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What rose bush? a Northanger Abbey mystery

Mr. Tilney's Proposal is shrouded in mystery to one Catherine Morland. What rose bush can he possibly mean? Relating to the 1987 film adaptation, a bar of soap, and an unquenchable Austen addiction #janeausten

“I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, but since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.” ~Henry Tilney to Catherine Morland, the final scene of Northanger Abbey 1986 (or was it 1987? It’s a very confusing point for an Austen fan).

For anyone who has watched that adaptation and was paying attention (honestly who could look away from such a spectacle?), you may have asked yourself the question, “What rose bush?”

Well, you are not alone.

Catherine herself asked this. See the helpful imagery below to illustrate.

When Mr. Tilney proposed to Catherine he confuses us all by mentioning a rosebush hitherto unknown to the reader. Does Catherine feel the same? Is she thinking, thank you for finding me, but, what rose bush?

There. Do you see how she was thinking it? She DESPERATELY needs to know. And now I repeat, What rose bush?

There was no rose bush in the film hitherto Mr. Tilney’s speech, nor is there any mention of one in the book, except a reference on the first page that Catherine enjoyed watering rose bushes.

I can discover only three possibilities:

1. Henry Tilney had a dream where he gave her a white rose bush and it had tragically died after she departed. As much as he wanted to tell her about this dream, he knew it was too inappropriate to tell an unmarried young lady that he had been thinking about her whilst in a bed. Henry planned to tell her AFTER the wedding and was working up to it by making modest allusions to its existence. Unfortunately, he chose an inopportune moment because instead of her heart feeling touched by his love for her, she was rather confused about the dead rose bush. If she had known there was a rose bush that she was to water, she would surely have told the gardener to water it before her departure.

2. Tragically, the 92 minute film was deemed too long so a 4 minute scene about a white rose bush was cut from the final version leaving the audience bewildered.

3. Henry was a romantic sort and was speaking figuratively.

Which do you think?

Get your own white rose bush by adding Mr. Tilney’s Proposal bar soap to your cart.

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Why I love Northanger Abbey 1986 / scorn me if you dare!

What I love about Northanger Abbey 1986, by an Austen Addict. #janeausten | top ten list | austen movies

“I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, but since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.” ~Henry Tilney to Catherine Morland, the final scene of Northanger Abbey 1986.

How many times have I heard that line spoken? 100 times? 1000 times? Probably somewhere in between. The final scene of that film used to be on Youtube and I recall watching it over and over, mesmerized. When it was taken down I switched over to the DVD and kept watching. I’m sure it has escaped nobody’s notice that my business name is taken from the Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey. Now you being to see why!

Mr. Tilney's Proposal bar soap
Mr. Tilney’s Proposal bar soap

Most people don’t have a strong attachment to that film version like I do, and I’ll readily admit it has many flaws, is full of creepy men, and is beyond hilarious for its foibles. But. But. But. It has its moments. I saw it at the impressionable age of 10 years old, my very first Austen film and first exposure to her works. I will always adore it and show it to close friends.

The original inspiration for Mr. Tilney’s Proposal, the white rose scented bar soap that I sell in my shop, was indeed this final scene from 1986. However, the proposal scene in the 2007 film with J.J. Feild also takes place along a hedgerow that I am convinced is full of white roses in the summer.

I’ve introduced many friends to the delights of the 1987 adaptation and I hope to continue!

Years ago when I had my first blog as a graduate school student, I compiled a list of what I thought were compelling reasons to watch this lesser known, somewhat creepy version of Northanger Abbey. Peter Firth is definitely no J.J. Feild, and there is no comparison between them in my mind as to who made the better Henry Tilney. But in my heart, the older film was my first love.

Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey gets down from his horse to propose to Catherine #janeausten

Why I love Northanger Abbey (1986) / written by Laura in 2007

  1. The male lead’s last name is Firth. Peter Firth. No relation to Colin Firth, unfortunately, but this point alone is important enough that I need not go on…(yet I do).
  2. The theme music is excessively melodramatic. Quite laughable, actually. Not at all fitting for Jane Austen.
  3. There is a horrific saxophone and soprano duet during a nature walk that you just can’t miss.
  4. Peter Firth sings somewhat painfully out of tune, but at least he tries. With his own voice–which is more than most can claim.
  5. All the actors and actresses are VERY ugly, except for the two leads who are so-so.
  6. The film was made in the 1980s, with hair to match.
  7. The male antagonist, John Thorpe, is super creepy, and far uglier than any other cast member, except possibly for an old guy in the giant yellow wig  you see in a Bath ballroom.
  8. There is a woman in the same ballroom with a beauty spot on her face 1 inch in diameter. One WHOLE inch.
  9. You can hear Darth Vader breathing in the background sometimes.
  10. Catherine (often) wears her hair with tight curls poking out onto her forehead that looks like a claw.
  11. There are nonsensical daydream sequences!
  12. Henry Tilney somehow wins the heart of the female lead by insulting her on the sly (although at first glance, this also happens in the book!)
  13. Henry wrinkles his nose in one scene, which I find delightful.

Really, I could go on and on. I love this film and always will.

But there is one point upon which I will always be confused. There is no mention of a rose bush either in the novel or in the film up until Henry says it has “died of grief.”

I can only imagine Catherine thinking, “What rose bush?” See my next post on this very important topic.