Little did I think, when I started writing Henry Tilney's Diary, that other projects would overtake me and I would end up writing Mr Darcy, Vampyre and stories for Loves Me Loves Me Not, The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance and A Darcy Christmas before I finished it. But I'm glad those projects overtook me, firstly because I loved them and secondly because it gave my ideas about Henry more time to mature.
It's been the most demanding diary to write, firstly because of the Gothic element and secondly because Henry is Austen's funniest hero. But it's also been great fun to write because of those extra elements.
I'm now on the final part of the diary. In Northanger Abbey, the story is wrapped up very quickly. Henry and Catherine are unoficially engaged but Henry's father won't give his consent to the marriage. Jane Austen ties it up neatly with a deus ex machina ending, which is the perfect way to end a Gothic novel, saying:
What probable circumstance could work upon a temper like the general’s? The circumstance which chiefly availed was the marriage of his daughter with a man of fortune and consequence, which took place in the course of the summer — an accession of dignity that threw him into a fit of good humour, from which he did not recover till after Eleanor had obtained his forgiveness of Henry, and his permission for him “to be a fool if he liked it!”
The marriage of Eleanor Tilney, her removal from all the evils of such a home as Northanger had been made by Henry’s banishment, to the home of her choice and the man of her choice, is an event which I expect to give general satisfaction among all her acquaintance. My own joy on the occasion is very sincere. I know no one more entitled, by unpretending merit, or better prepared by habitual suffering, to receive and enjoy felicity. Her partiality for this gentleman was not of recent origin; and he had been long withheld only by inferiority of situation from addressing her. His unexpected accession to title and fortune had removed all his difficulties; and never had the general loved his daughter so well in all her hours of companionship, utility, and patient endurance as when he first hailed her “Your Ladyship!” Her husband was really deserving of her; independent of his peerage, his wealth, and his attachment, being to a precision the most charming young man in the world. Any further definition of his merits must be unnecessary; the most charming young man in the world is instantly before the imagination of us all. Concerning the one in question, therefore, I have only to add — aware that the rules of composition forbid the introduction of a character not connected with my fable — that this was the very gentleman whose negligent servant left behind him that collection of washing–bills, resulting from a long visit at Northanger, by which my heroine was involved in one of her most alarming adventures.
The influence of the viscount and viscountess in their brother’s behalf was assisted by that right understanding of Mr. Morland’s circumstances which, as soon as the general would allow himself to be informed, they were qualified to give.
I'm now fleshing this out and thinking of the possible ways in which Eleanor and her beau (as Mrs Jennings would undoubtedly call him) meet again, then I have all the fun of their wedding to look forward to, and their help with Henry and Catherine's affair. I see house parties ahead, with Catherine and Henry getting to know each other further at Eleanor's new home, and I see an important conversation between Catherine and Frederick. She thinks very ill of him at the end of Northanger Abbey but I think she will come to like him, and I see their reconciliation starting like this:
'I think we have more in common than you might suppose,' said Frederick.
Catherine tried to excuse herself, but he would not let her go.
'You are still angry with me for having come between your brother and his betrothed,' said Frederick.
Catherine did not deny it.
'You liked Isabella.'
'I certainly did not,' said Catherine indignantly. 'I never was more deceived in anyone in my life.'
'But you thought she was good enough for your brother.'
'Then it is as I say, we have more in common than you suppose, for I did not think she was good enough for him, either.'
It took Catherine some moments to digest this, and then she said, 'You mean you came between them deliberately?'
'Let us just say, I gave Isabella an opportunity to show her true colours and she availed herself of it,' he said.
I also have plans for a happy ending for Frederick. I see him as a cynic with the heart of a romantic, and I can't bear to see his romantic potential - oh, all right, his house and his fortune! - go to waste. But who will ever be good enough for him?