Jane Austen was particularly kind to us Cultists: she gave us a fairly complete description of Da Man. None of the other heroes of her novels were assigned a hair color, or an eye color; we may be told their ages, that they are handsome, and perhaps their height, but otherwise their appearance is left entirely to the imagination. But we know a great deal about Da Man.
In his first appearance, we are told that Henry "seemed to be about four or five and twenty, was rather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligent and lively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it." And later, Isabella Thorpe says to Catherine, "I have not forgot your description of Mr. Tilney; -- 'a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.'" From these descriptions we can form an excellent mental picture of Da Man.
At the present time, there are only two film representations of Da Man: the BBC/A&E production from 1986 with Peter Firth (right) as Henry, and the PBS Wishbone production, featuring Wishbone (a Jack Russell Terrier, below) as Da Man. Neither of them fit the description of Henry Tilney as given in the novel. The Chief Acolyte, after a few too many cups of tea, has been known to insist that Wishbone bears a closer resemblance to Jane Austen's description of Da Man than does Peter Firth. The High Priestess, although she agrees that Mr. Firth does not look much like Henry should, has no quibbles with a gentleman of his complexion portraying Da Man; however, she thinks that either Mr. Firth, the scriptwriter, or the director read a little too much into the muslin scene, or perhaps has confused Jane Austen with Georgette Heyer, and would like to state for the record that Henry Tilney was not meant to be a dandified Regency Beau.
Wishbone, however, did a fine job as Henry, from the many capes of his greatcoat to his hat that sat so well to his sense of humor and his devotion to Catherine. Unfortunately, we don't get to see his driving skills, but The High Priestess is sure that he was an excellent whip. And he did a bang-up job of frightening Catherine with a made-up Gothic story! An all-around excellent portrayal, and the eye color is certainly as described. Note to potential filmmakers: Northanger Abbey can indeed be transferred beautifully to the screen, even when reduced to less than 30 minutes in length.
The High Priestess received this representation of Da Man, executed by an unknown artist but clearly meant to illustrate the moment in the novel where Our Hero catches Catherine snooping around his mother's room. (Click on the thumbnail at right to see the whole picture.) We like the sideburns, the pompadour, the tight, tight pantaloons, not to mention the polished Hessians. The resemblance to a certain swivel-hipped Memphis boy is unmistakeable...and we LIKE it! Laurel Ann was kind enough to send this picture along. Thank you, thank you very much.
With such a dearth of true images of Da Man, Cultists must search for their inspiration elsewhere. The High Priestess found the picture to the right, a detail from the portrait "The Cloakroom, Clifton Assembly Rooms" by Rolinda Sharples (1817-18). The High Priestess thinks this gentleman could certainly be Henry, as he seems to have teasingly taken away the lady's fan and appears to be wearing a rather naughty expression. However, the High Priestess thinks the young lady must be the Miss Smith with whom Henry danced at the Upper Rooms, and whom Eleanor did not think very pretty. :-)
The Chief Acolyte, searching for inspiration while designing the logo for this site, found a portrait of a Mr. Lukin, at left, that she thought rather Henryish. The fashionable coat; the delightful hat that sits so well; the pleasant countenance; the dark hair and eyes; they are all there! A delightful representation of Da Man.
On an excursion to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the High Priestess spotted a portrait of Sir John Reade by George Romney that struck her as rather Da Mannish. (Click on the thumbnail at right to see the entire portrait.) There is a certain insouciance and masculine self-confidence to the tilt of Sir John's chin, and a look in his eye that says, "Yes, as a matter of fact I am Da Man. Thanks for asking." Jane Austen makes no mention that Henry powdered his hair, but if one accepts that Northanger Abbey takes place in 1798, then Henry would have been at Oxford in the late 1780's and early 1790's, and being the creature of fashion that we all know he is, he almost certainly would have powdered his hair then. And do note the reading material in Sir John's hand; we Cultists can assume that Da Man usually had something to read at hand. The High Priestess can often be found smack in front of this rather obscure portrait, staring up at it adoringly, much to the consternation of Art Museum security.
Acolyte Kathleen found a painting of Robbie Burns that reminded her of Da Man (click on the thumbnail at left to see the entire portrait). The High Priestess agrees that the gentleman in the painting is displaying a most Da Mannish appreciation of nature and the picturesque, and particularly likes the top-boots and skin-tight breeches. Both ladies were a little unsure that Da Man would wear such a hat, but as Acolyte Kathleen pointed out, "it is most likely the one that he left out in the rain, found in a puddle, left it in his adorable messy room where the dogs chewed it for a while and then grabbed when he couldn't find his best hat." After all, every gentleman needs a second-best hat...even Da Man.
Acolyte Kathleen also sent a picture of a painting of Colonel George Coussmaker of the Grenadier Guards by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which made her think of Da Man's big brother, Captain Frederick Tilney (click on the thumbnail at right to see the entire portrait). The High Priestess, despite her adoration for Henry Tilney, can appreciate a Bad Boy and thinks Frederick can be rehabilitated. The gentleman in the painting certainly displays a prodigious amount of what would be called, back in the HP's 'hood, Attitude (pronounced addy-tood). Even the horse looks surly!
The Chief Acolyte was also kind enough to find the edition of the novel with illustrations by C.E. Brock and scan them for inclusion in this site. The Brock illustrations can be found here, in full color. Both the Chief Acolyte and the High Priestess find Mr. Brock's images of Da Man to be delightful, although the High Priestess wonders why Mr. Brock felt compelled to dress Da Man all in black; presumably that was a nod to his vocation, although in the late 18th century it was certainly not expected for a clergyman to wear black. However, this picture is enough to make the High Priestess forgive all Mr. Brock's trespasses; the boots! the many-caped greatcoat about the broad shoulders! Please excuse the High Priestess for a moment, she is feeling a bit faint, as Catherine appears to be feeling in the picture as well...
Laura Sauer of Austentation has earned the blessings and gratitude of the High Priestess and all Acolytes for scanning the Hugh Thomson illustrations of Northanger Abbey from 1897. There are several images of Da Man in action; on horseback, with his dogs, and, of course, greatcoated and booted (as the High Priestess likes him best!) Click here to see the drawings.
You may adopt one of these avatars of Da Man for your website or to enjoy on your own computer. There are a few Gentle Guidelines that go along with the adoption:
Do you have any images of Da Man that you would like to contribute to this site? Contact the High Priestess!