Saturday, March 29, 2008

Jane Austen in Bath

In 1799 Jane Austen travelled to Bath with her mother, brother Edward and his wife, Elizabeth. The following is an extract from a letter she wrote to her sister.

I saw some gauzes in a shop in Bath Street yesterday at only 4d. a yard, but they were not so good or so pretty as mine. Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers', but I have never seen any of them in hats. A plum or greengage would cost three shillings; cherries and grapes about five, I believe, but this is at some of the dearest shops. My aunt has told me of a very cheap one, near Walcot Church, to which I shall go in quest of something for you. I have never seen an old woman at the pump-room.

Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza's, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon. I flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from this description. Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion myself! But I must write no more of this. . .


I imagined Jane rushing around the shops looking for adornments for her bonnet and painted her striding along Bath Street, against a backdrop of gossips catching up with the latest news.

Here is another photo of yours truly standing in front of the Pump Rooms. You can just glimpse a magnificent chandelier through the window.

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