"Her eyes were filled with tears of awful love and admiration; and she felt that pure devotion, superior to all the distinctions of human system, which lifts the soul above this world, and seems to expand it into a nobler nature; such devotion as can, perhaps, only be experienced, when the mind, rescued, for a moment, from the humbleness of earthly considerations, aspires to contemplate His power in the sublimity of His works, and His goodness in the infinity of His blessings."
That eloquent and pious sentiment is the reflection of Emily St. Aubert, the heroine of Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, a Gothic novel of the late 18th Century, and the current fiction selection for my summer reading. Actually, I just started reading this work this morning, inspired to do so by several of the essays I have been reading in one of my other summer selections, the 2011 edition of Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal. This edition is devoted to Austen's Northanger Abbey, a parody of the Gothic novel, and one of Austen's works that mention the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe. I bought several Gothic novels this past semester with the intention of reading them this summer to fill-in the gaps of my 18th and 19th century English literary studies. This is easier said than done, as several of these works are quite long and are not nearly as good as Austen's works. 46 pages in, I find Mrs. Radcliffe's style readable, but verbose. Her characters are interesting, but flat, and there is hardly any dialogue to unite them together; rather, the narrator must do much of the work.
For theological reflection, I have been reading the great and saintly Anglican theologian's Reflections on the Psalms. C. S. Lewis' style is a delight to read, and the points he makes in such a short space are impressive. I hope to do a blog reflection on this work when I finish it, so I will save more of my thoughts for later. It is quite good and quite short, so I recommend it for those looking for a deeper summer read. My spiritual reading also includes the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St. Luke.
And finally, I purchased a rather large tome on Monday entitled John Henry Newman: The Challenge to Evangelical Religion. In reading this work I hope to feed two birds with one hand--learning more about Bl. Newman, as well as continuing the cultivation of my understanding of the early Victorian Era and its religious turmoil. This 740 paged work will likely take me the whole of the summer to wade through. It is fortunate that I am interested in the topic, and have an understanding of the subject, given my thesis research in the area.
I just finished reading A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz, and hope to have my book review of it published on another blog. I will keep you posted.
If you would like to recommend books as summer reading considerations for me or others, comment on this post and let us know what you're reading.
Br. Paul, OP