The first time Catherine read Udolpho, she had wept over this passage; but when Henry read Valancourt's dialogue, he used such a simpering, affected voice that she found herself laughing at the poor Chevalier's distress.Now, I admit to finding Mrs. Radcliffe's writing pretty painful (Udolpho is one of three books I have ever, in my life, not finished once I started it), but if I could listen to Mr. Tilney recite her novels, this scene leads me to believe I would find it not only tolerable, but highly amusing.
"'Why should we confide the happiness of or whole lives to the will of people, who have no right to interrupt, and, except in giving you to me, have no power to promote it? O Emily! Venture to trust your own heart, venture to be mine forever!' His voice trembled, and he was silent; Emily continued to weep, and was silent also, when Valancourt proceeded to propose an immediate marriage, and that, at an early hour on the following morning, she should quit Madame Montoni's house, and be conducted by him to the church of the Augustines, where a friar should await to unite them."
Henry stopped reading and pondered for a moment. "The banns were not published? No license obtained? A curious business; I dare say that the brave Valancourt might have found the Augustine friar less receptive to his scheme than he anticipated."
"It is only a story, Henry," said Catherine in the patient tone used to educate the slow-witted.
"Forgive me, my sweet. It was a matter of professional interest. To continue: The silence, with which she listened to a proposal, dictated by love and despair, and enforced at a moment, when it seemed scarcely possible for her to oppose it; - when her heart was softened by the sorrows of a separation, that might be eternal, and her reason obscured by the illusions of love and terror, encouraged him to hope, that it would not be rejected. 'Speak, my Emily!' said Valancourt eagerly, 'let me hear your voice, let me hear you confirm my fate.' She spoke not; her cheek was cold, and her senses seemed to fail her, but she did not faint. To Valancourt's terrified imagination she appeared to be dying; he called upon her name, rose to go to the chateau for assistance, and then, recollecting her situation, feared to go, or to leave her for a moment."
Henry paused and glanced down at his wife's rapt face. "I am glad that you are not of a swooning disposition, Cat. It must be terribly uncomfortable to have a girl forever falling insensible at inconvenient times, when she is most in need of all her faculties. It is well that you did not swoon when I offered you marriage. It might have put me off my mission."
Catherine sighed in delight. "I assure you, I felt no inclination to swoon. That was the happiest moment of my life. I should not have liked to miss it because I was insensible."
The plot of the story surrounds familial acquaintances of the Tilney's: one Lady Beauclerk, recently widowed, and her daughter. Along with her nephew and heir to her late husband's estate, the rakish Sir Philip, the Beauclerks have descended on Bath with General Tilney in tow, as he is paying court to Lady Beauclerk. As Henry and Catherine have not been in contact with the General since their marriage, this state of affairs comes as a surprise, and not necessarily a pleasant one. All the Beauclerks seem to be playing an unknown, but very deep, game, made further mysterious when the manner of the late baronet's death comes into question. On a more agreeable note, also come to Bath are the former Eleanor Tilney and her new husband, Lord Whiting, who, quite naturally, become Catherine and Henry's chosen companions during their sojourn in the spa town (other than their charming Newfoundland, MacGuffin).
In Ms. Sullivan's hands, the Tilney's marriage lives up to all the promise with which Austen infused it. Romantic while not being tawdry, mysterious without relying on needless drama, There Must Be Murder is a beautiful and loving homage to both Jane Austen and her first full-length novel. I highly recommend it to all fans of Northanger Abbey, and if you have never bothered to read this sadly neglected novel, I urge you to make haste in rectifying this grievous oversight.