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Northanger Abbey


  • Page extent: 422 pages
  • Size: 216 x 138 mm
  • Weight: 0.68 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 823.7
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: n/a
  • LC Subject headings:
    • England--Social life and customs--Fiction

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521824194 | ISBN-10: 0521824192)



Unlike some of Jane Austen’s other works, where the geographical settings are only vaguely indicated, the greater part of this novel is very specifically located in Bath, the elegant inland spa patronised for holidays by the wealthy and leisured since the seventeenth century; out of thirty-one chapters, four are set at the heroine’s home in fictitious Fullerton, nine at the eponymous and equally fictitious Northanger Abbey and eighteen in the genuine city of Bath. This emphasis is not surprising, since Bath was a constant backdrop to the life of the Austen family. Jane’s mother, Cassandra Leigh (1739–1827), lived there for some years in her youth, and married the Revd George Austen (1731–1805) at Walcot church in 1764; Cassandra’s elder sister, Jane Leigh, and her husband, Revd Dr Edward Cooper, lived in Royal Crescent and Bennett Street from 1771 to 1783; and Mrs Austen’s brother, James Leigh-Perrot (1735–1812), and his wife, Jane Cholmeley (1744–1836) – a wealthy and childless couple, who are always referred to in Jane Austen’s letters as ‘my uncle’ and ‘my aunt’ – soon developed the habit of spending half the year on their estate in Berkshire and the other half in Bath, at No. 1 Paragon Buildings.

It is not known when Austen herself first became personally acquainted with Bath, but it was probably in the spring/summer of 1794, when she and her elder sister, Cassandra, visited Leigh cousins in Gloucestershire; in travelling to and from Hampshire it would be very surprising if they did not pass through both Bath and Gloucester en route. It must have been this Gloucestershire trip which gave Austen the local knowledge that she used afterwards for her novel, and no doubt she too stopped off at Petty France to change horses when taking the main road northwards out of Bath. As we subsequently learn that Catherine Morland’s return to Fullerton involved a journey of seventy miles (vol. 2, ch. 13), this means that Austen must have envisaged Northanger Abbey as being somewhere in the Vale of Berkeley, lying on the flood-plain of the river Severn and tucked under the steep western edge of the Cotswold limestone escarpment. Such a location accounts for its name: in Old English hangra, now modernised to ‘hanger’, means ‘a wood on the side of a steeply sloping hill’,1 and Austen unobtrusively but carefully mentions the house as ‘standing low in a valley, sheltered from the north and east by rising woods of oak’ (vol. 2, ch. 2). When Catherine drives up, she finds that ‘so low did the building stand’, it could not be seen from the road (vol. 2, ch. 5); and later, when she walks out with the family to admire the house and grounds, she sees it has ‘steep woody hills rising behind to give it shelter’ (vol. 2, ch. 7) – that is, a hanger to the north. Henry Tilney’s parish of Woodston is also on the Severn flood-plain, as ‘the General seemed to think an apology necessary for the flatness of the country’ (vol. 2, ch. 11). There was no country house in this part of Gloucestershire which in any way resembled Northanger Abbey as described by Austen, hence she could feel safe in placing it there, without being afraid that some local landowner might take offence in the belief he was being pilloried in the character of General Tilney.

Austen’s first recorded visit to Bath was in November/December 1797, when she and her mother and sister stayed with the Leigh-Perrots in Paragon Buildings. Her next visit was in May/June 1799, when her brother, Edward Knight, brought a family party to lodgings in Queen Square; and finally, she and her family lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806. It is an interesting possibility that during the 1797 visit she may have met the Revd Sydney Smith, then only a country cleric and tutor to the squire’s son, but soon to become well known as a wit, essayist, moral philosopher and joint founder of the Edinburgh Review in 1802; it was pointed out by John Sparrow2 that Sydney’s conversational style sounds remarkably like that of Henry Tilney, and there is documentary evidence that he paid several short visits to Bath between October 1797 and January 1798.3 Furthermore, Sydney’s pupil, Michael Hicks Beach, was connected to the Bramston family at Deane, near neighbours of the Austens at Steventon; hence Mrs Austen may have been encouraged by the Bramstons to make contact with Sydney following her arrival with her daughters in Bath.

In the autumn of 1817 Cassandra Austen scribbled a brief memorandum of the dates of composition of her sister’s novels, so far as she could recall them, finishing with: ‘North-hanger Abby [sic] was written about the years 98 & 99’,4 which suggests that Austen started it in early 1798 after her winter visit, and finished it in 1799, perhaps after refreshing her imagination and checking her facts during her summer visit. Having decided upon the geographical setting, she planned the action as a parody, or rather, a double parody, of the popular fiction of the period – the conduct novels or novels of manners on the one hand, and the gothic romances on the other. The former, epistolary in style and supposed to be letters to an intimate friend, are set in contemporary English society and follow a courtship plot. The heroine enters the world, encounters fortune-hunters, rakes, and false friends, masters the unstated rules of etiquette and wins the heart of a noble suitor through her natural superiority, exhibited and refined through a series of social and moral tests. The eighteen chapters set in Bath chronicle, in a deliberately wry and prosaic style, the problems that beset the naive and trusting Catherine as she makes her debut; they may indeed reflect something of what Austen herself experienced in 1794 and 1797.

Gothic romances were exceedingly popular from about 1790 to 1820. They were highly imaginative escapist literature – ‘gothic’ in this context being taken to mean any historical period before 1700 and for preference as far back as medieval times, which by definition could provide more scope for wild and barbaric behaviour than could the civilised eighteenth century. They were usually set in European locations, and specialised in plots involving mystery, crime and horror, with a strong element of the supernatural to add terror to the mix. So far from entering high society, the heroines in these romances invariably find themselves imprisoned in ruined castles or abbeys in the Alps or Pyrenees, and threatened by libertines, brigands and – apparently – ghosts. The nine chapters covering Catherine’s visit to Northanger Abbey parody her over-heated romantic imaginings of the potential mystery she expects to find there, by setting them against the realities of life in a wealthy, modernised country house in Gloucestershire. A final twist in the tale, however, is that, although Catherine’s initial imaginings are erroneous, there is indeed a mystery at Northanger Abbey, and she herself is at the centre of it.


When Austen finished her text in 1799, she called it simply ‘Susan’, and it seems she had then no thought of attempting to publish it – the manuscript must have remained in the cupboard or on the bookshelf, no doubt being read with amusement by her family, who would recognise the parodies and also the genuine background to the story. In 1801 the Revd George Austen suddenly decided to leave Hampshire and retire to Bath, and it was probably the fact of finding herself now actually living in the city which inspired Jane to look afresh at ‘Susan’, perhaps in the autumn of 1802, and to accept her family’s advice that it should be offered for publication. By this time her brother Henry was a London banker, and it was his lawyer/agent, William Seymour, who sold the manuscript in the spring of 1803 to the firm of Benjamin Crosby & Co., of Stationers’ Hall Court, London, for £10, with a verbal agreement for early publication. Crosby advertised it – Susan; a Novel, in 2 vols. – in their Flowers of Literature for 1801 & 1802 (1803), as being ‘In the Press’; it was No. 15 in their list of ‘New and Useful Books’.

In the event, however, Crosby never did publish ‘Susan’. There is nothing to indicate how long it was before Jane Austen realised that he did not intend to fulfil his bargain, and nothing to indicate the reason for the firm’s change of mind. In her preface to a new edition of Northanger Abbey in 1932, Rebecca West drew an amusing pen-picture of what might have happened: Benjamin Crosby glanced casually at the manuscript, and thought it ‘a pleasant tale about pleasant people, written in simple English; and it had the further advantage, from the point of view of the circulating libraries, that it was plainly written by a lady who wrote from her own knowledge of life as it was lived in country seats and at Bath’,5 hence he was agreeable to paying £10 for it. However, when he looked at it for a second time, more closely – perhaps when on the verge of sending it actually to the printing press – he found it disconcerting and full of mockery, quite unlike the novels that were the stock in trade of the circulating libraries. The author seemed to be laughing at her characters, possibly laughing at her potential readers, or even laughing at himself for accepting such an unromantic, unsentimental tale. For whatever combination of reasons, Crosby put the manuscript aside and mentally wrote off his £10.

The early 1800s were an unsettled period in the Austen family’s life, with much time spent travelling on seaside holidays and visits in Kent and Hampshire, until Mr Austen died in January 1805 and such journeyings came to an end. Mrs Austen and her daughters eventually left Bath in 1806 and moved to Southampton, where they stayed until the spring of 1809, before moving to their final home at Chawton. It must have been exasperating for Austen to see that another anonymous two-volume novel called Susan was published in London early in 1809 by the firm of John Booth;6 and it may have been the knowledge of this rival production, plus a wish to tidy up the loose ends of her literary hopes, which led her to write to Crosby & Co. on 5 April 1809 using the pseudonym of ‘Mrs Ashton Dennis’, c/o the Post Office, Southampton.7 She reminded them of the circumstances of the sale six years ago, and stated that if they were no longer interested, she would send a second copy of the manuscript to another publisher. Richard Crosby replied on his father’s behalf by return of post (8 April 1809, Letters, p. 175), denying that there had been any promise of early publication, threatening legal action if she published elsewhere, and offering to return the manuscript for the £10 the firm had paid for it. This sum was presumably beyond Austen’s means, so there the matter rested for the time being.

Once settled in Chawton, Austen devoted herself to literary composition, revising and publishing her two early works, Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813), and going straight on to write Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (late 1815) without a pause. Now with the confidence of a published author, she thought of recovering ‘Susan’, and early in 1816 her brother Henry ‘undertook the negotiation. He found the purchaser very willing to receive back his money, and to resign all claim to the copyright. When the bargain was concluded and the money paid, but not till then, the negotiator had the satisfaction of informing him that the work which had been so lightly esteemed was by the author of “Pride and Prejudice”.’8

In view of the publication of the other novel called Susan in 1809, Austen changed the heroine’s name to ‘Catherine’ Morland, and wrote an ‘Advertisement’, or preface, explaining that the story had been intended to appear in 1803, and apologising therefore to readers in 1816 for those parts which might now appear ‘comparatively obsolete’. However, it seems that even as she wrote this ‘Advertisement’, she discouraged herself thereby, for she made no further attempt to offer it to another publisher. It may be, too, that Henry Austen’s sudden bankruptcy in March 1816, which obliged him to leave London, further disheartened her, since he would no longer be on the spot to negotiate with publishers on her behalf. Her health started to fail this year, and she felt her current work on Persuasion was not going well – yet another reason for putting ‘Susan’/‘Catherine’ aside once again. On 13 March 1817 Austen wrote to her niece Fanny Knight: ‘Miss Catherine is put upon the Shelve for the present, and I do not know that she will ever come out’ (Letters, p. 333), and there is no further mention of the work in her letters before her death in July 1817.

At some time in the second half of 1817, Henry and Cassandra – the latter being Austen’s heiress for both real and literary property  – negotiated with John Murray for the publication of Northanger Abbey (evidently their choice of title, presumably because they considered it more attractive to readers than a simple Catherine) together with Persuasion. Murray was quite happy to accept the manuscripts, and in December 1817 wrote to Lady Abercorn: ‘I am printing two short but very clever novels by poor Miss Austen, the author of “Pride and Prejudice”.’9 Henry provided a ‘Biographical Notice of the Author’, dated 13 December 1817, which appeared as a preface to the four-volume edition (two volumes for each of the novels); and in his ‘Notice’ (reproduced in the Persuasion volume of the Cambridge edition) Austen’s name appeared in print for the first time as acknowledged author of the six novels.

The two works were first advertised in The Courier of 17 December 1817 for publication on 20 December, Northanger Abbey being described as a ‘Romance’ and Persuasion as a ‘Novel’, though this distinction does not appear on the title pages. Possibly the advertising copywriter had read the novelist Clara Reeve’s definition of the difference:

The Romance is an heroic fable, which treats of fabulous persons and things.—The Novel is a picture of real life and manners, and of the times in which it is written. The Romance in lofty and elevated language, describes what never happened nor is likely to happen.—The Novel gives a familiar relation of such things, as pass every day before our eyes, such as may happen to our friends, or to ourselves; and the perfection of it, is to represent every scene, in so easy and natural a manner, and to make them appear so probable, as to deceive us into a persuasion (at least while we are reading) that all is real, until we are affected by the joys or distresses, of the persons in the story, as if they were our own.10

But perhaps Henry and Cassandra made a mistake in calling it Northanger Abbey – between 1784 and 1818 no fewer than thirty-two novels had been published containing ‘Abbey’ in the title, not to mention many others using such related nouns as ‘Convent’, ‘Monastery’ or ‘Priory’, ‘Abbot’, ‘Friar’ or ‘Nun’. The readers in 1818 may well have thought that such a title betokened a predictable rehash of a foolish and hackneyed plot, along the lines of the ‘romances’ as categorised by Reeve.

The four-volume set was priced at £1.4s.0d., and the official publication date was 1818. Murray had printed 1750 copies, and most of these sold during 1818–19, with the last few being remaindered in 1820, but there was no second edition. A French translation, L’abbaye de Northanger, appeared in 1824; Carey & Lea of Philadelphia published the first American edition in January 1833 (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion separately, each in two volumes); but the next English edition was not until May 1833, when Richard Bentley issued it in his Standard Novels series. During the nineteenth century Austen’s works were several times reprinted as multi-volume sets, and the individual novels also appeared separately, but Northanger Abbey has never been as popular as the others. From 1818 up to 1976 the number of individual reprints (disregarding foreign, abridged or school editions) is respectively as follows: Pride and Prejudice 54; Sense and Sensibility 40; Mansfield Park 32; Emma 28; Northanger Abbey alone 23; Persuasion alone 18; Northanger Abbey and Persuasion together 12.

The long intervals between the novel’s completion in 1799, its acceptance by Crosby in 1803, and Austen’s further check in 1816, have led some critics to wonder if in fact she made any considerable revisions to the text before writing her ‘Advertisement’. One passage that indicates later interpolation is the narrator’s defence of novels, in the fifth chapter of the first volume. With high rhetoric, the narrator calls for solidarity amongst novelists, reproaches those who make their heroines denigrate the fictions of which they are themselves a part, and urges readers not to affect to despise novels, since in them can be found ‘genius, wit and taste’. In this passage Austen refers to Frances Burney’s Cecilia (1782) and Camilla (1796), but also to Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda (1801), and therefore probably added it in 1803, when Edgeworth’s text would still be fresh in people’s minds.

Another addition which must date to 1803 is Austen’s own footnote at the end of chapter three of the first volume: ‘Vide a letter from Mr. Richardson, No. 97, vol. Ⅱ, Rambler.’ This refers to Samuel Richardson’s essay published in 1751 in the twice-weekly periodical The Rambler (20 March 1750 –14 March 1752), edited and written mainly by Samuel Johnson, which asserts: ‘That a young lady should be in love, and the love of the young gentleman undeclared, is an heterodoxy which prudence, and even policy, must not allow.’ This essay was first publicly attributed to Richardson in Alexander Chalmers’ edition of The British Essayists (1803).

Apart from these two additions, it is clear from the tone of the text that it still dates to the turn of the century. By 1816 ladies had ceased to pile their hair up into huge powdered ‘heads’, muslins were no longer a novelty fabric worthy of discussion, and the Bath assembly rooms were no longer quite so smart – the city had become less of a fashionable holiday resort and marriage-mart, and more of a residential retreat for invalids, elderly spinsters and widows, bachelors and widowers, the atmosphere which Austen creates in Persuasion. James King had retired as Master of Ceremonies in the Lower Rooms in 1805, and it would have been easy enough for Austen to change this name if she were attempting to update the story. Likewise, she mentions ‘Union-passage’ in the centre of Bath, but does not mention the larger Union Street, which opened in 1807. In any case, the novel’s structure could not easily have accommodated any large-scale revisions; Austen pins both her plot and her characters so tightly to parodies of the conduct novel and the gothic romance that to change any of this would require substantial rewriting. It can therefore be assumed that the text as we now have it is substantially as it was in 1803.

literary context

As the location of Northanger Abbey is a true reflection of Austen’s own knowledge of Gloucestershire, so the parodic aspect of her text is likewise a true reflection of her readings in contemporary fiction. Clerics such as the Revd James Fordyce might include in his Sermons to Young Women (1766) the warning that:

We consider the general run of Novels as utterly unfit for you. Instruction they convey none. They paint scenes of pleasure and passion altogether improper for you to behold, even with the mind’s eye. Their descriptions are often loose and luscious in a high degree; their representations of love between the sexes are almost universally overstrained. All is dotage, or despair; or else ranting swelled into burlesque. In short, the majority of their lovers are either mere lunatics, or mock-heroes11

and the youthful Frances Burney might priggishly suggest, in her preface to Evelina, or, A Young Lady’s Entrance into the World (1778), that ‘our young ladies in general, and boarding-school damsels in particular’ might profit by the annihilation and ‘total extirpation of novels’ (her own of course excepted). However, it is evident that the eminently sensible Austen parents did not share such puritanical views, and saw no harm in allowing their children, sons and daughters alike, to read all the latest fiction.

From the references in her juvenilia, it is clear that by the age of fifteen Austen had read not only Burney’s Evelina and equally virtuous Cecilia, or, Memoirs of an Heiress (1782), but also several of such novels as would have elicited Fordyce’s disapproval: Sophia Lee’s The Recess, or, A Tale of Other Times (1783–5), Charlotte Smith’s Emmeline, or, the Orphan of the Castle (1788), and her Ethelinde, or, the Recluse of the Lake (1789). She had also read Richardson’s The History of Sir Charles Grandison (1753–4) over and over again, so that ‘Every circumstance narrated . . . all that was ever said or done in the cedar parlour, was familiar to her; and the wedding days of Lady L. and Lady G. were as well remembered as if they had been living friends.’12 Later on she came to Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), which Johnson had angrily condemned as ‘so vicious a book . . . I scarcely know a more corrupt work’, but which Jane nevertheless discussed with her admirer Tom Lefroy during the Christmas holidays of 1795–6 (9–10 January 1796, Letters, p. 2); and in the same year she subscribed for her own copy of Burney’s Camilla, or, A Picture of Youth (1796), which remained a lifelong favourite. Many years later she told her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, her first biographer, that Burney was ‘the very best of English novelists; & she used to praise the character of Sir Hugh Tyrold in Camilla as extremely well drawn’.13

Northanger Abbey belongs squarely in the tradition of the English novel established in the middle of the eighteenth century by Richardson and Fielding. Richardson’s epistolary novels record the thoughts and feelings of young women in great detail as they confront moral and emotional decisions; his final novel, Sir Charles Grandison (which, according to Austen, Mrs Morland ‘very often reads’), portrays the heroine’s relationship with an exemplary  Christian gentleman. Richardson’s blend of sentimental characters, psychological realism and courtship plots with the sensational elements of abduction, betrayal and sexual assault made his  novels highly popular, and his heroines, in particular, became models for subsequent writers. Whereas Richardson was considered a moral writer, Fielding was not. His sexual episodes were considered indelicate reading, but by employing an ironic, detached narrator, who both reports and comments on the action, he provides a model for Austen’s narrative voice. His first novel, The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews (1742), is a parody of Richardson’s Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740–1), and like Northanger Abbey invokes the quixotic tradition in order to mock the idealism of naive but heroic characters who learn about life from books. Again like Austen, Fielding defends the novel against critical scorn as a trivial genre; his definition of the genre as a comic, prose epic, with a range of characters and moral seriousness equivalent to the loftiest literature, helped to differentiate the form from romantic fantasy.

More significant influences upon Northanger Abbey, however, are the conduct novels of Burney, whose first work, Evelina, was published anonymously in 1778. The novel won immediate applause, and Burney, once her authorship was revealed, instant fame. An epistolary fiction written largely by the eponymous heroine to her elderly clerical guardian in the country, the novel describes Evelina’s introduction to fashionable society, the errors of conduct that result from her social inexperience, and her discovery of love. Burney’s third novel, Camilla, relates the experiences of a group of cousins from their childhood to their weddings, focusing on the heroine’s adventures in learning to judge people and act prudently in matters of love and money. Camilla resembles Catherine Morland in her vulnerability to ‘false reasoning . . . formed upon false principles’, and in her eager, good-natured impulsiveness. Austen also adapts Burney’s character scheme by placing two couples in a chiastic contrast: the primary agent of the evils in Burney’s story is Camilla’s brother, Lionel Tyrold, an Oxonian whose selfish extravagance plunges the family into financial disaster. In his boasting, slang and irresponsible, violent treatment of Camilla, which forces her into compromising situations, he  resembles John Thorpe, while Camilla’s cousin, Indiana Lynmere, is the beauty whose folly Austen’s narrator ironically commends her ‘sister author’ for applauding. Paralleling Isabella Thorpe, she entrances the naïf Oxonian Melmond but, when he appears poorer than she hoped, she elopes with another man.

The second strand in Northanger Abbey is Austen’s parody of the gothic romances; the vogue for these had begun in England with the publication of Horace Walpole’s novella The Castle of Otranto (1764), set in Italy at some unspecified medieval date. The plot depicts the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy through the fall of the usurper Manfred, involving supernatural manifestations as well as crimes of violence. The third edition of Otranto in 1769 had the subtitle A Gothic Story, which gave its name to the genre. Walpole’s tropes were widely imitated: the unexplained and unnatural occurrences, including omens, intimations and vague warnings; the obscurity in plot and setting, in which the characters chase and flee from each other through nightmarish dark labyrinths; the threatened rape, distress and imprisonment of a beautiful heroine; and the confusion and separation of lovers.

Ann Radcliffe developed her gothic fictions in response to Walpole, and became hugely popular throughout Europe as the leading author in this field. She wrote only five novels in this genre  – The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789), A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1791), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian, or The Confessional of the Black Penitents (1797) – but these established the gothic tradition in English fiction: the archetypal figure of the male tyrant, whose castle holds and reveals secrets, is balanced against an orphaned or deserted heroine who struggles for control over herself and her inheritance, experiencing suffering and terror while imprisoned in ruined edifices before being united with the worthy hero in the last volume. Radcliffe’s works depict not only the heroine’s embarrassment and doubt as she makes moral choices, but also her feelings of confusion, physical fear and superstitious terror as she gropes her way through circumstances both menacing and incomprehensible. The Romance of the Forest was so popular that Radcliffe received an unprecedented £500 advance for The Mysteries of Udolpho, followed by £800 for The Italian, both of which also won great popular acclaim.

Although moralists directed their condemnation of novels towards schoolgirls and young women, they were fighting a losing battle, for many members of the reading public, including most respectable ladies and gentlemen, equally enjoyed these publications. The Austens’ neighbour, Mrs Bramston, discussed the latest fiction with her kinswoman, Mrs Hicks Beach: ‘I suppose you will soon be thinking of your Weymouth expedition & wandering by the sea shore . . . if when there you want a little Autumn reading Emmeline or the Orphan of the Castle is much recommended. I have read only the first page so can not give my opinion but think it will suit Weymouth as the scene lies in an old Castle on the sea shore so if you may look out of your window & see the Scenes realized that you are perusing.’14 Mrs Bramston owned copies of The Romance of the Forest, Udolpho and The Italian,15 and may well have lent these to the Austens. Another neighbour, Madam Lefroy, an intellectual lady who ‘had an exquisite taste for poetry, and could almost repeat the chief English poets by heart, especially Milton, Pope, Collins, Gray, and the poetical passages of Shakespeare’,16 also saw no harm in owning a copy of The Italian.17

The instinctive comparison of gothic romances to real life became commonplace: Mrs Austen’s old friend, Mrs Lybbe Powys, when visiting the Deanery at Canterbury Cathedral in 1798, immediately noticed that ‘in the back part of the house’ there were ‘numbers of small [rooms] and spiral staircases, dark passages, &c &c, which put one in mind of the haunted castles in our present novels’;18 and Mrs Austen herself, when visiting her family’s estate at Stoneleigh Abbey in 1806, wrote home: ‘I had figured to myself long Avenues, dark Rookeries & dismal Yew Trees, but here are no such melancholy things . . . Behind the smaller drawing Room is the state Bed Chamber, with a high dark crimson Velvet Bed, an alarming apartment just fit for a Heroine, the old Gallery opens into it.’19 – hence it is not surprising that Jane agreed happily with Cassandra that the Austens were ‘great Novel-readers & not ashamed of being so’ (18–19 December 1798, Letters, p. 26).

A third strand in Northanger Abbey is the satirising of young women who lose track of reality by immersing themselves in romantic fantasies. Satires of learned, or at least reading-maddened, women had been a commonplace theme for the past hundred years, but with the rise of romantic fiction and the broadening of a female reading public in the middle of the eighteenth century, writers merged this theme with an attack on the addiction to novels. In Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote (1752), the most important progenitor of this genre, the protagonist Arabella, who has addled her mind with the novels of Madame de Scudéry, believes she should behave like a heroine in a seventeenth-century romance, and her consequent regal manners, arbitrary rejections of her father’s authority and delusions of grandeur lead to her humiliation and near madness. Eaton Stannard Barrett returned to this theme with his The Heroine, or, Adventures of a Fair Romance Reader (1813), the subtitle for the second 1814 edition being changed to The Adventures of Cherubina: Cherry Wilkinson, daughter of a wealthy farmer, decides she must really be Lady Cherubina de Willoughby, and sets off to find her inheritance and noble family. The Austen family were reading this in early 1814, and Jane told Cassandra: ‘I finished the Heroine last night & was very much amused by it. I wonder James [her eldest brother] did not like it better. It diverted me exceedingly . . . I have torn through the 3d. vol. of the Heroine, & do not think it falls off.—It is a delightful burlesque, particularly on the Radcliffe style’ (2–3 March 1814, Letters, pp. 255–6). In Northanger Abbey Austen turns this theme on its head  – Catherine Morland has no delusions about herself, but thinks the world around her must contain the spotless heroines, ferocious villains and terrifying mysteries she has so far encountered only in books. It takes Henry Tilney’s kind but thorough scolding to make her realise that ‘Charming as were all Mrs Radcliffe’s works, and charming even as were the works of all her imitators, it was not in them perhaps that human nature, at least in the midland counties of England, was to be looked for’ (vol. 2, ch. 10).

Some of Radcliffe’s imitators are given in Isabella Thorpe’s reading list (vol. 1, ch. 6), the most successful of whom was Regina Maria Roche. Her third work, The Children of the Abbey, first published in 1796, was reprinted up to 1850. Her next, Clermont, A Tale (1798), did not attain the same success, and the Critical Review thought poorly of it: ‘This tale reminds us, without any great pleasure, of Mrs. Radcliffe’s romances . . . mystery is heaped upon mystery, and murder upon murder, with little art, and great improbability.’20 Eleanor Sleath’s The Orphan of the Rhine, a Romance (1798), was likewise called a ‘vapid and servile’ imitation of Radcliffe.21 The reviewer of Francis Lathom’s The Midnight Bell (which Mr Austen was reading in the autumn of 1798 (24 October 1798, Letters, p. 15)) referred to its ‘ghosts, murders, midnight bells, &c’ being introduced with ‘the usual mysterious apparatus; and the story will not be the less relished because not very probable.’22 The other four gothic novels on Isabella’s list were also largely condemned by the reviewers for their improbable and clumsy plots; but that ‘sweet girl’ Miss Andrews ‘has read every one of them’ and so is able to assure her friend that they are ‘all horrid’ – that is, most delightfully hair-raising, blood-curdling and spine-chilling (vol. 1, ch. 6). There were nine circulating libraries in Bath at the turn of the century, one even located in Edgar’s Buildings – so perhaps Isabella was able simply to go downstairs and collect an armful to read with Catherine.

critical reception

By the second decade of the nineteenth century, intelligent readers were surfeited with the novel of manners and the gothic romance, and it might be said that Austen’s works helped in a small way to kill off both these schools of fiction. In 1813 Miss Milbanke, future Lady Byron, wrote to her mother: ‘I have finished the Novel called Pride and Prejudice, which I think a very superior work. It depends not on any of the common resources of novel writers, no drownings, no conflagrations, nor runaway horses, nor lap-dogs and parrots, nor chambermaids and milliners, nor rencontres and disguises. I really think it is the most probable fiction I have ever read.’23

A year or so later William Gifford, editor of John Murray’s Quarterly Review, read Pride and Prejudice before recommending Murray to accept the manuscript of Emma, and told him: ‘I have for the first time looked into Pride and Prejudice;—and it is really a very pretty thing. No dark passages; no secret chambers; no wind-howlings in long galleries; no drops of blood upon a rusty dagger —things that should now be left to ladies’ maids and sentimental washerwomen’.24 Although Austen could not, of course, have known of Gifford’s opinion, she too must have felt that the gothic was outmoded – which is perhaps why, in 1815, it is only foolish little Harriet Smith who is still enjoying The Romance of the Forest and The Children of the Abbey (Emma, vol. 1, ch. 4).

Following the publication of Emma in late 1815, Murray asked Walter Scott to write an article on Austen’s novels for the Quarterly Review, which appeared, anonymously, in March 1816. He commended Austen for her depiction of ordinary characters and everyday incidents, contrasting her realism with the formulaic fiction in which the heroine

was regularly exposed to being forcibly carried off like a Sabine virgin by some frantic admirer. And even if she escaped the terrors of masked ruffians, an insidious ravisher, a cloak wrapped forcibly around her head, and a coach with the blinds up driving she could not conjecture whither, she had still her share of wandering, of poverty, of obloquy, of seclusion, and of imprisonment, and was frequently extended upon a bed of sickness, and reduced to her last shilling, before the author condescended to shield her from persecution.

The author Susan Ferrier had probably read Scott’s article when she wrote to Lady Charlotte Bury in March 1816:

This is a wild, stormy, snowy day, and I feel as if a mental horror would be very relishing; but the literature of the present day is not of a spirit-stirring, hair-raising sort; everything now is addressed to the reason, nothing to the heart or fancy . . . Formerly, in my time, a heroine was merely a piece of beautiful matter, with long fair hair and soft blue eyes, who was buffeted up and down the world like a shuttle-cock, and visited with all sorts of possible and impossible miseries. Now they are black-haired, sensible women, who do plainwork, pay morning visits, and make presents of legs of pork;— vide ‘Emma’.25

Despite its liveliness and wit, Northanger Abbey has generally earned the least critical consideration and applause of all Austen’s finished works. This may be due partly to the fact that in its first publication it was prefaced by Henry Austen’s ‘Biographical Notice of the Author’; Henry had recently taken Holy Orders, and was well on the way to becoming ‘a zealous Preacher of the Gospel, according to the religious views of the Calvinistic portion of the Evangelical Clergy’ (Family Record, p. 262), hence he was anxious to stress his sister’s piety and domestic virtues rather than to analyse her literary talent. He was happy to say that ‘Her favourite moral writers were Johnson in prose, and Cowper in verse’, but was also careful to assure his readers that she ‘did not rank any work of Fielding’ as high as Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison, since ‘Neither nature, wit, nor humour, could make her amends for so very low a scale of morals.’ By omitting any reference to her fondness for the popular fictions parodied in Northanger Abbey – not even repeating her praise of Burney’s and Edgeworth’s works – the ‘Notice’ further separated it from the character sketch he was drawing. The fact that it was published together with Persuasion may also have damaged its critical reputation – Henry Austen’s picture of a gentle, beautifully behaved maiden lady mirrors Anne Elliot far more closely than either the bold narrative voice or the clumsy heroine of Northanger Abbey, and so makes her last novel appear the more polished, and certainly more mature, work of the two.

Like Scott, the early critics, reacting against improbable romances, commend the novel’s medicinal realism. In March 1818, the anonymous reviewer in the British Critic contrasts the exhausting torrent of sentimental and gothic fiction with Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, which, albeit not morally profound, he considers enjoyable reading. He makes no reference to the parodic aspect of Northanger Abbey, but specifically admires Austen’s dramatisation of character, her ability to let the characters speak for themselves and her astute, unflinching observation in the Bath section of the book. He thinks that her plots and subjects are commonplace, that the portrait of the General is improbable and not ‘pourtrayed with our authoress’s usual taste and judgment’, and that there is ‘a considerable want of delicacy in all the circumstances of Catherine’s visit to the Abbey’; but assures his readers nevertheless that this is ‘one of the very best of Miss Austen’s productions, and will every way repay the time and trouble of perusing it’. He dismisses Persuasion as being ‘a much less fortunate performance than that which we have just been considering’, and disapproves of its dangerously radical encouragement of youthful desire for early matrimony.26

Another anonymous reviewer, in the Edinburgh Magazine for May 1818, thought that the prevailing taste for fictions that offered historical and romantic incident, even when ‘altogether wild and monstrous’, had resulted in Austen’s novels being presently undervalued in public estimation. He anticipated a future time when ‘the delightful writer of the works now before us, will be one of the most popular of English novelists . . . It is unnecessary to give a particular account of the stories here presented to us . . . They have quite the same kind of merit with the preceding works of their author . . . The first is the more lively, and the second the more pathetic.’27 The Gentleman’s Magazine for July 1818 gave only a short mention, stressing that ‘The two Novels now published have no connection with each other’, and that ‘Northanger Abbey . . . is decidedly preferable to the second Novel, not only in the incidents, but even in its moral tendency.’28 The only known private contemporary comment comes from Maria Edgeworth herself, who agrees with the British Critic reviewer: ‘The behaviour of the General in . . . packing off the young lady without a servant or the common civilities which any bear of a man, not to say gentleman, would have shown, is quite outrageously out of drawing and out of nature.’29

The Revd Richard Whately, future Archbishop of Dublin, wrote an anonymous and rather belated review in the Quarterly Review for January 1821. Much of his article was devoted to praising Austen for her natural, logical plots, her skill in differentiating her characters, and especially for the ‘moral lessons’ to be found in Mansfield Park. Turning at last to the books he was supposed to be reviewing, in Northanger Abbey Whately, as an Oxford don himself, was particularly amused by the portrait of John Thorpe, recognising him as a member of a dying species, the ‘Bang-up Oxonian’, and ‘Miss Thorpe, the jilt of middling life, is . . . quite as good’; but then dismissed it shortly as being ‘decidedly inferior to her other works, having less plot, and what there is less artificially wrought up, and also less exquisite nicety of moral painting’.30 He finished his article with a much longer discussion of Persuasion, which he thought ‘superior to all’ the others.

This article by Whately is the last contemporary review of Austen and her works, and for the next twenty years her novels were largely overlooked, as the stars of the great Victorian novelists rose in the sky of popularity. It was not until January 1843 that the eminent historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, who had been devoted to her works since his boyhood, turned critical attention towards her again with an article he wrote for the Edinburgh Review: ‘Shakespeare has had neither equal nor second. But among the writers who . . . have approached nearest to the manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane Austen . . . She has given us a multitude of characters, all in a certain sense, common-place, all such as we meet every day. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings.’31 Macaulay’s letters make constant reference to the Austenian characters, and on 12 August 1854 he wrote in his journal: ‘I read Dickens’s “Hard Times.” . . . Another book of Pliny’s letters. Read “Northanger Abbey”; worth all Dickens and Pliny put together. Yet it was the work of a girl. She was certainly not more than twenty-six. Wonderful creature!’32

The scholarly journalist G. H. Lewes picked up this Edinburgh Review comment, and took it a stage further, in 184733 and 1851,34 by claiming that Macaulay had said Austen was a prose Shakespeare  – a claim which much annoyed Charlotte Brontë, who told him that the novels gave ‘An accurate daguerreotyped portrait of a commonplace face; a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but no glance of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck. I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses.’35 In 1855 Elizabeth Barrett Browning, too, was unenthusiastic: ‘[Miss Mitford] never taught me anything but a very limited admiration of Miss Austen, whose people struck me as wanting souls, even more than is  necessary for men & women of the world. The novels are perfect as far as they go—that’s certain. Only they don’t go far, I think.’36

This prevailing mid-nineteenth-century idea that Austen’s characters were lacking in idealism and passion led to the assumption that she and her novels alike must be ‘hard and cold and prudish’; but as one of her own great-nieces, Fanny Caroline Lefroy (1820–85), commented perceptively in her manuscript ‘Family History’:

Of passionate feeling she was perhaps incapable but passion is not depth, and still less is it longlived. And as for the hardness and prudishness, I think allowance enough is not made for the difference between the fashion in this matter in her day and ours. In hers people were called by their plain Christian names, and loves dears and darlings were less plentifully used, caresses were not so common and were only bestowed in private. It is not only her heroines who abstain from throwing themselves into their lovers arms but as sisters they are equally reticent. Dear as Jane is to Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice, she is to her Jane, and Jane only, and Elinor and Marianne who in these days would certainly have been ‘Nellie and Minnie’ are contented with their own names unadorned with any prefix of affection. The only person she paints as addicted to the use of terms of endearment is Isabella Thorpe who talks of her ‘dearest sweetest Catherine’ without having any real regard for her or for any one save herself.37

G. H. Lewes remained a staunch advocate of Austen’s artistry, and in his last and most important appraisal of her work, written for the Edinburgh Magazine of July 1859, pointed out that Burney ‘is no longer read, nor much worth reading’, while ‘Miss Edgeworth is already little more than a name, and only finds a public for her children’s books’. On the other hand, ‘it is evident that Miss Austen’s works must possess elements of indestructible excellence, since . . . she survives writers who were very popular; and forty years after her death, gains more recognition than she gained when alive’. Lewes recalls that ‘the charming novel, Northanger Abbey . . . which the Quarterly Review pronounces the weakest of the series (a verdict only intelligible to us because in the same breath Persuasion is called the best!), is not only written with unflagging vivacity, but contains two characters no one else could have equalled—Henry Tilney and John Thorpe’. Later on he defines Catherine Morland as being one of the ‘truly lovable, flesh-and-blood young women’ in the gallery of heroines.38

Sir William Frederick Pollock, a barrister and writer, in his article ‘British Novelists—Richardson, Miss Austen, Scott’ for Fraser’s Magazine in January 1860, praised her ‘power of impressing reality upon her characters’ and ‘that delicate atmosphere of satire which pervades her works’. He gave much space to discussing Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma, a short paragraph to Mansfield Park, a few lines to Persuasion, and dismissed Northanger Abbey in one sentence as ‘not unworthy of its companions, although it was not thought deserving of publication until after its writer’s reputation was made.’39

The novelist Julia Kavanagh, in her literary biography English Women of Letters (1862), also recognised Austen’s realism, but disapproved of her satirical approach: ‘She refused to build herself, or to help to build for others, any romantic ideal of love, virtue, or sorrow. She laughed at her first heroine, Catherine Morland . . . and described her by negatives. Her irony, though gentle, was a fault, and the parent of much coldness. She learned to check it, but she never conquered it entirely. Catherine, though she makes us smile, is amiable and innocent, and she contrasts pleasantly with Isabella Thorpe.’40 Kavanagh mentioned briefly ‘Mrs. Radcliffe’s romances’, but did not relate them to Austen’s description of Catherine, or comment upon the parodic aspects of the work.

More perceptive is the anonymous article on ‘Miss Austen’ in the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine in 1866, in which the writer alludes to the paragraph in defence of novels, and takes it as a sign that Austen

saw and recognised the value of the novel, and with unusual sagacity set to work to raise it from its degraded position . . . she resolved to paint the world as she saw it, and to substitute rational for false amusement. That such a resolution ever occurred to her in this precise form is, of course, conjecture, but that she saw that the position novels held in the opinion of the world was in a great measure the fault of the writers, and determined to found her books on a more real base, is plain from several passages in Northanger Abbey.41

The critic considers that in this ‘her first book, she does not, as may be conjectured, arrive at so high a pitch of art as she afterwards attained. In spite of some very excellent character drawing, the book, on the whole, is crude, the interest insufficient, and the story incompletely worked out.’ This writer still remembered the now unfashionable gothic romances, and so was able to identify the scene in which Catherine discovers a laundry list in the black and gold cabinet as originating in Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest.

Criticism in the later Victorian period stems from the publication by her nephew, the Revd James Edward Austen-Leigh (1798–1874), of the Memoir of Jane Austen in early 1870, which proved sufficiently popular to be followed by an enlarged second edition in 1871. Austen-Leigh repeats the family claims that his aunt preferred the works of Johnson, Cowper and Crabbe to most novels, apart from Sir Charles Grandison and those of Maria Edgeworth, thus once again marginalising Northanger Abbey and indeed linking it with her teenage writings:

Instead of presenting faithful copies of nature, these tales [the later juvenilia] were generally burlesques, ridiculing the improbable events and exaggerated sentiments which she had met with in sundry silly romances. Something of this fancy is to be found in ‘Northanger Abbey,’ but she soon left it far behind in her subsequent course. It would seem as if she were first taking note of all the faults to be avoided, and curiously considering how she ought not to write before she attempted to put forth her strength in the right direction.

It is from the Memoir that we learn the circumstances of the manuscript’s neglect by Crosby & Co, and the family’s understandable satisfaction when the publisher learned the author’s identity only after he had returned her manuscript to Henry Austen.42

This idea of Austen as essentially a satirist of popular romances and progenitor of a serious, moral genre reaches its first, full statement in the long article on the Memoir by the Shakespearean scholar Richard Simpson in the North British Review for April 1870. Here, for the first time, a critic traces the conceptual growth between the first and last three novels, classifying Northanger Abbey with Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. In claiming that she lacked literary education, apart from her favourites Johnson and Richardson, he takes up Henry Austen’s picture of Jane as an instinctive genius, who learned her art, like Shakespeare, by ironic observation of society. Simpson credits Northanger Abbey as part of her early artistic practice in developing her craft by ridiculing the unreality and improbability of the plots of contemporary novels, and recognises its specific Radcliffian origins; however, he felt that, as one of her early, polemical triad of novels dedicated to criticising novelistic excesses, Northanger Abbey pushed the polemical intention even to the verge of caricature.43

Another anonymous review article discussing the Memoir, ‘Jane Austen’, appeared in St Paul’s Magazine for March 1870. The writer was lukewarm in his praise of the novels, finding the heroines in general rather unlikeable, and much preferred Scott as being the ‘novelist who has best . . . achieved the most natural amalgamation of the romantic and the real’. However, his last paragraph, though cool in its summary, significantly pointed out that: ‘Jane Austen’s works – though not devoured by young ladies of our period . . . are pondered over with most attention and most appreciation by men of thought and literary education.’44

Despite this assumption that it was only male literary critics who were likely to devote consideration to Austen’s works, a few years later the prolific Scottish novelist Margaret Oliphant commented on Northanger Abbey, recognising it as a ‘laughing assault upon Mrs. Radcliffe’:

Catherine Morland, with all her enthusiasm and her mistakes, her modest tenderness and right feeling, and the fine instinct which runs through her simplicity, is the most captivating picture of a very young girl which fiction, perhaps, has ever furnished . . . The machinery of the story is wonderfully bad, and General Tylney [sic] an incredible monster; but all the scenes in Bath – the vulgar Thorpes, the goodhumoured Mrs. Allen – are clear and vivid as the daylight, and Catherine herself throughout always the most delightful little gentlewoman, never wrong in instinct and feeling, notwithstanding all her amusing foolishness.45

After the Memoir, the next step forward in Austenian studies came in 1884, when Austen’s great-nephew, Lord Brabourne (1829–93) published his two-volume edition of the Letters of Jane Austen, and thus provided information on her life which could be related to her creative writings. The novelist Mrs Humphry Ward wrote a review article, ‘Style and Miss Austen’, in Macmillan’s Magazine, and particularly enjoyed the letters written between 1796 and 1799:

It is in the story of Catherine Morland that we get the inimitable literary expression of that exuberant girlish wit, which expressed itself in letters and talk and harmless flirtations before it took to itself literary shape, and it is pleasant to turn from the high spirits of that delightful book to some of the first letters in this collection, and so to realise afresh, by means of such records of the woman, the perfect spontaneity of the writer. Any one who has ever interested himself in the impulsive little heroine . . . will feel that in one or two of these newly-printed letters he comes very near to the secret of Catherine’s manufacture.46

It was in the early twentieth century that the ‘men of thought and literary education’ turned their attention towards the other literary references in Northanger Abbey, apart from those obviously pertaining to Radcliffe’s works. The seven novels in Isabella’s list had been forgotten long ago, and in 1901 John Louis Haney considered them worthy of an article in Modern Language Notes, in which he identified their authorship and cited contemporary reviews.47 However, this information passed unnoticed, and other scholars continued to write to Notes & Queries seeking for confirmation as to the authenticity of the titles. Alan McKillop gave full details again in 1921 but it was not until Michael Sadleir read a paper to the English Association on 11 February 1927, that the literary world finally took note and accepted that these were genuine gothic romances.48 Even then, when the Folio Society reprinted all seven in 1968 as The Northanger Set of Jane Austen Horrid Novels, edited by Devendra P. Varma, some reviewers gave him unjustified credit for priority in identifying them.49

To mark the centenary of Austen’s death in July 1917, the scholar Reginald Farrer wrote an influential essay for the Quarterly Review, pointing out that:

In Northanger Abbey Jane Austen takes a big stride forward. Developing her taste for technical problems, she here tackles a very difficult one – in an artist’s consciousness of the problem, indeed, but with youth’s indomitable unconsciousness of its full difficulty. A lesser writer or a maturer, would have either jibbed at such a task as that of interweaving two motives, of parody and serious drama, or would have crashed heavily through their thin ice. In buoyancy of youth and certainty of power, Jane Austen skims straight across the peril, and achieves a triumph so complete that easy readers run the risk of missing both triumph and problem, in mere joy of the book . . . In fact, Northanger Abbey marks the point of transition between the author’s first period and her second.

Writing in the middle of the First World War, Farrer considers ‘the sane sensible young women of our own day’ – who, as his readers would know, were working in munitions factories or as nurses in military hospitals – are ‘infinitely nearer to Jane Austen’ than the ‘flopping vaporous fools who were the fashion among the Turkish-minded male novelists’ of the Victorian era.50

The huge contribution of the twentieth century to Austenian scholarship came with the first really scholarly edition of the novels, by R. W. Chapman, published by Oxford University Press in 1923 in five volumes (Northanger Abbey together with Persuasion, as they had originally appeared), which included numerous indexes and short essays on matters of bibliographical and historical interest; for the first time, trustworthy texts and much useful contextual knowledge were available to critics, students and general readership alike. The first writer to enjoy the benefit of Chapman’s pioneering work was his Oxford colleague, Mary Lascelles, whose Jane Austen and Her Art (1939) set a new standard in Austen criticism, combining as it did biographical information with lucid discussions of Austen’s style and narrative art; a model of clarity, it has remained in print ever since its first appearance. Lascelles sees that

the burlesque element in Northanger Abbey has a pretty intricacy and variety. Its strands are ingeniously interwoven with one another – but not so well woven into the rest of the fabric. There is weakness in the slight connexion between Catherine’s fancied and her actual adventures at the climax of the story. The General’s interference with her fortunes is neither a consequence of her foolish misconception of him (as it would be in any of the stock burlesques of the age), nor an amusing looking-glass version of it. And not all the light, gay references to her heroineship at the end can draw these two together.51

Subsequent twentieth-century criticism of Northanger Abbey has concentrated on four main topics, which to some extent intertwine. The first, developing from the rediscovery of the gothic novels parodied in Northanger Abbey, is the identification of Austen’s sources. This has resulted in a detailed exploration of her novels’ indebtedness to a wide range of eighteenth-century literary, moral and philosophical writing. This theme motivates the early studies by Harrison R. Steeves in Before Jane Austen (1965), Frank W. Bradbrook in Jane Austen and Her Predecessors (1966) and Kenneth L. Moler in Jane Austen’s Art of Allusion (1968).52 Other scholars have more narrowly analysed Northanger Abbey’s use of conduct books and drama. Penny Gay, for example, observes in Jane Austen and the Theatre (2002) that although both Henry and Catherine grow out of their fondness for cheap theatrical sensation, ‘this “moral”, nevertheless, is presented in a text which shares many of the characteristics of the genre it supposedly repudiates. Sparkling dialogue between energetic young people, dramaturgically brilliant scenes, a delighted recognition of fiction’s artifice shared between author and audience.’53

Austen’s opinions about her contemporaries’ writing have particularly interested scholars. Since it is an open target in Northanger Abbey, Radcliffe’s Udolpho offers an intriguing case in point. Although the conventional view holds that Austen mocks Radcliffe’s gothic fiction for its ‘horrid’ perversions of probability,  several critics have argued instead that Northanger Abbey uses Udolpho to elevate ordinary feelings: to make ‘common anxiety’ as important as romance, as Judith Wilt observes in Ghosts of the Gothic: Austen, Eliot, and Lawrence (1980).54 Austen’s novel can be seen as transforming Radcliffe’s murderous tyrants into mere fortune-hunters, her oppressed heroines into women on the marriage market and the gothic world into Bath society. According to this reading, Henry Tilney is guilty of male contempt for women’s culture, and is partly responsible for Catherine’s delusions at Northanger. Maria Jerinic’s ‘In Defense of the Gothic: Rereading Northanger Abbey’, for example, argues that the book’s satire derogates not only novel-mad females, but also ‘reading men’ like Henry, who construct ‘visions of romance’ that make women vulnerable.55

Austen’s sources include didactic fictions which prescribed proper feminine conduct. Evidently, Austen did not find these convincing, since scholars have detected that she rewrote their scenes in order to show the complexity of making moral decisions. In Northanger Abbey, the result is a puzzling heroine who leaves behind an ambivalent reader. Mary Waldron suggests in Jane Austen and the Fiction of her Time (2001) that ‘Catherine is, on her first introduction to the world, neither like Emmeline [Smith’s heroine in The Orphan of the Castle], who knows the right moves by instinct, nor Arabella [Lennox’s heroine in The Female Quixote], so bemused by her reading that she cannot tell reality from fiction . . . Thus Austen complicates the interplay of fictional forms and leaves the reader unsure whether to approve or disapprove of the heroine.’56

Catherine’s ability to understand the world informs the second, main topic of criticism: education. Catherine seems not to learn anything from conduct books, popular manuals outlining proper feminine behaviour. In Jane Austen and the Province of Womanhood (1989), Alison G. Sulloway observes that these were written by men who often betrayed condescending attitudes towards women – as Henry shows when he lectures Catherine on the picturesque, taking care not to tire her with too much information. Moreover, these manuals confined women to a stifling, domestic sphere whereas the unspoiled – and uneducated – Catherine prefers the outdoors: ‘Northanger Abbey is fully as much an irreverent mockery of the conduct-book orthodoxies about women’s confined spaces, such as ballrooms, schoolrooms, and drawing rooms indoors, and gardens outdoors as it is a mockery of the Gothic novel.’57 Indeed, Jocelyn Harris’s Jane Austen’s Art of Memory (1989) reveals that Catherine’s education resembles that recommended by the philosopher John Locke in his epistemological treatise Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Already trained in healthy, physical exercise, Catherine learns to rely on her individual reasoning, and reject as useless both fashionable accomplishments and imaginative play.58 As Joseph Wiesenfarth explains in The Errand of Form (1967), when Catherine weighs facts against the false statements of her companions, like John Thorpe’s estimation of his horse’s speed, ‘She is educated to reality.’59

The novel’s apparent rejection of fantasy has led to readings of Austen as a reactionary writer. In Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (1975), Marilyn Butler argues that Northanger Abbey provides an anti-Jacobin lesson in morality aimed at radical sensibility. Sentimental philosophy held that human beings were naturally good, and that emotion was a praiseworthy expression of instinctive morality. According to Butler, Catherine is taught two valuable lessons – that the ‘sentimentalist’s optimism about human nature’ is misplaced and that, in order to assess human character accurately, she must suspend her favoured kind of mental activity, ‘her habit of romantic invention’. Isabella, foil to Catherine, meanwhile represents one of a series of dangerous women in Austen who pursue the modern creed of self: opportunistic and egotistical, she threatens the happiness of her immediate circle and, more generally, the moral stability of society.60

Although almost all critics agree that Catherine needs to learn something, they differ on what and how. Some maintain she must teach herself. Alistair M. Duckworth acknowledges that conventional morality is not adequate for Catherine, but he disagrees that reason should be her only guide, pointing out in The Improvement of the Estate (1971) that it is instinct, not reason, that warns her of General Tilney’s villainy. In contrast, Isabella exemplifies false learning: Duckworth argues that her artifice, avarice and superficiality typify the values that Austen feared were eroding traditional, Christian society.61 This novel, he concludes, is Austen’s first real exploration of a heroine’s moral growth through an education in manners. Catherine also illustrates the inadequacy of the education and culture generally available to Regency women. Jane Nardin explains that, having been misled by her sheltered, rural upbringing, she must learn to read manners properly in order to recognise that they can mask evil, as General Tilney’s do.62 Other scholars, however, believe that Henry educates Catherine. Stuart M. Tave devotes a chapter in Some Words of Jane Austen (1973) to suggesting that the artless heroine learns from Henry a ‘moral art, an art of common life’ that remedies her ignorance and bleaches out the false arts of Radcliffe.63 Henry’s behaviour and conversation can also be seen as a model of enlightenment reason that combats snobbery and delusion. By exposing her gothic-fed misreading, suggests Howard S. Babb in Jane Austen’s Novels: The Fabric of Dialogue (1962), Henry teaches Catherine both how to act in society and to examine herself.64

A final approach to the representation of education in the novel addresses the way Northanger Abbey affects the reader. In his 1963 ‘Introduction’ to a collection of critical essays on Austen, Ian Watt comments that Austen ‘enlarges the reader’s understanding of experience through making him realise how limited is that of her fictional characters’.65 Many critics find that the naive reader is ultimately the book’s target as Austen reverses readers’ expectations by turning an unheroic protagonist into a heroine, and a workaday reality into a network of gothic horrors. Karl Kroeber’s essay ‘Subverting a Hypocrite Lecteur’, for example, argues that Austen’s reader is mocked just as much as Catherine for believing in fictions.66 Readers thus learn to distrust the apparently simple oppositions between fantasy and reality, literature and history, the Thorpes and the Tilneys and Bath and Northanger. Lloyd W. Brown notes in Bits of Ivory (1973) that Austen also educates the reader through the novel’s conversations, in which characters, by ‘talking at cross-purposes’, present different versions of the truth which the reader must unravel.67 Accordingly, as they peruse the novel, readers experience a process of discovery similar to Catherine’s, and learn to re-examine their own assumptions about life and fiction.

The sophisticated structure of Northanger Abbey also leads critics to explore the novel as a complex work of art, the third topic of modern criticism. The relationship between Northanger Abbey and Austen’s other writings has become a critical concern in the twentieth century. Generally, scholars have situated it between Austen’s juvenilia and her five other completed novels as a fledgling enterprise. Many see it as a blend and revision of Austen’s juvenile burlesques of sentimental conventions. Juliet McMaster, for example, comparing it in Jane Austen the Novelist: Past and Present (1996) with Austen’s travesty, ‘The Beautifull Cassandra’, points out that ‘the narrative has been reconceived in moral terms’ as Austen purges Catherine of the self-indulgence that ruled her earlier heroine, and relocates outrageous behaviour in Isabella and John Thorpe.68

At the same time, Northanger Abbey shows a real development in Austen’s narrative voice. Jan Fergus in Jane Austen: A Literary Life (1991) argues that ‘Revising Susan or Northanger Abbey was for Austen an exercise in control and distance. It permitted her to play with and manipulate her readers at the same time that she both mocked and exploited the conventions of the sentimental and the Gothic novel.’69 Indeed, several critics recognise that the book possesses a complex narrative viewpoint. A. Walton Litz’s Jane Austen: A Study of Her Artistic Development (1965) offers the explanation that Henry Tilney functions as an unreliable narrator, sometimes a faulty character, sometimes the author’s voice.70 In Jane Austen and the Fiction of Culture (1990), the anthropologists Richard Handler and Daniel Segal maintain that Austen’s characters, although shaped by their society, are also individuals who understand ordinary ideas like common sense quite differently from one another. Since they can therefore misread situations, they should be aware of multiple possibilities – a precaution Catherine does not  understand.71 The complexity of Northanger Abbey is also a result of its multi-layered parody. Tara Ghoshal Wallace points out that the book ‘contains within it a critique of all the forms it takes . . . parody and realism are as vulnerable to the narrator’s irony as is the rhetoric of sentimentalism’.72 Bharat Tandon goes further to suggest in Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation (2003) that Northanger Abbey deploys a new narrative technique ‘which enables Austen to accept the necessity of form without always accepting its casualties’, and thus transcends the genres of gothic, parody and even anti-parody.73

The main problem for these critics is the relationship between the Bath scenes and the parodic Northanger sections of the book. Some see the two as mirroring satire in which Bath contains as many hazards and villains as the average ‘horrid’ gothic novel, and novels are as full of conventions as Bath. Andrew Wright’s Jane Austen’s Novels: A Study in Structure (1954) early on maintained that the bipartite structure in Northanger Abbey reveals the reciprocal criticism that the gothic poses to good sense and good sense to the gothic.74 Nonetheless, other scholars consider the parts disjunctive, many also seeing the novel as hampered by parody. Psychoanalytic approaches have explained this disjunction as a symptom of Austen’s more or less unconscious revelation of her feelings. In 1940, D. W. Harding maintained that Austen encoded her caustic sentiments in a style that veiled its virulence, in order to express her criticism of superficial society without offending her neighbours. His prime example is Henry Tilney’s remark concerning ‘a neighbourhood of voluntary spies’ in his reproach to Catherine on discovering her suspicions of his father. In 1952, Marvin Mudrick developed this thesis in his highly influential Jane Austen: Irony as Defense and Discovery, seeing Northanger Abbey as undermining both the gothic and the Bath worlds.75

The fourth topic in twentieth-century criticism explores Austen’s attitudes towards women’s place in society. Two significantly different feminist approaches have been applied to her work.76 The first characterises Austen as a conscious feminist, locating her in the tradition of such authors as Elizabeth Inchbald and Mary Wollstonecraft, who were criticising sentimental conventions for enfeebling women. These critics find Northanger Abbey especially sympathetic to women’s concerns in its open defence of female novelists and readers in the passage ending chapter 5. In particular, Claudia L. Johnson sees the novel as a response to a repressive environment riven by fears of class violence and women’s rebelliousness. Such fears were exacerbated by such recent events as the French Revolution, the Terror and revelations connecting feminist ideology with scandalous incidents in Wollstonecraft’s personal life. Johnson argues that by depicting a society in which men act as domestic tyrants ominously similar to gothic villains, Northanger Abbey shows that the gothic mode is not a foolish fantasy but a valid expression of women’s feelings.77 Another argument suggests that, in the gothic section of the narrative, Austen is not parodying popular fiction itself, but rather a male value system that stereotypes women as ignorant and weak.78

Whereas this approach casts Austen as a liberal thinker, an alternative strand of feminist critics sees a contradiction between her alleged Toryism and her concern for women’s equality. Mary Poovey in The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer (1984)  understands Austen as limited by her conventionality and maintains that Northanger Abbey condemns women’s feelings, showing that ‘female desire is a natural force that is, at best, morally ambiguous; at worst . . . capable of distorting reality’ and ‘disrupting social  relations’.79 Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s innovative The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) in contrast interprets the novel as a subversive text that muffles its protests against an unfair class and gender system in irony, innuendo and a conventional plot.80 Tony Tanner in Jane Austen (1986) also finds a hidden feminism in the book’s restrained passion. While noting that the novel contains powerful images of political and sexual repression, particularly Catherine’s opening of the inner drawer of the cabinet in her Northanger chamber, he concludes that ‘the anger in Northanger Abbey . . . is the real hidden horror’.81 Feminist criticism has thus reinterpreted the novel’s parody and helped to restore the book to prominence in the Austen canon.

critical significance

It is largely thanks to Austen and her desire to parody the gothic romances by Ann Radcliffe and her imitators that the memories of them have been preserved in the pages of Northanger Abbey like dried flowers, or flies in amber; and indeed, in modern reprints, they remain both exciting as fantasies, and illuminating for the study of the tastes and feelings of the past. With some willing suspension of disbelief, it is still possible even for the sophisticated reader of the twenty-first century to agree with Henry Tilney when he says: ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again;—I remember finishing it in two days—my hair standing on end the whole time’ (vol. 1, ch. 14), since Radcliffe is an adept at creating an atmosphere of suspense and terror, however unlikely her red herrings, cliffhangers and plot-lines may eventually turn out to be when the last chapter is reached. There is also a further aspect of factual, not fictional, irony involved for the modern reader to enjoy, because Radcliffe herself had never travelled to Italy, France or Switzerland to see the places she describes in so much picturesque and convincing detail, but obtained her information from the works of other travel writers and from studying the landscape paintings of Claude Lorraine and Salvator Rosa, combining all with a great deal of imagination.

Austen never lost her interest in reading and mocking unrealistic fiction – in January 1811 Mary Brunton published Self-Control, in which the heroine Laura Montreville is kidnapped and taken to the wilds of Canada, escaping the villain by floating down the St Lawrence river in an Indian canoe, an idea which obviously provoked much amusement in the Austen household. It is not known when Jane Austen first read this novel, but in October 1813 she wrote to Cassandra: ‘I am looking over Self Control again, & my opinion is confirmed of its’ being an excellently-meant, elegantly-written Work, without anything of Nature or Probability in it. I declare I do not know whether Laura’s passage down the American River, is not the most natural, possible, every-day thing she ever does.—’ (11–12 October 1813, Letters, p. 234); and later, in November 1814, she promised her niece Anna Lefroy that she would write ‘a close Imitation of “Self-control” as soon as I can;—I will improve upon it; — my Heroine shall not merely be wafted down an American river in a boat by herself, she shall cross the Atlantic in the same way, & never stop till she reaches Gravesent. —’ (24 November 1814, Letters, p. 283). In the short squib ‘Plan of a Novel’, written probably in the summer of 1816, some of the episodes in Self-Control are again recalled.

Apart from being the only one of Austen’s works deliberately written as a parody of other novels, Northanger Abbey has another unique qualification, that of being her only completed Bildungsroman. Catherine is the one heroine who actually leaves home and meets her future husband in some hitherto unknown location, and has unpredictable adventures in consequence. The heroines of Austen’s other novels are all home-based and it is the men – sometimes heroes, sometimes villains – who enter their tight  little circles of society. Another significant point about Northanger Abbey is that it seems to lead on to Austen’s last, unfinished work, Sanditon, for in this the theme of novels and their effect upon their readers, is once again invoked. In the opening chapters the heroine, Charlotte Heywood, leaves home in her Sussex village for a holiday in the budding seaside resort of Sanditon where, it may  reasonably be guessed, she will find a husband in the person of Sidney Parker. However, Charlotte is specifically described as being quite the reverse of Catherine Morland – she is ‘a very sober-minded young Lady, sufficiently well-read in Novels to supply her Imagination with amusement, but not at all unreasonably influenced by them’ (S, ch. 6); and in this case it is the young man, the would-be lecherous baronet Sir Edward Denham, who ‘had read more sentimental Novels than agreed with him.—With a perversity of Judgement, which must be attributed to his not having by Nature a very strong head, the Graces, the Spirit, the Ingenuity & the Perseverance, of the Villain of the Story outweighed all his absurdities & all his Atrocities with Sir Edward. With him, such Conduct was Genius, Fire & Feeling’ (S, ch. 8). With another backward glance at Self-Control, Austen tells us that Sir Edward dreams wistfully of abducting the orphan Clara Brereton, the object of his amatory fantasies, to some solitary house in the neighbourhood of Tombuctoo. It can be envisaged that, again in parallel with Catherine in Northanger Abbey, Charlotte Heywood will have adventures forced upon her by the obsessions of the Parker and Denham families; and perhaps it was the fact of rereading the manuscript of Northanger Abbey in 1816 and writing her ‘Advertisement’ for it, which inspired Austen to recycle some of these her earliest ideas into the plot for another comic Bildungsroman with a similar topsyturvy parodic storyline.


This little work was finished in the year 1803, and intended for immediate publication. It was disposed of to a bookseller, it was even advertised, and why the business proceeded no farther, the author has never been able to learn. That any bookseller should think it worth while to purchase what he did not think it worth while to publish seems extraordinary. But with this, neither the author nor the public have any other concern than as some observation is necessary upon those parts of the work which thirteen years have made comparatively obsolete. The public are entreated to bear in mind that thirteen years have passed since it was finished, many more since it was begun, and that during that period, places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes.


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. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard—and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence besides two good livings—and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as any body might expect, she still lived on—lived to have six children more—to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word, for they were in general very plain, and Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any. She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank hair, and strong features;—so much for her person;—and not less unpropitious for heroism seemed her mind. She was fond of all boys’ plays, and greatly preferred cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush. Indeed she had no taste for a garden; and if she gathered flowers at all, it was chiefly for the pleasure of mischief—at least so it was conjectured from her always preferring those which she was forbidden to take.—Such were her propensities—her abilities were quite as extraordinary. She never could learn or understand any thing before she was taught; and sometimes not even then, for she was often inattentive, and occasionally stupid. Her mother was three months in teaching her only to repeat the “Beggar’s Petition;” and after all, her next sister, Sally, could say it better than she did. Not that &nsbp;Catherine was always stupid,—by no means; she learnt the fable of “The Hare and many Friends,” as quickly as any girl in England. Her mother wished her to learn music; and Catherine was sure she should like it, for she was very fond of tinkling the keys of the old forlorn spinnet; so, at eight years old she began. She learnt a year, and could not bear it;—and Mrs. Morland, who did not insist on her daughters being accomplished in spite of incapacity or distaste, allowed her to leave off. The day which dismissed the music-master was one of the happiest of Catherine’s life. Her taste for drawing was not superior; though whenever she could obtain the outside of a letter from her mother, or seize upon any other odd piece of paper, she did what she could in that way, by drawing houses and trees, hens and chickens, all very much like one another.—Writing and accounts she was taught by her father; French by her mother: her proficiency in either was not remarkable, and she shirked her lessons in both whenever she could. What a strange, unaccountable character!—for with all these symptoms of profligacy at ten years old, she had neither a bad heart nor a bad temper; was seldom stubborn, scarcely ever quarrelsome, and very kind to the little ones, with few interruptions of tyranny; she was moreover noisy and wild, hated  confinement and cleanliness, and loved nothing so well in the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house.

Such was Catherine Morland at ten. At fifteen, appearances were mending; she began to curl her hair and long for balls; her complexion improved, her features were softened by plumpness and colour, her eyes gained more animation, and her figure more consequence. Her love of dirt gave way to an inclination for finery, and she grew clean as she grew smart; she had now the pleasure of sometimes hearing her father and mother remark on her personal improvement. “ Catherine grows quite a good-looking girl,—she is almost pretty to day,” were words which caught her ears now and then; and how welcome were the sounds! To look almost pretty, is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life, than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.

Mrs. Morland was a very good woman, and wished to see her children every thing they ought to be; but her time was so much occupied in lying-in and teaching the little ones, that her elder daughters were inevitably left to shift for themselves; and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, base ball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books—or at least books of information—for, provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all. But 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 Shakspeare 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.”


“The poor beetle, which we tread upon,In corporal sufferance feels a pang as greatAs when a giant dies.”

And that a young woman in love always looks

——“like Patience on a monumentSmiling at Grief.”

So far her improvement was sufficient—and in many other points she came on exceedingly well; for though she could not write sonnets, she brought herself to read them; and though there seemed no chance of her throwing a whole party into raptures by a prelude on the pianoforte, of her own composition, she could listen to other people’s performance with very little fatigue. Her greatest deficiency was in the pencil—she had no notion of drawing—not enough even to attempt a sketch of her lover’s profile, that she might be detected in the design. There she fell miserably short of the true heroic height. At present she did not know her own poverty, for she had no lover to pourtray. She had reached the age of seventeen, without having seen one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility; without having inspired one real passion, and without having excited even any admiration but what was very moderate and very transient. This was strange indeed! But strange things may be generally accounted for if their cause be fairly searched out. There was not one lord in the neighbourhood; no—not even a baronet. There was not one family among their acquaintance who had reared and supported a boy accidentally found at their door—not one young man whose origin was unknown. Her father had no ward, and the squire of the parish no children.

But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.

Mr. Allen, who owned the chief of the property about Fullerton, the village in Wiltshire where the Morlands lived, was ordered to Bath for the benefit of a gouty constitution;—and his lady, a good-humoured woman, fond of Miss Morland, and probably aware that if adventures will not befal a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad, invited her to go with them. Mr. and Mrs. Morland were all compliance, and Catherine all happiness.

Note on the text

Northanger Abbeywas first published in December 1817 (with a printed date of 1818) by John Murray of Albemarle Street, London, as volumes 1 and 2 of a four-volume set which also included Persuasionand which cost 24s. Both the volumes of northanger abbeywere printed by C. Roworth of Bell Yard, Temple-bar. Jane Austen had died in July 1817 and so could not have seen or corrected proofs, and no manuscript for any part of northanger abbey as published, or the numerous earlier drafts of it in various forms, has survived.

The copytext for this edition is taken from a copy of the first edition held in Cambridge University Library (Syn.7.81.10-11). It has been collated against two copies in the Beinecke Library, Yale University (In Au74 818N and Tinker 207), and a copy in the British Library (CUP 403bb13). No significant differences were found between these copies.

In accordance with the principles of the Cambridge edition, the catchwords which appeared at the bottom of each page, a common feature of novels of the time, have not been recorded (and so the error which occurs for the catchwords in vol. 1, pp. 190--91 has not been recorded either). Dashes have been rationalised to single, double or treble M-dashes (which has involved the replacement of one single M-dash in vol 2, ch. 1, two in vol. 2, ch. 8 and four in vol. 2. ch. 10 made up of three hyphens, which do not seem to have any significance in themselves). Spacing and size of font have on occasion been adjusted to meet the presentational requirements of the Cambridge edition, and any italic punctuation following italic text and preceding a return to Roman has been changed to Roman font. Otherwise all changes to the copytext are recorded in the List of Corrections and Emendations.

As will be seen from the List of Corrections and Emendations the text is relatively clear from error and uncertainty. On two occasions in the second volume, however, both involving General Tilney, there is doubt about Austen’s intention in the matter of indirect speech. The first is in the paragraph beginning ‘The elegance of the breakfast set’ on p. 179. Closing quotation marks appear in the penultimate line, but no opening quotation marks are given. It seems Austen is intending particular attention to the General’s indirect speech and the question is where to place the opening quotation marks. Following other examples of Austen’s practice (see for example the paragraph beginning ‘The imposing effect’ in the same chapter, on pp. 180–1) we have chosen to place them in the third line of the paragraph, where it seems the narrative shifts into indirect speech mode. The second occasion is in vol. 2, ch. 11, in the paragraph beginning ‘A day or two’ on p. 215. The copytext has closing quotation marks after ‘in the country’ but again no opening quotation marks are given; we have chosen to open the quotation marks at ‘He often expressed his uneasiness’. But these choices are inevitably speculative.

It is noticeable that whereas in the novels published in Austen’s lifetime the great majority of direct speeches begin with a new paragraph, this is less often the case in northanger abbeyin this respect the text more closely resembles Austen’s surviving manuscripts, where paragraphing is much more sparse than in the published texts, and it is possible that Austen’s family, and publishers, were cautious about intervening too much in the manuscripts of both northanger abbey and Persuasion. Many of the idiosyncratic features of Austen’s manuscripts however, including contractions of verbs and spellings such as ‘agreable’ and ‘croud’, do not appear in the published text of northanger abbey.

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The title page of the first edition, used as copytext for this edition ofnorthanger abbey. Reproduced by permission of the Syn

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