Northanger Abbey: Henry Tilney – so becomingly important!

Illustration from Costume Parisien (1818)in the course of a few minutes, she found herself with Henry in the curricle, as happy a being as ever existed. A very short trial convinced her that a curricle was the prettiest equipage in the world; the chaise and four wheeled off with some grandeur, to be sure, but it was a heavy and troublesome business, and she could not easily forget its having stopped two hours at Petty France. Half the time would have been enough for the curricle, and so nimbly were the light horses disposed to move, that, had not the general chosen to have his own carriage lead the way, they could have passed it with ease in half a minute. But the merit of the curricle did not all belong to the horses; Henry drove so well – so quietly – without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them: so different from the only gentleman-coachman whom it was in her power to compare him with! And then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important! To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world. The Narrator on Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 20 

Here’s the fangirl romantic tip of the week. Put a man in a greatcoat and half the room sighs. Jane Austen knew this and used it to her advantage, building Catherine Morland’s admiration and our confidence in her hero Henry Tilney. Yes, it was common for a Regency gentleman to own a greatcoat, but why talk about it so seductively?  “His greatcoat looked so becomingly important!” says it all. Authors and screenwriters take heed. Put your heroes in greatcoats whenever you need a romantic punch. Works for me every time.

*Illustration from Costume Parisien 1818

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5 thoughts on “Northanger Abbey: Henry Tilney – so becomingly important!

  1. Pingback: A Happy Day Indeed! « Jane Austen in Vermont

  2. Surely this illustration is not appropriate either for the delightful Henry (he reads novels, but surely looks more manly) nor for his greatcoat, which clearly has tiered capes to magnify his (already manly) shoulders.

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