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Radcliffe's A Sicilian Romance

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Katie Widmann

on 7 December 2012

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Transcript of Radcliffe's A Sicilian Romance

Ann Radcliffe's
A Sicilian Romance Ann (Ward) Radcliffe Very little is known about her life
Born July 19, 1764 to William Ward and Ann(e) Oates Ward
Married William Radcliffe at 22
They were happy but childless
Extremely popular while alive but stopped publishing at 32 for unknown reasons
Died February 7, 1823 and is buried in St. George's Church, Hanover Square, London
Husband published some of her work posthumously Many legends about her exist:
Went mad and was committed to an insane asylum
Ate rare pork chops before bed to stimulate nightmares for her novels
Was captured as a spy in Paris
Multiple false rumors of her death Creator of the suspense novel by combining novels of sensibility with Wapole's Gothic romances
Some critics believe she uses heroines to point out dangers of excessive sensibility
Heroines must learn to balance reason, sensibility and the unexplainable
Heavy sense of morals and morality, almost didactic
Characters are not considered memorable except for Byronic villains Ellen Moers -
Heroines are "traveling heroines," i.e., adventures come via heroines moving around
Heroines are concerned about proprieties
Radcliffe's novels are the female equivalent of the male picaresque novel ALL main characters travel
Gives Radcliffe a chance to describe scenery
Scenery is often obscure or dimly lit; this is meant to create terror
Amount of scenery and landscape description is controversial Ann Radcliffe influenced:
Charles Baudelaire
Alexandre Dumas
Victor Hugo
Sir Walter Scott
Mary Wollstonecraft Analysis:
Both novels are heavily Gothic with their murderous villains and dark, hidden passageways.
Capitola, Emilia and Julia are all adventurous women who show rebellious behavior at points in the story.
However, Julia also follows behavior conventions by retreating to her closet and crying on news of her betrothal.
Capitola is more transgressive than either Emilia or Julia. She also acts more tomboyish/mannish and is more outgoing in her defiance. Julia's defiance is more quiet and hidden. Analysis
Both books have:
Female captive of tyrannical guardian
Captive female quickly forced into marriage for guardian's gain, though she loves another
Captive female pleads for release/attempts to turn down marriage and is denied
Battle between good and evil/male and female for control of captive female body
Attempts to free captive female from her prison Capitola and Clara, both females, successfully free Clara. This shows women have the power to help themselves and succeed when they do.
Julia needs male help to escape and fails.
This conversation between Southworth and Radcliffe suggests that women who cannot help themselves will fail miserably and suffer severe consequences, i.e., the death of a lover, a brother's imprisonment, and a forced marriage. Ferdinand and Capitola actively seek adventures in places they shouldn't be going, showing their agency and spirit, which is remarkable for a female Capitola. The girls' chosen fiances are close friends or family members, while the men their guardians choose are strangers.
This shows that the happiest couples are those that know each other well, while the unhappy couples do not. Historical Context:
The official City of London, only about 1 square mile in size, contained the main banking center and a history of independent government via two councils - one for the upper classes and one for the lower classes.
In 1795, the lower council became angry at the war's effect on the merchants and appealed to the king to stop it.
They failed and the council became more conservative. 1794 - Habeas Corpus suspended
Treason Trials
1799 - LCS targeted and rendered illegal
LCS and Friends of the People seen as too similar to architects of French Revolution Female agency depended on the woman's class. Basic similarities between Clara and Julia are:
Female captive of tyrannical guardian who quickly forces her into an arranged marriage for the guardian's gain, even though she loves another.
Both plead for release/attempt to turn down the marriage but are refused.
Battle between good vs. evil/man vs. woman for control of captive female body.
Given an opportunity for freedom: Clara and Cap, Julia and Hippolitus A major difference between their attempted escapes is Clara is successful while Julia is not. Ferdinand and Capitola actively seek adventures in places they shouldn't be, showing their agency and spirit.

This also shows Capitola's mannishness. The girls' fiance's are close friends or close friends of a family member, while the men chosen for them by their guardians are strangers. Both are Gothic novels and deal with similar themes.
The settings of both stories are incredibly Gothic and creepy at times.
Both Capitola and Julia seem to be strong girls, but it is Capitola's deeply transgressive behavior that gives her much more agency than Julia. "Fly," said Hippolitus, "from the authority of a father who abuses his power, and assert the liberty of choice, which nature assigned to you."

~ Hippolitus to Julia, page 61
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