Even though the main purpose of our trip to the UK and Ireland has been to escort my mom to the street where her dad was born (now accomplished!), Marcie and I had a secondary motive, and that was to explore sites related to literature and theatre, so as to feed our inner geeks.
We were really excited to explore Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and, now, Bath has been mostly about Jane Austen.
In actuality, there seems to be a bit of controversy about Austen’s connection to Bath. As soon as we arrived here, we asked our B&B host about the Jane Austen Centre and his comment was that she only really lived in Bath for “three weeks” and that she hated it.
Undeterred, we decided to spend our last day here to explore the city through an “Austen” lens. After all, two of Austen’s books (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion) are set here.
On our first day, we found the home where Austen lived with her father, mother, and sister on Sydney Place. I showed this photo in an earlier post, but here it is again:
Today, we went to the nearby Victoria Art Museum, where they currently have an excellent exhibit on called “Jane Austen’s Bath.” The exhibit features some of the actual letters between Austen and her sister Cassandra:
Also on display was the marriage certificate of Jane Austin’s parents.
In my opinion, however, the best part of the exhibit is that it allows the visitor to explore Bath in the Regency period (Austen’s time in the city) and put everything into context by matching quotes from her books with contemporary paintings of the city. All three of us—Marcie, my mom, and I—really enjoyed this exhibit.
Afterwards, we went up the hill to the Jane Austen Centre. You can’t miss this due to the fellow in the top hat standing at the entrance. In fact, we seem to pass by this centre every time we go out. Finally, today, we went inside the centre itself. We found a lot of the exhibit to be a reinforcement of what we had already seen at the Victoria Art Museum, though we did learn a lot more about Austen’s family.
There are a few portraits here of Austen, though it seems likes no one is really sure what she looked like, since she was quite an introvert (my words, not the guide’s). The centre does feature a wax statue of Austen, but it’s just a best guess as to what she looked like.
After our tour, we headed up to the second floor of the centre and enjoyed afternoon tea. Or, more aptly said, Marcie and my mom enjoyed afternoon tea. I enjoyed soup.
Afterwards, we walked down Milsom Road (another street that Austen lived on for a time) and went past The Pump Room one more time. The Pump Room, part of the Roman bath house, is a restaurant that seems to have been a center of Bath cultural life even in Austen’s time.
After a few days here, what I’m left with is that Bath and Austen are certainly bound, each leaving a lasting impact on the other.
Of course, it’s hard to explore any city in England and not discover interesting doors. Even though I’ve already walked the length and width of Bath for the past two days, I still found some new gems . . .
Tomorrow is a travel day (read: getting lost day). We’re off to Ireland!