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The Romance of the Forest

The Romance of the Forest

3.2 9
by Ann Radcliffe

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The Romance of the Forest evokes a world drenched in both horror and natural splendor, beset with abductions and imprisonments, and centered upon the frequently terrified but still resourceful and determined heroine Adeline. The Gothic Romance stands perfectly poised between the eighteenth century and the oncoming Age of Romanticism, offering moral lessons,


The Romance of the Forest evokes a world drenched in both horror and natural splendor, beset with abductions and imprisonments, and centered upon the frequently terrified but still resourceful and determined heroine Adeline. The Gothic Romance stands perfectly poised between the eighteenth century and the oncoming Age of Romanticism, offering moral lessons, pure thrills, and a new kind of fiction with more prominence given to atmospheric setting and sustained suspense than ever before.

About the Author
Ann Radcliffe became the best-selling English writer of the 1790s when her husband, publisher of the English Chronicle, encouraged her to write for the commercial market. Praised by Walter Scott and favorably compared to Shakespeare, Radcliffe wrote such successes as The Romance of the Forest and The Mysteries of Udolpho. At the height of her fame she ceased to publish, though she lived until 1823.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Excellent notes and solid introduction. A good example of the gothic mode, of use in an introduction to fiction or survey of the novel class."—Leslie G. Bailey, St. Martin's College

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Oxford World's Classics Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Romance of the Forest

By Ann Radcliffe

The History Press

Copyright © 2011 Nonsuch Publishing Limited
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7524-7166-2


     "I am a man,
    So weary with disasters, tugg'd with fortune,
    That I could set my life on any chance,
    To mend it or be rid on't."

"WHEN once sordid interest seizes on the heart, it freezes up the source of every warm and liberal feeling; it is an enemy alike to virtue and to taste — this it perverts, and that it annihilates. The time may come, my friend, when death shall dissolve the sinews of avarice, and justice be permitted to resume her rights."

Such were the words of the Advocate Nemours to Pierre de la Motte, as the latter stept at midnight into the carriage which was to bear him far from Paris, from his creditors and the persecution of the laws. De la Motte thanked him for this last instance of his kindness; the assistance he had given him in escape; and, when the carriage drove away, uttered a sad adieu! The gloom of the hour, and the peculiar emergency of his circumstances, sank him in silent reverie.

Whoever has read Guyot de Pitavel, the most faithful of those writers who record the proceedings in the Parliamentary Courts of Paris, during the seventeenth century, must surely remember the striking story of Pierre de la Motte and the Marquis Phillipe de Montalt: let all such therefore be informed, that the person here introduced to their notice was that individual, Pierre de la Motte.

As Madame de la Motte leaned from the coach window, and gave a last look to the walls of Paris — Paris, the scene of her former happiness, and the residence of many dear friends — the fortitude which had till now supported her, yielded to the force of grief. "Farewell all!" sighed she, "this last look, and we are separated forever!" Tears followed her words, and, sinking back, she resigned herself to the stillness of sorrow. The recollection of former times pressed heavily upon her heart: a few months before and she was surrounded by friends, fortune and consequence; now she was deprived of all, a miserable exile from her native place, without home, without comfort — almost without hope. It was not the least of her afflictions, that she had been obliged to quit Paris, without bidding adieu her only son, who was now on duty with his regiment in Germany: and such had been the precipitancy of this removal, that had she even known where he was stationed, she had no time to inform him of it, or of the alteration in his father's circumstances.

Pierre de la Motte was a gentleman descended from an ancient house of France. He was a man whose passions often overcame his reason, and for a time silenced his conscience; but, though the image of virtue, which nature had impressed upon his heart, was sometimes obscured by the passing influence of vice, it was never wholly obliterated. With strength of mind sufficient to have withstood temptation, he would have been a good man; as it was, he was always a weak, and sometimes a vicious member of society; yet his mind was active, and his imagination vivid, which, co-operating with the force of passion, often dazzled his judgment and subdued principle. Thus he was a man, infirm in purpose and visionary in virtue; in a word, his conduct was suggested by feeling, rather than principle; and his virtue, such as it was, could not stand the pressure of occasion.

Early in life he had married Constance Valentia, a beautiful and elegant woman, attached to her family, and beloved by them. Her birth was equal, her fortune superior to his; and their nuptials had been celebrated under the auspices of an approving and flattering world. Her heart was devoted to La Motte, and, for some time, she found in him an affectionate husband; but allured by the gayeties of Paris, he was soon devoted to its luxuries, and in a few years his fortune and affection were equally lost in dissipation. A false pride had still operated against his interest, and withheld him from honorable retreat while it was yet in his power: the habits, which he had acquired, enchained him to the scene of his former pleasure; and thus he had continued an expensive style of life till the means of prolonging it were exhausted. He at length awoke from his lethargy of security; but it was only to plunge into new error, and to attempt schemes for the reparation of his fortune, which served to sink him deeper in destruction. The consequence of a transaction, in which he was thus engaged, now drove him with the small wreck of his property, into dangerous and ignominious exile.

It was his design to pass into one of the Southern Provinces, and there seek, near the borders of the kingdom, an asylum in some obscure village. His family consisted of his wife, and two faithful domestics, a man and woman, who followed the fortunes of their master.

The night was dark and tempestuous, and, at about the distance of three leagues from Paris, Peter, who now acted as postillion, having drove for some time over a wild heath where many ways crossed, stopped, and acquainted De la Motte with his perplexity. The sudden stopping of the carriage roused the latter from his reverie, and filled the whole party with the terror of pursuit; he was unable to supply the necessary direction, and the extreme darkness made it dangerous to proceed without one. During this period of distress, a light was perceived at some distance, and after much doubt and hesitation, La Motte, in the hope of obtaining assistance, alighted and advanced towards it; he proceeded slowly, from the fear of unknown pits. The light issued from the window of a small and ancient house, which stood alone on the heath, at the distance of half a mile.

Having reached the door, he stopped for some moments, listening in apprehensive anxiety — no sound was heard but that of the wind, which swept in hollow gusts over the waste. At length he ventured to knock, and having waited some time, during which he indistinctly heard several voices in conversation, some one within inquired what he wanted? La Motte answered, that he was a traveller who had lost his way, and desired to be directed to the nearest town. "That," said the person, "is seven miles off and the road bad enough, even if you could see it; if you only want a bed, you may have it here, and had better stay." The "pitiless pelting," of the storm, which at this time beat with increasing fury upon La Motte, inclined him to give up the attempt of proceeding farther till daylight; but desirous of seeing the person with whom he conversed, before he ventured to expose his family by calling up the carriage, he asked to be admitted. The door was now opened by a tall figure with a light, who invited La Motte to enter. He followed the man through a passage into a room almost unfurnished, in one corner of which a bed was spread upon the floor. The forlorn and desolate aspect of this apartment made La Motte shrink involuntarily, and he was turning to go out, when the man suddenly pushed him back, and he heard the door locked upon him: his heart failed, yet he made a desperate, though vain, effort to force the door, and called loudly for release. No answer was returned; but he distinguished the voices of men in the room above, and not doubting but that their intention was to rob and murder him, his agitation, at first, overcame his reason. By the light of some almost expiring embers, he perceived a window, but the hope, which this discovery revived, was quickly lost, when he found the aperture guarded by strong iron bars. Such preparations for security surprised him, and confirmed his worst apprehensions. Alone, unarmed — beyond the chance of assistance, he saw himself in the power of people, whose trade was apparently rapine! murder their means! After revolving every possibility of escape, he endeavored to await the event with fortitude; but La Motte could boast of no such virtue.

The voices had ceased, and all remained still for a quarter of an hour, when between the pauses of the wind he thought he distinguished the sobs and moaning of a female; he listened attentively, and became confirmed in his conjecture; it was too evidently the accent of distress. At this conviction, the remains of his courage forsook him, and a terrible surmise darted, with the rapidity of lightning, across his brain. It was probable that his carriage had been discovered by the people of the house, who, with a design of plunder, had secured his servant, and brought hither Madame de la Motte. He was the more inclined to believe this, by the stillness which had, for some time reigned in the house, previous to the sound he now heard. Or it was possible that the inhabitants were not robbers, persons to whom he had been betrayed by his friend or servant, and who were appointed to deliver him into the hands of justice. Yet he hardly dared to doubt the integrity of his friend, who had been intrusted with the secret of his flight and the plan of his route, and had procured him the carriage in which he had escaped. "Such depravity," exclaimed La Motte, "cannot surely exist in human nature; much less in the heart of Nemours!"

This ejaculation was interrupted by a noise in the passage leading to the room: it approached — the door was unlocked — and the man who had admitted La Motte into the house, entered leading, or rather forcibly dragging along, a beautiful girl, who appeared to be about eighteen. Her features were bathed in tears, and she seemed to suffer the utmost distress. The man fastened the lock and put the key in his pocket. He then advanced to La Motte, who had before observed other persons in the passage and pointed a pistol to his breast, "You are wholly in our power," said he, "no assistance can reach you: if you wish to save your life, swear that you will convey this girl where I may never see her more; or rather consent to take her with you, for your oath I would not believe, and I can take care you shall not find me again. — Answer quickly, you have no time to lose."

He now seized the trembling hand of the girl, who shrunk aghast with terror, and hurried her towards La Motte, whom surprise still kept silent. She sunk at his feet, and with supplicating eyes, that streamed with tears, implored him to have pity on her. Notwithstanding his present agitation, he found it impossible to contemplate the beauty and distress of the object before him with indifference. Her youth, her apparent innocence — the artless energy of her manner forcibly assailed his heart, and he was going to speak, when the ruffian, who mistook the silence of astonishment for that of hesitation, prevented him. "I have a horse ready to take you from hence," said he, "and I will direct you over the heath. If you return within an hour you die, after then you are at liberty to come here when you please."

La Motte, without answering, raised the lovely girl from the floor, and was so much relieved from his own apprehensions, that he had leisure to attempt dissipating hers. "Let us be gone," said the ruffian, "and have no more of this nonsense; you may think yourself well off it's no worse. I'll go and get the horse ready."

The last words roused La Motte, and perplexed him with new fears; he dreaded to discover his carriage, lest its appearance might tempt the banditti to plunder; and to depart on horseback with this man might produce a consequence yet more to be dreaded. Madame La Motte, wearied with apprehension, would, probably, send for her husband to the house, when all the former danger would be incurred, with the additional evil of being separated from his family and the chance of being detected by the emissaries of justice in endeavoring to recover them. As these reflections passed over his mind in tumultuous rapidity, a noise was again heard in the passage, an uproar and scuffle ensued, and in the same moment he could distinguish the voice of his servant, who had been sent by Madame La Motte in search of him. Being now determined to disclose what could not long be concealed, he exclaimed aloud that a horse was unnecessary, that he had a carriage in some distance, which would convey them from the heath, the man, who was seized being his servant.

The ruffian, speaking through the door, bid him be patient awhile, and he should hear more from him. La Motte now turned his eyes upon his unfortunate companion, who, pale and exhausted, leaned for support against the wall. Her features, which were delicately beautiful, had gained from distress an expression of captivating sweetness; she had

An eye
As when the blue sky trembles through a cloud
Of purest white.

A habit of gray camlet, with short slashed sleeves, showed, but did not adorn, her figure; it was thrown open at the bosom, upon which part of her hair had fallen in disorder, while the light veil hastily thrown on, had in her confusion been suffered to fall back. Every moment of further observation heightened the surprise of La Motte, and interested him more warmly in her favor. Such elegance and apparent refinement, contrasted with the desolation of the house, and the savage manners of its inhabitants, seemed to him like a romance of imagination, rather than an occurrence of real life. He endeavored to comfort her, and his sense of compassion was too sincere to be misunderstood. Her terror gradually subsided into gratitude and grief. "Ah, sir," said she, "Heaven has sent you to my relief; and will surely reward you for your protection; I have no friend in the world, if I do not find one in you."

La Motte assured her of his kindness, when he was interrupted by the entrance of the ruffian. He desired to be conducted to his family. "All in good time," replied the latter, "I have taken care of one of them, and will of you, please St. Peter; so be comforted." These comfortable words renewed the terror of La Motte, who now earnestly begged to know if his family were safe. "Oh! as for that matter, they are safe enough, and you will be with them presently; but don't stand parlying here all night. Do you choose to go or stay? You know the conditions." They now bound the eyes of La Motte and of the young lady, whom terror had hitherto kept silent, and then placing them on two horses, a man mounted behind each, and they immediately galloped off. They had proceeded in this way near half an hour, when La Motte entreated to know whither he was going? "You will know that by and by," said the ruffian, "so be at peace." Finding interrogatories useless, La Motte resumed silence till the horses stopped. His conductor then hallooed, and being answered by voices at some distance, in a few moments the sound of carriage wheels was heard, and presently after, the words of a man directing Peter which way to drive. As the carriage approached, La Motte called, and to his inexpressible joy, was answered by his wife.

"You are now beyond the borders of the heath, and may go which way you please," said the ruffian; "if you return within an hour, you will be welcomed by a brace of bullets." This was a very unnecessary caution to La Motte, whom they now released. The young stranger sighed deeply, as she entered the carriage; and the ruffian, having bestowed upon Peter some directions, and more threats, waited to see him drive off. They did not wait long.

La Motte immediately gave a short relation of what had passed at the house, including an account of the manner in which the young stranger had been introduced to him. During this narrative, her deep convulsive sighs frequently drew the attention of Madame La Motte, whose compassion became gradually interested in her behalf; and who now endeavored to tranquilize her spirits. The unhappy girl answered her kindness in artless and simple expressions, and then relapsed into tears and silence. Madame forbore for the present to ask any questions that might lead to a discovery of her connections, or seem to require an explanation of the late adventure, which now furnishing her with a new subject of reflection, the sense of her own misfortunes pressed less heavily upon her mind. The distress of La Motte was even for a while suspended; he ruminated on the late scene, and it appeared like a vision, or one of those improbable fictions that sometimes are exhibited in a romance; he could reduce it to no principles of probability, or render it comprehensible by any endeavor to analyze it. The present charge, and the chance of future trouble brought upon him by his adventure, occasioned some dissatisfaction; but the beauty and seeming innocence of Adeline, united with the pleadings of humanity in her favor, and he determined to protect her.

The tumult of emotions which had passed in the bosom of Adeline, began now to subside; terror was softened into anxiety, and despair in to grief. The sympathy so evident in the manners of her companions, particularly in those of Madame La Motte, soothed her heart and encouraged her to hope for better days.


Excerpted from The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe. Copyright © 2011 Nonsuch Publishing Limited. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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University of Sheffield

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The Romance Of The Forest 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1) about 107 pages 2) an ocr scanned book with out corrections 3) many strange symbols, missing letters, and incorrect letters and punctuation 4) ends part way through the story with a sentence the says it is the end of 1st volume 5) thinking if it as a puzzle helped to make sense of the jumble of words, symbols, misspellings, and out dated word usages
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This copy is terrible. There's random symbols and gaps of space throughout the text.
kcast610 More than 1 year ago
A Romance of the Forest is riveting through the end. Adeline is so endearing. She suffers through so much torment at the hands of the evil Marquis. At the same time she seems to be exceedingly lucky in that she is taken in by strangers who honestly care for her with the minor exception of M. La Motte. In Adeline's world instead of having six degrees of separation she seems to have only two or three degrees of separation whether they are in France, Switzerland, or Italy. The only remains one question unanswered in this story...In the Abbey, in the underground chambers La Motte discovered, there was a door that he could not open. It appeared to be locked from the other side. What is in that chamber?
legallynik More than 1 year ago
I believe this is the least known of Radcliffe's big three...fair, young, naive heroine? check. strange mysterious past? check. creepy run down abby? check. libidinous, treacherous, evil man of power? check. white knight trying to protect our heroine? check! This novel's got it all! I highly recommend for anyone interested in Gothic treats such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Mysteries of Udolpho...
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did start this book. but found it hard to get into. Had heard so much about the writer from other romantic books I have read that I thought it would be interesting to see what her writtings were about. Sadly disappointed, but then I may have given up too soon.