Northanger Abbey Chapters 22-24: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 15 Giveaway

It was a narrow winding path through a thick grove of old Scotch firs; and Catherine, struck by its gloomy aspect, and eager to enter it, could not, even by the general’s disapprobation, be kept from stepping forward. He perceived her inclination, and having again urged the plea of health in vain, was too polite to make further opposition. He excused himself, however, from attending them: “The rays of the sun were not too cheerful for him, and he would meet them by another course.” He turned away; and Catherine was shocked to find how much her spirits were relieved by the separation. The shock, however, being less real than the relief, offered it no injury; and she began to talk with easy gaiety of the delightful melancholy which such a grove inspired. The Narrator, Chapter 22 

Quick Synopsis 

Poor Catherine! Her rolls of paper prove to be an ancient, but innocent laundry list. She reproaches herself for her actions the previous night, and blames them on Henry for exciting her imagination. Henry leaves for three days business at Woodston. Eleanor, Catherine and General Tilney take a walk as he proceeds to give her the tour of the grounds. They reach a shaded walk which he prefers not to take offering to meet up with them later. Catherine thinks that this is mysterious since Eleanor has shared that it was her mother’s favorite walk. Catherine asks her about her mother and secretly suspects that the General had a hand in her early death. Catherine is collecting proof in her mind of his guilt. He conducts the tour of the inside of the Abbey, but they are not permitted in Mrs. Tilney’s rooms. More proof of his guilt. On Sunday, they attend service and Catherine notices a monument to Mrs. Tilney next to their pew. She suspects that it does not contain her body, and that Mrs. Tilney is actually alive and imprisoned by her evil husband who visits her at odd hours in the tower. She and Eleanor make a secret attempt to visit her mother’s rooms and are interrupted by General Tilney. Horrified, Catherine runs to her room in terror. The next day, she is determined to go to Mrs. Tilney’s room to see for herself where the horror took place. She finds it very disappointing since it is nicely furnished and nothing amiss. Feeling foolish, she hears footsteps on the stairs and is met by Henry who has returned early. He questions why she is there, she explains and he asks her to consider the dreadful nature of her suspicions and consult her own sense of the probable. “Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?” Ashamed of her own ‘horrid’ assumptions, she runs to her room in tears.


I laughed heartily when Catherine discovers, much to her profound disappointment that the rolled papers do not contain family secrets, but ancient laundry bills. So much for discovering Gothic-like mysteries. Ashamed of her actions, her immediate reaction is to blame Henry for exciting her imagination with a description of the ebony chest in her rooms the previous day. I love how her first thoughts are of Henry. He is becoming her guide to proper behavior.

How could she have so imposed on herself? Heaven forbid that Henry Tilney should ever know her folly! And it was in a great measure his own doing, for had not the cabinet appeared so exactly to agree with his description of her adventures, she should never have felt the smallest curiosity about it. This was the only comfort that occurred. Impatient to get rid of those hateful evidences of her folly, those detestable papers then scattered over the bed, she rose directly, and folding them up as nearly as possible in the same shape as before, returned them to the same spot within the cabinet, with a very hearty wish that no untoward accident might ever bring them forward again, to disgrace her even with herself. The Narrator, Chapter 22

I like how Catherine can check herself and not dwell on it. Though I suspect that since this adventure did not produce any Gothic drama, she will continue to seek out more. She begins to try to find a Gothic storyline or hidden meaning behind everything in the Abbey. As she walks in the gardens with Eleanor and General Tilney, she is suspicious when the General chooses not to take a shady path. Eleanor is particularly fond of this spot since it was her mother’s favorite walk and her memory endears it to her. Catherine reflects to herself why the memory does not endear it to the General and why he will not walk there. When Catherine and Eleanor walk alone, Catherine is able to dig deeper into mysterious death (in her mind) of Mrs. Tilney by asking Eleanor questions. There is a portrait of her mother which hangs in Eleanor’s rooms because her father did not care for it. More proof of his aversion to his wife. When they re-enter the Abbey, General Tilney continues the tour for Catherine through every room describing the furnishing and history, though “she cared for no furniture of a more modern date than the fifteenth century.” They show her the majority of the rooms, but “she could scarcely believe it, or overcome the suspicion of there being many chambers secreted” and later “by passing through a dark little room, owning Henry’s authority, and strewed with his litter of books, guns, and greatcoats.” (Oh this remark made me love Henry all the more! His rooms strewn with his stuff. LOL.) When they reach the upper rooms, Eleanor wants to show Catherine her mother’s rooms, but General Tilney stops her claiming she would have not interest there. Catherine further suspects foul play that “left him to the stings of conscience.” Later, when Catherine and Eleanor are alone, she expresses a wish to see Mrs. Tilney’s room and Eleanor agrees. She continues to collect clues, sleuthing out the mysterious death of Mrs. Tilney.

And how long ago may it be that your mother died?” 

“She has been dead these nine years.” And nine years, Catherine knew, was a trifle of time, compared with what generally elapsed after the death of an injured wife, before her room was put to rights. “You were with her, I suppose, to the last?” 

“No,” said Miss Tilney, sighing; “I was unfortunately from home. Her illness was sudden and short; and, before I arrived it was all over.” 

Catherine’s blood ran cold with the horrid suggestions which naturally sprang from these words. Could it be possible? Could Henry’s father – ? And yet how many were the examples to justify even the blackest suspicions! Catherine Morland and Eleanor Tilney, Chapter 23

Later that night, when General Tilney excuses himself early from his guests needing to read government pamphlets, Catherine is convinced it is for some other dubious propose, possibly to visit Mrs. Tilney who is locked in a tower and feed her course food. She reflects that only today she might have been within feet of the forbidden gallery and the cell in which Mrs. Tilney had languished.

The suddenness of her reputed illness, the absence of her daughter, and probably of her other children, at the time – all favoured the supposition of her imprisonment. Its origin – jealousy perhaps, or wanton cruelty – was yet to be unravelled. The Narrator, Chapter 23

The next day at church service, she sees an elegant monument to Mrs. Tilney with a virtuous epitaph of a consoling husband placed in front of the family pew. Catherine is amazed that General Tilney can bear to be so unmoved in its presence or even enter the chapel. But then she remembered that many are unaffected by their murderous deeds, and go about their business unaffected. The monument can mean nothing. She knows from reading how a “supposititious funeral” can be carried on. With the General off on his morning walk, Eleanor agrees to show Catherine her mother’s apartments, but first her portrait in her room, which is quite elegant but surprisingly does not resemble her children. They move on to Mrs. Tilney’s rooms and are stopped again by General Tilney. Horrified, Catherine flees to her chamber in terror for her friend. The next day, Catherine is determined to attempt a visit to Mrs. Tilney’s rooms alone before Henry’s return on the morrow. She enters the rooms. There is nothing odd or amiss, and not what she expected. Astonishment and then shame rack her.

She was sick of exploring, and desired but to be safe in her own room, with her own heart only privy to its folly; and she was on the point of retreating as softly as she had entered, when the sound of footsteps, she could hardly tell where, made her pause and tremble. The Narrator, Chapter 24

It is Henry ascending the stairs, and as surprised as she is at their meeting. What transpires is one of my favorite dialogues between them which I encourage you to read again. She is caught snooping about, and he knows it. She tries to explain herself, but digs herself deeper when she reveals her reasons. Instead of laughing at her, (and it does all sound unbelievably presumptuous and naïve), he firmly questions her.

“If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to – Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?” Henry Tilney, Chapter 24

Indeed! This must be a stinging bite to poor Catherine, who previously admitted that Henry always knows best! She just forgot to use the Henry meter of good taste and proper deportment before she went a bit Gothic crazy on him in his three day absence! ;)

We shall see if he forgives her.

Online text of Northanger Abbey complements of Molland’s Circulating-library

Group reading schedule  

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 15 Giveaway

Jane Austen Entertains: Music from her own library (2007) 

Music CD by various arts

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of Jane Austen Entertains: Music from her own library (2007) (US residents only) 

Upcoming event posts
Day 16 – Oct 26          Book Preview – OWC Udolpho
Day 17 – Oct 27          Guest Blog – Gothic Classics Volume 14
Day 18 – Oct 28          Group Read NA Chapters 25-28
Day 19 – Oct 29          NA & MU Resources

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Oxford World’s Classics: Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition – Our Diptych Review

“Catherine, at any rate, heard enough to feel that in suspecting General Tilney of either murdering or shutting up his wife, she had scarcely sinned against his character, or magnified his cruelty” The Narrator, Chapter 30 

Gentle readers, Please join us for the fifth in a series of six reviews of the revised editions of Jane Austen’s six major novels and three minor works that were released this summer by Oxford World’s Classics. Austenprose editor Laurel Ann is honored to be joined by Austen scholar Prof. Ellen Moody, who will be adding her professional insights to complement my everyman’s view.

Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan,The Watsons and Sandition

 by Jane Austen

Oxford World’s Classics (2008) 

Laurel Ann’s review 

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is the novel that almost wasn’t. We know from Cassandra Austen’s notes that her sister Jane wrote it during 1798-1799, prepared it for publication in 1803, and sold it to publishers Crosby & Company of London only to never see it in print. It languished on the publisher’s shelf for six years until Austen, as perplexed as any authoress who was paid for a manuscript, saw it not published, and then made an ironical inquiry,  supposing that by some “extraordinary circumstance” that it had been carelessly lost, offering a replacement. In reply, the publisher claimed no obligation to publish it and sarcastically offered it back if repaid his 10 pounds. 

Seven more years pass during which Pride and Prejudice is published in 1813 to much acclaim, followed by Mansfield Park in 1814 and Emma in 1815, all anonymously ‘by a lady’. With the help of her brother Henry, Austen then buys back the manuscript from Crosby & Company for the same sum, for Crosby could not know this manuscript was written by a now successfully published and respected author and thus worth quite a bit more. Ha! Imagine the manuscript that would later be titled Northanger Abbey and published posthumously in 1818 might never have been available to us today. If its precarious publishing history suggests it lacks merit, I remind readers that ironically in the early 1800’s most viewed it as “only a novel“, whose premise its author and narrator in turn heartily defend. 

“And what are you reading, Miss – ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.” The Narrator, Chapter 5 

If this statement seems a bit over the top, then you have discovered one of the many ironies in Northanger Abbey as Austen pokes fun at the critics who oppose novel writing by cleverly writing a novel, defending writing a novel. Phew! In its simplest form, Northanger Abbey is a parody of the Gothic fiction so popular in Austen’s day but considered lowbrow reading and shunned by the literati and critics. In a more expanded view it is so much more than I should attempt to describe in this limited space, but will reveal that it can be read on many different levels of enjoyment; — for its coming of age story, social observations, historical context, allusions to Gothic novels and literature, beautiful language and satisfying love story. 

Some critics consider Northanger Abbey to be Jane Austen’s best work revealing both her comedic and intellectual talents at its best. I always enjoy reading it for the shear joy of exuberant young heroine Catherine Morland, charmingly witty hero Henry Tilney and the comedy and social satire of the supporting characters. At times, I do find it a challenge because so much of the plot is based on allusions to other novels, and much of the story is tongue in cheek. Explanatory notes and further study have helped me understand so much more than just the surface story and I would like to recommend that all readers purchase annotated versions of the text for better appreciation. 

Oxford World’s Classic’s has just released their new edition of Northanger Abbey which is worthy of consideration among the other editions in print that include a medium amount of supplemental material to support the text. Also included in this edition are three minor works, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition. Updated and revised in 2003, it has an newly designed cover and contains a short biography of Jane Austen, notes on the text, explanatory notes which are numbered within the text and referenced in the back, chronology, two appendixes of Rank and Social Class and Dancing and a 28 page introduction by Claudia L. Johnson, Prof. of English Literature at Princeton University and well known Austen scholar. Of the five introductions I have read so far in the Oxford Austen series I have enjoyed this one the most as Prof. Johnson style is so entertaining and accessible. She writes with authority and an elegant casualness that does not intimidate this everyman reader. The essay is broken down into a general Introduction, Gothic or Anti-Gothic?, Jane Austen, Irony, and Gothic Style, and Northanger Abbey in Relation to Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sandition. Here is an excerpt that I thought fitting to support my previous mention of publishing history and tone. 

“Northanger Abbey is a sophisticated and densely literary novel, mimicking a great variety of print forms common in Austen’s day – conduct of books, miscellanies, sermons,  literary reviews, and, of course, novels. Its ambition is fitting, because it was to have marked Austen’s entrance into the ranks of print culture. After Austen’s earlier attempt to publish a version of Pride and Prejudice failed, Northanger Abbey (then called Susan) seemed to have succeeded, for it sold for a grand total of 10 to Crosby & Company in 1803. We have seen that Austen’s entrance into the printed world, unlike Catherine’s entrée into the wide world outside Fullerton, was energetically confident: when the narrator declares that novels ‘have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them’ (p. 23), she is clearly referring to her own novel too. This seems an audacious claim when we consider that Austen had yet to publish a novel, and a painful one when we consider that the novel, though bought, paid for, and even advertised, never actually appeared.” Page xxv 

What I found most enlightening about this edition were the explanatory notes to the text which were also written by Prof. Johnson. Not only do they call attention to words, phrases, places, allusions, and historical meanings, they explain them in context to the character or situation allowing us further inside the though process or action. 

115 ponderous chest: the chest is a site of spine-tingling terror and curiosity in novels such as Ann Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forrest (1791), where it holds a skeleton (vol, I , ch. iv), and William Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794), where it holds evidence of Falkland’s diabolical crime. p. 369. 

In addition to being an amusing parody and light hearted romance, I recommend Northanger Abbey for young adult readers who will connect with the heroine Catherine Morland whose first experiences outside her home environment place her in a position to make decisions, judge for herself who is a good or bad friend, and many other life lesson’s that we discover again through her eyes. Henry Tilney is considered by many to be Austen’s most witty and charming hero and is given some the best dialogue of any of her characters. 

“Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.” Henry Tilney, Chapter 14 

Luckily for Henry Tilney there was one woman who used all that nature had given her with her writing when she created him. We are so fortunate that Northanger Abbey is not languishing and forgotten on a shelf at Crosby & Company in London, and available in this valuable edition by Oxford Press. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Northanger Abbey Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition,
by Jane Austen
Oxford World’s Classics
Oxford University Press, (2008)
Trade paperback, 379 pages, ISBN-13: 9780199535545
James Kinsley & John Davie, editors 

Supplemental Material
Claudia L. Johnson: Introduction and Explanatory Notes
Vivien Jones: Select Bibliography, Chronology and Appendixes
Biography of Jane Austen
Note on the Text
Textural Notes

Prof. Ellen Moody’s review


A Journey through Austen’s career:  the latest Oxford _Northanger Abbey_, _Lady Susan_, _The Watsons_ and _Sanditon_


Catherine (Felicity Jones) gazes round her room at Northanger (from the 2007 Granada/WBGH _NA_)

The pump room and Abbey at Bath (from the 1987 BBC _NA_)

If you buy any of this reissue of the Oxford editions of Austen, buy this. It alone makes available three precious texts not in print for a reasonable price anywhere else. No other recent edition of Austen’s books does this[1].

Gentle friends,

Here Laurel and I are for the fifth of our six diptych reviews of the 2008 reissue of the 2003 Oxford editions of Austen’s novels[2]. I hope I haven’t surprised anyone when I urged this volume more than any other of the series as a “must-buy,”  but if I have here’s why.

In one inexpensive annotated volume we have four novels by Jane Austen, three of which are today hard to find in such a format:  _Lady Susan_ & _The Watsons_ first published in 1871, and _Sanditon_, first published in 1925 (!) are today only readily available in Chapman’s _Minor Works_, Volume VI (1954: rpt. with revisions London: Oxford UP, 1969) was last printed in 1988; you can still buy it in hardcover, but its classical scholarly apparatus is intimidating, and it lacks explanatory notes meant for the common reader

The original new Oxford set established by James Kinsley in 1971 followed a tradition stemming from the first posthumous publication of _Northanger Abbey_ in 1818: Kinsley included _Northanger Abbey_ and _Persuasion_ in one volume[3], but as of 1980, Oxford printed _Northanger Abbey_ with _Lady Susan_, _The Watsons_ and _Sanditon_[4].  Thus in one volume we have four novels by Jane Austen, three of which are still hard to find in attractive paperback editions with needed notes, to wit: _Northanger Abbey_, a novel whose many revisions (Austen first named it _Susan_ and then _Catherine_) make it at once a palimpsest of Austen’s earliest work and interests, and a text which includes her latest and most sophisticatedly charming writing[5]; continue reading

Northanger Abbey Chapters 18-21: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 13 Giveaway

“Psha! My dear creature,” she replied, “do not think me such a simpleton as to be always wanting to confine him to my elbow. It would be hideous to be always together; we should be the jest of the place. And so you are going to Northanger! I am amazingly glad of it. It is one of the finest old places in England, I understand. I shall depend upon a most particular description of it.” Isabella Thorpe, Chapter 18 

Quick Synopsis 

After two or three day absence from each other Catherine and Isabella meet at the pump-room. Isabella confides that her brother John is in love with Catherine and wants Isabella to speak on his behalf. Astonished, Catherine denies encouraging him. Isabella agrees that it was “a very foolish, imprudent business” since neither have money to live on. She does not wish her to sacrifice her happiness to oblige her brother. Captain Tilney arrives and Isabella flirts with him. Catherine is concerned for her brother James, convinced that Captain Tilney must not be aware of their engagement. She asks Henry Tilney to talk to his brother. He tells her that Isabella and James are the best judges of their own relationship. Catherine departs Bath and travels to Northanger Abbey with the Tilney’s. On the way Henry excites her passion for Gothic novels by teasingly describing plots and comparing them to Northanger Abbey to heighten her anticipation. When she arrives, it is not the ancient edifice, but less what her fancy had portrayed. On her first night, a storm howls outside and she investigates an ancient chest.


Even though Catherine has begun to mature from her experiences in Bath, she is still unschooled in the ways of courting and love. When her friend Isabella tells her that her brother John is in love with her and that she has encouraged him in his attentions to her, she is astonished. When she “solemnly protest that no syllable of such a nature ever passed between” them, Isabella credits her to a little harmless flirting and quickly acquits her because it is “a very foolish, imprudent business” since neither of them have any money to live on. So the real reason comes out! Isabella fulfills her obligation to promote her brother’s case to Catherine and in the same turn lets her know that she can not pursue him because of their finances. Obviously Isabella is not one of those virtuous females that marry for love alone, even though she has proclaimed the opposite during her engagement to James. More Thorpe double talk. I knew something was up with her when she quoted Tilney twice in her conversation with Catherine and was not surprised when he showed up and sat next to her. We quickly learn that there is much more between them as they brazenly flirt with each other to Catherine’s amazement and distress.

She wished Isabella had talked more like her usual self, and not so much about money, and had not looked so well pleased at the sight of Captain Tilney. How strange that she should not perceive his admiration! Catherine longed to give her a hint of it, to put her on her guard, and prevent all the pain which her too lively behaviour might otherwise create both for him and her brother. The Narrator, Chapter 18

Confused by Isabella and Captain Tilney’s flirtation and concerned for her brother James, she entreats Henry Tilney to speak to his brother convinced that he is not aware of their engagement. When he assures her that “He knows what he is about, and must be his own master“, he also gently reminds Catherine that if his brother’s attention to Miss Thorpe give her brother pains then who is to blame, his brother for giving them, or Isabella for encouraging them? He understands that she is in love with James, but flirts with his brother. “No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.” Catherine continues to question Henry intent that he knows the answers to his brother’s actions. He assures her he does not know his heart and can only conjecture. She is still uneasy and asks that their father General Tilney be made aware and intercede. His response is so sophisticated and kind to her I was touched.

I will not say, ‘Do not be uneasy,’ because I know that you are so, at this moment; but be as little uneasy as you can. You have no doubt of the mutual attachment of your brother and your friend; depend upon it, therefore, that real jealousy never can exist between them; depend upon it that no disagreement between them can be of any duration. Their hearts are open to each other, as neither heart can be to you; they know exactly what is required and what can be borne; and you may be certain that one will never tease the other beyond what is known to be pleasant.” Henry Tilney, Chapter 19

I think that he is projecting his own personal perspective upon this couple, since I doubt that Isabella would ever be capable of an open heart. I was satisfied with his answer and Catherine was determined to think that Henry Tilney knew best (smart girl), blamed herself for her fears, and resolved to not dwell upon it again, moving on to her visit to Northanger Abbey.

They set off at the sober pace in which the handsome, highly fed four horses of a gentleman usually perform a journey of thirty miles: such was the distance of Northanger from Bath, to be now divided into two equal stages. Catherine’s spirits revived as they drove from the door; for with Miss Tilney she felt no restraint; and, with the interest of a road entirely new to her, of an abbey before, and a curricle behind, she caught the last view of Bath without any regret, and met with every milestone before she expected it. The Narrator, Chapter 20

So Catherine begins her second journey of enlightenment as she departs Bath and is placed in the care of the Tilney’s. And what excellent hands she is under as Austen clearly shows her preference for our dashing hero.

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, Chapter 20

That other gentleman-coachman is of course that crude and boisterous fellow John Thorpe, who we thankfully know she has no interest in. So, Catherine thinks that dancing with Henry and driving with him is the greatest happiness in the world, just wait dear one until he speaks with you along the road on a topic near to your heart that you both share, Gothic novels. This is one my favorite conversations in the novel between them as he teases and incites her imagination, heightening her anticipation of the ancient edifice that she has longed to visit, Northanger Abbey.

“You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey.” 

“To be sure, I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one reads about?” 

“And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as ‘what one reads about’ may produce? Have you a stout heart? Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?” Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, Chapter 20

He suggestively asks her if she has a stout heart and steady nerves? “Will not your mind misgive you when you find yourself in this gloomy chamber? Will not your heart sink within you?” She denies that this will happen to her. Henry continues to talk of haunted chambers with doors that do not lock, and Catherine is gleeful because it is just like the book. She recollects herself and is certain that Miss Tilney would not put her in such a room as he describes. When they reach Northanger Abbey, the view was not as grand nor the road “without obstacle, alarm, or solemnity of any kind, struck her as odd and inconsistent.” The Abbey is not the old edifice that she had envisioned, “less what her fancy had portrayed“, the furniture and decoration modern, lacking dirt and cobwebs, and the difference was very distressing. Her chamber is comfortable and well appointed with a high old fashioned ebony chest similar to the one that Henry described that very day. She is determined to discover what is inside its locked contents. With a storm raging outside, the winds howling and one candlestick to light her way she investigates the chest working the lock for sometime before she succeeds to reveal the inner drawers.

but at length it did open; and not vain, as hitherto, was her search; her quick eyes directly fell on a roll of paper pushed back into the further part of the cavity, apparently for concealment, and her feelings at that moment were indescribable. Her heart fluttered, her knees trembled, and her cheeks grew pale. She seized, with an unsteady hand, the precious manuscript, for half a glance sufficed to ascertain written characters; and while she acknowledged with awful sensations this striking exemplification of what Henry had foretold, resolved instantly to peruse every line before she attempted to rest. The Narrator, Chapter 21

Poor Catherine. I fear that Henry has so pumped up her expectations and fueled her Gothic imagination that she is sure to be disappointed. We shall see.

  • On line text of Northanger Abbey complements of Molland’s Circulating-library
  • Group reading schedule 
  • Read Northanger Abbey Summary: Chapters 15-21
  • Read Northanger Abbey Quotes & Quips: Chapters 15-21

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 13 Giveaway

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey Stage Play (2005) 

Adapted for the stage by Tim Luscombe

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey Stage Play, by Tim Luscombe (US residents only)

Upcoming event posts
Day 14 – Oct 22         Book Review – OWC NA
Day 15 – Oct 23         Group Read NA Chapters 22-24
Day 16 – Oct 26         Book Preview – OWC Udolpho
Day 17 – Oct 27         Guest Blog – Gothic Classics Volume 14

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Catherine Morland’s Experience in Bath Part 3


if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village,
she must seek them abroad

Lower Assembly Rooms and Bath Society

at Jane Austen’s World 

Discover the Lower Rooms in Bath where Catherine Morland the heroine of Northanger Abbey is introduced by the Master of Ceremonies James King to “a very gentlemanlike young man” Henry Tilney and he engages her for her first dance in Bath. Learn all about the history of the Lower Rooms and the social etiquette that they were governed under in Ms. Place’s (Vic) excellent blog on The Lower Rooms and Bath Society at her lovely blog, Jane Austen’s World. Please join us next week when she writes about the delights of walking with Eleanor and Henry Tilney on Beechen Hill. Thanks Vic!

Northanger Abbey Chapters 15-17: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 10 Giveaway

“Nay, my beloved, sweetest friend,” continued the other, “compose yourself. I am amazingly agitated, as you perceive. Let us sit down and talk in comfort. Well, and so you guessed it the moment you had my note? Sly creature! Oh! My dear Catherine, you alone, who know my heart, can judge of my present happiness. Your brother is the most charming of men. I only wish I were more worthy of him. But what will your excellent father and mother say? Oh! Heavens! When I think of them I am so agitated!” Isabella Thorpe, Chapter 15 

Quick Synopsis 

Isabella and James Morland are engaged pending parental consent. Isabella is anxious that she has such a small fortune, but money is nothing to her and she is content to live in a cottage. A letter arrives the next day from the Morland’s and all will be done for the couple. Isabella & Mrs. Thorpe are elated. Isabella envisions herself the envy of all of her friends being so well settled. John Thorpe speaks to Catherine exclaiming that marriage is a fine thing and one gets another. He takes Catherine’s agreement as a form of encouragement. Catherine dines with the Tilney’s who are quite and out of spirits. Isabella credits this to arrogance and pride. Catherine attends the Assembly dance where Isabella declares she will not dance with anyone since her James is not there. Catherine is introduced to Henry’s brother Captain Tilney who is interested in dancing with Isabella, but Catherine tells him she will dance with no one that night, only to be surprised later that she does accept his invitation. Isabella later explains to her that it was for a favor and that he was such a nuisance. A second letter arrives from James revealing that they will have £400 a year and can marry in 2-3 years. Isabella and Mrs. Thorpe are grave and out of spirits. Isabella claims it is because of the wait, but alludes to the low amount of money. Catherine is invited by the Tilney’s to be their guest at Northanger Abbey.


Chapter 15 begins with the announcement of an engagement, which is always a happy event for a Regency era woman, since it fulfills her duty and obligation to her family and society. In this case, it is a bittersweet moment. Isabella and Mrs. Thorpe are elated. They have attained their goal to attract and attach themselves to a wealth young man. Our suspicions about the Thorpe’s true nature are revealed further. Isabella continues to say what she thinks others want to hear, but feels quite the opposite. Here is a great example of her double talk.

“For my own part,” said Isabella, “my wishes are so moderate that the smallest income in nature would be enough for me. Where people are really attached, poverty itself is wealth; grandeur I detest: I would not settle in London for the universe. A cottage in some retired village would be ecstasy. There are some charming little villas about Richmond.” Isabella Thorpe, Chapter 15

This is echoed by her brother John’s proclamation about marriage to Catherine. He sees the advantage of the romantic moment and wants to finish the family plan and attach to her also.

“A famous good thing this marrying scheme, upon my soul! A clever fancy of Morland’s and Belle’s. What do you think of it, Miss Morland? I say it is no bad notion.” 

“I am sure I think it a very good one.” 

“Do you? That’s honest, by heavens! I am glad you are no enemy to matrimony, however. Did you ever hear the old song ‘Going to One Wedding Brings on Another?’ I say, you will come to Belle’s wedding, I hope.” John Thorpe and Catherine Morland, Chapter 15 

He follows this with an almost duplicate pronouncement that we heard previously by Isabella to Catherine about how he needs very little in the way of money to make his life happy.

Give me but a little cheerful company, let me only have the company of the people I love, let me only be where I like and with whom I like, and the devil take the rest, say I. John Thorpe, Chapter 15 

Catherine agrees with him that it is the wickedest thing in existence to marry for money. John takes her speech as a form of encouragement and departs for London content that they are in sync since she has also agreed to let him visit her at her home at Fullerton. Catherine still does not see the deception in their double talk and at the next Assembly when Isabella declares that she will not dance because her James is not there, Catherine takes her for her word and explains that to Henry’s brother Captain Tilney who wants to dance with her.

Catherine, meanwhile, undisturbed by presentiments of such an evil, or of any evil at all, except that of having but a short set to dance down, enjoyed her usual happiness with Henry Tilney, listening with sparkling eyes to everything he said; and, in finding him irresistible, becoming so herself. The Narrator, Chapter 16

Not surprised that she finds him irresistible! ;) But wise Henry sees the folly of her naivety, and follows with a little lesson for her about reading personalities and herself. What transpires is one of those moments when one surprises oneself and friends by saying something quite apt and witty beyond equal measure.

“Then we are on very unequal terms, for I understand you perfectly well.” 

“Me? Yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.” 

“Bravo! An excellent satire on modern language.” Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland, Chapter 16

Henry continues through his conversation to gently teach Catherine about social interaction and judgment of character. She may be astounded that Isabella did dance with Captain Tilney after she so firmly was apposed to dancing, but Henry asks her to remember if Isabella has every changed her mind before, clarifying her nature and intensions. Later, when Isabella’s explanation to Catherine about dancing with Captain Tilney seems shallow, she starts to get it. When Isabella learns that she and James will only have £400 a year and must wait 2-3 years to marry, Catherine is able to use her new evaluation skills to understand Isabella and Mrs. Thorpe’s two faced reaction to the news.

Isabella recollected herself. “As to that, my sweet Catherine, there cannot be a doubt, and you know me well enough to be sure that a much smaller income would satisfy me. It is not the want of more money that makes me just at present a little out of spirits; I hate money; and if our union could take place now upon only fifty pounds a year, I should not have a wish unsatisfied. Ah! my Catherine, you have found me out. There’s the sting. The long, long, endless two years and half that are to pass before your brother can hold the living.” 

“Yes, yes, my darling Isabella,” said Mrs. Thorpe, “we perfectly see into your heart. You have no disguise. We perfectly understand the present vexation; and everybody must love you the better for such a noble honest affection.” Isabella & Mrs. Thorpe, Chapter 16

They want Catherine to believe that they are not upset by the amount of money, only the length of time before they can marry. The real ‘sting’ is when Mrs. Thorpe claims that Isabella has a perfect heart and no disguise. We see that the daughter and son have learned all their tricks through the mother, and Catherine now sees that too when she is uncomfortable and hurt when Isabella says “everybody has a right to do what they like with their own money.” This slight in Catherine’s mind implies that Isabella thinks that her parents are ungenerous with their funds, when in actuality; Isabella thinks they are rich and stingy. More misconceptions and misreading of personalities and finances by Austen to perplex and fuel the plot. Catherine may be wary of the Thorpe’s but she is still optimistic of marriage, and now seeing how these things come about with her brother, secretly hoping the same for herself with Henry Tilney. When the Tilney’s invite her to ber their guest at Northanger Abbey, all of her hopes and fantasies come together. Not only will she be with the Tilney’s and near Henry, she will see a Gothic castle with its “long, damp passages, its narrow cells and ruined chapel, were to be within her daily reach.”

Her passion for ancient edifices was next in degree to her passion for Henry Tilney – and castles and abbeys made usually the charm of those reveries which his image did not fill. To see and explore either the ramparts and keep of the one, or the cloisters of the other, had been for many weeks a darling wish, though to be more than the visitor of an hour had seemed too nearly impossible for desire. The Narrator, Chapter 17 

Too funny. We are not quite sure if she is more passionate about Henry, or his home! As the story proceeds to the second volume of the novel, we shall see a change in our heroine and the style of writing by Austen as the Gothic parody really comes to light.

  • Online text of Northanger Abbey complements of Molland’s Circulating-library
  • Group reading schedule  

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 10 Giveaway



Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners: Compliments,

Charades & Horrible Blunders (2006) 

by Josephine Ross (Author), Henrietta Webb (Illustrator)

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades & Horrible Blunders, by Josephine Ross (US residents only)

Upcoming event posts
Day 11 – Oct 19          Book Review – NA Naxos Audio
Day 12 – Oct 20          Guest Blog – Valancourt Books
Day 13 – Oct 21          Group Read NA Chapters 18-21
Day 14 – Oct 22          Book Review – OWC NA

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Guest Blogger Kali Pappas Chats about Movie Fashions

Please welcome web mistress of The Emma Adaptations Pages, Graphic and Web Designer of Strangegirl Designs, and Regency fashion and style authority Kali Pappas today, as she chats about the “frivolus distinctions” of fashion in the two movie adaptations of Northanger Abbey. Enjoy!

“Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim. Catherine knew all this very well; her great aunt had read her a lecture on the subject only the Christmas before; and yet she lay awake ten minutes on Wednesday night debating between her spotted and her tamboured muslin, and nothing but the shortness of the time prevented her buying a new one for the evening.” Chapter 10


Ever since “Her love of dirt gave way to an inclination for finery,” Catherine Morland has yearned to experience society – balls, gowns, boys, and all the excitement and adventure that every naive young woman on the cusp of adulthood eagerly anticipates. Since Miss Morland’s first grand, grown-up adventure takes place in Bath – the famous health spa and mythic center of Georgian society and fashion – it’s only natural that dress, as frivolous a distinction as it may be, should play a distinguished part in the drama that unfolds before our heroine.

 NA 1986: Parties galore are evident upon arrival in Bath!

With clotheshorse Mrs. Allen as her chaperone and first advisor on things sartorial, Catherine costumes herself for a dual role – that of a garden-variety romantic heroine on the loose in a fancy town, in addition to that of a wannabe gothic heroine whose imagination tends toward the horrid. Both the 1986 and 2007 adaptations of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey use fashion to play up the romance and hyperbole presented in this gothic parody, though sometimes in starkly different ways. While the 2007 adaptation is relatively subtle in its costuming, the 1986 adaptation veers a bit more toward the cartoonish at times.

NA 1986: Catherine and her brother dash through a rather gothic-appropriate graveyard.

In the novel, clothing and one’s relationship with it function as more than mere “frivolous distinctions,” despite the authoress’ narrations to the contrary. It is, after all, it’s Henry Tilney’s knowledge of muslin which proves his “genius” to Mrs. Allen. “Men commonly take so little notice of those things,” she tells him. “I can never get Mr. Allen to know one of my gowns from another.” While Mrs. Allen’s comfort in Henry’s knowledge is superficial, his interest in matters of feminine importance shows us as readers that he’s a sensitive guy who makes an honest effort to understand and appreciate girls.

NA 2007: “I gave but five shillings a yard for it, and a true Indian muslin!” 

In the television adaptations of the story, one could argue that fashion is an even more important distinction, given the visual dimension of the medium. Aside from the usual quick inferences it allows a viewer to make – regarding class and age, for example – it also subtly informs us as to the personality and even the motives of the wearer.

In both adaptations, Catherine first appears as a clean, blank, and thoroughly transparent being. She is the antithesis of artifice, wearing sheer, simple muslin gowns in virginal white. Her hair is uncomplicated, even a bit unkempt. In the 1986 adaptation, we find her reading in a tree; in dirty stocking feet, no less, which indicates that while her “inclination for finery” may be considerable, her tolerance of dirt has not yet subsided. She is not yet a fully-civilized “adult.’

NA 1986: Early Catherine reading in a tree

NA 2007: Catherine reading novels

In the 1986 adaptation, Catherine begins her transformation upon embarkation for Bath, suited up in simple yet elegant new travelling togs which appear to consist of a smart new bonnet, a new gown, and a satiny-blue pelisse over it.

Continue reading

Northanger Abbey Chapters 11-14: Summary, Musings & Discussion

At half past twelve, when Catherine’s anxious attention to the weather was over and she could no longer claim any merit from its amendment, the sky began voluntarily to clear. A gleam of sunshine took her quite by surprise; she looked round; the clouds were parting, and she instantly returned to the window to watch over and encourage the happy appearance. Ten minutes more made it certain that a bright afternoon would succeed, and justified the opinion of Mrs. Allen, who had “always thought it would clear up.” The Narrator, Chapter 11 

Quick Synopsis 

Catherine anticipates her walk with the Tilney’s but is concerned because of the rainy weather. John and Isabella Thorpe and her brother James arrive and insist that she ride out with them to Blaize Castle in their carriages. She declines because of the Tilney’s invitation, but Thorpe assures her they are not coming for her and she departs only to discover that he has lied as she passes them on the street. He will not stop. The scheme to travel to the Castle is too ambitious and they turn back after an hour. Catherine is miffed all around. The next morning she goes to the Tilney residence to apologize and is turned away. That night at the theatre she meets Mr. Tilney and apologizes. He assures her that they will walk another day. She notices John Thorpe talking to General Tilney. The evening ends well. The next day, Isabella, James and John insist that Catherine ride out with them to Blaize Castle again. She firmly declines because of her engagement with the Tilney’s. They insist and badger her. Thorpe goes to Miss Tilney claiming that Catherine has sent him to change the date. She agrees and Thorpe informs the party of his success. Catherine is horrified and wants to tell Eleanor it is not true. They try to restrain her, but she struggles and is let free to go to the Tilney’s and explain. She is introduced to General Tilney. The next morning the weather is fair, and Catherine walks with the Tilney’s as planned. They discuss books, history, politics and Henry instructs Catherine on the Picturesque and teases them on what nature has given to women.


Temptation and judgment are key factors in the next four chapters. We see our heroine Catherine tested on many fronts in social situations, and called upon to evaluate and decided for herself which are the best decisions for her happiness. The first test comes with her friends Isabella and John Thorpe, and her brother James when she is pressured to put aside her commitment to walk with the Tilney’s at the prospect of seeing an ancient castle like the ones she has read about in the Gothic novels that she admires so much. “I should like to see the castle; but may we go all over it? May we go up every staircase, and into every suite of rooms?”  The temptation to see such a fanciful place outweighs her concern of offending the Tilney’s and she is persuaded to go on the drive, only to discover that she has been lied to by John Thorpe regarding his seeing Henry Tilney with another young lady before he arrived. When she passes the Tilney’s on the street she understands the deception, and she begs Thorpe to stop.

“Pray, pray stop, Mr. Thorpe. I cannot go on. I will not go on. I must go back to Miss Tilney.” But Mr. Thorpe only laughed, smacked his whip, encouraged his horse, made odd noises, and drove on; and Catherine, angry and vexed as she was, having no power of getting away, was obliged to give up the point and submit. Catherine Morland, Chapter 11

It is a painful and frustrating lesson to learn, but she understands the consequences of slighting the Tilney’s whose friendship she values opposed to the immediate pleasure of an excursion in the country with friends whose judgment and methods she doubts. When the drive is cut short after an hour because of the eventual reality that they can not make it to the Castle in the time they have, she sees that putting herself under the power of such people is foolish and regrets her actions.

The second test comes when she immediately needs to find Miss Tilney and explain why she did not keep their date to walk. When she arrives at her door, the footman tells her that Miss Tilney is not at home and she departs dejected, only to look back and see her leaving her home with her father. Catherine feels slighted and ashamed. Later that evening she finally meets Henry Tilney at the theatre, aplogizes and learns that it was their father’s doing,  he did not want to be delayed in his walk. But another lesson had been learned. Do not over react in the heat of the moment. Things are not always what they seem and every consideration should be given to cool judgment. The evening ends most agreeably after her chat with Mr. Tilney, his confirmation of another walk, and a complement by his father, General Tilney.

That General Tilney, instead of disliking, should admire her, was very delightful; and she joyfully thought that there was not one of the family whom she need now fear to meet. The evening had done more, much more, for her than could have been expected. The Narrator, Chapter 12

Austen seems to follow good news with bad quite swiftly, as our heroine in high spirits after meeting with Miss Tilney the next day and confirming their walk, is assaulted by her friends for accepting the invitation which interferes with their desire for Catherine to drive out with them to Blaize Castle, again. Even though she firmly declines their invitation determined not to allow their plans to spoil another engagement with the Tilney’s, they will not accept her decision and press her to change the date. I am amazed at the length that they go to pressure her as Isabella shames her and cries, her brother James calls her quite unkind and selfish and John Thorpe approaches Miss Tilney under the guise of Catherine’s authority requesting a change of date. Catherine is horrified at their behavior, firm in her resolve and I applaud her new found confidence.

She had not been withstanding them on selfish principles alone, she had not consulted merely her own gratification; that might have been ensured in some degree by the excursion itself, by seeing Blaize Castle; no, she had attended to what was due to others, and to her own character in their opinion. Her conviction of being right, however, was not enough to restore her composure; till she had spoken to Miss Tilney she could not be at ease; The Narrator, Chapter 13 

Score one for Miss Morland. A difficult situation that she handled to our relief and her satisfaction. Peer pressure can be the worst form of friendship, if one can call such action friendship. She has made a good decision for herself and her walk to Beechen Cliff with the Tilney’s proves a much more worthy excursion as she sees, experiences, and learns so much more than with the society of the Thorpe’s. After being taken down so low by the Thorpe’s ill manners, walking with Eleanor and Henry Tilney is the height of perfection in good views of countryside, witty banter, and educated conversation. There are so many excellent dialogue passages in this chapter that one is hard pressed to narrow them down. We begin to see Henry and Eleanor’s sibling relationship more closely as he teases her and she him, playing off each other to amuse Catherine and themselves. By the end of the chapter he has undoubtedly the charming, clever and witty man that we and Catherine had suspected. He loves Gothic fiction, though Catherine is concerned to discuss it with a man, his Oxford education has not ruined his sense of the sublime in nature which he shares with Catherine in his description of the picturesque countryside, he talks eloquently of history, politics and art with ease, and knows when to complement and please.

“Miss Morland, I think very highly of the understanding of all the women in the world – especially of those – whoever they may be – with whom I happen to be in company.” 

“That is not enough. Be more serious.” 

“Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.” Henry and Eleanor Tilney, Chapter 14

And that gentle readers is quite a man.

  • Online text of Northanger Abbey complements of Molland’s Circulating-library
  • Group reading schedule
  • Summary of Northanger Abbey chapter 8-14
  • Quotes and quips from Northanger Abbey chapters 8-14

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 8 Giveaway

Jane Austen in Bath: Walking Tours of the Writer’s City (2006)

By Katharine Reeve

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of Jane Austen in Bath: Walking Tours of the Writer’s City, by Katharine Reeve (US residents only)

Upcoming event posts
Day 09 – Oct 15           Guest Blog – Kali Pappas
Day 10 – Oct 16           Group Read NA Chapters 15-17
Day 11 – Oct 19          Book Review – NA Naxos Audio
Day 12 – Oct 20          Guest Blog – Valancourt Books

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Guest Blogger Margaret Sullivan Chats About Henry Tilney


Austen-esque author, web mistress, editrix and Team Henry Tilney Leader Margaret (Mags) Sullivan joins us today to chat about Jane Austen’s most charmingly endearing hero, Henry Tilney, affectionately know to many as da Man. Enjoy! 

“A Very Gentlemanlike Young Man” 

The master of the ceremonies introduced to her a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; — his name was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it. His address was good, and Catherine felt herself in high luck. Northanger Abbey, Vol. I Chap. III 

What young lady at her second ball of the season wouldn’t feel herself in high luck to dance with Henry Tilney? A fellow who is charming, witty, intelligent, very nearly handsome, and shows a girl a good time? I know that many of my fellow Janeites, who joined Team Darcy early on and see no reason to switch, don’t really understand the dedication of Team Tilney. What’s so great about Henry Tilney? Let me count the ways. 

1. He’s funny. 

Don’t discount the importance of a sense of humor in an attractive man. Even though Catherine Morland doesn’t quite understand Henry’s odd ways at first, she is interested by them nonetheless. And she understands most of the time when he is teasing her and is not offended by it. She has older brothers, after all. 

Some Jane Austen scholars have been of the opinion that Jane Austen perhaps met Sydney Smith, a young clergyman who would later become famous for his wit, in her 1797 visit to Bath, shortly before she commenced work on Susan, the novel that would eventually be published as Northanger Abbey.  (See my essay on this at The Cult of Da Man.) There is no proof that Jane Austen met Sydney Smith, and even less that she used him as an inspiration for Henry; Austen said that she never based her characters on real-life people, and I believe her. But perhaps elements of Smith’s personality made their way onto the page, particularly Henry’s sometimes outrageous wit and word-nerdiness. 

2. He doesn’t patronize Catherine, and doesn’t lecture her, except on the picturesque. 

Henry is an intelligent, well-educated young man and doesn’t dumb down his conversation for Catherine. He knows fairly quickly that she is not stupid, but has not had much benefit of education; her mother, with so many little ones to tend to, was unable to take the pains Henry clearly has with his own sister’s education. (Surely you don’t think Eleanor got her smarts from her father?) 

Henry is very much a proper teacher, not only giving Catherine information but teaching her to learn to trust her own judgment, which he has recognized early on is pretty good. When Catherine is confused or doesn’t understand something, rather than just telling her what he wants her to know, Henry, like a good teacher, asks her a series of questions designed to allow Catherine to think through her own opinion-almost always with excellent results. Even the famous scene when he encounters her outside his mother’s room is in this Socratic model: 

“If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to — Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. — Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”  

Emphasis mine, of course; Henry knows that Catherine knows better, and is simply reminding her of that. There’s no meanness in his questioning; he is gentleness itself. (Ironically, the only film version of this scene that has got that right is Wishbone!) 

And can we have a brief swoon over the “Dearest Miss Morland” part? Thanks! *swoooon* 

3. He’s a good big brother. 

There’s a telling bit of dialogue buried in the scene in which Eleanor and Catherine take the late Mrs. Tilney’s favorite walk: 

She stopped for a moment, and then added, with great firmness, “I have no sister, you know — and though Henry — though my brothers are very affectionate, and Henry is a great deal here, which I am most thankful for, it is impossible for me not to be often solitary.”  

Notice that Eleanor thinks first of Henry as her affectionate brother. Frederick, it seems, does not spring so immediately to her mind; though he can’t be all bad to have earned Eleanor’s loyalty. Jane Austen had big brothers (and one “particular” little brother), and many of the brother figures of her books have affectionately teasing relationships with their sisters: Charles Musgrove, also described as “really a very affectionate brother,” teases Anne Elliot, his sister by marriage, in the most big-brotherly way imaginable about Captain Benwick’s interest in her; Tom Bertram, to whom Fanny Price was made a sort of little sister, “made her some very pretty presents, and laughed at her.” It is not a great jump, particularly to those of us who have had affectionate big brothers ourselves, to think that perhaps Jane Austen’s relationship with her own brothers was in this mold as well. That the Austens were a tight-knit family does not admit to a doubt; they did not always necessarily get along perfectly, but what family does? Even Eleanor gets annoyed with Henry when he makes off to the hermitage walk with her own copy of Udolpho. The relationship between Eleanor and Henry is affectionate and real, and clearly both treasure it. 

In the early days of their friendship, Henry teases Catherine, treating her more like a sister than a girlfriend. Perhaps her own initial interest in Henry comes from the similarity to the relationships with young men that Catherine has known best in her life: her big brothers. A more mature type of love develops later on both sides. 

Another comment from Eleanor is equally telling of her relationship with Henry, and anticipates Catherine’s relationship as well: 

“But I do assure you that he must be entirely misunderstood, if he can ever appear to say an unjust thing of any woman at all, or an unkind one of me.”  

4. He’s comfortable with intelligent women. 

Actually Henry is comfortable with all women; he even manages to convince Mrs. Allen that he is knowledgeable about muslins! Even to have such a conversation indicates a level of knowledge of women and their concerns that speaks well for Henry. What does John Thorpe speak to Catherine about? Himself, his gig, his horse, his success at the hunt, his dogs. Henry asks Catherine what she thinks of Bath and draws her out to talk about her home and family. He talks to women about what interests them. That’s very smart, and very sexy. 

5. He’s endlessly quotable. 

We are still astonished that film adapters seem to leave out most of Henry’s best lines from their films. 

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” 

“Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! it is a very nice word indeed! — It does for every thing. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement; — people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.” 

“I am come, young ladies, in a very moralizing strain, to observe that our pleasures in this world are always to be paid for, and that we often purchase them at a great disadvantage, giving ready-monied actual happiness for a draft on the future, that may not be honoured. Witness myself, at this present hour. Because I am to hope for the satisfaction of seeing you at Woodston on Wednesday, which bad weather, or twenty other causes, may prevent, I must go away directly, two days before I intended it.”

“Go away!” said Catherine, with a very long face. “And why?”

“Why! — How can you ask the question? Because no time is to be lost in frightening my old housekeeper out of her wits, — because I must go and prepare a dinner for you, to be sure.” 

“I see what you think of me,” said he gravely — “I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow.”

“My journal!”

“Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings — plain black shoes — appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.” 

Mr. Tilney was very much amused. “Only go and call on Mrs. Allen!” he repeated. “What a picture of intellectual poverty! However, when you sink into this abyss again, you will have more to say. You will be able to talk of Bath, and of all that you did here.” 

“Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.” 

“How fearfully will you examine the furniture of your apartment! — And what will you discern? — Not tables, toilettes, wardrobes, or drawers, but on one side perhaps the remains of a broken lute, on the other a ponderous chest which no efforts can open, and over the fire-place the portrait of some handsome warrior, whose features will so incomprehensibly strike you, that you will not be able to withdraw your eyes from it. Dorothy, meanwhile, no less struck by your appearance, gazes on you in great agitation, and drops a few unintelligible hints. To raise your spirits, moreover, she gives you reason to suppose that the part of the abbey you inhabit is undoubtedly haunted, and informs you that you will not have a single domestic within call. With this parting cordial she curtseys off — you listen to the sound of her receding footsteps as long as the last echo can reach you — and when, with fainting spirits, you attempt to fasten your door, you discover, with increased alarm, that it has no lock.”

“Oh! Mr. Tilney, how frightful! — This is just like a book!” 

“But your mind is warped by an innate principle of general integrity, and therefore not accessible to the cool reasonings of family partiality, or a desire of revenge.” 

6. He likes dogs. Big dogs. Big drooly dogs. And smaller, active dogs as well. 

At the further end of the village, and tolerably disengaged from the rest of it, stood the parsonage, a new-built substantial stone house, with its semicircular sweep and green gates; and, as they drove up to the door, Henry, with the friends of his solitude, a large Newfoundland puppy and two or three terriers, was ready to receive and make much of them. ~ Volume II, Chapter XI 

My good friend Karen Lee, a dog breeder and exhibitor with decades of experience, wrote a little bit about Henry’s dogs for the Cult of Da Man site. 

The Newfoundland puppy reveals something very likeable in Henry Tilney’s nature and one might expect its presence in Northanger Abbey to have been deliberate effort by Jane Austen to render his character even more personable to the reader. The terriers were useful in and of themselves and would be a normal sight at any country home, but as Henry Tilney was not a waterman his acquisition of a breed which had no practical purpose on a country estate shows that he valued his dogs for their companionship and not just as working animals. 

How can you not love a guy who loves his doggies? 

7. He likes to read trashy novels. 

“But you never read novels, I dare say?”

“Why not?”

“Because they are not clever enough for you — gentlemen read better books.”

“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.” – Northanger Abbey, Vol. I, Chap. XIV

At that time, novels were looked down upon as being trashy reading-books that were all story and no reflection. For Henry to admit not only to reading such books, not only to enjoying them, but to have read many of them, is quite an admission; and he makes it so easily. Only a man comfortable in his own intelligence would do that. Obviously he would have earned Jane Austen’s approbation, as the Austens, she wrote, were novel-readers and not ashamed of it; clearly it earned Catherine Morland’s as well. Just imagine having Henry Tilney to read Mrs. Radcliffe’s charming novels to you! Catherine probably felt herself in high luck once again. 

8. Okay, so we’re shallow: the boots and the great coat. 

I still remember the first time I read this passage from Vol. II, Chap. XI: 

…and her heart was still bounding with joy when Henry, about an hour afterwards, came booted and great coated into the room where she and Eleanor were sitting… 

Booted and great coated…it still makes me wibbly! Remember, we already heard that the capes of Henry’s great coat were “innumerable.” Great coats had all those capes to keep the rain off, but imagine how lovely and broad-shouldered they made the gentlemen wearing them look! And his boots were probably well-broken-in, tough but soft leather, nicely polished. Jane Austen painted a lovely word picture there: a picture of sheer unadulterated masculinity. Then Henry makes a joke and is super sweet to Catherine and says he is sad to go, “for I had much rather stay.” If you can’t fall in love with Henry Tilney after that scene, you are made of stone. Keep your wet shirts and your big guns; that is sexy on wheels. 

9. He’s just plain interesting. 

Though Northanger Abbey is a parody of The Mysteries of Udolpho and other Gothic and sentimental novels of the time, the hero of Udolpho, the Chevalier de Valancourt, is not much like Henry Tilney. Valancourt is broody, mysterious, kind of wimpy about telling a girl how he feels, and loses his fortune at the gaming tables. Some hero! 

In her 1998 introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Udolpho, Terry Castle notes of some minor characters, “Henri and Blanche De Villefort, the count’s grown-up children, curiously prefigure Henry and Eleanor Tilney, the witty brother and sister who befriend the credulous Catherine Morland in Austen’s novel. Like his Tilney namesake, Henri de Villefort has the teasing manner we associate with Austen heroes; and Blanche, who has just left a convent, is firmly opposed to ‘monkish’ doom and gloom.” (xii) 

We don’t find it curious at all. Obviously Henri was more interesting to Jane Austen than the rather wet Valancourt, and perhaps she found someone like him would make a better hero; if one takes it that way, it makes the parody of Udolpho all that much more hilarious. 

There are many more ways and reasons to love Mr. Tilney, and we are sure Catherine Tilney found new ones every day.  Why do you love Henry Tilney, Gentle Reader?


Further Reading

  • Visit Margaret (Mags) Sullivan’s blog AustenBlog
  • Visit the Cult of da Man, the ultimate Henry Tilney website
  • Visit Margaret (Mags) Sullivan’s website Tilneys and Trap-doors
  • Read my post on Northanger Abbey: Our Hero Henry Tilney

Future event posts
Day 08 – Oct 14          Group Read NA Chapters 11-14
Day 09 – Oct 15          Guest Blog – Kali Pappas
Day 10 – Oct 16          Group Read NA Chapters 15-17
Day 11 – Oct 19          Book Review – OWC NA 

Northanger Abbey Chapters 8-10: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 6 Giveway

To be disgraced in the eye of the world, to wear the appearance of infamy while her heart is all purity, her actions all innocence, and the misconduct of another the true source of her debasement, is one of those circumstances which peculiarly belong to the heroine’s life, and her fortitude under it what particularly dignifies her character. Catherine had fortitude too; she suffered, but no murmur passed her lips. The Narrator, Chapter 8 

Quick Synopsis 

A return to the Upper Rooms with Mrs. Allen fuels Catherine’s hopes of seeing Mr. Tilney again. Coy Isabella declines a second invitation to dance from James Moreland claiming it improper to dance two in a row, and then dances anyway. Regretfully, Catherine declines Mr. Tilney’s offer to dance due to John Thorpe. Mortified, she sees Tilney dancing with another and learns later that he was looking for her. The evening ends unsuccessfully. The next morning John Thorpe’s unexpected arrival and claim that she had promised to ride out with him that day meets with surprise. They drive in his gig, with James and Isabella in their own. He boastfully discusses his equipage and horse and makes candid remarks about the safety of James’ carriage which alarm Catherine. He discredits her concerns. Catherine is puzzled by the double talk, returning home to discover she has missed another opportunity to see the Tilney’s. The Allen’s, the Thorpe’s and the Morland’s attend the theatre. Catherine searches in the crowd for Mr. Tilney but no luck. Isabella tells Catherine that she and James agree on everything, but the next day she sees them together at the pump-room in dispute, contrary to her claim. She meets Eleanor and quizzes her about her brother, revealing her interest in him. She attends the Cotillion and finally dances with Mr. Tilney. He discusses his views on dancing and marriage, living in the country or in town; points out his father the General, and invites her for a country walk the next day.


I was amazed how Jane Austen paced chapter eight writing ups and downs for our heroine in the making. I laughed at her expense when she was “disgraced in the eye of the world not unlike a true heroine” when left with the matrons, Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe at the dance while Isabella was engaged with her brother. What single young lady has not attended a dance and been mortified to be a wall flower? Ha! And then the thrill of seeing Mr. Tilney, finally, after searching and fretting over him for a week. What a rush!

Catherine, catching Mr. Tilney’s eye, instantly received from him the smiling tribute of recognition. She returned it with pleasure, and then advancing still nearer, he spoke both to her and Mrs. Allen, by whom he was very civilly acknowledged. “I am very happy to see you again, sir, indeed; I was afraid you had left Bath.” He thanked her for her fears, and said that he had quitted it for a week, on the very morning after his having had the pleasure of seeing her. The Narrator Chapter 8

Then her hopes (and ours) to dance and talk with him are delayed when she must decline his invitation to dance because of her prior acceptance of that clown John Thorpe, only to see him recover quickly and dance with Miss Smith. How crushing! Meeting Eleanor Tilney is a windfall though, so she is happy again, and so are we. What girl has not used a sister to acquire information and access to a brother? Even young naïve Catherine knows how that works! But no further chances to meet or dance with Mr. Tilney present themselves. Yet another missed opportunity for Catherine, and the evening ends unsuccessfully (well almost).

Isabella and John Thorpe are continually a ‘rattle’ to Catherine (and us). Their choice of language, style of communication and actions are in opposition to what they say and do. For instance, Isabella tells James Morland that she should not dance a second with him, and says she will not, then three minutes later does so anyway. John Thorpe arrives unannounced expecting Catherine to ride out in his gig claiming she has forgotten the invitation. Personally, I find this unsettling for our heroine and for myself in real life, and I believe that Austen is cleverly using this to raise our emotions; – for nothing gets my dander up faster than being accused of forgetting or not acknowledging civility. In addition, during the carriage ride with Thorpe he boasts about his gig and horse and alarmingly tells Catherine that her brother’s “little tittuppy” carriage could fall apart at any moment. Distressed for their safety, she entreats him to stop to alert them and is met with this immediate dismissal.

Catherine listened with astonishment; she knew not how to reconcile two such very different accounts of the same thing; for she had not been brought up to understand the propensities of a rattle, nor to know to how many idle assertions and impudent falsehoods the excess of vanity will lead. Her own family were plain, matter-of-fact people who seldom aimed at wit of any kind; her father, at the utmost, being contented with a pun, and her mother with a proverb; they were not in the habit therefore of telling lies to increase their importance, or of asserting at one moment what they would contradict the next. The Narrator, Chapter 9

Even though Catherine is inexperienced, we do see that she has some common sense and recognizes the signs of concern. She just has not yet developed the ability to oppose such wild talk, or to discredit and remove herself from bad influence. This is all part of the growing process of first experiences away from the protection of home, and into society populated by those who not only do not always have her best interests at heart, but are grubbing for their own advancement through her.

When Catherine returns home after the carriage ride she learns that she has missed yet another opportunity to see the Tilney’s when Mrs. Allen encountered them while walking on the Crescent that day. She is beginning to regret her connection to the Thorpe’s. They say but do the opposite and keep her from the Tilney’s whose company she does not know quite as well, but is drawn towards as a more genteel choice. When Catherine meets Eleanor for the first time, this description of her is quite revealing as to Austen’s intension for the character.

Miss Tilney had a good figure, a pretty face, and a very agreeable countenance; and her air, though it had not all the decided pretension, the resolute stylishness of Miss Thorpe’s, had more real elegance. Her manners showed good sense and good breeding; they were neither shy nor affectedly open; and she seemed capable of being young, attractive, and at a ball without wanting to fix the attention of every man near her, and without exaggerated feelings of ecstatic delight or inconceivable vexation on every little trifling occurrence. The Narrator Chapter 8

Eleanor is obviously a refined young lady not needing to “fix the attention of every man near her“, the exact opposite of Isabella who wants Catherine and herself to dress alike, strut about the pump-room, and follow young men down streets for attention. We begin to see a change in her attitude toward the Thorpe’s when she attends the Cotillion dance and is determined to avoid John Thorpe in fear that he will ruin her chances again with Mr. Tilney. She manages to maneuver around him for half the night, but alarmingly, no Mr. Tilney. And then, he is there!

With what sparkling eyes and ready motion she granted his request, and with how pleasing a flutter of heart she went with him to the set, may be easily imagined. To escape, and, as she believed, so narrowly escape John Thorpe, and to be asked, so immediately on his joining her, asked by Mr. Tilney, as if he had sought her on purpose! – it did not appear to her that life could supply any greater felicity. The Narrator, Chapter 10

When Mr. Tilney finally presents himself asking Catherine to dance she is overjoyed and thinks she is safe from John Thorpe, but no. He continues to torment her while dancing, chiding her about dancing with another, quizzing her about her partner, and wondering if he would like to buy a horse! Is this guy a buffoon or what? Her first instincts about him were correct and she has every right to be alarmed by his bad behavior and wild talk. Henry to the rescue! He does not like Thorpe’s manners either, and recognizing his gall in detaining her away from his rightful attention while dancing. What follows is a witty repartee with Henry and Catherine, (mostly Henry) that is Jane Austen at her most clever and obliging.

“I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.” Henry Tilney, Chapter 10

“And such is your definition of matrimony and dancing. Taken in that light certainly, their resemblance is not striking; but I think I could place them in such a view. You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal; that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with anyone else. Henry Tilney, Chapter 10

“In one respect, there certainly is a difference. In marriage, the man is supposed to provide for the support of the woman, the woman to make the home agreeable to the man; he is to purvey, and she is to smile. But in dancing, their duties are exactly changed; the agreeableness, the compliance are expected from him, while she furnishes the fan and the lavender water. Henry Tilney, Chapter 10

I can not follow THAT, with anything pithier, and will sign off with a sigh, in hopes of further encounters with the charming Mr. Tilney as they walk out into the country as planned for the next day.

  • Online text of Northanger Abbey complements of Molland’s Circulating-library
  • Group reading schedule of Northanger Abbey

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 6 Giveaway


Norton Critical Edition of Northanger Abbey (2004)

By Jane Austen, introduction by Susan Fraiman

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of the Norton Critical Edition Northanger Abbey (US residents only)

Upcoming event posts
Day 07 – Oct 13           Guest Blog – Margaret C. Sullivan
Day 08 – Oct 14           Group Read NA Chapters 11-14
Day 09 – Oct 15           Guest Blog – Kali Pappas
Day 10 – Oct 16           Group Read NA Chapters 15-17

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Guest Blogger Isabella Thorpe Chats about Horrid Movies


Austenprose recieved a misdirected letter from Isabella Thorpe in the post this week intended for her dearest friend Catherine Tilney nee Morland. Since she dicusses the two movie adaptations of Northanger Abbey, we thought it quite timely, and decided to include it as a guest blog during Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey. Enjoy!   

Putney, October- 

My dearest Catherine, 

It is an age since I heard from you; I have received no reply to my last, but I suppose you are too happy with your Mr. Tilney to remember poor me. I saw the news of your marriage announced in the papers and I am sure you are amazingly lucky, for you were a girl as portionless as myself, and we all know what is the wealth of the General. My brother John (who still pines for you amazingly, you know, and would be charmed to wait upon you at Woodston at any time) has told me all the particulars he heard at Oxford, how the General threw you into the street, but that it was all made up in the end. Well, my dear, it may be a fine thing to be married into such amazing wealth, but I would not marry into that family, all eaten up with temper and pride as they are, for any consideration. The General is a perfect monster, as wicked as any we used to read about in our delightful horrid novels, do you remember those dear, long ago days when we were such friends, Catherine?  I swear I long to renew our friendship; you always were the sweetest girl, not another of your sort is to be seen in all the world, I can assure you. 

I always read about weddings, having nothing else to do here in Putney, which is the most amazingly disagreeable place in the world.  Picture to yourself the being confined with only my mother and sisters, who are insipid enough. My bloom is being thrown away, and unless we can go back to Bath next spring, I fear I will have no chances at all. Beauty does not last long, you know, and mine is of a peculiar sort that is not much admired by the villagers hereabouts, though in Bath, I admit, I had a certain amount of attention. I have never ceased to hate that odious Captain Tilney, whom I cannot call any thing else, in all honesty, even if he is your brother-in-law now.  Confess, Catherine, he is one of the worst of the fickle sex, and I have no doubt that he has made many a girl miserable since we parted. Not that he made me so; I would not wish him to think I was such a fool as to care whether he stayed in Bath or left. A coxcomb like that has no heart. Does Captain Tilney visit you at Woodston? I wonder that he and your Mr. Tilney can get along at all, they are so very different; but perhaps, being brothers, your beloved sometimes thinks it proper to invite him. Though if I were the Captain, I should rather spend my idle days with my sister the Viscountess, than visit your little parsonage, or worst of all, be driven to haunt Northanger Abbey. 

Do write, my sweetest Catherine, and tell me all the news. Are you expecting a little one yet?  I would suppose so, as that might be a reason why you have not written to me.  I cannot bear to think that your affection might have diminished; mine certainly has not.  Do you remember the frolics we had together, at the Play and the Rooms, and how we quizzed your Mr. Tilney and my brother and all our wicked beaux?  Oh Catherine, I never before encountered such a heart as yours, and I never shall again. There was only one heart I ever met to match it – and that was the heart of your dear brother.  Dear James! I have thought of him ten thousand times, and how I long to hear of him, you cannot conceive.  I am in the most hideous agony, from my painful ignorance.  I can only hope that your tenderness of heart will take pity on me and write a minute description of his health, and how he is occupying himself without poor me to tease him, and if he is married?  I have seen nothing about it. 

The fashions are more hideous than ever, this autumn, I collect from my reading, since I never see a fashionable creature from one end of Putney to the other. I have picked and torn apart all my turbans, in an effort to contrive some new bandeaux, in which I believe I have not been altogether unsuccessful; it is amazing how every other girl in town copies them, but they all do not have the knack of wearing them becomingly, as I have. 

Do you know, Catherine, that even though horrid novels are impossible to obtain in this wretched town, some enterprising man has put up a Pan Opticon device, and I have seen two remarkably horrid picture shows!  Oh, they were more dreadful than Udolpho, and The Monk, and Children of the Abbey, all together!  And do you know what they were?  Why, they were tales of girls in Bath, that were so amazingly close to our own selves and circumstances, you would swear the authoress was listening over our shoulders to our intimate conversations!  Let me tell you about them. 

Katherine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland

The first of these horrid pictures was painted, they say, in 1986, if you can believe such a thing.  I was shocked speechless at my first sight of the heroine: she is the most hideous girl I ever saw, with popping eyes and a crooked nose, and I thought I had taken leave of my senses, that anyone could think that was my appearance. But no, for some strange, inexplicable reason, they have made you the heroine, and this remarkably plain girl, Katherine Schlesinger, is meant to represent you!  You are certainly not flattered in the least, I can tell you. I cannot think how this actress has been chosen to portray you, in all your sweetness and prettiness; unless the maker of the piece took too seriously those lines of Miss Austen’s:  “She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank hair, and strong features.”  They do not seem to realize that was a description of you at ten, and that by seventeen you were quite a pretty girl. Sure Miss Schlesinger is not unpretty, but with those affected curls she looks like an Italian harlot.  And with that nose and chin, she could play the young Queen Victoria, which is not a compliment.

Peter Firth as Henry Tilney 

But worse is in store. Never could I have believed that an actor who is squat and plain, with blond balding locks, and a self-important air, seemingly about five and thirty years old, could ever be selected to portray your Henry, who is tall, and dark, and young, and altogether really very handsome.  This fellow, Peter Firth, is a smug priss, old enough to be your father. It is such a vile piece of miscasting as to spoil the picture in every possible way. 

Googie Withers as Mrs. Allen

Cassie Stuart as Isabella Thorpe

The other actors are better cast: Googie Withers is your Mrs. Allen to the life, and Robert Hardy is a most magnificent General.  I had to hide my face, to be sure, when that Cassie Stuart was playing me.  To be sure she is a pretty girl, as she would have to be, with a plentitude of golden curls; but she has always the same inane giggle, and that, you know, is not like myself at all. 

Henry Tilney sings?!?

If you can ignore the casting of the lead parts (though to be sure that is not an easy thing to do), this is a very pretty Northanger Abbey.  The Rooms look very natural, and the music and dancing are particularly good: Peter Firth, for all he looks like a Scottish butler, sings enchantingly (that must be why he was chosen, and a very poor reason too, since Henry Tilney does not sing in Miss Austen’s book, so why chuse an ugly, middle aged, songster to play him?). I never saw such graceful country dancing, but it does not last long enough. Every thing else lasts much too long, however, and when you, Catherine, or rather that thyroid-eyed girl with greasy curls was rummaging through the trunk at Northanger (in a night scene that was inexplicably brilliantly lit), I thought I would go to sleep, if she would not. 

Catherine and Mrs. Allen take the Baths

There is one effect that I love in this picture, perhaps my favourite in any Austen panopticon performance (and I have seen them all, as there is nothing else to do here in Putney), and that is the scene with the ladies and gentlemen wandering like automatons chest deep in the steaming Roman Bath waters.  It is a most magnificently surreal image, the fanciful hats, the wet gowns, the walking through water, though of course it is like nothing that ever happened on this earth.  We never got our gowns wet in such a way, you remember, though some invalids were dipped; and the 2007 picture is far more realistic in the way its ladies and gentlemen merely sip the waters. 

Elaine Ives-Cameron as the Marchoiness and Robert Hardy as General Tilney 

Then I must mention another strange going-on at Northanger Abbey, that you would abhor: the General has his mistress there, a masked Venetian witch who seems to have wandered in from some other film, Casanova perhaps. She has a little black servant, too, who makes up to Catherine and does cartwheels.  I have seen nothing like it these thousand ages. It puts me in mind of my own brother’s description of Camilla, as recounted by Miss Austen:  “it is the horridest nonsense you can imagine; there is nothing in the world in it but an old man’s playing at see-saw and learning Latin; upon my soul there is not.”  That is much the way I feel about this 1986 version of Northanger Abbey.  There is nothing in the world in it but a Venetian masked pocked harlot in the same room with respectable ladies (which could never happen) and a little black boy turning cartwheels.

Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland 

Now, my sweet Catherine, have patience, and I will tell you about the 2007 Northanger Abbey. This one is as your own Henry would describe it, “nice.” Just that. Maggie Wadey’s eccentric version, for all its bizarreness, yet uses more of Austen’s language, and has a more natural look. This one, the Andrew Davies version, is improved in only one important way: the casting. This new young Catherine, Felicity Jones, is all loveliness, with a real look of yourself, an ingenuous young thing, who conveys real feeling, just as you do, my sweet one.

JJ Feild as Henry Tilney

Her Henry is not your Henry, to be sure; he is strangely gangly, just made to play Mr. Abraham Lincoln; but JJ Feild is an unspeakable improvement over that hideous elderly chap in the other version. This Catherine and Henry manage to have some chemistry, as it is called, together, while the other pair looked all mutual aversion. In my opinion, however, the actress playing Eleanor Tilney, Catherine Walker, “stole the show,” as they say in the hideous twenty-first century. She exuded warm womanliness that informed the whole production, and filled up the chilly gaps. The General here, Liam Cunningham, was a cardboard ogre.

Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe and Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland

I have left mention of the portrayal of myself by Carey Mulligan to the last, because it deserves no better. This Isabella is a stick, your eyes glide past her on the screen because she barely registers a presence. You cannot think why the gentlemen, such as Captain Tilney and James Morland, would be falling all over her, as they certainly did with me once, did they not, my Catherine?  In short, I have never been properly represented yet, in either version; my odd character, I suppose, is very difficult to execute, but in short, I am not satisfied.

Catherine Morland in a fantasy bath scene cut from the US version 

What more is there to say? The first film was a botch; the second is mighty insipid. There is little real, genuine Austen dialogue, and the tedious, metronome-like flashes of Gothic scenes, although pretty and operatic-looking, I found tiresome beyond measure, interrupting what little action there was. 

Catherine Morland goes Gothic

And now, my dearest Catherine:  I hope you appreciate my describing these amazingly horrid movies for you (and they were horrider than Udolpho, were they not?  That wall-eyed troll who played my brother, William Beck, was certainly more terrifying than any skeleton of Laurentina’s could possibly be). In exchange for my telling you so much, in the goodness of your heart, do you not feel inclined to invite me to Woodston? Sure you would like a female companion to help you while away the tedium of your confinement, and your sisters are really too young for such an office.  And if your brother, or your husband’s brother, should chance to visit while I was in residence, I should not be ashamed to see them.

Your most loving friend,

Isabella Thorpe

Many thanks to Miss Isabella Thorpe who was channeled by author Diana Birchall, whose creative Austen-esque stylings can be found in her highly acclaimed novels, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma and Mrs. Elton in America available through SourceBooks. You can also catch her weekly column Mrs. Elton Sez at Jane Austen Today if you are in need of some sage and sardonic advice, or just a good laugh.

Upcoming event posts
Day 06 – Oct 9             Group Read NA Chapters 8-10
Day 07 – Oct 13           Guest Blog – Margaret C. Sullivan
Day 08 – Oct 14           Group Read NA Chapters 11-14
Day 09 – Oct 15           Guest Blog – Kali Pappas