds
That swell the air unheard of men,
As I watch my nightly rounds
O'er woody steep, and silent glem.
Under the shade of waving trees,
On the green bank of fountain clear,
At pensive eve I sit at ease,
Whie dying music murmurs near.
And oft, on point of airy clift,
That hangs upon the western main,
I watch the gay tints passing swift
And twilight veil the liquid plain.
Then when the breeze has sunk away,
And ocean scarce is heard to leave,
For me the sea-nymphs softly play
Their dulcet shells beneath the wave.
The ray that silvers o'er the dew,
And trembles through the leafy shade,
And tints the scene withs softer hue,
Calls me to rove the lonely galde.
Or hie me to some ruined tower,
Faintly shown by moonlight gleam,
Where the lone wanderer owns my power
In shadows dire that substance seem;
Unseen I move--unknown am feared!
Fancy's wildest dreams I weave;
And oft by bards my voice is heard
To die along the gales of eve.
Down, down a thousand fathom deep,
Among the sounding seas I go;
Play round the foot of every steep
Whose cliffs above the ocean grow.
There, within their secret caves,
I hear the mighty rivers roar;
And guide their streams through Neptune's waves
To bless the green earth's inmost shore:
And bid the freshen'd waters glide,
For fern-crown'd nymphs of lake, or brook,
Through winding woods and pastures wide,
And many a wild, romantic nook.
For this the nymphs, at fall of eve,
Oft dance upon the flow'ry banks,
And sing my name, and garlands weave
To bear beneath the wave their thanks.
In coral bow'rs I love to lie,
And hear the surges roll above,
And, through the waters, view on high
The proud ships sail, and gay clouds move.
And oft at midnight's stillest hour,
When summer seas the vessel lave,
I love to prove my charmful pow'r
While floating on the moon-light wave.
And when deep sleep the crew has bound,
And the sad lover musing leans
O'er the ship's side, I breathe around
Such strains as speak no mortal means!
O'er the dim waves his searching eye
Sees but the vessel's lengthen'd shade;
Above---the moon and azure sky;
Entranc'd he hears, and half afraid!
Sometimes a single note I swell,
That, softly sweet, at distance dies;
Then wake the magic of my shell,
And choral voices round me rise!
The trembling youth, charm'd by my strain,
Calls up the crew, who, silent, bend
O'er the high deck, but list in vain;
My song is hush'd, my wonders end!
Within the mountain's woody bay,
Where the tall bark at anchor rides,
At twilight hour, with tritons gay,
I dance upon the lapsing tides.
And with my sister-nymphs I sport,
'Till the broad sun looks o'er the floods;
Then, swift we seek our crystal court,
Deep in the wave, 'mid Neptune's woods.
In cool arcades and glassy halls
We pass the sultry hours of noon,
Beyond wherever sun-beam falls,
Weaving sea-flowers in gay festoon.
The while we chant our ditties sweet
To some soft shell that warbles near;
Join'd by the murmuring currents, fleet,
That glide along our halls so clear.
There, the pale pearl and sapphire blue,
And ruby red, and em'rald green,
Dart from the domes a changing hue,
And sparry columns deck the scene.
When the dark storm scowls o'er the deep,
And long, long peals of thunder sound,
On some high cliff my watch I keep
O'er all the restless seas around:
'Till on the ridgy wave, afar,
Comes the lone vessel, labouring slow,
Spreading the white foam in the air,
With sail and topmast bending low.
Then, plunge I 'mid the ocean's roar,
My way by quiv'ring lightnings shewn,
To guide the bark to peaceful shore,
And hush the sailor's fearful groan.
And if too late I reach its side
To save it from the 'whelming surge,
I call my dolphins o'er the tide,
To bear the crew where isles emerge
Their mournful spirits soon I cheer,
While round the desert coast I go,
With warbled songs they faintly hear,
Oft as the stormy gust sinks low.
My music leads to lofty groves,
That wild upon the sea-bank wave;
Where sweet fruits bloom, and fresh spring roves,
And closing boughs the tempest brave.
The spirits of the air obey
My potent voice they love so well;
And, on the clouds, paint visions gay,
While strains more sweet at distance swell.
And thus the lonely hours I cheat,
Soothing the ship-wreck'd sailor's heart,
'Till from the waves the storms retreat,
And o'er the east the day-beams dart.
Neptune for this oft binds me fast
To rocks below, with coral chain,
'Till all the tempest's over-past,
And drowning seamen cry in vain.
Whoe'er ye are 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.
Now the bat circles on the breeze of eve,
That creeps, in shudd'ring fits, along the wave,
And trembles 'mid the woods, and through the cave
Whose lonely sighs the wanderer deceive;
For oft, when melancholy charms his mind,
He thinks the Spirit of the rock he hears,
Nor listens, but with sweetly-thrilling fears,
To the low, mystic murmurs of the wind!
Now the bat circles, and the twilight dew
Falls silent round, and, o'er the mountain-cliff,
The gleaming wave and far-discover'd skiff,
Spreads the gray veil of soft, harmonious hue.
So falls o'er Grief the dew of pity's tear
Dimming her lonely visions of despair.
Beatrice Battaglia (Paesaggi e misteri, riscoprire Ann Radcliffe
(Landscapes and mysteries, rediscovering/uncovering Ann Radcliffe)
remarks how this shows us an Ann Radcliffe off-stage as we are never
allowed to see her in the memoir of her life commissioned by her
husband by Talfourd. Here is a beautiful and exalted, adventurous
blank verse poem:
Forth from her cliffs sublime the sea-mew goes
To meet the storm, rejoicing! To the woods
She gives herself; and, borne above the peaks
Of highest head-lands, wheels among the clouds,
And hears Death's voice in thunder roll around,
While the waves far below, driven on the shore,
Foaming with pride and rage, make hollow moan.
Now, tossed along the gale from cloud to cloud,
She turns her silver wings touched by the beam,
That through a night of vapours darts its long,
Level line; and, vanishing 'mid the gloom,
Enters the secret region of the storm;
But soon again appearing, forth she moves
Out from the mount'nous shapes of other clouds,
And, sweeping down them, hastens to new joys.
It was the wailing of the deep she heard!
No fears repel her: when the tumult swells,
Ev'n as the spirit-stirring trumpet glads
The neighing war-horse, is the sound to her.
O'er the waves hovering, while they lash the rock
And lift, as though to reach her, their chafed tops.
Dashing the salt foam o'er her downy wings,
Higher she mounts, and from her feathers shakes
The shower, triumphant. As they sink, she sinks,
And with her long plumes sweeps them in their fall
As if in mockery; then, as they retreat,
She dances o'er them, and with her shrill note
Dares them, as in scorn.
It is not thus she meets their summer smiles;
Then, skimming low along the level tide,
She dips the last point of her crescent wings,
At measured intervals, with playful grace,
And rises, as retreating to her home.
High on yon 'pending rock, but poised awhile
In air, as though enamoured of the scene,
She drops, at once, and settles on the sea.
On the green waves, transparent then she rides,
And breathes their freshness, trims her plumage white,
And, listening to the murmur of the surge,
Doth let them bear her wheresoe'er they will.
Oh! bird beloved of him, who, absent long
From his dear native land, espies thee ere
The mountain tops o'er the far waters rise,
And hails thee as the harbinger of home!
Thou bear'st to him a welcome on thy wings.
His white sail o'er th' horizon thou hast seen
And hailed it, with, thy oft-repeated cry,
Announcing England, "England is near!" he cries,
And every seaman's heart an echo beats,
And "England - England!" sounds along the deck,
Mounts to the shrouds, and finds an answering voice,
Ev'n at the top-mast head, where, posted long,
The "look out" sailor clings, and with keen eye,
By long experience finely judging made,
Reads the dim characters of air-veiled shores,
O happy bird! whom Nature's changing scenes
Can ever please; who mount'st upon the wind
Of Winter and amid the grandeur soar'st
Of tempests, or sinkest to the peaceful deep,
And float'st with sunshine on the summer calm!
O happy bird! lend me thy pinions now,
Thy joys are mine, and I, like thee, would skim
Along the pleasant curve of the salt bays,
Where the blue seas do now serenely sleep;
Or, when they waken to the Evening breeze,
And every crisping wave reflects her tints
Of rose and amber, -- like thee, too, would I
Over the mouths of the sea-rivers float,
Or watch, majestic, on the tranquil tide,
The proud ships follow one another down,
And spread themselves upon the mighty main,
Freighted for shores that shall not dawn on sight,
Till a new sky uplift its burning arch,
And half the globe be traversed. Then to him,
The home-bound seaman, should my joyous flight
Once more the rounding river point, -- to him
who comes, perchance, from coasts of darkness, where
Grim Ruin, from his throne of hideous rocks,
O'ercanopied with pine, or giant larch,
Scowls on the mariner, and Terror wild
Looks through the parting gloom with ghastly eye,
Listens to woods, that groan beneath the storm,
And starts to see the river-cedar fall.
How sweet to him, who from such strands returns,
How sweet to glide along his homeward stream
By well-known meads and woods and village cots,
That lie in peace around the ivied spire
And ancient parsonage, where the small, fresh stream
Gives a safe haven to the humbler barks
At anchor, just as last he viewed the scene.
And soft as then upon the surface lies
The sunshine, and as sweet the landscape
Smiles, as on that day he sadly bade farewell
To those he loved. Just so it smiles, and yet
How many other days and months have fled,
What shores remote his steps have wandered o'er,
What scenes of 'various life unfolded strange,
Since that dim yesterday! The present scene
Unchanged, though fresh, appears the only truth,
And all the interval a dream! May those
He loves still live, as lives the landscape now;
And may to-morrow's sun light the thin clouds
Of doubt with rainbow-hues of hope and joy!
Bird! I would hover with thee o'er the deck,
Till a new tide with thronging ships should tremble;
Then, frightened at their strife, with thee I'd fly
To the free waters and the boundless skies,
And drink the light of heaven and living airs;
Then with thee haunt the seas and sounding shores,
And dwell upon the mountain's beaked top,
Where nought should come but thou and the wild winds.
There would I listen, sheltered in our cell,
The tempest's voice, while midnight wraps the world.
But, if a moon-beam pierced the clouds, and shed
Its sudden gleam upon the foaming waves,
Touching with pale light each sharp line of cliff,
Whose head towered darkly, which no eye could trace,
Then downward I would wheel amid the storm,
And watch, with untired gaze, the embattled surges
Pouring in deep array, line after line,
And hear their measured war-note sound along
The groaning coast, whereat the winds above
Answer the summons, and each secret cave,
Untrod by footsteps, and each precipice,
That oft had on the unconscious fisher frowned,
And every hollow bay and utmost cape
Sighs forth a fear for the poor mariner.
He, meanwhile, hears the sound o'er waters wide;
Lashed to the mast, he hears, and thinks of home.
O bird! lend me thy wings,
That swifter than the blast I may out-fly
Danger, and from yon port the life-boat call.
And see! e'en now the guardian bark rides o'er
The mountain-billows, and descends through chasms
Where lurks Destruction eager for his prey,
With eyes of flashing fire and foamy jaws.
He, by strange storm-lights shown, uplifts his head,
And, from the summit of each rising wave,
Darts a grim glance upon the daring crew,
And sinks the way their little boat must go!
But she, with blessings armed, best shield! as if
Immortal, surmounts the abyss, and rides
The watery ridge upon her pliant oars,
Which conquer the wild, raging element
And that dark demon, with angelic power.
Wave after wave, he sullenly retreats,
With oft repeated menace, and beholds
The poor fisherman, with all his fellows,
Borne from his grasp in triumph to the shore
There Hope stands watchful, and her call is heard
Wafted on wishes of the crowd. Hark! hark!
Is that her voice rejoicing? 'Tis her song
Swells high upon the gale, and 'tis her smile,
That gladdens the thick darkness. THEY ARE SAVED.
Bird of the winds and waves and lonely shores,
Of loftiest promontories -- and clouds,
And tempests -- Bird of the sun-beam, that seeks
Thee through the storm, and glitters on thy wings!
Bird of the sun-beam and the azure calm,
Of the green cliff, hung with gay summer plants,
Who lov'st to sit in stillness on the bough,
That leans far o'er the sea, and hearest there
The chasing surges and the hushing sounds,
That float around thee, when tall shadows tremble,
And the rock-weeds stream lightly on the breeze.
O bird of joy! what wanderer of air
Can vie with thee in grandeur of delights,
Whose home is on the precipice, whose sport
Is on the waves? 0 happy, happy bird!
Lend me thy wings, and let thy joys be mine!
(wr. bef. r823; pub. 1826)
Ann Ward Radcliffe was the only daughter of "middling" people (in trade),
William Ward, a haberdasher, and his wife Ann Oates; when she was 8 her
father moved to Bath to manage a shop selling Wedgwood china. However,
through her parents she was related to the wealthy merchant, Thomas Bentley,
and two prominent physicians, the Jebbs, and some of the radical Protestant
types of the era. She was probably well-educated and went to a school for
girls run by Sophie and Harriet Lee (novelists) in Bath. There she met and
married William Radcliffe, a recent graduate of Oxford who became a
journalist and translator in London. She said she began to write to fill
her evenings when her husband worked late on his newpaper. She was paid a
very high price for her three famous novels, The Romance of the Forest
(1791), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and The Italian (1797).
She also enjoyed travelling about and wrote appealing journals of her travels.
But she ceased writing for publication after The Italian; it's not really known why.
Guesses include the ridicule she received; that she was made aware of the sexual
component of her books and this distressed her. Perhaps she had a nervous breakdown.
She had never played any part in literary society, and went to live near Windsor.
She refused to respond to rumors that she had gone mad or was dead.
After she died, another book was published and all her poems.
I'm persuaded Ann Radcliffe was another woman who kept extensive diaries.
A selection of these were published at her death by her husband, and the rest
then destroyed. They together with a life of the women (by Talfour, William
Radcliffe's friend, who knew Ann) formed the very long preface to the first
(posthumous) edition of Gaston de Blondeville. These memoirs
offer more sense of personality than anything else she wrote except for her
Journey of a Tour written in 1794. What we really know about
her as a person comes from these (beyond the barest documented facts
which are themselves not sufficiently explained).
She opened the female unconscious to the novel for the first time;
her gifts are for pictorial reverie, for creating the uncanny, for
these indeterminate labyrinthian narrative sequences drenched in
nervous anxiety and subjectivities of all sort, and her imagery is of
the alluring controlled sadomasochistic type. There's an excellent
biography by Rictor Norton, Mistress of Udolpho (it includes a full
bibliography and notes); I also recommend Coral Ann Howells's Love,
Mystery and Misery, Anne Williams's Art of Darkness: The Poetics
of the Gothic; The Critical Response to Ann Radcliffe, ed. Deborah
Rogers (Westport, Conn: Greenwood, 1994.
Ann Radcliffe is another author from the 18th century who means a
great deal to me. I first read her Romance of the Forest in a 1797
edition I found on the Brooklyn College library (CUNY) open shelves
in the early 1970s. I loved it and am very fond of Northanger
Abbey. I've run readings and discussions of Radcliffe's work on line:
She's significant for feminists too as she is a kind of lightning rod
as the writer who first created the female gothic. Daphne
DuMaurier's books come right out of Radcliffe's original
creation. Many modern writers or readers profess to dislike the
female gothic very much, and there is a very good book of articles
exposing the norms and functioning of female gothic in our
society: Juliann Fleenor's Female Gothic (a book of essays). The
serious question is how authentic or real and true to inward female
experience is Radcliffe, and if women are "hard-wired" (genetically
disposed) to move in directions the gothic dramatizes or encultured,
trained, policed, into it.