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Classic Romantic Moment: Northanger Abbey’s Mr. Tilney and Catherine Banter At A Ball

These two goofballs!
These two goofballs – Mr. Tilney and Catherine Morland – make an endearing couple as they get each other’s sense of humor.

Northanger Abbey is known as Austen’s lightest and sweetest romance. Catherine Morland is a young, innocent girl with far too many fantasies and imaginings due to her constant perusal of gothic novels. I will pause this post for a moment of silence as all readers of this site solemnly identify with her life.

Anyway, as she spends a holiday in Bath* with a kindly older couple (who just whisk her away, like hey, want to come on a possibly life-changing holiday for free, just because? Like, where are they in my life?), she meets the Tilney family and various misunderstandings ensue as she finds love.

I loved this film because I kept expecting something somber and serious to happen, but it was light and actually quite funny. Henry Tilney, played by cutie J.J Feilds, was the funniest Austen hero I’ve come across. He was kind, clever sweet, and teased Catherine. I think sharing a sense of good humor is so important in love and this movie highlighted that. Felicity Jones was adorable, lovely and perfect in her role as the young Miss Morland.


Mr. Tilney hints at his feelings towards Catherine! (ZOMG)

Mr. Tilney and Catherine are bantering at a ball, as one does. Mr. Tilney asks, “I hope you are not already engaged for the next dance?”

Miss Morland appropriately replies, “I am engaged to nothing but your heart, Mr. Tilney…And your face.” Just kidding. She did not say this. She smiles and demurely says, “No, indeed,” but I imagine that is what she said in her heart.

Mr. Tilney continues more seriously: “My rival, having left Bath.”

northanger abbey
As if Mr. Tilney could possibly have a rival.

“Indeed he is not!” Miss Morland says, flustered and indignant until she sees that Mr. Tilney is sniggering at her. This is why I loved him as an Austen hero. He sniggers. Do we ever get to see Darcy snigger? No! (I take it back, Mr. Darcy, I love you sniggers or not!)


Catherine, now blushing even more, reacts quickly: “You mustn’t tease me!”

Catherine, you silly goose. You love the teasing!
Catherine, you silly goose. You love the teasing!

She then suavely asks if he knows Mr. Thorpe (the rival in question) at all because he has told her about the Tilney family. Henry is disgruntled by this and implies that he finds Thorpe ignorant and prejudiced, and Catherine hotly defends him, saying, “I know he doesn’t always tell the truth, but he’s been very kind and attentive to me!” Catherine is such a sweetheart, defending him. Mr. Thorpe abducting her and purposefully thwarting her plan to meet the Tilneys was DESPICABLE. (For that matter, anyone who thwarts the love of J.J Feilds is despicable!)

But with that, we’ve arrived at the heart of the romantic moment – which is a rather light one; I do apologize for those expecting intense swooning. (Usually, I love intense swooning. But, ’tis nice to appreciate the lighthearted, sweet moments that make you smile!) Mr. Tilney looks at Catherine with the cutest, most mocking, and suggestive smirk, aka the equivalent of rolling his eyes in the 1800’s.

Look at that face! 2015 translation: "Catherine, John Thorpe is OBVS into you. As am I"!
2015 translation: “Catherine, John Thorpe is OBVS into you. As am I!”

Catherine, taken aback, asks, “You think he isn’t to be trusted?”

A somewhat exasperated (and I like to think, jealous) Mr. Tilney replies: “Dear Ms. Morland, has it not occurred to you that I might not be the best person to consult on the matter of Mister Thorpe?”

northanger abbey
There is a fine line between condescending older guys and sweet older guys who appreciate you and tease you. Mr. Tilney falls into the latter category.

Mr. Tilney has essentially declared that his bias against Mr. Thorpe’s character cuz he loves Miss Morland! I liked this moment because he’s gently admitting his feelings for the first time, laughingly or not. Miss Morland, in response, looks properly abashed but gives a little smile as she realizes Mr. Tilney has lightly hinted at his feelings towards her.

northanger abbey
I wish there were more ways to say ADORABLE!

This movie is delightful and features more eye-rolling and clever humor from Mr. Tilney, in addition to Catherine’s hilarious romantic fantasies. Anyone reading this must be a fangirl of sorts, so Catherine was a character made for you! If you haven’t seen this 2007 adaptation of Northanger Abbey, be sure to give it a watch!

*I desperately want to holiday in Bath. I also want to take a bath in Bath and would like to see a movie called Baths in Bath: An Expose on The Real Reasons All Austen Heroines Visited This City On Holiday.

If you’re in the mood for a light and sweet romance, this movie is for you! You can find it on Hulu, DVD (and YouTube)! Do you think this moment was romantic or was I just getting really carried away with Mr. Tilney’s face? Let me know below!

Photos: ITV

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By on October 10th, 2015

About Amirah Yasin

Amirah Yasin is a lover of persimmons, angst-ridden characters, YA fiction (and all books), Shah Rukh Khan and Colin Firth. In addition to spending her time frequenting YouTube to watch Bollywood songs, attempting to find chances to wear prairie-length skirts, and watching period dramas, she likes to travel, run, play cards and DJ old Indian music. She is a registered nurse as well as an obnoxious snapchat fiend. She enjoys writing idiotic poetry, befriending librarians, and taking photographs of trees. Her elderly patients are the only people known to be fond of her singing voice. She has always loved reading, writing, and romance.

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8 thoughts on “Classic Romantic Moment: Northanger Abbey’s Mr. Tilney and Catherine Banter At A Ball”

  1. This is one of my favourite movies. JJ Feild was perfect with his mischievous smiles and his teasing comments. Henry Tilney is one of my very favourite JA heroes. I’m surprised that you were able to pick only one romantic moment between he and Catherine because there were so many. If you haven’t, I recommend you read the book. Tilney is the master of the subtle compliment.

    • I really, really need to read it! He was one of my favorites as well! I just picked one from the movie, though I agree there were many to choose from 🙂

  2. I love this movie! You definitely were not getting carried away (though anyone, including myself, could get carried away with Mr. Tilney’s face). This scene is so romantically adorable. It’s sad that more people don’t know of this great Jane Austen classic.

  3. I adore this film! It’s been way too long since I watched it, but I remember thinking it the cutest Austen adaptation I’d seen. 🙂

  4. Fantastic film. At least the stars are the right age. Alot of Jane Austen films have actors who are too old to play the parts. Henry and Catherine are great together. Some people say these films don’t adhere to JA’s words but after all they say adapted from etc. I love that these adaptations are spiced up ever so slightly. If Jane Austen could have published all her true thoughts I am sure these scenes would have been there but in that time she dare not. Wish we had some men now with the wit and manners of that time.

  5. I might have come to this post late, but I pretty much lived through the same reactions as Amirah watching JJ Feilds’ wonderful nuances as Mr Tilney. I felt like pausing the screen for all those delightfully teasing/smirky expressions, so thanks ever so much for doing that for us on this post. The other appealing tease-y moment is when Catherine Morland apologizes to the Tilney siblings for the “kidnapping” and Henry throws it back to her face in the most adorable way possible!


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