Study Guide

The Mysteries of Udolpho Volume 1, Chapter 1

By Ann Radcliffe

Volume 1, Chapter 1

  • Meet the St. Auberts. They're no Brady Bunch: Monsieur St. Aubert, Madame St. Aubert, and their beloved daughter Emily live at a chateau called La Vallée on the banks of the Garonne. Life is rough.
  • Well, actually, it gets pretty rough after M. St. Aubert comes down with a bad fever. He's still weak but recovering when the whole family takes a walk out to their favorite fishing-house (you're no one unless you have several fishing-houses, apparently).
  • Everyone walks back after having a good old time at the fishing-house, but it seems that Emily's forgotten her lute. She runs back to grab it and hears some mysterious music—someone is apparently playing her lute!
  • Emily waits until the music stops and finds her lute in a different place than where she put it last. Creepy-town.
  • Foreshadowing time: Madame St. Aubert is happy and all, but little does she know that she's about to die. She's also a little upset because she forgot her favorite bracelet with Emily's picture inside at the fishing-house. Our bet's on the same creeper who was playing the lute.
  • Hallelujah, the Quesnels have come to visit. Except not really, because Monsieur and Madame Quesnel are the worst kind of relatives you can possibly have.
  • Okay, fine, they bailed out M. St. Aubert and bought La Vallée from him a couple of years back when he couldn't afford it. But now Quesnel has all sorts of plans to make La Vallée fashionable, most of which involve taking down ancient trees and parts of the chateau. Never a good sign.
  • St. Aubert is definitely not happy about Quesnel being all up in his business, but it's not like he can do anything.
  • So he goes on a walk in the woods with his beloved Emily, who commemorates the occasion with a poem on glow-worms. Did we mention that Emily really like nature and writing poetry? She's like the ultimate hippie.
  • And uh-oh, Madame St. Aubert is really sick. We saw this coming, but it's still really sad when she dies.
  • Emily is pretty devastated, but her dad has taught her to keep her in emotions in check. She's definitely not going to go off the rails or anything.

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