Books: Extricating Emily

THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO by Ann Radcliffe. 672 pages. Oxford. $8.

"Rather little wool for a very great cry." George Saintsbury's epigram was Ann Radcliffe's epitaph; for more than a century her quaint gothic masterpiece has been buried among bookworms. Yet for half a century before that, from 1794 until the triumph of Dickens and Thackeray, The Mysteries of Udolpho was an international bestseller, acclaimed by Coleridge as "the most interesting novel in the English language." It enchanted Keats, who under its influence wrote The Eve of St. Agnes; it electrified Byron, who stole...