De griezelromanschrijfster Ann Radcliffe was zo populair in Nederland, dat uitgevers haar naam te pas en te onpas aan horrorlectuur verbonden. Er kwamen pseudo-vertalingen op de markt en bestaande titels werden apocrief aan haar toegeschreven. In de periode 1800-1820 was zelfs sprake van een golf van Radcliffades. (1)
In haar reisbeschrijving vergelijkt Radcliffe Nijmegen met Nottingham. Het zijn de smalle en steile gassen die haar aan deze stad in de Midlands doet denken. Het Valkhof staat nog overeind; twee jaar later zou een begin worden gemaakt met de sloop van het beeldbepalende kasteel waar mening Nijmegenaar nu nog met weemoed en spijt naar terug verlangt.
De schrijfster memoreert in het kort de onlusten die de Republiek in 1786 hebben geteisterd. Maar veel meer dan dat de stadhouder toen verblijf hield op het Valkhof, schrijft ze niet. Over het Belvedère is ze enthousiast. Vooral het uitzicht over de omgeving van Nijmegen vindt ze fantastisch.
Aan het einde van dit citaat vertrekt haar reisgezelschap richting Duitsland. Wanneer ze later in het jaar terugkomt, zal het met de idyllische rust in de stad gedaan zijn.
(1) H. van Gorp, ‘De receptie van de Gothic Novel (griezelroman) in de Nederlandse literatuur (1790-1850)’, in Tydskrif vir Nederlands & Afrikaans 3 (1996), 1 (juni).
Uit: Ann Radcliffe, Journey made in the summer of 1794 through Holland and the western frontier of Germany, with a return down the Rhine: To which are added, observations during a tour to the Lakes of Lancashire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland, Dublin 1795, p. 82-85.
Nimeguen has, towards the water, little other fortification than an ancient brick wall, and a gate. Though it is a garrison town, and certainly no trifling object, we were not detained at the gate by troublesome ceremonies. The commander, affecting no unnecessary carefulness, is satisfied with a copy of the report, which the innkeepers, in all the towns, send to the Magistrates, of the names and conditions of their guests. A printed paper is usually brought up, after supper, in which you are asked to write your name, addition, residence, how long you intend to stay, and to whom you are known in the province. We did not shew a passport in Holland.
The town has an abrupt but short elevation from the river, which you ascend by a narrow but clean street, opening into a spacious market-place. The great church and the guard-house are on one side of this; from the other, a street runs to the eastern gate of the town, formed in the old wall, beyond which commence the modern and strong fortifications, that defend it, on the land side. At the eastern extremity of the place, a small mall leads to the house, in which the Prince of Orange resided, during the troubles of 1786; and, beyond it, on a sudden promontory towards the river, stands a prospect house, called the Belvidere, which, from its eastern and southern windows, commands a long view into Germany, and to the north looks over Guelderland. From this place all the fortifications, which are very extensive, are plainly seen, and a military person might estimate their strength. There are several forts and outworks, and, though the ditch is pallisaded instead of filled, the place must be capable of a considerable defence, unless the besieging army should be masters of the river and the opposite bank, which was often won and lost, during the sieges of Nimeguen, but no remains of it are visible now. […]
Nimeguen has been compared to Nottingham, which it resembles more in situation than in structure, though many of the streets are steep, and the windows of one range of houses sometimes overlook the chimnies of another; the views also, as from some parts of Nottingham, are over a green and extensive level, rising into distant hills; and here the comparison ends. The houses are built entirely in the Dutch fashion, with many coloured, painted fronts, terminating in peaked roofs; but some decline of neatness may be observed by those who arrive here from the province of Holland. The market-place, though gay and large, cannot be compared with that of Nottingham, in extent, nor is the town more than half the size of the latter, though it is said to contain nearly fifty thousand inhabitants. From almost every part of it you have, however, a glimpse of the surrounding landscape, which is more extensive than that seen from Nottingham, and is adorned by the sweeps of a river of much greater dignity than the Trent.
We left Nimeguen, in the afternoon, with a Voiturier, whose price, according to the ordonnatie, was higher than if we had set out half an hour sooner, upon the supposition that he could not return than night. The road lies though part of the fortifications, concerning which there can, of course, be no secrecy. It then enters an extensive plain, and runs almost parallel to a range of heights, at the extremity of which Nimeguen stands, and presents an appearance of still greater strength and importance than when seen from the westward.