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Battle of the Henry's

by Lauren Writes Austen 5 months ago in literature
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Henry in Northanger Abbey vs Henry in Mansfield Park

Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey (2007)

Repeating names is nothing new when it comes to old English Classics. There are a handful of names that a writer is exposed to, in the 1800s you couldn't Google "unique baby names" to name your characters, so it's not surprising that we see a repetition of names in Jane Austen novels. One example of this is with the characters Henry from Northanger Abbey and Henry from Mansfield Park. And while the character's share a name, there is very little about their character that they share.

Henry in Northanger Abbey:

In Northanger Abbey we meet Henry Tillney in Bath. He's the second son of a General, and seems to be close with his sister Elenaor. Austen writes a lot of great sibling combos, probably because she had a sister and many brothers herself. Including a brother named Henry.

Henry in Northanger Abbey is the love interest, the hero if you will. He is very kind to Catherine, the heroine, even when he finds her snooping around his dead mothers room. In the end of the novel Catherine and Henry are engaged but much against his father's wishes.

"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" (281 Northanger Abbey, Vintage Classics Edition)

I feel as if there is little to say on this Henry other than he seems to be an all around good guy. As far as Austen love interests go he is a fairly plain one really, and there is more to say about him in comparison to Mansfield Park Henry than on his own.

Henry Crawford from Mansfield Park (1999)

Henry in Mansfield Park:

Mansfield Park was Austen's third published book, published in 1814, but based on speculations about when Northanger Abbey was written, was probably written after. Henry Crawford is introduced to Mansfield Park and our heroine Fanny Price, when one of his sisters and her husband move onto the grounds of Mansfield Park. Henry and his (other) sister Mary Crawford are manipulative and conniving, and it is revealed throughout the book that all they really care about is money. Mary Crawford famously says "A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of" (248, Mansfield Park, Vintage Classics Edition).

Henry Crawford is a rake (with a capital 'R'!). He fits the very definition of a rake: a dissolute or immoral person, especially a man who indulges in vices or lacks sexual restraint. In the beginning of his time at Mansfield Park he flirts with both of the Bertram sisters- causing quite the riff between the two (one of which is engaged to be married). Once they leave, he turns his attention towards Fanny, who sees right through him from the start. But his intentions with Fanny are not true. For example here is an exchange between him and his sister, Mary (267-268):

H: "No, my plan is to make Fanny Price in love with me."

M: "Fanny Price! Nonsense! No, no. You ought to be satisfied with her two cousins."

H: "But I cannot be satisfied without Fanny Price, without making a small heart in Fanny Price's heart."

And by the end of the novel, Henry Crawford has an affair with the eldest Bertram daughter who by that point is very much married. So, not exactly the simple gentleman of Northanger Abbey Henry.

Henry, Henry, and Henry?

As I mentioned before, Jane Austen had a brother named Henry. When I was thinking about the comparison and the difference between Northanger Abbery Henry and Mansfield Park Henry, it made me wonder if one -or both- were based off of her real brother? And if that is true, than why the vast difference in character from one novel to the next?

From the biography Jane Austen: A Literary Life by Jan Fergus, we learn a little bit about many of the Austen siblings:

"Henry... was the least successful Austen. He prepared for the church, but became by turns a captain in the militia, a banker, a receiver for taxes, a bankrupt and at last a clergyman; he married twice but remained childless." (33)

(To read more about: Jane Austen: A Literary Life by Jan Fergus, check out my article here!)

Austen based a lot of her stories on people and places she had seen or visited. I've seen people say that she named one of her most beautiful characters, Jane from Pride and Prejudice, after herself. It makes me wonder how much of her own world is in her stories?


About the author

Lauren Writes Austen

A dedcated creator to all things Jane Austen!

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