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Posts Tagged ‘Northanger Abbey’

IMG_4191Jane Austen mentions gardens many times in her novels-too many to mention all of them here, but I love this exchange between Mrs Elton and Mr Knightley in Emma who both have very different views about nature and simplicity.

We are to walk about your gardens, and gather the strawberries ourselves, and sit under trees; and whatever else you may like to provide, it is to be all out of doors; a table spread in the shade, you know. Every thing as natural and simple as possible. Is not that your idea?”

    “Not quite. My idea of the simple and the natural will be to have the table spread in the dining-room. The nature and the simplicity of gentlemen and ladies, with their servants and furniture, I think is best observed by meals within doors. When you are tired of eating strawberries in the garden, there shall be cold meat in the house.”

In Sense and Sensibility, gardens are used to help illustrate character traits, both of Elinor Dashwood’s half-brother and her sister Marianne. John Dashwood shows his disregard for the ancient trees that have been a part of the Norland estate, and Elinor knows their removal to satisfy her sister-in-law’s desire for a greenhouse will upset her sister Marianne’s sensibilities deeply.

 “Another year or two may do much towards it,” he gravely replied; “but however there is still a great deal to be done. There is not a stone laid of Fanny’s greenhouse, and nothing but the plan of the flower-garden marked out.”

   “Where is the greenhouse to be?”

   IMG_4425“Upon the knoll behind the house. The old walnut trees are all come down to make room for it. It will be a very fine object from many parts of the park, and the flower-garden will slope down just before it, and be exceedingly pretty. We have cleared away all the old thorns that grew in patches over the brow.”

 Elinor kept her concern and her censure to herself; and was very thankful that Marianne was not present, to share the provocation.

In Northanger Abbey General Tilney offers to escort Catherine round the gardens.

The number of acres contained in this garden was such as Catherine could not listen to without dismay, being more than double the extent of all Mr. Allen’s, as well her father’s, including church–yard and orchard. The walls seemed countless in number, endless in length; a village of hot–houses seemed to arise among them, and a whole parish to be at work within the enclosure. The general was flattered by her looks of surprise, which told him almost as plainly, as he soon forced her to tell him in words, that she had never seen any gardens at all equal to them before; and he then modestly owned that, “without any ambition of that sort himself — without any solicitude about it — he did believe them to be unrivalled in the kingdom. If he had a hobby–horse, it was that. He loved a garden. Though careless enough in most matters of eating, he loved good fruit — or if he did not, his friends and children did. There were great vexations, however, attending such a garden as his. The utmost care could not always secure the most valuable fruits. The pinery had yielded only one hundred in the last year.

IMG_4343Later on, when Catherine Morland is forced to come home early by General Tilney, the garden is a place of refuge for our heroine.

Catherine’s disposition was not naturally sedentary, nor had her habits been ever very industrious; but whatever might hitherto have been her defects of that sort, her mother could not but perceive them now to be greatly increased. She could neither sit still nor employ herself for ten minutes together, walking round the garden and orchard again and again, as if nothing but motion was voluntary; and it seemed as if she could even walk about the house rather than remain fixed for any time in the parlour. Her loss of spirits was a yet greater alteration. In her rambling and her idleness she might only be a caricature of herself; but in her silence and sadness she was the very reverse of all that she had been before.

From Pride and Prejudice we have the obsequious Mr Collins.

“The garden in which stands my humble abode, is separated only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship’s residence.”

And I’ll give the last word to Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park.mansfieldpark

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Summer has arrived in England – I’ve been to Bath a the weekend and couldn’t resist taking some photos for my Bath album. The ones here show Henrietta Park and a walk I took up to Beechen Cliff. I hope you enjoy them!
Cherry tree in flower in Henrietta Park
A pigeon enjoys the sun
The magnolias are out!
Henrietta Park
House at the foot of Lyncombe Hill
View looking back to Bath from Jacob’s Ladder
Looking through trees on Beechen Cliff
Dappled light through the trees
Wild garlic on the slopes of Beechen Cliff
Views from the top
Looking towards the Royal Crescent
Bath Abbey from Beechen Cliff
Bath from Beechen Cliff
Northanger Abbey – My illustration showing the Abbey from Beechen Cliff. Catherine Morland is taking a walk with Isabella and Henry Tilney.

 

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Spring has finally sprung here in England! I was beginning to think winter would never end; we’ve been experiencing very cold weather and lots of snow.
Jane Austen refers often to the seasons in her writing and with spring, it seems, the season often heralds a change or action of some sort. In this first example, Mrs Dashwood is thinking about Barton Cottage and the changes she might make to the building when the weather improves.


From Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility:

With the size and furniture of the house Mrs. Dashwood was upon the whole well satisfied; for though her former style of life rendered many additions to the latter indispensable, yet to add and improve was a delight to her; and she had at this time ready money enough to supply all that was wanted of greater elegance to the apartments. “As for the house itself, to be sure,” said she, “it is too small for our family, but we will make ourselves tolerably comfortable for the present, as it is too late in the year for improvements. Perhaps in the spring, if I have plenty of money, as I dare say I shall, we may think about building. These parlours are both too small for such parties of our friends as I hope to see often collected here; and I have some thoughts of throwing the passage into one of them with perhaps a part of the other, and so leave the remainder of that other for an entrance; this, with a new drawing-room which may be easily added, and a bed-chamber and garret above, will make it a very snug little cottage. I could wish the stairs were handsome. But one must not expect everything; though I suppose it would be no difficult matter to widen them. I shall see how much I am before-hand with the world in the spring, and we will plan our improvements accordingly.”

The next extract is from Northanger Abbey. Isabella Thorpe writes to Catherine Morland from Bath. Jane Austen uses the season to illustrate Isabella’s silly and shallow character. Although she professes one minute to be missing Catherine and expressing her love for Catherine’s brother, in the next second she is talking about fashion and hats. 

Bath, April
My dearest Catherine, I received your two kind letters with the greatest delight, and have a thousand apologies to make for not answering them sooner. I really am quite ashamed of my idleness; but in this horrid place one can find time for nothing. I have had my pen in my hand to begin a letter to you almost every day since you left Bath, but have always been prevented by some silly trifler or other. Pray write to me soon, and direct to my own home. Thank God, we leave this vile place tomorrow. Since you went away, I have had no pleasure in it — the dust is beyond anything; and everybody one cares for is gone. I believe if I could see you I should not mind the rest, for you are dearer to me than anybody can conceive. I am quite uneasy about your dear brother, not having heard from him since he went to Oxford; and am fearful of some misunderstanding. Your kind offices will set all right: he is the only man I ever did or could love, and I trust you will convince him of it. The spring fashions are partly down; and the hats the most frightful you can imagine. I hope you spend your time pleasantly, but am afraid you never think of me.
 
Lastly, from Pride and Prejudice, Jane has become engaged to Mr Bingley and finds out that his sister Caroline had done everything to keep them apart last spring:


Mr Bingley and Jane Bennet

“He has made me so happy,” said she one evening, “by telling me, that he was totally ignorant of my being in town last spring! I had not believed it possible.”


   “I suspected as much,” replied Elizabeth. “But how did he account for it?”
   “It must have been his sister’s doing. They were certainly no friends to his acquaintance with me, which I cannot wonder at, since he might have chosen so much more advantageously in many respects. But when they see, as I trust they will, that their brother is happy with me, they will learn to be contented, and we shall be on good terms again; though we can never be what we once were to each other.”
   “That is the most unforgiving speech,” said Elizabeth, “that I ever heard you utter. Good girl! It would vex me, indeed, to see you again the dupe of Miss Bingley’s pretended regard.”
   “Would you believe it, Lizzy, that when he went to town last November, he really loved me, and nothing but a persuasion of my being indifferent would have prevented his coming down again?”
   “He made a little mistake, to be sure; but it is to the credit of his modesty.”
   This naturally introduced a panegyric from Jane on his diffidence, and the little value he put on his own good qualities.
   Elizabeth was pleased to find that he had not betrayed the interference of his friend; for, though Jane had the most generous and forgiving heart in the world, she knew it was a circumstance which must prejudice her against him.
   “I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!” cried Jane. “Oh! Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my family, and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy! If there were but such another man for you!”
   “If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness. No, no, let me shift for myself; and perhaps, if I have very good luck, I may meet with another Mr. Collins in time.”

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I’m in Bath today, and whenever I’m here, my thoughts turn to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. My painting of the Pump Room was inspired by Jane Austen’s letters – as a young girl Jane came to Bath and stayed with her aunt and uncle Leigh-Perrot – I feel sure her first reactions to Bath were probably like Catherine Morland’s: Catherine was all eager delight — her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs… Later on when her father retired, she came to live in Bath and from this time many writers have concluded that she was unhappy here because her letters talk of leaving the city with “what happy feelings of Escape”. I am not sure that I entirely agree with this point of view, (it was not in her nature to be so melancholy) although undoubtedly the death of her father and their resulting straitened circumstances would have had their impact. I’m sure she was glad to leave, but that doesn’t necessarily mean her time spent here was completely awful. After all, both heroines from her novels set in Bath find their happy endings here – Catherine and Henry Tilney, and Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth fall in love in Bath and I cannot think they would have done so if Jane had disliked Bath so much.
Anyway, here is an extract from Northanger Abbey for your delight. Just one more note – it always amuses me that the flighty Isabella is unimpressed with the book, Sir Charles Grandison. This novel by Samuel Richardson was one of Jane Austen’s favourites – her family all loved and enjoyed it, quoting passages and lines from it, as we might from Pride and Prejudice or any of Jane’s other novels.
The following conversation, which took place between the two friends in the pump–room one morning, after an acquaintance of eight or nine days, is given as a specimen of their very warm attachment, and of the delicacy, discretion, originality of thought, and literary taste which marked the reasonableness of that attachment.

They met by appointment; and as Isabella had arrived nearly five minutes before her friend, her first address naturally was, “My dearest creature, what can have made you so late? I have been waiting for you at least this age!”

“Have you, indeed! I am very sorry for it; but really I thought I was in very good time. It is but just one. I hope you have not been here long?”

“Oh! These ten ages at least. I am sure I have been here this half hour. But now, let us go and sit down at the other end of the room, and enjoy ourselves. I have an hundred things to say to you. In the first place, I was so afraid it would rain this morning, just as I wanted to set off; it looked very showery, and that would have thrown me into agonies! Do you know, I saw the prettiest hat you can imagine, in a shop window in Milsom Street just now — very like yours, only with coquelicot ribbons instead of green; I quite longed for it. But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning? Have you gone on with Udolpho?”

“Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”

“Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?”

“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me — I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them. I wish you knew Miss Andrews, you would be delighted with her. She is netting herself the sweetest cloak you can conceive. I think her as beautiful as an angel, and I am so vexed with the men for not admiring her! I scold them all amazingly about it.”

“Scold them! Do you scold them for not admiring her?”

“Yes, that I do. There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong. I told Captain Hunt at one of our assemblies this winter that if he was to tease me all night, I would not dance with him, unless he would allow Miss Andrews to be as beautiful as an angel. The men think us incapable of real friendship, you know, and I am determined to show them the difference. Now, if I were to hear anybody speak slightingly of you, I should fire up in a moment: but that is not at all likely, for you are just the kind of girl to be a great favourite with the men.”

“Oh, dear!” cried Catherine, colouring. “How can you say so?”

“I know you very well; you have so much animation, which is exactly what Miss Andrews wants, for I must confess there is something amazingly insipid about her. Oh! I must tell you, that just after we parted yesterday, I saw a young man looking at you so earnestly — I am sure he is in love with you.” Catherine coloured, and disclaimed again. Isabella laughed. “It is very true, upon my honour, but I see how it is; you are indifferent to everybody’s admiration, except that of one gentleman, who shall be nameless. Nay, I cannot blame you” — speaking more seriously — “your feelings are easily understood. Where the heart is really attached, I know very well how little one can be pleased with the attention of anybody else. Everything is so insipid, so uninteresting, that does not relate to the beloved object! I can perfectly comprehend your feelings.”

“But you should not persuade me that I think so very much about Mr. Tilney, for perhaps I may never see him again.”

“Not see him again! My dearest creature, do not talk of it. I am sure you would be miserable if you thought so!”

“No, indeed, I should not. I do not pretend to say that I was not very much pleased with him; but while I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable. Oh! The dreadful black veil! My dear Isabella, I am sure there must be Laurentina’s skeleton behind it.”

“It is so odd to me, that you should never have read Udolpho before; but I suppose Mrs. Morland objects to novels.”

“No, she does not. She very often reads Sir Charles Grandison herself; but new books do not fall in our way.”

“Sir Charles Grandison! That is an amazing horrid book, is it not? I remember Miss Andrews could not get through the first volume.”

“It is not like Udolpho at all; but yet I think it is very entertaining.”

“Do you indeed! You surprise me; I thought it had not been readable. But, my dearest Catherine, have you settled what to wear on your head tonight? I am determined at all events to be dressed exactly like you. The men take notice of that sometimes, you know.”

“But it does not signify if they do,” said Catherine, very innocently.

“Signify! Oh, heavens! I make it a rule never to mind what they say. They are very often amazingly impertinent if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance.”

“Are they? Well, I never observed that. They always behave very well to me.”

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

“I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both, I think. Brown — not fair, and — and not very dark.”

“Very well, Catherine. That is exactly he. I have not forgot your description of Mr. Tilney — ‘a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.’ Well, my taste is different. I prefer light eyes, and as to complexion — do you know — I like a sallow better than any other. You must not betray me, if you should ever meet with one of your acquaintance answering that description.”

“Betray you! What do you mean?”

“Nay, do not distress me. I believe I have said too much. Let us drop the subject.”

Catherine, in some amazement, complied, and after remaining a few moments silent, was on the point of reverting to what interested her at that time rather more than anything else in the world, Laurentina’s skeleton, when her friend prevented her, by saying, “For heaven’s sake! Let us move away from this end of the room. Do you know, there are two odious young men who have been staring at me this half hour. They really put me quite out of countenance. Let us go and look at the arrivals. They will hardly follow us there.”

Away they walked to the book; and while Isabella examined the names, it was Catherine’s employment to watch the proceedings of these alarming young men.

“They are not coming this way, are they? I hope they are not so impertinent as to follow us. Pray let me know if they are coming. I am determined I will not look up.”

In a few moments Catherine, with unaffected pleasure, assured her that she need not be longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the pump–room.

“And which way are they gone?” said Isabella, turning hastily round. “One was a very good–looking young man.”

“They went towards the church–yard.”

“Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now, what say you to going to Edgar’s Buildings with me, and looking at my new hat? You said you should like to see it.”

Catherine readily agreed. “Only,” she added, “perhaps we may overtake the two young men.”

“Oh! Never mind that. If we make haste, we shall pass by them presently, and I am dying to show you my hat.”

“But if we only wait a few minutes, there will be no danger of our seeing them at all.”

“I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them.”

Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning; and therefore, to show the independence of Miss Thorpe, and her resolution of humbling the sex, they set off immediately as fast as they could walk, in pursuit of the two young men.

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I do love a chandelier, and in Bath they can be seen in all the places that Jane Austen wrote about. This first photo shows a chandelier from a small room off the main one in the Pump Rooms. The room looks down onto the Roman Baths below where it’s easy to imagine bathers through the centuries socialising in the warm waters. In Jane Austen’s day not everyone frequented the baths. Those who did were taken by sedan chair to the King’s, Queen’s or Cross Bath. The Queen’s bath was for ladies only and an attendant helped bathers into gowns specially for the purpose. They were guided into the waters and given ‘a little floating dish like a bason, into which the lady puts an handkerchief, a snuff box and a nosegay’ before being left to amuse themselves with the gossip of the day.

The next photo shows the splendid chandeliers in the tea room at the Assembly Rooms.
Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey visits the tea room with Mrs Allen, but this first visit is something of a disappointment.

Everybody was shortly in motion for tea, and they must squeeze out like the rest. Catherine began to feel something of disappointment — she was tired of being continually pressed against by people, the generality of whose faces possessed nothing to interest, and with all of whom she was so wholly unacquainted that she could not relieve the irksomeness of imprisonment by the exchange of a syllable with any of her fellow captives; and when at last arrived in the tea–room, she felt yet more the awkwardness of having no party to join, no acquaintance to claim, no gentleman to assist them. They saw nothing of Mr. Allen; and after looking about them in vain for a more eligible situation, were obliged to sit down at the end of a table, at which a large party were already placed, without having anything to do there, or anybody to speak to, except each other.

Mrs. Allen congratulated herself, as soon as they were seated, on having preserved her gown from injury. “It would have been very shocking to have it torn,” said she, “would not it? It is such a delicate muslin. For my part I have not seen anything I like so well in the whole room, I assure you.”

“How uncomfortable it is,” whispered Catherine, “not to have a single acquaintance here!”

“Yes, my dear,” replied Mrs. Allen, with perfect serenity, “it is very uncomfortable indeed.”

“What shall we do? The gentlemen and ladies at this table look as if they wondered why we came here — we seem forcing ourselves into their party.”

“Aye, so we do. That is very disagreeable. I wish we had a large acquaintance here.”

“I wish we had any — it would be somebody to go to.”

“Very true, my dear; and if we knew anybody we would join them directly. The Skinners were here last year — I wish they were here now.”

“Had not we better go away as it is? Here are no tea–things for us, you see.”

“No more there are, indeed. How very provoking! But I think we had better sit still, for one gets so tumbled in such a crowd! How is my head, my dear? Somebody gave me a push that has hurt it, I am afraid.”

“No, indeed, it looks very nice. But, dear Mrs. Allen, are you sure there is nobody you know in all this multitude of people? I think you must know somebody.”

“I don’t, upon my word — I wish I did. I wish I had a large acquaintance here with all my heart, and then I should get you a partner. I should be so glad to have you dance. There goes a strange–looking woman! What an odd gown she has got on! How old–fashioned it is! Look at the back.”

After some time they received an offer of tea from one of their neighbours; it was thankfully accepted, and this introduced a light conversation with the gentleman who offered it, which was the only time that anybody spoke to them during the evening, till they were discovered and joined by Mr. Allen when the dance was over.
The last photo shows the reflection of a chandelier through one of the beautiful mirrors in the octagon room, which was a space generally used for card playing. One of the times that I visited the Assembly Rooms I got into conversation with one of the attendants who look after the chandeliers. He very kindly showed me the ball room as it would have looked on ball nights. With the flick of an electric switch the shutters came down and the chandeliers glowed on a candlelight setting. It was pure magic and I shall never forget it!

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If you carry on down Milsom Street, Old Bond Street and Union Street you will eventually come to Stall Street and the King’s and Queen’s Baths. If you pass under the colonnade you come to the entrance to the Pump Rooms. Inside you can see the Rooms much as they were when first built in 1795. Water is pumped up to a fountain where the pumper serves glasses for its health giving properties! I have sampled the waters – I don’t want to put anyone off – if you like drinking slightly warm, sulphurous smelling water you’ll enjoy them very them. Musicians play as you take the waters or have a more substantial cup of tea or lunch as they did in Jane Austen’s day. Several glasses of water were taken in those days and it was customary to drink them before breakfast. The doors opened at 6 am in summer and by 8 am the room was full.
Here is an extract from Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey.

With more than usual eagerness did Catherine hasten to the pump–room the next day, secure within herself of seeing Mr. Tilney there before the morning were over, and ready to meet him with a smile; but no smile was demanded — Mr. Tilney did not appear. Every creature in Bath, except himself, was to be seen in the room at different periods of the fashionable hours; crowds of people were every moment passing in and out, up the steps and down; people whom nobody cared about, and nobody wanted to see; and he only was absent. “What a delightful place Bath is,” said Mrs. Allen as they sat down near the great clock, after parading the room till they were tired; “and how pleasant it would be if we had any acquaintance here.”

This sentiment had been uttered so often in vain that Mrs. Allen had no particular reason to hope it would be followed with more advantage now; but we are told to “despair of nothing we would attain,” as “unwearied diligence our point would gain”; and the unwearied diligence with which she had every day wished for the same thing was at length to have its just reward, for hardly had she been seated ten minutes before a lady of about her own age, who was sitting by her, and had been looking at her attentively for several minutes, addressed her with great complaisance in these words: “I think, madam, I cannot be mistaken; it is a long time since I had the pleasure of seeing you, but is not your name Allen?”
This question answered, as it readily was, the stranger pronounced hers to be Thorpe; and Mrs. Allen immediately recognized the features of a former schoolfellow and intimate, whom she had seen only once since their respective marriages, and that many years ago.
Their joy on this meeting was very great, as well it might, since they had been contented to know nothing of each other for the last fifteen years. Compliments on good looks now passed; and, after observing how time had slipped away since they were last together, how little they had thought of meeting in Bath, and what a pleasure it was to see an old friend, they proceeded to make inquiries and give intelligence as to their families, sisters, and cousins, talking both together, far more ready to give than to receive information, and each hearing very little of what the other said.

Mrs. Thorpe, however, had one great advantage as a talker, over Mrs. Allen, in a family of children; and when she expatiated on the talents of her sons, and the beauty of her daughters, when she related their different situations and views — that John was at Oxford, Edward at Merchant Taylors’, and William at sea — and all of them more beloved and respected in their different station than any other three beings ever were, Mrs. Allen had no similar information to give, no similar triumphs to press on the unwilling and unbelieving ear of her friend, and was forced to sit and appear to listen to all these maternal effusions, consoling herself, however, with the discovery, which her keen eye soon made, that the lace on Mrs. Thorpe’s pelisse was not half so handsome as that on her own.

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