Northanger Abbey (Penguin Classics)
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Austen's witty exploration of the perils of mistaking fiction for reality
During an eventful season at Bath, young, naïve Catherine Morland experiences the joys of fashionable society for the first time. She is delighted with her new acquaintances: flirtatious Isabella, who shares Catherine's love of Gothic romance and horror, and sophisticated Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who invite her to their father's mysterious house, Northanger Abbey. There, her imagination influenced by novels of sensation and intrigue, Catherine imagines terrible crimes committed by General Tilney. With its broad comedy and irrepressible heroine, this is the most youthful and and optimistic of Jane Austen's works.
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Catherine. “I have, upon my soul. Left her this moment. Told her you had sent me to say, that having just recollected a prior engagement of going to Clifton with us to-morrow, you could not have the pleasure of walking with her till Tuesday. She said very well, Tuesday was just as convenient to her; so there is an end of all our difficulties.—A pretty good thought of mine—hey?” Isabella’s countenance was once more all smiles and good-humour, and James too looked happy again. “A most heavenly
walked out into the town, and in Bond-street overtook the second Miss Thorpe, as she was loitering towards Edgar’s Buildings between two of the sweetest girls in the world, who had been her dear friends all the morning. From her, she soon learned that the party to Clifton had taken place. “They set off at eight this morning,” said Miss Anne, “and I am sure I do not envy them their drive. I think you and I are very well off to be out of the scrape.—It must be the dullest thing in the world, for
there is not a soul at Clifton at this time of the year. Belle went with your brother, and John drove Maria.” Catherine spoke the pleasure she really felt on hearing this part of the arrangement. “Oh! yes,” rejoined the other, “Maria is gone. She was quite wild to go. She thought it would be something very fine. I cannot say I admire her taste; and for my part I was determined from the first not to go, if they pressed me ever so much.” Catherine, a little doubtful of this, could not help
ordered to acquiesce in them, had been open and bold. The General, accustomed on every ordinary occasion to give the law in his family, prepared for no reluctance but of feeling, no opposing desire that should dare to clothe itself in words, could ill brook the opposition of his son, steady as the sanction of reason and the dictate of conscience could make it. But, in such a cause, his anger, though it must shock, could not intimidate Henry, who was sustained in his purpose by a conviction of its
2 (p. 188) Charming as were all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works... it was not in them perhaps that human nature, at least in the midland counties of England, was to be looked for: Here is Austen’s strongest indictment of the utility of gothic romance as a tool to gauge reality. Setting, action, and character in that genre belong to a world far away from the ”midland counties of England.“ At the same time that she liberates Catherine from the melodrama of romance, Austen opens the way for her to observe