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Northanger Abbey (Barnes & Noble Classics) First Edition Thus Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1593083809
ISBN-10: 1593083807
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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Alfred Mac Adam’s Introduction to Northanger Abbey

Austen writes at the outset of a total metamorphosis of European thought, a moment when every aspect of society was on the verge of mutation. The most obvious change is political: France enters the process of the French Revolution in 1789 and moves into the era of Napoleon, from which it emerges only after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815. France, in only a few years, moves from monarchy to republic to empire and back to monarchy. The spirit of the eighteenth-century Age of Reason, with its emphasis on universal principles (such as “All men are created equal”) turns into the age of Romanticism, when individuals discover they are radically different from one another.

Austen’s sociology too reflects an evolving literary, political, and social reality. Her main characters are not nobles, though some may be members of the titled aristocracy. Catherine Morland is the daughter of a country clergyman; she’s seen nothing of the world until her visit to Bath, a health spa and meeting place for marriageable young men and women, and her subsequent brush with provincial highlife at the grand estate of General Tilney, the father of the clergyman she eventually marries. The novel, as Austen and her contemporaries conceive it, is not concerned with kings and queens but with ordinary people, and one wonders if she had any knowledge of Madame de Lafayette’s The Princess of Cleves (1678), an early transformation of the aristocratic and courtly setting of the romance of chivalry into something very much like the psychological novel. The novel’s task is to make ordinary, usually middle-class characters interesting by creating predicaments for them in circumstances its readers would find reasonably familiar. Austen has a strong cohort of women novelists among her contemporaries who did exactly that; she refers specifically to Cecilia; Or, Memoirs of an Heiress (1782) and Camilla; Or, a Picture of Youth (1796), by Fanny Burney, as well as Belinda (1801), by Maria Edgeworth: The fact that these novels are all named after their heroines certainly influenced Austen, who in its earlier incarnations gave Northanger Abbey the title “Susan” and then “Catherine.”

Again, none of us (we hope!) has ever seen a vampire, a werewolf, or a ghost, though these are standard items in the gothic novel. But many of Austen’s readers would know the tribulations of finding suitable mates and the disasters that beset young people as they try to get on with life. Austen’s England is alien territory insofar as her twenty-first-century readers are concerned, especially its class structure. Marriage, for example, while it could be the happy union of two people who cared for each other, was in Austen’s day really a union of fortunes; in the same way, becoming a clergyman did not necessarily reflect religious fervor: It was a profession like any other. In Northanger Abbey, we see the impoverished Isabella Thorpe desperately trying to find a man who will be able to maintain her in upper-class style, becoming engaged to one (Catherine Morland’s brother James), and instantly throwing him over when a better candidate (Captain Frederick Tilney) appears.

Little does she know that Frederick, a flirtatious rogue and therefore Isabella’s male twin, is simply toying with her, so breaking off with James Morland ultimately leads her to disaster. But James’s parents are relieved when the engagement collapses, because, as Catherine’s mother explains to her in the most precise terms, Isabella Thorpe has no money. The same argument—poor people are not suitable as mates—almost destroys Catherine’s chances of marrying Henry Tilney. Only because his daughter marries into the nobility (a viscount), does General Tilney allow his second son (who will not, because of the laws of primogeniture, inherit his estates) to marry the daughter of a country parson with ten children.

This is what Austen considers the material of novelistic lives: how members of contemporary English society confront the issues of the day and either overcome them (Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney eventually marry) or succumb to them (by the end of the novel, Isabella Thorpe finds herself virtually destitute and without either a fiancé or a wealthy prospect). Because Austen is writing with a comic view of society, her protagonist, Catherine Morland, will triumph, even if this means her author must resort to a deus ex machina to extricate her from her dilemma: General Tilney is so happy his daughter has married a viscount that he decides his second son’s choice of a poor bride is of little importance.

Money, then, is the great variable and the controlling factor in the lives of Austen’s characters, especially her women, because without it they are, in social terms, worthless. This was as true in real life as it was in fiction: Jane Austen fell in love with Tom Lefroy in 1796, but, since she was virtually penniless and her beau an impoverished Irish barrister-to-be, marriage was out of the question, a reality she accepted. That people did fall in love, run away, and live happily ever after was certainly possible in Austen’s day, but such relationships were the exception rather than the rule.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics; First Edition Thus edition (February 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593083807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593083809
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,027,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Frankly I am puzzled by the criticisms leveled at this edition. There is another edition [also by Barnes and Noble] and it is cheaper, though the quality is very flimsy and I wonder if the other reviewers were confused with that edition?

This edition of Northanger Abbey is beautifully bound, with a cloth spine, and has a lovely portrait on the cover. The text is not too small unlike some other editions, it makes for comfortable reading. The book itself is sturdy, as it is in hardback, but not unwieldy - it fits nicely into my hands. Besides the main text of Austen's novel itself, it has added features - a brief chronology of the world of Jane Austen & Northanger Abbey, an introduction, the main text, as well as useful endnotes, inspiration for Northanger Abbey,comments, as well as a list of resources for further reading and criticisms. In all, a value buy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By myz on November 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a great Jane Austen fan, who has read and re-read favorite like Pride and Prejudice as well as Emma(!!!) I am sad to say this was definitly my least favorite. It pains me to say this, because I almost willed myself to like it, but in the end I was disappointed with the rather odd storyline and the less-than-lovely characters I was used to from Ms. Austens other works. Perhaps I'll attempt to change my mind about this novel again in a few years, but for now I'm afraid three stars is all I have to give.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By janebbooks on May 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In a search for mysteries of dark, old houses with names, I recently turned to Jane Austen's first novel for publication...NORTHHANGER ABBEY...her Gothic novel. It will be my first reading of an Austen novel.

Jane Austen's NORTHHANGER was written when she was age 24...her first novel but published posthumously. It is the story of one Catherine Morlund, age 17, a clergyman's daughter, who has a fondness for reading Gothic novels.

My reading copy is the Barnes & Noble Classic hardcover (2000) with introduction by John Kulka. Kulka is a bit of a mystery himself...All the internet says in the way of a biography is that he is executive editor-at-large for Harvard University Press and lives in Connecticut. One article mentions that he is on the board of the Dalkey Archive Press. And somewhere I found that Kulka introduces the publications of the annotated illustrated Austen volumes by Belknap Press...calling Austen one of world's most beloved authors. Patricia Meyer Spacks is credited with the first of the volumes...PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Ms Spacks, apparently an Austen scholar, thanks her editor John Kulka...for choosing her for this honor.

The Kulka introduction to NORTHHANGER ABBEY is a very readable and interesting essay. Kulka gives the reader a choice of reading enjoyments. Northanger, he says, can be read as a "parody of popular Gothic romance novels...a comedy of manners...or a cautionary tale." Since I am reading the novel as an example of a dark, old house mystery, I think it's given me a new approach for my reading: Kulka quickly promotes Austen's novel as a "clever rewriting of the eighteenth-century heroine-centered novel...the Gothic romance novel in particularly...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicole @ The Reading Rebel on April 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Catherine Morland is a naive 17-year-old country girl with a love of gothic novels.When the family friends(The Allen's)invite her to the spa town of Bath,she readily agrees to go.Her first week in Bath,she meets a witty young clergymen named Henry Tilney who she quickly falls in love with.When Henry's sister and father invite her to their country estate Northanger Abbey,Catherine having read all about Abbeys in her beloved gothic novels is ready to encounter murders,secret rooms and other myham.When her imagination runs wild it is up to her love Henry Tilney to make Catherine see how absurd her thoughts and ideas are.As in all Austen's novels you will meet some very ridiculous characters like the fashion obsessed Mrs.Allen and Mr.Thorpe today's version of a guy who loves to talk about how great he is,how much money he has and how fast his car goes.Jane Austen loved a laugh and in Northanger Abbey she takes great delight in mocking the gothic novel.Compared to Austen's other work like Pride and Prejudice,Northanger doesn't have the character development,plotting and pose of her mature work but is still a joy to read.
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Format: Hardcover
Gothic romances were all the rage in the late 1700s and early 1800s -- sprawling, eerie melodramas full of sublimated sex and violence.

And rather than her usual straightforward comedies of manners, Jane Austen once wrote a mellow satire of the very mockable genre -- think a parody of "Twilight" or "50 Shades of Grey" as written by one of the greats. "Northanger Abbey" is a clever and slightly tongue-in-cheek little novel about a girl who needs to learn the difference between fantasy and reality... and yes, there's some love tangles and deceptions too.

Catherine Morland is an innocent young country girl with a love of gothic romances, and has lives an unremarkably life in a country parish. But then the wealthy Allens invite her to Bath during their vacation there, and of course she accepts -- and through balls and old acquaintances, she becomes friends with two pairs of siblings. One is the Thorpes, the uncouth dandy John and his manipulative sister Isabella, and the more mysterious Tilneys, the charming Henry and sweet Eleanor.

When the Tilneys decide to leave Bath, Catherine is invited with them, to the vast stone manorhouse of Northanger Abbey -- which is as gloomy, eerie and remote as her gothic-loving heart could wish for. What's more, she believes that there are dangerous secrets in Northanger Abbey, related to the suspicious death of the late Mrs. Tilney. But Catherine has some lessons to learn about reality and fantasy: that everyday world is not nearly as melodramatic and twisted as her novels, and that it has its own dangers and deceptions.
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