Jan 062017

Satire and Sentiment

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Source: Purchased

This is my fourth year spending my Christmas break reading an annotated edition of a Jane Austen novel, and as always, it is a wonderful, rewarding, and fulfilling experience! I’ve been alternating between the annotated editions by Harvard University Press and the annotated series by David Shapard. This year it was Mr. Shapard’s turn!

With all my reviews of annotated editions, my rating and comments reflect the annotations and observations made by the editors and not Jane Austen’s magnificent and beloved masterpieces. However, if you are interested, I did post a review of Northanger Abbey some years ago!)

Here are some of the insights and understandings I learned while reading David Shapard’s annotations:

  • More About Jane Austen’s Bath: The focus on Bath entertainments, geography, and habits is strong in this annotated edition. Many of the annotations clarify and explain things modern-day readers would not understand or know about unless they visited Bath during the Regency period. And there are four detailed maps in the back of Bath and England to help readers understand the various landmarks and destinations discussed throughout the novel and how close or far they actually are to each other. Destinations such as: Blaise Castle, Devies, Milsom Street are marked on various maps for easy reference. I especially enjoyed learning about the schedule for nightly entertainments and how venues cooperated with each other to spread out the entertainments evenly throughout the week (i.e. The Upper Rooms had dances on Monday and Thursday evenings, and The Lower Rooms had dances on Tuesday and Friday evenings.)
  • Allusions to Gothic Novels and Sentimental Heroines are Plentiful: It is evident to any first-time reader that Jane Austen pokes a lot of fun at Gothic novels and sentimental heroines with her sarcastic comments in the narration and her fanciful heroine. But since I have not read any Gothic novels or works by Ann Radcliffe myself, a lot of Jane Austen’s other nods and parallels went over my head. It appears Mr. Shapard did some extensive research and reading of all the Gothic novels mentioned in this story. Many of his annotations illustrated when Jane Austen borrowed a plot device, shadowed an element, or paralleled a character’s actions or situation from one of the well-known Gothic novels of her day. It was interesting to see how this story is so much more of a satirical parody than I previously thought. And it is also a credit to Jane Austen that her parody doesn’t feel overly farcical, outrageous, or contrived.
  • New Suppositions and Critical Thinking: I love when editors make their own inferences and conjectures. In his notes I liked how Mr. Shapard pointed out the possibility of John Thorpe having his own independent wealth (maybe an inheritance from an uncle or something), since he could afford horses and a gig when his sisters had no dowry. In addition, I love how Mr. Shapard objectively brings up some flaws with Jane Austen’s novels (I know it is shocking to think there are any flaws!) While he compliments Jane Austen on always being meticulously accurate with distances, time tables, and calendars, he does call in to question the implausibility of General Tilney’s gullible behavior in regards to believing John Thorpe and Jane Austen’s “awkward” and “inartistic” resolution. Yes, it is a wonder that General Tilney never picks up on the fact that Catherine doesn’t act like a wealthy heiress and question his source. And I agree, Eleanor’s love interest totally came out of left field. 😉

And here is one conclusion I came to on my own during this reread of Northanger Abbey:

  • James Morland Deserves His Own Story: Why hasn’t someone made a sequel with James Morland as the romantic hero yet? I think it would be perfect! A jilted man, who has foresworn love and women and determinedly tries to not repeat his foolish mistakes of the past… c’mon, I think that has potential, don’t you?

I love reading any annotated edition of Jane Austen’s works, but I am definitely forming a special affinity for this annotated series by David Shapard. I appreciate his thorough and extensive research, the inclusion of helpful maps, images, and timelines, and most importantly, how his edifying comments bring clarification, awareness, and comprehension to the many readers and admirers of Jane Austen’s works.

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My Reviews of Annotated Editions

Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition by Patricia Meyer Spacks

The Annotated Persuasion by David Shapard

Emma: An Annotated Edition by Bharat Tandon

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27 Comments on "The Annotated Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen (Edited by David Shapard)"

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I love Shapard’s annotations! I need to add this one to my collection. I have the others. Glad you enjoyed it!


Ooh, and a James Morland variation would be great!

Paige B.

I think I should read annotated versions of Austen and this review makes me think I should start with this one!

Joana Starnes

Thanks for yet another wonderful review, Meredith! Those annotated editions are so great!

Abigail Bok

Thanks for all the detail on the annotation strategy in this edition! I read the Harvard annotated edition of NA last year and was disappointed (too much opinion about the characters, especially dissing my beloved Henry; not enough detail about background and context). Sounds as if I should have used Shapard. And for all those authors out there with stories set in Bath, how useful would it be to have the maps at the back of the book? I like the idea of the James Morland variation.


I read this recently and could not get into it. It was so different from her other work. I’m not sure why I disliked this one so much (I love P&P and S&S). Maybe I should have bought the annotated version. 🙂
Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
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Sophia Rose
I caught a really fab library sale two years ago and scored three Shapard Annotated editions of the novels and, woohoo, this is one of them. I have the Persuasion one lined up for my this years read. I liked the idea that there is a wealth of info on Bath since its such a large part of the story. And neat, I never gave John Thorpe’s wealth much thought so good to have a possible answer. Yeah, I asked that question in my mind about the General believing Thorpe the first time I read this one. It actually worked… Read more »
Carole in Canada

I still have to read an annotated version! Shocking I know! The further insight would certainly add to my further enjoyment. What a brilliant idea about Jame Morland though! Maybe do a crossover with P&P and hook either Georgiana or Kitty up once one is out and/or the other has received further polish from her married sisters, Elizabeth and Jane!


I’m a fan of all the Harvard annotations of JA and am not to familiar with Shapard partly because they’re paperback and I’m a hard back snob. 😉

Sheila L. Majczan

I, like Carole, don’t usually read annotated versions although I do own just one. The comments about the General are just as I imagined about him. One movie version has him getting gossip from a paramour. I have also wanted to read some of Mrs. Radcliffe. Maybe some day I will find time. I have read varying opinions about her books. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle H.
I love Shapard’s annotated Austens. At one time I thought I’d wear out my copy of his P&P. (Fan Girl here, I was able to get his autograph on the S&S I purchased when he visited the Texas Book Festival in Austin some years ago.) I also had to make myself read a ‘regular’ version of P&P after a few times attempt to reread it and not get terribly distracted reading the annotations…again (and again.) 🙂 I just got his annotated edition of Persuasion before Christmas and haven’t cracked it yet. Then I’ll work on getting NA. The Harvard editions… Read more »
Big Shapard fan here too!!! I met him at JASNA VT(so worth the 4 hr bus ride!) a couple of years ago. He signed my NA book. I’m looking forward to his comments on MP… hopefully out by April in paperback (email maybe in Feb, according to Amazon). Currently working on Harvard Press MP. The annotations are abit of gruel to me so far(ch8) …abit thin. TMI warning…the editor of Harvard Press NA also spoke at JASNA VT(a yr after David Shapard). In the middle of talking about NA, she questioned whether the Emma-Mr K marriage would be an success.… Read more »

I’ve just bought my first David Shapard annotated book! It’s his edition of Emma, which was on sale from the Jane Austen Centre online shop. Emma is on my list for a re-read this year and when I saw it in the sale I couldn’t resist. Can’t wait for it to arrive.

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