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megustaleer

Northanger Abbey

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Although not a favourite of some die-hard Janeites, Austen's pastiche on the then fashionable Gothic novel Northanger Abbey is an enjoyable read.

 

Catherine Morland meets and falls for a nice young clergyman in Bath. Befriended by the man's sister, Catherine is invited to their home (Northanger Abbey). Having an overactive imagination fed on the Gothic tales she has been reading, Catherine behaves as though she was in one of these overblown stories, and the fledgling romance flounders.

 

Eventually all is resolved, and everyone who should lives happily ever after.

 

Northanger Abbey is the current 'Classic Serial' being broadcast in 3 parts on Sunday afternoons on BBC Radio4, (starting today) at 3pm, and repeated the following Saturday evenings at 9pm.

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Thanks for the heads up! I haven't read Northanger Abbey yet but it is on my TBR pile. Maybe I can listen and read Gone with the Wind at the same time in an effort to get through the pile!!!! Or that might be confusing...

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You might get the eyes to follow the words of GWTW, and your ears to listen to NA, but I pity your poor brain trying to process both pieces of information.:eek:

I find that my eyes take priority in such situations!

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Had a bit of a panic finding radio 4! Finally found it on LW but could swear it is not there on its FM frequency...

I listened on FM. Maybe Scotland got something different?

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I like Persuasion better than Northanger Abbey.

 

Me too Elfstar, in fact Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel. The problem I have with Northanger Abbey is that the heroine isn't up to Austen usual standard. Catherine, bless her, is rather simple, I suppose necessarily so for the pastiche to work. She's still better than Emma though :D

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The problem I have with Northanger Abbey is that the heroine isn't up to Austen usual standard. Catherine, bless her, is rather simple.

 

Well, it was Austen's first novel, wasn't it? One wouldn't expect the Austen heroine to arise fully formed the first time she set pen to paper.

 

I rather like the dizzy little thing. she learns a lot, and given another 5 years (she's only 17) would no doubt develop nicely into a proper Austen heroine.

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Was it her first? I thought it was the first one she had published, but P+P was the first one she wrote? But I might be wrong.

 

I'm trying to keep up with the radio version, reading it between bits of GWTW (simultateous is a little difficult, but I find it impossible to just sit and listen to the radio, I think I have Compulsive Multitasking Syndrome...). I love the part where JA lays into people who boo-hoo novels.

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Was it her first? I thought it was the first one she had published, but P+P was the first one she wrote? But I might be wrong.

Indeed. Elinor and Marianne (S & S) and First Impressions (P & P) predate Susan (NA) in Austen's first drafts.

 

However, the first two underwent such major revisions before publication that they are very different indeed from those early versions, and frankly much better. It's generally recognised that in its final form, NA reflects the earliest of Austen's actual writing.

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From what I remember without looking it up, it was written at two totally different times, which is why the style and genre changes so much. It starts out as social observation in Bath - written first and then discarded. Then (I think) she came back to it, and turned it into a pastiche of an 18th century Gothic novel.

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I think it was the first one that was accepted for publication, but was the last one actually published.

This is just stuff I picked up from the radio, so I won't be surprised if those with a greater knowledge of Jane Austen history say otherwise. I'm just gossiping ;)

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I have read all Austen's books (wish there had been more!) but can't remember what order they were written/published.

 

I always feel that NA has a much different feel to her other books. A little darker, but then as you say, Megustaleer, it is only a pastiche of a Gothic novel.

She was such a clever woman though, and I think she thoroughly enjoyed poking fun at that genre.

 

Each time I read one of her books, I find something new.

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Well, it was Austen's first novel, wasn't it? One wouldn't expect the Austen heroine to arise fully formed the first time she set pen to paper.

 

I rather like the dizzy little thing. she learns a lot, and given another 5 years (she's only 17) would no doubt develop nicely into a proper Austen heroine.

 

Even with another five years she'll never be a Lizzy :P Maybe you're right about the writing though, it doesn't really have the same finesse as Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. It was the third book to be written, but the last to be published, it had languished for 10 or more years with a publisher, so I guess it didn't have the benefit of Austen's more mature editing.

 

Don't get me wrong though, I am a huge Jane Austen fan and I've read even this book three times!

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It does feel a bit like reading a novel by a totally different writer, I don't know if its a lack of something or just a good difference. So many people think of Austen as a straight-forward romance writer and they're so wrong, in every book they're wrong I think but in this one its really in your face and you can't get away from it.

 

"A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can." - this reminds me a lot of a similar line in GWTW from Scarlett about it being harder to be a woman because they have to pretend to know nothing, when they do.

 

But could you get further than Scarlett than Catherine Morland? She seems to fit all the stereotypes without any coniving or deception. Henry Tilney is an odd hero for Austen, he doesn't have much presence. It does seem more like an exercise of writing ability rather than a cracking good story, which P+P is. That said its interesting and I find myself wanting to know what is going to happen even with Austen constantly saying thing like 'Look, this is the part where something bad will happen but don't worry it will turn out OK' or words to that effect!

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"A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can." - this reminds me a lot of a similar line in GWTW from Scarlett about it being harder to be a woman because they have to pretend to know nothing, when they do.

 

The difference is that Scarlett / Margaret Mitchell is being serious, whereas Catherine / Jane Austen is poking fun at the idea. :)

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Rescued Thread:

 

Phoebus - 9th January 2006 06:33 PM

 

Great book. Has anyone read The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe that Northanger Abbey satires ?

Phoebus

Cathy - 10th January 2006 01:46 PM

 

I haven't, I imagine it being a book that time would have forgotten had JA not mentioned it...what is it really like?

Momo - 10th January 2006 10:15 PM

 

First of all, I am a huge Austen fan. I have read all of her novels, most of them several times.

I must agree with quite a few people here, Northanger Abbey is by far my least favourite Austen, it seems like written by a different person but that's normal since it's supposed to be a parody. She seems to have portrayed the gothic novel quire obviously and I'm obviously not into those.

There are several websites that inform about the sequence of her novels. According to some of them, N.A. was drafted after the first versions of S&S and P&P had been written, but here is a

Northanger Abbey, drafted 1798-99, published 1817

Sense & Sensibility, published 1811

Pride & Predjudice, published 1813

Mansfield Park, published 1814

Emma, written 1814/15, published 1816

Persuasion, published 1818

You can find more information on this website:

http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/janewrit.html

Another reason that this is quite different from her other novels is probably that it was published posthumously without her being able to revise it.

Amanda Grange - 11th January 2006 04:45 PM

 

Ys, I've read Udolpho. It's interesting in that I liked seeing what people were reading in the early 1800s, but apart from that, I found it boring. There were a lot of long descriptive passages - people couldn't travel abroad very easily at the time, and so readers liked to read pages about mountains etc - and the story was very slight by today's standards. Another way of looking at it is to say that the book was very long for the amount of plot.

 

The thing I found most interesting was the way it pointed up the modern feel of Jane Austen's novels. Udolpho feels like a dinosaur, whereas Pride and Prejudice could almost have been written today. That's why her works update so well.

 

If anyone wants to read it, it's available in the Classics series, or you can read it for free online. Just type

 

Mysteries of Udolpho etext

 

into a search engine, and it will bring up a number of sites that offer the book. You can just read a bit if you want a taster without reading the whole thing.

Momo - 11th January 2006 07:54 PM

 

Thanks, Amanda, that's a great idea. Because I wouldn't like to read a whole novel on the PC, I think it's a good idea to see whether I would like to read the book. Will check it out. :clap:

Seraphina - 6th July 2006 08:19 PM

 

I've just finished this book, read it online during quiet periods at work. (you can guess how busy I am at work by the fact it took me 3 days, reading it solely at work! :D )

 

I really enjoyed it as a light read, it was totally different than JA's other novels. As others have pointed out it is definitely less subtle than her other works, and therefore I would have guessed that it was an earlier attempt at writing before she had honed her writing skills. It is a more obvious satirical work than her other novels, she kind of beats you round the head with her point, whereas in her other novels it is there, but not so 'in your face'. I think it conveys more accurately what JA's about though, people who see JA solely as a romance writer (which I don't agree with anyway) really couldn't say that with this book!

 

I quite liked Catherine, she was terribly naive, but that was so JA could poke fun at her, and therefore acceptable. Of course she was no Lizzy, but the characters serve different purposes in two very different novels, so I don't think you can really compare them in that way. The characters were all pretty much two dimensional but I think they were meant to be.

 

I'm tempted to read some Ann Radcliffe now just to see what JA was talking about!

Austenreader - 30th July 2006 08:23 PM

 

I really love Northanger Abbey and it is my favourite along with Emma.

 

Catherine strikes me as one who is in an unfamiliar setting. Her reactions are very smart actually, especially during her first meeting with Tilney. Throughout the book there are examples of this; she stands up to John Thorpe, and seems to sense that he is not right, doesn't cry or faint like the gothic heroines and of course is rather transparent, which is charming.

 

There is a lot going on in the book. Jane Austen seems to be 'defending the novels' in the society of that time and at the same time parodying the 'gothic' novel. It is a two edged sword, slashing through the types of stories the gothic novels narrated with their weepy perfect heroines and of course the reader who got carried away with them, like Catherine, who had to be brought down to earth and face reality.

 

I also see it as the most relevant of JA's novels today. There are so many of us like Catherine Morland who get carried away by what we read in books, and believe it. A certain book on 'codes' comes to mind ;-)

 

The problem with the book is that the gothic novels are not read today and the parody loses its meaning.

I consider it as the funniest of Jane Austen's novels along with Emma.

I must confess that I understood the humour of the book much better only after reading 'The Mysteries Of Udolpho'. My love for Northanger Abbey gave me the patience to read through.

megustaleer - 30th July 2006 09:03 PM

 

Welcome to BGO, Austenreader. You will find many others here who share your taste (though not all are as keen on Northanger Abbey). Do tell us a little about yourself on the introductions thread

Austenreader - 31st July 2006 07:00 PM

 

Thank you for the welcome. :)

Originally Posted by megustaleer

I think it was the first one that was accepted for publication, but was the last one actually published.

Actually Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were both published together in four volumes , and posthumously which appeared just at the beginning of 1818, with the help of Henry Austen.

It was he who entitled them Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

 

I love Persuasion too. :)

Hazel - 6th September 2006 11:23 AM

 

I just couldn't get into this book at all, and it didn't help that I was reading it while going through a reading block, so the 5-odd pages I was managing to read before falling asleep at night wasn't managing to get me hooked. It seemed to be taking ages to get through, so yesterday, at page 101, I decided to sit down and read it through to the end in one big gulp. What a difference it made - I got really hooked and was laughing out loud at some points. The fantasy that Catherine created about the Tilney family in Northanger Abbey was just brilliant, and Henry's lectures to her were some of the most amusing, sarcastic speeches I have ever heard. It was just genius, and the narrators asides to the reader were really well done. Brilliant little book - though it makes me want to read The Mysteries of Udolpho now!

Claire - 7th September 2006 11:54 AM
Originally Posted by Hazel

Brilliant little book - though it makes me want to read The Mysteries of Udolpho now!

It always has that effect on me, too. Has anyone actually read "The Mysteries of Uldolpho"? Is it still available or has it disappeared into obscurity?
Momo - 7th September 2006 05:17 PM

 

No, it's still available. I've seen it at amazon. I looked for it a while ago and was toying with the idea to order it but then left it thanks to my large TBR pile. It had been suggested in another forum as a sort of introduction to Northanger Abbey. Maybe we should get a few people together here and read it as a "book group" book. I know not everyone is into this so I'm not even going to suggest it as an official book of the month. But if there are a few here, it might be a nice idea.

I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, but this one is my least favourite. I've always asked myself why but I think the main reason is that even the author didn't see it as the same as her other works.

Austenreader - 10th September 2006 03:09 PM

 

Northanger Abbey is one of my favourite Jane Austen books.

I am not aware that there are any Jane Austen comments about this book, least of all that she did not see it as her other books.

During her lifetime the MS was imprisoned by the publisher and it was published only after her death. So she never got the chance to say anything about it.

 

I have read 'The Mysteries of Udolpho', only to understand the parody in Northanger Abbey better.

True '...Udolpho' tests your patience. Not only are there lengthy descriptions of the scenery and emotions, but they are repeated in the same tone several times. One can just skip those pages and move on.

 

But what was interesting were the passages from '...udolpho', which Jane Austen has 'changed' and parodied. Like the first views of the castle in one, and the abbey in the other (parodied). Or, their entrance into these buildings, the wheels of the carriages rolling smoothly in one while in the other it was anything but, adding to Emily's apprehension in one and Catherine's disappointment in the other, etc. etc.

 

It is really clever the way Jane Austen not only analyses these books, but also the reader's attitudes.

Very relevant in our times, with all sorts of reading material and the way people read them.

 

forgot to put in one quote, therefore the edit

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Austenreader - 10th September 2006 03:09 PM

Not only are there lengthy descriptions of the scenery and emotions, but they are repeated in the same tone several times. One can just skip those pages and move on.

 

Coincidentally, I was listening to an audio seminar yesterday about NA, and the critics said that you absolutely shouldn't skip over the extended passages of scenery, landscape and emotions are the are the integral parts of the novel in building the Gothic genre. They contain many of the Gothic features and conventions and that a reader would miss the entire experience of the book should you skip these parts. Udolpho is on my TBR mountain, but from what I have learned about it - I am looking forward to reading it.

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... that you absolutely shouldn't skip over the extended passages of scenery, landscape and emotions ...
Sometimes, that's the best part of a book. ;)

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Actually I read the complete book, all the pages.

 

This is just my advice to those who find it tedious.

But once you have read the description the next one follows with the same words describing the same kind of landscape, so I am wondering what one would miss.

 

True the scenery sets one into the mood of the wildness and mystery of the surroundings where the gothic story is to take place. Once you are in it, I guess one could skip the next one :confused:

 

Anyway, the best way is of course to read all :)

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Quote:There were a lot of long descriptive passages - people couldn't travel abroad very easily at the time, and so readers liked to read pages about mountains etc

 

I think what has been misunderstood here is that this is a gothic text. The descriptive passages of the mountains ect. are not for readers who didn't travel but an attempt at creating the sublime a fundermental feature in first phase gothic texts. However I can understand how these passages can be considered long and dull, but if you have the time to read such a long text in detail it quite nicely done.

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More on Hazel's comment;

Coincidentally, I was listening to an audio seminar yesterday about NA, and the critics said that you absolutely shouldn't skip over the extended passages of scenery, landscape and emotions are the are the integral parts of the novel in building the Gothic genre.

 

Jane Austen actually even parodied this kind of setting - in Northanger Abbey;

 

The rain continued — fast, though not heavy. Catherine went every five minutes to the clock, threatening on each return that, if it still kept on raining another five minutes, she would give up the matter as hopeless. [....]

Oh! That we had such weather here as they had at Udolpho, or at least in Tuscany and the south of France! — the night that poor St. Aubin died! — such beautiful weather!”

 

In the real world it rained a lot.

The beautiful weather the night poor St. Aubin died makes me grin every time.

:D

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I have just finished NA and was absolutely delighted by how funny it was. I didn't exactly laugh out loud but I smiled broadly a lot. :D It was very clever. I do admit that the characters all felt a little two dimensional compared to P+P and others but as someone said, it was probably deliberately a part of the parody.

 

I had that awful let down at the end though, when I thought I had a lot of book left to read but actually only had a few pages and the rest of the book is Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition. I was thinking, 'well, she clearly can't end up with Henry then, look how much book there is left to read' and then I turned over to see the final page! Ah. Um. She does then, I see. Bit of a disappointing way to end. :mad:

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Yes, isn't it such a pleasure to read this novel??!!!

Perhaps the end seems abrupt because we don't get a detailed account of how things led to the wedding.

If she had written that, it would be like narrating a love story.

The job of parodying was done and the rest was not the reason for writing the book. That's how I explain the ending to myself.

:D

 

In fact Austen herself says;

The anxiety, which in this state of their attachment must be the portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as to its final event, can hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my readers, who will see in the tell–tale compression of the pages before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity.

 

Almost all her novels end without these details. The story has been told, and the reader can imagine those by themselves - the reason why I always passionately argue against claims of Austen being a writer of romance or chiclit in modern terminology.

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