Different Writers Have Different Views On Literature

{flickr|100|campaign} By Austen’s time, Ralph Allen had not only served as host to literary giants, he had personally played a role in the history of the early novel namely as a partial model for Squire All worthy in Tom Jones (1749). Fielding, a frequent guest at Prior Park, evidently wrote part of the story there. Fielding’s picture of a benevolent squire who lives on a vast estate in Somerset without an heir (Ralph Allen’s only son George had died in infancy) was widely hailed as homage to the generous and kind-hearted Allen. Later, Fielding also dedicated Amelia (1751) to his friend and benefactor. From the start of Northanger Abbey, Austen refers to Tom Jones obliquely, quipping, for example, that the Morlands in Fullerton knew not one family ‘who had reared and supported a boy accidentally found at their door not one young man whose origin was unknown’. She even mentions Tom Jones by name, although not wholly favorably since she Links London allows her rake to condemn it with faint praise. Thorpe so much approves of Tom Jones that he measures all other novels against it: ‘Novels are all so full of nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out since Tom Jones, except the Monk’.

Thorpe, who soon rails against Burney’s Camilla (1796) a novel for which Austen was an original subscriber by saying ‘I took up the first volume once and looked it over, but I soon found it would not do’ may be in the habit of reading only the beginnings of books. His literary opinion likely does not matter much. Yet it was precisely the opening chapters of Tom Jones that were scrutinised most closely for Fielding’s fictionalized portrait of Allen. In light of this association, local Bath lore regularly conflated Allen and Airworthy. One nineteenth century print depicts Links Of London Bracelets the ivy-bedecked mausoleum at nearby Claverton where Allen lies interned: it is inscribed ‘Mausoleum of Ralph Allen, the Squire Airworthy of Tom Jones’. If a reading of Tom Jones activates an awareness of the rich and benevolent Ralph Allen in Bath, talk of it may account for (or at least clue the reader into) Thorpe’s sudden change of itinerary for the next day’s outing. For, just before their talk of Tom Jones, Thorpe proposes to take Catherine for a ride in his open carriage, declaring ‘I will drive you up Lansdown Hill tomorrow’, a popular destination that promises a scenic drive along the high ground leading to Bristol. The subsequent small-talk about the excellences of Tom Jones, however, seems to influence his proposed itinerary.

When he and his sister arrive, rather suddenly, to take Catherine for a ride on the following day, their declared destination is, instead, Claverton Down. Despite Thorpe’s implication and Catherine’s half-hearted agreement that such was his intention all along, Claverton Down is in precisely the opposite direction from the promised Lansdown Hill: ‘What do you mean’ said Catherine, ‘where are you all going to’ ‘Going to why, you have not forgot our engagement! Did not we agree together to take a drive this morning what a head you have! We are going up Claverton Down.’ ‘Something was said about it, I remember,’ said Catherine, looking at Mrs. Allen for her opinion; ‘but really I did not expect you.’ Catherine does not protest the change in direction and, in fact, seems too flummoxed by the brazenness of the party and the novelty of a carriage outing with a young man to assert her. Possibly Thorpe’s radical change of direction, from Lansdown Hill in the north-west to Claverton Down in the southeast, is intended as a geographical clue to the influence of the Allen estate on Thorpe’s motivations. For Thorpe’s revised route will now lead them straight to the gates of Prior Park.