We visited the Jane Austen House in Bath. I figured, since we were there it would the sensible thing to do to visit her “house”. She was after all, Bath’s most famous resident.
Before I get asked, yes. I have read most of Jane’s novels and I am not a fan. (Sorry) I understand she is poking fun at the serious writers of the time. I understand her wit and admittedly the stories are charming, but her characters lack substance to me. It’s rather repetitive to my liking. But I can understand how she is so loved by the Brits (and worldwide).
I dragged Oscar to the Jane Austen centre on a cold rainy Bath morning with an open mind. I had this lets-give-her-a-shot attitude. Alas I left not thinking much different of her. I did however learn a few things about her and her writing I never knew.
For one I never knew she never wed. She died young and as an old maid. (41) Her books didn’t make her much money while she was alive but got her some attention. Austen dedicated Emma to The Prince Regent (who later become King George IV). Below is a photograph of the dedication in a First Print, behind glass in the Austen Centre. Admittedly here I like the old bird a bit. That pompous wording in the dedication is very unlike Austen’s usually light-styled writing. I like to think she took a stab at the Royals here as she wasn’t doing all that great herself.
Jane often travelled to bath in her 20’s and was quite fond of the posh lifestyle. It was said this reflected in her earlier work, when she had a high opinion of Bath and its socialites. But this all changed when her father suddenly passed away and so did her good supply of middle-class cash. In the later years she was bitter towards the city and called it fake and empty. Your opinions tend to change when you can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses.
We had the most adorable Northern Irish tour guide. She was very knowledgeable and entertaining. The house itself is very quaint. The house, nr 40 Gay Street, was in fact not her actual house, but n replica and they have done and excellent job in recreating it. Jane lived in 25 Gay Street. It has a short video clips from room to room and the period furnishings is charming. I must admit it was rather cool to walk the same streets she did.
Fun fact – The older streets in Bath (in Town and the Circus) have broader sidewalks to accommodate the giant hoop dresses the ladies were sporting in the 1800’s.
There is only one actual image (drawing) of Jane and all other images of her has been modeled and after this one.
Her sister Cassandra drew it and it was said by her family that it is the worst drawing of her ever. Hence why Cassandra never bothered to finish it. It was also rumoured that Cassandra did it on purpose to make Jane uglier. (She was said to be a looker) Today’s equivalent would be to use a bad lighting filter on your sister’s selfie. I had a good chuckle at this. Sister rivalry, some things never change. I like to think Cassandra had a sense of humour.
If ever you find yourself in Bath with an hour or so to spare, go pop in. It’s fun and educating and who doesn’t like dressing up for photos.