Friday, April 27, 2007

Miranda Gaw is reading Northanger Abbey, on my recommendation, and liking it. When I saw this I ran to get my own copy, so that I could relive the experience at the same time that it was all happening to her. (That's how badly I want to be reading books with people.) My copy fell open to this page:

'My horse! oh, d— it! I would not sell my horse for a hundred. Are you fond of an open carriage, Miss Morland?'
'Yes, very; I have hardly ever had an opportunity of being in one; but I am particularly fond of it.'
'I am glad of it; I will drive you out in mine every day.'
'Thank you,' said Catherine, in some distress, from a doubt of the propriety of accepting such an offer.
'I will drive you up Lansdown Hill to-morrow.'
'Thank you; but will not your horse want rest?'
'Rest! he has only come three-and-twenty miles to-day; all nonsense; nothing ruins horses so much as rest; nothing knocks them up so soon. No, no; I shall exercise mine at the average of four hours every day while I am here.'
'Shall you indeed!' said Catherine very seriously, 'that will be forty miles a day.'
'Forty! aye, fifty, for what I care. Well, I will drive you up Lansdown to-morrow; mind, I am engaged.'
'How delightful that will be!' cried Isabella, turning round; 'my dearest Catherine, I quite envy you; but I am afraid, brother, you will not have room for a third.'
'A third indeed! no, no; I did not come to Bath to drive my sisters about; that would be a good joke, faith! Morland must take care of you.'
This brought on a dialogue of civilities between the other two; but Catherine heard neither the particulars nor the result. Her companion's discourse now sunk from its hitherto animated pitch, to nothing more than a short decisive sentence of praise or condemnation on the face of every woman they met; and Catherine, after listening and agreeing as long as she could, with all the civility and deference of the youthful female mind, fearful of hazarding an opinion of its own in opposition to that of a self-assured man, especially where the beauty of her own sex is concerned, ventured at length to vary the subject by a question which had been long uppermost in her thoughts; it was, 'Have you ever read Udolpho, Mr. Thorpe?'
'Udolpho! Oh, Lord! not I; I never read novels; I have something else to do.'
Catherine, humbled and ashamed, was going to apologize for her question, but he prevented her by saying, 'Novels are so full of nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out since Tom Jones, except the Monk; I read that t'other day; but as for all the others, they are the stupidest things in creation.'

And so it goes for pages, one long drawn-out dissonance after another, delicious and painful and funny but also — poor Catherine — a bit sad too.

1 comment:

Imani said...

I love Northanger Abbey and rank it as one of my favourite Austen novels -- even above Sense and Sensibility which I found to be a bit of a drag (only a bit). Catherine makes NA for me -- she's so delightful.

I started to read Ann Radcliffe because of it and I've bought The Monk by Lewis too. (Funny how Thorpe will read that but not novels in general.)