Northanger Abbey

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A rich man with many acquaintances, the General is obsessed with his social rank and the wealth of his family. His children all know that he would never want them to marry someone without wealth or high rank. He shows exaggerated kindness to Catherine because he believes her to be rich. The General fixates on home improvement, furniture, and landscaping his property (Northanger Abbey). He is very harsh and even dictatorial with his children, who know that he expects absolute obedience from them.

General Tilney Quotes in Northanger Abbey

The Northanger Abbey quotes below are all either spoken by General Tilney or refer to General Tilney. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Novels and the Heroine Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Northanger Abbey published in 2003.
Volume 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

“'Well, proceed by all means. I know how much your heart is in it. My daughter, Miss Morland,” he continued, without leaving his daughter time to speak, “has been forming a very bold wish. We leave Bath, as she has perhaps told you, on Saturday se'nnight. A letter from my steward tells me that my presence is wanted at home; and being disappointed in my hope of seeing the Marquis of Longtown and General Courteney here, some of my very old friends, there is nothing to detain me longer in Bath. And could we carry our selfish point with you, we should leave it without a single regret. Can you, in short, be prevailed on to quit this scene of public triumph and oblige your friend Eleanor with your company in Gloucestershire? I am almost ashamed to make the request, though its presumption would certainly appear greater to every creature in Bath than yourself. Modesty such as yours—but not for the world would I pain it by open praise. If you can be induced to honour us with a visit, you will make us happy beyond expression. 'Tis true, we can offer you nothing like the gaieties of this lively place; we can tempt you neither by amusement nor splendour, for our mode of living, as you see, is plain and unpretending; yet no endeavours shall be wanting on our side to make Northanger Abbey not wholly disagreeable.”

Related Characters: General Tilney (speaker), Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney (Miss Tilney)
Related Symbols: Old Buildings / Northanger Abbey
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

General Tilney has walked into the room just as Eleanor is about to invite Catherine to come stay at her home, Northanger Abbey, and he issues the invitation himself. It is the first time in the novel that he gives a long speech and its content reveals a great deal about him. He says that he will let his daughter continue, but then cuts her off seemingly without even realizing it. This reveals that he is not a very considerate or accommodating parent.

The General then goes on to invite Catherine in very flattering and self-effacing terms. This scene comes only one chapter after we see that Isabella Thorpe has been disappointed to find out how much money the Morlands have, so the General’s flattering speech to Catherine suggests that he is another hypocrite seeking to cultivate a relationship with Catherine in order to improve his social standing in the false belief that she is an heiress. But based on Eleanor and Henry’s obvious good education and Eleanor’s elegant way of dressing, it does not seem likely that the Tilneys really live as plainly as the General contends.

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Volume 2, Chapter 8 Quotes

To be kept up for hours, after the family were in bed, by stupid pamphlets, was not very likely. There must be some deeper cause: something was to be done which could be done only while the household slept; and the probability that Mrs. Tilney yet lived, shut up for causes unknown, and receiving from the pitiless hands of her husband a nightly supply of coarse food, was the conclusion which necessarily followed. Shocking as was the idea, it was at least better than a death unfairly hastened, as, in the natural course of things, she must ere long be released. The suddenness of her reputed illness; the absence of her daughter, and probably of her other children, at the time—all favoured the supposition of her imprisonment.—Its origin—jealousy perhaps, or wanton cruelty—was yet to be unravelled.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, General Tilney, Eleanor Tilney (Miss Tilney), Mrs. Tilney
Related Symbols: Old Buildings / Northanger Abbey
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

The General has said that he will stay awake after Catherine and Eleanor go to bed. Excited to be staying in an old building like Northanger Abbey, Catherine is on the lookout for signs of something mysterious or sinister that would be familiar to her from the Gothic novels she loves. She finds the General unpleasant and domineering, but she is not used to making such judgments for herself. Instead of imagining him to be a harsh man whose company she dislikes, Catherine concocts a theory that the General is a dramatic and murderous villain. When she hears that the General plans to stay up after everyone else goes to bed, she instantly remembers the way that Montoni in The Mysteries of Udolpho keeps the heroine’s aunt locked up in the castle. She knows of no motive for a crime against Mrs. Tilney, nor is she sure that Frederick and Henry were not home at the time of their mother’s death. But despite these many gaps in her knowledge, Catherine decides that she has finally found a mystery worthy of investigating. Earlier in the novel, Catherine was afraid even to think ill of someone—but now she swings to the opposite extreme, thinking the absolute worst of the General. Both attitudes reflect her lack of experience analyzing other people and the world around her.

Volume 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

“If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to—Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you—Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing; where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay every thing open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”

Related Characters: Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney) (speaker), Catherine Morland, General Tilney, Mrs. Tilney
Related Symbols: Old Buildings / Northanger Abbey
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine has been looking at everything she sees at Northanger Abbey through the lens of the Gothic novels she has read, and has concocted a theory that General Tilney either murdered his wife or keeps her prisoner somewhere in the house. She has just realized that this was a foolish fantasy after sneaking into the deceased Mrs. Tilney’s room to investigate, when she runs into Henry and reluctantly reveals to him that she suspected his father of committing some terrible crime against his mother. Henry, who knows that Catherine was excited about visiting an Abbey because so many Gothic novels are set in such old buildings, instantly understands that the basis for her suspicion was not her real observations, but the things she has read about in books. Henry has already had several conversations with Catherine during which he appreciated her ability to listen, learn, and mature. It is likely because of this trusting relationship that he gives her such a direct lecture about how far she let herself get carried away by baseless fantasies.

Henry has two main points. First, that Catherine should consider the society that they live in and what is probable to happen in it. Whereas in Gothic novels, the abbey or castle where a heroine may be kept captive is often far away from any town, on a cliff in the Italian countryside, Northanger is located in the middle of England. Catherine has been brought up in English society to respect the moral principles and codes of conduct that govern it (and presumably to assume, as Henry does, that England and the Christians living in it are more “civilized” than people in more exotic locations). She herself worries that she will violate these principles out of ignorance and inexperience and has a deep respect for them. Henry then feels that she should recognize that these principles restrain and guide other people’s actions just as they do hers.

Second, Henry urges Catherine to think for herself and consult her own understanding instead of relying on other guides, whether they are novels or unreliable people around her. One of the book’s central questions is whether Catherine will learn to analyze the behavior and motivations of other people. In suspecting the General of murdering his wife, she has failed at this analysis very dramatically—but Henry has faith that she can do better. From what he knows of her, he thinks that she can learn from this failure and begin to exercise her own judgment moving forward.

Volume 2, Chapter 10 Quotes

Charming as were all Mrs. Radcliffe's works, and charming even as were the works of all her imitators, it was not in them perhaps that human nature, at least in the midland counties of England, was to be looked for. Of the Alps and Pyrenees, with their pine forests and their vices, they might give a faithful delineation; and Italy, Switzerland, and the South of France, might be as fruitful in horrors as they were there represented. Catherine dared not doubt beyond her own country, and even of that, if hard pressed, would have yielded the northern and western extremities. But in England it was not so; among the English, she believed, in their hearts and habits, there was a general though unequal mixture of good and bad. Upon this conviction, she would not be surprized if even in Henry and Eleanor Tilney, some slight imperfection might hereafter appear and upon this conviction she need not fear to acknowledge some actual specks in the character of their father, who, though cleared from the grossly injurious suspicions which she must ever blush to have entertained, she did believe, upon serious consideration, to be not perfectly amiable.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland (speaker), Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney), General Tilney, Eleanor Tilney (Miss Tilney)
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine had felt sure that Henry would no longer like her after he discovered her horrible suspicions about his father, but Henry, recognizing that she will feel embarrassed, treats her with kindness. Catherine soon moves on from the humiliation of the moment to reflect on what she can learn from it. She begins to compare the characterizations in Gothic novels to those of the people she knows. Her conclusions are in some ways exactly the ones that Henry suggested she ought to draw: that she should look around her and recognize that she lives in a society that is tightly controlled both by laws and codes of conduct, where gruesome crimes are unlikely to go undiscovered. She also takes his other piece of advice to heart, however, and begins to try to think for herself. In doing this, she recognizes that she may have been wrong about the General being a murderer, but this does not mean that he is a paragon of virtue. She recognizes that everyone has their good and bad qualities, and that she should take her own perceptions seriously and use her own mental powers to assess the people around her.

Volume 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

He went; and, it being at any time a much simpler operation to Catherine to doubt her own judgment than Henry's, she was very soon obliged to give him credit for being right, however disagreeable to her his going. But the inexplicability of the General's conduct dwelt much on her thoughts. That he was very particular in his eating, she had, by her own unassisted observation, already discovered; but why he should say one thing so positively, and mean another all the while, was most unaccountable! How were people, at that rate, to be understood? Who but Henry could have been aware of what his father was at?

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney), General Tilney
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

Henry Tilney has left Northanger to return to his home at Woodston and prepare for a visit from his family and Catherine. The General said that they would come on Wednesday, but that Henry should not worry about providing them with an elaborate meal. Henry has nevertheless rushed off to prepare this meal, much to Catherine’s amazement. Although Catherine is progressing in her ability to assess people’s characters, she is still unable to see through most hypocrisy. Catherine wants to decode the General’s intentions, but is puzzled. For instance, the General’s children believe that there is no way he would support the marriage of Isabella and Frederick, because of Isabella’s small fortune. But Catherine cannot understand why Eleanor and Henry believe the General cares about money, because the General often speaks about how little money means to him, and, moreover, he obviously seems to want her and Henry to marry, although she herself has a small fortune. But the General also often talks about his modest taste in food, décor, and real estate, while Catherine has observed that he cares a great deal about these things. As Catherine meditates on the question of why the General says he does not care about food, while in reality he is extremely picky about it, the question of why he wants her to marry his son, if he cares so much about money and she has no large fortune, cannot be far from her thoughts. The fact that the General speaks hypocritically is becoming clear to Catherine, but what this means for her future with Henry remains a mystery to her.

Volume 2, Chapter 14 Quotes

Without suffering any romantic alarm, in the consideration of their daughter's long and lonely journey, Mr. and Mrs. Morland could not but feel that it might have been productive of much unpleasantness to her; that it was what they could never have voluntarily suffered; and that, in forcing her on such a measure, General Tilney had acted neither honourably nor feelingly—neither as a gentleman nor as a parent. Why he had done it, what could have provoked him to such a breach of hospitality, and so suddenly turned all his partial regard for their daughter into actual ill-will, was a matter which they were at least as far from divining as Catherine herself; but it did not oppress them by any means so long; and, after a due course of useless conjecture, that, “it was a strange business, and that he must be a very strange man,” grew enough for all their indignation and wonder; though Sarah indeed still indulged in the sweets of incomprehensibility, exclaiming and conjecturing with youthful ardor.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, General Tilney, Sarah Morland, Mrs. Morland, Mr. Morland
Page Number: 218-219
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine has just unexpectedly returned home to her family at Fullerton from Northanger Abbey after the General unceremoniously sent her away with no warning to her parents, unsupervised, and at the first possible moment. In a society in which unmarried gentlewomen were always watched over and looked after, this was a shockingly inappropriate action by the General. Catherine’s parents had given responsibility for her care to the Allens when she went to Bath, and the Allens had entrusted her care to the General. The General was letting down this entire chain of guardians and their code of conduct by sending Catherine away on her own. Even the mild-mannered Morlands are clear that no gentleman would allow a young, unmarried gentlewoman to travel in this way.

But the Morlands, young and old, are not experienced analyzers of other people’s motivations. The skill that Catherine has been cultivating during her trip to Bath—the ability to think for herself and form judgments about the actions and motivations of other people—is a skill that her parents lack nearly as much as her younger sister. Although Catherine’s parents are good people, they are not particularly curious or wise. They do not even try to form a theory for why the General behaved as he did.

Volume 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

The General, accustomed on every ordinary occasion to give the law in his family, prepared for no reluctance but of feeling, no opposing desire that should dare to clothe itself in words, could ill brook the opposition of his son, steady as the sanction of reason and the dictate of conscience could make it. But, in such a cause, his anger, though it must shock, could not intimidate Henry, who was sustained in his purpose by a conviction of its justice. He felt himself bound as much in honour as in affection to Miss Morland, and believing that heart to be his own which he had been directed to gain, no unworthy retraction of a tacit consent, no reversing decree of unjustifiable anger, could shake his fidelity, or influence the resolutions it prompted.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, John Thorpe, Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney), General Tilney
Page Number: 230-231
Explanation and Analysis:

General Tilney has expelled Catherine from Northanger Abbey after learning that she is not an heiress. He has told Henry to forget about marrying her, but Henry, to the General’s shock, is determined to defy his father. This fight between father and son represents a battle between wealth and true respectability. Henry has never before defied the General in this way, and likely always grew up imagining that he would marry a woman rich enough to please his father’s greedy vanity. But now the General has thrown out everything else that makes a gentleman a gentleman in his treatment of Catherine, defying the code of conduct that requires the proper supervision and care of a gentlewoman. For Henry, money may be important, but behaving honorably and respectably is more so.

As a true gentleman, Henry cares about his honor, which is bound up in remaining loyal to Catherine. He feels that by courting her and leading her to believe that he wanted to marry her, he has bound himself to her. Although there is not yet an explicit engagement between them, he knows that she loves him and that he and his father have given her every reason to believe that he will marry her. Her love and his encouragement of it demand his loyalty, even in the face of his father’s newfound disapproval.

Finally, as a hypocrite caught in his lies, the General does not want to accept the consequences of his mistake. Although the General said to Catherine that he did not care about money, he never expected to be forced to follow through on his many insincere declarations that he cared only for the happiness of his children. The General had hoped to set an example for Catherine, showing her that she should marry Henry even if she were richer than he was. Instead he will have to allow Henry to marry Catherine despite her relative lack of wealth.

Volume 2, Chapter 16 Quotes

To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen, is to do pretty well; and professing myself moreover convinced, that the General's unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.

Related Characters: Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney (Mr. Tilney), General Tilney
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel’s last sentence emphasizes the importance of a commitment between two people to make love work. In this instance, Henry and Catherine’s love is tested by the interference of the General, who seeks to split them up once he realizes that Catherine is not an heiress. It is Henry’s decision to stand by Catherine through this that proves he loves her, and eventually the General gives his permission for Henry and Catherine to marry. The experience of having to wait and hope for permission that might never come provides Catherine and Henry with yet another test of their love. They can only communicate during the period of separation by letter, and through these letters they are able to learn about how they each deal with difficulties. Unlike Isabella and James, who failed to stay unified and committed to one another in the face of outside interference by Frederick, Catherine and Henry pass this test, and thus “begin perfect happiness” together.

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General Tilney Character Timeline in Northanger Abbey

The timeline below shows where the character General Tilney appears in Northanger Abbey. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Volume 1, Chapter 10
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...Mr. Tilney, however, explains that this man is his father. Catherine gasps, and then watches General Tilney admiringly. (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 12
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...Henry Tilney softens. He explains that Eleanor did not refuse to see her in anger; General Tilney had planned on taking a walk then and had told the servant to put... (full context)
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During their talk, Catherine notices John Thorpe and General Tilney speaking. Afterwards, when John Thorpe approaches her, she asks him how they know each... (full context)
Volume 1, Chapter 13
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...been surprised by Mr. Thorpe canceling the walk they had only just agreed to take. General Tilney is angry at the servant for not having shown her in properly, but Catherine... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 1
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...end of her visit than she did before. She feels that it is impossible that General Tilney’s behavior was the reason for this discomfort, as he must be “perfectly agreeable, and... (full context)
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...and adds that she and her brother would never treat Catherine so badly. Catherine says General Tilney was civil to her and tried very hard to make her happy. Isabella says... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 2
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...joyfully tells Eleanor Tilney that they will be staying, only to receive the news that General Tilney wishes to leave Bath in one week. Catherine is disappointed, but at that very... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 4
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...“is a lively, and perhaps sometime a thoughtless young man.” Catherine persists, asking if perhaps General Tilney should intercede to force Captain Tilney to leave. Henry comments that she is perhaps... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 5
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...among the Tilneys. Although Henry and Eleanor are kind to her, Catherine feels that the General’s constant concern for her comfort is, perversely, making her uncomfortable. But once she is in... (full context)
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General Tilney suggests that Catherine should ride the rest of the way to Northanger Abbey with... (full context)
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...with his sister, who has no female companion, and is sometimes left completely alone when General Tilney travels. Catherine wonders at Henry not being Eleanor’s companion, and he explains that he... (full context)
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The General sees how Catherine is looking around and explains that the room is very simple and... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 6
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...one that Henry described. She hurries to get ready, so as not to displease the General by being late, but her eye is caught by a large chest. She decides she... (full context)
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Catherine and Eleanor rush downstairs where the General is pacing about, and he orders dinner served immediately. Noticing Catherine's breathlessness, however, the General... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 7
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The General arrives to breakfast. When Catherine compliments the beauty of the breakfast plates, the General says... (full context)
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...they all gather to see him off. Catherine asks if Woodston is pretty, and the General says that Eleanor should say, since ladies are better judges, but then does not let... (full context)
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The General offers to give a tour of Northanger, and Catherine gladly accepts. The General says that... (full context)
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Seeing the Abbey from the lawn, Catherine praises it enthusiastically, to the General’s pleasure. Catherine is shocked by the size of the garden, and the General proudly says... (full context)
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Eleanor starts down a path, but the General says it is too cold and damp. Catherine goes with Eleanor, but the General decides... (full context)
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...been unhappy in marriage. She sees proof for this conjecture in the fact that the General does not love his late wife’s favorite path. Catherine asks if Mrs. Tilney’s picture hangs... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 8
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While the General finishes his walk, Catherine speculates about his character. She finds it unusual that he should... (full context)
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...finish the tour, Eleanor starts to walk into a wing of the house, but the General stops her sharply, asking whether she really thinks Catherine wants to see those rooms. The... (full context)
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...they have a chance. Catherine understands that this means that they must wait until the General leaves Northanger. She asks Eleanor how long it has been since her mother's death, and... (full context)
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Catherine thinks that General Tilney clearly resembles a “Montoni” as she watches him pace the room that evening. She... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 9
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...she sees a monument to Mrs. Tilney. Catherine feels it is horribly hypocritical of the General to sit in front of this monument to the wife he tortured, but knows that... (full context)
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The next day, while the General takes his morning walk, Catherine asks Eleanor to show her Mrs. Tilney’s room. First, they... (full context)
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The next day, Catherine decides to spare Eleanor the danger of being caught by the General again by going to explore Mrs. Tilney’s room alone. She thinks it will be easier... (full context)
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...and Catherine responds that Eleanor showed her most of the house but that then the General came, so she couldn’t go on. (full context)
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...so suddenly, with none of her children at home, and she thought perhaps that the General had not been fond of Mrs. Tilney. Henry asks if she inferred from this that... (full context)
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...side and seen that she had gotten the best medical care available. Catherine asks if General Tilney grieved. Henry says he is sure his father loved his mother, and that although... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 10
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...villains nor angels. Even Henry and Eleanor, she reflects, may have imperfections, and certainly the General, even if he is not a murderer, is not perfect. She resolves to forgive herself... (full context)
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...fortune. Catherine says that Isabella has no fortune, but that this will not matter to General Tilney, who has told her he cares for money only to promote his children’s happiness.... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 11
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...frequently about the possibility that Frederick and Isabella will marry. Henry and Eleanor believe that General Tilney will not accept Isabella as a daughter-in-law because of her lack of fortune, irrespective... (full context)
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...warn his father about what has occurred between her brother and Isabella so that the General will be able to build a case against Frederick’s engagement with a more just cause... (full context)
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The General is concerned that Catherine should enjoy herself and decides that they should bring her to... (full context)
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As they drive up to Woodston, Catherine is charmed, but the General apologizes for every shortcoming of the village. Catherine is overwhelmed as she looks around Woodston,... (full context)
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...thinks it is the most beautiful house she has ever seen. She notices that the General makes no remark on how fancy a meal Henry has prepared. By the end of... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 13
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The General leaves for a week in London, telling his children to make sure Catherine’s time is... (full context)
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Henry is obliged to leave Northanger for a couple of nights, but with the General’s absence, Catherine and Eleanor still enjoy each other’s company a great deal. Late that evening,... (full context)
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...that Catherine should extend her visit at Northanger. She tells Catherine that it is the General who has returned. He has remembered a previous engagement for all of them to leave... (full context)
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Catherine asks if she has offended the General, and Eleanor says that she knows he has no reason to be offended, but he... (full context)
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Once left alone, Catherine bursts into tears. The General’s sudden incivility is hard to believe. She will not even be able to say goodbye... (full context)
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Eleanor comes to Catherine’s room in the morning, but brings no apology from the General. Eleanor silently tries to help Catherine get ready, but Catherine has already packed. At breakfast,... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 14
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...road she had ten days before on her way to Woodston. She remembers how the General had seemed so much to want her engagement to Henry and wonders what she could... (full context)
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...she has returned so suddenly, and although the Morlands are not easily insulted, they think General Tilney’s treatment of their daughter is ungentlemanly. The family cannot understand his behavior, but Mrs.... (full context)
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The Allens are surprised and happy to see her and very appalled by General Tilney’s treatment of Catherine. Mrs. Morland says they are happy to have Catherine back and... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 15
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Henry explains that the General had mistakenly believed Catherine to be very rich, and had therefore wanted her to marry... (full context)
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The General later ran into John Thorpe again in London. Thorpe was by that time angry at... (full context)
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...her feel that she had “scarcely sinned against his character” when she had thought the General to have murdered his wife. Henry is embarrassed to explain this to Catherine, and he... (full context)
Volume 2, Chapter 16
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...good sense, and they happily give their consent for Catherine’s marriage, as soon as the General should give his. They do not demand the General’s money. Henry Tilney is sure of... (full context)
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...Narrator remarks, and so they cannot share Henry and Catherine’s anxiety. But how could the General be brought around? It was Eleanor’s marriage to a man with both wealth and rank... (full context)
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Eleanor and her husband, a Viscount, help persuade the General to accept Henry’s marriage to Catherine. It also helps that Catherine is not nearly as... (full context)