Northanger Abbey

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Northanger Abbey /nôrth'ān-jur, -ang-gur/ was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be completed for publication, though she had previously made a start on Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. According to Cassandra Austen's Memorandum, Susan (as it was first called) was written about the years 1798–1799. It was revised by Austen for the press in 1803, and sold in the same year for £10 to a London bookseller, Crosby & Co., who decided against publishing. In 1817, the bookseller was content to sell it back to the novelist's brother, Henry Austen, for the exact sum — £10 — that he had paid for it at the beginning, not knowing that the writer was by then the author of four popular novels. The novel was further revised before being brought out posthumously in late December 1817 (1818 given on the title-page), as the first two volumes of a four-volume set with Persuasion.


Plot introduction

Northanger Abbey follows seventeen-year-old Gothic novel aficionado Catherine Morland and family friends Mr. and Mrs. Allen as they visit Bath, England. Catherine is in Bath for the first time. There she meets her friends such as Isabella Thorpe, and goes to balls. Catherine finds herself pursued by Isabella's brother, the rather rough-mannered, slovenly John Thorpe, and by her real love interest, Henry Tilney. She also becomes friends with Eleanor Tilney, Henry's younger sister. Henry captivates her with his view on novels and his knowledge of history and the world. General Tilney (Henry and Eleanor's father) invites Catherine to visit their estate, Northanger Abbey, which, from her reading of Ann Radcliffe's gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho, she expects to be dark, ancient and full of Gothic horrors and fantastical mystery.

Plot summary

Seventeen year old Catherine Morland is one of ten children of a country clergyman. Although a tomboy in her childhood, by the age of 17 she is "in training for a heroine," and is excessively fond of reading Gothic novels of which Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho is a favourite.

Catherine is invited by her wealthier neighbours in Fullerton, the Allens, to accompany them to visit the town of Bath and partake in the winter season of balls, theatre and other social delights. Although initially the excitement of Bath is dampened by her lack of acquaintances, she is soon introduced to a clever young gentleman named Henry Tilney, with whom she dances and converses. Much to her disappointment, Catherine does not see Mr. Tilney again soon after their first meeting, though her attention is quickly engaged when Mrs. Allen meets Mrs. Thorpe, an old school friend of hers, whose son is also acquainted with Catherine’s older brother, James. Catherine quickly becomes friends with the eldest Miss Thorpe, Isabella, a vivacious and flirtatious young woman.

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