Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Gothically Inspired: Day 19 Giveaway

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; I remember finishing it in two days – my hair standing on end the whole time.” Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 14 

Even though Northanger Abbey has often been touted as the least popular of Jane Austen’s six major novels in readership and sales, I have long adored it for its burlesque humor and charming characterization of hero Henry Tilney. It has always been a puzzle to me why others did not bond with it, and felt it has never gotten a fair shake. The fact that the 1986 movie adaptation of it was really odd and not a true representation of the story or characters did not help matters either. So when PBS premiered the new Andrew Davies adaptation of Northanger Abbey (2007) last January on Masterpiece Classic, I was thrilled with the possibility that it could generate a new audience for my dark horse. 

When it aired, the reception was mixed by the public and critics. I was enchanted even though it was much too short at 90 minutes and unfortunately, much had been cut out of the story. On the positive side, it was energetic and great fun and Austen’s intensions were treated much more reverently than the previous effort in 1986, so it was step in the right direction. 

One of the benefits to being a bookseller is that I see the immediate impact on the public from television and movies as viewers seek out novelizations or related books. One weekend shortly after the PBS airing of Northanger Abbey, I had an interesting encounter with a new fan as I assisted a retirement aged woman in locating a long list of titles on an assortment of subjects, none of which was Austen or Austen inspired. Her husband joined us after a few minutes with a joyous look on his face, obviously pleased that he located the title that he had wanted to purchase. “I found it” (he holds up the cover and shows it to his wife who looks surprised but annoyed). “Oh what is it now?” she bellowed. (she had selected about six books to his one) “The Mysteries of Udolpho! They had it featured as a staff rec.” He exclaimed. (I am a silent smiling observer of their husband wife acerbic discourse, and then the wife turns to me) “My husband just loved that Jane Austen movie on television, and now he wants to know why that young girl was hooked on that book.” (She points at the book cover. He smirks at her and says coldly) “Her name was Catherine Morland dear.” 

Ok, that made my day! 

Even after ten months, this story makes me smile. In a way that some objected to, the new Northanger Abbey movie did reach people in a positive way inspiring them to read Austen’s gentle parody and the Gothic fiction mentioned in the novel such as The Mysteries of Udolpho and the other ‘horrid novels’ listed in the Northanger Canon. One of my customers even quoted Henry Tilney’s great line about “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” Talk about Gothically inspired! Now that gentle readers, made my entire year!

Further reading

  • Read my review of Northanger Abbey (2007)
  • Read a review of Northanger Abbey (2007) at Jane Austen’s World
  • Read about the Gothic novels mentioned in Northanger Abbey
  • Purchase The Mysteries of Udolpho


Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 19 Giveaway


Penguin Classics – The Mysteries of Udolpho (2001) 

By Ann Radcliffe introduction by Jacqueline Howard 

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of the Penguin Classics – The Mysteries of Udolpho

(US residents only) 

Upcoming event posts

Day 20 – Oct 30          Group Read NA Chapters 29-31

Day 21 – Oct 31          Go Gothic Wrap-up

10 thoughts on “Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Gothically Inspired: Day 19 Giveaway

Add yours

  1. i firmly believe that northanger abbey is only unpopular because it is misunderstood (ah, how many times have we heard THAT excuse?). once i got the jist of it, the fact that it is a parody and one that parodies something that is already pretty campy, i really started to enjoy it. and i think the masterpiece version at least got that part across. and yes, it has indeed inspired me to seek out more gothic fiction, something i never had an interest in before, so i guess that means that YOU, austenprose, have done your job as well.

    and for the record, i don’t need to be entered to win this one, i have my copy at the ready, i just felt compelled to comment again.


  2. Oh what a hoot! ha ha ha I can’t help smiling myself – what a fun memory you now have. Among many memories I’m sure!


  3. I find it hard to believe that NA is that unpopular. It’s so much fun. I’m glad that Ann Radcliffe is getting some more readers though. Romance of the Forest is my favorite one by her. Though sometimes its fun to do a Monk-Italian-Zofloya binge.


  4. I have never enjoyed Northanger so much as I have this last time I read it. I think that the Gothic spoof is very well done and that the story of young Catherine is very easy to understand for most young women at sometime in there lives.


  5. I loved NA – it’s just plenty fun, and it has Henry Tilney! :) I figure it might not be as popular as the others because it is different, but that’s also part of the charm of it too! :)



  6. Of all the recent Masterpiece/ITV Jane Austen adaptations, I personally feel that Northanger Abbey is the strongest. As you point out, it did have to cut out much of the story, but unlike some of the other films (e.g. Persuasion), a viewer uninitiated to the Austen cult would still be able to follow along (I claim as evidence to this fact the reactions of several of my friends who were only fans of Pride & Prejudice – the Keira Knightley version – prior to seeing Northanger Abbey). I also have a partiality to J.J. Feild, what can I say? ;)

    That’s a great story, about the customers in the bookshop. Always nice to see new people turned on to Austen as well as other works that she referenced or parodied and what a surprise (to me, at least) that it was not the wife in the marriage who sought out the book! :)

    I still have not read this book, so I’m glad I have a shot at it through your giveaway. By the way, I’m getting quite sad now that November is approaching and your Go Gothic event will end. I’ve quite enjoyed this month-long celebration of my favorite work (at least for sentimental reasons) by Austen.


  7. What a fun month! I have read NA twice this month! I also picked up the Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen at the library that helped me understand NA even better!
    What book will you do next??


  8. I agree with M that NA was the best of the recent spat of Austen adaptations. Although things were cut, at least nothing was terribly mangled (ala Persuasion 2007 and Wentworth’s letter). Overall it was light and fun and I laughed a lot at John Thorpe and his d—s (had forgotten he swore that much in the book too). I thought Mr. Feild was marvelous and on this month’s re-read of NA, I kept picturing him as Mr. Tilney. Swoon!


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