More Mature Fiction

  • F. B. Pinion
Part of the Literary Companions book series (LICOM)


It is astonishing that Jane Austen wrote ‘Love and Friendship’ at the age of fourteen, and Catharine at the age of sixteen. This fragment appears to be the first episode of a novel, and lack of experience has been given as the main reason for not completing it. There are indications, however, that the writer’ s initial inspiration may have spent itself. The heroine, though an orphan and brought up by a maiden aunt like many a predecessor, is unconventional. The music of an Italian opera might be ‘the height of enjoyment’ to most heroines, but the sound of the coach and four which brought long expected visitors was more delightful to the jealously guarded Catharine. The fragment is not a burlesque, but its gay vivacity originates from an impish desire to ridicule the conventional restraints of the spinster guardian and chaperon in fiction. Its narrative fluency denotes not only the inventive and imaginative stimulation of the theme, but also the extent to which Jane Austen relished her release from the restraints experienced in the epistolary form of ‘Lesley Castle’ and, even more importantly, the realization that her own society offered lively resources for fiction.


Character Revelation Lively Resource Temporary Fiction Neurotic Anxiety Unjust Society 
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  1. 1.
    Michael Sadleir, in ‘The Northanger Novels’, The English Association Pamphlets, no. 68, November 1927, shows that these novels were carefully selected to illustrate a variety ranging from the ‘shuddersome’ novel of sensibility, which provided escapism for cultured middle–class readers, to the cruder and more violent sensa tionalism which appealed to subversive appetites. The two types are represented by Mrs Radcliffe and ‘Monk’ Lewis. Catherine Morland, too inexperienced to realize its intentions, was influenced only by the Radcliffian thriller.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    C. S. Emden presents the opposite view in ‘The Composition of Northanger Abbey’, The Review of English Studies, 1968.Google Scholar

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© F. B. Pinion 1973

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