Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bath and Austen

As an English major it is often hard for me to admit that I have not read many of the classics on the "must read" list that all people seem to have learned at birth . . . except for me, somehow I missed that one. Of course I have read some of them, but it has been a great experience to be with so many girls who know so much about the classics. Yesterday we had the opportunity to travel to Bath, the Land of Jane Austin. Unfortunately, the two major Austin books which feature Bath (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion) are ones I am less familiar with. I read Persuasion for the first time this summer before coming to London and loved it, but I have never read Northanger Abbey. So I got to soak in all the information that these girls seemed to be spouting about everything.

The picture above is of one of my roommates, Laura, at Laura Place in Bath where, I was told, a number of scenes take place in each novel.

We were then able to go to visit a house on the Royal Crescent which has been restored to match the true Georgian style. The picture above shows the Circus as well as the Crescent (the full circle is the Circus and the half-crescent is ta-da! the Royal Crescent). I learned a lot about Austin in going to #1 Royal Crescent. It was so interesting to discover that Bath was more of a resort town, a place where people would come for the winter or from an extended break from life. The dining room was set up as it would have been for dessert and the rooms were each decorated immaculately. It is interesting to see how life was at different periods of time. One thing that I noticed just walking through the house was that the people of Austin's day had a different sense of beauty. The rooms were covered in expensive fabrics, the women's dressing table held all the essentials to powder their wigs and pretty much cake their faces in makeup, but it was fashionable for the day.

Something I better understood about Austin after visiting Bath was that her books were not just stories from her imagination. Of course, I realized that there was some truth or reality found in her work but I didn't realize how much of it was directly from her life. Not only do her books reflect the ideals of her day, they also feature real places, such as Laura's Place and the Royal Crescent, tangible parts of the author's life.
After visiting the Royal Crescent we were able to visit the assembly rooms that are also found throughout Austin's work.

This is a picture of Kaitlyn and Emilee dancing in one of the assembly rooms. Again, it seemed surreal that these were actual elements within Austin's work and yet it was just a part of life in England as Austin knew it. These were places where society interacted, where friendships and relationships were formed. After seeing the assembly rooms, reading about them in Austin's work, and imagining them countless times it is easy to realize why Austin became frustrated with how parts of society and relationships worked.

After a full day we decided to take a little break for the traditional tea time at the Pump Room. What I thought was great was that although Austin lived so long ago the traditions (and places) still remain today. These areas of social interaction are still used and experienced today.

As Americans (and especially LDS girls) we had a little confusion on how to properly go about all the different tea pots (maybe it is important to note that we drank herbal tea at our traditional tea time party), but in the end we enjoyed ourselves in the world of Austin.

Jane and I hangin' out in Bath . . .


Shallee said...

Ahhh, I'm so jealous! It looks like you're having a great time!

Anonymous said...

What fun!! I forgot how beautiful Bath was and did not know it was "Austen" country!! Shame on your mom for not introducing you to the classics early in life.