Northanger Abbey | The Victoria Art Gallery

Northanger Abbey

Catherine Morland, the young daughter of a vicar, is taken to Bath by family friends and experiences all of the culture and excitement that the city has to offer.  Initially feeling left out of Bath’s social whirl, Catherine has mixed feelings about Bath.  She soon meets and makes friends with the Tilneys; handsome Henry and sweet natured Eleanor.  Other Bath acquaintances introduce misunderstandings and confusion into Catherine’s dealings with the Tilneys and things become yet more complicated during a visit to the Tilney’s Gothic country house, Northanger Abbey. 

In Northanger Abbey, Bath is a fashionable and exciting place.  It reflects the author’s feelings about Bath when she came here as a young girl. Compared to rural Hampshire where the Austens lived, Bath was a busy, glamorous place, full of interesting people and activities.

In 1797 Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra went to stay with her aunt and uncle who lived at 1 Paragon, Bath.  A few months later, inspired by this visit, Jane started writing the book that eventually became Northanger Abbey.  She worked on it off and on over many years, and it was eventually published in 1817.

Northanger Abbey shows Georgian Bath as a social melting pot.  A girl from a modest background, like Catherine Morland, was able to mingle with the wealthy here in a way not normally possible.  Bath was the place where rich and poor could meet and even fall in love and marry.

Image: Pump Room, By John Claude Nattes, 1804

Pump Room 

By John Claude Nattes, 1804

‘In the Pump-room one so newly arrived in Bath must be met with, and that building she had already found so favourable for the discovery of female excellence, and the completion of female intimacy, so admirably adapted for secret discourses and unlimited confidence, that she was most reasonably encouraged to expect another friend from within its walls.’  Northanger Abbey

Image: The Crescent, By John Claude Nattes, 1804

The Crescent

By John Claude Nattes, 1804

‘As soon as Divine Service was over, the Thorpes and the Allens eagerly joined each other, and after staying long enough in the Pump-room to discover that the crowd was insupportable… they hastened away to the Crescent, to breather the fresh air of better company.’  Northanger Abbey

Image: In the Pump Room, Bath By John Nixon, around 1805

In the Pump Room, Bath

By John Nixon, around 1805

‘…All three set off in good time for the Pump-room, where the ordinary course of events and conversation took place; Mr Allen, after drinking his glass of water, joined some gentlemen to talk over the politics of the day and compare the accounts in their newspapers’  Northanger Abbey

Image: Assembly with Card Players, By Thomas Rowlandson, 1798

Assembly with Card Players

By Thomas Rowlandson, 1798

‘Mrs Allen was so long at dressing, that they did not enter the ballroom till late. The season was full, the room crowded and the two ladies squeezed in as well they could. As for Mr Allen, he repaired directly to the card-room, and left them to enjoy a mob by themselves.’  Northanger Abbey

Image: Beechen Cliff, from the Banks of the Avon, By Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1829

Beechen Cliff, from the Banks of the Avon

By Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1829

"They determined on walking round Beechen Cliff, that noble hill, whose beautiful verdure and hanging coppice render it so striking an object from almost every opening in Bath. “I never look at it,’ said Catherine, as they walked along the side of the river, ‘without thinking of the south of France.”  Northanger Abbey

Image: South West view of the city of Bath taken from New Wells Road, By Samuel Alken, 1787

South West view of the city of Bath taken from New Wells Road

By Samuel Alken, 1787

“For six weeks I allow Bath is pleasant enough, but beyond that it is the most tiresome place in the world.”

You would be told so by people of all descriptions, who come regularly every winter, lengthen their six weeks into ten or twelve, and go away at last because they can afford to stay no longer.’  Northanger Abbey