For 2019, the theme of the Jane Austen Society of North America will be Northanger Abbey. Since Northanger Abbey is a book largely concerned with reading, and especially a certain type of reading, I have decided to try to read as many of the Gothic and other novels mentioned or referenced in Northanger Abbey as possible, hence The Year of Reading Dangerously: in which I read the Gothic novels referenced in Northanger Abbey and live to tell the tale.
I began my quest by re-reading Northanger Abbey and I enjoyed it immensely. This time through, I found Catherine much more engaging and less silly. Likewise, Henry grows in my estimation as an Austen hero. I quite like him and his sense of humor. I find his wit droll and I appreciate the fact that he is comfortable enough with his masculinity to discuss textiles authoritatively. Henry’s best asset is his sense of humor. One of his gems is, “Promised so faithfully!–A faithful promise!–That puzzles me.–I have heard of a faithful performance. But a faithful promise–the fidelity of promising!” (p. 144 in the Oxford World’s Classic edition) I am not ashamed to admit to chuckling whilst reading. I am sure my husband thought I was going mad, but then again probably not. I re-read Austen regularly and there are other books which have been known to bring up a laugh as well.
To help me on my journey, I have enlisted Angela Wright and her volume, entitled, Britain, France and the Gothic, 1764-1820: the import of terror. I must say that I find it slightly ironic that she has opted out of the Oxford comma in her title,which is published by Cambridge University Press. Perhaps CUP doesn’t allow the Oxford comma? In any case, I am about halfway through and I am finding the essays insightful and helpful, especially as the first one is about Horace Walpole and The Castle of Otranto. I am midway through The Castle of Otranto; I chose to read it first after Northanger Abbey, because Walpole’s slim novel is often credited with bringing the Gothic to Britain.
Feel free to throw caution to the wind, and join me as I read some hair-raising Gothic Stories!