Northanger Abbey: Men

Self must confess that the reason she started reading Jane Austen again is the movie Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman, and starring the delicious trifecta of Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, and Xavier Samuel (She would name more of the actors if she wasn’t so very short of time today). The movie was based on Austen’s unfinished novella, Lady Susan. Anyhoo, it’s quite a good movie, one of self’s favorites so far in 2016.

Northanger Abbey is not as self remembered. There are very long discussions of novels whose titles make them sound “genre” (See her previous post). And nothing happens other than: breakfast, tea, dances, and sitting in bed to recover from dances.

Since self writes fan fiction, she doesn’t mind genre. She doesn’t mind any kind of writing, as long as it’s good.

Anyhoo, the plot of Northanger Abbey concerns — as far as self can make out, the narrative is very circomlocutious — two young, unmarried women who meet at Bath, become fast friends, and then share opinions on everything from novels to keeping up appearances, to men. The novel thus far is just a series of conversations. Time is passing but who cares? The smallest detail of daily life is not too mundane to receive meticulous attention.

One of the young ladies (self forgets which) states that men “are very often amazingly impertinent if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance.”

Her conversant protests that “they always behave very well to me.”

Upon which, the first lady responds:

  • Oh! They give themselves such airs. They are the most conceited creatures in the world, and think themselves of so much importance! — By the bye, though I have thought of it a hundred times, I have always forgotten to ask you what is your favorite complexion in a man. Do you like them best dark or fair?

To which the other lady responds that her preference is for “brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.” The other says that she prefers her men “sallow.” (Pardon, self always mixes up “sallow” with “hepatitis B” or consumption or ill health)

Which is so fascinating, self wonders how old Jane Austen was when she wrote this, she is so looking forward to reading more! This would be considered chick lit if the sentences weren’t so very very very long and if something more were at stake than how to pass an indolent holiday in Bath.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



2 thoughts on “Northanger Abbey: Men

  1. I am a big Jane Austen fan. I have all of her novels and have read my favorites multiple times. If you have not read her novels before, I suggest you start with her best, which IMO is Pride & Prejudice, followed by Persuasion and Sense & Sensibility. Jane Austen grew up at a time when the emerging middle class emulated their richer peers and in which a woman’s options were limited. To be economically, she had to find a good husband. To do that, she had to be “accomplished” in art, music, and literature. Women should be good readers, not writers!

    Northanger Abbey has a lot of discussion about novels because this was the author’s way of pushing back against those who said reading novels was a waste of time, especially those written by women. Austen had published her novels P&P and S&S anonymously, just “by a Lady” or something like that.

    If you already knew all this about Jane Austen, pardon me for repeating it. If not, I hope knowing her motives & social mileu are helpful background for you.


    1. EDITED MY COMMENT (I hope it makes more sense now):

      I appreciate this so much, that you took the time to share more about Jane Austen. It will be useful to me and readers of her work.

      I feel a little guilty because, the last two days, I’ve begun to like Northanger Abbey more, and started to re-read it from the beginning (even though I only read about 30 pages in). I think it helped for me to keep in mind that the heroine didn’t consider herself brilliant and witty (though she appears so to us). She wasn’t a great beauty, at a time when making a suitable match was women’s way of succeeding in English society. Which means were not exactly beating a path to Catherine’s door. I find it interesting that despite her bookish ways, she does find romance. She is very, very lucky.

      I’ll blog again about this novel before I get further in. The coming week is super-busy for me, so I probably won’t be able to finish the novel. But I really appreciate your taking the time to shed some light on Jane and her milieu!


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