Author Jane Austen
English author Jane Austen lived a short life of 42 years, passing away in 1817. She is one of England’s as well as the world’s most widely read writers. Four of her novels were published while she was still alive. They were “Sense and Sensibility” (1811), “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), “Mansfield Park” (1814), and “Emma” (1815). Her novel under discussion here, “Northanger Abbey,” as well as “Persuasion,” were both published in 1818 after her death. All six of Jane Austen’s novels have been made into motion pictures, either for television or for the big screen. She also had three unfinished novels at the time of her death.
Jane Austen - Wikimedia
“Northanger Abbey” was shown on British TV in 2007. It was filmed entirely in Ireland, allowing the viewer to experience the beauty of the Irish landscape in breathtaking scenes shot in Dublin, Waterford, and County Meath.
Jane Austen was fond of writing stories of young women from less well-to-do families finding their way into society through meeting young men who were heirs to large fortunes. “Northanger Abbey” is no exception. Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones) was one of ten children of a clergyman and his wife who lived in the modest village of Fullerton, England. Catherine had grown into a lovely young lady, but her favorite thing to do was to read romance novels, which fed her imagination and desire to learn about what transpires outside the environs of their tiny village. In this film, she was often seen carrying a book called “Mysteries of Udolpho.”
Felicity Jones - Wikimedia
Catherine’s highly respected parents had many friends in their parish. Mr. and Mrs. Allen graciously invited their daughter Catherine to accompany them on a visit to Bath for the coming season. Catherine was thrilled to go, and became enthralled by her entrance into a world of exquisite balls inhabited by handsome, well-to-do, young men. Two men in particular took note of Catherine’s beauty. Henry Tilney (JJ Field) and John Thorpe (William Beck) began immediately to vie for her affections. She spent the evening dancing with both men, enjoying their witty conversations.
Catherine’s Suitors Vie for her Attention
Henry and his sister Eleanor (Catherine Walker) invited Catherine to join them on their daily walk the next day and Catherine accepted their offer. They did not show up at the specified time. When John Thorpe and his sister Isabella (Carey Mulligan) stopped by, they asked her to join them in a pleasant ride to Blaise Castle. John indicated that he had seen Henry and Eleanor riding in another part of town. When she agreed to go with them, they passed by Henry and Eleanor walking along. Catherine wanted to stop but John did not, knowing that he had lied to Catherine.
JJ Feild - Wikimedia
A Night at the Opera
The following evening, Catherine accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Allen to the opera to see Mozart’s “Magic Flute.” She encountered Henry and Eleanor Tilney and apologized to them about the misunderstanding. They graciously planned to have another walk on the day after tomorrow.
An Invitation from General Tinley
Catherine met Henry’s father, General Tinley, for the first time that night at the opera. He was extremely gracious to her. John Thorpe had indicated to the General that Catherine was the heir to the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Allen, which meant that she would come into a great deal of money. General Tinley invited Catherine to come to their home, Northanger Abbey, for a visit. Catherine was happy to accept.
Isabella Accepts James’ Proposal
John Thorpe’s sister, Isabella, confided to Catherine that evening that Catherine’s brother James had proposed to her. She said she was the happiest woman in the world. John Thorpe said to Catherine “Going to one wedding brings on another.” John mistakenly believed that Catherine returned his affection.
When James informed his father that he wanted to marry Isabella, he learned that he would have to wait two years before he could expect any help from his father, and that help consisted of only 400 pounds a year. When Isabella learned how poorly she would have to live if she married James, she accepted Captain Frederick Tinley’s offer to walk with him. The Captain was Henry’s brother, and he had had his eye on Isabella.
James wrote to Catherine, stating that he and Isabella were no longer engaged because she stayed overnight with Frederick and he seduced her. Eleanor informed Catherine that Frederick never had any thought of marrying Isabella.
Carey Mulligan - Wikimedia
On their way to Northanger Abbey, Henry spoke to Catherine about their home, stating that all houses have secrets, and Northanger Abbey had its share of ghosts. Catherine was interested in Henry’s mother’s death. John Thorpe had mentioned to her that the Tilneys had a strange reputation; it had something to do with their mother’s death.
Eleanor told Catherine that they never went into their mother’s bedroom; it was their father’s wish. Curiosity got the better of Catherine and she went to Mrs. Tinley’s room one night after dark. She began to think that General Tilney had murdered his wife. Henry noticed from the staircase that his mother’s door was opened, and went there only to find that Catherine was in the room. He was disturbed and suspected what she had been thinking. He told her that she had been reading too many novels.
Drawing by H. M. Brock - Henry and Catherine - Wikimedia
Catherine is Sent Home
When General Tilney returned home from an assignment, he told Eleanor to send Catherine home immediately, even though it was late at night. Catherine was given a ride in a carriage with four slovenly people. Her parents and siblings were happy to see her. Catherine was not sure why the General demanded that she had to leave.
The Truth Comes to Light
The true story came to light when Henry showed up in Fullerton and explained his father’s thinking. General Tinley learned that Catherine’s family was poor and that Mr. and Mrs. Allen had no intention of leaving their estate to Catherine when they died. He had higher expectations for his sons; he wanted them to marry into a family that had a great deal of wealth. Henry apologized for the embarrassment, and told Catherine he loved her and said “Will you marry me?” He knew that his father would probably disinherit him if he married Catherine. Of course, Catherine said yes, because she loved him so much.
Much more is learned about General Tinley and the circumstances of his wife’s death. I will leave it to the reader to find this out.
Jane Austen’s constant theme of her heroine finding love with a wealthy suitor has a twist here, but that theme has always obsessed her. Jane herself never married and was an avid reader just as Catherine was. Many of her novels are semi-autobiographical. One wonders where her own imagination and longing took her in her search for proper husbands for her heroines.