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Henry Tilney: Women love him, women want to be him

I'm currently listening to the audiobook version of Northanger Abbey. It got me up to Michigan and back this weekend, and I still have a tape or two to finish off on my short jaunts around town.

I had the clever idea that I was going to blog about how I could identify with both the heroine, Catherine Morland, and the hero, Henry Tilney, but then I discovered that I wrote exactly that almost exactly five years ago when I read the book for the first time.

There is nothing new under the sun! I am fortunate, I suppose, to have a written record of my five-year-old thoughts, even if those particular thoughts haven't changed much.

So I will expand a little on my 2002 thoughts by saying that Catherine seems to compound all of the characteristics that I don't like about myself (naïve, Romantic, immature, obsessed with Harry Potter Gothic novels, less interested in academics than novels, dense, given to flights of fancy) while Henry has the characteristics that I would like to cultivate in myself (wit, sarcasm, practicality, rich and constructive imagination).

Also, this book is cracking me up. I had forgotten how funny it is. It's not laugh-out-loud funny, but there's just a sort of wicked satire to it. Jane Austen isn't interested in taking her heroine any more seriously than she needs to be taken, and there's always a comparison between the huge, dramatic Romantic stories of Catherine's Gothic novels and the rather plain existence that she actually lives.

When the hour of departure drew near, the maternal anxiety of Mrs. Morland will be naturally supposed to be most severe. A thousand alarming presentiments of evil to her beloved Catherine from this terrific separation must oppress her heart with sadness, and drown her in tears for the last day or two of their being together; and advice of the most important and applicable nature must of course flow from her wise lips in their parting conference in her closet. Cautions against the violence of such noblemen and baronets as delight in forcing young ladies away to some remote farm-house, must, at such a moment, relieve the fulness of her heart. Who would not think so? But Mrs. Morland knew so little of lords and baronets, that she entertained no notion of their general mischievousness, and was wholly unsuspicious of danger to her daughter from their machinations. Her cautions were confined to the following points. "I beg, Catherine, you will always wrap yourself up very warm about the throat, when you come from the rooms at night; and I wish you would try to keep some account of the money you spend; I will give you this little book on purpose."

Then she meets the delightful Mr Tilney, who rather than being an evil dark seducer of innocent young ladies, is "very near" handsome and just a rather nice, funny sort of man.

"I see what you think of me," said he gravely -- "I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow."

"My journal!"

"Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings -- plain black shoes -- appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense."

"Indeed I shall say no such thing."

"Shall I tell you what you ought to say?"

"If you please."

"I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him -- seems a most extraordinary genius -- hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say."

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, Tilneylicious. I might like him even better (blasphemy!) than Mr Darcy.

srah - Thursday, 25 October 2007 - 12:41 PM
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Comments (9)

gravatar Elisabeth - October 25, 2007 - 2:22 PM -

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's abandoned Mr. Darcy for Mr. Tilney.

gravatar alfie - October 25, 2007 - 5:08 PM -

Dead to me.


Seriously. I like Henry Tilney - he's pretty much the only character I liked the first time I read it and I still think he's the best character in it even now that I no longer believe all my problems with the book can be solved by pretending to punch all of the stupid characters in the head (my hand would hurt too much after the first half-dozen.

But to give up on Mr. Darcy for Henry Tilney seems strange to me. When my friends and I used to have our dorky Jane Austen film festivals, we always gave S Mr. Darcy because he was the only one she liked, meaning A and I had to find alternate loves. A took either Knightley or Edward Ferrars (can't remember which), but I always knew that if I couldn't have Darcy, I'd choose Brandon or Wentworth.

I look forward to continuing this argument with you over IM or the phone. And I still have to watch BatG, so don't spoil it for me.

gravatar ana - October 25, 2007 - 5:10 PM -

Hahaha! I'm not going to abandon Darcy or Heathcliff (feel free to call me crazy)...but Yes Mr.Tilney's wits does make him highly desirable...

gravatar srah - October 25, 2007 - 5:31 PM -

Heathcliff? Blech. You can have him.

Alfie, we shall meet upon the hustings.

gravatar srah - October 26, 2007 - 9:12 AM -

Mr Darcy does have one big advantage over Mr Tilney: better taste in women. Although I think I prefer being teased to being sneered at.

gravatar Fraulein N - October 26, 2007 - 2:56 PM -

I fully support your admiration of Mr Tilney. More Darcy for me!

gravatar Lori C. - October 28, 2007 - 5:23 PM -

While I will always love Darcy, I've always had a thing for Tilney (heck, and Wentworth too) & a sneaking suspicion that I would get along with Tilney better than Darcy in real life. Because imagining how my relationships would go with certain characters if they came to life isn't crazy at all.

gravatar srah - October 30, 2007 - 5:06 PM -

No, no way. :D

gravatar Carolyn C - January 10, 2008 - 2:09 AM -

ABSOLUTELY!!! Hands down, Henry Tilney over Darcy! Although I love Darcy and would love to eat him for dessert, Henry Tilney is the TOTAL package! Each time I re-read Northanger Abbey, I love him even more...

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