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Behind the Scenes: Northanger Abbey

First accepted by a publisher in 1803, Northanger Abbey was eventually published posthumously in 1818. In it Austen weaves a romance full of suspense and comedy around the heroine Catherine Morland’s first foray into society. The style of the novel is a unique hybrid; along the way Austen parodies the eighteenth-century novel of manners, the Gothic novel, and even the educational treatises of the time. From The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers The manuscript for Northanger Abbey (written, according to Cassandra Austen, in 1798-99) was sold by the Rev. Austen to Richard Crosby & Co. in 1803 under the title Susan. It was the first of Austen’s stories to be sold and commanded the princely sum of £10. It is clear that Crosby & Co. had no idea of its value. Though they advertised it as a forthcoming work, they let it rest on their shelves, unread and unpublished. After the sale of Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen was at liberty to buy back her work, though under and assumed name. Crosby & Co. should never know how close they came to success. After retouching the work and writing a preface explaining to her readers why they might find some of her story antiquated, she set the work aside. Though Austen called the work Miss Catherine in private, it would not be printed until after her death in 1817, when it was retitled Northanger Abbey and bundled, by her brother Henry, into a four volume set which also included Persuasion.

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