Northanger Abbey

It can be difficult for a reader to imagine the setting and fully understand the history of the locations in a novel when it is not presented in a visual method. When a novel takes place in a real-life setting, it can be mapped and better understood using Google Maps. Using Google Maps as a tool, Catherine Morland’s journey through Bath to Northanger Abbey can be more easily followed, and the relationships between locations and landmarks can be better understood. I would argue that Google Maps can make an otherwise complicated, confusing novel much more engaging and accessible. The process of mapping Northanger Abbey is somewhat complex and requires a close reading, but I have outlined the process as I created the map. I also briefly researched the history of some of the landmarks mentioned in the novel, which adds a cultural understanding and reasoning to the many travels throughout the work as well.

In order to make the map more readable, I used different colored markers and created a walking path. The two most general locations that Catherine visits – Fullerton and Bath – are labelled with a green marker. Any specific locations that Catherine visits, either within Bath or along her journey to Northanger Abbey, are marked in blue. Her walking path through and around Bath to Perry France is also drawn in blue. Although it is obviously not exact, it does connect the places she visited together. Finally, the locations that are mentioned in the novel that Catherine does not actually visit are marked in red in order to provide locational context for the other landmarks. For example, Fullerton was said to be in vicinity to a town called Salisbury, so I marked Salisbury in red to provide that locational context. It is also interesting to see just how far places like Clifton and Blaise Castle were from Bath considering Catherine and her group attempted to travel to them but had to turn back since they were too far away.

Catherine Morland grew up in the rural England town of Fullerton in Hampshire. At the beginning of the novel, the Allens invite her to spend six weeks in Bath. Because Fullerton and Bath are major locations in the novel, I mapped them with green markers. Most sources I looked into claimed that Fullerton was not a real location; however, I managed to find it in Google Maps in vicinity to another town mentioned in the novel, Salisbury, so I mapped them both. Although Fullerton was probably not a real location, the fact that it is located near Salisbury on Google Maps was good enough for me. It can be considered a rough guess.

Jane Austen is clearly familiar with the town of Bath because it is where most of the “excitement” of the novel takes place. Although Austen invented several locations for the novel, almost all of the locations visited in Bath are real.

It is stated upon Catherine’s arrival in Bath that she settled into a hotel on Pulteney Street. Since this is a specific location within Bath, I mapped the street with a blue marker. The Allens later took Catherine to the Upper Bath Assembly Rooms. In the late 1700’s, the Assembly Rooms were important to Bath society and did include a ballroom and several concert rooms. When no one asked her to dance, Catherine attended another dance at the Lower Assembly Rooms, which is where she meets Henry Tilney. I managed to locate the Bath Assembly Rooms and marked them in blue; however, there is no distinction on Google Maps between the upper and lower assembly rooms. Her route from Pulteney Street to the Bath Assembly Rooms is connected with a rough blue line.

The day after, Catherine travelled to the Pump Room in hopes of seeing Henry again; however, instead of seeing him she was introduced to Isabella Thorpe. The Pump Room was at its most prominent in the late 1700’s, so it is fitting that Catherine visited the Pump Room considering the novel takes place in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century.  The Pump Room was used as a meeting place for the upper class where people would come to drink mineral waters and visit with each other. It is marked in blue and connected with a blue line to the Bath Assembly Rooms.

One morning, Catherine and Isabella leave the Pump Room together, following two young men in the direction of the Thorpe’s lodgings. A minute or so later they stop at Cheap Street, which was known for being difficult to cross. I have Cheap Street marked and connected to the Pump Room. It is then that they find John Thorpe, Isabella’s brother, driving a carriage. He and Catherine’s brother James have just arrived in Bath from Tetbury. Tetbury is marked in red and unconnected to the other locations because although it is a real location talked about in the novel, Catherine does not visit it.

The day after meeting up on Cheap Street, Catherine, James, and the Thorpes take a drive out of town together, heading for Claverton Down, which is marked in blue and connected to Cheap Street. Claverton Down is a suburb of Bath, so the trip would have been relatively short. This is a journey that Jane Austen incorporated into the novel for seemingly little reason. It is clear that she enjoyed writing about places that she knew quite well and may have added these small side trips for the fun of it.

Later on, Catherine is pressured into taking another trip with James and the Thorpes to Clifton. Catherine was looking forward to seeing Henry again, but John Thorpe convinces her that the Tiilneys had already left town.  While trying to convince Catherine to join them, John mentions visiting Blaise Castle, which gets her excited. He tells her that it is the oldest castle in the kingdom with dozens of towers and galleries. Upon investigating this castle, I discovered that it is not a castle at all, so John was only teasing her during this exchange. I mapped both Clifton and Blaise Castle in red because the group never arrived at either location. It surprised me to see just how far these two locations were from Bath, so it really is not a surprise that the group never reached them considering they were travelling at such a slow rate.

The four travelers turn back an hour into their trip to Clifton because of how late it is. They had barely traveled seven miles with at least eight more to go, according to James. It was never stated where exactly they stopped and turned around, but according to the novel they were “werewithin view of the town of Keynsham,” so I placed a marker on Keynsham directly, which is about halfway between Bath and Clifton. At the beginning of their journey, Catherine had caught sight of Henry and his sister Eleanor walking down Argyle Street. I placed a blue marker on Argyle Street but did not connect it with a path since I was unsure when exactly this interaction occurred in relation to the journey. She was unable to make John stop the carriage and let her out, so she went to their lodgings on Milsom Street to explain why she did not meet up with them. Milson Street is located between the Bath Assembly Rooms and the Pump Room, which was probably why Catherine met Henry at the assembly rooms and was hoping to see him again at the Pump Room. I can assume that the walk between these two locations was relatively short.

The evening after the journey, Catherine met Henry Tilney at the theater and explained what had happened, and several days later she travelled with Henry and Eleanor to Beechen Cliff, which is a hill overlooking Bath. I created a walking path between Beechen Cliff and the general area of Bath that Catherine had been visiting. It is on this hill, looking down at the city of Bath, that Catherine rejects the city as unworthy.

Catherine and the Tilneys then leave Bath on their journey to Northanger Abbey. While travelling to Northanger Abbey, they stop for a time at the town of Petty France. I’ve drawn a line from Bath to the area where I believe Petty France to have been. There were several locations called “Petty France” in the United Kingdom, but I chose the one closest to Bath because – according to the sources I read – the Petty France talked about in Northanger Abbey was located in Avon.

The last location I mapped was the city of Salisbury. The marker is red because Catherine never visited this city. It was, however, referred to by Catherine and talked about by Henry as well, so I decided to include it in the map. Catherine stated that it was in vicinity to her hometown of Fullerton, so it backs up the validity of the map considering the two locations are near each other in Google Maps as well.

I was unable to discover whether or not Northanger Abbey was a real location, but I doubt that it was, and I was unable to find anything like it using Google Maps. It may have been based on a real location; however, I left it out of my map for the sake of undermining its accuracy. When Catherine is sent away by Henry’s father, she travels all the way back to Fullerton. Since Northanger Abbey is not a real location, I drew a line from Petty France to where I believe Fullerton to have been. The line is obviously not accurate, but it is roughly representative of the journey in the novel coming around full-circle. Catherine journeyed from Fullerton to Bath to Northanger Abbey and back to Fullerton again, which is visually representative of her character development and the novel’s overall coming-of-age plot. Even though she ended up where she started, her life was dramatically altered, especially considering she ended up with the man she coincidentally met during her travels in Bath – Henry. Visually seeing this journey in Google Maps helped make my second reading of the novel much more successful than my first.

By using Google Maps to map Catherine Morland’s journey in Northanger Abbey, I was able to garner a better understanding and appreciation for the novel as a whole. Prior to mapping the novel, my knowledge of the setting was very limited. It seemed as if Jane Austen was bombarding the reader with locations and expecting them to understand how they correlated with one another. It was also hard to get through the novel at times because I had trouble following the setting, which Northanger Abbey seems to rely upon quite a bit. After mapping each location that Catherine visited, I was able to visually see what roads she might have walked down, how long it may have taken her, and how far away the locations were that she did not visit. Her journey from Bath to Petty France was particularly long, which makes me wonder exactly how much farther Northanger Abbey would have been. Mapping the novel also helped me to enjoy it more. Without having had any historical or locational background prior to my first reading of Northanger Abbey, I had trouble envisioning the setting and understanding what the characters were talking about in terms of locations; however, by seeing it visually, I found it easier to focus on the story since the setting was already in my mind. It also helped me to visualize the overall progression of the plot and all of the locational information that was being thrown at me by the author.

The relationship between reading and visually seeing real places helps to enhance the reading experience overall. Even though Northanger Abbey is a work of fiction, the fact that the real-world locations mentioned in the novel can be mapped out visually gives a sense of realism to the novel, allowing the reader to connect it to the real world. There is always more than one way of reading a novel, and one of them includes making a map to aid in the visual experience. This form of data visualization incorporates digital media into the simple art of reading a novel, therefore combining a more modern method of reading with one that has been around long before the technological age.