Northanger abbey, by jane austen


Jane Austen


THIS little work was finished in the year 1803, and intended
For immediate publication. It was disposed of to a bookseller,
It was even advertised, and why the business proceeded
No farther, the author has never been able to learn.
That any bookseller should think it worth-while to
Purchase what he did not think it worth-while to publish
Seems extraordinary. But with this, neither the author
Nor the public have any other concern than as some
Observation is necessary upon those parts of the work
Which thirteen years have made comparatively obsolete.
The public are entreated to bear in mind that thirteen
Years have passed since it was finished, many more
Since it was begun, and that during that period,
Places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone
Considerable changes.


No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her
Infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.
Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother,
Her own person and disposition, were all equally against her.
Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected,
Or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name
Was Richard – and he had never been handsome. He had a
Considerable independence besides two good livings – and he
Was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters.
Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a
Good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a
Good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine
Was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter
Into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived
On – lived to have six children more – to see them growing
Up around her, and to enjoy

excellent health herself.
A family of ten children will be always called a fine family,
Where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number;
But the Morlands had little other right to the word,
For they were in general very plain, and Catherine,
For many years of her life, as plain as any. She had
A thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour,
Dark lank hair, and strong features – so much for her person;
And not less unpropiteous for heroism seemed her mind.
She was fond of all boy’s plays, and greatly preferred
Cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic
Enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a
Canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush. Indeed she had no
Taste for a garden; and if she gathered flowers at all,
It was chiefly for the pleasure of mischief – at least so it
Was conjectured from her always preferring those which she
Was forbidden to take. Such were her propensities – her
Abilities were quite as extraordinary. She never could
Learn or understand anything before she was taught;
And sometimes not even then, for she was often inattentive,
And occasionally stupid. Her mother was three months
In teaching her only to repeat the “Beggar’s Petition”;
And after all, her next sister, Sally, could say it
Better than she did. Not that Catherine was always
Stupid – by no means; she learnt the fable of “The Hare
And Many Friends” as quickly as any girl in England.
Her mother wished her to learn music; and Catherine was
Sure she should like it, for she was very fond of tinkling
The keys of the old forlorn spinner; so, at eight years
Old she began. She learnt a year, and could not bear it;
And Mrs. Morland, who did not insist on her daughters

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Northanger abbey, by jane austen