Category Archives: Northanger Abbey

Even in the age of What Not to Wear?

. . . man only can be aware of the insensibility of man towards a new gown. . . . Woman is fine for her satisfaction alone.  No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it.

Northanger Abbey, volume 1, chapter 10

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Dreaming of Tilney

Ack!  It is Monday, after a rainy, roof-leaking, tax-nightmare of a weekend, and I am running late.  More from Northanger Abbey today.  Reading it again, I’m reminded of Jane’s genius.  It’s deceptively simple, but the characters are so perfectly drawn, and like Mags at AustenBlog (who runs Tilneys and Trap Doors) I am being won over by Henry Tilney’s gentle sarcasm.

” . . . if it be true, as a celebrated writer has maintained, that no young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman’s love is declared, it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is known to have dreamt of her.”

Of the evening after Catherine first meets and dances with Henry, at the Lower Rooms in Bath
Northanger Abbey, volume 1, chapter 3

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Seeking adventure abroad

“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”

Northanger Abbey, volume 1, chapter 1

I had read this quote attributed to Austen, but couldn’t find it anywhere.  I was thrilled the other day, re-reading Northanger Abbey, to find that it’s said of Mrs. Allen’s inviting young Catherine Morland to Bath.

The new ITV adaptation, which has already aired in Britain, will run on Masterpiece Theatre here in the US this fall.  It’s not gotten great reviews, but I’m hoping if nothing else it will introduce Austen fans to this great, fun little novel, which I’m afraid is sometimes overlooked in all the Darcy mania.

(I can’t get the page to load, but evidently there’s a preview here.)

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Filed under Adventure, Bath, Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey, Travel

A little tomboy

“A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word, for they were in general very plain, and Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any.  She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without color, dark lank hair, and strong features; — so much for her person; –and not less unpropitious for heroism seemed her mind.  She was fond of all boys’ plays, and greatly preferred cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush. . . . What a strange, unaccountable character! — for with all these symptoms of profligacy at ten years old, she had neither a bad heart nor a bad temper; was seldom stubborn, scarcely ever quarrelsome, and very kind to the little ones, with few interruptions of tyranny; she was moreover noisy and wild, hated confinement and cleanliness, and loved nothing so well in the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house.”

a description of NA‘s heroine, Catherine Morland; biographers suspect that at least part of this was autobiographical for Jane, who grew up with six brothers and numerous boarders for the boys’ school her father ran in their home
Northanger Abbey, chapter 1

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The greatest powers of the mind

“‘I am no novel reader — I seldom look into novels — Do not imagine that I often read novels — It is really very well for a novel.’ — Such is the common cant — ‘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.”

Jane as narrator commenting on the value of her profession; the books she refers to are by Fanny Burney (Cecilia and Camilla) and Maria Edgeworth (Belinda)
Northanger Abbey, chapter 5

I have read Burney’s Evelina–a wonderful Christmas gift from my roommate last year–and loved it.  If you are done with the Austen canon and looking for further reading, I highly recommend Burney.  Another related book on my to-be-read list is Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, which Jane spoofs here in NA.

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An injured body

“Yes, novels; — for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding — joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust.  Alas! if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?  I cannot approve of it.  Let us leave it to the Reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans.  Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body.  Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried.”

Jane launches into this little commentary (isn’t it wonderful?) after saying that Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe would shut themselves up together to read novels, when it was raining and there was no other entertainment to be had
Northanger Abbey, chapter 5

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Poor, slighted novelists

” . . . there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labor of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.”

Jane as narrator commenting on the value of her profession
Northanger Abbey, chapter 5

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Filed under Art, Northanger Abbey, Novels, Writing