The second part of my mini-England trip was one I’ve been thinking about for a long time—to Bath. The summer of 2007, I was meant to spend a day in Bath while I was doing a summer study at Oxford, but it rained so much that summer that the train tracks were flooded the morning we intended to go. I hadn’t initially planned on making it a part of my trip this time, but one really important event happened that changed that completely. I read Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
Now, I will be the first to admit that as much as enjoy Jane Austen’s novels and the movies based on them, I never really quite got what all the hype was about—what really gave her such a place in the literary canon and people’s hearts.
Persuasion made me get it. That book is heart-wrenching, Anne Elliot is a truly admirable heroine, both of and ahead of her time, and the book just made me ache the way books by George Eliot and Edith Wharton do, every time, without fail.
If you haven’t read it, Persuasion is mostly set in Bath, a place where Austen herself lived for five fairly unhappy years. I didn’t have very much time in the city, but it hasn’t changed overly in the past two hundred years—you can still follow the novel’s locations throughout the city’s streets.
The Pump Room, where socialites walked then and now.
The gravel walk, where the big romantic scene of Persuasion takes place.
25 Gay Street, where Austen lived for five years.
Gay Street—and yes, all the buildings in Bath are this same color. It matches, and I’ve never been in a more pedestrian friendly city. I was really taken with it, to be honest, just walking around, it seemed like a city at its leisure. Which, actually, was what Jane Austen hated about it, but that’s a story for another day.
Of course I visited the Jane Austen Centre, which was worth it for this guy alone.
And also for the lecture which is delivered by one of the curators to each group coming through.
While in Bath, on a non-Austen note, I ate at the best themed restaurant I’ve ever seen outside of, say, a theme park. I give you, the Walrus and the Carpenter:
“The Walrus and the Carpenter” is really special to me because ever since we were little my best friend Hannah and I have quoted lines of it back and forth to each other at random times. Yes, they also do that in Harriet the Spy, although I’m pretty sure that’s not why we do it…not that I could tell you why we do.
But yes, it was such a happy little cafe.
So, next post, lest you think I forgot, I will tell you about the Roman Baths of Bath in all their glory. There may even be a video of my new best friend, Pontifex Maximus, delivering a benediction for Aquae Sulis…if we’re really lucky.