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Northanger Abbeyby Jane Austen
Synopses & Reviews
Northanger Abbey is the earliest of Jane Austen's great comedies of female enlightenment and combines literary burlesque - making fun of the excesses of the Gothic novel - with larger moral, philosophical, and social issues: the folly of letting literature get in the way of life, the inexcusability of not thinking for oneself, and the painful difficulties (especially for women) involved in growing up. Lady Susan and The Watsons are early compositions that reflect many of the qualities of Northanger Abbey. The first is an epistolary novel centring on the intrigues of the villainous Lady Susan; the second is an unfinished example of Jane Austen's most characteristic form - a story where the heroine is outstanding for her sense and goodness, virtues notably lacking in the other characters, who are here part of an altogether bleaker vision. Sanditon, too, is tragically incomplete, and it signals the achievement of a new depth and breadth of comic insight on the part of its author.
This is a pre-1923 historical reproduction that was curated for quality. Quality assurance was conducted on each of these books in an attempt to remove books with imperfections introduced by the digitization process. Though we have made best efforts - the books may have occasional errors that do not impede the reading experience. We believe this work is culturally important and have elected to bring the book back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide.
Although Northanger Abbey was not published until after Jane Austen's death in 1817, it was one of her first novels. Northanger Abbey is, in part, Austen's response to Gothic novels, like Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, which were enjoying tremendous popularity in the late seventeeth and early eighteenth centuries, and to their devoted readers. It is a fine demonstration of the young novelist's powers of social observation and pristine style, which are the hallmarks of her work.
In opposition to the Gothic novelists' portentous prose and unlikely heroines, she presents a charmingly believable Catherine Morland. In one of Austen's delightful satirical twists, Catherine, recently introduced into society, is a voracious reader of Gothic stories. When she is invited to stay with the Tilneys in their seemingly foreboding abbey, she fears that it is the kind of terrible place described in the novels she devours.
About the Author
Jane Austin was born in Steventon, Hampshire, on December 16, 1775. Her father, the Reverend George Austen, was rector of Steventon, where she spent her first twenty-five years, along with her six brothers (two of them later naval officers in the Napoleonic wars) and her adored sister, Cassandra. She read voraciously from an early age, counting among her favorites the novels of Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, and Fanny Burney, and the poetry of William Cowper and George Crabbe. Her family was lively and affectionate and they encouraged her precocious literary efforts, the earliest dating from age twelve, which already displayed the beginnings of her comic style. Her first novels, Elinor and Marianne (1796) and First Impressions (1797), were not published. The gothic parody Northanger Abbey was accepted for publication in 1803 but was ultimately withheld by the publisher.
In 1801 the family moved to Bath, where for four years Austen was able to observe the fashionable watering place that would later figure prominently in her fiction. Austen was sociable in her youth, and was briefly engaged in 1802. Two years later she began work on The Watsons, a novel that remained unfinished. After the death of her father in 1805, she lived with her mother and sister in Southampton for a few years before moving with them to a cottage at Chawton in Hampshire. This would be her home for the rest of her life, and she wrote many of her novels in its parlor. She continued to revise her earlier unpublished work, and in 1811 a version of Elinor and Marianne was published as Sense and Sensibility, followed two years later by Pride and Prejudice, a reworking of First Impressions. In the next few years she published Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816).
Austen became ill in 1815, perhaps with Addison's disease, and she died on July 18, 1817. Persuasion, her last novel, and the earlier Northanger Abbey appeared the following year. Of her last days her brother wrote: 'She wrote whilst she could hold a pen, and with a pencil when a pen was become too laborious. The day preceding her death she composed some stanzas replete with fancy and vigour.' Although Austen received some praise from her contemporaries--notably Sir Walter Scott, who discerned in her work 'the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment'--her detractors included Charlotte Bronte ('very incomplete and rather insensible') and Ralph Waldo Emerson ('vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention'), and her books did not immediately find a wide readership. The turn in her reputation came late in the nineteenth century, and has been succeeded by an enduring popularity and widespread critical praise in the twentieth.
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