MARY ANNE RADCLIFFE (b. c. 1746, d. after 1810)

Manfroné was one of the most popular Gothic novels of the early nineteenth century (fondly remembered, for example, by Thackeray). It was frequently attributed to Mrs Ann Radcliffe (of Mysteries of Udolpho fame), though it is generally assumed that the real author was another Mrs Radcliffe: Mrs Mary Anne Radcliffe. Very little is known about her, though she is presumably the same person as Mary Anne Radcliffe who wrote the feminist tract The Female Advocate; or, An Attempt to Recover the Rights of Women from Male Usurpation (written in 1792, but not published until 1799). The Memoirs of Mrs Mary Ann Radcliffe; in Familiar Letters to Her Female Friend (1810) complicates matters by referring to neither the novels nor the tract. Other novels attributed to Mary Ann Radcliffe are Radzivil and The Fate of Velina de Guidova, both published in 1790 by William Lane at the Minerva Press. Radclife’s [sic] New Novelist’s Pocket Magazine appeared in 1802, a chapbook collection of tales compiled ‘By Mrs Mary Anne Radclife, of Wimbledon in Surrey’; this was published in Edinburgh, where Mary Anne Radcliffe of The Memoirs spent her last years, so it seems likely there was only one Gothic novelist by the name of Mrs Mary Ann Radcliffe. However, her authorship of Manfroné may still be incorrect: Mrs Ann Louisa Belinda Ker listed this title among her novels in several letters applying for assistance to the Royal Literary Fund in 1822 and later (Ker’s novels include The Heiress di Montalde (1799), Adeline St. Julian; or, The Midnight Hour (1799) and other Radcliffe imitations). The 1893 edition of Manfroné was retitled Manfred in order to cash in on the success of Byron’s poetic drama of that name. Novels such as these are in a sense the property of their publishers rather than their authors.

Copyright © 2000, 2012 Rictor Norton

Chapter I

Rosaline, for some time lost in thought, rested her head on her white arm, till the increasing gloom of her chamber made her look to her expiring lamp; hastily she arose to trim it, for she feared to be left in the shades of darkness, as her thoughts were sorrowful, and sleep seemed not inclined to ‘steep her senses in forgetfulness.’ Her apartment was spacious and lofty, the wainscoting was of dark cedar, and the ceiling was formed of the same. The uncertain flicker of the lamp, which doubtfully fluttered the wick, scarcely shed its faint light further than the table on which it was placed. An almost nameless sensation, but in which terror held a share, disturbed Rosaline; for, as she gazed around, she almost fancied the distant shades as the shrouds of spectral forms, gliding along with noiseless pace; and fancy made her listen in idea to the hollow tones of their sepulchral voices. She had some time dismissed her servant, who had retired to her bed; and whether it was the effect of the tale she had been perusing, or some presentiment of ill which arose in her breast, and which filled her bosom with a secret dread, is uncertain; but she was going to summon her domestic to remain with her during the night, when a noise at the further extremity of her chamber fixed her, trembling, to her seat.
          The sounds seemed to be occasioned by the sliding of a panel through its groves [sic], and which appeared to move with difficulty, as if long disused. Terror deprived Rosaline of the power of action and speech; her lamp grew every moment more dim, and the gloomy shades which filled her apartment more dense. The noise, however, soon ceased, and Rosaline began slowly to recover from her terrors. She was not naturally of a fearful disposition; but her imagination, heated by her disturbed ideas, made her that night somewhat timid; true it was, that the apartment she was in was solitary, and the light of her lamp served rather to make the darkness visible, than to chase away its solemn shades.
          Rosaline, after some time spent in endeavouring to penetrate through the gloom, and listening for the renewal of the noise that had so much disturbed her, summoned up sufficient courage to advance to the lamp to trim it; having so done, she held it up, in order to examine the remote parts of the chamber, when, to her terror-struck vision, appeared a tall figure in a sable mantle, advancing towards her with a noiseless tread, whose features were not perceptible, for they were shaded by the dark plumage he wore in his barette. Rosaline started back, for at the first glance she imagined the form before her was that of some supernatural visitant; her senses were fast congealing with horror, and the lamp dropped from her trembling hand; but, in a moment after she was terribly convinced to the contrary, for she felt herself seized by a firm grasp, from which she was unable to disengage herself. The lamp, when it fell to the floor was extinguished; and thus, in utter darkness, Rosaline was at the mercy of some unknown assailant, whose base purpose soon became no matter of doubt.
          Her piercing shrieks re-echoed through the vaulted corridors of the castle, and soon were heard by the Duke Rodolpho, her father, who, hastily taking his sword, rushed towards her chamber, the portal of which he burst open, and beheld his daughter in the arms of the daring intruder, her strength nearly exhausted, and her voice becoming every moment more faint.
          Without laying down his lamp, he rushed on the unknown, who, leaving the trembling Rosaline, defended himself against the furious attack of the duke.
          The lamp which the duke held was soon struck out of his hold, and they fought in utter darkness, till at length the stranger was disarmed, and, groaning deeply, fled; the duke would have pursued him but could not discover what way he had gone, for his footsteps became suddenly silent, and nothing was now heard but poor Rosaline, who lay on the floor, gasping for breath, and unable to speak. The servants, alarmed at the clashing of swords, and the screams of Rosaline, at length rushed into the chamber, where stood the duke, resting against the table, covered with blood, for he had been wounded in the violent contest; the sight of her father in that situation completely roused Rosaline from her insensibility, and she tottered forward to support him.
          ‘My father!’ she exclaimed, ‘my dear father, you are wounded. – Oh, Pietro, Gulieno, hasten away to procure assistance.’
          ‘There is no occasion for your alarms, Rosaline,’ said the duke, ‘my hurts are, I trust, not dangerous; but where could the villain have escaped? Search instantly this chamber, for I am certain he did not go out at the portal.’
          The servants instantly obeyed the command, but nowhere could they discover any trace of the person they sought, but Rosaline, who by this time was perfectly returned to her recollection, mentioned the circumstance of the noise she had heard; from which they concluded that there was a private entrance into the chamber, and on examining in the direction she pointed out, a loose panel was found, which, being forced from its holds, disclosed a small passage which terminated in a flight of steps; the drops of blood on the floor shewed that the unexpected visitant had gone that way, and the servants were ordered to descend the stairs, and to trace his steps. In this however, they did not succeed; for after descending them, they found that they led into the subterraneous apartments of the castle, whose intricate turnings and windings they followed for a long time, till at last, satisfied that the object of their pursuit must have left the precincts of the castle by some concealed entrance to the vaults, they returned to Rosaline’s chamber, to report their ill success to the duke.
          After the departure of the servants, Rodolpho, faint with loss of blood had retired, and Rosaline was left with her favourite servant Carletta. Though repeatedly assured by him and father Augustino, confessor to the castle, who was greatly skilled in surgical knowledge, that none of his hurts were dangerous, yet she was not able to dismiss her fears on her parent’s account, and sat in tears by the side of her couch, till a violent scream from Carletta, who was arranging the furniture of the apartment which had been thrown into confusion during the late mysterious occurrence, made her start from her seat to inquire into the cause, when she beheld her attendant standing with her eyes fixed on some object on the floor, and her hands clasped together, while her trembling frame bespoke the agitation she endured.
          ‘What is the matter, Carletta?’ said she, advancing – ‘what alarms you so much?’
          Scarcely had she concluded her question, when her eyes rested on the object that had caused the exclamation of affright from her attendant, and which, with horror, she perceived to be a human hand, blood-stained, and apparently but lately severed from its limb. She sickened and turned pale at the sight, and, sinking into a chair, covered her eyes with her hands, lest she should again behold so unpleasant an object; while Carletta, whose fears were still greater than those of her mistress, fainted away, and lay inanimate on the floor, close to the cause of her alarm. In this situation they were found by the domestics, on their return from their fruitless search. Lupo, the castellain, entered first, and Rosaline, when she beheld him, gathered sufficient courage to point out to him the bleeding hand, which he immediately took up and examined; it was large and muscular, but no rings being on the fingers, they were at a loss to conceive who the owner could be.
          ‘At any rate,’ said Lupo, ‘it will be easy to recognize again, should he be anyone belonging to the castle, and which I should almost conceive to be the case, by his being so well acquainted with the private passages of it. As to his hand, lady,’ continued he, ‘it shall no longer alarm you.’
          Thus having said, the castellian [sic], opening a case[ment window] which overlooked the wide waters of the lake Abruzzo, threw out the hand of the mysterious intruder, and having fastened the pannel, departed with his followers to the apartment of the duke, to acquaint him with the circumstances.

[SOURCE: Mary Anne Radcliffe, Manfrone; or, The One-Handed Monk. A Romance (London: Milner, n.d.), pp. 5–8]

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