The City of Bath in Jane Austen’s Work
If you like and still read Mark Twain’s books, I am sure you’ll be curious and tempted to pay a visit to Hannibal, Missouri—the town where he was born and where one can imagine Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn romping around.
Likewise, is you are a Jane Austen fan, and then if in England you’ll be tempted to pay a visit to Bath, where you can picture Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, as well as Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth—main characters in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion respectively—in their cotillion balls, the Pump Room, and the Lower Rooms.
Through the protagonists’ eyes one can feel and experience vicariously the City of Bath and its public places as they existed in the 18th and 19th centuries. The narrators of both novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion) tell in vivid detail Bath’s attractions, and all this because the author —Jane Austen— spent some time in that city, in fact she lived there for about five years (1801-1806) after her father’s death. Here’s a passage that captures Catherine Morland’s mood in Bath:
She hoped to be more fortunate the next day; and when her wishes for fine weather were answered by seeing a beautiful morning, she hardly felt a doubt of it; for a fine Sunday in Bath empties, on such occasion, to walk about and tell their acquaintance what a charming day it is.
If you visit Bath you’ll feel the palpable atmosphere that Jane Austen described.
While Gabriel Garcia Marquez invented the fabulous city of Macondo to set his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, Jane Austen used a real city to set the two novels mentioned above. And in this respect she also bestowed a lasting enchantment and immortality to the City of Bath.