Northanger Abbey Chapters 25-28: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day 18 Giveaway!

The visions of romance were over. Catherine was completely awakened. Henry’s address, short as it had been, had more thoroughly opened her eyes to the extravagance of her late fancies than all their several disappointments had done. Most grievously was she humbled. Most bitterly did she cry. It was not only with herself that she was sunk – but with Henry. Her folly, which now seemed even criminal, was all exposed to him, and he must despise her forever. The Narrator, Chapter 25 

Quick Synopsis 

Catherine fears that the romance is over. Henry’s questions had opened her eyes to the extravagance of her late fancies. She acknowledges that she had forced horror into every situation craving to be frightened, tracing the source to reading Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels. She is determined to judge and act in the future only with good sense and forgive herself. Henry is noble and attentive, never mentioning the incident again. A letter from James reveals that he has broken off his engagement to Isabella unable to bear her duplicity with Captain Tilney. Henry and Eleanor are very doubtful of the possibility of an engagement because of Isabella’s fortune and connections. Catherine sees no problem since General Tilney is so liberal, “he only valued money as it allowed him to promote the happiness of his children.” An excursion is planned to Henry’s home at Woodston, and preparations require him to leave early. They arrive and Catherine is given the tour of the house and grounds. In her heart she prefers it to any other place she had ever been to. A letter arrives from Isabella. She is fearful that there is some misunderstanding between her and James wanting Catherine to write and make amends for her. Catherine sees what she is about and wishes that she had never known her. The General leaves for London and Catherine, Eleanor and Henry enjoy their freedom. He returns unannounced and informs Eleanor that they have another engagement that will take them away. Eleanor sadly informs Catherine that she must leave the next morning. Catherine feels that she has done something wrong to be treated so abruptly, bids her friend adieu and asks to be remembered to Henry who is away at Woodston. Dejected she departs for her home and family.

Musings 

We see our heroine Catherine maturing in the next four chapters. First she must be duly humbled by the man she loves to really feel the growth and make the changes.

When naughty Catherine is caught snooping about private rooms at Northanger by Henry she is distressed and embarrassed. She admonishes herself and thinks that the romance is now over, acknowledging that she forced horror into every situation, and tracing the source to reading Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels. This is a turning point for our heroine. She realizes her folly, and is determined only to act in the future with good sense and forgive herself. Wow, big moment here. How mature of her. She is only 17, but now can see that her childish choices did not serve her in the adult world of reality and she is ready to forgive herself and move on! I know a few 40 something adults that have yet to learn this lesson, so more power to her. Still dejected, Henry soon buoys her spirits by his attentions. What a gallant and noble guy! When a letter from James reveals his broken engagement with Isabella because he has discovered her duplicity with Captain Tilney, Catherine is distressed for her brother and wants Henry to reveal all to their father. When Eleanor and Henry are doubtful that their brother Frederick would be serious about Isabella because she has no fortune or connections, Catherine is unsure of their conclusion since their father is so liberal “he only valued money as it allowed him to promote the happiness of his children.” Moreover, when a visit to Henry’s home at Woodston is planned, she does not understand why Henry must leave in advance to for the visit that his father requested he make no extra effort for.

“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.” Henry Tilney, Chapter 25

Henry knows that the pleasures of this life must be paid for, but Catherine expressly heard the General request that no extra effort be made. However, Henry and Eleanor knowing their father better, sense exactly what was expected. Catherine has not quite learned how to read people and does not understand when they say one thing and mean another. I can’t say I really blame her. Reading personalities is a skill that some people never fully succeed at, but those that do like Henry have a much easier life! The visit to the parsonage at Woodston is another example of her naivety. The General apologizes for the size of the village and the modesty of the parsonage, and Catherine only sees that “in her heart she preferred it to any place she had ever been at.” The General was testing her approval as a possible future home if she were to marry his son. She only sees a comfortable house and a room that needs proper fitting up. You would think that she would get his meaning when he mentions that the room has not been decorated, waiting for a ladies touch! Still not quite catching the between the lines meaning in conversation, later I do see a ray of hope for Catherine after she receives the long awaited letter from Isabella who is on a scouting expedition for support and help from Catherine to patch up her relationship with James. Isabella tells her that “it is very difficult to know whom to trust, and young men never know their minds two days together.” Surprisingly, Catherine does not buy into Isabella’s scheme to manipulate her into convincing her brother that she still loves him and wants him again.

Such a strain of shallow artifice could not impose even upon Catherine. Its inconsistencies, contradictions, and falsehood struck her from the very first. She was ashamed of Isabella, and ashamed of having ever loved her. Her professions of attachment were now as disgusting as her excuses were empty, and her demands impudent. “Write to James on her behalf! No, James should never hear Isabella’s name mentioned by her again.” The Narrator, Chapter 27

Bravo Catherine. You are starting to understand how it all works, (if such things are ever fully understood between people.) When she informs Henry of Isabella’s letter, she is concerned that their father should know of his son’s involvement, but wise Henry is a diplomat telling her that her “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.” Catherine believes the best of everyone. Henry knows from experience that that notion exposes oneself to misinterpretation. The final hard knock for our heroine comes from General Tilney, when after returning unannounced from a trip to London, he is vexed beyond reason, sending his daughter Eleanor to inform Miss Morland that she must depart the next morning without any warning.

From what it could arise, and where it would end, were considerations of equal perplexity and alarm. The manner in which it was done so grossly uncivil, hurrying her away without any reference to her own convenience, or allowing her even the appearance of choice as to the time or mode of her travelling; of two days, the earliest fixed on, and of that almost the earliest hour, as if resolved to have her gone before he was stirring in the morning, that he might not be obliged even to see her. What could all this mean but an intentional affront? The Narrator, Chapter 28

With little explanation she bids adieu to her friend. Her last though before she darts to the carriage in tears is of Henry, and she asks to be remembered to him in his absence. Dejected, she departs Northanger Abbey for home ending her visit in a flood of tears and anguish.

  • Online text of Northanger Abbey complements of Molland’s Circulating-library
  • Group reading schedule
  • Read Northanger Abbey Summary: Chapters 22-28
  • Read Northanger Abbey Quotes & Quips: Chapters 22-28

 

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 18 Giveaway

Broadview Literary Texts edition of Northanger Abbey (2004) 

By Jane Austen introduction by Claire Grogan

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of the Broadview edition of Northanger Abbey (2004)

(US residents only)

Upcoming event posts

Day 19 – Oct 29          Gothic Inspirations
Day 20 – Oct 30          Group Read NA Chapters 29-31
Day 21 – Oct 31          Go Gothic Wrap-up

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Catherine Morland’s Experience in Bath Part 4

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

Beechen Cliff, the Arts, and Natural Surroundings 

at Jane Austen’s World 

Take a walk through the countryside of Bath with Ms. Place (Vic) as she continues to explore heroine Catherine Morland’s experience in Bath with her excellent and informative post, Beechen Cliff, the Arts, and Natural Surroundings, at her blog Jane Austen’s World. Learn why Henry Tilney chose this beautiful vantage to take Catherine and his sister Eleanor on there outing in the environs of Bath, and what a spectacular view they would have experienced once they attained the peak. Thanks again Vic for your wonderful research and insights.

The Sunday Salon: Preview of Oxford World’s Classics: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe: Day 16 Giveaway

Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Reflection brought only regret, and anticipation terror. How often did she wish to “steal the lark’s wing, and mount the swiftest gale,” that Languedoc and repose might once more be hers! The Mysteries of Udolpho, Chapter 22

Welcome to The Sunday Salon as we discover new books and offer a review or two. Today as we continue to explore Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, I thought it quite timely of Oxford University Press to redesign and release their 1998 edition of Ann Radcliffe’s, The Mysteries of Udolpho during the Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey event here at Austenprose. Readers will kindly recall that it is one of the Gothic novels that character Isabella Thorpe recommends to her new impressionable friend, and our heroine in the making, Catherine Morland. After she quickly devours the book it ‘Gothicizes’ her view of the world, coloring her perception of real-life experiences. Having not read Udolpho myself, I am more than a bit curious about what it contains and have moved it to the top of my book queue on my nightstand. Here is an overview from the publisher’s description. 

A best-seller in its day and a potent influence on Austen, Sade, Poe, and other purveyors of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Gothic horror, The Mysteries of Udolpho remains one of the most important works in the history of European fiction. After Emily St. Aubuert is imprisoned by her evil guardian, Count Montoni, in his gloomy medieval fortress in the Appenines, terror becomes the order of the day. With its dream-like plot and hallucinatory rendering of its characters’ psychological states, The Mysteries of Udolpho is a fascinating challenge to contemporary readers. 

First published in 4 volumes by G. G. and J. Robinson of London in 1794, Mrs. Radcliffe was paid the handsome sum of £500 for her manuscript which would be worth approximately £28,015.00 today or about $44,580.06 in US funds. This amount is impressive, even for a modern day author. I dare say that Jane Austen would have been happy with that sum for her novel Northanger Abbey instead of the £10 that she originally received from Crosby & Co in 1803, only to see it languish on their shelves unpublished for six years before she bought it back. Happily, this novel did not experience such a winding publication history, was an immediate best seller, and has never been out of print. This edition includes an interesting and enjoyable introduction and explanatory notes by Terry Castle, an 18th-century literature authority and Professor of English Literature at Stanford University, textural notes, a select bibliography, and a chronology of Ann Radcliffe. Here is an excerpt from Prof. Castle’s introduction to entice you. 

Perhaps no work in the history of English fiction has been more often caricatured – trivialized, misread, remade as hearsay – than Ann Radcliffe’s late eighteenth-century Gothic classic The Mysteries of Udolpho. Some readers, indeed, will know Radcliffe’s novel only as hearsay: as that delightfully ‘horrid’ book – full of castles and crypts and murdered wives – pressed upon Catherine Morland, the gullible young heroine of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817), by her Bath friend Isabella Thorpe. After consuming the book in a great reading binge, the impressionable Catherine begins to see the everyday world around her as a kind of Gothic stage-set against which friends and acquaintances metamorphose – absurdly – into outsized Radcliffean villains and victims. The results are amusing: Northanger Abbey remains one of the great spoofs on reading-as-hallucination. But Udolpho itself is mere pretext – the intertextural cliché, or thing already known, upon which Austen builds her chic comedy of misapprehension.  Prof. Terry Castle (vii)

Mayhap Ms. Castle neglected to remember some of Mr. Shakespeare’s works before she crowned Udolpho the most caricatured, trivialized or remade in the history of English literature — but I will overlook the slight! Udolpho is a significant literary achievement, remarkably innovative for its time and profoundly influential even today. It takes a “stout heart” and “nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry” to tackle its 693 pages, and I plan to work away at it as I can over the next few months. I hope to be totally Gothicized!

Further reading

  • Read about The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  • Read about authoress Ann Ward Radcliffe
  • Read about the ‘Northanger Canon’ at Jane Austen in Vermont
  • Read about the ‘Horrid’ novels in Northanger Abbey by James Jenkins
  • Read about the Long Publishing History of Northanger Abbey at Jane Austen’s World
  • Check out this biography on Ann Radcliffe, The Mistress of Udolpho, by Rictor Norton

 

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 16 Giveaway

Oxford Word’s Classics edition of The Mysteries of Udolpho (2008)

By Ann Radcliffe 

Oxford University Press (2008). The new re-designed edition includes a full unabridged text of The Mysteries of Udolpho, an introduction by Terry Castle and loads of great supplemental material. A nice compact medium sized edition with textural notes, biography and chronology on the author, and explanatory notes 

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of The Mysteries of Udolpho (2008), by Ann Radcliffe

 (US residents only) 

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

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.

Musings

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.

Musings

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!