Lodged Apart

Welcome to our regularly scheduled audio Ovaltine twenty minutes before you lower your lamp: it’s Episode Sixteen of our autumnal diversion by Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey.

Thank you for your kind words about this and other SteynOnline features. Sunday’s latest video poem attracted a lot of comment, mainly because it appears to have caught many people by surprise. Tommy, a Mark Steyn Club member from Arizona, says:

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I clicked to watch this poem, but this was not it! I might have misted part of my adult beverage nightcap across the kitchen when you started reading, Mark, but that was better than laughing and choking on it. What a refreshing sense of humour from an age that always looks so stuffy in paintings, and one much appreciated in our modern stuffy, totalitarian times.

Oh, you’d be surprised, Tommy. There was more good honest laughter in Matthew Prior’s time than in our age of humorless scolds threatening cancelation for ideologically unsound jokes.

In tonight’s episode of Northanger Abbey Henry Tilney tries to prepare Catherine for the pleasures of his ancestral home:

He smiled, and said, “You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey.”

“To be sure, I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one reads about?”

“And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as ‘what one reads about’ may produce? Have you a stout heart? Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?”

“Oh! yes—I do not think I should be easily frightened, because there would be so many people in the house—and besides, it has never been uninhabited and left deserted for years, and then the family come back to it unawares, without giving any notice, as generally happens.”

“No, certainly. We shall not have to explore our way into a hall dimly lighted by the expiring embers of a wood fire—nor be obliged to spread our beds on the floor of a room without windows, doors, or furniture. But you must be aware that when a young lady is (by whatever means) introduced into a dwelling of this kind, she is always lodged apart from the rest of the family. While they snugly repair to their own end of the house, she is formally conducted by Dorothy, the ancient housekeeper, up a different staircase, and along many gloomy passages, into an apartment never used since some cousin or kin died in it about twenty years before…”

If you’re a member of The Mark Steyn Club you can hear Part Sixteen of our serialization of Northanger Abbey simply by clicking here and logging-in. All previous episodes can be found here.

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