Jane Austen sadly died on this day 200 years ago–leaving behind a legacy of six game-changing novels. Although Pride and Prejudice, which takes place in the countryside, might be her most well-known novel today, her two books set in the historic city of Bath capture a unique Georgian metropolis. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion both have the spa town as a primary location.
“Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?” asks the protagonist of the former novel, which was written in 1803 but first published years later. The town in which Austen’s characters tryst, shop and party is a bustling place full of aristocrats who come there to see and be seen, to exhibit fashions and socialize and to enjoy the health benefits, both real and putative, of the sulfur baths.
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“Although Austen enjoyed her early visits to Bath she was not at all happy when her father moved the family there, and she often satirised its social scene of balls, promenades and assemblies,” writes Margaret Ward for the Irish Times.
She lived for a time on Gay Street, right near the city center, Ward writes, “but had to move to less elegant lodgings as her family’s financial circumstances declined, a theme that found its way into her second Bath novel, Persuasion.” Austen’s own fabled love affair may well have taken place in Bath.
In a way, even if she did not always appreciate it, Bath offered her a perfect setting: It was an entire town devoted to forwarding the pursuits about which she wrote best–socializing and contracting arrangements like marriages.
Link to the rest at Smithsonian.com