Mr Darcy? No, Mr Tilney!

November 17, 2012

There is no better way of passing miserable wet November days than: cuddled with a blanket, feet toasted by some warm fairisle socks, listening to the rain, and reading.

'Northanger Abbey' by Jane Austen
This book is closely tied to the gothic genre which was highly popular in the early 1800s, as the 18th Century saw novels such as 'The Monk', by Matthew Lewis, and 'The Mysteries of Udolpho' by Anne Radcliffe. The Genre is known for its excess: in the form of language, as well as its typically gothic settings, (with creaking doors and cob-webbed corridors) and archetypal characters, (the vampire, the femme fetale etc). 

Austen dedicates some of her time spreading references concerning the contemporary reception of novels. Often overlooked by serious and respectable gentleman, who 'wouldn't have had time to waste' on foolish fictional books with nonsensical fancies, the novel in general was, by many, condemned- a fact that seems implausible now! Austen's view is pretty evident in characterising Mr Tilney as intelligent, and amiable, and subtly mentioning his fondness for novels. Her view comes across in this ironically styled passage:

'I am no novel–reader — I seldom look into novels — Do not imagine that I often read novels — It is really very well for a novel.” Such is the common cant. “And what are you reading, Miss — ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language. Now, had the same young lady been engaged with a volume of the Spectator, instead of such a work, how proudly would she have produced the book, and told its name; though the chances must be against her being occupied by any part of that voluminous publication, of which either the matter or manner would not disgust a young person of taste: the substance of its papers so often consisting in the statement of improbable circumstances, unnatural characters, and topics of conversation which no longer concern anyone living; and their language, too, frequently so coarse as to give no very favourable idea of the age that could endure it. '

What I enjoyed: Austen, as always, has a wonderful wit. Her depictions of certain stereotypical characters, that we all have a selection of in our lives, are uncannily accurate and timeless.

She truly has such a talent of vividly describing to us the interactions between her characters at balls and in societal meetings. She does this best, in my opinion, with the Thorpes. The Thorpes are so blatantly sycophantic, selfish, and fickle people. I say that, but I also adore the characterisation of Mr Tilney, (you think Austen only wrote of one handsome batchelor in Mr Darcy- think again.)

However much I share some feminist sentiments when approaching literature with regards to questioning the historical lack of female independence and autonomy, I can't help but like Miss Morland's very lack of it. There's something so likeable about an intelligent man guiding and teaching the naive and pure Miss Morland. Her views are infantile, but the high regard in which she holds human nature, their incapacity for deception or selfishness, is endearing. In fact, if anything, I should be more like her and have a little faith and trust in people's generosity rather than being convinced of some motive or another. 

What I'm saying is that I would not particularly mind being chastised by Mr Tilney, nor educated by him, maybe that's a bit of sapiosexuality there.

But Henry's teasing is just so irresistably witty, charming and playful:

“Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again." Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh. "I see what you think of me," said he gravely -- "I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow."
"My journal!"
"Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings -- plain black shoes -- appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense." 
"Indeed I shall say no such thing." 
"Shall I tell you what you ought to say?" 
"If you please." 
"I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him -- seems a most extraordinary genius -- hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say." ...

If Mr Darcy wasn't your man, too aloof and cold, try saying the same about Mr Tilney..

Granted his tyrannical father might oust you from his house on learning of your penniless existence, but don't worry about that! My advice is that you...

Also, the film adaptation is really brilliant, very accurate to the novel, and I highly recommend snuggling up on a Sunday afternoon watching it.

Lastly I will leave you with a quote which I wholeheartedly agree with, by the wise Henry Tilney himself:
“It is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible.”

Sources: Image 1, Image 2  


  1. Great post - I love Northanger Abbey and I agree that it shows off Austen's wonderful wit. I remember writing an essay on it at uni, discussing how it was a parody of Gothic literature but your post has inspired me to re-read it for fun!:)x

    1. Thank you! :) I really enjoyed it, it has so much going on- including the whole Gothic parody aspect. Yes, do! It's such a nice relaxing read X

  2. Very nice blog :) I like it.