Monday, April 6, 2009

Bath Elegance and Chandeliers!

I do love a chandelier, and in Bath they can be seen in all the places that Jane Austen wrote about. This first photo shows a chandelier from a small room off the main one in the Pump Rooms. The room looks down onto the Roman Baths below where it's easy to imagine bathers through the centuries socialising in the warm waters. In Jane Austen's day not everyone frequented the baths. Those who did were taken by sedan chair to the King's, Queen's or Cross Bath. The Queen's bath was for ladies only and an attendant helped bathers into gowns specially for the purpose. They were guided into the waters and given 'a little floating dish like a bason, into which the lady puts an handkerchief, a snuff box and a nosegay' before being left to amuse themselves with the gossip of the day.

The next photo shows the splendid chandeliers in the tea room at the Assembly Rooms.
Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey visits the tea room with Mrs Allen, but this first visit is something of a disappointment.

Everybody was shortly in motion for tea, and they must squeeze out like the rest. Catherine began to feel something of disappointment — she was tired of being continually pressed against by people, the generality of whose faces possessed nothing to interest, and with all of whom she was so wholly unacquainted that she could not relieve the irksomeness of imprisonment by the exchange of a syllable with any of her fellow captives; and when at last arrived in the tea–room, she felt yet more the awkwardness of having no party to join, no acquaintance to claim, no gentleman to assist them. They saw nothing of Mr. Allen; and after looking about them in vain for a more eligible situation, were obliged to sit down at the end of a table, at which a large party were already placed, without having anything to do there, or anybody to speak to, except each other.

Mrs. Allen congratulated herself, as soon as they were seated, on having preserved her gown from injury. “It would have been very shocking to have it torn,” said she, “would not it? It is such a delicate muslin. For my part I have not seen anything I like so well in the whole room, I assure you.”

“How uncomfortable it is,” whispered Catherine, “not to have a single acquaintance here!”

“Yes, my dear,” replied Mrs. Allen, with perfect serenity, “it is very uncomfortable indeed.”

“What shall we do? The gentlemen and ladies at this table look as if they wondered why we came here — we seem forcing ourselves into their party.”

“Aye, so we do. That is very disagreeable. I wish we had a large acquaintance here.”

“I wish we had any — it would be somebody to go to.”

“Very true, my dear; and if we knew anybody we would join them directly. The Skinners were here last year — I wish they were here now.”

“Had not we better go away as it is? Here are no tea–things for us, you see.”

“No more there are, indeed. How very provoking! But I think we had better sit still, for one gets so tumbled in such a crowd! How is my head, my dear? Somebody gave me a push that has hurt it, I am afraid.”

“No, indeed, it looks very nice. But, dear Mrs. Allen, are you sure there is nobody you know in all this multitude of people? I think you must know somebody.”

“I don’t, upon my word — I wish I did. I wish I had a large acquaintance here with all my heart, and then I should get you a partner. I should be so glad to have you dance. There goes a strange–looking woman! What an odd gown she has got on! How old–fashioned it is! Look at the back.”

After some time they received an offer of tea from one of their neighbours; it was thankfully accepted, and this introduced a light conversation with the gentleman who offered it, which was the only time that anybody spoke to them during the evening, till they were discovered and joined by Mr. Allen when the dance was over.
The last photo shows the reflection of a chandelier through one of the beautiful mirrors in the octagon room, which was a space generally used for card playing. One of the times that I visited the Assembly Rooms I got into conversation with one of the attendants who look after the chandeliers. He very kindly showed me the ball room as it would have looked on ball nights. With the flick of an electric switch the shutters came down and the chandeliers glowed on a candlelight setting. It was pure magic and I shall never forget it!

No comments: