You can find the first part of my meandering blogs which are following me through writing Henry Tilney's Diary by scrolling down to my last post on 6th June
Working out the timelines for the diaries is never easy because Austen doesn't usually mention specific years in her books, the exception being Persuasion which starts with a list of dates from the baronetcy and frequently talks about "the year six".
In Northanger Abbey no specific year is mentioned, but there's a good clue as to when it was set in Chapter Six. Isabella says to Catherine:
". . . when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”
“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”
“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”
“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”
I looked up the publication dates for the books mentioned and found they were as follows: Castle of Wolfenbach,1793; Clermont,1798; Mysterious Warnings,1796; Necromancer of the Black Forest,1794; Midnight Bell, 1798; Orphan of the Rhine,1798; and Horrid Mysteries, 1796.
Given that Isabella and Catherine are talking to each other in February, it can't be any earlier than February 1799, because all the above books are already in circulation.
This also fits in very neatly with the fact that Austen started to write it in 1798/1799.
After that, it was just a question of printing out a blank calendar and adding the various events of the book on the relevant months, then checking in the almanack to add the days to the dates, eg to see that the first of February was a Friday.
Next time I'll be talking about how I take one of the most difficult decisions in the diaries, where to start.
Available books in the Austen diaries series are Mr Darcy's Diary, Mr Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary, Edmund Bertram's Diary and Colonel Brandon's Diary. They're available from bookshops or from Amazons including Amazon US and Amazon UK