Tilney Tuesday– Knight in Shining Armor

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Jane Austen pokes fun of the Gothic tropes common for her day in Northanger Abbey. Storms rage and mysterious chests might contain secrets. The abbey might have hidden passageways. General Tilney is a domineering father who oppresses his children. However, Catherine is the heroine, not Elinor Tilney. Catherine has no such terrifying background to overcome. Indeed, the narrator acknowledges there’s very little that’s heroine-like about her.

However, she has also known great distress. I mean, of course, when she was hiding from Mr. Thorpe and not wishing to dance with him.

As soon as they were joined by the Thorpes, Catherine’s agony began; she fidgeted about if John Thorpe came towards her, hid herself as much as possible from his view, and when he spoke to her pretended not to hear him.

In this instance, the narrator goes on to explain that every female has been in this position. (Side Note: I first considered my husband as a potential love interest when he saved me from a boy who would not take a hint that I wasn’t interested. See, the narrator was correct.) All the while, Catherine is despairing of seeing Mr. Tilney again.

Then, what should happen but he appears!

Did the crowd part? Did she feel her heart skip a beat or the hair on her arm stand up as she sensed his presence signaling their souls were entwined? No.

a self-condemnation for her folly, in supposing that among such a crowd they should even meet with the Tilneys in any reasonable time, had just passed through her mind, when she suddenly found herself addressed and again solicited to dance, by Mr. Tilney himself.

The 2007 film makes an interesting observation at this encounter. Mr. Tilney teases that Thorpe is his rival and Catherine says he isn’t before realizing it was all a joke.

This would suggest that Mr. Tilney is far more aware of Thorpe’s intentions than even Catherine is. Honestly, that sounds pretty reasonable since she was surprised by Thorpe’s proposal and also clueless enough to believe the General murdered his wife and got away with it.

This might even shed more light on the troublesome quote at the end of the book about how Henry came to love Catherine.

Henry was now sincerely attached to her, though he felt and delighted in all the excellencies of her character and truly loved her society, I must confess that his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought.

Did Henry see that she was bothered by Thorpe? That she needed rescuing from his attentions at this particular dance? He surely noticed that she preferred him. That he did not feel the same attachment to Catherine, actually makes him all the more noble. Each time he talks to her, it’s to ease her distress over something. Again and again he approaches her at a moment of annoyance. We know from Emma how easily such actions can be seen as heroic.

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This is all the more interesting as Henry is a clergyman. In many Gothic stories, the clergymen harbor dark desires. One, The Monk, is even listed in NA as a story read by Thorpe. I am sure he planted that name to make her reconsider her interest in Tilney–who he would have already heard about from Isabella.

Henry Tilney appears the sarcastic, even irreverent, jokester who doesn’t think very deeply or sensitively about things, and yet, he’s really Catherine’s knight in shining armor whether it’s safety from John Thorpe on the dance floor or from her own perilous imagination and subsequent self-hatred.

Have you had a Mr. Tilney in your life?

 

 

 

Tilney Tuesday–Marriage lessons

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I often say Mr. Tilney is my book boyfriend but Mr. Darcy is my book husband. Henry just seems like so much fun! However, maybe I should amend that statement. For, Mr. Tilney has some definite opinions about marriage and we do not know anything about what Darcy expects.

Henry and Catherine first meet in the Lower Rooms and danced twice. Then, he leaves Bath for about ten days. They meet again at the Octagon Room but cannot dance as Catherine is already promised to Mr. Thorpe. It takes a few more days before they meet again and are able to converse. During this dance, Thorpe interrupts them before they take to the floor. Thorpe tries to pressure Catherine into dancing with him although he had never asked.

This is what Mr. Tilney says:

“That gentleman would have put me out of patience, had he stayed with you half a minute longer. He has no business to withdraw the attention of my partner from me. We have entered into a contract of mutual agreeableness for the space of an evening, and all our agreeableness belongs solely to each other for that time. Nobody can fasten themselves on the notice of one, without injuring the rights of the other. I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.”

Catherine, of course, can’t believe that Mr. Tilney would compare a simple dance to a marriage. He offers a sound rebuttal.

“…I think I could place them in such a view. You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal; that in both, it is an engagement between man and woman, formed for the advantage of each; and that when once entered into, they belong exclusively to each other till the moment of its dissolution; that it is their duty, each to endeavour to give the other no cause for wishing that he or she had bestowed themselves elsewhere, and their best interest to keep their own imaginations from wandering towards the perfections of their neighbours, or fancying that they should have been better off with anyone else. You will allow all this?”

Catherine continues to say that dancing is not like marriage and Henry cannot resist teasing that she is not agreeing with her partner enough to make him assured she not allow anyone else to cut in. It’s fun to read as we can see Henry is taking enough concern in Catherine that he wants to have her attention. Thorpe talks about wanting to be her partner but is then distracted by trying to sell Tilney a horse and then a gaggle of ladies walking by.

Despite Catherine disagreeing with Henry, she does try to offer him security.

“Mr. Thorpe is such a very particular friend of my brother’s, that if he talks to me, I must talk to him again; but there are hardly three young men in the room besides him that I have any acquaintance with.”

This is insufficient for Henry but Catherine soon adds:

if I do not know anybody, it is impossible for me to talk to them;

For Henry, what consolation could this give? Should a husband lock his wife up? She should never be trusted with knowing another man? Consider that in light of his father and you can guess it may not have been far from what he grew up knowing. Knowing and, hopefully, hating.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of Catherine’s statement.

“…and, besides, I do not want to talk to anybody.”

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I can just imagine Henry’s teasing smirk as he replies,

“Now you have given me a security worth having; and I shall proceed with courage.”

I wonder if it’s this moment that shifts Henry’s feelings from general amusement with Catherine to the gratitude of her attachment which is the foundation of his eventual love.

though Henry was now sincerely attached to her, though he felt and delighted in all the excellencies of her character and truly loved her society, I must confess that his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought.

One must remember that Catherine’s frankness and openness would have been unusual for the Society ladies Henry often met with. He would have been more accustomed to the sort of sly trickery Isabella Thorpe employs. While Catherine often thinks of her country naivete as a liability, it’s exactly what Henry needs in life. Catherine offers the honesty that he’s looking for in a partner for life. Mr. Tilney may just be the best Austen husband material after all.

Tilney Tuesday–Austen’s best conversationalist

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If you’re a reader of Jane Austen’s works, then you might notice a trend for the most talkative gentleman to be the villain of the story. Let us consider the books. In Sense and Sensibility, the man who enters into lively conversation is Mr. Willoughby. Wickham fills the role in Pride and Prejudice. Henry Crawford of Mansfield Park has superior powers of conversation–if Mary’s constant critique of Edmund’s scolding is any indication. While Frank Churchill is not truly a villain, he’s not the hero and Mr. Elton is downright slimey for all his ability at small talk. William Elliot has a conversation with Anne in Persuasion about what makes the best company and he ranks conversational abilities at the top of the list.

Honestly, it’s a let down. Can’t a girl have a decent conversation and he NOT be the jerk of a century?

Enter Henry Tilney.

What makes him so appealing is that he mocks those moments of small talk but still understands the rules of society. He pays homage to them without telling you how a poem has moved his soul or all about his three decade long feud with the current master of the estate he grew up at before he even knows your surname.

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Contrary to the scene in the 2007 film, Catherine Morland was introduced to Mr. Tilney before they spoke. The master of ceremonies provided Tilney as a partner, in what seems very much like Sir William Lucas’ want of pairing everyone up. While they did not speak very much during dancing, they did when they sat for tea afterward. Originally, the spoke of such things relating to the ball when Henry seized upon the fact that he had not asked the “usual” sorts of questions new acquaintances ask in Bath. What follows, is a scene that makes my heart go pitter-patter.

Then forming his features into a set smile, and affectedly softening his voice, he added, with a simpering air, “Have you been long in Bath, madam?”

“About a week, sir,” replied Catherine, trying not to laugh.

“Really!” with affected astonishment.

“Why should you be surprised, sir?”

“Why, indeed!” said he, in his natural tone. “But some emotion must appear to be raised by your reply, and surprise is more easily assumed, and not less reasonable than any other. Now let us go on. Were you never here before, madam?”

“Never, sir.”

“Indeed! Have you yet honoured the Upper Rooms?”

“Yes, sir, I was there last Monday.”

“Have you been to the theatre?”

“Yes, sir, I was at the play on Tuesday.” “To the concert?”

“Yes, sir, on Wednesday.” ”

And are you altogether pleased with Bath?”

“Yes—I like it very well.”

“Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.” Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh. “I see what you think of me,” said he gravely—”I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow.”

“My journal!”

“Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings—plain black shoes—appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.”

“Indeed I shall say no such thing.”

“Shall I tell you what you ought to say?”

“If you please.”

“I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him—seems a most extraordinary genius—hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say.”

“But, perhaps, I keep no journal.”

From this conversation, they move into a world where Catherine is a bit naive and innocent. She does not catch all of Tilney’s jokes, but he also expresses his belief in equality between men and women. It’s a hint about their characters. Isabella Thorpe would have a very different sort of reaction to Henry’s words. Likewise, while Catherine believes the only threat to her brother’s engagement to Isabella to be Henry’s brother, the fact is that Isabella is the one who puts it in danger and is just as capable of doing so as a man.

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Henry Tilney wins the Jane Austen award of best conversationalist because he can be both flippant and serious in a short span. His words are lively and entertaining while not being entirely inappropriate. They are welcoming and engaging but do not become overly personal. He has no foul intentions with his conversation. He is not trying to make Catherine fall in love with him or make others believe that he is in love with her to hide his affection for another. He is not grouching in a corner and refusing to dance.

Yes, Henry Tilney can take me on a dinner date any day. I am sure we will have the very best conversation.