“I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong.”
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Every era likes to marginalize certain forms of art. In Austen's day, it was the novel (and not just the Gothic ones). Today, it might be graphic novels or romance or so-called "women's fiction" or "chick lit" or science fiction or horror. Take your pick. Despite the snobbery, Jane Austin and her whole family were, in her own words, "great Novel-readers, & not ashamed of being so." Nevertheless, Northanger Abbey is a hilarious send-up of just the kind of horror-and-romance-fest that Catherine Morland—and Jane Austen—liked to read. The difference between the heroine and her creator is that Catherine Morland kept expecting real life to play out like one of her favorite novels, while Jane Austenthought real life had its own set of fascinating stories to tell.
There’s more to Northanger Abbey then just a glimpsed into the Regency period.
Catherine Morland (Felicity Jones, Meadowlands) has an ordinary life and a feverish imagination. When she gets invited to Bath, Catherine is immersed in a world of elaborate balls and handsome men. When one suitor takes her to his family estate, Northanger Abbey, Catherine becomes mired in a world of fact and fantasy. Is there a dark mystery behind the locked doors of Northanger Abbey? Why has her budding romance suddenly been cut short?
Northanger Abbey was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be completed for publication, though she had previously made a start on Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. According to Cassandra Austen's Memorandum, Susan (as it was first called) was written approximately during 1798–99. It was revised by Austen for the press in 1803, and sold in the same year for £10 to a London bookseller, Crosby & Co., who decided against publishing. In 1817, the bookseller was content to sell it back to the novelist's brother, Henry Austen, for the exact sum — £10 — that he had paid for it at the beginning, not knowing that the writer was by then the author of four popular novels. The novel was further revised before being brought out posthumously in late December 1817 (1818 given on the title-page), as the first two volumes of a four-volume set with Persuasion.
A passage from the novel appears as the preface of Ian McEwen's Atonement, thus likening the naive mistakes of Austen's Catherine Morland to those of his own character Briony Tallis, who is in a similar position: both characters have very over-active imaginations, which lead to misconceptions that cause distress in the lives of people around them. Both treat their own lives like those of heroines in fantastical works of fiction, with Miss Morland likening herself to a character in a Gothic novel and young Briony Tallis writing her own melodramatic stories and plays with central characters such as "spontaneous Arabella" based on herself.
Richard Adams quotes a portion of the novel's last sentence for the epigraph to Chapter 50 in his Watership Down; the reference to the General is felicitous, as the villain in Watership Down is also a General.
And here’s a little taste for you:
Darkness impenetrable and immovable filled the room. A violent gust of wind, rising with sudden fury, added fresh horror to the moment. Catherine trembled from head to foot. In the pause which succeeded, a sound like receding footsteps and the closing of a distant door struck on her affrighted ear. Human nature could support no more. A cold sweat stood on her forehead, the manuscript fell from her hand, and groping her way to the bed, she jumped hastily in, and sought some suspension of agony by creeping far underneath the clothes. To close her eyes in sleep that night, she felt must be entirely out of the question. With a curiosity so justly awakened, and feelings in every way so agitated, repose must be absolutely impossible. The storm too abroad so dreadful! She had not been used to feel alarm from wind, but now every blast seemed fraught with awful intelligence. The manuscript so wonderfully found, so wonderfully accomplishing the morning’s prediction, how was it to be accounted for? What could it contain? To whom could it relate? By what means could it have been so long concealed? And how singularly strange that it should fall to her lot to discover it! Till she had made herself mistress of its contents, however, she could have neither repose nor comfort; and with the sun’s first rays she was determined to peruse it. But many were the tedious hours which must yet intervene. She shuddered, tossed about in her bed, and envied every quiet sleeper. The storm still raged, and various were the noises, more terrific even than the wind, which struck at intervals on her startled ear. The very curtains of her bed seemed at one moment in motion, and at another the lock of her door was agitated, as if by the attempt of somebody to enter. Hollow murmurs seemed to creep along the gallery, and more than once her blood was chilled by the sound of distant moans. She began to wish for Henry Tilney to find his way secretly to her room to help allay her nervousness.
When the door to her room opened slowly she searched frantically for something with which to defend herself, not knowing if it was ghost of human who trespassed. When she saw Henry slip into the room, fingers to his lips, she poofed out a sigh of relief. Had just thinking of him conjured him up?
“What are you doing here?” she whispered as softly as she could, noticing that he had divested himself of all his clothes save a thin pair of breeches and a loose shirt.
“I feared the storm would disturb you and wanted to ease you through it.”
“But—But—But what if someone sees you walking around like that?” Her fingers gripped the bedclothes.
“General Tilney and my mother are long fast asleep,” he whispered back, “and I hope the same for my sister. However, since she sleeps two doors down we must be careful not to do anything to call her attention.”
“And what would we be doing?” she asked.
With a smile Henry approached the bed and eased himself down on top of the covers next to her. “I hope many things,” he told her. “I have felt this strong attraction between us from the first moment of our meeting and I have seen in your eyes a like feeling. If I am mistaken please advise me of it and I will leave a once.”
Even as the blood stirred within her and her pulse rate accelerated, she felt compelled to offer at least a token protest. “I assure you that I am still an innocent, an unsullied and respectable female.”
His hand cupped her cheek, turning her face to his. “My dear sweet Catherine, I am fully aware of that. I would take no advantage of that if you bid me leave. And if you bid me so I will be gone and this will be as if it never happened. But understand that you have my full respect as well as a number of other emotions that far surpass it. From our first meeting I have dreamed of being the one man to show you the pleasures of the body. I care for you so much. Please do not turn me away.”
She could have demurred further but she was so eager for his touch that it seemed to her a waste of time so she simply smiled and placed her hand over his. “And I have dreamed of the same things.”
Henry leaned his head closer to her face and placed his lips on hers. They were firm and moist and the touch was utterly pleasant. He brushed his mouth lightly over hers in a back ad forth motion, teasing her, until his tongue peeped out to trace he seam of her lips.
“Open your mouth for me, sweet Catherine,” he urged. “Let me in.”
She did so and when his tongue swept inside it filled her with a sensation of pleasure that danced through her body. Her nipples tingled and at once the sensitive muscles in her cunt trembled. She felt the liquid of her arousal soaking the crotch of her nighttime bloomers and had to press her thighs together. All this from a kiss! Imagine! But it was far beyond any kiss she’d ever imagined. Henry’s tongue touched the inside of her mouth everywhere, sliding over her own tongue in a movement that coaxed her to let hers dance with him. He thrust it in and out, mimicking the act of sex she and Virginia had read about and arousing her even more.
Pulling the gown up far enough, he proceeded to pull one nipple into his mouth. Catherine’s breath caught at her throat as he sucked deeply on it then gently scraped it with his teeth. He cradled her breast in his warm palm kneading it gently as he continued to suck and nip at the stiff peak. Her blood heated and the fire roared straight to her cunt to meet the insistent throbbing in her already wet tissues. He gave equal attention to her other breast until she was arching up to him in delight.
When Henry lifted his head she cried out. “Oh, continue, please, I pray you. I cannot bear it if you stop.”
His smile was mesmerizing. “If I am to continue we must move all this fabric out of the way.” He plucked at her gown, rucked up around her neck, and ran a finger around the waist of her drawers. “I wish to see your body in its entirety that I may worship every inch of it.”
No one had seen Catherine naked since she was a child with the exception of her partner in crime, Virginia. But she trembled in anticipation of Henry’s gaze taking in every inch of her and hoped she would not be found wanting. Mutely she nodded and allowed him to assist her with the removal of her nightwear, shivering slightly as the cool night air wafted over her.
Henry placed a kiss between her breasts. “I am not shy of my own abilities to warm you up but I think a fire would help us along.”
Catherine lay nude with her arms crossed over her breasts, her eyes glued to Henry as he built up the fire until it leapt into a nice flame. But the fire was not the only ting that heated her as Mr. Tilney began to slowly remove his own clothing, draping it over the arm of a boudoir chair. She was stunned at the sight of his magnificent body, gleaming in te firelight, the curled hair on his chest slightly darker than that on his head and darker still as it clustered around his cock which stood straight out in all its glory. Her fingers itched to touch it, to test its feel, to rub herself against it. To see if it would fit within her as the book had described.
Henry Tilney smiled at her as he stood beside the bed, what she could only describe as hunger flaring in his eyes.
“Go ahead,” he urged. “Touch it. I can see that you want to.”
She reached out her hand and closed her fingers around silky skin over a hard as steel core. “Oh! It feels hot!” Experimentally she slid her fingers up and down, from tip to root and back again. It flexed beneath her touch, a most pleasant feeling so she did it again and yet again. The soft wiry curls surrounding it brushed sensually against the edge of her hand and by the third slide a small drop of fluid eased from the tiny slit in the head. Catherine stared in wonder and before she could help herself touched the tip of one finger to it. Bringing her finger to her mouth she licked slowly, enjoying the slightly salty taste of it.
Tilney’s expression heated as he watched her. Do you fancy the taste, then?”
Catherine nodded mutely.
“Soon I might ask you to take me in my mouth,” he told her, “but right now I would like to savour your taste, also. Will you allow me?”
She nodded, lying still as he separated her legs and knelt between them. The moment his fingers touched the lips of her cunt every nerve in her body leapt to attention. She wanted to squeeze her thighs together against the pulse pounding inside but Henry kept her legs separated with his wide shoulders. He opened her lips and stared intently at her—what had Isabella called it?—her pussy, the intensity of his gaze heating her even more.
“Your cunt is so beautiful,” he breathed “Just as I imagine—all pink and pretty and so, so wet.”
He ran one finger the length of her slit and brought it to his mouth to taste as she had done with his liquid. He closed his eyes, obviously savouring the taste, then leaned down and ran his tongue where his finger had touched. Catherine was sure her body was on fire now, every fibre of her demanding more. She wanted him to do all the things she and Virginia had experimented with, and more. To touch every part of her body inside and out. When he sipped one finger inside her slick sheath she could not help but gasp at the intensity of the sensation.
“Hush.” He smiled up at her. “We must be perfectly quiet or I will have to stop.”
No! No, no, no!
She clapped one hand over her mouth and pressed her lips hard together, but oh! It was so hard to keep still as his fingers thrust in and out of her in a rhythm that made her entire body throb.
“I am going to touch your clit, my sweetness,” he whispered. “Pray do not cry out.”
But even her good intentions could not completely stifle the little whimpers as he inched and rubbed that furled knot of flesh while his fingers continue to plunder her. Oh, dear lord, this was so much more than she expected. Every nerve in her body seemed to centred in that one spot. She pushed herself against his touch, swallowing a scream of delight when his tongue replaced his hand on her clit while he continued to work her quivering cunt. The surge of need rising within her was far more than she’d experienced in the little games she and Virginia had played. She was losing control of herself as unbelievable feelings swept through her.
Tilney lifted his head. I am going to give you an orgasm, my sweet.” His voice was gruff with restrained passion. “Since this is your first time it will relax your inner muscles and make the way easier for my cock. Yes, I feel it coming on now. Oh, how tightly your cunt closes around my fingers. How sweet your little clit tastes to my tongue. Pray prepare yourself, Catherine, for it is almost upon you.”
Yes! She could feel a force gathering within her. She closed her eyes and threw her head back, biting down on the edge of her hand as violent spasms swept through her shaking her entire body. She pushed hard against Henry’s fingers and in fact wound her legs around his neck to pull him in tighter and bucked up against him. The room fell away and she conscious of nothing but the shudders wracking her, tossing her into a void where the only thing that mattered was this powerful force that gripped her body.
She was barely aware of the tremors subsiding, of Tilney slowing the pace of his fingers, of his tongue lapping easily every inch of her quivering cunt until the last of the spasms had subsided.
Henry moved up to kiss her licking her lips before sliding his tongue into her mouth. She could taste herself on him, a not unpleasant taste and actually sucked his tongue.
“Sweet Catherine.” He lifted his head and looked into her eyes. “I am so honoured to be your very first lover. You held nothing back ad that orgasm will prepare you to accept the length of my cock. Do not move.”
He rose from the bed and fished something from a pocket of his trousers. When he returned against to kneel between her thighs and she saw he held a strange item in his hand.
“This is a condom,” he explained. “A safe, because that’s exactly what it will make you. We do not want to get you with child and I want to be most careful with you.”
She had read about such devices in the book and watched in fascination as he rolled it onto his swollen cock. When he was finished he loomed over her, balancing himself on his hands.
“You know this will hurt a little, right? But I will be as gentle as possible with you.” He slid his fingers inside her again, smiling in satisfaction at what he felt. “So wet. And relaxed. This will be fine.”
He brought the head of his cock to her opening and prodded gently. She flinched at first, not sure she could take something that size inside her but Tilney soothed her with whispered words. He brought her knees up and pressed them back, opening her more and easing his passage into her body. Inch by inch he slid into her, filling her until she was sure she could not take another inch of him. And yet she wanted more. Her body was again in a state of high excitement, her breath coming in short pants, her heart racing.
Tilney’s eyes glittered as he stared into hers. “Now, Catherine. A little inch and no more.”
He moved one hand to her clit, rubbing it over and over, bringing her to a higher level of need. At the point where she was actually ready to beg he thrust his hips forward in a hard movement. So aroused was she that she barely notice the brief stab of pain. And then he was seated inside her completely, every fibre of her body on fire for him. His pace as he moved in and out of her was slow at first, his eyes watching her for signs of discomfort. But when he saw only pleasure he increased his pace until he was hammering into her with force, his breath raspy in the ar. The moment the walls of her cunt began to spasm anew he let himself go. Catherine could feel his cock pulsing inside the condom, vibrating against her inner muscles which clamped down on him like a vice. Catherine felt tossed into space, a void of pleasure filled with rockets and firecrackers that stabbed through her with the most delightful pain of arousal.
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