Sunday 28 March 2010


The third meeting was great. We had so much fun thanks to Jane Austen's  PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, its beautiful adaptations over the years and ... new acquisitions to our group: Antonella, Cristina, Simona and Valentina . They came from Rome to join us in the discussion of one of their favourite literary works  ever and the meeting was cheerful and amusing. We' just started discussing, actually! There is so much to be said yet ,  two hours are not enough for such an amazing novel.
Anyhow, something strange is haunting our meetings: each time the technological equipment of the library, which usually works, starts giving problems. Once is the TV and we have to use the computer, another time the DVD player and we have to use the computer... Today even the computer started giving problems... but we've made it as well. Only, I wonder, is it a message from Jane Austen herself? An invitation to read her books more than to watch the beautiful adaptations based on them? Maybe , who knows. But we are good girls: all of us  read or re-read Pride and Prejudice for our meeting today!

To open the discussion, after a very short introduction about the writing and the publication of the novel, we saw a clip (from Pride and Prejudice 2005 DVD, one of the extras in it). It was about dating in the 18th century and how different it was from nowadays for boys and girls to meet and have a date, the central role of balls, the absence of physical contacts.

Then we discussed
  • the use of letters
  • the role of first impressions
  • Elizabeth's and Darcy's pride and prejudice
  • Mr & Mrs Bennet as parents
  • the laws regulating inheritance in Sense and Sensibility (primogeniture) and Pride and Prejudice (Longbourn entailed to a male heir)
  • marriages
  • Darcy's reasons for his unfortunate first proposals
  • Elizabeth's reasons for her rejecting Darcy at first
Before and after discussing the key moment of the first proposal, we also saw and compared the different performances in the 1940, 1980, 1995 and 2005 adaptations of P&P. This is a collage I made of the 4 different versions.

Then we went on comparing

  • Wickham and Willoughby
  • Mr Collins and Mr Tilney (as clergy men)
  • The rushed endings in Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey with the end of Pride and Prejudice
At the end of the meeting everybody filled in a feedback survey and these are the results

Favourite character
Elizabeth Bennet   13
Mr Bennet  1
Mr Darcy 1

Unforgettable moments
First proposal  8
The arrival of the Bingleys and Mr Darcy at the first Ball   1
The conversation between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth    1
The Ball at Netherfield   1
Darcy's final proposal    2
Darcy and Elizabeth at Rosings  1
Elizabeth unexpectedly  meeting   Darcy at Pemberley   1
Darcy's letter to Elizabeth    1
Mr Collins's proposal to Elizabeth (so funny)     1
Darcy, Elizabeth and Col. Fitzwilliam in the sitting room at Rosings   1
The first ball    1

You think that
Darcy embodies prejudice and Elizabeth pride
Darcy embodies pride and Elizabeth prejudice   1
There's pride and prejudice in both   14

The funniest character in P& P is/are
Mr Bennet  2
Mrs Bennet   3
Mr Collins  10
Elizabeth's younger sisters
Lady Catherine De Bourgh

My favorite novel so far
Sense and Sensibility
Northanger Abbey
Pride and Prejudice  15

Favourite hero
Colonel Brandon 1
Edward Ferrars
John Willoughby
Henry Tilney    1
Mr Darcy   13

Favourite heroine
Elizabeth Bennet   15
Catherine Morland

Best P&P first proposal
1940     1
1995    14

Thanks to Pina, Valentina L., Valentina M., Maria Francesca, Martina, Serena, Cecilia, Marika, Costanza, Simona, Elisabetta, Mara, Ludovica, Antonella and Cristina for the lovely afternoon. I'll wait for all of you again on April 10th to discuss our reading of  Mansfield Park.

Saturday 27 March 2010


I / I Describe, with their Austenish epithet (or characteristic mark) the five Bennet girls, in order of age.
'Beautiful' Jane, 'quick' Lizzy, 'clever' Mary (who none the less lacks 'genius and taste'); Kitty (Catherine) is 'slight and delicate' and coughs (is she tubercular?); Lydia, the tallest, laughs and has dangerously high 'animal  spirits'. Their ages range from 22 (Jane), 20 (Elizabeth), down to the coltish Lydia (15). All are 'out'. Out on the marriage market, that is.

1/2 What does Mr Bingley wear on his first visit to the Bennets at Longbourn?
A blue coat. The colour indicates a certain (charming) lightness of character. Wickham possibly wears a blue coat to his wedding.

1/3 How many sisters does Mr Bingley have?
Excited gossip, in advance of any social connection, claims there are five. Only the odious Caroline and the nonentity Louisa later appear. The superfluity of women over men is one of the oddities of the Pride and Prejudice world. It is, of course, a time of war, when, on the home front, women outnumber men. 'The scarcity of men' is commented on later in the novel. The militia regiment at Meryton (providing a transient male population) enhances this impression of a paucity of eligible men. In the last sentences of the novel Jane Austen makes one of her very few historical references, when she mentions that 'the restoration of peace' will  upset the career of Wickham (now a regular soldier) and the
prospects of his wife, Lydia. This is, presumably, the Peace of Amiens, 1802. Wickham, we may surmise, may later atone for his sexual misdeeds by gallantry in the Peninsular War (like George Eliot's Arthur Donnithorne). He may even survive to fight and die at Waterloo, alongside Thackeray's George Osborne.
servicemen and militia men. At this date there was no conscription, so young men did not have to join up unless they wanted to. Only the determined tough ones joined the regular army, the others joined the militia (raised for service at home, in the event of French invasion). Militia could swagger about in red coats safe in the knowledge they would not face action overseas.

1/4 What is Mr Bennet's estate, Longbourn, worth, and who will eventually inherit it?
Two thousand pounds a year. In default of a male heir (Mrs Bennet gives up after the fifth daughter), it is entailed on a 'distant relation' (Mr Collins, as we  later learn). Longbourn has a farm attached, but Mr Bennet has no interest, apparently, in improving its crops and increasing its yields. His carriage horses do, however, double as agricultural beasts. He spends lavishly on his library, which obviously means much more to him than his fields. His sole rural pursuit seems to be shooting, so presumably he is sufficiently interested in his estate to keep a gamekeeper for his pheasant coverts.

1/5 How old is Charlotte Lucas?
Twenty-seven, ominously. Mrs Bennet ascribes Charlotte's misfortune to her being 'plain'—a Lucas family characteristic. Now, perhaps, Charlotte is too old for marriage. She is one of the clever women in Jane Austen afflicted with stupid parents and at least one stupid sister (Maria).

1/6 What first begins to attract Darcy to Elizabeth?
Her fine dark eyes and her brilliant complexion (usually a primary attraction in Austen's heroines).

1/7 Who is the commanding officer of the militia regiment which has been posted to Meryton for the winter, and who is the regiment second in command?
Colonel Forster and Captain Carter.

1/8 Where do the Bennet girls get their reading matter?
Clarke's library, in Meryton. It is also a good place to meet militia officers. Mary evidently raids her father's library. Elizabeth declares that she is not a great reader (although clearly literate).

1/9 What relation is Mr Philips to Elizabeth, and what is his profession?
Maternal uncle by marriage. He succeeded her maternal grandfather in his practice as a country attorney in Meryton.

1/10 Who introduces Wickham to the Bennetyoung ladies, and what do we know of him?
Mr Denny (that is, a lieutenant, with 'Mr' as his military title, like Wickham). Having served his purpose in
the plot he disappears. Later, although he may have been a party to the elopement of Wickham and Lydia, he claims ignorance.

1 / 1 1 How much did the chimney-piece in Lady Catherine's drawingroom cost?
Eight hundred pounds. This seems a vast cost, unless it were plundered from some castle in Italy. It might conceivably be a printer's error for £300 (in figures in the manuscript). Or perhaps it is just another Mr Collins absurdity.

1 / 1 2 How much does Wickham estimate that Pemberley is worth?
A 'clear' £10,000 a year. Bingley, the other very rich person in the novel, has a lump sum of £100,000 which would yield, from conventional investment, some £4,000-5,000 a year. Bingley, however, has no property to keep up.

1/13 How much money does Mr Collins lose at whist?
Five shillings. Quite a sum, for a country clergyman.

1/14 What is Sir William's favourite epithet?
'Superior'. He feels, with some justice, a haunting sense of his own indelible inferiority, despite the  presentation to his monarch at St James's.

1/15 What are Mary's shortcomings as a singer and pianist?
As a singer, her voice is weak and her manner affected. As a pianist, she has 'a pedantic air and conceited manner'. Listening to her performing in public plunges Elizabeth into 'agonies' of familial shame.
1/16 What does Mrs Gardiner inform her sister-in-law is the latest style in fashionable London?
Long sleeves. Presumably the needles start moving at once in Longbourn.
1/17 To whom does the faithless Wickham transfer his affections,and why?
Miss King, who has, through her grandfather's recent death, come by £10,000. We know little else of Miss King beyond this all-important fact and that she is (as spite portrays her) 'a nasty little freckled thing'.

1/18 How old is Elizabeth?
'I am not one and twenty'.

1/19 How far is it from Longbourn to Hunsford?
'Nearly fifty miles'—of'good road'. Austen is precise about such details, and evidently used road maps.

1/20 What is George Wickham's relationship to Fitzwilliam Darcy?

None. George is old Mr Darcy's godson (the gentleman's name, quite likely, was George Darcy, we may deduce). Fitzwilliam is old Mr Darcy's son.

1/21 How old is Darcy?
He is 28, which makes him thirteen years the senior of his 15-year-old sister (effectively, his ward) and some seven years older than Elizabeth.

1/22 Why cannot Lydia buy lunch for Elizabeth and Jane, when she meets them at an inn on their return from London?
The little hussy has spent the money on a bonnet ('ugly' as Elizabeth and Jane think).

1/23 Where does the shire militia go in the second week in May, after wintering at Meryton?
To the encampment at Brighton—for exercise or active service, we assume. Lydia goes with them, as a kind of camp-follower in training, with the light-headed wife of Colonel Forster. The encampment at Brighton is one of the historical dating points for the composition of the novel, and its action. The camps at Brighton were only held in 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1798, and  1803. Jane's brother Henry Austen was there in 1793 with the Oxfordshire militia, and the North Hants militia were also there that year—facts which evidently supplied her with information on camp life. Jane Austen fills in aspects of the social life of the militia via the younger Bennet sisters' connection with the commanding officer's family. We learn, for example, that Mrs Forster is 'a very young woman' (younger, presumably, than her husband who has risen in the service), light-headed, 'exuberant', and given to scheming. She takes a shine to Lydia (but not to Kitty, whom
 she does not invite to go with her at Brighton). Colonel Forster,  by contrast, is a 'sensible man'.

1/24 Why does Jane have to cede her place to Lydia, six years her junior?
'Because I am a married woman', Lydia says.

1/25 Why does Mr Bennet advise Mr Collins to 'stand by the nephew ?
Because 'he has more to give' give' (than Lady Catherine, in clerical preferments, that is).

Tuesday 23 March 2010

‘By the Seaside with Sanditon’ at Austenprose - Chapters 9/12 - It's time to get ready for Pride & Prejudice!

1. Sanditon, ch. 9/12

I'm so sorry I couldn't be as active as I first wished in this new group read Laurel Ann suggested for Jane Austen's SANDITON. I've actually finished re-reading it at the weekend but didn't have any time left to discuss my impressions of the final chapters . Any how reading all the others' comments was enlightening.

New characters were introduced in these latest chapters and several new events take place:
 -Charlotte meets Susan and Arthur Parker. 
- Mrs. Griffiths arrives in Sanditon bringing  three young ladies with her: one is a Miss Lambe an heiress that Lady Denham thinks will do for Sir Edward. 
-Charlotte sees Clara Brereton and Sir Edward secretly meeting.
-Clara returns and lies about her delay.
-Sir Edward seems  unaffected.
-Charlotte realizes that they deceive Lady Denham who would not approve of their match. 
-Sidney Parker , Austen intended  hero for Sanditon is introduced just before the narration was interrupted.

My brief final considerations are about  the huge range of possibilities and interactions which Jane Austen left unsolved/unexplored and that could have been so exciting if widened.
How would the numerous different characters interact?
What type of hero would Sydney Parker be?
Was Sir Edward destined to be punished with a dull marriage of convenience with rich but sicly Miss Lambe? Will he have any possibility of redemption with Clara?
What about Clara instead? Will she rival Charlotte in her relationship with the newly arrived Sydney Parker?
I've got a very long series of questions nobody could actually answer. I understand why so many writers tried to complete this promising start of an amazing piece of satirical narration. There's plenty of material for any inspired writer.
I absolutely need and want to read a good completion so... thanks to Laurel Ann, again,  who suggested us a complete list of attempts. (HERE)

2. Preparing next meeting and re-reading Pride and Prejudice

Next Saturday 27 March, my JA Book Club will discuss PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. The girls have so many enthusistic expectations. We will even have new guests from Rome who will share their experience as Janeites and their love for P&P (Mr Darcy?) with us.
I must, I MUST, start putting things together and finish preparing 
- warm -up activities
- excerpts to read and comment
- scenes from different P&P adaptations to be compared
- final feedback/survey

...but I shall conquer this. As someone I know would say, quoting somenone else you should know and recognize.

Let's start with some  notes about Jane Austen 's most popular novel and its historical setting.

Pride and Prejudice was written early (October 1796—August 1797) and published late, by Thomas Egerton (who paid £110 for the copyright, a price generated by the success of Sense and Sensibility) in January 1813. Initially entitled 'First Impressions', the text (a favourite with the Austen family) was probably revised (or as the author put it, 'lop't and crop't') a couple of years before its eventual acceptance. There are few historical markers in the text, but the narrative is probably set around the 1790s period of the initial composition. One of the principal markers is the billeting of militia troops in the Meryton area, among the civilian population. This practice ceased after 1795, with the construction of military barracks for such forces. Contemporary readers would probably have apprehended that the action of the novel was, therefore, antedated to an earlier wartime period.

Now some quizzes to prove your careful reading and your infallible memory

I / I Describe, with their Austenish epithet (or characteristic mark), the five Bennet girls, in order of age.
1/2 What does Mr Bingley wear on his first visit to the Bennets at Longbourn?
1/3 How many sisters does Mr Bingley have?
1/4 What is Mr Bennet's estate, Longbourn, worth, and who will eventually inherit it?
1/5 How old is Charlotte Lucas?
1/6 What first begins to attract Darcy to Elizabeth?
1/7 Who is the commanding officer of the militia regiment which has been posted in Meryton for the winter, and who is the regiment's second in command?
1/8 Where do the Bennet girls get their reading matter?
1/9 What relation is Mr Philips to Elizabeth, and what is his profession?

1/10 Who introduces Wickham to the Bennet young ladies, and what do we know of him?
I / I I How much did the chimney-piece in Lady Catherine's drawing-room cost?
1/12 How much does Wickham estimate that Pemberley is worth?
1/13 How much money does Mr Collins lose at whist?
1/14 What is Sir William's favourite epithet?
1/15 What are Mary's shortcomings as a singer and pianist?
1/16 What does Mrs Gardiner inform her sister-in-law is the latest style in fashionable London?
1/17 To whom does the faithless Wickham transfer his affections, and why?
1/18 How old is Elizabeth?
1/19 How far is it from Longbourn to Hunsford?
1/20 What is George Wickham's relationship to Fitzwilliam Darcy?
1/21 How old is Darcy?
1/22 Why cannot Lydia buy lunch for Elizabeth and Jane, when she meets them at an inn on their return from London?
1/23 Where does the shire militia go in the second week in May, after wintering at Meryton?
1/24 Why does Jane have to cede her place to Lydia, six years her junior?
1/25 Why does Mr Bennet advise Mr Collins to 'stand by the nephew'?
If you can't answer the questions ... it is better you leaf through the novel again. And your reward will be ... unforgettable moments with

MR DARCY 1995 - Colin Firth

MR DARCY 2005  - Matthew MacFadyen

Stay tuned for the answers to the questions and further suggestions on reading Pride & Prejudice.

Friday 19 March 2010

‘By the Seaside with Sanditon’ at Austenprose - Chapters 5/8

Day 2 of our group read & Day 4 of the great event at Austenprose

Belatedly commenting but ... I wanted to be here. After reading all the latest informative posts I've found there (at Austenprose) , after re- reading the scheduled chapters (5/8),  let's see what I can say about them.

- I love the metaliterature aspect in these chapters: Jane Austen is not new to reflections on writing and reading, on the inlfuence of novels in people's lives. She had done the same all through Northanger Abbey, for instance.

- The connection between Sir Edward and the Lovelaces. Do you really think Jane would have made him as treacherous, double - faced and wicked as Robert Lovelace in Richardson's Clarissa?

My impression is that she had in mind a complex but comic character, a villain but ... with possibilities of redemption? Someone like Willoughby in S&S but finally saved by the heroine , meaning Clara here? So far Sir Edward looks more like - as Laurel Ann said in one of her previous posts - a parody, a target of Jane's satire, a caricature of the Lovelaces and the Willoughbys.

If Jane only had the time to complete this novel, would Sir Edward have any chances for improvement? Might he have fallen in love with Clara, actually? Rather improbable? This is , anyhow, what I ‘d love him to become in a finished version.

- Lady Denham. She reminds me of Lady Susan. Isn’t she as smart, shrewd, selfish, self-centred, skilled as the Jane’s first heroine? Though, she is rather direct and less polite, less diplomatic than the charming wicked Lady Susan. Lady Denham is not interested in having everyone under her spell (she lacks the physical beauty) but wants to control and dominate anyone surrounding her. We don’t know much about her so far, yet I imagine her ready to be the deus ex machina of many twists and turns to come. Maybe I’m only influenced by the story of her two buried husbands…

Tuesday 16 March 2010

‘By the Seaside with Sanditon’ at Austenprose - Chapters 1/4

I read Jane Austen's  unfinished novel, SANDITON, just last summer. It is a short delightful reading, consisting of only 12 chapters. Here's my review of the experience which involved also the completion by Juliette Shapiro.

I didn't like that attempt at Sanditon completion very much and I'm still looking for a good one. Now I'm enjoying this experience of a group re- reading of Jane Austen's 12 chapters at Austenprose, Laurel Ann's amazing site. The schedule is full of interesting activities. Today, for example, we discussed chapters 1/4 from Sanditon. Here's Laurel Ann's post with a giveaway + our discussion. Tomorrow there will be an interesting post about seaside resorts in the Regency Era.
This is my contribution to the discussion:

Thanks for this invitation! I’m terribly busy but I couldn’t decline it. I couldn’t deny myself such a pleasant experience. I love the seaside. One of my favourite places. And reading Jane Austen by the sea can be bliss! Long premise to introduce my opinion on this unfinished novel, Sanditon, I’m re-reading with pleasure.

• I'm particularly intrigued by the seaside resort setting. It's quite different from the usual in Jane Austen's novels. I know some scenes of Persuasion or Manfield Park are set at the seaside but this novel, Sanditon, would have dealt with worldly life in that elegant place by the sea at Regency time. This would have make it different from a trip to Lyme Regis (Persuasion) or from the poor heroine’s native place (Fanny Price comes from Portsmouth).

• I'm also quite interested in Jane Austen's representation of her time conception of modernity and progress. But we have too little in this fragment to reflect on . It'd be great to have more to read and analyze in order to discover what Jane actually thought of modernity. I bet she was not so conservative. What do you think?

• Finally, my favourite character/s. I feel Sir Edward Denham might have developed into an interesting male figure … The same for Sydney Parker – who will be introduced only in the 12th chapter. They might have become rather round characters (using E. M. Forster’s categories), meaning complex ones, with a solid background and chances for redemption the first; strong temper and smart intelligence, destined to improve the second one. I think Jane Austen would have developed them more and more positively in order to make them become worthy to woo and win the heroines. Only suppositions. Who knows?

I only know I can’t be entered the giveaway, living in Italy,
:-(  but I just didn’t want to lose the precious occasion you gave us , Laurel Ann, to join such an interesting discussion.

Saturday 6 March 2010


The second meeting to discuss  Northanger Abbey started perfectly on time. Unusual for us Italians, but true. There were three new acquisitions but some of us were, unfortunately,  ill at home. Anyhow, Northanger Abbey and its  delightful plot and characters let us have a very good time.

We talked about
  • Northanger Abbey as an experiment of metaliterature;
  • Catherine Morland  as an antiheroine; comparison with Marianne Dashwood;
  • JA's Bath and  its wordly life;
  • Henry Tilney, his characterization, comparison with the male characters in Sense and Sensibility;
  • parody of the gothic taste
  • Minor characters and comedy:  Mr and Mrs Allen
  • Siblings & parallelisms: The Thorpes, The Tilneys
  • The gothic setting of Northanger Abbey
  • Education as a torment (Book I, ch. 14)
 We also read some excerpts from the book and finally watched two fragments from ITV Northanger Abbey (2007) starring Felicity Jones and J.J. Feild.

Most of the  girls are enthusiastic and eager to go on with this experienc. At least, this is the impression I get from their comments and smiles! The more hermetic of our group  is  still convinced we are reading romances, just romances. She feels Jane Austen's style is affected and her stories shallow. We ,  all we,  tried to convince her of the contrary but we really had a hard time. Can you guess who she is from the photos?

As you can see in some of the pictures above, today I asked the readers in my group to answer some questions after our discussion. It was a simple survey I prepared to get some feedback. Here are the results.

Henry Tilney  5
Catherine 4
Mr Allen 1


a. Catherine is forced to go out by the Thorpes and meets the Tilneys, she understands she's been deceived
b. Catherine's first frightening night at Northanger Abbey
c. The setting :  Bath
d. Catherine dancing with Henry at Bath for the first time
e. Henry arrives at Northanger Abbey and meets Catherine just getting out of his dead mother's room
f.  Henry teasing Catherine all the time
g. Catherine and Henry going to Northanger Abbey, his making fun of her love for gothic novels (3)
h. Henry and Catherine in the final clarification /proposal

Parody of the Gothic taste 3
Metaliterature 2
Love  1
Good manners and social conventions  3
Marriage 0
Sentimental education of the heroine 1

Colonel Brandon
Edward Ferrars
John Willoughby  2
Henry Tilney        8
John Thorpe
Frederick Tilney

Elinor              3
Marianne        2
Mrs Dashwood
Catherine        5
Isabella Thorpe
Eleanor Tilney

Till next meeting then! 
3 p.m.    March 27th     PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Thursday 4 March 2010


The master of the ceremonies introduced to her  a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; his name was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it. His address was good, and Catherine felt herself in high luck. (Chapter 3)

The male hero in Northanger Abbey is Henry Tilney, introduced by Jane Austen in chapter 3 with the words above.
Do you remember what I wrote about the male characters in Sense and Sensibility? In that novel the male characters are indefinite, colourless. Especially Brandon and Edward. Jane didn't pay much effort at painting them. Too few strokes. Well, Willoughby is different. She spends so many pages to make Elinor and all of us re-think our negative opinion of him. About 50 pages - the last ones - are clearly especially meant to get to that purpose! But what does darling (perverse?) Jane do after spending words and words to make us all understand Willoughby's reasons? She invites the reader not to believe he will leave the rest of his life in sorrow. And gives us a wink! I love perfidious Jane and ... Willoughby, of course.

What about Henry Tilney then?  He is a very well drawn character, one of the strongest among Jane Austen's heroes. We know much about him and his personality since he speaks his mind a lot in the novel, especially - if not exclusively- in his conversations with the young heroine.

He  comes to rescue Catherine,  like every sensitive brave hero in Gothic tales,  but not from a devilish villain , he saves her   from her imagination , inexperience and naivety which might have  led her to an uncertain dull future or to a very negative epilogue (similar to that of Isabella Thorpe).
The comparison with the gothic taste comes easily to my mind since it is the target of Austen masterful irony all through Northanger Abbey.

(cover blurb for the 1965 USA printing of Northanger Abbey
which was marketed as a gothic novel (rather than a gothic parody) from

(doesn't the Mr Tilney in the photos resemble the Regency portrait of a gentleman at the beginning of this post?

Now, let's try to know Henry Tilney from his own words

His attitude to women

“I should no more lay it down as a general rule that women write better letters than men, than that they sing better duets, or draw better landscapes. In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.” Chapter  3

“Come, shall I make you understand each other, or leave you to puzzle out an explanation as you can? No – I will be noble. I will prove myself a man, no less by the generosity of my soul than the clearness of my head. I have no patience with such of my sex as disdain to let themselves sometimes down to the comprehension of yours.” Chapter 14

“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.” Chapter 14

“No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.” Chapter 19

“At any rate, however, I am pleased that you have learnt to love a hyacinth. The mere habit of learning to love is the thing; and a teachableness of disposition in a young lady is a great blessing.” Chapter 22

“The world, I believe, never saw a better woman. But it is not often that virtue can boast an interest such as this.” Chapter 24

His satire of gothic novels

Catherine Morland:

" must be so fond of the abbey! After being used to such a home as the abbey, an ordinary parsonage-house must be very disagreeable."

Henry Tilney:

He smiled, and said, "You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey."

Catherine Morland:

"To be sure, I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one reads about?"

Henry Tilney:

"And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as ``what one reads about'' may produce? -- Have you a stout heart? -- Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?"

Catherine Morland:

"Oh! yes -- I do not think I should be easily frightened, because there would be so many people in the house -- and besides, it has never been uninhabited and left deserted for years, and then the family come back to it unawares, without giving any notice, as generally happens."

Henry Tilney:

"No, certainly. -- We shall not have to explore our way into a hall dimly lighted by the expiring embers of a wood fire -- nor be obliged to spread our beds on the floor of a room without windows, doors, or furniture. But 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?"

Catherine Morland:

"Oh! But this will not happen to me, I am sure."

Henry Tilney:

"How fearfully will you examine the furniture of your apartment! -- And what will you discern? -- Not tables, toilettes, wardrobes, or drawers, but on one side perhaps the remains of a broken lute, on the other a ponderous chest which no efforts can open, and over the fireplace the portrait of some handsome warrior, whose features will so incomprehensibly strike you, that you will not be able to withdraw your eyes from it. Dorothy, meanwhile, no less struck by your appearance, gazes on you in great agitation, and drops a few unintelligible hints. To raise your spirits, moreover, she gives you reason to suppose that the part of the abbey you inhabit is undoubtedly haunted, and informs you that you will not have a single domestic within call. With this parting cordial she curtsies off -- you listen to the sound of her receding footsteps as long as the last echo can reach you -- and when, with fainting spirits, you attempt to fasten your door, you discover, with increased alarm, that it has no lock."

Catherine Morland:

"Oh! Mr. Tilney, how frightful! -- This is just like a book! -- But it cannot really happen to me. I am sure your housekeeper is not really Dorothy. -- Well, what then?"

Henry Tilney:

"Nothing further to alarm perhaps may occur the first night. After surmounting your unconquerable horror of the bed, you will retire to rest, and get a few hours' unquiet slumber. But on the second, or at farthest the third night after your arrival, you will probably have a violent storm. Peals of thunder so loud as to seem to shake the edifice to its foundation will roll round the neighbouring mountains -- and during the frightful gusts of wind which accompany it, you will probably think you discern (for your lamp is not extinguished) one part of the hanging more violently agitated than the rest. Unable of course to repress your curiosity in so favourable a moment for indulging it, you will instantly arise, and throwing your dressing-gown around you, proceed to examine this mystery. After a very short search, you will discover a division in the tapestry so artfully constructed as to defy the minutest inspection, and on opening it, a door will immediately appear -- which door, being only secured by massy bars and a padlock, you will, after a few efforts, succeed in opening -- and, with your lamp in your hand, will pass through it into a small vaulted room."

Catherine Morland:

"No, indeed; I should be too much frightened to do any such thing."

Henry Tilney:

"What! Not when Dorothy has given you to understand that there is a secret subterraneous communication between your apartment and the chapel of St. Anthony, scarcely two miles off? Could you shrink from so simple an adventure? No, no, you will proceed into this small vaulted room, and through this into several others, without perceiving anything very remarkable in either. In one perhaps there may be a dagger, in another a few drops of blood, and in a third the remains of some instrument of torture; but there being nothing in all this out of the common way, and your lamp being nearly exhausted, you will return towards your own apartment. In repassing through the small vaulted room, however, your eyes will be attracted towards a large, old-fashioned cabinet of ebony and gold, which, though narrowly examining the furniture before, you had passed unnoticed. Impelled by an irresistible presentiment, you will eagerly advance to it, unlock its folding doors, and search into every drawer; -- but for some time without discovering anything of importance -- perhaps nothing but a considerable hoard of diamonds. At last, however, by touching a secret spring, an inner compartment will open -- a roll of paper appears: you seize it -- it contains many sheets of manuscript -- you hasten with the precious treasure into your own chamber, but scarcely have you been able to decipher ``Oh! Thou -- whomsoever thou mayst be -- into whose hands these memoirs of the wretched Matilda may fall'' -- when your lamp suddenly expires in the socket, and leaves you in total darkness."

Catherine Morland:

"Oh! no, no -- do not say so. Well, go on."

But Henry was too much amused by the interest he had raised to be able to carry it farther; he could no longer command solemnity either of subject or voice, and was obliged to entreat her to use her own fancy in the perusal of Matilda's woes. Catherine, recollecting herself, grew ashamed of her eagerness, and began earnestly to assure him that her attention had been fixed without the smallest apprehension of really meeting with what he related. "Miss Tilney, she was sure, would never put her into such a chamber as he had described! -- She was not at all afraid." (chapter 20)

In chapter 14, he himself had admitted he had read THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO by Mrs Radcliffe for his own pleasure (go and read the passage HERE )


In Northanger Abbey, the fact that Henry Tilney is in that profession seems, at first to be - as for  Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility - very casually introduced: he is "a clergyman, and of a very respectable family in Gloucestershire", but his dancing, his teasing of Catherine, his appearance, are much more important. But Henry defies conventions, worldly ambition and his father's anger to marry Catherine and is in this sense, a very satisfyingly romantic hero. It is noticeable that his sense of duty towards his parish is firm: he makes a point of being in residence for "the parish meeting" and for the Sunday services. Somehow these touches of attention to duty seem to point forward to the Henry who can come to an "open and bold" breach with his father for Catherine's sake, can part from him in "dreadful disagreement" and can act with "reason ... conscience ... justice ... honour ... fidelity". Powerful language, indeed! Is there about Henry Tilney a suggestion of a maturity, even at 26, which has something to do with the beliefs he quietly professes? Finally, in the scene where he opens Catherine's ideas to "the extravagances of her late fancies", and in her reflections following it, does not Henry speak with a wisdom, a sanity, a tender loving patience that is not afraid to mention, clearly and simply and without embarrassment, religious faith:

"Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? "Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians ... Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?"


Henry Tilney, of course, would have a hard task at competing with Mr Darcy or Captain Wentworth in a which- is- your -ideal -Austen- hero.
Anyway, I think he has always been underestimated. He is a brilliant young man:  he is fond of   reading (even novels!) and is both intelligent and understanding, he also has a wonderful sense of humor . Last but not least,  he is handsome and  loyal, brave enough to defy conventions and parental proscriptions.

"Perfidious Jane" has not been so terrible to the male universe this time, hasn't she? Have you ever considered Henry Tilney as your ideal Austen hero? Why? why not?

Sources and references