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Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Part 5 out of 5

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own speculations, he had yet something more in reserve, and the ten
or fifteen thousand pounds which her father could give her would
be a pretty addition to Mr. Allen's estate. Her intimacy there
had made him seriously determine on her being handsomely legacied
hereafter; and to speak of her therefore as the almost acknowledged
future heiress of Fullerton naturally followed. Upon such
intelligence the general had proceeded; for never had it occurred
to him to doubt its authority. Thorpe's interest in the family,
by his sister's approaching connection with one of its members, and
his own views on another (circumstances of which he boasted with
almost equal openness), seemed sufficient vouchers for his truth;
and to these were added the absolute facts of the Allens being
wealthy and childless, of Miss Morland's being under their care,
and -- as soon as his acquaintance allowed him to judge -- of
their treating her with parental kindness. His resolution was soon
formed. Already had he discerned a liking towards Miss Morland
in the countenance of his son; and thankful for Mr. Thorpe's
communication, he almost instantly determined to spare no pains
in weakening his boasted interest and ruining his dearest hopes.
Catherine herself could not be more ignorant at the time of all
this, than his own children. Henry and Eleanor, perceiving nothing
in her situation likely to engage their father's particular respect,
had seen with astonishment the suddenness, continuance, and extent
of his attention; and though latterly, from some hints which had
accompanied an almost positive command to his son of doing everything
in his power to attach her, Henry was convinced of his father's
believing it to be an advantageous connection, it was not till the
late explanation at Northanger that they had the smallest idea of
the false calculations which had hurried him on. That they were
false, the general had learnt from the very person who had suggested
them, from Thorpe himself, whom he had chanced to meet again in
town, and who, under the influence of exactly opposite feelings,
irritated by Catherine's refusal, and yet more by the failure
of a very recent endeavour to accomplish a reconciliation between
Morland and Isabella, convinced that they were separated forever,
and spurning a friendship which could be no longer serviceable,
hastened to contradict all that he had said before to the advantage
of the Morlands -- confessed himself to have been totally mistaken
in his opinion of their circumstances and character, misled by the
rhodomontade of his friend to believe his father a man of substance
and credit, whereas the transactions of the two or three last weeks
proved him to be neither; for after coming eagerly forward on the
first overture of a marriage between the families, with the most
liberal proposals, he had, on being brought to the point by the
shrewdness of the relator, been constrained to acknowledge himself
incapable of giving the young people even a decent support. They
were, in fact, a necessitous family; numerous, too, almost beyond
example; by no means respected in their own neighbourhood, as
he had lately had particular opportunities of discovering; aiming
at a style of life which their fortune could not warrant; seeking
to better themselves by wealthy connections; a forward, bragging,
scheming race.

The terrified general pronounced the name of Allen with an inquiring
look; and here too Thorpe had learnt his error. The Allens, he
believed, had lived near them too long, and he knew the young man
on whom the Fullerton estate must devolve. The general needed no
more. Enraged with almost everybody in the world but himself, he
set out the next day for the abbey, where his performances have
been seen.

I leave it to my reader's sagacity to determine how much of all this
it was possible for Henry to communicate at this time to Catherine,
how much of it he could have learnt from his father, in what points
his own conjectures might assist him, and what portion must yet
remain to be told in a letter from James. I have united for their
case what they must divide for mine. Catherine, at any rate,
heard enough to feel that in suspecting General Tilney of either
murdering or shutting up his wife, she had scarcely sinned against
his character, or magnified his cruelty.

Henry, in having such things to relate of his father, was almost
as pitiable as in their first avowal to himself. He blushed for
the narrow-minded counsel which he was obliged to expose. The
conversation between them at Northanger had been of the most
unfriendly kind. Henry's indignation on hearing how Catherine
had been treated, on comprehending his father's views, and being
ordered to acquiesce in them, had been open and bold. The general,
accustomed on every ordinary occasion to give the law in his family,
prepared for no reluctance but of feeling, no opposing desire that
should dare to clothe itself in words, could ill brook the opposition
of his son, steady as the sanction of reason and the dictate of
conscience could make it. But, in such a cause, his anger, though
it must shock, could not intimidate Henry, who was sustained in his
purpose by a conviction of its justice. He felt himself bound as
much in honour as in affection to Miss Morland, and believing that
heart to be his own which he had been directed to gain, no unworthy
retraction of a tacit consent, no reversing decree of unjustifiable
anger, could shake his fidelity, or influence the resolutions it

He steadily refused to accompany his father into Herefordshire, an
engagement formed almost at the moment to promote the dismissal of
Catherine, and as steadily declared his intention of offering her
his hand. The general was furious in his anger, and they parted
in dreadful disagreement. Henry, in an agitation of mind which
many solitary hours were required to compose, had returned almost
instantly to Woodston, and, on the afternoon of the following day,
had begun his journey to Fullerton.


Mr. and Mrs. Morland's surprise on being applied to by Mr. Tilney
for their consent to his marrying their daughter was, for a
few minutes, considerable, it having never entered their heads to
suspect an attachment on either side; but as nothing, after all,
could be more natural than Catherine's being beloved, they soon
learnt to consider it with only the happy agitation of gratified
pride, and, as far as they alone were concerned, had not a single
objection to start. His pleasing manners and good sense were
self-evident recommendations; and having never heard evil of him,
it was not their way to suppose any evil could be told. Goodwill
supplying the place of experience, his character needed no attestation.
"Catherine would make a sad, heedless young housekeeper to be sure,"
was her mother's foreboding remark; but quick was the consolation
of there being nothing like practice.

There was but one obstacle, in short, to be mentioned; but till
that one was removed, it must be impossible for them to sanction
the engagement. Their tempers were mild, but their principles were
steady, and while his parent so expressly forbade the connection,
they could not allow themselves to encourage it. That the general
should come forward to solicit the alliance, or that he should even
very heartily approve it, they were not refined enough to make any
parading stipulation; but the decent appearance of consent must
be yielded, and that once obtained -- and their own hearts made
them trust that it could not be very long denied -- their willing
approbation was instantly to follow. His consent was all that they
wished for. They were no more inclined than entitled to demand his
money. Of a very considerable fortune, his son was, by marriage
settlements, eventually secure; his present income was an income
of independence and comfort, and under every pecuniary view, it
was a match beyond the claims of their daughter.

The young people could not be surprised at a decision like this.
They felt and they deplored -- but they could not resent it; and
they parted, endeavouring to hope that such a change in the general,
as each believed almost impossible, might speedily take place, to
unite them again in the fullness of privileged affection. Henry
returned to what was now his only home, to watch over his young
plantations, and extend his improvements for her sake, to whose
share in them he looked anxiously forward; and Catherine remained
at Fullerton to cry. Whether the torments of absence were softened
by a clandestine correspondence, let us not inquire. Mr. and Mrs.
Morland never did -- they had been too kind to exact any promise;
and whenever Catherine received a letter, as, at that time, happened
pretty often, they always looked another way.

The anxiety, which in this state of their attachment must be the
portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as
to its final event, can hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my
readers, who will see in the tell-tale compression of the pages
before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity.
The means by which their early marriage was effected can be the
only doubt: what probable circumstance could work upon a temper
like the general's? The circumstance which chiefly availed was
the marriage of his daughter with a man of fortune and consequence,
which took place in the course of the summer -- an accession of
dignity that threw him into a fit of good humour, from which he
did not recover till after Eleanor had obtained his forgiveness of
Henry, and his permission for him "to be a fool if he liked it!"

The marriage of Eleanor Tilney, her removal from all the evils of
such a home as Northanger had been made by Henry's banishment, to
the home of her choice and the man of her choice, is an event which
I expect to give general satisfaction among all her acquaintance.
My own joy on the occasion is very sincere. I know no one more
entitled, by unpretending merit, or better prepared by habitual
suffering, to receive and enjoy felicity. Her partiality for this
gentleman was not of recent origin; and he had been long withheld
only by inferiority of situation from addressing her. His unexpected
accession to title and fortune had removed all his difficulties;
and never had the general loved his daughter so well in all her
hours of companionship, utility, and patient endurance as when he
first hailed her "Your Ladyship!" Her husband was really deserving
of her; independent of his peerage, his wealth, and his attachment,
being to a precision the most charming young man in the world.
Any further definition of his merits must be unnecessary; the most
charming young man in the world is instantly before the imagination
of us all. Concerning the one in question, therefore, I have only
to add -- aware that the rules of composition forbid the introduction
of a character not connected with my fable -- that this was the very
gentleman whose negligent servant left behind him that collection
of washing-bills, resulting from a long visit at Northanger, by
which my heroine was involved in one of her most alarming adventures.

The influence of the viscount and viscountess in their brother's
behalf was assisted by that right understanding of Mr. Morland's
circumstances which, as soon as the general would allow himself to
be informed, they were qualified to give. It taught him that he
had been scarcely more misled by Thorpe's first boast of the family
wealth than by his subsequent malicious overthrow of it; that in no
sense of the word were they necessitous or poor, and that Catherine
would have three thousand pounds. This was so material an amendment
of his late expectations that it greatly contributed to smooth the
descent of his pride; and by no means without its effect was the
private intelligence, which he was at some pains to procure, that
the Fullerton estate, being entirely at the disposal of its present
proprietor, was consequently open to every greedy speculation.

On the strength of this, the general, soon after Eleanor's marriage,
permitted his son to return to Northanger, and thence made him the
bearer of his consent, very courteously worded in a page full of
empty professions to Mr. Morland. The event which it authorized
soon followed: Henry and Catherine were married, the bells rang,
and everybody smiled; and, as this took place within a twelvemonth
from the first day of their meeting, it will not appear, after all
the dreadful delays occasioned by the general's cruelty, that they
were essentially hurt by it. To begin perfect happiness at the
respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen is to do pretty well;
and professing myself moreover convinced that the general's unjust
interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity,
was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge
of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it
to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency
of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward
filial disobedience.

*Vide a letter from Mr. Richardson, No. 97, Vol. II, Rambler.


Northanger Abbey was written in 1797-98 under a different title. The
manuscript was revised around 1803 and sold to a London publisher,
Crosbie & Co., who sold it back in 1816. The Signet Classic text
is based on the first edition, published by John Murray, London,
in 1818 -- the year following Miss Austen's death. Spelling and
punctuation have been largely brought into conformity with modern
British usage.

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