Why Northanger Abbey?
After finishing Austen’s book, I was left with one burning question:
Why the hell is it called Northanger Abbey?
Approximately two-thirds of the book takes place in Bath, where our heroine, Catherine Morland, bridging on eighteen years of age and full of that wonderful, youthful naïveté, takes on the wider, social world.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book. At some point I will need to reread it to get a better grasp on the satirical aspects of it, particularly after reading books within that specific genre of writing, but overall, I felt like I was in Bath, watching the main characters and feeling both appalled and delighted by their interactions.
Moreover, I just thoroughly enjoy Austen’s quick wit and wry humor. She has this way of throwing shade in how she phrases certain things (particularly as they relate to the more superfluous aspects of societal demands on women in that era) that I believe will stand the test of time.
She just connects with readers, no matter what era or social class you are in. I mean, I am a biracial, pseudo-straight, female who grew up in a low-income neighborhood and received a decent education; somehow, despite not being anything like Jane, I found myself giggling as if the experiences she describes were ones that were entirely my own.
Circling back, however, I just didn’t understand the title.
Yes, Northanger Abbey was a setting where significant aspects of the plot and impending romance took place between our Catherine and her love interest Henry Tilney. It is also within these critical plot advancements that you see Catherine transform from social/emotional novice to a more worldly, matured woman.
However, I must reiterate that, though this particular place in the novel had its significance, it ultimately was a general blip on the radar in terms of how much of the story actually takes place there. (I am open to discuss this particular issue I have with more seasoned Austen readers who have gone deeper with this particular novel.)
So, I was curious. How did this book settle on that particular title?
Thanks to our dear friend Wikipedia, I learned something new today! Turns out, Ms. Austen sold the book as it was originally titled (Susan) to Crosby and Co. in 1803 for ten pounds. Because they ultimately sat on the novel and never published it, Austen and Crosby and Co. got into an argument, with Austen aiming to get her manuscript back and with C&C threatening legal retaliation.
However, in 1816, Austen’s brother, Henry, bought it back for her for what she received for it back in 1803, and from there, she edited it, added in new parts and renamed her heroine Catherine.
Now, the working title at this point for the book was Catherine. However, it was her brother, Henry, who renamed it Northanger Abbey when it was published, along with Persuasion, in 1817.
Oh, that Henry…
I’ll never understand why he chose that title, but maybe some things are better left unknown. Or maybe someone can enlighten me?
2020: 52(ish) Book Challenge
This particular book review is the result of my participation with Reddit’s 52 Book Challenge for 2020. The explanation is in the title: read 52 books (or more if you fancy) in one calendar year.
It’s a fun subreddit to be a part of that engages and connects avid readers!
Happy reading, everyone!