Saturday, 27 February 2010

No Reading Club Meeting Today

I'm so sorry I had to postpone our meeting today! I actually feel deeply sorry but my health has forced me to stay off and away for a while from all my outdoor activities and from work (that's not the worst thing though!) . We are going to meet next Saturday, then . 6th March . Same book (Northanger Abbey), same time, same place. I hope you can forgive me, girls.

Meanwhile, here are the anwers to other 10 of the questions ( 1/11 to 1/20) I posted.

I / I I Where are James and John students?
Oxford; we don't know the college. We do, however, know two colleges where they are not: Oriel and Christ Church. How? Because John Thorpe identifies his friend Freeman as being at the second, and Jackson at the first. Sam Fletcher, we may assume, is of the same college (whichever) as James and John.

1 / 1 2 In Bath, after the Thursday evening ball, Catherine is exultant: 'her spirits danced within her, as she danced in her chair all the way home. ' What chair is this?
 A 'Bath chair' or 'sedan chair', presumably. The sedan chair was carried on shafts by two chairmen. As the Encyclopaedia Britannica puts it, the Bath chair was a 'chair on wheels intended for use by ladies and invalids. It was devised by James Heath, about 1750. For the next three-quarters of a century it rivalled the sedan chair and ultimately superseded  it as a form of conveyance in Great Britain. The most common variety was supported on two wheels joined by an axle beneath the seat, with a small pivoting wheel in front.' Catherine, of course, is not an invalid.

1 / 1 3 What is Miss Tilney's first name?
We learn from an unguarded comment of Henry's that it is Eleanor (the name was wildly fashionable, from Gottfried Burger's much translated ballad about a lover who returns from the dead to reclaim his bride).

1 / 1 4 What aspect of Catherine's walk does General Tilney particularly admire?
Her 'elasticity'. The material 'elastic' was not, in fact, invented until 1823 and in 1798 the compliment would not have the odd associations it now carries. The implication here would be that Catherine's gait is springy, lithe, light-footed.

1 / 1 5 Where did Henry go to university?
Oxford. But he in no way resembles his fellow Oxonian, Thorpe.

1/16 What is Isabella Thorpe's family nickname?

1/17 What profession is James intended for?
The Church. Isabella may have been slightly self-deluded on this issue, expecting her future husband will be something grander than a country parson.

1/18 In what service is Frederick Tilney a captain?
The army. His regiment is the 12th Light Dragoons (that is, mounted infantry— they would use their horses until engaged in battle).

1/19 Is Captain Frederick the elder, or younger brother?

1/20 What was Northanger Abbey originally?
Once a richly endowed convent, it has belonged to ancestors of the Tilneys since the Dissolution (presumably through the female line, hence the initial on the old chest is not 'T'). Gothic in style (Austen applies the term to architecture, but never to fiction), the pile was partly modernized by General Tilney's father. In its modern
condition it requires scores of servants, gardeners, and grooms to keep it running. Hence, perhaps, its proprietor's avarice.
(stills from Northanger Abbey, ITV, 2007)

Monday, 22 February 2010


Still re-reading Northanger Abbey for our meeting next  February 27th .

N.B. maybe we'll have to postpone it ... I might  be forced away and for some days so... it'll probably be the following Saturday, in that case. But the readers in the group will be all warned in time, from the library, of course.

Now, what did I want to tell you? Yeah! Here it is.  I met two of the girls in the reading group, two of the youngest ones, and they told me they are enjoying reading Northanger Abbey this , more than Sense and Sensibility last month. The girls I met are 16 years old, more or less the same age of Marianne Dashwood and Catheri ne Morland who are both 17, but times are so diverse!
 The youngest among Austen protagonists, Marianne and Catherine, are those I call little Austen women. Which is the reason why my two young mates like Nothanger Abbey more than S&S? Maybe because in the latter Austen sees facts from Elinor's point of view mostly? Because Marianne can't get the fulfilment of her passionate love? I really can't imagine but I'm going to ask them during  next meeting.
Meanwhile, what I would like to do is comparing the two little Austen women: Catherine Morland and Marianne Dashwood. Do they share any trait of their personality? Are their  stories more similar or more distant?

Let's see...


1. She 's introduced like this ...
Marianne's abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor's. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her
joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.
Elinor saw, with concern, the excess of her sister's sensibility; but by Mrs. Dashwood it was valued and cherished. They encouraged each
other now in the violence of their affliction. The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again. They gave themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolved against ever admitting consolation in future. (chapt. 1)

Then described this way
(from chapter 10) "Marianne was still handsomer. Her form,though not so correct as her sister's, in having the advantage of height, was more striking; and her face was so lovely, that when in the common cant of praise, she was called a beautiful girl, truth was less violently outraged than usually happens. Her skin was very brown, but, from its transparency, her complexion was uncommonly brilliant; her features were all good; her smile was sweet and attractive; and in her eyes, which were very dark, there was a life, a spirit, an eagerness, which could hardily be seen without delight."
2. First meeting with Willoughby....
A gentleman carrying a gun, with two pointers playing round him, was passing up the hill and within a few yards of Marianne, when her accident happened. He put down his gun and ran to her assistance. She had raised herself from the ground, but her foot had been twisted in her fall, and she was scarcely able to stand. The gentleman offered his services; and perceiving that her modesty declined what her situation rendered necessary, took her up in his arms without farther delay, and carried her down the hill. Then passing through the garden, the gate of which had been left open by Margaret, he bore her directly into the house, whither Margaret was just arrived, and quitted not his
hold till he had seated her in a chair in the parlour.(...)
She thanked him again and again; and, with a sweetness of address which always attended her, invited him to be seated. But this he declined, as he was dirty and wet. Mrs. Dashwood then begged to know to whom she was obliged. His name, he replied, was Willoughby, and his present home was at Allenham, from whence he hoped she would allow him the honour of calling tomorrow to enquire after Miss Dashwood. The honour was readily granted, and he then departed, to make himself still more interesting, in the midst of a heavy rain.
His manly beauty and more than common gracefulness were instantly the theme of general admiration, and the laugh which his gallantry raised against Marianne received particular spirit from his exterior attractions.-- Marianne herself had seen less of his person that the rest, for the confusion which crimsoned over her face, on his lifting her up, had robbed her of the power of regarding him after their entering the house. But she had seen enough of him to join in all the admiration of the others, and with an energy which always adorned her praise. His person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story; and in his carrying her into the house with so little previous formality, there was a rapidity of thought which particularly recommended the action to her. Every circumstance belonging to him was interesting. His name was good, his residence was in their favourite village, and she soon found out that of all manly dresses a shooting-jacket was the most becoming. Her imagination was busy, her reflections were pleasant, and the pain of a sprained ankle was disregarded.

3. Likes and passtimes....
Reading , playing the piano and singing, walking in the countryside
4. Temper.....
She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent (chapt. 1)

5. finally...
I've always thought that the end of Sense and Sensibility is very bitter if seen from Marianne's point of view. In the end, her pursuit of love against all  social conventions destroys her spirit and her romantic ideals. After Willoughby turns her down , she accepts and surrenders to the socially convenient marriage to Colonel Brandon.  We are happy for Elinor who finally marries the man she loves, but not for Marianne who longed for more and got the less.


1. She's introduced like this
"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her."

She's then ( at 17 ) described as....

"...pleasing, and, when in good looks, pretty--and her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is”.

2. First meeting with Mr Tilney

(from chapter 3) They made their appearance in the Lower Rooms; and here fortune was more
favourable to our heroine. The master of the ceremonies introduced to her a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; his name was Tilney.

He seemed to be about four or five and twenty,  he was  rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not

quite handsome, was very near it. His address was good, and Catherine felt herself in high luck. There was little leisure for speaking while they danced; but when they were seated at tea, she found him as agreeable as she had already given him credit for being. He talked with fluency and spirit--and there was an archness and pleasantry in his manner which interested, though it was hardly  understood by her. After chatting some time on such matters as naturally arose from the objects
around them, he suddenly addressed her with--"I have hitherto been very remiss, madam, in the proper attentions of a partner here; I have not yet asked you how long you have been in Bath; whether you were ever here before; whether you have been at the Upper Rooms, the theatre, and

the concert; and how you like the place altogether. I have been very negligent--but are you now at leisure to satisfy me in these particulars? If you are I will begin directly."

3. Likes and passtimes (in her teenage)
Reading, especially gothic novels, but not only!
“...from fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.

From Pope, she learnt to censure those who

"bear about the mockery of woe."

From Gray, that

"Many a flower is born to blush unseen,

"And waste its fragrance on the desert air."

From Thompson, that--

"It is a delightful task

"To teach the young idea how to shoot."

And from Shakespeare she gained a great store of information--amongst the rest, that--

"Trifles light as air,

"Are, to the jealous, confirmation strong,

"As proofs of Holy Writ."

4. Temper
(from chapter 2) “In addition to what has been already said of Catherine Morland's personal and mental endowments, when about to be launched into all the difficulties and dangers of a six weeks' residence in Bath, it may be stated, for the reader's more certain information, lest the following pages should otherwise fail of giving any idea of what her character is meant to be, that her heart was affectionate; her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind--her manners just removed from the awkwardness and shyness of a girl; ...

5. Finally ...
She marries Henry Tilney. The Morlands are flattered and gratified, of course. And young Catherine, too. She succeeds in finding a very good match! And her fondness for him finally conquer Henry definitely. He actually doesn't seem so taken into it until he finally proposes. He is always very kind and generous but... doesn't look so passionately in love. However,  they get to marriage and even despite General Tilney's opposition.

Do you find more similarities or more differences between the two heroines? What traits of their personality do they share? I love them both but one of them MORE ... Which is your favourite one?

Now some  posts or articles about Northanger Abbey to enrich your analytical reading...

1. Northanger Abbey at Austenprose

2. Northanger Abbey and its Petulant Patriarch at JANE GS's Blog

3. Catherine Morland, her ancestor and her heiress at Fly High!

4. Catherine Morland and the Vice of the "Sympathetic Imagination" by Nicola Cummins

5. Irony and Political Education in Northanger Abbey  by Melissa Schaub

4. Gothic Austen ar Fly High!

And finally some answers to the questions I posted last time. Here are the first 10.
(from SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW JANE AUSTEN?, by John Sutherland and Deirdre Le Faye)

I / I What is Mr Morland's profession? How well off is he? What is the source of his wealth?
 Mr Morland is a country clergyman with two good livings (one of which, worth £400 a year, he plans to
give to his eldest son, James). He also has 'independent' wealth (in land, and the 'funds'—Isabella's fantasies magnify this wealth later in the narrative). He is sufficiently 'warm' to send his sons to school and university but is not, with such a large family, able (or inclined) to afford a governess for his daughters.

1/2 How many children do the Revd Mr and Mrs Morland have? How many of their Christian names do we know?
The Morlands have ten children. Catherine is 17 at the beginning of the narrative proper, 18 when she gets married. She has three older brothers. The eldest Morland son, at a putative 22, is James, the heir. Richard is a putative 20. A third son, unnamed, must be about 18. Early in the narrative Sarah ('Sally') is identified, aged 16. When Catherine returns to Fullerton at the end of the novel, we are briefly introduced to the two youngest of the family, George, aged 6, and Harriet who is just 4. There are three unnamed boys, between Sally and George. How do we know they are boys? Because they are away at school—an educational advantage denied the Morland girls.

1/3 What boisterous games does Catherine play as a girl?
Cricket and baseball. She also rides horses and, we are told, runs about the countryside. The influence of three older brothers, presumably. Had they been sisters it would have been dolls and gardening. The reference to both these manly sports has intrigued commentators. One ingenious Janeite has speculated that the author's interest in cricket was stimulated by the local, allconquering, Hambledon eleven and that 'We must assume that Jane was a Hampshire supporter'. 'Baseball' was, in the 1780s, more like 'rounders' than what the fans watch nowadays at  Dodger Stadium.

1/4 How many children do the rich Allens have?
None. He is, we gather from a number of references, a man of rather retiring tastes: she is a fashion-mad wife. They have no children, which may suggest that Mrs Allen's addiction to fashionable dress is a displacement neurosis, compounded by the boredom of living in the country.

1/5 How much money does Mr Morland give Catherine as her Bath allowance? What do we learn that she spends it on?
Mr Morland gives his daughter ten guineas. In the course of the novel we learn that Catherine spends her modest allowance on, inter alia: a sprigged muslin gown, a straw bonnet, and a new writing desk (the latter indicating a promising seriousness and indifference to the fashions which obsess Mrs Allen and Miss Thorpe).

1/6 How old is Henry Tilney?
seemed to be about four or five and twenty.' At the end of the novel we learn he is 25 at this point. In a marriage market, like Bath, these age calibrations are vital.

1/7 What is Henry's profession, and how does Catherine learn of it?
 He is a clergyman, but she does not learn this until later, after Mr Allen has made the guardian's discreet enquiries in the Lower Rooms. Mrs Allen learns a bit more about the wealthiness of the Tilneys from Mrs Hughes when they are in the Pump Room and walking in the Crescent, some days later. Clerics did not, at this period, have to wear clerical garb. See, for example, Mansfield Park, where Mary Crawford reminds herself that Edmund can look like any other young landed gent—'there is no distinction of dress nowadays'. Latitudinarian in his theology and mufti in his dress, Henry's vocation does not prevent  him dancing or hunting; at home in Woodston he is as much squire as parson. In Bath he is indistinguishable from other young gentlemen on the prowl for wives.

1/8 How much older than Catherine is Miss Thorpe' (that is, Isabella)?
Isabella is in her fourth (desperate) season as an unmarried woman at Bath. She is, presumably, 21; four years ahead of Catherine; a husband-hunter on the cusp of spinsterdom.

1/9 What is the first, and what the second, novel Catherine and Isabella read together?
Respectively, The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian. Both of these works by Mrs Radcliffe were hot off
the press—novels of 1796 and 1797 respectively. It is not clear that Catherine does read The Italian (Isabella has already done so). After a week, life at Bath becomes very busy for the young women.

1/10 How much did John Thorpe pay Freeman, of Christ Church, for his gig?
Fifty guineas. Around five times what Mr Morland gave Catherine as six weeks' allowance, and Sir Thomas Bertram gives Fanny Price as pocket money for her two months' punitive sojourn in Portsmouth. Did he squander this much of his mother's scarce wealth? Given what we know of John's grandiosity, he could be boasting, to display how rich he is: fifty guineas means nothing to him.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


The book we are reading this month is NORTHANGER ABBEY. Our schedule is on my right sidebar, so as you can see I've planned to read Austen's six major works following the chronological order of their writing... more or less. I know NA was the third one but   I wanted to avoid reading the 2 most popular of her six one near the other , soon,  at the beginning. So, this is why my chronological order is not perfect. I wanted to put a novel my reading-mates in the club knew less between the two  most popular ones. In fact, several of them have already read (or seen adaptations) of Sense and Sensibility and Pride  and Prejudice. Instead,  very few know about Northanger Abbey or have already read it.
I'm going to start posting materials and reflections about this novel as well as some quizzes and their answers from time to time, till the end of the month. I hope you'll enjoy reading both the novel and my notes. Our next meeting is on Saturday 27th February 2010.

 (From "So you think you know Jane Austen?" by J. Sutherland and D. Le Faye)
Northanger Abbey is reckoned to be the third written of Austen's six major novels—although it was the last published, in a bundled, posthumous four-volume set with Persuasion. The circumstances of its early composition and belated publication are given in James Edward Austen-Leigh's Memoir, the 'Advertisement'to the December 1817 first edition, and some surviving letters. It seems that Austen completed the novel in 1798/9 (aged 24). The novel was sold to the bookseller, Crosby & Co., for £10, in 1803 (he was not, as legend has it, based in Bath, but London). It was promptly advertised as 'In the Press' (as 'Susan'). But by 1809, no novel had appeared. Nor, apparently, was any explanation given to the frustrated author. When Austen (under incognito) complained, Crosby offered to sell back the property for what he had given. Austen did not, apparently, recover the copyright until 1816 (Crosby not realizing that he had a manuscript by the author of Pride and Prejudice).

Austen had a spare copy of the manuscript and may, over the years, have made other changes to 'Susan' than the title. But the consensus of scholarly opinion is that the novel is substantially what she wrote in 1798/9. The author died in July 1817 and Northanger Abbey was published, posthumously, by John Murray, six months later.

What reason can Crosby have had for keeping this vivacious work unread? It is suggested that he felt that its satire might dampen the inflamed demand for the 'Gothics' he specialized in.

This, one speculates, was the only time in literary history which the demure Miss Austen suffered censorship. For her wit, appropriately enough.

In the 'Advertisement by the Authoress' to Murray's edition, Austen notes that during its thirteen years in limbo 'places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes'. Historically, the period between the Revolutionary Terror of 1789 and Waterloo changed the world utterly.

"Austen’s Northanger Abbey is not outrightly depicted as a feminist novel, but by portraying Catherine in the way she does, Austen questions the literary ideal female type. Catherine’s individuality manifests itself within the very first page of the novel where Austen depicts the main character as anything but a heroine. Catherine “was fond of all boys’ plays, and greatly preferred cricket…to the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush” (Austen 5)".  GO ON READING


I'll publish the answers, few at a time, in my next posts.

(from "So you think you know Jane Austen?" by J. Sutherland and D. Le Faye)

I / I What is Mr Morland's profession? How well off is he? What is the source of his wealth?

1/2 How many children do the Reverend Mr and Mrs Morland have? How many of their Christian names do we know?

1/3 What boisterous games does Catherine play as a girl?

1/4 How many children do the rich Aliens have?

1/5 How much money does Mr Morland give Catherine as her Bath allowance? What do we learn that she spends it on?

1/6 How old is Henry Tilney?

1/7 What is Henry's profession, and how does Catherine learn of it?

1/8 How much older than Catherine is 'Miss Thorpe' (that is, Isabella)?

1/9 What is the first, and what the second, novel Catherine and Isabella read together?

1/10 How much did John Thorpe pay Freeman, of Christ Church, for his gig?

1/11 Where are James and John students?

1/12 In Bath, after the Thursday evening ball, Catherine is exultant: 'her spirits danced within her, as she danced in her chair all the way home.' What chair is this?

1/13 What is Miss Tilney's first name?

1 / 1 4 What aspect of Catherine's walk does General Tilney particularly admire?

1 / 1 5 Where did Henry go to university?

1/16 What is Isabella Thorpe's family nickname?

1/17 What profession is James intended for?

1/18 In what service is Frederick Tilney a captain?

1/19 Is Captain Frederick the elder, or younger brother?

1/20 What was Northanger Abbey originally?

1/21 What does Catherine realize she has found in the black cabinet?

1/22 Does Henry have a butler at Woodston?

1/23 What are the 'friends of Henry's solitude' at Woodston?

1/24 What pretext does the General give for throwing Catherine out of Northanger Abbey, with a bare eight hours' notice and no servant?

1/25 Who has disabused the General as to Catherine's prospects?

This post is my first one for the JA Challenge 2010 hosted by