Italian By Radcliffe
In Ann Radcliffe's "The Italian", the very first thing that we see
described is a veiled woman: "It was in the church of San Lorenzo at

Naples, in the year 1758, that Vincentio di Vivaldi first saw Ellena di Rosalba.

The sweetness and fine expression of her voice attracted his attention to her
figure, which had a distinguished air of delicacy and grace; but her face was
concealed in her veil. So much was he fascinated by the voice, that a most
painful curiosity was excited as to her countenance, which he fancied must
express all the sensibility of character that the modulation of her tones
indicated" (5). Even without knowing anything about Gothic elements, this
indicates very clearly what the quality and tone of the book are going to be
like. Vivaldi's pursuit of the veiled woman is a signal that his is the pursuit
of the mysterious, with the certainty that it will be beautiful. This certainly
does seem to be a great fascination in the novel; it is a component and often a
catalyst for that anxiety which runs throughout. It is this anxiety which causes
the heightening of our emotions; our emotions are heightened as we watch the
characters' pursuit of the mysterious; and our curiosity is excited more and
more until we are nearly begging for its gratification. But Radcliffe heightens
our emotions without satisfying our curiosity, or at least not enough. For
example, the very first chapter establishes a sense of mystery about the
assassin in the Church. The Englishman inquires as much for himself as for us
about the assassin. His concern and state of shock invoke our own inquiry into
this odd circumstance and then his Italian friend tells him a mystery without
actually telling him anything: "'He [the assassin] sought sanctuary here',
replied the friar; 'within these walls he may not be hurt'"(2). He makes it
clear that there is a story here but that it is long and suspenseful, maybe
shocking: "'It is much too long to be related now; that would occupy a
week; I have it in writing, and will send you the volume'" (3). What it is
exactly, or what the tale is going to be is only hinted at in a very curiosity
invoking way: as if it is a secret. Instead of the Englishman and his Italian
friend going down to the street cafй and relating the story, the Italian
friend says that he will send him something written the following day and then
the passage stops. We are tempted, as is the Englishman, by these curious
circumstances and yet nothing is revealed to us other that the implication that
soon all will be revealed (after a couple hundred pages). What Radcliffe does is
that she creates our sensation of terror; she suspends our disbelief that much
longer, building our curiosity and our need to know to a brilliant height and
then-nothing: the story takes a different turn and gratification is postponed
while our expectation and anticipation is increased. This happens in the very
beginning passage in which Radcliffe starts "The Italian" by providing
just enough information to suck us into her tale and, then, just as we expect
pay off, she postpones it a little further while providing just enough
information to keep us intrigued. And, before we know it, we, the reader, are
entangled in her Gothic quicksand and greedily reading in search of the secrets
she buries before our eyes. When Vivaldi rushes into the Villa after the
mysterious cloaked figure that has escaped him, he emerges pale: we know
something has happened and await his tale but he tells us nothing, he refuses to
say anything and, thus, we are left suspended in the wake of mystery. Another
example when we are suspended in the wake of mystery occurs when Vivaldi and

Paolo are in the dungeon imagining the garments lying on the floor to be moving.

We do not find out whether or not these garments belong to someone murdered
until the end of the novel; so this incident leaves us in a state of suspense:

'It moves!' exclaimed Paolo; 'I see it move!' as he said which, he started to
the opposite side of the chamber. Vivaldi stepped a few paces back, and as
quickly returned; when, determined to know the event at once, he raised the
point of his sword, and perceived, beneath, other remains of dress, heaped high
together, while even the floor below was stained with gore (77). This leads me
to speak of imagination, which is