The Very Secret Diary of Henry Tilney


(with apologies to Cassandra Clare for borrowing her schtick)

My Vampyre, Let Me Show You ItDay 1: Rode to Bath. Found lodgings. Went to Lower Rooms. Danced with Miss Morland. Pretty girl, suspect she might have misunderstood the muslin bit. Oh well, it’s not like I’m going to marry her or anything.

Day 2: Rode back to Northanger. Staked two undead in garden after tea. I really am sick and tired of all these vampyres. Totally out of holy water. What kind of Abbey do we live in, anyway, with no secret stash of holy water?

Day 3: Howling ghost kept whole castle up all night. The governor sneered at breakfast, “Can’t you do a simple exorcism, Henry? What good has that expensive Oxford education or cushy living I set up done for you? Frederick hasn’t cost me a cent since I bought his commission, except those bills for Madam Dominatra’s House of Lacy Unmentionables. The boy must be keeping half a dozen mistresses by the size of them. That’s my boy!” Mistresses! Ha! That’s what he thinks.

Day 4: Bloody hell. Vampyre hiding behind tapestry, in sliding panel. Staked him, but that was a sneaky one. Might be losing my touch. Perhaps should move to Woodston permanently. Leave for Bath tomorrow. Not a moment too soon.

Day 5: Went to Rooms, saw Miss Morland. Asked her to dance. She said she was engaged, but didn’t dance with anyone until the next dance, when she accepted a troglodyte out of obvious desperation. Looked like an ugly customer I staked in the hermitage walk last year. So did the girl I ended up dancing with, come to think of it. Miss M. definitely misunderstood the muslin bit. Oh well, it’s not like I’m going to marry her or anything.

Day 6: Eleanor came home from Pump Room and teased me about acquiring an admirer. She meant Miss Morland. Hmm. Perhaps she understood the muslin bit after all.

So, Gentle Readers, what did you think of the new film?

ETA: This blog post was made possible by a generous contribution from Period Film Pedants International, who remind you that while Miss Morland would no doubt be delighted to ride in a curricle with Mr. Tilney…THAT WASN’T A CURRICLE.

Screencap for macro ganked from Solitary Elegance, we hope with Heather’s forgiveness if not permission

120 thoughts on “The Very Secret Diary of Henry Tilney

  1. Audrey

    I liked the adaptation in general but I felt the ending was really rushed. I wonder how much PBS cut out of it for their silly introduction.


  2. I thought this movie adaptation was so much better than Persuasion. Why on earth PBS chose to only show 90 minutes of these productions mystifies me. Neverteless, I enjoyed my evening with Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland.


  3. I enjoyed it but agree that the ending was rushed. And I didn’t hear the very last bit of narration since my husband was talking. Did I miss anything important?

    I am not as familiar with Northanger Abbey, having only read it once and I’ve never seen a film/t.v adaptation either.

    I’m not really looking forward to next week (MP, though I will be watching.


  4. Woohoo! Twas wonderful! The only things I noticed being cut out were the bath scene and the book burning. Oddly enough, I thought both of the excisions really improved the film by making it less sensationalistic and less open to misinterpretation.

    A question: I’ve always thought that Davies intended us to see Catherine’s burning of the novel and saying that she was so wicked as an overreaction on her part, rather than a condemnation of novels themselves. However, many commentators have said that this adaptation condemns fiction, especially by women. Whereas, I saw Henry’s speech to Catherine about her instincts being true to show that her imagination may have been a bit overactive, but that she is ultimately vindicated.

    I really think this was the best of the three ITV productions (especially since it was produced by Granada, who generally does good stuff). Too bad next week is a disappointment.
    Only_a_novel: a Northanger Abbey community.


  5. The ending narration was pretty much directly from the last sentences of the novel, so you can find it in the last chapter in any copy (paper of etext) of the book.


  6. Emma

    Hey all! (Great site, BTW- my 2nd time here!)

    The acting, lighting, and pacing were ALL awesome!!! Henry was a really interesting character, unlike Edmund in MP (another clergyman). He had a lot of wry humor- the actor was v. good! Oh, did u notice in the opening credits (for Masterpiece Theatre) they showed pic of Damien Lewis? I love him! (am seeing Band of Bros. now)


  7. I loved it. I wished AD had restrained himself at a few points (i.e. the H Tilney getting mad scene, the vampire stuff) but overall the leads were so winning it redeemed Persuasion for me.


  8. Surrey Hill

    I realize this may be an unpopular opinion on this board, but I not only adore NA, but have a copy of it in my RV for my overnight guests who need reading material. Now, is that gothic, or WHAT?

    I view the version I just watched tonight definitely from a glass-half-full point of view.

    I have to evaluate it on two levels:

    a) is it an entertaining period piece which generally hangs together?


    b) is it mostly true to the essence of the source material?

    I feel it succeeds on both counts, but more so on a) than b).

    Still, compared to last week’s dismal slog followed by the Bath Steeplechase, I think it looks like a Merchant-Ivory Oscar Nominee.

    What I liked:

    *the underlying satire of gothic novels was both skewered and satired.
    *this was because the winning hero was a rather ordinary guy who was nonetheless attractive, witty, and romantic despite lack of menace.
    *nothing anachronistic.
    *we could easily tell who was the bad girl because she had an obvious mole on her pushed -up bazooms. This is an important plot point for all of us who enjoy costumers set in this era.
    *Tilney (Reverend Henry) had a lovely spreading, flapping greatcoat when he rode around on his fine, strapping dappled gray. You gotta like that.
    *The hair was not at all a problem, Louisa.
    *dancing was very good.
    *There was much talk of muslins.
    *locations were acceptable, to even beautiful, and the “crush” in Bath was well-portrayed.
    *Henry Tilney was indeed “almost handsome”. His brother was positively Wickhamesque! Very sexy, but in a bad and disreputable sort of way.
    *Fanny Price (1983)played Mrs. Allen and looked scarcely older, if I may say so.
    *pretty but simple dresses
    *conversation while dancing much better than that in “Becoming Jane”

    What was bad:

    *Tilney, Sr. not a patch on Siegfried Farnon’s version.
    *Frank Thorpe not a patch on the guy whose bare calves were exposed to us all in Bath, in the prior version. IF you are going to put out there a potential rival, he has to at least be plausible. This one, I just wanted to offer a banana.
    *the actress who played Catherine apparently went to the same school as the rest in terms of displaying strong emotion by standing slack-jawed and gape-mouthed, but other than that, was generally acceptable in portraying a sweet young thing ripe for the plucking by a nice young man (we hope!).
    *conversation while dancing did not include Da Man’s views on dancing vis-a-vis marriage, which was a great loss to us all.
    *James Morland suitably sharp-nosed and shrimpy.

    Compared to last Sunday’s effort, which I would have given a grade of “D” to, I would give this one a B+. A better version of NA can still be made, but I did not think this one putrid or at all divorced from the tone and mood of the novel.


  9. LynnS

    At long last, a decent adaptation of Northanger! I was relatively happy with it although I did get my copy of NA from the bookshelf and recite the dialogue at the screen several times. Who was the idiot who told AD he was a better writer than Jane Austen?

    I also did not care for MEAN!HENRY and it made no sense for Catherine to have no contact with Henry after he found her in his mother’s rooms. He’s the one who comforted her later that evening and later with the situation of James and Isabella. “But your mind is warped by an innate principle of general integrity, and therefore not accessible to the cool reasonings of family partiality, or a desire of revenge.” [Sigh!] Amazing isn’t it how dialogue shows how the relationship between Henry and Catherine has progressed?

    AD also missed the point that “in suspecting General Tilney of either murdering or shutting up his wife, [Catherine] had scarcely sinned against his character, or magnified his cruelty.” Maybe he should try reading the book objectively to determine what Jane Austen meant, rather than what he wants her to have meant.

    P.S. Love the diary.


  10. I didn’t really see Henry as mean (but then, I liked Mark Strong’s Mr. Knightley in E3). And I thought Henry’s comment about Catherine’s instincts being right was a reference to the quote mentioned.


  11. Surrey Hill

    Oh, I did forget to mention I quite liked the shy, amateurish grappling in the shrubbery, near the end.

    Ever so much better than the starving guppy attempting to inhale fish food kiss at the end of Persuasion, last Sunday, *ick*.


  12. While I agree it was a workmanlike effort that managed to shoehorn the high points of the story into 80some minutes after a fashion, I have to admit my logic was strained in a few places. “If Mr. Thorpe would have stopped the gig I would have got out and run after you.” Um…HE DID STOP THE GIG. AND FLIRTED WITH YOU. AND YOU STAYED VOLUNTARILY. If you’re gonna change the story, make it all match up plzthx.

    Also Catherine’s obsession with Gothics having a more sexual component than just a sheltered country girl yearning to play Nancy Drew didn’t really connect her reading to her suspicions about General Tilney in any convincing manner.

    I still find the Morland kids highly amusing.

    And as Lynn said–BRING BACK HENRY’S REAL DIALOGUE!!! Ugh, every time he got moody and depressed I wanted to put my foot through the TV. NOT DA MAN! (But the vampyre stuff cracks me up. It’s not supposed to, but it does. Please. A VAMPYRE?)

    I liked JJ as Henry well enough the first time I saw it–the second I was rather dissatisfied and thought he was a bit condescending. This time I thought he was smirky, condescending, and mean. My Henry is none of those.

    And Catherine burning Udolpho made no sense when she’d been swooning over The Monk for the whole movie, so I’m just as glad that scene is gone. What did poor Mrs. Radcliffe do to deserve such treatment? Interesting that the scenes we complained the most about were removed…


  13. “But your father,” said Catherine, “was he afflicted?”

    “For a time, greatly so. You have erred in supposing him not attached to her. He loved her, I am persuaded, as well as it was possible for him to — we have not all, you know, the same tenderness of disposition — and I will not pretend to say that while she lived, she might not often have had much to bear, but though his temper injured her, his judgment never did. His value of her was sincere; and, if not permanently, he was truly afflicted by her death.”

    A bit subtle for Masterpiece Abridged Classics, I guess.


  14. Surrey Hill

    There are various ways to interpret that passage, and the way I would interpret it is that he convinced her she was ordinary and trivial, because she appeared so, and once she was dead, he missed having her physical presence.

    I think you can look at that in several ways. And let us not forget he was an odious creature who sent Catherine away in very low style simply because he found out she was not rich.

    No, I will hear no defense of Col. Tilney. The only good thing he ever did in his life was sire Henry and Eleanor.


  15. Far be it from me to defend General Tilney! But the whole vampyre thing still strikes me as ludicrous. And the whole I’ve Been Disinherited! ending was cliched, rushed, and sloppy.

    But then I’m very particular. 😉


  16. I see now – though I thought it was decent writing to tie the film together with that term – it does make for memorable lines, which help to cement the concept (since we obviously can’t remember past thirty minutes in a 90 minute production…). And the end was a bit rushed, but really funny (I laughed nearly the entire way through from the nerd!kiss to the lightning strike final shot).


  17. Surrey Hill

    Ok, I get it, GENERALLY, (oops). I knew that my liking of this version would be not widely shared, but the deal is…where is a better version to be found???? So far, this is the best. That may not be saying MUCH, but I really do think it is the best. I love this novel for the way it lovingly satirizes and celebrates the kind of novels that are most read and enjoyed by young women, and the way it gives us a hero (in spite of ourselves) who is the sort of young man that we should most aspire to.

    Until someone comes along and does a better version, I really think is going to have to do. NA has been sadly neglected.


  18. I don’t think it will be that unpopular, actually. But I feel very strongly that NA deserves better than “better than the other one.” All of Jane Austen’s novels do. This one could have been sooooo much better. So much. 30 more minutes, spending some of my PBS pledge money on it, and a scriptwriter who actually liked and truly understood the book would have been a decent starting place. And I know they CAN do better, because I’ve seen an excellent stage version of NA that was fall-down funny, accessible to a modern audience, and extremely faithful to the spirit AND letter of the novel. Heck, even Wishbone did a better job (and was actually funny). It can be done. This wasn’t it. And every time we settle for “better than the other one,” we’ll keep getting not good enough.

    Okay, getting off my soapbox now. Back to vampyre jokes.


  19. Surrey Hill

    I guess I feel that the major issues here from a popular viewership standpoint was not the script so much as it was the lack of star quality in the leads.

    We are so conditioned to make great discoveries in these kind of productions and I think in this one, the actors were very workmanlike.


  20. Amy Catherine

    I adored this adaptation, and I think of myself as picky, since I produced my own stage version a few years ago. I did feel it was a real shame that it wasn’t longer and didn’t include more witty dialogue, but I think the casting was pretty much spot-on (particularly Catherine and Henry) and the characters were certainly recognizable as those from the novel. Most of the changes didn’t bother me enough to damage my enjoyment of the production. I think Frederick was done a disservice, but it’s an understandable interpretation of the character. I’d provide a more detailed evaluation were it not half past midnight, but all in all, nothing can stop me from loving it. I can’t wait to get the DVD!


  21. What annoys me the most is the completely unnecessary changes to the story. I do understand the necessary contractions demanded by the transfer from page to film, but there were wholesale changes that did nothing to improve, and indeed in some cases were detrimental to the story. For instance, the Gothic story on the way to Northanger Abbey is much funnier in the book. And all of Henry’s best lines are just gone.


  22. Oh, and I have a bone to pick with Agent Scully. I felt her introduction implied that Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey as a Gothic novel in imitation of the Gothic novels she read and enjoyed. It’s a PARODY of the Gothic novels she read and enjoyed. An affectionate parody, but a parody nonetheless. It’s not fan fiction.


  23. Nancy

    Wishbone DID do a better job of NA than Masterpiece, unfortunately, and I heartily agree with everything Mags says in 24. I read the ending of NA to my husband after we watched it to talk over the differences. The actress playing Catherine was very appealing.

    Mostly, I wish I could have a version of NA to watch with my young kids (10, 7 and 4)! We can read or listen to all the Austen novels together, so why not a good adaptation of this one? I realize it would be the trickiest to put to screen because of Catherine’s overactive imagination, but still…. NA deserves better and we deserve better.

    I think I could probably edit out several scenes of this and it would be okay, esp. at the end where Catherine talks with her siblings about not reading too many novels (or letting your imagination run away with you). Because there were so many problems for me, though, I think I will just pass on showing this one.

    We watched last week’s Persuasion earlier today with the kids and two of the three wandered away, unlike the 1995 version, that we all watched last fall and enjoyed. I think they would probably do the same with this one, so we’ll wait for the rest of the series. I am interested to see if the new Mansfield Park is going to be any better.


  24. slegne

    Did they actually play I spy and charades in the 18th century? I have not read NA yet. I did see the Masterpiece Theatre version on PBS tonight. It doesn’t seem possible to do a Jane Austen novel justice in 90 min.


  25. Jessica Irene

    I agree with Mags about out of character Mean Henry Tilney. Whatever happened to “Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”


  26. R

    What I want to know is, does “make as little alteration as possible to your dress” *really* mean “somehow put on a whole different dress by yourself despite refusing the offer of a maid”?

    But mostly I’m just lamenting the lack of all the best Henry Tilney bits, *especially* his kindness after Catherine realizes the error of her thoughts.


  27. Had very low expectations and was quite pleasantly surprised by this lovely film. Am relieved that the second installment of The Complete Jane Austen is a success. A pity they didn’t film in Bath, though.

    Speaking of The COMPLETE Jane Austen, why are we not seeing the COMPLETE movie, but only shortened versions of movies that must already be too short? (Aren’t all two-hour movies an inherent compromise when adapting a full-length novel?) Was this the case with Persuasion, too? Does anyone have a clue as to why this is happening?

    I did like the part where Henry talks about how much his mother suffered in that marriage. I think this is clearly the subtext in NA, though like R, I too missed Henry’s kindness to Catherine after she realizes her imagination’s been working overtime.

    I too laughed at the result of “make as little alteration as possible to your dress.”


  28. Tabatha

    First, please allow me to say, I do not enjoy Gillian Anderson as the opener for Masterpiece. I do not know if her words are her own, or if she is reading from a script. What happened to Masterpiece THEATRE? And gone is the lovely old familiar opening and original music, where the camera drifts from one picture of a former presentation to another, which actually brings back some happy memories for me. Why oh why did they need to “fix” what is not broken! Sigh.

    Aside from my complaint about the above, I really did enjoy this adaptation of Northanger. I hope they do not mess up my beloved S & S though!


  29. Julie P.

    I didn’t watch it last night (Packers were on), but I did see it last spring and wasn’t amused. The whole thing about The Monk really ticked me off. If which book Catherine reads doesn’t matter, then why make the switch? Because it DOES matter. Maybe not to people who don’t know anything about NA or Udolpho or The Monk, but it certainly does to Himself, a.k.a. Andrew Davies. I never knew anything about Udolpho or The Monk when I first read NA, but I, being of a rather curious nature, looked them up and even read half of Udolpho (I just couldn’t take Emily’s relentless sobbing anymore), so I fully understand that NA is reminiscent of Udolpho, but that it also bears no resemblance whatsoever to The Monk.

    So, despite the fact that I liked his new version of S&S, I still think that Andrew Davies is an overrated hack.


  30. Allison T.

    I thought that Gillian Anderson looked and spoke as if she were on potent painkillers and the red screen behind her simply screams LOW BUDGET! As for the film, I was pleasantly surprised & agreed with all the comments made above with one additional one:

    Why are all these productions so crashingly EARNEST? NA in particular is LOL risible. Where are the funny bits? Like when Isabella and Catherine are in the Rooms and are being ogled by two young men and the girls vow to turn their backs on them and when the men walk away, Isabella rushes Catherine along to chase after them? This whole novel is about the contrast in what Catherine imagines and what people actually say and do. We love Catherine and we watch her time after time being misled, either because she thinks the worst of someone (Gen’l T.) or the best (everyone else). It is about perception versus reality until the very end, when the two come together and she wins Henry (and where the author wryly comments that it is not so unusual for a young man to fall in love with a young woman principally because she has admired him first, in contradiction to all the conventions of the Gothick romance).


  31. Kelley B

    Ugh…late to the game but am sharing anyway. I didn’t like it. Why was it necessary to replace “The Mysteries of Udolpho” with “The Monk?” TM is a vulgar novel and while (in the book) John Thorpe does recommend it to Catherine, she completely ignores him and continues to gush about Udolpho as if he’s said nothing. Not to mention most of the gothic parody is a parody on TMoU! Oh and Catherine was NEVER INTERESTED IN JOHN THORPE!!!! They were trying to create a love triangle in this film that simply did not exist. And I agree with Mags…WHY DIDN’T CATHERINE GET OUT OF THE GIG AND RUN BACK TO THE TILNEYS WHEN JT STOPPED!?!?!?!

    Also, while JJ Feild did a decent job with what he was given, he was not Henry from the novel. His humor was stripped in most places and toned down in others. He was angry and cruel where he should have been kind and comforting. He had some cute and funny moments but most of them were lost because Catherine suddenly was made wiser than she is in the novel. Speaking of which, why on earth would Catherine claim to not believe novels were real and then turn around and try to make General Tilney a villain from one of her books? That was totally out of character. Really…all I ask for is consistency with the story if you insist on changing it!

    Honestly, I felt like this adaptation was thrown together on the way in to work one morning. Bad writing, bad acting (Felicity Jones looked like Catherine but was about as charismatic and appealing as a sheet of cardboard), and not a single scene shot in the actual Bath….I wish they had never touched NA if this was the kind of care they were showing it. Wishbone did a much better job of it than this and they only had 10 minutes to tell the story!

    Not to be totally negative, I did think Isabella Thorpe and Mrs. Allen were done to near perfection (minus that whole Isabella sleeping with Frederick crap…she may have been cunning, but she wasn’t stupid! She would never had done that…but that’s not the actress’ fault). But honestly, that’s all I can really find that I like.

    *storms off to read Lynn Marie Macy’s stage adaptation and dream of how things could have been*


  32. Miss Otis

    Where are the funny bits? Like when Isabella and Catherine are in the Rooms and are being ogled by two young men and the girls vow to turn their backs on them and when the men walk away, Isabella rushes Catherine along to chase after them?

    Did they cut that out for PBS? It’s in the movie.

    Oh and Catherine was NEVER INTERESTED IN JOHN THORPE!!!! They were trying to create a love triangle in this film that simply did not exist.

    … I definitely didn’t pick up on that. I thought it was clear she wasn’t interested in him at all.

    I don’t know, I thought this adaptation was adorable, and it’s probably my favorite of them all.


  33. I agree with Miss Otis – I never thought that Catherine was interested in John in the film at all. I thought it was all a delusion on his part – which it is in the book as well.

    And I adored Felicity Jones’ performance as Catherine. She was very spirited while retaining Catherine’s innocent curiosity and enjoyment of life. Even her lurid fantasies have a purity about them – at least, I thought so – unlike similar scenes in The Importance of Being Earnest, I enjoyed most of her dream sequences. Many of her lines were cut, indeed, but her facial expressions really encapsulated the character. And when she cries, “You did not see his face,” I was strangely moved – something I never expected to be in an adaptation of Northanger Abbey.


  34. Reeba

    Mags why didn’t you ask posters to mention whether they had read NA as you did for persuasion?’ 😉
    P&P is widely read and popular. There were more people annoyed by the P&P95 which had more things from the novel than this NA does, and yet seems to be liked by more people.
    I know it’s not such a popular novel, and nobody seems to really care that it is more like a fan fiction than any thing else with the story so altered.

    Excuse me for so many quotes but I just walked in and there were 40 posts already.
    Two very common comments stand out.
    >the ending was really rushed.
    >much better than Persuasion.
    The former seems rushed because there was no build up to it.
    Being better than Persuasion is hardly a tribute IMO.
    Anne’s marathon IS AS RIDICULOUS as Catherine reading The Monk.
    The former lasted a few minutes while the latter idiocity lasted almost throughout.

    @Surrey Hill
    >*the underlying satire of gothic novels was both skewered and satired.

    Where?’ When?? How?? Do Tell!!!
    For me that’s *THE* weakest point of this fan fiction. Unless you meant those two fantasy scenes of banditi’s. Hmmm!¨Not enough to even begin on, I think. Neither is the part about suspecting Mrs Tilney’s murder. With no build up to it Catherine seems more than stupid in those scenes.

    >where is a better version to be found????
    The ‘saxophone’ one!!¨;-) It’s following of the book religiously almost 90% of the times makes it so IMO, not to mention the characters – straight out of the book. Except Henry Tilney who later on makes up for it with his good acting like John Carson in Emma of that time.

    @Laurie Voera Rigler
    >Am relieved that the second installment of The Complete Jane Austen is a success.
    A success?? How?’


  35. Reeba

    PS: Oh not only whether they had read the novel, but whether it was ‘a long time ago’ or ….. 😉
    Many posters say that you know. 😉


  36. LynnS

    I don’t think NA is just about Catherine’s imagination which doesn’t get the better of her until she goes to visit the Tilneys. It’s that she (and James) have been brought up by honest, forthright people and they haven’t yet learned that people can not be taken at face value. Her entire relationship with Isabella consists of Isabella saying one thing and doing quite another and until Catherine sees Isabella betray her brother, she doesn’t realize it. John, she figures out more quickly because he says one thing and then the complete opposite in practically the same breath.

    Which reminds me that I REALLY disliked Thorpe telling Catherine that there was something suspicious about Mrs Tilney’s death. Since the part in the Abbey is where Catherine does let her imaigination run away with her, it isn’t true to the character to have someone else put the idea in her head long beforehand. Having heard other people say it almost justifies her suspicions.


  37. I thought the parody was quite strong – not just in the fantasies, but in the voice-over, Catherine’s normal dialogue, and the atmosphere (the music and way over-the-top Gothich shots of the Abbey and storms and such). And I saw build to Catherine’s suspicions in many places – in her response to John Thorpe’s comments about the Tilney’s reputation, in her observations of the household, and in General Tilney’s actions.

    And for the record, I have read and reread the novel and love it. I don’t think liking this film necessarily demonstrates a lack of caring about the original.


  38. Amy Catherine

    I have heard it observed, I believe in an article from Persuasions many years ago, that Catherine in Bath seems much more sensible than Catherine in Northanger, and that perhaps this had to do with Austen’s failure to completely revise the novel. Likewise, however, some readers fault Henry and his constant teasing as a significant contributor to Catherine’s wild ideas about the General. I felt that this version stressed Henry’s share of responsibility for the whole mess–“the house is full of secrets,” the discussion about the similarity of real life to novels, etc. Henry himself never acknowledged it, however, and I would have loved to have seen him do so in his relationship with Catherine after the fiasco of Mrs. Tilney’s room. If only the script had included those scenes!


  39. Deborah

    My biggest complaint dovetails with Kelley B’s point in 42: Davies seemed to want to tone down Catherine’s credulousness by having her say things along the lines of “Of course, I realize that people don’t actually go around murdering and kidnapping each other all the time in real life, the way they do in books,” but if she’s figured that out, then why does she spin the thinnest of evidence about General Tilney into a melodramatic wife-murder? I’m sympathetic to the script problem here because I think Catherine’s credulousness is a bit hard to believe even on the page, but like it or not, it’s pretty key to JA’s plot structure.


  40. In England, there was a bathtub scene. Was that cut, or was I out of the room when it happened? I actually quite enjoyed this version, if only because Felicity Jones is so adorable.


  41. Sarah H.

    Well, I liked this one better than Persuasion last week, but I agree that it was faulty. In general I thought the acting was good. I was disappointed that all Henry’s good lines were cut. Someone mentioned the dancing/ marriage comparison, but I was very upset with the lack of the novel conversation at Beecham cliff. Of course, since they messed up the “Remember that we are English” speech, I suppose they found it less important. And the ending was quite rushed, and they vampyres… I suppose they were trying to indicate that Catherine, though wrong in her suspicions, was not totally off about the General’s character, but really, there must have been a better way to do that. In general, I feel that the problem with all the new Austen adaptations is that they are much too serious, and take themselves too seriously. Where is the humor? I propose that we commission Jasper Fforde to write an adaptation of one of Austen’s novels. He’s obviously familiar with them, and if the adaptation erred in the direction of silliness, it would still be a nice anecdote to these.


  42. Celia

    I was wondering if anyone knows whether the scenes deleted from the U.K. version of the film will be included in the U.S. / Masterpiece DVD. Some of them (like Isabella chasing the young men through Bath or Eleanor and Catherine rushing to make dinner in time while General Tilney looked at his watch) were valuable in revealing / rounding out characters.


  43. The bathtub scene was cut from the Masterpiece release, along with Isabella’s man-chasing, the novel burning, the apple throwing, and possible a few other things.

    And I really don’t see that this adaptation is humorless – I found it quite funny, especially in atmosphere, and the two leads performances. The humor is subtle, but definitely there – like Thorpe nearly making Mr. Allen roadkill, or the “Money must be spent” line, or the nerd!kiss at the end. I laughed quite frequently during the course of last night.


  44. Surrey Hill

    I would definitely like to see what Jasper Fforde could do with an Austen Adaptation, and NA would definitely be the one to give him.

    I wonder if Catherine’s gothic imaginings would have a few Neanderthals, dodos, and migrating Mammoths in them.


  45. LauraGrace

    Allison T: “Why are all these productions so crashingly EARNEST? NA in particular is LOL risible. Where are the funny bits? Like when Isabella and Catherine are in the Rooms and are being ogled by two young men and the girls vow to turn their backs on them and when the men walk away, Isabella rushes Catherine along to chase after them? This whole novel is about the contrast in what Catherine imagines and what people actually say and do.”

    Hear, hear, Allison T.!

    “Speaking of which, why on earth would Catherine claim to not believe novels were real and then turn around and try to make General Tilney a villain from one of her books?”

    And Tilney was arguing against elements of novels being completley false, and then he gets *angry* at her when she runs with what he said to her, leading her on and on about despair and anger and hatred and then vampires. *eyeroll*

    LynnS – “Which reminds me that I REALLY disliked Thorpe telling Catherine that there was something suspicious about Mrs Tilney’s death. Since the part in the Abbey is where Catherine does let her imaigination run away with her, it isn’t true to the character to have someone else put the idea in her head long beforehand. Having heard other people say it almost justifies her suspicions.”

    Hear, hear, too!

    Also, Catherine calls Mr. Thorpe kind and attentive. KIND and attentive? Catherine is not that stupid!

    Am I one of the only ones who didn’t really like it? I count NA as almost my favorite Austen book, probably my favorite if I absolutely had to pick. They made it all dramatic and gloomy.

    The satire didn’t come off very well to me, neither did the humor. I think it was cast very well, but Henry and Catherine didn’t have a very good script. Catherine’s line, “But you said the house was full of secrets!” really grated on me, particularly in the way it was said.

    Henry seemed close starting off… I liked the change where he talked to Mrs. Allen and Catherine before they were introduced—shocking! The “one smirk” line was included, as were the diary lines for the most part, yay. But later on he was almost rather angry and moody, with bitterness I suppose meant to be about his father… going on about vampires of a human kind (what’s up with dat?). As if his humor and easiness was only a facade to cover his anger at his brother and his father. It just wasn’t Henry Tilney. “Your brother is very amusing.” “Yes, he is… when he cares to be.” What’s that supposed to mean?

    Having seen the bathing scene on YouTube, I’m even more disturbed by this than that Catherine was reading The Monk and having such horrid daydreams—that Tilney is in his reverend’s hat and holding what looks like a Bible. This is particularly different from his usual garb, and thus it stood out. I wonder if something was being “said” there, particularly with the mention of “God’s creation.” This made me rather mad. Anyone have any ideas on why this was this way?

    Isabella was almost spot-on. And the Morland children were hilarious! “But you can see the house from the window!” And Mr. Allen was just very likeable, somehow. I liked the part where Catherine imagined him, her only protector at that point, was battling the bandits. Lol…

    I did like some parts, but it could have been so much better without Dirty Davies doing the script. And Tilney… when I think of what he might have been, especially since he cast so “nicely”… but he was played so bitterly.

    I’ll agree, it didn’t beat the Wishbone. :p


  46. I think Amy mentioned above that Henry does encourage Catherine in her imaginings in this film – which he also does in the book. I thought it was part of Henry’s flaws – his tendency to be a bit too much like a teacher, but he matures and sees Catherine’s intelligence and ability in the end.

    I don’t think the purpose of Catherine’s calling Thorpe kind and attentive was to make her stupid, but to show her good nature. Like Jane Bennet, she believes the best of everyone.

    I don’t think the “dramatic and gloomy” was meant to be serious – I always saw it as over-the-top, adding to the parody. Like the final shot of the Abbey, going instantly to dark and stormy nightness after the General walks away.

    And the Allens did add some incredibly funny bits – I especially liked the use of the crutch as a sword. So dashing! Then Catherine wakes up and sees the real Mr. Allen, kindly and twinkling and anything but dashing, and I laugh and laugh…


  47. Kelley B

    Am I one of the only ones who didn’t really like it? I count NA as almost my favorite Austen book, probably my favorite if I absolutely had to pick. They made it all dramatic and gloomy.

    LauraGrace, you are not alone!! All I could think while watching it was that they completely missed the point of the novel. The gothic parody was gone and without it, Catherine’s fantasies seemed odd and out of place. Thank goodness they cut the worst of them (Henry ogling her while she’s taking a bath). Also, I thought the humor from the novel was replaced with ridiculous dialogue (vampires!), which was funny for all the wrong reasons. One tiny point that really annoyed me was that the abbey was an actual dark and gloomy structure when in the novel, Catherine is supposed to be disappointed by how modern and un-gothic the place looks.

    I agree with you that JJ Feild could have done wonders with Henry had he been given proper material to work with. But since all of his witty dialogue was removed he came across as dull and even angry at times. In the book, Henry is shocked by Catherine’s confession but he realizes the role he played in influencing her which is why he took such pains to be so nice to her after the whole encounter outside his mother’s room. In NA2, he storms off in a huff after yelling at her which was all wrong and totally out of character. He really comes across as unreasonable and condescending in the film. In the book, he’s simply charming and a flirt who knows when it’s time to be serious. Too bad we didn’t get to see THAT Henry Tilney.


  48. Kelley B

    Oh and I keep forgetting to mention Eleanor. That’s probably because her character was such a non-entity in NA2 that I forgot she existed. She’s so dull and sad in NA2 whereas in the book she’s just as spirited as her brother though a bit more reserved in her approach 😉 So that was a shame really. She’s such an interesting character.


  49. The Austen Wishbone episodes are not out on video, unfortunately. But they’re being rebroadcast by many PBS stations, so check your local listings, as the saying goes, and prepare to set your VCR!


  50. Carol G

    Was pleasantly surprised with this adaptation. NA is my least favorite of the Austen oeuvre, but I think this, by far, is the best adaptation I’ve seen. (Not that there have been that many of this book!…)
    I thought all of the characters were beautifully cast, with the exception of the actor playing Frank Thorpe. I found it hard to believe anyone would go anywhere with him.The villainess was perfect.And although I too loved the “Sigried Farnon” Major Tilney…this one suited better.
    And I agree with an earlier posting that the “shy grappling in the shrubbery” at the end was perfect: like Catherine herself, a little shy, a little naive, but with an obvious abiity to learn more.


  51. Carol G

    ..oh..and I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed this version’s portrayal of the Gothic scenes. Perfect way to do them!


  52. PaddyDog

    I’m not sure how much more of this I can take. Just the thought of Billie Piper as Fanny Price makes me cringe. My biggest objection to last night’s installment of “Andrew Davies Stomps All Over My Favourite Books” is that Tilney is supposed to ultimately fall in love with a very nice young girl who was a little led away by her fantasies whereas in the “Masterpiece” version, he all of a sudden proposes to an idiotic teenager who would not keep him interested past a half hour of conversation. I kept thinking I was watching the early courtship of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett.


  53. Julie B.

    I don’t like adaptations that leaves one wondering, “He’s in love with her? Why? When?”

    And I thought it very nice of me to supply for Mr Tilney, “Remember that we are English, that we are Christians,” during his speech. I also helped him out with “Dearest Miss Morland.” Poor boy seemed to have lost his head and forgotten half of what he was supposed to say.


  54. Reeba

    >not just in the fantasies, but in the voice-over,
    A voiceover of barely a couple of minutes?
    >Catherine’s normal dialogue,
    Towards that disjointed ending?? When she looks really really silly, looking into chests, and rooms etc. when all we see till now is her reading The Monk in Bath and having – in her own words ‘impure dreams’?

    >and the atmosphere (the music and way over-the-top Gothich shots of the Abbey and storms and such).

    The music? The shots? How are they a parody? I’m mystified. They can create a gothic atmosphere, but a parody?

    >And I saw build to Catherine’s suspicions in many places – in her response to John Thorpe’s comments about the Tilney’s reputation,

    THE SUSPICIONS ARE THE MAIN PART OF THE PARODY. They shouldn’t be coming from JT!! Using JT and then Henry TilneY who says ‘every house has a secret and NA is no different’ is the *WEEKEST* part of the script. It’s from reading Udolpho that her thinking is so heavily influenced!!!!!!!!!!!!

    >in her observations of the household, and in General Tilney’s actions.
    Nope!! All should come from reading Udolpho, now reflected here. Otherwise she’s just a strange, silly creature with no rhyme or reason.


  55. Reeba

    @Amy Catherine

    >I have heard it observed, I believe in an article from Persuasions many years ago, that Catherine in Bath seems much more sensible than Catherine in Northanger,
    How could Catherine be sensible when she is under the roof of an Abbey!!! 😀

    >and that perhaps this had to do with Austen’s failure to completely revise the novel.

    You mean not write it as a parody??
    Change the plot??
    The lapse of time would have perhaps made her change the plot because Gothic novels had gone out of fashion by then, but then she might as well have written another novel – which she did!!¨Emma!!!! With a heroine who fantasises (Harriet’s birth, JF and Dixon), not so well accomplished as JF. And a Mr. Knightley who shakes sense into her as Henry does with Catherine.

    As such NA remains an interesting novel with the emphasis on it’s gothic parody and Catherine remains a character which helps to achieve it, and as I mentioned earlier the climax is at NA and not at Bath.

    Catherine is as sensible/silly (in Bath or wherever) as millions of modern viewers who are influenced by television etc.


  56. Amy Catherine


    I agree with you that the suspicions with regard to Mrs. Tilney’s death shouldn’t be coming from John Thorpe, but I think I must concur with ibmiller in the suggestion that they are developed not only from Udolpho, but from Henry’s descriptions of the horrors of the Abbey and from General Tilney’s unaccountable behavior. I think there is evidence in the book to support this, and while it may not be the only possible interpretation, it is certainly a valid one. However, it’s also very true that neither of those influences, or both together, would have created her suspicions without the sort of reading material in which she had lately indulged. It’s by reading horror into many small circumstances–such as General Tilney’s gruff remarks to Eleanor and the very real discrepancies between what he says and what he does–that Catherine leads herself astray. Her mind is craving to be frightened, but events at the Abbey help it along, and I think that’s all ibmiller is (or I am) trying to say.


  57. Reeba

    >the suggestion that they are developed not only from Udolpho, but from Henry’s descriptions of the horrors of the Abbey and from General Tilney’s unaccountable behavior.

    Henry is describing *NOTHING BUT EXCERPTS FROM UDOLPHO* Dorothy, Matilda, sliding panels etc. etc.

    general Tilney’s unaccounted behaviour fevers Catherine’s imagination because she sees in him Montoni from ‘UdolPho’ who had imprisoned his wife. There is another incidence in ‘UdolPho’ of a wife being murdred by the husband – ALL THESE ARE THE CAUSE OF CATHERINE’S SUSPICIONS – not originating in itself but REFLECTING what she read.

    That is what the book supports 😉


  58. I liked it, and enjoyed the dialogue being existent in this movie. I prefer to forget the modern interpretation of Isabella’s flirtation with Captain Tilney, of course.

    The only other main plot change, I thought, was that Henry seemed to be after Miss Morland the whole time. Didn’t she sort of grow on him, in the book, despite being virtually a child? Her enthusiastic admiration won him over. Part of this change was the lessened importance of Elinor’s friendship with Catherine.

    Ok. Northanger Abbey is a comedy. The book is, and the movie kept the tone and a lot of the original dialogue and situational comedy along with interesting, ridiculous people. I’m not saying that Jane Austen practiced on Northanger Abbey what she would put into later novels, but we can see similar characters and story lines. Isabella’s manipulative confiding in Catherine is like Lucy in Sense and Sensibility. Catherine’s family is like that of Fanny Price. Henry is in a similar economic situation to Edward Ferrars. Elinor, the sweet younger sister, is reminiscent of Georgiana. Mrs. Jenkins and Mrs. Allen have a lot in common. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, was a lighter novel, with less-developed characters. I read the blog post prior to this, and wish that its authors would have been more fair to the movie adaptation.

    This is the best movie adaptation made so far. By far.
    To God be all glory,
    Lisa of Longbourn


  59. Actually I think the problem is that the “fantasies” had a sexual component. I haven’t read them all yet, but from what I’ve read the books that Catherine read were more in the line of adventures. The heroines have a mystery to solve. The Castle of Wolfenbach in particular, I think, inspired Catherine’s determination to see Mrs. Tilney’s room. The heroine (MATILDA! ha ha–but they all seem to have a Wretched Matilda of some kind) comes to a mysterious old house. No one is living there except a couple of servants, and she is told to stay out of a certain wing because it is haunted. Matilda ventures forth boldly, and discovers the mistress of the house, long thought dead, living there. It turned out that the husband faked her death and forced her to stay locked up there, and they told visitors it was haunted to keep them out. That, I think, is where Catherine formed the idea of Mrs. Tilney possibly being alive and locked up somewhere in the Abbey, since Eleanor had not seen the corpse and the General seemed to be trying to keep her away from certain areas of the house. Of course he did this only because he thought they were not sufficiently grand to impress the heiress of Fullerton, but as Catherine is NOT the heiress of Fullerton, she jumped to a different conclusion. Henry, being as well-read as Catherine, understands fairly quickly what she is thinking and disabuses her of her notions. The swooning-in-a-captor’s-arms Gothic parodies, while amusing in their way, don’t logically lead to Catherine making that conclusion the way reading more adventure stories like Udolpho and Wolfenbach did. Henry’s Gothic parody (which is much funnier than the one in the movie) certainly feeds Catherine’s fantasy but she knows perfectly well that he was kidding. Again, much too subtle to develop in such a short time, and what we’re left with is ham-fisted and generic IMO, and certainly much inferior to the original, even more than a typical film version.

    What I like about Henry is that he does trust Catherine’s intelligence. He treats her as an equal from the beginning. He uses the Socratic method with her. He rarely tells her anything that he thinks she needs to know; he questions her and forces her to think things through and come to her own conclusion. He gives her a bit of gentle guidance where needed, but he doesn’t lecture her, except on the picturesque. 😉


  60. Reeba

    If you mean my post, Lisa of Longbourn, then all I can say is;
    -it’s a pretty picture
    -pretty clothes
    -pretty actors
    -pretty chic-lit type story.

    It’s a fan fiction of Northanger Abbey.
    As such I accept it as a pretty adaptation, with good direction.

    You see no plot change?
    I see no plot like in the book!¨;-)

    Read Luscombe’s adaptation of NA as as a play – you’ll find the plot there!!!


  61. Amy Catherine

    Reeba, I agree with everything you said in comment #74, so we really appear to have no conflict whatsoever on this point, merely different ways of phrasing our opinions. I’ve found the article about revisions to which I was referring earlier. It’s in Persuasions, issue no. 7, 1985. It’s by Joan Aiken, and it’s entitled simply “How Might Jane Austen Have Revised Northanger Abbey?” in case you want to look it up. 🙂


  62. Lisa, I have to disagree. Jane Austen was doing something very different in NA from what she did in her other novels. They are more straightforward story-wise; in this book she is consciously mimicking the storyline of Udolpho. Catherine and Henry are designed as atypical of the Gothic heroine and hero in being relentlessly normal and everyday types of people. The other characters also reflect Gothic novel archetypes, reflected through what is common in every day. It’s a completely different kind of intellectual exercise.

    Also, Henry’s economic situation is vastly different from Edward Ferrars’. We are told “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 General also says, “It is a family living, Miss Morland; and the property in the place being chiefly my own, you may believe I take care that it shall not be a bad one. Did Henry’s income depend solely on this living, he would not be ill-provided for.” So he has a good living, and some sort of income besides; that could be from money inherited from his mother, or settled on him by the General. Henry cannot be disinherited, as the inheritance was set in his mother’s marriage settlements, and his living cannot be taken away. Edward has only what income his mother sees fit to give him, and she can take it away on a whim–and does. He doesn’t get a living until AFTER he is disinherited, and even Col. Brandon admits it’s not enough to marry on. Mrs. Ferrars comes around and gives him money eventually, but Henry is in a MUCH better financial situation. Also, it should be pointed out, by law Henry is old enough to marry as he chooses; but to marry against his father’s wishes would be considered disrespectful and perhaps even a little scandalous by the mores of that time, and the Morlands insist only on “the decent appearance of consent” from the General.


  63. Reeba

    Thanks, Amy Catherine 🙂

    Just one more point though.
    >merely different ways of phrasing our opinions.

    If we are clear that this is a parody of gothic novels then the interpretation should spring from it, and there wouldn’t be a different way of phrasing our opinion. 😉

    If you say there is a difference then we certainly don’t share the same opinion 🙂

    If it wasn’t for the book ¨Catherine would have just seen a strict very martial type army general strict with timings and rather a severe strict father – not a murderer.

    Henry knows Catherine will connect Dorothy, Matilda, sliding doors etc to the characters and descriptions she has read about – the reason why he mentions the very scenes, the very characters – as in the book!


  64. PaddyDog

    Re the “sexual fantasies” issue, I believe I posted this in another thread, but Catherine’s dreams were portrayed as far too well informed on sexual matters. The books (such as Udolpho) while almost scandalous for the time depended heavily on innuendo for their impact and in order to fully grasp what is implied, one would need to be quite knowledgeable about sexual matters. Catherine Morland would have never known enough to have the depth of sexual fantasy that she had (i.e., my husband thinking she was masturbating in one scene from the way it was filmed). Despite the carryings on of the Prince Regent and others, a girl of Catherine’s background would have been well sheltered from this information. If they wanted to depart from the book that much, then they shouldn’t have portrayed her as completely clueless about all other matters of love, guile, social relationships, etc.


  65. jemima

    All I can say is I used “alternate” means to watch the movie last year as I felt I wouldn’t be able to wait for the PBS showing. Watching it in this less than ideal way is, I think, preferable to relying on PBS (from all the posts I am reading.) I did not watch the MT showing as I am fortunate to have now seen NA several times, and I will probably not be watching NA on any MT repeat because it makes me ache to think of seeing how they chopped it up. I don’t need the actual experience of seeing that.

    To paraphrase a character from another JA novel, “Bady done, PBS.”

    Very badly, indeed.


  66. Amy Catherine

    >If we are clear that this is a parody of gothic novels then the interpretation should spring from it, and there wouldn’t be a different way of phrasing our opinion.
    If you say there is a difference then we certainly don’t share the same opinion

    We are certainly clear that this is a parody, but I don’t see why we can’t hold the same opinion and just express it differently. However, if you’re convinced that we disagree, then we must. I’m not sure it’s worth the effort we’re both obviously putting into our posts! 😉 I think everything you’ve said in post #80 is quite accurate. Had Catherine not read novels, she would not have seen General Tilney as a murderer. Still, had she not been confronted with behavior that was so alien to her that she had no real-life context for understanding it, she would not have turned to fiction to try to explain what she saw. I believe that–and this is entirely my own reading of the book, so you’re entitled to think I’m utterly mistaken–in the conversations Catherine had with Henry about Isabella’s or Frederick’s ulterior motives, Henry unwittingly introduced the idea that she ought to be more suspicious of her fellow man and not project on them what would be her own feelings in the same situation. In teaching her to question in this way, a skill she certainly needed to learn, he effectively broke down the only means she knew by which to judge the world: her own experience. In its place, until she gained more personal experience, she needed something else to help her explain what she didn’t understand, and translating everything to a framework of novels seemed to suit the purpose nicely. That is, until the first test-run of the method–interpreting the General–met with such disaster. But even in this speculative scenario, it’s imperative that she be reading Gothic novels and eager to see them play out in everyday life.


  67. Reeba –

    Can there be a bit less shouting? I feel a bit like the discussion is more intense than warranted.

    As for the way the music, lighting etc create a parody: all the elements of gothic atmosphere are used – but in excess. This sort of over-the-top and hyper-obvious borrowing from cliches usually is intended as parody. Just as a character who is overly mannered (like Jeeves, for instance) is a parody of manners, so too the overly and improbably gothic music and lighting made the parody of Northanger Abbey for me.

    As for the sexuality of the fantasies, I agree that it was there, but I thought Felicity Jones played it more like a curious and excited imagining, rather than a perverse or overly knowing type of fantasy. To me, she retained the innocent quality of Catherine from the book – even in the bothersome bath scene.

    Lastly, I think that while there are some weaknesses in Davies’ treatment of the book, he wa s attempting to present a viable interpretation that captures the heart of his understanding of the book, which is more than just sex, though that’s certainly part of it. And I think some fans have resonated with that interpretation and the actors’ portrayal of the characters, and that liking the adaptation does not necessarily indicate a lack of love or knowledge of the original.


  68. I don’t object to the sexual content per se–I just don’t think they allow a logical follow-through to Catherine’s imaginings in the Abbey. If she’s not reading Udolpho and Wolfenbach (and if she is we aren’t really *shown* it or made able to understand it), why would her mind make that leap when the General’s behavior reminded her of Montoni?

    In several places where events/intentions were changed, other events that they affected downstream were not changed to reflect that–as I already pointed out, when Catherine did the “I would have jumped out and run after you” bit (one of my favorite scenes, and it wasn’t really as funny or charming as it is in the book).

    I think overall it needed another half-hour to develop some of the plot points in a more subtle and sophisticated way to be anything more than a workmanlike TV movie that really isn’t worth the fuss and anticipation we’ve all had for so long. A colossal waste of a great opportunity. You’ll have to forgive some of us who allow our disappointment and frustration well over into a bit of virtual shouting and arm-waving.


  69. I undertand and commiserate – though perhaps my enjoyment was in part due to my lowered expectations for NA. I thought I was going to enjoy Persuasion the most, and came into NA very nearly cold, so to speak. And surely the disappointed may allow those who were delighted a bit of space, not very wide, just a few inches of pixels, to share our joy?


  70. RL

    I don’t really understand the whole “Andrew Davies is a filthy, sex-addicted pervert” viewpoint. Sex is a reality, and I find it interesting that someone is exploring the sexual undertones of Austen’s work. It presents an interesting view of the book, at the very least.


  71. Amy Catherine

    RL, it’s interesting that you should bring that up, because now I’m very curious as to how posters on this board reacted to Rozema’s Mansfield Park and it’s treatment of the subject compared now to Davies. I suspect feelings were mixed.


  72. Because we’re a bunch of dried-up tarhearted spinster purists, that’s why.

    Actually for my part I wouldn’t mind it as much if it didn’t take the place of superior plotting/scenes that were actually IN the book AND if it was integrated into the story in a way that didn’t strain logic. For instance, as I’ve already written, I don’t find the follow from Catherine’s imagined fantasies to her imaginings about the General at Northanger. I’ll also address the deflowering of Isabella. Some Janeites whose opinions I respect have attempted to make a case for the possibility of this happening. I disagree, but allowing for that, it still was integrated in a ham-fisted manner. That scene was just ridiculous. “O HAI, I CAN HAS ENGAGEMENT NOW?” “GET OUT U HOR.” Really, going to all that trouble and messing with a girl who had an elder brother who (theoretically) could call him out and/or press for a marriage (not that Thorpe would, but still), especially if she caught pregnant like Eliza Williams–and wouldn’t the General have loved THAT?–when an enterprising young officer no doubt could have gotten laid, if that was all he wanted, in Bath with a simple cash transaction? Wouldn’t it at least have been an affair, with repeated visits to the Redcoat Ranch or wherever he took her? Unlike Eliza Williams, Isabella was supervised and under the protection of her mother, making it harder for someone like Willoughby to take advantage of her. And I just don’t see her giving up her virginity quite so easily. She would have wanted something more solid than “maybe” before giving it up.

    I think I can safely say that there is a demographic of Janeites who are quite pleased that Jane Austen kept sex very much in the background of her work–though no one denies it is there for those who look for it. Jane Austen definitely knew where babies came from, and any reader with a somewhat sophisticated grasp of context knows it. Younger teens and tweens perhaps would not get it, but that’s okay; they can still enjoy the story.


  73. PaddyDog

    Just to make my point clear, I don’t mind at all if a bit of sex creeps into an Austen adaptation: as I pointed out when I posted on Persuasion, who among us hasn’t read the books and imagined a bit of passion between the characters once we became invested in them? I mean the underlying sexual tension between Elizabeth and Darcy has spawned a whole industry of sequels that emphasize their very active sex life post-marriage. BUT, I do object to taking a teenage virgin whose entire life’s experience has been in a small village and a few chaperoned weeks in Bath and having her fantasize in an overtly sexual manner that is way beyond any knowledge she could possibly have because that changes her character completely and the story is very much dependent on her innocent, gullible yet endearing character. That is all.


  74. Julie B.

    I hated MP99 because it had nothing to do with the novel other than the title, time period and character names.

    As for being a dried-up tarhearted spinster purist — I’m not a spinster, thank you very much. 😉

    Of course there are sexual undertones to Austen’s novels, and I think Davies is right to acknowledge they exist. Austen’s heroes are (almost) all young, healthy men living in a more, ahem, restrained time. I’ve never cared for adaptations where they are all asexual prigs. But it’s the restraint itself — both emotional and sexual — that for me creates such interesting dynamics in the novels. How can two people connect — or re-connect — when all social contact is so measured, restrained and supervised?


  75. Mandy N

    As a puritannical meanie who disapproves of letting viewers have fun; I was puizzled Catherine fantazised over a leacherous monk, instead of Henry.;-)
    Seriously, in NA Catherine’s fantasies are not erotic, but concern ancient, crumbling buildings, ‘of Tilneys and trapdoors’. Some people say there’s no reason Catherine did not read The Monk; yet not even a subtle hint by JA.
    Thorpe mentions The Monk but isn’t able to talk of books or make recommendations; Catherine never asks him about it. Personally, I doubt she’d read Monk as she’d associate it with John whom she never liked. LOL ! As for the Vampyre idea….I wonder if JA heard of them ? I doubt they entered English literture till the Victorian era.
    Oh, Mark Dymond played Capt. Tilney in NA2. *
    Mags, I also had problems with Isabella bedding Capt. Tilney. She’s a gold-digger, not Lydia ! ALso, couldn’t Isabella sue for breach of promise if Fred promised marriage, de-flowered but didn’t marry her ? One view is Isabella would bed the heir to Northanger Abbey; but Frederick may risk disinheritance…. More likely, Capt. Tilney flirts with girls like Isabella and to avoid misunderstandings, could bed any of many courtesans in Bath, no ?
    Sure, sex is a reality but I doubt JA intended to beat it over readers’ heads. She’s more subtle, I think. For e.g. mention of the Bedford Inn indicates to readers General Tilney privately drank, gambled and probably visited nearby courtesans- though such habits don’t make him any Montoni. Well, i agree it’s a pretty picture with pretty costumes but I would’ve loved to see Bath, as in NA1. Many people say they now prefer NA2 to Jane’s book ? Let’s hope they read NA and the next NA adpatation is a mini-series. 🙂


  76. Julia

    Well, I loved it. I absolutely adored it. I watched it three times, in fact.

    I daresay that it may not even be possible to please the majority of hardcore Janeites, and often wonder if Jane herself were somehow brought back to life to produce her own movies, whether most wouldn’t find plenty to criticize. I think that’s because when one reads, they are imagining what they’re reading, and essentially creating a movie in their mind. Everyone has their own interpretation, right down to the unspoken details, and we fall in love with that image. That said, it’s easy to see how so many films based on Austen books seem to fall very short of expectations.

    For me, I have no such stumbling block to enjoying these films, because I have yet to read the books. I want to read them, and I plan to… I own them. I have such a ridiculously long reading list, and I’m a very slow and picky reader.

    Anyway, I thought the film was fantastic. I enjoyed every second of it. I may feel differently when I read NA, but then again, maybe films aren’t supposed to be exact duplicates of the novels they’re based on. At that point, why not just read the book and not bother with seeing a film adaptation ever?

    Oh… and for Mandy N.-

    The word “vampire” was popularized in the early 1700s, however, the vampire myth was alive and well even in Greek and Roman times. It was also a popular myth in medieval Europe. The vampire was introduced to western literature in the 18th century by Lord Byron, actually, in his poem, “The Giaour”. Then, in 1819, Polydori’s “The Vampyre” appeared. So, from my understanding, I don’t think it would be unlikely for Jane Austen or her characters to know about vampires, but that’s just my take. 🙂


  77. Reeba


    No, I am NOT SHOUTING!! 😉
    There is no other way I can emphasise as I have not the means of highlighting or such. So bear with me please, will you? 😉

    @Amy Catherine
    >I’m not sure it’s worth the effort we’re both obviously putting into our posts!
    You certainly have put in a lot of effort in that post to explain yourself 😉
    As for my efforts – I owe it to NA being my favourite and all that.

    To sum up;
    I feel the interpretation I follow does not go along the question whether the egg came first or the hen.
    Was it The book or were those thoughts of Catherine her own inner thoughts?
    What came first?
    The book.
    And because the adaptation does not give the book any importance showing the other things look ridiculous and makes Catherine look silly and stupid, and leaves the viewer with this.


  78. Miss Otis

    chill pill plz

    PS: Oh not only whether they had read the novel, but whether it was ‘a long time ago’ or ….. 😉
    Many posters say that you know. 😉

    I’m having a hard time not finding that really insulting. So, TRUE Janeites do a complete reread every year? Incidentally, people can have multiple interpretations of a movie or book! Some people (including myself) thought the Gothic parody was still there; some didn’t. That doesn’t mean EVERYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH ME IS WRONG. Also, Reeba, you can use HTML tags to make italics – (text) (with no spaces). Here‘s a list of different formatting tags.

    I thought that Isabella’s seduction was plausible, or at least useful to impress upon the audience that doesn’t know a lot about the period that she majorly screwed up. I never got the impression from the book that she was “too clever” for that sort of thing, and anyway, it’s a different version. Characters in adaptations don’t have to be exactly the same people. I don’t know if anyone here has seen Howl’s Moving Castle – watch it, then read the book. I was intensely disappointed by the movie, which left out 98% of the humor, but I just accept that Miyazaki had a different conception of it than I did. Of course, I’ve had to develop this zen because I have always been a fan of YA fantasy, and everyone’s doing YA fantasy movies now.

    I judge the strength of an adaptation mainly on “was it a good movie?” and then on “how close to the book was it?” That said, I really disliked MP99 – Fanny is not Jo March – and was not overly impressed with 07 (although it’s much closer to the novel).


  79. Miss Otis

    Mags, I also had problems with Isabella bedding Capt. Tilney. She’s a gold-digger, not Lydia ! ALso, couldn’t Isabella sue for breach of promise if Fred promised marriage, de-flowered but didn’t marry her ? One view is Isabella would bed the heir to Northanger Abbey; but Frederick may risk disinheritance…. More likely, Capt. Tilney flirts with girls like Isabella and to avoid misunderstandings, could bed any of many courtesans in Bath, no ?

    I didn’t get the impression that he’d promised her anything – she figured that he was honorable and/or would like her so much after they done sex that they’d get married. I did get the impression that Capt. Tilney is, to be frank, a bastard who gets kicks out of having it off with girls he isn’t supposed to and that take more work.


  80. I find these “improvements” made for a modern/not-knowledgeable audience unfortunate. It’s hard to believe that there could not have been some middle ground that would have made a fun movie that would have appealed to a wider audience. No adaptation will make everyone happy, of course. I really think it all goes back to the running length. 90 minutes means broad strokes, hitting the highlights, and a great deal of shorthand no matter what–and here, in my opinion, it was done sloppily.


  81. Amy Catherine

    >You certainly have put in a lot of effort in that post to explain yourself. As for my efforts – I owe it to NA being my favourite and all that.

    Yes, I put a lot of effort into it for precisely the same reason. I’m very passionate about NA and I’ve spent a great deal of time studying it and thinking it over. I find it very rewarding to discuss it pleasantly with those who share my interest. I’m sure we can agree the it doesn’t often get the attention it deserves. 🙂


  82. What Miss Otis said. Very well said, too!

    After mulling a bit, I think the heart of my enjoyment is found in two things: 1) I resonated powerfully with the performances of the actors; 2) Henry’s affirmation of Catherine’s instinct is a major part of my personal interpretation of the book. Because of those two elements, I am willing to forgive the admitted flaws of this film.;;


  83. Julie P.

    I’ve said before that I am not a purist, but I really resented the implication that Catherine spent most of her time having sexual fantasies. I agree with PaddyDog’s husband, who thought it appeared that Catherine was masturbating in at least one scene. In the first fantasy, her nightgown looked like it was falling off her shoulders and she was leaning back against the tree, looking as if she were having an orgasm. This is just too much. Catherine is a totally innocent, sheltered young girl and I was, frankly, appalled at these scenes.

    Yes, there was sex in Austen’s day. And yes, there was passion in Austen’s day. But these very 21st century scenes were gratuitous and added merely to titillate. They do not add anything to the story. This is, as we should all know by now, Andrew Davies’ modus operandi. These books have been loved for 200 years without gratuitous sex and I’m not sure why they won’t be loved for 200 more years without gratuitious sex. Otherwise, it’s all fanfic.


  84. shiv

    I enjoyed the film. I think it was successful on three fronts: It was funny, it didn’t play the parody straight, and I liked Henry’s wide smile. Okay, four; my husband stayed awake for the whole thing.

    Why AD largely switched the book to the Monk I can’t say, but rare is the person these days, I believe, who has read the Mysteries of Udolpho well enough to spot each parallel to NA. The point is that Catherine hoodwinked herself by letting her imagination run wild in the realm of fiction. I think the Udolpho book and plot itself, for the casual viewer/reader, is relatively unimportant.

    In the film General T’s nefariousness was foreshadowed for Cathy while they were all still in Bath by Henry and Eleanor sharing multiple dark looks at his friendliness to her.

    I have read Udolpho, though only once and about 10 years ago. I think NA the book is hilarious. Mr. Tilney is my favorite hero; so much so that my husband named our dog Henry so I would not pine after the fictional paragon. I purposely have not re-read NA since a year or two ago so that I could enjoy the movie without feeling the urge to nitpick.

    The discrepancies I noted on my own were chiefly that Thorpe was not a buffoon but rather creepy, and that Henry likes Cathy more intensely more immediately. Reading the comments here and remembering now more of the differences, I am still sufficiently removed to be able to find the film charming in its way.


  85. Tina B.

    I think Andrew Davies may have stumbled onto a successful anniversary greeting card idea. “I’ve drained the life out of you for 25 years. Sorry.” Accompanied by roses ranging in color from blood red to deathly pale.


  86. Reeba

    @ Miss Otis
    >I’m having a hard time not finding that really insulting.

    Why should you find that insulting. It wasn’t personal.
    You just have to visit the old posts over here and other sites to discover the truth of my statement 😉
    Thanks for the html suggestion. I didn’t realise I could use it here.

    And with your permission 😉 I’d love to continue my NA207 bashing 😉 because I feel it should be. 😉
    You and those who like it can continue praising it.

    And thanks a lot to Mags for letting us all express our opinion.


  87. Fine-eyed Elizabeth

    I was pleasantly surprised by 90% of NA; I enjoyed nearly ALL of the acting (even Mr. Thorpe’s “over the top sledgehammer” portrayal) and thought everything worked together very nicely, although I found it a little perplexing that a wits-about-her schemer such as Isabella should be shown as a foolish innocent in succumbing to Captain Tilney. The “are we engaged?” scene rang very false to me. But that was small, given that everything else seemed to work (although it felt rushed, but how can it not in 90 minutes?).

    There was, of course, much more “story” in the book, but on its own merits, NA came off very well. It was certainly superior to Persuasion in every way, IMHO.

    (I’m pleased to see I was not the only one who liked it. I was a bit concerned that my Janeite credentials were going to be questioned, given how much I enjoyed it.)


  88. Mandy N

    As NA is a story about reading books, people and experiences; I didn’t like how novels were trashed !
    In NA, Henry & Eleanor also read and discuss Udolpho, and JA intentionally made Henry an unabashed Radcliffe fan. 🙂 So, The Monk appears an odd choice for any NA adpatation.
    I don’t see anyone arguing a JA adpatation must clone the book; yet the plot and dialogue can at least be recognizable and JA-friendly, imo.
    Oh, @ for Julia-
    JA may’ve read Lord Byron’s ‘The Giaour’; yet it was not published till 1813. NA is set in 1798. My real point is there wasn’t a body of English literture re: vampiric folklore and JA deliberately chose books such as Udolpho, etc known to the English reading public. I find the idea of vampires too vague and I don’t expect too theorize over such difficulties in any film’s logic. If you read NA, you’ll see Henry is intended to be an agent of Catherine’s gothic unillusionment; he doesn’t talk of stories based in supernatural. I hope you enjoy NA. 🙂
    If filmakers had to change Catherine’s book; it may’ve been more relevent to use e.g Castle Wolfensbach or Clermont which are books of the NA Canon, rather than the Monk.

    >I didn’t get the impression that he’d promised her anything’
    Oh ? Where does Isabella get the impression Capt. Tilney is honourable enough to marry her ?

    Isabella Thorpe is more worldly than Catherine. NA mentions she’s visited such fashionable places as London and Tunbridge Wells. Quite likely, she’s aware of the difficulties of girls in society and knew genteel girls were commonly seduced and abandoned, esp. if they were dowerless.
    More likely, Isabella as a money grubber, would sue for damages if she had any complaint against Capt. Tilney.
    I am not prepared to say something is there without evidence from JA’s text.
    JA wasn’t shy when she wanted to make any sexual encounter clear-In S&S, Willoughby’s seduction of Eliza and her baby; In P&P, Lydia & Wickham lived together for 2 weeks in London. In MP, Maria ran off with Henry C. and is divorced…. I doubt JA made an exception for NA.
    It seems so pointless !
    @ Paddydog, I’m another who so agree with your comment re: Catherine’s fantasies.
    Yes, I’d say NA2 is a valid candidate for fanfiction.;-)


  89. Tamara

    Wow I opened the blog and it was like my Jane obsession and LOLcat obsession were meeting in some strange dimension!

    I liked the new NA. Henry was great. Everyone was cast well and I think someone watching who hadn’t read the book could follow everything. My only complaint is it not being as comical as it should be. The narrator’s voice was not quite right. The book is hilarious.


  90. Mandy N

    I quite liked JJ Feild as Henry… Yet, am I alone in missing seeing Bath in the film ?
    I tend to think of NA and Bath as inextricably linked; the Assembly Rooms where Jane danced and Cathrine visited, the Pump Room and cresent streets which made Bath the capital of Georgian England… I thought the theatre scene an interesting idea, not only is it in the book, but I don’t recall any other JA adaptation doing an actual theatre scene. However, I’m abit fazed…this theatre in Dublin was, I think, a proper Georgian era theatre but my impression is the Orchard Street theatre in Bath was or is, much smaller. Even in boxes, Henry and Catherine would’v been sitting much nearer one other ? At least we saw authentic touches of JA’s Bath in NA1. 🙂


  91. Rebecca Sue

    I love JA and have never read nor seen NA, so this was a first for me. My sense was the story line held up sufficiently. But it was not compelling, nor were any of the characters, and as a result I have no strong desire to see this again. I felt like the story line was building up towards something when all of a sudden it ended. The actual turning point at Northanger Abbey didn’t seem like much because there wasn’t enough conflict or contrast that occurred before it. I think it was all just too subtle for someone unfamiliar with NA.

    It did peak my interest in the book however, but only because I’d like to know what JA really intended.

    As an aside… are there any men on this blog? (just wunderin’)


  92. Rebecca Sue

    Ooo, Just thought of something… what about a Wiki-adaptation of JA works? Since our collective JA knowledge seems quite good, this might actually be pretty interesting.(“Wiki” as in the general public creates/owns something jointly – like Wikipedia)


  93. Rebecca–do read the book! And let us know what you think! It’s really funny and fun.

    And yes, there are men on the blog–ibmiller, for example, and there are others though they’ve been kind of quiet. With some of the net handles it can be hard to tell. Boys, out yourselves… 😉


  94. Miss Otis

    I am not prepared to say something is there without evidence from JA’s text. JA wasn’t shy when she wanted to make any sexual encounter clear

    Oh, I don’t think that it happened in the text – I just think it’s a valid change. It wasn’t inconsistent for the adaptation, for one thing: Isabella really thought he was into her, and had no reason to think he did that sort of thing all the time. She could have sued for breach of promise, but he’s a lot richer than she is and would probably win, and then everyone would know she was disgraced in the bargain. Of course she knew about girls being seduced and abandoned, but one can know a lot of things and still think, “That won’t happen to me.” And I don’t see that book!Isabella was “too smart” for it – if Capt. Tilney had been just about any other guy, he would have married her. If Isabella is so clever, why would she think Capt. Tilney would ever marry her, period? Why give up James? Why believe that the Allens are going to leave their money to the Morlands?


  95. Mandy N

    She could have sued for breach of promise, but he’s alot richer than she is and would probably win.
    Look, I’d hardly call Isabella clever; the real point is the Thorpes could still create public scandel in the newspapers for an important family like the Tilneys. An enraged General would prefer to pay hush money than accept Isabella ! Do you believe Capt. Tilney would risk being disinherited for a night with Isabella Thorpe ?! That is my point on why Frederick would be more careful than to bed girls like Isabella.
    However, I doubt Isabella is as naive and inexperienced as you make out. In NA, she expressed concern the Morlands wouldn’t accept her; so why didn’t she bed James ? 😉 Isabella is ambitious for a genteel, wealthy marriage; in JA’s era, her only dowry are her beauty and virginity. I doubt she’d throw them away before she had her wedding ring.
    If Captatin Tilney had been any other guy, he would’ve married her.
    Henry didn’t marry Maria nor Willoughby marry Eliza. Darcy had to literally buy Wickham for Lydia to marry. However, as you say- it didn’t happen in the text so it’s a silly non-issue.
    The engagement idea was really from James. My impression from the book is Isabella was seen round Bath with Capt. Tilney and bragged to her friends; in a gossipy place like Bath, this gave rise engagement rumours ! When Capt. Tilney heard them, he got alarmed and quickly went to Anne Mitchell.
    Yes, I’ve read these questions too- Isabella was disappointed in James’ expectations of 400 pounds a year. As the Allans were long time friends of the Morlands and childless, it was John who really hoped Catherine was an heiress. Isabella lines about hopes of Mr Allan are only in NA2. Sheesh ! Read the book.


  96. Mags

    Okay, everyone–deep cleansing breath. Let’s keep the discussion civil.

    As far as “why would Isabella give up James”–she didn’t. He gave her up, because he was humiliated by her attentions to Tibby. “…till the very last, if I reasoned with her, she declared herself as much attached to me as ever, and laughed at my fears.” James seemed to think Isabella and Tibby were engaged, but then he was as naive as his little sister, bless his pointy head, and had no Henry to lead him out of the weeds. I honestly don’t think Isabella WOULD voluntarily have given up James until she was very sure of Tibby–even Henry says so–but she didn’t really have a choice. If anything, she should have been more careful of Tibby at that point, if there was no definite engagement, because she didn’t have a fallback anymore, instead of making herself so vulnerable to him. Isabella’s in a very different position from Catherine. Catherine had a comfortable upbringing, so she can be philosophical about love and marriage, but Isabella has no father, no dowry, AND she’s the eldest daughter. She HAS to marry well to bring up the rest of her sisters and all those younger brothers at Merchant-Taylor’s and in the navy, etc. Rather like Jane Bennet. I really don’t see her taking such a chance. Too bad for her she has John the Idiotic for her brother.

    And there’s no reason for Isabella to not believe John’s assertions about James and Catherine being heirs to the Allens. There was nothing to deny it–the childless Allens were kind to Catherine and took her about like a daughter. If anything, their behavior tended to confirm it.

    Admittedly, all of this is rather complex to be squeezed into 86 minutes. 🙂 Going back to my assertion that the most fatal flaw of this film was the time limitation.

    (And one thing I noticed for the first time on Sunday–the film was changed to make the Allens’ fortune from trade, rather than making Mr. Allen a “gentleman.” Hmm. Wonder why?)

    Another thing that occurred to me–if word got out that Tibby was messing with a girl like Isabella, whose background is relatively genteel, could he have been kicked out of the army or been in trouble somehow? I’m not sure about that.


  97. Miss Otis

    I guess I’ll make this my last reply in the post, as I’m apparently violating the Sacred Code by liking the movie and *gaspshockhorror* not having read the book in a bit. That’s the trouble with college (and especially being overseas) – you can’t do as much personal reading as you’d like. (I have read it though, dear Mandy.) So, yes, I forget which (very minor) bits are from the book and which the film. I thought the point of Janeism was having a passion for the books, and not being better-read-than-thou.

    Any scandal the Thorpes created in the papers would look much, much worse for them. Literally everyone would have sided with the guy in such an event, because obviously a girl who would sleep with a man before the ring was on her finger and the dowry paid is a trollop &c. and they would have been untouchables. He’d just have to say that she was lying and he’d never slept with her, and he’d have been believed – it still happens today in rape cases, where a man says she came onto him. She didn’t have to bed James because he made it obvious that he wanted to marry her, and if the Morlands didn’t accept it – well, then they’d have to go off and be poor together, and I don’t think that’s what she wanted. Yes, there are many cads that seduce and abandon women in Austen – but only one per book, so Isabella would have been safe with a different choice. It was a calculated risk that went wrong, because it could have gotten her a marriage. Be as it may, she did accept James and then pull a Marianne and act like she was engaged to Capt. Tilney, which I read as dropping James because it’s so not done, even if she didn’t say to him, “It’s over.” If she had really wanted to keep that connection, she wouldn’t have gone around with Capt. Tilney at all – and, if she was stupid enough to think everything would be okay if she behaved like that, she wasn’t smart enough to realize he wouldn’t marry her.

    Sorry for getting belligerent, Mags. 😦 I don’t try to, really, but sometimes it seems like discussions of Austen movies (esp. new ones) turn into contests about how I read the books more times than this other person … and I don’t know, I’m a spaz.


  98. Mandy N

    Oh,I don’t think it happened in the text- I just think it’s a valid change.
    Well, that’s alot of speculation for something ‘not in the text.’ Newspapers of JA’s day delighted in scandel pertaining to public figures like Gen. Tilney ; I doubt Thorpes need do anything. Frederick would be more careful of his inheritance. Also, Isabella as a calulating flirt in a vulnerable position won’t risk public censure. The precise reason she wants to marry is for security and respectablity; else she’d be content as the mistress of a rich man.

    >I thought the point of Janeism was having a passion for the books and not being better-read-than -thou.
    LOL! I think your’ve touched a theme of JA; Northanger Abbey is a text about reading, reading people, and reading situations. 🙂 Some posters disparage NA as a ‘little book’ where nothing happens; maybe we can all agree NA is more complex and warrants it’s own mini-series. Let’s hope NA3 is not far away !


  99. Mandy N

    …and no, I doubt anyone thinks your’e any spaz ! Or I wouldn’t bother to reply. That’s very negative, cheer up and enjoy a re-read of NA when you can.


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