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A Calendar for Northanger Abbey

I preface this calendar with a conversation I had with Judy Warner around the time the group conversation on the novel had reached the sequence of chapters wherein Catherine visits the Abbey (Chapters 21-24 or II:6-9).

From: Judy Warner
Subject: A Calendar for NA

Ellen: The calendar is fascinating.
"I read this weeks chapters with calendar in hand, looking for time references, and was shocked at how many times day, moment, minutes,-time words and references are made. I want to look at another Austen book to see if this is usual and I'm just noticing it for the first time. Did you notice the passage-and there were other references to clocks and watches,at the end of Chapter V '..when taking out his watch, he stopped short to pronounce it with surprise within twenty minutes of five. ......the strictest punctuality to the family hours would be expected at Northanger.'"

Chapman, p 162

Thanks for sending this to us.

Judy Warner warner@ultranet

In response to Judy Warner:

First I'd like to say this minute keeping of time may be found in all Austen's novels. It is particularly consistent throughout S&S, P&P, and most of NA. Since we have no reason to disbelieve Cassandra's clear statement that full complete drafts of the above three novels were written one after another between 1796 and 1799, I would say that this keeping of time was one way Austen used fundamentally to slow down time so as to allow for an even slower version of time to emerge in her texts: psychological time. She didn't need to read Stephan Zweig's oft-quoted statement about the biographer's and novelist's art which I quote here as it is so beautifully said and lucidly differentiates between psychological and diurnal time to capture both of which is essential to the modern mature novelist's art:
"Only in semblance are the outward and inward seasons of a life identical; in verity, wealth of experience is the sole measure of living, and the spirit is timed by another clock than that of the calendar. Under the intoxication of destiny, the mind may traverse lengthy periods in a few days; whereas long years may count for nothing when life is void of momentous spiritual happenings. Just as the historian pays little heed to slow and stagnant epochs, and his interest is focused upon a few and scattered but dramatic and decisive moments--so, for the biographer, who is concerned with the inmost story of a life, only the pulses of passion count. A human being is not fully alive except when his best energies are at work; and when feeling is active, time moves swiftly though the clock-hands circle at the customary pace" (Stephen Zweig, Preface to his biography of Mary [Stuart], Queen of Scots).
As we read next week's chapters (Chapters 21-2, or II:6-7) we will see Austen moving between the two kinds of time. She will spend whole chapters tracing the movements of Catherine's mind over the brief spaces of time in which she will first see some mysterious object (a chest, a drawer, a funeral monument or picture), consider it, dream over it, and then react like the Gothic heroine she is. This imitates our real experience of time which slows down as our minds become enthralled or excited or gripped or absorbed by something.

But Austen will also write and interleave passages into those written in the psychological which make her novels move or feel like they are moving according to calendar time. This she does to achieve verisimilitude. Before her, an author would say in one paragraph well here I jump ten years because nothing much happened (Fielding's procedure in Tom Jones) or tell a hectic series of events which must have taken years in three swift paragraphs and then slow down again (the cruder novelists like Eliza Haywood would do this). Both are jarring and make us remember we are reading a book; they interrupt the reverie in which we believe we are really "in" the book and experiencing people talking, thinking, acting on a screen within our minds.

I think she learned to do this by writing slow paragraphs which give us little daily things that happen during a day and nailing these to a calendar. One of the chapters of NA opens thus:

"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday have now passed in review before the reader; the events of each day, its hopes and fears, mortifications and pleasures,have been separately stated, and the pangs of Sunday only now remain to be described, and close the week" (1995 Penguin, Butler ed, Ch 13, p ).
When I said time becomes indeterminate at the Abbey, I only meant relatively because there are a number of such passages as Judy Warner quoted at the close of Chapter V (p 162 in Chapman); one of the most striking occurs on the day Chapman makes out to be the 19th of March (Vol 2, Ch 9, p 193 in Chapman), with which date I agree. As Catherine slips away from the Tilney family so as to explore Mrs Tilney's bedroom on her own we are told:
"there was no time to be lost, The day was bright, her courage high; at four o'clock, the sun was now two hours above the horizon, and it would be only her retiring to dress half an hour earlier than usual (Penguin, Ch 24, p168).
Chapman says of this: if we look at the calendar for 1798 (or more accurately almanac) we will find that in that year "on March 19 sunset at Greenwich is at 6 hours 9 minutes. It would be like our author to get this right" (Chapman,NA, Appendix, p 299). Austen also uses time to garner yet more beauty which is realistic for her text. A few paragraphs before the above, sometimes after church ("It was Sunday," Penguin Ch 24, p 166), Austen remarks on how Catherine's "courage was not equal to" her "wish" of explored the wife's apartments "after dinner, either by the fading light of the sky between six and seven o'clock, or by the yet more stronger illumination of a treacherous lamp" (Penguin, Ch 24, p 166).

Where did she "learn" to do this--or where had she seen it done before. Well Radcliffe had begun to write omniscient narratives which observed psychological time, but were not convincing when you began to think about how all the events related to one another, and could at times feel ludicrous even while reading. The source for this kind of calendar time is epistolary narrative. Richardson nailed days down and used psychological time. One argument then for thinking that both P&P and S&S were originally epistolary is their mutual consistent use of this kind of determine time together with psychological time.

The later three novels also use the calendar though more fluidly; Austen seems to be able to pick up where we are in the calendar at will, but not have the need in the text to tell us. That she knows where we are has been shown by the calendars various critics have constructed for Emma, MP, and Persuasion. Edith mentioned that the piano arrives at the Bates's residence on Valentine's day if we realize Austen is using an 1813-1814 almanac; Emma does differ from the above two novels in the playfulness with which Austen plants "clues" by using her almanac. MP differs because during that section when the novel begins to veer towards becoming an epistolary narrative, it begins to show the kind of careful use of ironic juxtaposition of events we find in S&S and other epistolary novels of the period. Finally, the opening of Persuasion is indeterminate, while the later section at Bath resembles the opening section at Bath in NA. Whether this suggests the novel is in an unfinished state, I leave to others to think about.

Christmas, 1797
James Morland with John Thorpe on vacation near London 4:29

Sun-Mon [Jan 21st-22nd]:
Last two days in Wiltshire 2:17
Wed-Thurs [Jan 24th-25th]:
Over night Trip to Bath; they stay at an inn 2:18
Fri-Sun [Jan 26th-28th]
Three or four days spent in learning new fashions 2:19
Mon [Jan 29th]:
Her first Ball in Upper Rooms; "I was there last Monday." 2:19; 3:24
Tues [Jan 30th]:
Catherine goes to theatre; "I was at the play on Tuesday." 3:24
Wed [Jan 31st]:
Catherine goes to concert; "To the concert?" "Yes, sir, on Wednesday." 3:24
Fri [Feb 2nd]:
Appearance in Lower Rooms, Catherine meets Henry Tilney; "Friday, went to the Lower Rooms;" she has been there "about a week;" he had been there "but for a couple of days" to get lodgings for father and sister 3:23-4; 10:66
Sat [Feb 3rd]:
Catherine goes to Pump Room, Mr Tilney does not appear; it was this morning he quit Bath for a week; she & Mrs Allen meet Mrs Thorpe & Isabella; that evening they will meet at theatre 4:28,30; 8:49
Sun [Feb 4th]:
The next day when Catherine and Isabella will meet at chapel 4:30
Sun [Feb 11th]:
Isabella, the day before claims to have seen a young man looking adoringly at Catherine 6:36
Mon [Feb 12th]:
Eight or nine days after the morning talk and walk after chapel; the two sit, discuss horrid books, and set out in pursuit of 2 young men; 1:30 pm they meet James Morland and James Thorpe come from Tetbury which they left at 10;

two couples to meet in Octagon Room that evening; where Catherine left pining by Thorpe, takes Isabella 3 minutes to desert, humiliated for 10, but then meets Henry Tilney once again, with sister this time, but her dance is pre-taken; he asks another (Miss Smith) and she loses him for the evening; Isabella's utter indifference & hypocrisy 6:36, 38; 7:47; 8:48; 10:66

Tues [Feb 13th]:
after good night's sleep Catherine means to set off for pump-room at one; half past one Thorpes drive up with Morland; a "mild fine day of February;" they return after 3; at the Crescent Mrs Allen saw Henry & Eleanor Tilney; we could stretch it and say it was on this day Thorpe decided Catherine was to be superrich 9:55-6, 61
Wed [Feb 14th]:
Catherine & Mrs Allen go to pump room; Catherine at last sits with Miss Tilney who came with Mrs Hughes; Henry gone riding with his father; "she lay awake ten minutes on Wednesday night" 10:65-6
Thurs [Feb 15th]:
"She entered the rooms on Thursday evening;" Tilney asks her to dance, Thorpe interrupts with "I firmly believe you were engaged o me ever since Monday;" her conversation with Tilney, Eleanor's invitation to go for a country walk tomorrow; she has known Isabella Thorpe a fortnight 10:67, 69, 72
Fri [Feb 16th]:
The "morrow" brings "sober morning;" 11th o'clock specks of rain, begins to rain; wonderful sequencing of time; it's half past twelve when rains stops; she gets into the carriage by 1 o'clock; a few minutes after Tilneys call, leave no card; evening at Thorpe's; Isabella keeps repeating how glad she is not to be at ball in Lower Rooms 11:74-5, 80
Sat [Feb 17th]:
Catherine tries to visit Miss Tilney to explain; she is snubbed at door; in the evening she goes to the theatre, but sees no Tilney; he appears in a box at 5th act, she longs for forgiveness and he does come round to their box, so both are not too proud; while she talks with Tilney, he talks to General; it was then that General was led to believe Catherine was an heiress 12:83, 84; 30:212
Sun [Feb 18th]:
"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday Friday, and Saturday have now passed... the pangs of Sunday only now remain;" scene where she is intensely pressured by Thorpes and her brother to forego her appointment with Miss Tilney, to lie to her and arrange to have walk on Tuesday rather than following morning (therefor a Monday); Thorpe then says he might go out of town on "Tuesday;" word Tuesday repeated as they quarrel over it; then another trick attempted; she refuses this bullying and acquiescing in greater rudeness than she was tricked into on Friday; she overcomes that by rushing to Tilneys' house to tell truth 13:87-8
Mon [Feb 19th]:
Catherine and Tilneys take their walk; later in the morning Catherine to Bond Street talks with Miss Anne Thorpe; Isabella, John, & James set off at 8 for Clifton 14:95, 102
Tues [Feb 20th]:
Note from Isabella, Catherine goes to Edgar's Buildings & learns brother and Isabella are engaged; James comes to set out to Wiltshire, and a letter should return tomorrow if he can send it tonight to Salisbury; spiteful withholding of information from one side of family 15:104, 107
Wed [Feb 21st]:
Catherine again visits her friend, letter from James arrives; good news; Thorpe himself goes to London with his inveigling insinuating remarks; "I dine with Miss Tilney today, and must now be going home. Catherine does not enjoy 15:109, 110; 16:115
Thurs [Feb 22nd]:
Catherine's talk with Isabel the next day (must be since it was "yesterday" the Tilneys told her Captain Tilney expected any time), this night the usual fancy ball in Upper or New Rooms; Tilneys to be there, Isabella "consents" to go; Captain Tilney shows & Isabella dances with him 16:116
Sat-Thurs [Feb 24th-Mar1st]:
Isabella and Catherine's dialogue over James's letter at last giving details of what parents can do; handsome in offering a living whose 400 his 10-children family then using; 2 1/2 years wait to hold living; on a slightly later day James arrives and received with kindness 16:120-1
Mon [Mar 5th]:
"Allens had now entered on the sixth week of their stay in Bath;" lodgings have been taken for another fortnight (until Fri, Mar 16th, for Catherine now has "another three weeks"); however, general will quit Bath "at the end of another week," "Saturday se'nnight (Mar 17th?); Catherine writes letter
Tues [Mar 6th]
Catherine receives permission by return of post 17:122-3
Fri [Mar 9th]:
"Two or three day" later; Isabella's attempt half to pressure Catherine into saying she has accepted John Thorpe as a suitor; Catherine then sitting next to Tilney and Isabella overhears petty rubbish Tilney hands Isabella which she enjoys--much in the manner that Fanny overhears Henry Crawford and Maria 18:127
Mon-Tues [Mar 12th-13th]:
"A very few days passed away" during which Catherine observes an altered Isabella 19:130
Wed [Mar 14th]:
Catherine learns Captain Tilney not going too, so she speaks to Henry; Henry's comment on their "week's acquaintance" tells us Isabella began to encourage Tilney only after she had news of the money 19:131
Thurs [Mar 15th]:
"Last evening of Catherine's stay Thorpes in Pulteney Street, Isabella very emotional towards Catherine: looking to curry favor with a supposed sister-in-law 19:134

Here the part of the novel which takes place in Bath ends.

Here is the second part of the working calendar for NA. What is interesting is how time becomes indetermine just before and after the section's crisis when General Tilney kicks Catherine out of his house. As one might expect from all Austen's novels, at her close she suddenly pulls the curtain down and gives only vague indications for time for the "happy ending" we have all been waiting for.

Fri [Mar 16th]:
Mr Allen takes Catherine to breakfast at Milsom; he & Mrs Allen to leave at end of week anyway (now the 16th); she is made uncomfortable by General, Capt Tilney comes down to breakfast late; they are to leave by 10, 3 ladies in chaise, father & son in curricle; two hour wait at inn Petty France; first adventure of immense chest with linen in it; dinner accompanied by hypocrisy; stormy night; adventure of black cabinet with laundry list inside, finding paper-roll, light extinguished, tosses & turns until 3 in the morning 20:135
Sat [Mar 17th]:
Wakes up at 8 to peruse washing bill; Henry to go to Woodston for 2-3 days; General, Eleanor & Catherine take his customary walk "in the leafless month of March" Abbey & grounds still beautiful; a walk, girls go in, hour and quarter go by before he returns; by evening Catherine convinced General either murdered his wife or keeps her a prisoner behind a secret door down a staircase in a dungeon; imagination keeps her up until; on Monday Catherine says Eleanor took her over the greatest part of the house on "Saturday" 11:30 22:150, 154; 23:165; 24:170
Sun [Mar 18th]:
"It was Sunday" 2 services, sees vault, skies fades between 6 and 7. Note the close use of the setting sun: "It was Sunday, and the whole time between morning and afternoon service was required by the general in exercise abroad or eating cold meat at home; and great as was Catherine's curiosity, her courage was not equal to a wish of exploring them after dinner, either by the fading light of the sky between six and seven o'clock, or by the yet more partial though stronger illumination of a treacherous lamp." This resembles Austen's alignment of sunlight and time in MP, see Calendar for MP, under 1798, Sunday, March 18th, 24:166
Mon [Mar 19th]:
During General's walk, girls view Mrs Tilney's portrait; he interrupts as they are about to enter Mrs Tilney's chambers; Catherine flees to her room for an hours; Eleanor says father wanted her only to answer a note; she tries again at 4 o'clock so as to do it before Henry's return, but he comes upon her around "a quarter past four;" he has come back a day before he intended, 3 hours ago found he could return; she goes upstairs afterwards to make herself miserable for half an hour and then comes down at 5 24:166, 168-9; 25:173
Tues [Mar 20th]:
The "lenient hand of time did much for her by insensible gradations in the course of another day..." 25:174
Wed-Thurs [Mar 21st-29th]:
For nine successive mornings, Catherine wondered... on the tenth, when she entered the breakfast-room, her first object was a letter..." 25:175-6
Fri [Mar 30th]:
The letter from James announcing the breakup of the engagement; he left Bath "yesterday," so perhaps the Wednesday 25:175-6

Indeterminate time passing ending on following Saturday: includes "frequent canvassing" of subject of Isabella Thorpe and Captain Tilney; General "every morning offenced by" son's "remissness in writing; and finally "A day or two passed away..." 26:181

Sat [Apr 7]:
to land on a Saturday as "tomorrow is a "Sunday" General says Henry must give him and girls a dinner; an hour later Henry leaves "two days before I intended it" because he must prepare for visit; "Saturday to Wednesday, however, they were now to be without Henry" Captain Tilney dropped Isabella to pursue Charlotte Davis 26:183, 27:188
Sun [Apr 8]:
"As tomorrow is Sunday, Eleanor, I shall not return" 26:183
Mon [Apr 9]:
"Let me see; Monday will be a busy day with you, we will not come on Monday" Is it day after Easter? Captain Tilney left Bath 26:182; 27:189
Tues [Apr 10]:
"Tuesday, therefore, we may say is out of the question" Isabella goes to play with Hodges, mocked by Mitchells 26:183
Wed [Apr 11]:
On "Wednesday, I think, Henry, you may expect us.. about a quarter before one on Wednesday..."; "By ten o'clock, the chaise and four conveyed the two from the abbey; and, after an agreeable drive of almost twenty miles, they entered Woodston..." ... " brought them to four o'clock, when Catherine scarcely thought it could be three. At four they were to dine, and at six to set off on their return... "At six o'clock, the general having taken his coffee, the carriage again received them" Isabella writes to Catherine 26:183-4; 27:188
Thurs [Apr 12]:
Isabella's April letter "the next morning" in which she thanks Catherine for her two and attempts to gain her position back; she says she leaves Bath "tomorrow," Captain Tilney left two days ago and for two days before that had dropped her, so if letter written Wed, Apr 11, they left this day 27:188

Indeterminate time:
Soon after General goes to London for a week; Catherine in fourth week of her stay, turning into 5th, Eleanor distressed at notion Catherine to go so visit continues 28:192

The day John Thorpe told as an exaggerated story of Catherine's poverty as he had told of her wealth 30:214
Sat [Apr 21]:
Henry obliged to "to leave them on Saturday for a couple of nights;" "eleven o'clock girls still up, General returns abruptly, half an hour before Eleanor comes in and then so quietly, with such deep shame, kicks Catherine out 28:194
Sun [Apr 22]: Mon [Apr 23]:
Transparent excuse for kicking Catherine out is General's "engagement" to go "on Monday" to Lord Longtown's, Hereford "for a fortnight"; Henry returns to Abbey ("two days before" he turns up at Fullerton, after quarrel with father leaves "almost instantly;" returns to Parsonage where "which many solitary hours were required to compose;" on this day Catherine wakes up pale and not in spirits; writes to Eleanor; Catherine & mother walk quarter mile to visit Mrs Allen; not quite or just three months; Mrs Allen remembers first time they were in Lower Rooms (Fri, Feb 2nd) because of silk gloves, Catherine as where she met Henry 228:195-6; 29:201-2, 206; 30:212
Tues [Apr 24]:
Henry sets out for Fullerton "on the afternoon of the following day" 30:214
Wed [Apr 25]:
After "two days" and third night of restless sad behavior Catherine's mother scolds her; goes out to seek edifying book, detained by "family matters" as well, so gone for 15 minutes, during which time Henry Tilney shows up; he manages to take Catherine on a walk alone to the Allens wherein he explains and proposes; applies to her family for her hand 30:207; 31:216

Summer, 1798
Eleanor Tilney marries a man of "fortune and consequence," an "unexpected accession of fortune and titles," the man who left the washing bill 31:217
late autumn, 1798 or early winter, 1799
Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney marry "within a twelvemonth from the first day of their meeting," aged 18 and 26 31:217

As the Italian clown says at the end of the opera, "la comedia e finita."


  1. In Northanger Abbey we find such a tight or constricted keeping of time, especially in the first chapters or week Catherine comes to Bath and again during her visit to Northanger, I suggest the book has in it sequences from an early draft which has not undergone the same transformation as S&S from epistolary to omniscient; for NA Austen had this idea of being strictly realistic, of making time real, houses, domestic arrangements. I wonder if she began it after the Juvenilia and the first chapters were those which occur in the Abbey.
  2. This is the one novel where Tuesdays do not seem to be singled out.
  3. I have changed Chapman's sequencing. Chapman begins with Mon as Feb 2nd, Feb 2nd fell on a Monday in 1795, 1801, 1807; he says MacKinnon began with 1798 and the first Mon as Feb 5th, but the time the sun set on Mon Mar 26th doesn't work. The sunset on Mon Mar 19th does. So I have pushed the calendar back one week
  4. What I find of especial interest is how the calendar changes. From the time Catherine leaves Wiltshire until she leaves Bath for Northanger Abbey, calendar time is kept very carefully. Everything is determinate. You can name the day, date, even the time of day something happened. But then when she arrives at Northanger Abbey, calendar time become indeterminate and psychological time becomes the key. Persuasion shows the same kind of change: the early part of the novel at Uppercross is indeterminate, while the later at Bath is carefully dovetailed into a calendar.

    For me the difference suggests first of all that Austen wrote in a different spirit in the two parts. She had different aims in mind. She wanted to create a different feel, one realistic, and the other more dream-like. It may also suggest (I just throw this out) that the two parts of the book may have been written at different times. However, I am not consistent, for my view of _Persuasion_ is the two differing ways of handling time suggest Austen didn't finish the book.

  5. A summary of the bibliography:

    From Northanger Abbey MacKinnon and Chapman drew out an 11 week-calendar which takes the reader from the beginning of February to the end of April 1798. C. S. Emden disputed the implication that Austen wrote the book in this year by suggesting the book's mood and focus change when Catherine Morland goes to Northanger Abbey, and from this inferred that the two portions of the book were written at different times, and a number of scholars have argued, Yasmine Gooneratne most persuasively, the novel we have represents a "profess of rewriting and revison, understaken many years after the writing of the original version." But, as Chapman admitted the year 1798 is conjectural, and as he and MacKinnon based their use of 1798 on Cassandra Austen's memorandum dating Austen's first full draft of this book as written in the years 1797 and 1798; and, since MacKinnon and Chapman's original calendar is strictly accurate in its tracing of the months, weeks, and days of the week and even the hours of those days made explicit by Austen, e.g., Austen's picturing of Catherine slipping away from the Tilneys to explore Mrs. Tilney's bedroom on her own "at four o'clock" when the sun was... two hours above the horizon" so that we are to imagine her avoiding exploring this dread place under "the fading light of the sky between six and seven o'clock, or by the yet more stronger illumination of a treacherous lamp" on Monday, March 19th, 1798(II:9:193-4; 24:166, 168); Chapman's calendar remains a referral point for close readings of the novel.


  • Chapman, R.W. NA & P 297-302;
  • Emden,C. S. "Northanger Abbey Redated," Notes and Queries 195 (1950): 407-10;
  • Gooneratne, Yasmine, Jane Austen (Cambridge: At the University Press) 61-2. where Cassandra's note is reprinted.
  • Mansell, Darrell Jr. "The Date of Jane Austen's Revision of Northanger Abbey," English Language Notes 7 (1969-70): 40-41
  • Modert, Jo, "Chronology Within the Novels," The Jane Austen Companion, edd. J. David Grey, A. Walton Litz, and Brian Southam (New York: Macmillan, 1986), 54-5
  • Southam, B. C. Jane Austen's Literary Manuscripts (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1964) 53.

Virgil's Tomb by Moonlight (1782) by Richard Wright of Derby (1734-97), a recent cover illustration to an edition of Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest

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