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Why Northanger Abbey Devotes Little Or No Space To Any Direct Description Of Sights In Bath?
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While Cruttwell's was in the business of printing novels for others, it published local news and indigenous fare. Perhaps Austen thought of Susan in this light as slightly journalistic, a fictionalized guidebook of sorts. Perhaps Cruttwell, as both Gilson and Mandal imply, declined but pointed the way to Crosby's in London. And to preserve the author's anonymity, her brother Henry's banking agent, William Seymour, it has been suggested, transacted the actual sale to Crosby. The significance of these speculations about Cruttwell's initial involvement for my Links Of London Bracelets own place-centered argument of Northanger Abbey is transparent. If Austen initially consulted a Bath-based firm about her debut novel and it is Gilson, with Mandal's approval, who points to Cruttwell's as the most likely establishment it greatly increases the chance that she targeted a reader familiar with Bath's landscape and local lore.
A presumed Bath-savvy audience explains why Northanger Abbey devotes little or no space to any direct description of sights in Bath. Instead, Austen drops the names of Bath's streets and locales into her story in what one historian calls 'an amiable taking-it-for-granted manner.' Austen, who knows Bath well, does indeed assume a similar familiarity in her reader. Banking on Bath's popularity as a tourist destination, she might have assumed a great deal even from a London audience. Yet, her smallish mentions of streets differ from Links Of London Charms the wide-angled descriptions in, for example, Frances Burney's Evelina (1778) a known favorite of Austen's. Partly set in Bath, Evelina describes the features of interest to a London reader, including the dominant view of Ralph Allen's estate as seen from the city's centre:
The Crescent, the prospect from it, and the elegant symmetry of the Circus, delighted me. The Parades, I own, rather disappointed me; one of them is scarce preferable so some of the best paved streets in London, and the other, though it affords a beautiful prospect, a charming view of Prior Park and of the Avon, yet wanted something in itself of more striking elegance than a mere broad pavement, to satisfy the ideas I had formed of it. Burney's fault- finding descriptions, voiced by her young heroine, are those of the tourist. Although Austen's heroine is similarly new to Bath, Northanger Abbey, by contrast, offers scenery from a local's 'taking-it-for-granted' point of view. It never has to mention, we shall see, Prior Park by name. Austen can coyly practice a synecdoche of description and let a mere part stand for the whole. The reader's assumed topographical knowledge of Bath includes the structures along the city's skyline that were so strongly associated with the real-world Mr Allen, particularly his estate of Prior Park and his so-called Sham Castle. These well-known Allen landmarks, highly visible along the edges of 'Bath's amphitheatrical setting' from almost every street mentioned in the novel, watch over Austen's characters. Austen assumes that a reader's knowledge of Bath, helped along by the telltale name of Allen, will conjure his buildings and gardens in the landscape of her scenes. To overlook these famous features in Bath's landscape, the visible evidence of the Allen fortune in Austen's day, is to miss much of Austen's artistic subtlety in Northanger Abbey.
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