Although Northanger Abbey was not published until after Jane Austen's death in 1817, it was one of her first novels. Northanger Abbey is, in part, Austen's response to Gothic novels, like Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, which were enjoying tremendous popularity in the late seventeeth and early eighteenth centuries, and to their devoted readers. It is a fine demonstration of the young novelist's powers of social observation and pristine style, which are the hallmarks of her work.
In opposition to the Gothic novelists' portentous prose and unlikely heroines, she presents a charmingly believable Catherine Morland. In one of Austen's delightful satirical twists, Catherine, recently introduced into society, is a voracious reader of Gothic stories. When she is invited to stay with the Tilneys in their seemingly foreboding abbey, she fears that it is the kind of terrible place described in the novels she devours.