Austen for Beginners

Northanger Abbey - start here!

Catherine Morland is our heroine - visiting Bath for the first time, she is seventeen and a fan of Gothic novels. Our hero is Henry Tilney, who wins Catherine's heart by dancing with her. And to cap it all, he lives in a Gothic house.

Jane Austen pokes fun at the (then) current popularity of the Gothic novel, essential elements of which are melodrama, murder, haunted houses, mysterious letters, sinister gentlemen - well, you get the idea.

Originally called 'Susan' and one of Jane Austen's earliest novels, but not actually published until after her death.

Classic quotes from the novel ...

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

Of course they wouldn't. Perfectly normal sort of girl.

A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number;

A very reassuring statement, indeed. Yes, Catherine Morland had nine brothers and sisters, all with heads, arms and legs of their own.

"Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?"

Famous quote much used by tourists and attributed to Jane Austen, but it is generally forgotten that it was actually Catherine Morland's voice who spoke the words, not our dear authoress herself.

Northanger Abbey! - These were thrilling words, and wound up Catherine's feelings to the highest point of ecstasy.

Catherine cannot imagine anything better than to be invited to stay in such a place. The fact that it is the home of the man she is in love with is neither here nor there - it is the implied Gothic spendour of the place that interests her.

To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world.

Catherine drives off to Northanger with Henry Tilney in his carriage and cannot imagine being happier than she is.

I bring back my heroine to her home in solitude and disgrace.

Catherine returns alone to her home, but not as disgraced as she thinks.

"Well, we must live and learn, and the next new friends you make I hope will be better worth keeping."

Mrs Morland to Catherine on discovering that General Tilney has thrown her out of the house.

“I really have not patience with the General."

Mrs Allen is so satisfied with this phrase that she says it four times in one conversation.

Henry and Catherine were married, the bells rang and everybody smiled.

Well, naturally.

To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen, is to do pretty well.

Henry and Catherine really have nothing to complain about, even if the General did delay their marriage for a while.

I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.

In case you are wondering, what Jane Austen meant by this last sentence is that the reader has to decide for themselves what the moral of the story is. If there is one, of course.

If you'd like to know more about the story, click here:
Northanger Abbey - the plot

If you'd like to read the original text, click here:
Northanger Abbey - the text

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
This was a famous Gothic-style novel very popular in Jane Austen's day. In Northanger Abbey, Catherine is reading the book and getting some very strange ideas about Henry Tilney and his family as a result of the blood-curdling goings on in Udolpho. Northanger Abbey can in fact be seen as Jane Austen poking fun at the whole concept of such novels and at Udolpho in particular.
If you'd like to read The Mysteries of Udolpho for yourself, it's here.

If that's quite enough about Northanger Abbey, return to home page

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Austen for Beginners 2008

Austen for Beginners   Pride and Prejudice   Sense and Sensibility   Emma   Mansfield Park   Northanger Abbey   Persuasion