The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

A few weeks ago I took a visit to Bath. My main purpose in going was to see the Here Be Dragons exhibition, which I definitely recommend, but while I was there on my own, I decided to pay a visit to the Jane Austen museum. Now, I do normally stick to fantasy books on this blog … but today you will have to indulge me as I visit another kind of fantasy world! I’ve read all Jane Austen’s books, and I’m a huge fan of Pride & Prejudice. In particular, I love the 1995 mini series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

Bath is very picturesque. Here’s a couple of shots of the city:

I took a walk over to Bath Abbey, which is next door to the Pump Rooms. You may recall these from novels like Northanger Abbey as popular meeting points for people to mingle in. These first two are the abbey:


And this is the Pump Rooms:

After this I wandered up to the visitor centre:

The first part of the centre is a presentation on Jane’s family situation. It was really interesting to hear about her family members. You can see where some of her ideas come from in the professions of her relations. Her publishing journey was fascinating. Did you know that her name never appeared on her books until after her death? Early works were attributed to “A Lady”. And did you know that the draft title of Pride & Prejudice was First Impressions? It’s nice to know famous authors struggled with titles! Jane died of an unknown cause in her early 40s.

The main part of the exhibition talked about the part of Jane’s life when she lived in Bath. It didn’t sound like a very productive period for her, but there is no doubt the atmosphere and setting of Bath made it into her novels in due course:

I loved this crafted picture of Pride & Prejudice:

And it was fascinating to find out what the various incomes would get you back in Jane’s time. If you remember, a woman would often have a lump sum on marriage, whereas a gentleman had an annual income from his estates and businesses. For comparison, Mr Darcy had £10,000 a year…

They had some clothing displays from the period. It struck me immediately how tiny they must all have been. Not necessarily slim, but short and petite. These days, you’d struggle to get an adult in these dresses:

And they had some accessories too:


Finally, they had some writing implements which we could have a go with. I failed abysmally to write anything with the quill – probably because I’m left handed:

They had an actual copy of a letter written by Jane to her sister, Cassandra:

And of course no visit would be complete without a souvenir. I am now the proud owner of a Mr Darcy fridge magnet!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my little digression from fantasy into a completely different world. If you are ever in this neck of the woods, then I’d definitely recommend a trip to Bath.


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