Catherine: The Day After


Not too much fussing in the press after NA07. While AustenBlog visitors seem mostly pleased with it, the newspaper writers are not as impressed.

The Times didn’t hate it, but thinks they missed the point.

Some say that Jane Austen cannot be trusted in Davies’s hands, that her two inches of ivory (as she described her canvas) get crushed in his ape-like mitts. This underestimates the robustness of masterpieces and misjudges Austen, who wielded a pen so sharp that it could hit Davies where it hurt.

[. . .]

Davies was not wrong to source her wanton imagination in a wannabe libido. He overegged it, of course, because he is Andrew Davies. While we never exactly see her reading one-handed, there is no doubting why she is so annoyed when her sisters interrupt her alone with a book in the long grass.

Oh dear Jane. Poor, dear, sweet, naïve Catherine. What has been done to you?

His horror sequences were flat, however, and Northanger Abbey, which should be up there with the Addams Family mansion, looked no more sordid than some Holiday Inns that I’ve visited.

Um…the Abbey wasn’t creepy at all. That was the point.

An abbey! — yes, it was delightful to be really in an abbey! — but she doubted, as she looked round the room, whether anything within her observation would have given her the consciousness. The furniture was in all the profusion and elegance of modern taste. The fire-place, where she had expected the ample width and ponderous carving of former times, was contracted to a Rumford, with slabs of plain though handsome marble, and ornaments over it of the prettiest English china. The windows, to which she looked with peculiar dependence, from having heard the general talk of his preserving them in their Gothic form with reverential care, were yet less what her fancy had portrayed. To be sure, the pointed arch was preserved — the form of them was Gothic — they might be even casements — but every pane was so large, so clear, so light! To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone-work, for painted glass, dirt, and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing.

See how that works? It’s a parody! Back to the article…

Davies, meanwhile, failed to get over Austen’s real point, that the complications and pitfalls of the class structure in Bath were far more horrifying and unknowable than potboiler gothic. Austen’s first novel was a horror story, you see. But dammit, this was a free and easy adaptation. On a cold spring weekend, it made you believe the sap might yet again rise.


For perverts who, instead, get their rocks off on ideas, BBC Two played against Northanger Abbey the last part of Adam Curtis’s weirdly brilliant documentary trilogy, The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom .

It’s a shame that a Jane Austen adaptation is not considered attractive to “perverts who…get their rocks off on ideas.” What a picture of intellectual poverty!

Oh well, moving on. The Telegraph also passes on some rather lukewarm praise for the film.

Indeed, for anybody heretical enough to be suffering from Austen-fatigue, the real life here was perhaps a little too prosaic – or at least predictable. Certainly, as Unsuitable Suitors go, John Thorpe wasn’t a very good one, and didn’t fool either Catherine or us for a minute. As a result, although the early scenes and some of the subplots were always engaging, the main storyline increasingly began to drag as we followed Catherine and Mr Tilney through their obligatory misunderstandings to their inevitable reconciliation.

The proposal of marriage at the end was definitely stirring. Even so, I must confess that for my money it didn’t come a moment too soon. Last night’s Northanger Abbey was a perfectly acceptable costume drama – but not one than ever really caught fire.

Hmm…the hilarity of John Thorpe as a possible lover for Catherine doesn’t seem to come across. It certainly does in the book. He’s one of Jane Austen’s funniest characters.

We wonder…can we Janeites be quite so desperate for a “good” movie of NA that we’ll grasp whatever we’re given with both hands and thank ITV for it without examining it too closely? Hmm. Meanwhile, we’ve always got Da Man.

“But you never read novels, I dare say?”

“Why not?”

“Because they are not clever enough for you — gentlemen read better books.”

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; — I remember finishing it in two days — my hair standing on end the whole time.”

“Yes,” added Miss Tilney, “and I remember that you undertook to read it aloud to me, and that when I was called away for only five minutes to answer a note, instead of waiting for me, you took the volume into the Hermitage-walk, and I was obliged to stay till you had finished it.”

“Thank you, Eleanor; — a most honourable testimony. You see, Miss Morland, the injustice of your suspicions. Here was I, in my eagerness to get on, refusing to wait only five minutes for my sister, breaking the promise I had made of reading it aloud, and keeping her in suspense at a most interesting part, by running away with the volume, which, you are to observe, was her own, particularly her own. I am proud when I reflect on it, and I think it must establish me in your good opinion.”

“I am very glad to hear it indeed, and now I shall never be ashamed of liking Udolpho myself. But I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly.”

“It is amazingly; it may well suggest amazement if they do — for they read nearly as many as women. I myself have read hundreds and hundreds. Do not imagine that you can cope with me in a knowledge of Julias and Louisas. If we proceed to particulars, and engage in the never-ceasing inquiry of ‘Have you read this?’ and ‘Have you read that?’ I shall soon leave you as far behind me as — what shall I say? — l want an appropriate simile. — as far as your friend Emily herself left poor Valancourt when she went with her aunt into Italy. Consider how many years I have had the start of you. I had entered on my studies at Oxford, while you were a good little girl working your sampler at home!”

“Not very good I am afraid. But now really, do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?”

“The nicest; — by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend upon the binding.”

“Henry,” said Miss Tilney, “you are very impertinent. Miss Morland, he is treating you exactly as he does his sister. He is forever finding fault with me, for some incorrectness of language, and now he is taking the same liberty with you. The word `nicest,’ as you used it, did not suit him; and you had better change it as soon as you can, or we shall be overpowered with Johnson and Blair all the rest of the way.”

“I am sure,” cried Catherine, “I did not mean to say any thing wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should not I call it so?”

“Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! it is a very nice word indeed! — It does for every thing. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement; — people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.”

“While, in fact,” cried his sister, “it ought only to be applied to you, without any commendation at all. You are more nice than wise.”

Yes, Henry is indeed the nicest hero of all. 😉