Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s first novel, was written between 1798 and 1803 and is described as a coming-of-age story of a young woman. Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland is obsessed with Gothic novels and particularly one called The Mystery of Udolpho. She is the eldest daughter of a clergyman and is invited by Mrs Allen, a kind neighbour, to accompany her and her husband on a six week trip to Bath, as Mr Allen has been sent there by his doctor to ‘take the waters’ to cure his gout. Catherine is delighted. Upon arrival in Bath, the ladies shop for the latest fashions to be seen in and, suitably attired to make an entrance, they go to the Upper Rooms to mix in polite society. Unfortunately, Mrs Allen knows no one there, neither does Catherine and leave to go to the Lower Rooms where they are more fortunate. Mr Tilney kindly engages the ladies and seeing they are somewhat at sea socially, effects the Master of Ceremonies to make the necessary introductions, without which no one may engage them in conversation. Having done so, he invites Catherine to dance.
At the Pump Room next day they meet an old friend of Mrs Allen’s, Mrs Thorpe, who introduces Catherine to her daughter, Isabella. The two young ladies become fast friends and soon discover that their brothers know each other at Oxford and that Isabella is besotted with Catherine’s brother. John Thorpe becomes smitten with Catherine but she is already occupied with thoughts of Mr Tilney, who seems to have disappeared, Though Catherine watches out for him over the next few days, he is not to be found. Catherine remains largely oblivious to the Thorpe’s scheming plots to inveigle their way into a double marriage and comedy ensues as the naive Catherine continually manages to extricate herself from situations orchestrated by them. However, Henry Tilney surfaces with his charming sister, Eleanor, but their father, the brusque General Tilney, decides to leave Bath. Curiously, he decides to invite Catherine to visit them at Northanger Abbey.
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