Zofloya: A Retro Review

| February 18, 2014

 

Matt

Image: openlibrary.org

Words by Matt Huxley

“FEW venture as thou hast in the alarming paths of sin.”

This is the final judgement of Satan on Victoria di Loredani, the ‘heroine’ of Zofloya, or The Moor, published in 1806. Zofloya is a tale of lust, betrayal, and multiple murders set in Venice in the last days of the 15th century.  The novel follows Victoria’s progress from the spoiled and bitchy daughter of aristocrats, through a period of captivity, to a career of criminality conducted right under Satan’s eye. This novel is the most famous of the works by Charlotte Dacre and a significant influence on Byron and Shelley.

Dacre was a figure shrouded in mystery. Born Charlotte King, she adopted multiple pseudonyms for her work, possibly due to the subject matter that she wrote about. Whilst Dacre was a romance novelist, she differed from her female contemporaries by making her heroines aggressive and physically violent characters frequently wracked by powerful sexual desires and ambition. This was much more like the male writers of the day, such as Matthew Lewis.

CharlotteDacre (1)

Charlotte Dacre, author of Zofloya. || Image: Wikipedia.

Zofloya depicts the downward spiral of Victoria. Victoria is doubly screwed – her mother was an adulterer and then Victoria became attracted to multiple men, one of whom was African-American (yes, this is the 1800s, shit was racist). The black man is Zofloya, AKA Satan in disguise. He coerces Victoria into committing multiple murders and then in the dramatic finale unmasks himself and throws her off a cliff onto the rocks below.

Dacre’s characters undoubtably challenge the stereotypical roles that women were expected to play. The character of Lilla is really the only conventional female character, and she is brutally killed by Victoria rather quickly. Megalena is also an interesting character; a sexual voyeur, she is a headstrong leader and rules her relationship with Victoria’s brother with an iron fist. Dacre attempts to invert the male-female dichotomy that was present in the 1700s and 1800s throughout gothic literature.

Overall Zofloya is an interesting novel that is totally unique for its time. Dacre’s prose is exciting and her exploration of the damaged heroine is intriguing. Highly recommended.

MM: 8/10

Do you know a book that we should review? Let us know at grow@moustachemagazine.com or you can connect with us on any of our social media sites.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Category: FEATURED, LIFESTYLE, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.