Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Supporting Characters: Eleanor Tilney

Because I firmly believe it's not just the hero or heroine that makes a story great, I've been wanting to try a new series which will highlight some of my favorite supporting characters from some of my favorite books and period dramas. I'll start by limiting myself to one character per post and one character per book/movie adaptation.

I'd love it if this inspired others to do similar kinds of posts. And I'd really like some sort of discussion maybe about the character I present in a post.

So without further ado...

Miss Eleanor Tilney from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey

Ever since the first time I read Northanger Abbey it has been my favorite Jane Austen novel and Eleanor Tilney was placed on my favorite characters list! Have you met Miss Tilney? No?...well let me introduce you!

Eleanor is the youngest child and only girl in the Tilney family. She has two older brothers: army officer Captain Frederick Tilney, and the Reverend Henry Tilney. Her father is General Tilney who has had a brilliant military career and is now enjoying civilian life at his country home where he also dabbles in politics. Eleanor's mother was a Miss Drummond, a woman beloved by her family who died when Eleanor was a young teenager. After she finishing school in Bath Eleanor made her permanent home as mistress of Northanger Abbey where she resides with her father. Although she has a few close friends who she visits in her own neighborhood or in Bath, her best friend is by far her brother Henry lives 20 miles away in the village of Woodston and is a frequent visitor at the Abbey. Henry's kindness and humor are invaluable to her and they enjoy many of the same pastimes such as reading, art and music. Henry also has impeccable taste in muslins and can always be counted on to purchase the right fabric for a dress whenever Eleanor is unable to get to town herself.

Eleanor has a great sense of fashion. You will find a great many white gowns in her closet, and like many great ladies she makes many of her own gowns consulting the latest fashions. Her favorite fashion accessory is the strand of pearls which her dear mother left to her and she sometimes wears them in her hair for a different look.

"Miss Tilney had a good figure, a pretty face, and a very agreeable countenance; and her air, though it had not all the decided pretension, the resolute stylishness of Miss Thorpe’s, had more real elegance." - Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 8
In a word, Eleanor Tilney embodies the word elegance! She has good sense and good breading. She is neither shy nor affectively open and extravagant. Her emotions and affections are governed my moderation. She values people who are kind, honest and trustworthy like herself. This is why young Catherine Morland is so easily accepted and loved by Eleanor, she sees a good-natured honest heart in her - a heart that is beginning to love her brother. Eleanor is all sweetness and loveliness and she deserves all the happiness life has to offer.

And what an ending The Authoress has in store for her! Not only does Eleanor's unnamed beau put in the position of gaining the title of Viscount and a large income, but Eleanor herself is able to help persuade her father to let Henry marry Catherine Morland. I have no doubt that in her position of Vicountess, Eleanor shines and is beloved as she deserves!

Eleanor Tilney has been portrayed twice in film. In Northanger Abbey (1987) as a blond by actress Ingrid Lacey. But my favorite Eleanor appeared in Northanger Abbey (2007) with light brown hair, portrayed by lovely actress Catherine Walker. I love how she is portrayed as the confidant of her brother in that film, and more of a chaperon for Henry and Catherine as their "courting" is taking place.

Lovely, lovely Eleanor! How delightful you are! You are the kind of friend that every "Catherine Morland" should have! How I would love to delve more into your character and write your story (I even have a title for her story picked out)!

Have you ever gotten to know Miss Eleanor Tilney? Chapter 8 of the novel has a lovely description of her on her first meeting with Catherine. Who are you favorite supporting characters from Northanger Abbey?

I can't wait to post about another favorite supporting character soon!

Your's very truly,

1 comment:

Beth Elliott said...

This is such an enjoyable post, recounting Eleanor's character - who wouldn't want her as a friend? The photos add to the pleasure. I also am very fond of Northanger Abbey and the charming Henry, Catherine and Eleanor [and her mysterious beau]. Thank goodness she gets a happy ending.

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