Was Farleigh Hungerford Castle a model for Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen?
From a discussion raised by Austen author, Janine Barchas, in her essay, The Real Bluebeard of Bath: a Historical Model for Northanger Abbey, published in Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, Vol 32, 2010, pp115-134: see www.jasna.org/persuasions/printed/number32/barchas.pdf.
Jane Austen wrote her first novel Northanger Abbey in 1798 and 1799, but it was not published until after her death in 1818. It possibly had some revisions, but substantially remains as Ms Austen wrote it. Many have studied Northanger Abbey, however most critics concentrate on the characterisation, and social context of the times. Ms Barchas has looked at the environment surrounding the city of Bath for the historical setting, and in her excellent essay considers Farleigh Hungerford Castle as a model for Northanger Abbey itself, and for the intriguing history sought by the characters from prior centuries, and for the possible destination of a day trip attempted, but never concluded.
Farleigh Hungerford Castle is about seven miles distant from the city of Bath, which Ms Austen visited in 1797, and later moved to live in 1801. She would have been familiar with the various guide books popular at the time, and may indeed have visited the Castle herself.
Barchas’ essay gives a good overview of the history of Farleigh Hungerford Castle and of the Hungerford family over three centuries, in the process of demonstrating how Austen has made use of this history in the creation of her novel. Her references include three guide books from the 1790s. Barchas also refers to JE Jackson, A Guide to Farleigh Hungerford, Co Somerset, 3rd ed London, Houlston, 1879, and Charles Kightly, Farleigh Hungerford Castle, London, English Heritage, 2006.
Stanley W Hungerford [SH1310] sent us the above link, and the HAFS Committee found it interesting reading.
Stanley W Hungerford [SH1310] and the use of the code “SHnnn” is described in the 2nd edition of Hungerfords Down Under on p4. Stanley Hungerford is a founding member of HAFS and a regular contributor to our Journals and Newsletters. Stanley is also a member of the Board of Trustees and officers of the The Hungerford Family Foundation Inc.