In early December, my travels took me to another World Heritage Site: Bath, England. Jane Austen lived there from 1801 – 1806 after her family moved from her birthplace Steventon when she was 26. The City of Bath at that time was a meeting place of high society, the centre of fashion and the hub of stylish urban development, with elegant and spectacular Georgian buildings and Palladian architecture. What’s interesting is, today’s Bath remains more or less the same as it was in Jane’s time. The buildings have been maintained in such immaculate condition that a visitor to Bath today can actually walk the paths of Jane’s and behold the city and landscape she had seen, and eat at a place that she could have frequented, the Sally Lunn’s. This little bakery and eatery is located in the oldest house in Bath, dating back to the 1400’s, a historical site even for Jane.
Jane Austen chose Bath as the setting for Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both novels published posthumously. According to sources, in particular Claire Tomalin’s biography Jane Austen: A Life, Jane did not like the City of Bath. The superficiality and frivolity of high society were met with her satirical critiques. Further, her disdain could well be caused by the very purpose she suspected of her parents’ decision to move there: opportunities to meet favourable suitors for their daughters.
Nevertheless, for me as a modern day visitor to Bath, and a Janeite at that, I’m impressed to learn that most of what I see have lasted through hundreds of years. The Roman Baths, the Bath Abbey where the first king of England Edgar was crowned in 973 A.D., the Pump Room, the Gardens, The Royal Crescent, Queen’s Square, The Pulteney Bridge, the same streets and architecture are situated just as they were in Jane’s time.
Here are some of the famous places in Jane Austen’s Bath.
Jane Austen’s first residence in Bath 1801 – 1805, No. 4 Sydney Place:
Jane Austen’s second residence in Bath, No. 25 Gay Street, now a dentist’s office:
Queen’s Square across from Gay Street: Good spot for people-watching for Jane and Cassandra:
The Pump Room: The meeting place of the Who’s Who in Jane Austen’s Bath:
“In the Pump-room, one so newly arrived in Bath must be met with…” –Chapter 9, Northanger Abbey
The Royal Crescent: Georgian buildings spectacularly arranged in a crescent form, where the rich and fashionable took their Sunday afternoon stroll in Jane’s time. Jane’s view is satirically clear:
“…they hastened away to the Crescent, to breathe the fresh air of better company.” –Chapter 5, Northanger Abbey
Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon:
All photos originally taken by Arti of www.rippleeffects.wordpress.com
Text and photos All Rights Reserved, December, 2007.
More interesting posts coming up…and for Janeites, look for Lacock Village in my next post.
Update: Due to the keen interest from readers of “Jane Austen’s Bath”, I’ve published another post, “Bath in December“, with more photos of my recent visit to that beautiful City. After you’ve finished reading this post, you’re welcome to visit “Bath in December” and… enjoy!