Welcome to the thirteenth episode of our current Tale for Our Time: Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen's first completed novel, and a glimpse of lost courtship rituals in our age of non-binary friends with benefits.
Thank you for all your kind comments about this caper. However, if you're baffled by Jane Austen and her world, Patricia, a Mark Steyn Club member from Virginia, knows the place to go:
As a delightful coincidence I just today discovered that Hillsdale College offers a free online course on the young Jane Austen and her first full length novel, Northanger Abbey. I signed up for the course and have already completed the first two of six lessons. This is helping to fill in some of the gaps in my reading of the Great Books, as in my ornery youth I tended to be a contrarian. (Okay, I'll admit, in my current curmudgeonly advanced age I may still have a bit of a defiant streak; hence my predilection for Mark Steyn and all his works.)
Anyhow, due to my disdain for what I perceived as 'chick lit', whether it be on a current best seller list, or novels of previous centuries, I've managed to avoid Jane Austen almost completely my entire life until now.
So thank you, Mark (if I may be so bold as to presume to be on a Christian name basis) for broadening my literary horizons. I am thoroughly enjoying your narration of Northanger Abbey (as I have each and every one of your previously narrated 49 works of fiction in Tales for Our Time - you helped salvage a portion of my sanity during last winter when our local libraries were Covid-closed) whilst realizing Ms Austen was a genius at parody and irony in her time.
P.S. Speaking of Hillsdale, the college selected a quite flattering photograph of you taken in Tennessee when you were a guest speaker, and used it in one of their recent outreach publications. (As I unplugged the telly thirty years ago I never 'see anyone on t.v.' - not even you when you're on Tucker Carlson, unless you hyperlink to an online snippet via one of your columns.) If it's not inappropriate to comment about the photo - keep up the good work, as you look amazing and fit!
Well, thank you for that, Patricia, but I feel Covidworld has left me ever more enervated, and at least intellectually flabby. But Jane Austen-wise you couldn't be in better hands than Professor Lorraine Murphy, and I hope a few other Steyn Clubbers will take advantage of that Hillsdale course.
In tonight's episode of Northanger Abbey John Thorpe is being, by his standards, somewhat oblique:
"Well, Miss Morland," said he, on finding her alone in the parlour, "I am come to bid you good-bye." Catherine wished him a good journey. Without appearing to hear her, he walked to the window, fidgeted about, hummed a tune, and seemed wholly self-occupied.
"Shall not you be late at Devizes?" said Catherine. He made no answer; but after a minute's silence burst out with, "A famous good thing this marrying scheme, upon my soul! A clever fancy of Morland's and Belle's. What do you think of it, Miss Morland? I say it is no bad notion."
"I am sure I think it a very good one."
"Do you? That's honest, by heavens! I am glad you are no enemy to matrimony, however. Did you ever hear the old song 'Going to One Wedding Brings on Another?'
Hmm. What's Mr Thorpe getting at?
As to "Going to One Wedding Brings on Another", I believe that's a reference to a song dating back to the seventeenth century and going by various names - "The Wooing Maid", "The Old Maid" and, in Ireland, "The Black Chimney Sweeper" - but including in its verses some variant of the following:
I was told by my aunt
I was told by my mother
That going to a weddin'
Is the makings of another...
If you've yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For more details, see here - and don't forget our special Gift Membership. I'll be hosting Part Fourteen of Northanger Abbey right here tomorrow evening. Just ahead of that we'll have Rick McGinnis's Saturday movie pick - and later this weekend don't miss our brand new Sunday Poem.