veral years later the three women settled in Chawton Cottage in Hampshire, where Austen resided until the end of her life. She welcomed her return to the countryside and, with it, there came a renewed artistic vigor that led to the revision of her early novels. Sense and Sensibility, a reworking of "Elinor and Marianne," was published in 1811, followed by Pride and Prejudice, a reworking of "First Impressions," two years later.
Table of Contents
From the Pages of Northanger Abbey
The World of Jane Austen and Northanger Abbey
Advertisement, by the Authoress, to Northanger Abbey.
An Inspiration for Northanger Abbey
Comments & Questions
For Further Reading
From the Pages of
No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine. (page 7)
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. (page 9)
"In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes." (page 22)
No young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman's love is declared, it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her. (page 24)
Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love. (page 27)
Man only can be aware of the insensibility of man towards a new gown. (page 68)
Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it. Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter. (page 68)
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." (page 99)
A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing any thing, should conceal it as well as she can. (page 104)
From politics, it was an easy step to silence. (page 105)
"Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much, that they never find it necessary to use more than half." (page 107)
"I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible." (page 124)
"We can tempt you neither by amusement nor splendour, for our mode of living, as you see, is plain and unpretending; yet no endeavours shall be wanting on our side to make Northanger Abbey not wholly disagreeable." (page 130)
"You must be aware that when a young lady is (by whatever means) introduced into a dwelling of this kind, she is always lodged apart from the rest of the family. While they snugly repair to their own end of the house, she is formally conducted by Dorothy the ancient housekeeper up a different staircase, and along many gloomy passages, into an apartment never used since some cousin or kin died in it about twenty years before. Can you stand such a ceremony as this? Will not your mind misgive you, when you find yourself in this gloomy chamber--too lofty and extensive for you, with only the feeble rays of a single lamp to take in its size--its walls hung with tapestry exhibiting figures as large as life, and the bed, of dark green stuff or purple velvet, presenting even a funereal appearance. Will not your heart sink within you?" (page 148)
"Does our education prepare us for such atrocities?" (page 186)
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Northanger Abbey was published posthumously along with
Persuasion in 1818.
Published in 2005 by Barnes & Noble Classics with new
Introduction, Notes, Biography, Chronology, An Inspiration For,
Comments & Questions, and For Further Reading.
Introduction, Notes, and For Further Reading
Copyright @ 2005 by Alfred Mac Adam.
Note on Jane Austen, The World of Jane Austen and
Northanger Abbey, An Inspiration for Northanger Abbey, and
Comments & Questions
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The English novelist Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, the seventh of eight children, in the Parsonage House of Steventon, Hampshire, where she spent her first twenty-five years. During her relatively brief lifetime Austen witnessed political unrest, revolution, war, and industrialization, yet these momentous events are not the central or explicit subjects of her finely focused novels. Rather, Austen wrote out of her immediate experience: the world of the country gentry and middle-class professional and business families. Jane's father, the Reverend George Austen, was the well-read country rector of Steventon and her mother, Cassandra (nee Leigh), was descended from a well-connected line of learned clergymen. By no means wealthy, the Austens nonetheless enjoyed a comfortable and socially respectable life.
Jane and her beloved elder (and only) sister, Cassandra, were schooled in Southampton and Reading for short periods, but most of their education took place at home. Private theatrical performances in the barn at Steventon complemented Jane's studies of French, Italian, history, music, and eighteenth-century fiction. An avid reader from earliest childhood, she began writing at age twelve, no doubt encouraged by her highly literate and affectionate family. Indeed, family and writing were her great loves. Despite a momentary engagement in 1802, Jane Austen never married. Her first two extended narratives, "Elinor and Marianne" and "First Impressions," were written while she was at Steventon but were never published in their original form.
Following her father's retirement, Jane moved in 1801 with her parents and sister to Bath. That popular watering hole, removed from the country life Jane preferred, presented the observant young writer with a wealth of events and experiences that would later be put to good use in her novels. Austen moved to Southampton with her mother and sister after the death of her father in 1805. Se
Austen completed three more novels (Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion) in the Chawton sitting room. Productive and discreet, she was not widely known to be the author of her published work. All of her novels were published anonymously, including the posthumous appearance, thanks to her brother Henry, of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
The last years of Austen's life were relatively quiet and comfortable. Her final, unfinished work, Sanditon, was put aside in the spring of 1817, when her health sharply declined and she was taken to Winchester for medical treatment of what appears to have been Addison's disease or a form of lymphoma. Jane Austen died there on July 18, 1817, and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
The World of Jane Austen and Northanger Abbey
1775 The American Revolution begins in April. Jane Austen is born on December 16 in the Parsonage House in Steventon, Hampshire, England, the seventh of eight children (two girls and six boys) .
1778 Frances (Fanny) Burney publishes Evelina, a seminal work in the development of the novel of manners.
1781 German philosopher Immanuel Kant publishes the Cri tique of Pure Reason.
1782 The American Revolution ends. Fanny Burney's novel Cecilia is published.
1783 Cassandra and Jane Austen begin their formal educa tion in Southampton, followed by study in Reading.
1788 King George III of England suffers his first attack of mental illness, leaving the country in a state of uncer tainty and anxiety. George Gordon, Lord Byron, is born.
1789 George III recuperates. The French Revolution begins. William Blake's Songs of Innocence is published.
1791 American political writer Thomas Paine publishes the first part of The Rights of Man.
1792 Percy Bysshe Shelley is born. Mary Wollstonecraft pub lishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
1793 Europe is shocked by the execution of King Louis XVI of France and, some months later, his wife, Marie Antoinette; the Reign of Terror begins. England de clares war on France. Two of Austen's brothers, Francis (1774-1865) and Charles (1779-1852), serve in the
Royal Navy, but life in the countryside at Steventon re mains relatively tranquil.
1795 Austen begins her first novel, "Elinor and Marianne," written as letters (this early version is now lost); she will later revise the material as Sense and Sensibility. John Keats is born.
1796-1797 Austen drafts a second novel, "First Impressions," which was also never published; it will later be rewritten as Pride and Prejudice.
1798 Poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Cole ridge publish Lyrical Ballads.
1801 Jane's father, the Reverend George Austen, retires. He and his wife and two daughters leave the quiet country life of Steventon and move to the bustling, fashionable town of Bath.
1803 Austen's novel "Susan" is accepted for publication but does not see the light of day. The manuscript is eventu ally returned by the publisher. It will be revised and re leased posthumously as Northanger Abbey. The United States buys Louisiana from France. Ralph Waldo Emer son is born.
1804 Napoleon crowns himself emperor of France. Spain de clares war on Britain.
1805 Jane's father dies. Jane and her mother and sister sub sequently move to Southampton. Sir Walter Scott pub lishes The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
1809 After several years of moving about and short-term stays in various towns, the Austen women settle in Chawton Cottage in Hampshire; in the parlor of this house Austen writes her most famous works. Charles Darwin and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, are born.
1811 Austen begins Mansfield Park in February. In November Sense and Sensibility is published with the notation "By a Lady"; all of Austen's subsequent novels are also brought out anonymously. George III is declared in sane, and the Prince of Wales (the future King George IV) becomes regent.
1812 Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm and the first parts of
Lord Byron's Childe Harold are published. The United States declares war on Great Britain.
1813 Pride and Prejudice is published. Napoleon is exiled to Elba, and the Bourbons are restored to power.
1814 Mansfield Park is published.
1815 Napoleon is finally defeated at Waterloo.
1816 Emma is published. Charlotte Bronte is born.
1817 Austen begins the satiric novel Sanditon but puts it aside because of declining health. She dies on July 18 in Win chester and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.
1818 Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are published under Austen's brother Henry's supervision.
Northanger Abbey is the ideal introduction to Jane Austen's novels because in it we see the author defining the parameters of her craft. The text took shape in the fall of 1798 and by 1803 was a manuscript titled "Susan." Richard Crosby, a London publisher, bought it outright for PS10 but for some reason never produced the book. In 1813 Austen bought the manuscript back from Crosby for the same PS10 but never published it. In an 1817 letter, she rather flippantly remarks, "Miss Catherine is put upon the Shelve for the present, and I do not know that she will ever come out."
"Miss Catherine" is the "Susan" manuscript, now renamed Catherine. The work appeared only after Austen's death in 1817, and it was her brother Henry who gave the book its present title when he had it published along with Persuasion in 1818. Austen may have changed the 1803 text when she recovered it a decade later, but we cannot know to what extent because no manuscript exists. But the novel's austerity compared to her later works--its slim cast of characters, its spirited defense of novel-writing, its tendency toward satire and irony rather than psychological analysis--show a writer at the outset of her career.
The preeminence of satire in eighteenth-century English literature, with such giants as Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Henry Fielding, and Laurence Sterne, certainly had an influence on Austen. Like them, she deploys ironic and humorous stereotypes in Northanger Abbey, especially when she delineates important secondary figures, usually duplicitous or morally questionable characters, such as Isabella and John Thorpe or General Tilney. Rather than explain their thoughts or motives, Austen theatrically uses their speeches and actions to reveal their shallowness and egoism. Of their inner lives we learn nothing. It is Austen's heroine, Catherine Morland, who embodies the novelistic spirit: She possesses an evolving personality and matures as if she were real.
But who or, better, what was Richard Crosby, the mysterious man who purchased Austen's manuscript in 1803? Austen's biographers and critics refer to him as a publisher, but we must understand that what that word means now and what it meant in 1803, or in 1808 when he called Austen's bluff about seeking another publisher and offered to sell her manuscript back to her for PS10, and when he did in fact sell it back to her in 1813 are vastly different things. Crosby must have realized that a great change had taken place in English publishing. Women authors--Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth, and Ann Radcliffe among them--had stormed the literary marketplace. Suddenly women were writing books both sexes could enjoy and were actually making money doing so. While the idea that a "lady" would write for cash was still frowned upon, the fact is that writing constituted a career that liberated women from their traditional roles in society.
Attempting to capitalize on the vogue for female writers, Crosby planned to print Austen's manuscript and advertised it in a brochure he called "Flowers of Literature." So what we see in Crosby is the origin of modern publishing. He is a speculator who thinks, at least in 1803 when he invests his PS10, that he can turn a profit with Austen's "Susan."
Publishing in England and in the rest of Europe until the later eighteenth century combine
d supply and demand with patronage and speculation. That is, booksellers printed books (an expensive, labor-intensive process) they could reasonably expect to sell--medical texts, dance manuals, almanacs, plays, and translations of both modern authors and classics--and would produce works whose publication was financed by a grandee or group of subscribers. Unlike them, Crosby, so far as we know, was simply buying manuscripts, printing them, and selling his wares to either booksellers or lending libraries.
But Crosby was not an editor in the modern sense, so Austen had no one to help her eliminate inconsistencies from her manuscript, as we see in the opening of chapter IX, where, in one paragraph, Catherine Morland vows to be somewhere at noon and promptly decides to read at home until one. Even so, Austen was not a literary lamp burning in the provincial darkness. She could and clearly did test her products on her immediate family by reading her work aloud to them. Fortunately, her relations were both literate--at a time when the vast majority of people could neither write nor read--and literary; that is, they had cultivated literary tastes.
But even if she were surrounded by a small coterie of amateur critics, Austen was still faced with the enormous problems entailed in solitary composition and correction during the late eighteenth century. She would have to write using quill pens on paper that was, even in the late eighteenth century, a scarce commodity. Paper was made by hand, one sheet at a time, until 1798, when the first machine-made paper was manufactured. Naturally, there would be little need for writing paper in a virtually illiterate society, but the final decades of the eighteenth century set the stage for a new age of widespread literacy. The industrial revolution of the nineteenth century would make it possible to mass-produce books that a host of new readers, educated in the recently created public schools, could consume.