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Northanger Abbey

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A novel by J. Austen, begun 1798, published posthumously in 1818 with Persuasion.

The purpose of the novel is to ridicule the popular tales of romance and terror, such as Mrs Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho, and to contrast with these the normal realities of life. Catherine Morland, the daughter of a well‐to‐do clergyman, is taken to Bath for the season by her friends, Mr and Mrs Allen. Here she meets Henry Tilney (son of the eccentric General Tilney) and his pleasant sister, Eleanor. Catherine falls in love with Henry, and has the good fortune to gain his father's approval, which is founded upon the exaggerated report of her parents' wealth given him by the foolish young John Thorpe, brother of Catherine's friend Isabella. Catherine is invited to Northanger Abbey, the medieval seat of the Tilneys. Somewhat unbalanced by a too assiduous reading of Mrs Radcliffe's novels, Catherine imagines a mystery in which General Tilney is criminally involved, and suffers severe mortification when her suspicions are discovered. General Tilney, having now received a second report from John Thorpe representing Catherine's parents as extremely humble, packs her off back to her family. Henry, disobeying his father, follows Catherine to her home, proposes, and is accepted. General Tilney's consent is obtained when he discovers the true financial position of Catherine's family.

Interwoven with the main plot is the flirtation of Captain Tilney, Henry's elder brother, and the vulgar Isabella Thorpe, who is engaged to Catherine's brother; the consequent breaking of the engagement, and the rupture of the friendship between Catherine and Isabella; and Isabella's failure to secure Captain Tilney.

Subjects: Literature

Reference entries

Jane Austen (1775—1817) novelist