Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

December 1817

Northanger Abbey is a satire of Gothic novels, which were quite popular at the time, in 1798–99. This coming-of-age story revolves around Catherine Morland, a young and naïve "heroine", who entertains the reader on her journey to a better ...

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Northanger Abbey is a satire of Gothic novels, which were quite popular at the time, in 1798–99. This coming-of-age story revolves around Catherine Morland, a young and naïve "heroine", who entertains the reader on her journey to a better understanding of the world and those around her.

Northanger Abbey was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be completed for publication, in 1803. However, it was not published until after her death in 1817, along with another novel of hers, Persuasion. Northanger Abbey is a satire of Gothic novels, which were quite popular at the time, in 1798–99.This coming-of-age story revolves around Catherine Morland, a young and naïve "heroine", who entertains the reader on her journey to a better understanding of the world and those around her. In the course of the novel, she discovers that she differs from those other women who crave wealth or social acceptance, as instead she wishes only to have happiness supported by genuine morality.

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Her use of biting irony, along with her realism, humour, and social commentary, have long earned her acclaim among critics, scholars, and popular audiences alike.


With the publications of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began another, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion. She also left behind three volumes of juvenile writings in manuscript, a short epistolary novel Lady Susan, and another unfinished novel, The Watsons. Her six full-length novels have rarely been out of print, although they were published anonymously and brought her moderate success and little fame during her lifetime.


A significant transition in her posthumous reputation occurred in 1833, when her novels were republished in Richard Bentley's Standard Novels series, illustrated by Ferdinand Pickering, and sold as a set. They gradually gained wider acclaim and popular readership. In 1869, fifty-two years after her death, her nephew's publication of A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced a compelling version of her writing career and supposedly uneventful life to an eager audience.


Austen has inspired many critical essays and literary anthologies. Her novels have inspired many films, from 1940's Pride and Prejudice to more recent productions like Sense and Sensibility (1995), Emma (1996), Mansfield Park (1999), Pride & Prejudice (2005), and Love & Friendship (2016).

List of works




    Sense and Sensibility (1811)

    Pride and Prejudice (1813)

    Mansfield Park (1814)

    Emma (1815)

    Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous)

    Persuasion (1818, posthumous)

    Lady Susan (1871, posthumous)


Unfinished fiction


    The Watsons (1804)

    Sanditon (1817)


Other works


    Sir Charles Grandison (adapted play) (1793, 1800)[p]

    Plan of a Novel (1815)

    Poems (1796–1817)

    Prayers (1796–1817)

    Letters (1796–1817)


Juvenilia—Volume the First (1787–1793)[q]


    Frederic & Elfrida

    Jack & Alice

    Edgar & Emma

    Henry and Eliza

    The Adventures of Mr. Harley

    Sir William Mountague

    Memoirs of Mr. Clifford

    The Beautifull Cassandra

    Amelia Webster

    The Visit

    The Mystery

    The Three Sisters

    A beautiful description

    The generous Curate

    Ode to Pity


Juvenilia—Volume the Second (1787–1793)


    Love and Freindship

    Lesley Castle

    The History of England

    A Collection of Letters

    The female philosopher

    The first Act of a Comedy

    A Letter from a Young Lady

    A Tour through Wales

    A Tale


Juvenilia—Volume the Third (1787–1793)



    Catherine, or The Bower



Austen first titled the novel Susan, when she sold it in 1803 for £10 to a London bookseller, Crosby & Co. This publisher did not print the work but held on to the manuscript. Austen reportedly threatened to take her work back from them, but Crosby & Co responded that she would face legal consequences for reclaiming her text. In the spring of 1816, the bookseller sold it back to the novelist's brother, Henry Austen, for the same sum as they had paid for it. There is evidence that Austen further revised the novel in 1816–1817 with the intention of having it published. She rewrote sections, renaming the main character Catherine and using that as her working title.


After her death, Austen's brother Henry gave the novel its final name and arranged for publication of Northanger Abbey in late December 1817 (1818 given on the title page), as the first two volumes of a four-volume set, with a preface for the first time publicly identifying Jane Austen as the author of all her novels. Neither Northanger Abbey nor Persuasion was published under the working title Jane Austen used. Aside from first being published together, the two novels are not connected; later editions were published separately.


Film, TV or theatrical adaptations


    The A&E Network and the BBC released the television adaptation Northanger Abbey in 1986.

    An adaptation of Northanger Abbey with screenplay by Andrew Davies, was shown on ITV on 25 March 2007 as part of their "Jane Austen Season". This adaptation aired on PBS in the United States as part of the "Complete Jane Austen" on Masterpiece Classic in January 2008. It stars Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland and JJ Feild as Henry Tilney.

    A stage adaptation of Northanger Abbey by Tim Luscombe, was produced by Salisbury Playhouse in 2009. It was revived in Chicago in 2013 at the Remy Bumppo Theatre.

    A theatrical adaptation by Michael Napier Brown was performed at the Royal Theatre in Northampton in 1998.

    The 1993 independent film Ruby in Paradise starring Ashley Judd was loosely inspired by Northanger Abbey.

    "Pup Fiction" – an episode of Wishbone featuring the plot and characters of Austen's Northanger Abbey.




    In 2016, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an adaptation by Hattie Naylor with Georgia Groome as Catherine. An adaptation of The Mysteries of Udolpho was broadcast at the same time, also adapted by Naylor, with the same cast.


Audio drama


    In July 2017, Audible released an original dramatization of Northanger Abbey featuring Emma Thompson, Douglas Booth. Eleanor Tomlinson, Ella Purnell, Jeremy Irvine and Lily Cole.


Web series


    In 2015, the modern web series adaptation Northbound, by Anya Steiner, was released on YouTube.

    In 2016, the modern web series adaptation The Cate Morland Chronicles was released on YouTube.




HarperCollins hired Scottish crime writer Val McDermid in 2012 to adapt Northanger Abbey for a modern audience, as a suspenseful teen thriller, the second rewrite in The Austen Project. McDermid said of the project, "At its heart it's a teen novel, and a satire – that's something which fits really well with contemporary fiction. And you can really feel a shiver of fear moving through it. I will be keeping the suspense – I know how to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. I think Jane Austen builds suspense well in a couple of places, but she squanders it, and she gets to the endgame too quickly. So I will be working on those things." The novel was published in 2014.


In 2011, Marvel published a graphic novel version of Northanger Abbey, adapted by Nancy Butler (writer), Janet K. Lee (artist) and Nick Filardi (color artist). The book, originally is the last of the Jane Austen adaptations made by Marvel, and contrarily to the other books of the series, is the only one to be released only in paperback, not in hardback.


The same year, author Jenni James published a modern teen version entitled "Northanger Alibi", published by Inkpress, in which the main character's obsession for Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga replaces Catherine's love for Regency gothic novels.


Newbury Acres: An Amish Retelling of Northanger Abbey (2017) by Sarah Price





Doing Gothic in college for my English Lit class, I decided to read Northanger Abbey because it didn’t seem Gothic although really it is and includes many elements. Austen decides to explore more of the Gothic made famous by Ann Radcliffe in The Mysteries of Udolpho.


Catherine Morland is the main protagonist in this novel; she seems to live a predominantly normal life but she’s always had her imagination wrapped up in the things she read. When she’s asked by a friend of the family to go to Bath outside of her average country life it’s a world away.


When she does, she discovers a chaotic unfamiliar place full of a type of living and a type of people that I feel at first she doesn’t quite understand.


What I love about Catherine, is that rather than succumb to the little country girl she is and give in, she uses her understanding and love of books to read the people that surround her like she reads the characters in her books. She uses the magic that books give us to make the transition from her simple, rural life to the sophisticated ways of Bath in the late 18th century.


The gothic aspects of this novel don’t seem as obvious in the first part of the novel, but as it continues elements are introduced such as the setting of the Abbey itself, and the ambiguity of certain characters (whom I will not name in case anyone chooses to read this).


I’m not going to pretend that this novel wasn’t hard to get into at first but it becomes so much more easier as you learn more about Catherine and the way of the world.


I think what we can take from such an early work of Austen is something rather special if you ask me. That even in the most unusual or uncomfortable of situations we can use our understanding of the world we get from the fictional books we love to adapt and learn to cope with the confusion of the real world.


Sometimes I believe it can be odd how it’s much simpler to relate to a fictional reality rather than our own. I argue, isn’t that the point? Aren’t fictional novels there to help us realise that no matter what we can always find our path in the reality we coincide with.

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