During high school, Pilbeam introduced me to the world of Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen. If you listened to episode 8 of the podcast, you’ll know about how we did a marathon viewing of the BBC Pride and Prejudice series with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy… then we went to see What A Girl Wants in theaters just to see Firth dancing in leather pants. Naturally, we made it a goal to visit the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England!
It was the first tourist attraction we went to the minute we were settled into our Travelodge hotel in Bath. By the way, I do not recommend this Travelodge to people. Although the location was fairly good and the price was super cheap, the hotel is right above a club. I lost a night of sleep due to obnoxious, loud young people that were leaving the club drunk. It was super annoying and the walls of English buildings tend to be a little thin.
Despite that unfortunate aspect of the trip, Bath was wonderful!
Most days, you will be greeted by this dapper gentlemen in front of the Centre. Jane Austen lived in Bath for a few years after her father passed away. She disliked having to move from the peaceful country to the more cramped lifestyle of the city. The centre is located on the same street where she used to lived in a house that was similar to her family’s. Her original house on 25 Gay Street is now a dental office, unfortunately. I wished the city would mandate her house to be a historical site and make those dentists leave…!
The centre was very interesting though and had original costumes from some of the movies. They didn’t have anything that was owned by Jane originally (which I am guessing are in display at her home in Chawton). The Centre mostly focuses on how living in the city influenced Jane’s writing and themes. They explained how her dislike of the city and the high society inspired how she portrayed characters such as Caroline Bingley (snobby, rich women, in other words) in her novels.
Admittedly, the best part was their gift shop where Mr. Darcy fangirls can run in circles trying to decide which Mr. Darcy merchandise they would want to purchase. Yes, I did end up running around in circles while looking wide-eyed at the ‘I Heart Mr. Darcy’ items!
We didn’t visit the Regency Tea Room inside the Centre, but apparently, it is one of the best.
This Centre is a must for Jane Austen fans. It is a great way to learn about her ‘worst’ years living in a bustling city where her world was rounded out by her experience with the social politics of high society. It made a lot of sense if you are familiar with her work.