Jane Austen has had mixed reception since her lifetime, and still does. Of her novels, Northanger Abbey is the first written and the last published. Why the inverted order? Her publisher sat on the purchased draft for 13 years. Finally, Austen tried to buy it back from him, to no avail. Her brother ended up publishing the work after her death– thus, it was her final novel to be revealed.
Northanger Abbey is seen by some as the most lighthearted of her works. Maybe this is because of her youth at the time, or simply the essence of the novel. Catherine Morland, a high-school-age young woman who’s lived with her family in the country her whole life, is introduced to urban, formal society during a summer in Bath. She meets several friends, including the Tilneys, who invite her to stay at their homestead, an old abbey with the kind of gothic elements Catherine’s been reading about in novels. Her imagination is keen, and Northanger seems a perfect, yet mysterious, place to entertain it.
Contrasting with heroines Austen later writes, Catherine is a commoner. Neither her financial upbringing, nor her manners, thought, and personality are refined. Though she’s been naturally improving as she grows, there’s a level of naivety that’s authentic, refreshing, and a bit charming (in a condescending way). The storyline is light, if predictable for those familiar with Austen, and quick. Descriptions are intriguing; and the narrative schemes make the narrator feel like an engrossing aspect of the story.
Here are a few funny/sweet quotes:
“Although our productions [novels] 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… ‘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…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.” (36-37).
“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.” (143).
“Oh! no, not flirts. A woman in love with one man cannot flirt with another.” (143).
If you’ve read Jane Austen, which of her novels is your favorite? Or if you’ve seen the movies, which one of those do you like?
Leave me a comment, and have a good day. 🙂