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“‘a mob of three thousand men assembling in St. George’s Fields, the Bank attacked, the Tower threatened, the streets of London flowing with blood . . .'” —Northanger Abbey

The only riot in Jane Austen’s novels takes place in Eleanor Tilney’s mind, her brother says. But is it only in her mind?

In Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland is walking with Henry and Eleanor Tilney  on Beechen Cliff, which overlooks Bath. They admire the scenery, then the conversation moves to government and politics;

“from politics, it was an easy step to silence. The general pause which succeeded [Henry’s] short disquisition on the state of the nation was put an end to by Catherine, who, in rather a solemn tone of voice, uttered these words, “I have heard that something very shocking indeed will soon come out in London.”

Not surprisingly, since they had just been talking about government and politics, Eleanor thinks that Catherine has heard rumors of something terrible about to happen in London.

“Miss Tilney, to whom this was chiefly addressed, was startled, and hastily replied, ‘Indeed! And of what nature?’”

[Catherine responds,] “’That I do not know, nor who is the author. I have only heard that it is to be more horrible than anything we have met with yet.’”

“’Good heaven! Where could you hear of such a thing?’”

“’A particular friend of mine had an account of it in a letter from London yesterday. It is to be uncommonly dreadful. I shall expect murder and everything of the kind.’”

“’You speak with astonishing composure! But I hope your friend’s accounts have been exaggerated; and if such a design is known beforehand, proper measures will undoubtedly be taken by government to prevent its coming to effect.’”

“’Government,’ said Henry, endeavouring not to smile, ‘neither desires nor dares to interfere in such matters. There must be murder; and government cares not how much.’”

[Eleanor responds,] “’Miss Morland, do not mind what he says; but have the goodness to satisfy me as to this dreadful riot.’”

“”Riot! What riot?’”

[Henry explains,] “’My dear Eleanor, the riot is only in your own brain. The confusion there is scandalous. Miss Morland has been talking of nothing more dreadful than a new publication which is shortly to come out . . .’”.

Catherine is talking about a new Gothic novel!

Henry explains that Eleanor, though,

“’immediately pictured to herself a mob of three thousand men assembling in St. George’s Fields, the Bank attacked, the Tower threatened, the streets of London flowing with blood, a detachment of the Twelfth Light Dragoons (the hopes of the nation) called up from Northampton to quell the insurgents, and the gallant Captain Frederick Tilney, in the moment of charging at the head of his troop, knocked off his horse by a brickbat from an upper window.’”

Henry think Eleanor is foolish to imagine such a thing, but was she? Was Jane Austen perhaps describing a real riot?

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Captain Frederick Tilney, knocked off his horse? “Gordon Riots,” Project Gutenberg eText 19609, by John Seymour Lucas, 1879. Public domain.

The Gordon Riots

Such riots had happened before. Henry might have been talking about the Gordon Riots of 1780.* These are considered the most destructive and violent riots in English history. Lord George Gordon initiated these anti-Catholic riots, though he intended only a peaceful demonstration. At that time, Catholics in England had very limited rights. An Act of Parliament, passed in 1778, gave Catholics a few rights, including the rights to buy and inherit property, and to join the military, if they took an oath of allegiance to the Crown.

On June 2, 1780, Gordon gathered a crowd of around sixty thousand people at St. George’s Fields, London. They marched to Parliament to present a petition. Parliament did not choose to overturn the law.

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Thousands gathered in St. George’s Fields. “The Gordon Riots,” Charles Green (1840-1898) / Public domain

Riots ensued, with people shouting “No popery!” and burning down Catholic chapels, priests’ houses, Catholic homes, shops, and schools, and a distillery owned by a Catholic. Lord Chief Justice Mansfield had supported the Catholic Relief Act (he later supported rights for black people in England as well); his house was looted. (Yes, Mansfield Park may have been named after this Lord Mansfield.) The homes of other politicians who supported the Act were also attacked. Lord Gordon tried to calm the situation; he took no responsibility for the riots.

Mobs, already angry about poverty and injustice, attacked the Bank of England on June 7. They burned prisons and prisoners went free. The rioting lasted for about a week. Over ten thousand soldiers were brought in to quell the riots. More than three hundred rioters were killed during the riots or executed afterwards. (By the way, at least two black men, included in the picture below, were involved in the rioting, and black writer Ignatius Sancho witnessed it and wrote about it. The story is told at Black Presence.) George Gordon was imprisoned in the Tower of London but was eventually acquitted of treason.

800px-An_exact_representation_of_the_Burning,_Plundering_and_Destruction_of_Newgate_by_the_rioters,_on_the_memorable_7th_of_June_1780_(BM_Z,1.4)

Newgate Prison was burned during the Gordon Riots. “An exact representation of the Burning, Plundering and Destruction of Newgate by the rioters, on the memorable 7th of June 1780,” by Henry Roberts, 1781. © The Trustees of the British Museum, released as CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

The Gordon Riots seem an appropriate possibility for Henry’s description: thousands gathering in St. George’s Fields (though many more than what he described), the bank attacked, the army called in, many people killed. I haven’t found references to the Tower of London being threatened, however.

These riots also relate to Bath, where Henry and the ladies were having their conversation. During the Gordon riots, anti-Catholic rioting also broke out in Bath. Rioters burned down the Catholic chapel, the bishop’s house and the priest’s house. The city of Bath responded strongly, hanging the ringleader and taxing the whole city to pay for the building of a new Catholic chapel.

Other Riots

However, the Gordon Riots took place when Jane Austen was only four years old; long before she wrote Northanger Abbey. Could she have been referring to more recent riots? Collins Hemingway, in an article in Jane Austen’s Regency World (July/Aug 2018), suggests that it is more likely that Austen was describing one of the many riots going on in England closer to the time when Northanger Abbey was written or revised. (The novel was apparently written between 1797 and 1803, and revised somewhat in 1816-17.)

Some examples of riots closer to the writing of Northanger Abbey:

  • The Priestley Riots in Birmingham in 1791: Rioters attacked Dissenters (non-Anglicans) who were supporting the French Revolution, including Joseph Priestley. Priestley was a Unitarian minister as well as the chemist who discovered oxygen. Houses, chapels, and businesses were burned.
  • The Bristol Bridge Riot in 1793 in Bristol was a protest against taxes and tolls. Soldiers were called in and 11 people were killed and 45 injured. This was the second most violent riot in England in the eighteenth century.
  • A series of riots in 1795, in various towns in England, has been called “the Revolt of the Housewives.” Led mostly by women, these were protests against high food prices. Women would seize the goods of a merchant who they thought was overcharging customers. The women sold the goods at what they considered a fair price, and gave the money to the merchant.
  • A London riot in 1809, the Old Price Riot, protested price increases at the newly-rebuilt Covent Garden Theatre. The management eventually gave in. They restored earlier prices so the theatre would be accessible to everyone, rich and poor.
  • In late 1816, as Austen may have been revising Northanger Abbey, a mob of about 10,000 people in Spa Fields, London demanded election reforms and relief for the poor. The first meeting was peaceful, but the second meeting, of about 20,000 people, turned violent. They attempted to attack the Tower of London. However, troops quickly put down the riots. Perhaps this riot inspired Austen to mention “the tower threatened.”

Hemingway suggests that the most likely riot to have inspired Austen was a riot in Manchester in 1808. Six thousand weavers gathered in St. George’s Field, Manchester (rather than St. George’s Field, London) to demand a minimum wage. Dragoons were sent to restore order. According to Hemingway, when Henry Tilney says the dragoons were called “up from Northampton,” it may mean they were called up to the north, to Manchester. One man was killed, and others were injured. The rioting spread to neighboring towns. Weavers did receive a small pay increase in the end. Surprisingly, the dragoons later apologized to the weavers for their actions, and took up a collection for the family of the man who was killed.

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Illustration from Charles Dickens’ historical novel about the Gordon Riots, Barnaby Rudge, “Barnaby at the Gordon Riots,” 1871, public domain.

However, London is mentioned several times in the Northanger Abbey passage. It’s possible that Austen was taking details of other recent riots and transplanting them to London, for the story. To me, however, the Gordon Riots seem to most closely fit the details given. While there was not a time when the streets of London were literally “flowing with blood,” those were the riots in which the most people were killed.

Although Henry says Catherine’s “words could relate only to a circulating library,” riots similar to what he described had happened in recent history. Of course he also criticizes her vivid imagination when she thinks his father has committed a terrible crime. It turns out that his father is not a murderer, but does treat Catherine cruelly. Henry’s words are often ironic.

What do you think? Was Austen referring to a real riot (or several riots) here, or was the riot only in Eleanor’s mind?

 

*R. W. Chapman (1923 edition of Northanger Abbey), Roger E. Moore (Jane Austen and the Reformation, 105), and others consider this riot to refer to the Gordon Riots.

Brenda S. Cox blogs about Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen, and is currently working on a book entitled Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England. You can also find her on Facebook.

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Inquiring readers,

Many of you have noticed my absence for a long time. If it weren’t for the efforts of Rachel Dodge and Tony Grant, this blog would have remained silent for most of the previous twelve months. Thank you, both, dear friends, for your contributions.

Two years ago I realized my heart and soul were no longer in my work and that it was time to retire.  Since then, I have been in the process of getting my house ready for sale, selling it, and packing my belongings to move to north Baltimore to be near family. Luckily or unluckily, I sold my house the moment my realtor planted the “coming soon” sign on my lawn. This meant that I had to move two months earlier than anticipated, since the new owners were anxious to move into my beloved abode.

My new place, however, was not ready. Currently, all my possessions, save for summer clothes and necessities, are in storage, and so I am living in limbo as a guest with friends until the end of August.

Starting September 1, I will be traveling between Richmond and Baltimore for four months, waiting for my new place to be approved by a house inspector and working remotely at a distance (with frequent travels via I-95 to attend bi-monthly meetings down south). January 1st is the date of my retirement. Ah, the modern life!

As I anticipate my schedule this fall and early winter, my thoughts often turn to Jane Austen. She had immense pleasure of living the first 25 years of her life in Steventon, a small village in Hampshire.

Outside there were fields where Mr Austen farmed and his wife grew potatoes (at that time quite an innovation), formal gardens with a turf walk, sundial, strawberry beds, and a grassy bank down which the young Jane, possibly enjoyed rolling as a child, like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. – http://www3.hants.gov.uk/austen/deane-parsonage/steventon-village.htm, Hantsweb, Hampshire County Council

The old rectory site where the parsonage once stood. A well (inside the enclosure in back of the tree) is the only visible remnant of that house. Image @Tony Grant

The old rectory site where the parsonage once stood. A well (inside the enclosure in back of the tree) is the only visible remnant of that house. Image @Tony Grant

The Austens also ran a boarding school for young men out of the parsonage house to augment the reverend’s yearly income of £230. His extensive library of 300 – 500 volumes was amazingly large for that era, since books were frightfully expensive. Rev. Austen encouraged Jane and her sister, Cassandra, to read from his library, an unusual encouragement for females in that time.

Image of a page of the History of England by Jane Austen and illustrated by Cassandra Austen of Henry the 4th, the British Library

Image of a page of the History of England by Jane Austen and illustrated by Cassandra Austen of Henry the 4th, The British Library

Jane enjoyed an extremely close relationship with her older sister, Cassandra, and they supported each other in their respective strengths and talents. Jane’s talent, as well as Cassandra’s, were nurtured by their doting family, as evidenced by the History of England, written by Jane and illustrated by Cassandra, and the plays and stories of juvenilia a young and playful Jane wrote for family gatherings.

At the age of 25, after enjoying a bucolic childhood that any woman of her era would have envied, Jane’s parents announced the Reverend’s decision to retire and leave Steventon. It was said that, upon hearing the news, Jane fainted. I can only imagine what went through her mind as she imagined the life she adored evaporating as she saw her family’s possessions reduced to the amount that one or several moving carts could hold.

(See slideshow of 18thcentury carts and wagons in Williamsburg of sample carts. I tend to think the blue covered wagon would be similar to one or two vehicles the Austen family would have contracted to move their belongings: http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/spring09/carts_slideshow/)

These days I empathize with the painful decisions the Austen family must have made regarding their possessions. After paring my own book collection down from around 4,000 volumes to 600 and getting rid of or giving away 90% of my furniture, and after living almost 30 years near a beautiful river and leaving my favorite house, ever, I can imagine Jane’s despair as beloved friends and family and favorite walking paths and shops were left behind for a city she didn’t particularly love (or so Claire Tomalin surmised). As the moving wagon and carriage that carried the Austen family and their possessions turned the corner away from the parsonage, Jane must have been overcome with nostalgia, sadness, and a bit of fear all at once.

And so for the next five years Jane began a restless, peripatetic lifestyle, one that influenced her inability to write any meaningful work for a long time. (Houses in Bath Where Jane Austen Lived, KleurijkJaneAusten, May 28, 2011)

The Austen family’s first house in Bath was located at number 4 Sydney Place.

“No. 4 Sydney Place was a good, well-proportioned, newly build terraced house. It was well placed outside the crowded centre of Bath, but within easy walking distance over Pulteney Bridge.” – Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen: A Life

Canal and walks, Sydney Gardens 19th C.This address, opposite Sydney Gardens, allowed Jane easy access to the walking paths along its beautiful grounds, a sop to her country heart. (See image on the right.)

Map of Sydney Gardens and Sydney Place, Bath

Sydney Gardens and Sydney Place

Map of Bath

Main city of Bath, across the Pulteney Bridge from Sydney Place

“Whether you go to see, or to be seen, At Sydney Gardens you’ll be pleased, I ween, Whatever your taste, for prospects or good cheer, Cascades or rural walks, you’ll find them here…”
– Anon, 27 August 1795, poem in local newspaper
–“The History of Sydney Gardens” by Catherine Pitt, The Bath Magazine

Life in the city of Bath was vastly different from life in the country. In Steventon, Mrs Austen oversaw an extensive garden, and used fresh milk from a milk cow and fresh eggs from her chickens to create simple but good food from scratch. She worked alongside her servants in the kitchen and kitchen garden to provide wholesome meals for her family and young boarders, as well as clean clothes and a tidy house. She was a creative poet and a few of her recipes in verse still survive.

If the vicar you treat,
You must give him to eat,
A pudding to hit his affection;
And to make his repast,
By the canon of taste,
Be the present receipt your direction.

First take two pounds of Bread,
Be the crumb only weigh’d,
For the crust the good house-wife refuses;
The proportion you’ll guess,
May be made more or less,
To the size that each family chuses…

(Find the rest of this delightful recipe on this blog at https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/a-receipt-for-a-pudding-by-mrs-austen/)

Imagine the shock this country family felt at having to walk to the green grocer daily, acquire milk from cows kept in city stalls and that was often cut with water, all in an age before refrigeration.

 

“When proud pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Has put a spirit of youth in everything.”

yet for the rest of the year the coarse grass is carted to their stalls, or they devour what the breweries and distilleries cannot extract from the grain harvest. Long before “the unfolding star wakes up the shepherd” are the London cows milked; and the great wholesale vendors of the commodity, who have it consigned to them daily from more distant parts to the various railway stations in the metropolis, bear it in carts to every part of the town, and distribute it to the hundreds of shopkeepers and itinerants, who are anxiously waiting to receive it for re-distribution amongst their own customers. It is evident that a perishable commodity which everyone requires at a given hour, must be so distributed.

” –  — from A History of the Cries of London, Ancient and Modern, by Charles Hindley, Project Gutenberg, p 141

This situation for “not so” fresh milk, meat, and vegetables was as similar for the citizens of London as for a small city, like Bath. The Austen’s maid of all work and Austen women purchased “fresh” food on a daily basis, food that was both expensive and often past its “due date.” (Drinking Milk in Regency London, Jane Austen’s World, 2008)

Obtaining decent food supplies in Bath must have been costly for a family living on a parson’s pension. The incessant street cries of the baker, the milkmaid, and other food sellers, even across the Pulteney Bridge in a quieter section of town, must have cut into Jane’s peaceful hours. No wonder her creative juices stalled after her father’s death, as the family moved from place to place (after his pension to his family had been cut off), and before she and her mother and sister found refuge in Chawton Cottage. (Where Jane Lived, Gotta Keep Movin’ blog.)

I confess I possess not a smidgeon of Jane Austen’s writing genius, but the disruption in my life, starting with the years of my father’s slow dying and his death in 2014, and my sweet dog’s sudden fatal illness in 2016, blocked my creative input, both at work and at home.

To be near family, I am moving from a small city with many friends to the suburb of a much larger city., where I know few people. In the process, I am leaving my favorite, unique foodie haunts, small local theater productions, historic city neighborhoods, a short and easy ride to work, and white water rafting downtown on the James River to live in a land of manicured lawns, malls, congested traffic, and national restaurant chains.

Riverside Drive, Richmond, VA

My river walk along the James

Until I regain my footing in early 2019, I don’t anticipate devoting myself to this blog full-time just yet. Thank you, readers, for your understanding. Thank you, Rachel and Tony, for your support.

Vic

Sources:

 

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Searching for Captain Wentworth, by Jane Odiwe.

Time travel has always presented a logical difficulty for authors: How to make such a romantic notion seem plausible? I have a way of dealing with time travel stories – suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride. Jane Odiwe’s new book speaks directly to one of my fantasies – to meet Jane Austen and to get to know her as a friend. Oh, if that were only possible!

I’ll admit that I have a fondness for Ms. Odiwe’s books. In this new endeavor she has outdone herself. After finishing Searching for Captain Wentworth I felt as if I had taken a trip to Bath and Lyme Regis, met Jane Austen, and been treated to a wonderful romance.

Not everything about the book is perfect. While the love affair between Charles and Sophia had me engrossed, the one twixt Josh and Sophie left me somewhat cold. The ending seemed rushed, and although loose ends were tied, much of the details didn’t make sense, as with all time travel stories. But logic is not the point of a time travel book: it is fantasy and wish-fulfillment.

This book has fantasy aplenty, backed up by history and Ms. Odiwe’s intimate knowledge of Jane Austen’s life and the environs of Bath. I had the privilege of visiting Bath and staying in a hotel near Sydney Gardens just off Great Pulteney Street, and the book kept conjuring up memories that I thought I had forgotten. Vividly described is the arduous but ultimately rewarding climb up Beechen Cliff. Ms. Odiwe uses this walk as a marvelous plot device while taking us on a guided tour of that famous J.A. landmark. She takes her characters to Lyme Regis as well, and has a knack for writing an original story while admirably following Persuasion’s plot.

I could write a longer review, but I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot. Well done, Ms. Odiwe. This is one of the few review books that I read from start to finish. I give Searching for Captain Wentworth five out of five regency tea cups with this caution: If you are not a fan of romance novels, Austen sequels, or time travel tales, then you will wonder at my gushes.

This book can be purchased as an eBook as well as in the traditional format.

Jane Odiwe’s blog

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Paintbox Publishing (September 7, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 095457222X
ISBN-13: 978-0954572228

Note: Green links are WordPress ads. The blue links are mine. I make no money from this blog.

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Inquiring readers: Paul Emanuelli, author of Avon Street, has contributed a post for this blog before about the City of Bath as a Character. He has graciously sent in an article about crime and an incident involving Jane Austen’s aunt, Mrs James Leigh-Perrot. Paul writes about Bath in his own blog, unpublishedwriterblog. It is well worth a visit!

Arrest of a woman at night, 1800. Thomas Rowlandson. Image @The Proceedings of the Old Bailey

Apart from the Bow Street Runners in London there was no organised police force in 18th Century England. The capture and prosecution of criminals was largely left to their victims to deal with. Every parish was obliged to have one or two constables, but they were unpaid volunteers working only in their spare time. A victim of crime who wanted a constable to track down and arrest the perpetrator was expected to pay the expenses of their doing so.

Sometimes victims of crime hired a thief-taker to pursue the wrong-doer. Again, they were private individuals working much like latter day bounty hunters. Sometimes, thief-takers would act as go-betweens, negotiating the return of stolen goods for a fee. Many though were corrupt, actually initiating and organising the original theft in order to claim the reward for the return of goods, or extorting protection money from the criminals they were supposed to catch.

Covent Garden watchhouse. Image @The Proceedings of the Old Bailey

For the most part, unless a criminal was “caught in the act” (probably) by their intended victim it was unlikely they would be brought to justice. In the absence of a police force, the maintenance of “Law and Order” therefore came to depend more on deterrence rather than apprehension and the harshest penalty of all came to cover more and more crimes. In 1799 there were 200 offences that carried the death penalty, including the theft of items with a monetary value that exceeded five shillings.

In practice, judges and juries often recognised the barbarity of the punishment in relation to the crime. Juries might determine that goods were over-priced and bring their value down below the five shilling threshold. Defendants might claim “benefit of clergy” which by virtue of stating religious belief and reading out an oath allowed the judge to exercise leniency. In other cases the Government could review the sentence. Between 1770 and 1830, 35,000 death sentences were handed down in England and Wales, but only 7000 executions were actually carried out.

Milliners shop, after Henry Kingsbury

On the 8th August 1799, Jane Leigh-Perrot was accused of stealing a card of white lace from a millinery shop in Bath. The Leigh-Perrots, a wealthy couple, were Jane Austen’s mother’s brother and sister-in-law (Jane’s Uncle and Aunt). The white lace valued at £1 was found in Mrs Leigh-Perrot’s possession together with a card of black lace that she had bought and paid for from the same shop. Mrs Leigh-Perrot denied stealing the lace, saying that the sales clerk must have given it her by mistake when he handed over her purchase. She was nevertheless arrested on a charge of “grand theft” and the lace she was said to have stolen was worth four times the five shillings that carried the death sentence.

Jane Cholmeley Perrot, aka Jane Austen’s Aunt Perrot

In practice it was unlikely (given her standing) that if she had been found guilty she would have been sentenced to death. The alternatives, however, included branding or transportation to the Australian Colonies with the prospect of forced labour for 14 years. Jane Leigh-Perrot was refused bail and committed to prison on the sworn depositions of the shopkeeper. Due to her wealth, social standing and age she was allowed to stay in the house of the prison keeper, Mr Scadding, at the Somerset County Gaol in Ilchester, rather than being kept in a cell. Mrs Leigh-Perrot still wrote though that she suffered ‘Vulgarity, Dirt, Noise from morning till night’. James Leigh-Perrot insisted on remaining with her in prison.

Mr James Leigh-Perrot. Image @JASA

During her trial Jane Leigh-Perrot spoke eloquently for herself. Several testimonials as to her character were also read out to the court. At the conclusion of the trial the jury took only 10 minutes to find her “Not Guilty.” It does, however, make you wonder how someone less well refined, less well-connected, less eloquent, less educated, less wealthy might have fared. The evidence of her guilt, might have been quite sufficient to send someone else to the gallows, or transported, or branded with a hot iron. She was after all caught in possession of the item and identified by the shop-keeper. In “Persuasion” Captain Harville asks Anne Elliot, ‘But how shall we prove anything?’ Anne replies, ‘We never shall.’

Mrs. Leigh-Perrot. Image @JASA

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Gentle Readers, a few months I featured a new book, The Pump Room Orchestra: Three Centuries of Music and Social History, by Robert Hyman and Nicola Hyman, which you can order from Amazon.com. Recently BBC Radio 3 came to the Pump Room to do an interview with the Pump Room Trio. The review/feature will be on ‘Music Matters’ which starts at 12.15 pm on Saturday, December 10th. Nicola sent me a few images from the event. I do hope you will tune in on Saturday to listen to the interview! Meanwhile, enjoy these images.

The Pump Room Trio

Here’s the link to listen to the 12 minute program on Saturday! Fabulous.

Robert and Nicola Hyman

The gathering in the Pump Room. Note the breathtaking chandelier and the marble statue of Beau Nash carved by Joseph Plura that sits in an alcove above the clock.

Bath Minuet Company

The Bath Minuet Company

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The Comforts of Bath, Thomas Rowlandson.

Almost everyone who visits my blog, Twitter account, and Facebook page knows I’ve broken my foot in two inconvenient places. Even with modern medical advances the most pleasant way to describe my experience is that it’s been a … pain. Literally and figuratively. This lover of walking 3-4 times a day with her dog has been sidelined. I’ve been sitting or lying down for a month, watching my bum grow two sizes. I’m a bit more mobile now and can hobble wearing an unwieldy boot.

How did people deal with this situation two-hundred years ago? I wondered as I stared at the ceiling with my foot propped up higher than my head. It certainly could not have been easy. Mrs. Mapp, or Crazy Sally, as she was known, was a famous London bone setter in the early 18th century. While she was unlucky in love, she made her fortune with her strength, boldness, and wonder-working cures.

Besides driving a profitable trade at home, she used to drive to town once a week in a coach and four and return again bearing away the crutches of her patients as trophies of honour. – Mrs. Mapp: The Bone-Setter, Book of Days, Robert Chamber, 1864

I doubt Mrs. Mapp would have bothered setting my foot. There was really nothing to manipulate. All it needed was rest and a good calcium-rich diet. How did people get round and about when they were hobbled in days of yore?

In my estimation, crutches resembled torture instruments more than helpmeets.

Beggar with one leg and a crutch. Image @Risky Regencies

This 1850 crutch is similar to the one depicted in the image above. It was not adjustable, and rags were wound around the top to make the crutch less painful. Even with ample padding on the modern crutch, my underarms became sore. I can only imagine how much discomfort the old models offered.

Wheelchair, Barry Lyndon

Wheelchairs were invented early in the history of mankind. In 530 B.C. a wheeled child’s bed made an appearance on a Greek vase, and in 525 A.D. a wheelchair was depicted on a Chinese print. By the 17th century, the patient’s comfort began to be taken into account.

Paralytic woman in wheelchair, 1821. Image @Museum of London

During the 18th century the Bath chair was born. Invented by John Dawson, the three-wheeled chairs remained popular all through the 19th century.

3-wheeled Bath chair. Image @BBC

This Rowlandson caricature depicts the ill visiting the Pump Room to take the waters. Note the sedan chair at left being carried inside the room, the man in the wheelchair, and the man walking with two canes.

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I spent a lazy Sunday catching up on the many posts I am unable to read during the week. Imagine my delight when I landed on Madame Guillotine’s blog and read her impressions about her visit to the Fashion Museum in Bath.  With increasing excitement, I viewed her close up images of several of the most beautiful 18th and early 19th century gowns imaginable. Melanie graciously allowed me to showcase her posts. (I concentrated on the early 19th century examples.) Do rush over and view all her photos. They are simply amazing.

I have just got home after an amazing couple of hours spent studying some of the eighteenth century dresses in the vast collections (I think they said they have 80,000 pieces in their archives) of the Fashion Museum in Bath.

English, silk, 1770-73.

It was amazing seeing the hook and eye arrangements that they used to do up the bodices, the neat seam work and even the staining beneath the armpits which serves as a reminder that these are the real deal and not just mere costumes!

French, sacque gown, 1760-63. Image @Madame Guillotine

They were really keen on combinations of pink and green during the eighteenth century – a colour combination that seems to have vanished from fashion, alas.

A floral printed muslin from 1793-97. Image @Madame Guillotine

[This dress] is really is lovely – very floaty and romantic with a pretty floral print. You can really imagine Marianne Dashwood in this one!

Muslin dress, 1813-20. Image @Madame Guillotine

This dress was so beautiful but really worryingly see through! You forget this about muslin when you see them in period dramas…

Patterned muslin dress, 1815-20. Image @Madame Guillotine

This is the sort of thing that a Heyer heroine would have worn.

These images are just a foretaste of the many photos that Melanie took at the Fashion Museum. To read both her posts, click on the two links below:

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There Must Be Murder, a very nice story by Margaret C. Sullivan,

It is one year after Catherine has married her Henry. She still is sweet and naïve, but she now possesses the womanly knowledge that every bride with an adoring husband soon comes to know. Henry Tilney is as charming as ever and clearly loves his pretty Cat. The couple, only one year married, live in Woodston Parish with a cat named Ruby Begonia and an assortment of dogs, including a Newfoundland named MacGuffin. Catherine has redecorated the pretty parsonage, and the couple has a habit of cozying up together as Henry reads passages from The Mysteries of Udolpho. During one such occasion, Catherine fondly recalls her introduction to Henry in Bath by the Master of Ceremonies, Mr. King, and in no time Henry has arranged for a visit to that ancient city.

“Henry, you know perfectly well that I keep no journal. Besides, I did not know then that you were my future husband.”

“Some husbands would be injured at such an admission, but not I; after all, I did not know that you were my future wife. I remember that I was wandering about the Rooms like a lost soul, having no acquaintance there. The master of ceremonies, Mr. King, took pity upon me and asked if I would like an introduction to a clergyman’s daughter who was in need of a partner. In Christian charity, I could not decline; though from my past experiences of ladies described as ‘clergymen’s daughters,’ I expected to be presented to an elderly spinster with a squint. You may imagine my relief when Miss Morland turned out to be rather a pretty girl, and I considered myself fortunate that no other gentleman had already claimed the honour of dancing with her.”

Catherine’s eyes were shining. “You thought me pretty?”

“Indeed.” Henry reached for her hand and kissed it.

Margaret C. Sullivan, the author of this charming tale, deftly combines old characters (General Tilney and Henry’s sister, Eleanor) with the new – an apothecary named Mr. Shaw, a pretty but calculating woman named Judith Beauclerk, her mother, Lady Beauclerk, and Sir Philip, to name a few. Ms. Sullivan takes us on a sweet journey over familiar territory, paying homage to Jane’s characters while staying true to her own writing style. The book is illustrated with pen and ink drawings by Casandra Chouinard, which certainly enhance one’s enjoyment of the novella.

Catherine, Mr. King, and Henry Tilney. Image @There Must Be Murder

Fans of Jane Austen will recognize Margaret as the editrix of Austenblog, the longest surviving Jane Austen blog on the blogosphere, and as one whose knowledge of Jane and the Regency period is that of an expert. And thus the details set down in this tale are accurate and true to the time, including the use of arsenic in beauty potions. Margaret’s humor also shines through, and I found myself turning page after page until I had finished the story in one sitting.

Here’s her bio, with an example of her humor: Margaret C. Sullivan is the author of numerous Jane Austen sequels and editrix of AustenBlog. Her first book, The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible yet Elegant Guide to Her World, will be in bookstores this spring. She likes to think that Henry Tilney would dance with her at the Lower Rooms, although she is an almost-middle-aged spinster with a squint.

If you are intrigued by my short review, you may purchase the book in several ways. Girlebooks, an excellent source of free Ebooks, now offers original eBooks that have never been published, such as There Must be Murder. You have a choice of several platforms in which to download the book or purchase a printed copy. It is available for $9.99 at Amazon paperback and for free at Smashwords at this link .

The novella was first commissioned by the Jane Austen Centre, and you may read the book chapter by chapter in this link.

Enjoy! I certainly did.

Book Giveaway (Closed – congratulations to winner, Cecilia): If you leave a comment, you have a chance to win my hard copy of the book with all its charming illustrations. The drawing (by random number) will be held on February 5th.

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Copyright (c) Jane Austen’s World. Inquiring Reader, When I visited Bath years ago, I kept a journal, which I completely forgot about until yesterday, when I found it among a pile of papers. It is the custom in my family to arrange for lodging on the day of our arrival and the night before our departure in any foreign land, and to trust in the suggestions from the people at the local visitor’s bureau for the rest of the vacation. We visit such establishments after 3 or 4 PM, when many hotels begin to deeply discount their rooms. This habit is a bit like gambling, but for us it has paid off spectacularly.

My budget-minded family has followed this practice successfully, sometimes even at the height of tourist season, in England, the Netherlands, France, New Zealand, and the great American west. The pay-off is in finding lodging in charming hotels or B&Bs at a fraction of their normal price. (Our best bargain ever was in the French Quarter in New Orleans at the Place d’Arms, where we spent 4 glorious days in a luxury suite for $78/night. It was April, perfect weather for N.O.)

Bath to London coach on the open road

Back to England. My ex and I traveled from London to Bath (yes, we rented a car, and yes, he successfully negotiated his way out of London with me reading the map and helping him to enter and exit the round-abouts. Talk about a hair raising journey, for he had never driven on the British side of the road before and I am at best a terrible map reader). We entered Bath along the London Road, looking for the distinctive blue and white V sign, and discussed the price we were willing to pay. Those good people steered us to the Dukes Hotel on Edward Street, just off Great Pulteney Street,  across the Pulteney Bridge in Bathwick and near Sydney Gardens.

The Dukes Hotel on the corner of Edward Street and Great Pulteney Street

As a Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen fan, I felt that I had simply died and gone to heaven.

Entrance to the Dukes Hotel

Compared to Bath’s ancient Roman buildings and medieval streets, Great Pulteney Street is rather modern.  In the 3rd quarter of the 18th century, the city council voted to expand Bath’s boundaries across the River Avon. This era marked an expansion and growth for the city that resulted in the addition of thousands of new houses inside Bath proper and outside of it. Sir William Pulteney, who resided on an estate called Bathwick and fortuitously located across the river, commissioned architect Thomas Baldwin to design and build Great Pulteney Street. The task was completed in 1789.

Location of the Dukes Hotel

Situated at one end of this long broad thoroughfare is Sydney Gardens, the pleasure gardens mentioned so often by Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and others who have journeyed to Bath.

Bath Hotel at the entrance of Sydney Gardens 1825

Seen prominently at the entrance of Sydney Gardens was the Bath Hotel (see a 360 panoramic view), now the Holburne Museum.

View from Laura Place towards Sydney Gardens with the Holburne Museum barely visible at the end of the street.

To return to our first evening in Bath, our room at the Dukes Hotel was charming but offered no view (which often happens when you wait for a bargain). We  immediately set off to explore Bath on foot, for it was mid-July when the days were long. Great Pulteney Street did not disappoint me with its wide sidewalks and row upon row of graceful houses made of Bath stone.  I would take this walk several times per day, and it is this street in particular that I still recall most vividly. I imagined myself wearing a Regency outfit and hearing the clopping of horses’ hooves and the rattling of carriages as I made my way towards Bath proper.

The wides expanse of Great Pulteney Street, walking from Edward St. towards Pulteney Bridge

At this point I must share with you why I am using Google earth images. My own photos are still missing. You can imagine how delighted I was to be able to reconstruct my journey from my newly found journal and the images I pulled from Google maps.

Laura Place. The fountain was built in the third quarter of the 19th century.

We walked past Laura Place, where Lady Dalrymple from Persuasion had taken a house for three months, until Great Pulteney Street ended at the fountain. It is then named Argyle Street.

Pulteney Bridge, 1779 by Thomas Malton Image @Victoria Gallery

We ambled along slowly, taking in all the sights and brazenly looking into windows when we could, and continued on to  Pulteney Bridge, a Palladian bridge designed by the Adam brothers and finished in 1773. The bridge has seen several renovations since, especially in the design of the shops that line it.

The Weir as seen below the bridge

We walked down the steps to the bank of the river and listened to the rush of water on the Weir  until the sun set. Click here for an arial view of the walk I have just described.

And so I conclude our first evening in Bath, which, due to the stress of driving in a foreign land from a major city along by-ways that eschewed busy thoroughfares, ended quite early for us. I did have time to write down my thoughts at a tiny desk in our third floor room.

This video brings back memories of driving around Bath’s environs. Driving up and down green hills near Bath, England

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These days, centering a plot around Jane Austen as a vampire is as common as pre-packed sliced cheese, and so I approached Jane and the Damned with a jaundiced point of view. I must make a confession, however. I have been addicted to vampire novels and films about these bloodsuckers since my early 20’s, starting with Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Ann Rice’s Vampire Lestat series; Gary Oldman as the ancient bloodsucker; the cheeky tv series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and more recently True Blood and to a lesser extent, Twilight.

If an author or film director asks me to enter their vampire world, all I want in return is a rollicking good ride. In Jane and the Damned, author Janet Mullany does just that. Jane Austen, budding young writer, is turned into a vampire on a whim by William, a mature vampire and her dance partner at a local assembly ball. She begins to feel strange immediately.

Jane shares her awful knowledge with her father, who, while horrified at the news of his daughter having been bitten by one of the Damned, keeps a calm head. He trundles his family (wife Cassandra and daughter Cassandra and Jane) off to Bath so that Jane can take “the cure.” This treatment of taking the Bath waters is not guaranteed, for it might well kill Jane (and has killed many human seeking to rid themselves of the Vampiric poison inside them), but it is the only solution. They must rush against time before Jane’s human side disappears forever, for the longer they wait, the less successful and more painful and deadly the cure.

Rev Austen and Jane decide to keep Jane’s “condition” a secret from her mother and sister, saying only that Jane’s uncertain health requires that the family must remove to Bath immediately. As bad luck would have it, just as they settle into that Georgian city, the French invade England, and their lives are turned topsy-turvy.

Jane’s new life is conflicted on two fronts. First, she does not want to turn into a vampire. Second, she longs to taste human blood. And so her vampire adventure begins.

Going against vampire etiquette, Jane’s maker, William, has abandoned her to her fate. In Ms. Mullany’s vampire empire, the bear leader (or Creator) must guide an initiate into the intrecacies of becoming a vampire. The first feeding is problematic, since a full-blooded human takes a while to turn into one of the walking dead. A new vampire has not enough knowledge to wade through the many intricacies of vampire life without making a number of blunders. Enter Luke, who decides to act as Jane’s bear leader.

Handsome, witty, and wise in the way of Henry Tilney, Luke oversees Jane’s transformation with a hands-off approach, for he is ever aware that William has first claim on Jane and could change his mind at any time.

I have described the plot in more detail than is usual for one of my reviews, for this book is so filled with plots, sub-plots, and details that the story never peters out. Jane and the Damned feels rich, not thin, and Janet Mullany skillfully keeps juggling all the story threads she has tossed into play for a lively read. While I’ve disliked previous Jane Austen monster books, this one kept my interest for the following reasons:

1.) A thoroughly plotted back story. Mullany’s vampire empire and its mythology are well thought out. In the world Janet Mullaney has constructed, the monsters’ presence in Regency England, their ethics and mores, and their desire to rid Britain of the French make perfect sense.
2.) Internal conflict. Throughout the plot our heroine constantly struggles between her human self and vampire self, and this internal war adds to the external tension of a plot that is filled with action, romance, and historical detail. Jane must make a gutwrenching decision: to embrace her vampire life and leave her earthly family or to reclaim her human soul at the risk of death (and the chance for eternal life and happiness with the man she loves.)
3.) Desire and sensuality. In her new life, Jane yearns to be human, yet her desire for human blood overpowers her common sense, and as the novel progresses, she can no longer resist the charms of her hero. Sensuality begins to invade Jane’s life, whose awakening from sheltered spinsterhood to mature woman kept sparking my interest. (BTW, Ms. Mullany does not confuse sensuality with x-rated descriptions of the sexual act, for which I am grateful.)
4.) Boredom and ennui. Eternal life is not all that it’s cracked up to be. After a few centuries as one of the undead, a vampire is hard pressed to find anything new to do or interesting to experience. Janet Mullany has not neglected this important aspect of vampiric existence.
5.) Epic battle. In this instance, the army of the Damned has decided to defeat the French, who have invaded England (a real threat in those days) and who are bivoacked in Bath. Historical details of life in a war zone in the late 18th century are spot on, and author Mullany does not flinch from showing the seedier side of war: death, starvation, and occupation.

In short, Janet Mullany (right) addresses almost every fault I have found with other recent vampire novels set in the Regency era. Her vampire empire is so well crafted that she did not need to ride Jane Austen’s magical publicity coattails to make the story more palatable or salable. And yet, the thought of Jane Austen as an action heroine who comes into her own as she fights the French and surrenders to her own sensual longings is irresistible.

Add to the mix Ms. Mullany’s extensive knowledge about the Regency era and Jane Austen’s life (I love her depiction of Mrs. Austen), and you have a thoroughly enjoyable read. Do I recommend Jane and the Damned to everyone? No. But if you are a vampire junkie like me, you will be quite happy with your purchase.

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Archway opposite Union Passage, Constance Hill

Half a minute conducted them through the pump-yard to the archway, opposite Union Passage; but here they were stopped. Everybody acquainted with Bath may remember the difficulties of crossing Cheap Street at this point; it is indeed a street of so impertinent a nature, so unfortunately connected with the great London and Oxford roads, and the principal inn of the city, that a day never passes in which parties of ladies, however important their business, whether in quest of pastry, millinery, or even (as in the present case) of young men, are not detained on one side or other by carriages, horsemen, or carts. This evil had been felt and lamented, at least three times a day, by Isabella since her residence in Bath; and she was now fated to feel and lament it once more, for at the very moment of coming opposite to Union Passage, and within view of the two gentlemen who were proceeding through the crowds, and threading the gutters of that interesting alley, they were prevented crossing by the approach of a gig, driven along on bad pavement by a most knowing-looking coachman with all the vehemence that could most fitly endanger the lives of himself, his companion, and his horse.- Northanger Abbey

Cheap Street in 2010, Image Tony Grant

“Oh, these odious gigs!” said Isabella, looking up. “How I detest them.” But this detestation, though so just, was of short duration, for she looked again and exclaimed, “Delightful! Mr. Morland and my brother!”

Another angle of the street

The Walking Tour of Bath provides a map that mentions many of the streets described by Jane Austen in the above passage, accompanied by images from medieval times to today.

Cheap Street runs just north and parallel to the Abbey. In this turn-of-the-century post card of Union Passage, which intersects Cheap Street, one can see how drastically different Bath looked back then – many of the Georgian features are hidden under shop signs.

Union Passage in the Early 19th Century, Bath Post Cards

The Walking Tour mentions how Bath’s 18th century forefathers were concerned about preserving the nature of Bath’s gentrified renovations.

Incidentally, a friend who used to live in an 18th c. flat just round the corner in North Parade Buildings had some amusing conditions attached to the terms of his lease. He was prohibited from hanging bedding out of the window, holding public auctions and keeping livestock. One can only presume that the Georgian city fathers, having gentrified Bath at great expense, were concerned to prevent the locals spoiling things by falling back into their old peasant ways.”

Coal soot blackened stone facades. Image Chuck and Claire Davis

The creamy colored limestone stone used in many of Bath’s architectural treasures have been used for building since the days of the Roman occupation.  The above image from European Adventure demonstrates how soot from coal fires blackened the buildings. Jane Austen was probably more familiar with these blackened facades than the creamy stones we are accustomed to viewing nowadays.

…in 1956 a clean air act was imposed. The townspeople were no longer allowed to burn coal and the buildings were painstakingly cleaned. He’s not sure why, but one building was left untouched, giving us the chance to see how they had looked.”

Today, the authentic nature of the buildings are still enforced legally. The Enforcement Policy in Bath Shopfronts Guide today requires:

Colour: No other single aspect of design has so much effect on the character of a shopfront than its colour. A good design can be completely spoilt by poor colour, or a nondescript design uplifted by the right choice of colour. Colour also has an effect on the Street Scene; out of key or aggressive colour will be damaging to everything within the field of vision.

Signs: The design and disposition of signs and the style of the lettering should always be historically credible and correct in design and detail for the design of the shopfront.

Illumination: The character of a shopfront and of the street will be altered by external illumination. This is often not acceptable, particularly where the shopfront is part of a listed building.

Appearance: Changes of a radical nature such as moving door positions are not normally acceptable. These may however be viewed more favourably if they can be shown to produce a permanent benefit such as the provision of a door to the upper floors.”

The cases described in The Bath Heritage Watchdog shows how vigilant the planning commission must be to preserve Bath’s unique heritage, and how historic preservation often clashes with business interests.

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Panorama of Bath from Beechen Cliff, 1824, Harvey Wood

Inquiring Readers, Tony Grant, who lives in London, teaches, and acts as occasional tour guide, has been contributing articles to Jane Austen Today for several months. Recently, Tony and his family traveled to Bath and the West Country. This is one of many posts he has written about his journey. Tony also has his own blog, London Calling.

The Paragon from Travelpod

On Wednesday 6th May 1801 Jane wrote to Cassandra, from a house positioned on a hill half way up a road called, The Paragon, in Bath. It was her uncle and aunt’s, the Leigh Perrots, home. Her aunt was her mother’s sister. Jane and her mother and father had just arrived, just moved in and were getting settled into their rooms.

“ My dear Cassandra,

I have the pleasure of writing from my own room up two pairs of stairs, with everything very comfortable about me. Our journey here was perfectly free from accident or Event; we changed horses at the end of every stage, & paid almost at every turnpike;- we had charming weather, hardly any dust,& were exceedingly agreeable, as we did not speak above once in every three miles.- between Luggershall & Everley we made our grand meal…….”

Jane had arrived in Bath after a journey of about 50 miles from Steventon, her home.

Wood engraving of Steventon Rectory

She sounds excited and thrilled by the new experience for instance she has ,” my own room.” But perhaps she was trying to put a brave face on it, be positive and put the negatives to the back of her mind.

Claire Tomlin reminds us,

“ The decision by Mr and Mrs Austen to leave their home of over thirty years, taking their children with them, came as a complete surprise to her; in effect, a twenty fifth birthday surprise, in December 1800. Not a word had been said to anyone in advance of the decision.”

Jane had spent all her life in Steventon a quiet country village near Basingstoke in Hampshire. She knew the families who lived in the great houses and many were her friends. She knew the villagers of Steventon very well. It was the source of her imagination and she had developed her own intimate writing habits there. Her world , in a sense was turned upside down and she was being wrenched from this intimate, close world that she was comfortable in, to that of a bustling town, but not just any town.

The Bath Medley, the Pump Room, detail on a fan, 1735

Bath was the centre of Georgian ,”FUN.” Here people came for the medicinal benefits of the waters, dancing, parading in the streets in their finest clothes, drinking tea, and taking rides and walks out into the nearby countryside. It was a place to rest, to be seen and to meet new people. Many families brought their unmarried daughters here to find eligible spouses.

Dancing, Rowlandson, The Comforts of Bath

Bath was a magnet for the wealthy and comfortable middle classes who came and went with the season. It was a fluctuating population. Friendships could be brief. It was a hot house for relationships. Whether The Reverend George Austen had it in mind to find suitors for his two unmarried daughters, as part of his plan, is not certain. Jane however was definitely out of her comfort zone. She was a very astute judge of characters and she would not like much of the ostentatious show of Bath. People who went to Bath for the season behaved differently. Strangers were thrown together in a mix of fun and gaiety. Moral codes were loosened. You get a very strong sense of this in the description of Catherine Morelands first experiences of Bath in Northanger Abbey.

Comforts of Bath, The Pump Room, Rowlandson

To get to Bath from Steventon over the fifty mile journey, Jane took, she passed through many picturesque and beautiful villages and towns. Those places are still there today.

Overton, Andover, Weyhill, Ludgershall, Eveleigh, where the Austens stopped to take tea and rest, Upavon, crossing the River Avon at this point, Conock and Devizes where they probably rested again before the final stretch to Bath. Devizes is a bustling town today, traffic and shoppers, many small businesses, churches and chapels and still many magnificent Georgian buildings. Take away the cars, and dress the people differently and Devizes would still be very familiar to Jane. It still has very much of its Georgian character but it is a modern 21st century town too.Like modern day England, Devizes is a layer cake of history. There are bits from every era and it has and does thrive in all of them.

Strolling through Sydney Gardens

When I went to Bath this time I came in from a slightly different direction to Janes journey there in 1801. I came the south east, travelling from Stonehenge in Wiltshire. This road comes from high up in the hills to the south of Bath and the first sight of the city is from a steep, tree lined, Beckford Road which reaches Bath stretching along next to Sydney Gardens. It was a great pleasure and very exciting to come across, almost immediately on reaching Bath, number 4 Sydney Place, which was one of the houses Jane and her family rented.

Georgian terraced houses along the London Road, Bath

Jane entered Bath by way of the London Road which sweeps in from the east and curves across the top of the bend in the River Avon which borders the southern part of the City of Bath.The London Road leads straight to The Paragon, the road in which her aunt and uncle, The Leigh Perrots, lived and where Jane and her mother and father were to live until they found their own residence. Bath has not expanded in modern times much south of the river partly because of the steep hills there.

Old - Lower - Assembly Rooms

So there is an excited tone in Janes first letter from The Paragon. The excitement doesn’t last. Her aunt and uncle being residents in Bath, they at least know people to introduce Jane to. Unlike Catherine Moreland who meets nobody and knows no one at first. But what terrible people? Or is Jane just having a bout of sour grapes? Within weeks Jane is writing to Cassandra her comments about Bath acquaintances.

Wednesday 13th may 1801 writing to Cassandra

“I cannot anyhow continue to find people agreeable; I respect Mrs Chamberlayne for doing her hair well, but cannot feel a more tender sentiment.”

Mrs Chamberlayne is picked out for more effort. Jane tries to find something in common, tries to see if a new friendship can blossom.

Friday 22nd May 1801

“The friendship between Mrs Chamberlayne & me which you predicted has already taken place, for we shake hands whenever we meet Our grand walk to Weston was again fixed for yesterday & was accomplished in a very striking manner; Everyone of the party declined it under some pretence or other except our two selves, & we therefore had a tete a tete, but that we should equally have had after the first two yards, had half the inhabitants of Bath set off with us.- It would have amused you to see our progress;-we went up by Sion Hill, and returned across the fields,- in climbing a hill Mrs Chamberlayne is very capital; I could with diffuculty keep pace with her- yet would not flinch for the world.- On plain ground I was quite her equal- and so we posted away under a fine hot sun, She without any parasol or any shade to her hat, stopping for nothing ,& crossing the churchyard at Weston with as much expedition as if we were afraid of being buried alive.-After seeing what she is equal to, I cannot help feeling a regard for her.-As to agreeableness, she is much like other people.”

There is something final about this relationship as though it’s not going far, in two phrases, “The friendship between Mrs Chamberlayne & me which you predicted has already taken place,…..” and , “As to agreeableness, she is much like other people.”

Regency Bath

Jane uses the past tense already about the relationship with Mrs Chamberlayne and she finally concludes that she is much like other people. Nothing is going to happen here. Jane was a very guarded person, certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly, gave people a chance and discarded them for their mediocrity. Jane obviously needed something else in a relationship. Already she wasn’t in the mood for Bath.

Candle Snuffer, image Tony Grant

In the same letter she mentions house hunting. They have been looking at houses amongst Green Park Buildings. Green Park Buildings are situated near the river at the bottom of the town. They were obviously prone to flooding.

“ our views on GP building seem all at an end; the observations of the damps still remaining the offices of an house which has only been vacated a week, with reports of discontented families& putrid fevers have given the coup de grace.”

Nowadays the river near Green Park Buildings has high banks to prevent flooding and has been canalised. One of the main car parks, where we actually parked is near there. Also Bath Railway Station and The University of Bath is situated nearby these days.

For all this dire and damning report the Austens did move into Green Park Buildings. It could not have been very pleasant. Perhaps they thought their stay in The Paragon was prolonged enough and anything had to be taken.

Much of Jane’s remaining letters from Bath have some discussion about finding accommodation. The contracts on these houses seem to have been short term. Maybe this was because Bath was a seasonal place. People generally came for short periods of time. If you really wanted to live there permanently you would have to buy. Perhaps the Austens could not afford to do that. It begs the question, did Mr and Mrs Austen really think through their move to Bath carefully enough?

25 Gay Street, image Tony Grant

After Green Park Buildings the next set of letters come from number 25 Gay Street, just a few houses up the hill from The Jane Austen Centre. It is a dental practioners office today. The letters from Gay Street are the last from an address in Bath. However we also know that Jane lived at number 4 Sydney Street, a new house at the time overlooking a grand house which is now the Holburn Museum and its grounds, Sydney Park. This is by far one of the more pleasant situations Jane lived in.

Jane’s father died in a house in Trim Street not far from Queen Square and Gay Street. So another move had had to take place. In five years Jane had lived in at least five different house all providing differing qualities of living.

Side Street, Bath, image by Tony Grant

You can find this reflected in the two novels that concern themselves most with Bath, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. In Persuasion Anne Elliot finds an old school friend, Mrs Smith, living in poor circumstances.

“Her accommodations were limited to a noisy parlour , and a dark bedroom behind, with no possibility of moving from one to the otherwithiout assistancewhich there was only one servant in the house to affordand she never quitted the house but to be conveyed into the warm bath.”

Mrs Smith’s accommodation was in Westgate Buildings not far from the Pump Room. Mrs Smith’s husband had died leaving her almost penniless but because of her health the warm bath treatment was seen as a cure. Her life was certainly not one of fun and frivolity. It seems, like in any city and town today, in the 18th century, the poor and destitute and the wealthy are not far from each other. Anne Elliot seems to prefer the company of Mrs Smith rather than the fripperies that Bath had to offer. She knows the right people and could have fun if she wanted to. Anne Elliot can see the two sides of Bath.

Side view of Bath Abbey, image Tony Grant

Jane Austen knew Bath extremely well. Throughout Persuasion and Northanger Abbey she houses her characters in real streets and in real buildings, although she does avoid giving us the number of the house in such and such a street. The real owners and occupants might not have liked the notoriety. And today they might not like the notoriety as well. Was there such a thing as litigation in the 18th century? I’m sure there was.

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Cheap Street with hills in the distance, image from Tony Grant

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