Academic journal article Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal

The "Northern Tour" in Pride and Prejudice: Another Model

Academic journal article Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal

The "Northern Tour" in Pride and Prejudice: Another Model

Article excerpt

THE FACT THAT domestic tourism became fashionable in late eighteenth-century England provided Jane Austen with an elegant solution to a narrative problem: how to reunite Elizabeth Bennet with Fitzwilliam Darcy following his surprising proposal and her indignant rejection. Elizabeth visits Derbyshire with her uncle and aunt, where her tour of Pemberley changes her estimate of Darcy. Critics have reached a consensus about her itinerary and the description of her observations, as well as a model for this estate: the novel follows the path and uses the language of William Gilpin's Observations, Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty, Made in the Year 1772, on Several Parts of England; Particularly the Mountains, and Takes of Cumberland, and Westmoreland-, the model for Pemberley is Chatsworth, seat of the Duke of Devonshire. This essay questions the consensus by raising the possibility that Austen may have also read another guide, William Bray's Sketch of a Tour into Derbyshire and Yorkshire, which includes another country house that may have contributed to her imaginative construction of Pemberley. In addition, Elizabeth's identification of her party as travelers suggests that Austen may have conceived this episode when writing First Impressions in 1796-1797, rather than when revising the novel in 1809-1810.

The Gardiners' planned journey differs from the one they take with Elizabeth. When Mrs. Gardiner broaches the idea of a summer "tour of pleasure" to her niece, it is possible that they will go '"to the Lakes'" (174). Elizabeth responds enthusiastically, hoping that they will not act like '"the generality of travellers'" (175). However, when the date approaches to begin "their Northern tour," Mr. Gardiner's business necessitates a delay; they "substitute a more contracted tour" and "go no farther northward than Derbyshire" (265). While Elizabeth is "excessively disappointed," Mrs. Gardiner happily returns to her home county and village, which is "probably as great an object of her curiosity, as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, Dovedale, or the Peak" (265). Although Gilpin's Observations centers on the Lake District, he does describe Derbyshire as part of the return journey southward in three late chapters of the second volume, and he does include the four sites listed by Austen. Most critics focus on Gilpin, despite the novel's abbreviated tour, and on Chatsworth, despite its mention as a house already visited.

Mavis Batey, for example, asserts that Elizabeth "was clearly made to study Gilpin's Tour of the Lakes before she set off with the Gardiners 'in pursuit of novelty and amusement,' Gilpin's own definition of picturesque travel" (64). More recently, Judith W. Page calls Elizabeth "something of a picturesque tourist," while pointing out that she is "not one completely bound by the letter of the picturesque law" (103). Like many, Page finds that Austen "adapts elements of the picturesque aesthetic as a lens through which to view the physical and moral world associated with key locations" (97). Peter Knox-Shaw, in addition, declares that Pemberley is "modelled on the best Gilpinesque principles" (73). In an appendix to the Cambridge edition Pat Rogers summarizes the case that "Austen probably had aspects of Chatsworth in mind when describing Pemberley," although he admits that Darcy's estate "is imagined to exist on a far less palatial scale" (452). Setting Pemberley in Derbyshire is realistic because its great houses were tourist destinations. Adrian Tinniswood observes that Derbyshire attracted "crowds" to visit Chatsworth, Hardwick, and Kedleston, which offered "relief for the tourist who had come to thrill at the scenic grandeur of the Peak" (91). Ian Ousby, after using Chatsworth to exemplify "ways of looking at a show house," asserts that setting Pemberley in Derbyshire "invites the reader to identify with Chatsworth" (62-64, 73). Janine Barchas, a rare dissenter, argues that Chatsworth is "disqualified precisely because it appears by name in the text as a genuine place visited en route"; she suggests Wentworth Woodhouse in South Yorkshire as an alternate model because of Austen's use of names associated with the prominent family that owned it (88, 83). …

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