Friday, July 16, 2010

Born to be a heroine

Northanger Abbey

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard — and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence besides two good livings — and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on — lived to have six children more — to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word, for they were in general very plain, and Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any. She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank hair, and strong features — so much for her person; and not less unpropitious for heroism seemed her mind. She was fond of all boy’s plays, and greatly preferred cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary–bird, or watering a rose–bush.


The opening passage from what is arguably Jane Austen's funniest novel - Northanger Abbey.


Theresa said...

I love Northanger Abbey! And I totally agree with you, it's so funny!
Remember the muslin scene, love it.

Elinor Dashwood said...

I LOVE "Northanger Abbey"!!!

Shining as Stars said...

NA is even funnier when you read the Gothic novels of the period. I read "The Monk" by Matthew Lewis, and it is quite a "horrid" novel, which should have a PG-18 sticker slapped onto it. However, I understood NA much better and laughed even harder when comparing it to The Monk.

Enbrethiliel said...


I'm rereading it now and it's a whole new experience! I love Catherine Morland so much; I'm not sure why I didn't care for her before. No, she's not as wonderful as Lizzie or as good as Fanny or as deserving of a happy ending as Anne . . . but there's something so endearing about her, flaws and all, that I can't help but root for her.

The Editrix said...

Theresa, it is hilarious!

Elinor, glad to meet another NA fan. :-D

Marie, I haven't read much late 18th literature, though I'm working on it! I've read a bit of Fanny Burney and Samuel Richardson. . . haven't read The Monk or any of Ann Radcliffe's novels. PG-18, you say? Maybe I shouldn't bother then, though it would probably give me a deeper appreciation of NA. . . :-/

Enbrethiliel - I totally agree with you about Catherine! You're right, she's not as deserving as Anne or Fanny, or as charming and intelligent as Lizzy or Emma, but that's okay! She's just a sweet, lovable, ordinary teenage girl. :-)