Bath Literature Festival: Part 2 – Jane Austen

Jane Austen CentreAfter hearing Sebastian Faulks being interviewed about his work, I headed out into Bath to explore, excited to discover the famous sites as mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels. I headed North, up Milsom Street, where the Tilney family had lodgings in Northanger Abbey, and was pleased to discover that there is now a Waterstones there. I think Jane would have been pleased.   

Milsom Street - Jane Austen mentions in Northanger Abbey

Milsom Street – featured in Northanger Abbey

I joined the other tourists in photographing The Royal Crescent and The Circus, and imagined Catherine (from Northanger Abbey) promenading along these fine streets, with her friend Isabella Thorpe, and Anne (from Persuasion) running to catch up with Captain Wentworth.

The Circus - Bath

The Circus – In Northanger Abbey Austen describes Bath’s “fine and striking environs”

The Royal Crescent - Bath

Jane Austen’s Aunt and Uncle lived at No. 12 The Royal Crescent during 1771

The Pump Room - Bath

The Pump Room – This location features in Austen’s novels

At this point I was hungry, but made the mistake of ‘just having a look’ at the Jane Austen Centre, and ended up paying to go in, instead. The admission price (£11 for an adult ticket) includes an introduction by a costumed guide, who then accompanies the group through a small exhibition. Our guide introduced himself as Edward Ferrars. He was enthusiastic and engaging, explaining the detailed connections between Jane Austen and Bath.

Jane Austen Centre - Bath

Our guide at the Jane Austen Centre

The exhibition itself was not that exceptional. Perhaps if I’d been visiting with friends, I would have found more enjoyment in the parts where you can dress up in Georgian costume, and have a go at writing with quill and ink. It was interesting to read quotes from some of Austen’s letters. She seems to have written in the same wry manner as in her novels, which makes it all the more irritating that most of them were destroyed after her death.

Cafe - La Croissanterie

La Croissanterie

Unfortunately, by this point I was desperately hungry and, so it seemed, was everyone else in Bath. I did consider the Jane Austen Centre tea room, but thought it looked expensive, so attempted to find somewhere more suited to my budget. I tried a few places but everywhere seemed full, until at last I ended up in a small café called La Croissanterie. I had a cheap but filling jacket potato (£5 for the whole meal), and then moved on, as the chair wasn’t very comfortable and the sash windows let in a draught from outside.

I explored further, and discovered Pulteney Bridge, a quaint little street with a number of intriguing cafés and shops. This opened up into Pulteney Street, the location for a crucial scene in Northanger Abbey, where Catherine is being driven along by Mr Thorpe in a gig, and spies Mr and Miss Tilney walking along the pavement. She immediately asks Mr Thorpe to stop, and let her out, so that she can explain the misunderstanding, but he refuses, and there is nothing she can do:

“How could you deceive me so, Mr Thorpe? – How could you say that you saw them driving up the Lansdowne Road? – I would not have had it happen so for the world. – They must think it so strange; so rude of me! to go by them, too, without saying a word!”

Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Street leads to the Holbourne Museum, and to Sydney Place, where Jane and her family lived for their first three years in Bath. Jane apparently loved walking in Sydney Gardens and, if it had been a little warmer, I would have done the same, but as it was bitterly cold, and the sun was making only short appearances, I decided to have a quick look at the Holbourne, and then find a warm café.

The Bath Coffee House on Pulteney Bridge

The Bath Coffee House on Pulteney Bridge

I ended up in The Bath Coffee House on Pulteney Bridge, where I sat at a small table upstairs, by the window, with a delicious, gargantuan slice of carrot cake. They very kindly topped up my tea pot for free, and I sat and read, occasionally people watching, for a couple of hours.

By this point I was tired and ready to go home, but my day had not quite come to an end – the final event I attended was a ‘Poetry Salon’ with Tim Liardet and Rebecca Perry, which you can read about in my next post…