Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Fiction, Classics
Date Finished: 8 October
My Rating: 5 Stars
The first time I read Northanger Abbey, I did not get it. Because I didn't get it, I didn't enjoy it. I didn't get it because when I first read Northanger Abbey I did not know much about Jane Austen, the time she lived in or Gothic novels. As I learned more about these things and re-read Northanger Abbey I started to get it and started to enjoy the novel. Now that I've actually read some of the Gothic novels that Austen parodies in Northanger Abbey I've come to realize that this is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. I mean, the book is just seriously funny and filled with Austen's wit. Austen's talent shines as she, tongue in cheek, mocks the fainting heroines, the haunted dwellings and terrors of the Gothic novel.
From the opening description of Catherine Morland to all her pokes at Gothic literature, this book just kept me laughing.
"When the hour of departure drew near, the maternal anxiety of Mrs. Morland will be naturally supposed to be most severe. A thousand alarming presentiments of evil to her beloved Catherine from this terrific separation must oppress her heart with sadness, and drown her in tears for the last day or two of their being together; and advice of the most important and applicable nature must of course flow from her wise lips in their parting conference in her closet. Cautions against the violence of such noblemen and baronets as delight in forcing young ladies away to some remote farm-house, must, at such a moment, relieve the fulness of her heart. Who would not think so? But Mrs. Morland knew so little of lords and baronets, that she entertained no notion of their general mischievousness, and was wholly unsuspicious of danger to her daughter from their machinations. Her cautions were confined to the following points. 'I beg, Catherine, you will always wrap yourself up very warm about the throat, when you come from the rooms at night; and I wish you would try to keep some account of the money you spend; I will give you this little book on purpose.' "
Another favorite passage, when Catherine sees Mr. Tilney with his sister for the first time.
"From this state of humiliation, she was roused, at the end of ten minutes, to a pleasanter feeling, by seeing, not Mr. Thorpe, but Mr. Tilney, within three yards of the place where they sat; he seemed to be moving that way, but be did not see her, and therefore the smile and the blush, which his sudden reappearance raised in Catherine, passed away without sullying her heroic importance. He looked as handsome and as lively as ever, and was talking with interest to a fashionable and pleasing-looking young woman, who leant on his arm, and whom Catherine immediately guessed to be his sister; thus unthinkingly throwing away a fair opportunity of considering him lost to her forever, by being married already. But guided only by what was simple and probable, it had never entered her head that Mr. Tilney could be married; he had not behaved, he had not talked, like the married men to whom she had been used; he had never mentioned a wife, and he had acknowledged a sister. From these circumstances sprang the instant conclusion of his sister's now being by his side; and therefore, instead of turning of a deathlike paleness and falling in a fit on Mrs. Allen's bosom, Catherine sat erect, in the perfect use of her senses, and with cheeks only a little redder than usual."
I must mention that I believe the Thorpe's to be some of the best foils to an Austen heroine found in any of her 6 major works. Throughout the novel they were thorns in the side of Catherine (and the reader) but our poor heroine could not see it. How happy we are as Catherine slowly begins to pull that thorn out!
And of course, we can not overlook Mr. Tilney. He is by far Jane Austen's wittiest and most accessible hero. Every time I read Northanger Abbey I have to wonder what all the ladies find so appealing about that broody Mr. Darcy when they can have charming Mr. Tilney. But then I re-read Pride and Prejudice and fall under the spell of Mr. Darcy again myself. :-)
This review has fallen into utter silliness so I will wrap it up now, with a favorite and yes, often quoted, Mr. Tilney excerpt.
After chatting some time on such matters as naturally arose from the objects around them, he suddenly addressed her with -- "I have hitherto been very remiss, madam, in the proper attentions of a partner here; I have not yet asked you how long you have been in Bath; whether you were ever here before; whether you have been at the Upper Rooms, the theatre, and the concert; and how you like the place altogether. I have been very negligent -- but are you now at leisure to satisfy me in these particulars? If you are I will begin directly."
"You need not give yourself that trouble, sir."
"No trouble, I assure you, madam." Then forming his features into a set smile, and affectedly softening his voice, he added, with a simpering air, "Have you been long in Bath, madam?"
"About a week, sir," replied Catherine, trying not to laugh.
"Really!" with affected astonishment.
"Why should you be surprized, sir?"
"Why, indeed!" said he, in his natural tone. "But some emotion must appear to be raised by your reply, and surprize is more easily assumed, and not less reasonable than any other. -- Now let us go on. Were you never here before, madam?"
"Indeed! Have you yet honoured the Upper Rooms?"
"Yes, sir, I was there last Monday."
"Have you been to the theatre?"
"Yes, sir, I was at the play on Tuesday."
"To the concert?"
"Yes, sir, on Wednesday."
"And are you altogether pleased with Bath?"
"Yes -- I like it very well."
"Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again." Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh. "I see what you think of me," said he gravely -- "I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow."
"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."
"Indeed I shall say no such thing."
"Shall I tell you what you ought to say?"
"If you please."
"I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him -- seems a most extraordinary genius -- hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say."