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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?

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2 thoughts on “What rose bush? a Northanger Abbey mystery

  1. I too love the 1986 version of Northanger Abbey, because it is so different from other Jane Austen adaptations. Peter Firth is my favorite Mr. Tilney. Much more depth than the others. Northanger Abbey was a departure from Jane Austen’s other books because she was writing a satire of gothic novels, so it follows that this movie should be a melodramatic gothic satire in itself.
    There is a scene in the movie where Mr. Tilney announces his departure to Catherine (who is visiting Northanger Abbey) and gives her a beautiful white rose, probably from a beautiful white rose bush!

    1. I can picture that scene vividly where he gives her that rose! You are exactly right. The white rose bush mystery is solved, haha!

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