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Archive for the ‘Bath’ Category

Summer has arrived in England – I’ve been to Bath a the weekend and couldn’t resist taking some photos for my Bath album. The ones here show Henrietta Park and a walk I took up to Beechen Cliff. I hope you enjoy them!
Cherry tree in flower in Henrietta Park
A pigeon enjoys the sun
The magnolias are out!
Henrietta Park
House at the foot of Lyncombe Hill
View looking back to Bath from Jacob’s Ladder
Looking through trees on Beechen Cliff
Dappled light through the trees
Wild garlic on the slopes of Beechen Cliff
Views from the top
Looking towards the Royal Crescent
Bath Abbey from Beechen Cliff
Bath from Beechen Cliff
Northanger Abbey – My illustration showing the Abbey from Beechen Cliff. Catherine Morland is taking a walk with Isabella and Henry Tilney.

 

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The White Gate – Sydney Gardens
If you’ve read my latest novel, Searching for Captain Wentworth, you will know that the white gate in Sydney Gardens plays a very important part. At the start of the book, my heroine Sophia is invited to Bath by her aunt who understands that she is in need of mending a broken heart and also has a dream of becoming a writer. Sophia sees her neighbour, the mysterious Josh Strafford, drop a glove outside the house where she is staying (which just happens to be next door to Jane Austen’s Sydney Place address) and when she follows him in an attempt to return it, she finds herself at this gate and with no sight of Josh who seems to have disappeared.

Here’s a little from the book: 

The only way he could possibly have gone seemed to be screened by hedges but, as I approached, I saw a white cast-iron gate hidden in the greenery. I must admit to feeling a little uneasy at this point. The gardens were deathly quiet and felt more than a little eerie. I was totally and utterly alone. All my Mum’s advice about never going into parks by myself came back with a flash. I could easily be murdered and no one would know anything about it. I looked behind me, but there was not a soul around so I pushed the gate open and stepped down onto to the canal path. I didn’t want to go any further, I couldn’t see my neighbour anywhere and there was something very melancholy about the place. Under a beautiful cast-iron bridge, studded with moss jewels upon its stone façade, a ribbon of jade water snaked slowly along to the echoes of dripping water as two seagulls swooped in a race to the end of a long, dark tunnel.
I was getting soaked through; it was time to go home. I turned, walked up the steps and put my hand on the gate. It opened with a rasping scrape and as I placed my foot to step through the entrance back into the gardens, I thought at first I’d been hit so hard that I reeled and clutched at the gate to steady myself. The world went black and then so dazzlingly bright that I was blinded. I instinctively closed my eyes and how I managed to stay upright I couldn’t later figure out, but the greatest shock came when I opened my eyes again. From my place, half hidden behind green bushes, I saw a scene that made no sense.

An original bridge in Sydney Gardens
Whilst I leave what happens next to your imaginations, I will tell you a little about the gate in the gardens. It does indeed lead onto the canal path of the Kennet and Avon canal and it’s possible to take a walk in either direction. Last week, I turned right as I stepped down onto the canal path and you can follow the path along as far as Widcombe and beyond. Here are some photos I took – it was a very chilly day but there are still some lovely views. I hope you like them!
Narrowboats seen from a bridge
Gardens extend down to the water
Georgian architecture sits beautifully in the Bath landscape
A heron takes a dip in the water
Views of Widcombe in the distance
Widcombe – it is here in my novel that Sophia walks with Jane Austen

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The Jane Austen Centre in Bath celebrated the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s wonderful novel, Pride and Prejudice, with a reading of the whole book performed during a whole day. I was invited to join in and enjoyed it enormously. I think I read four chapters in the end – below are links to my readings and the day itself. I hope you enjoy it! Part One Part Two Part Three

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Here are some photos of Bath – I’ve added a few snippets from Jane Austen’s books and letters!

Pump Room, Bath

She was intreated to give them as much of her time as possible, invited for every day and all day long, or rather claimed as a part of the family; and, in return, she naturally fell into all her wonted ways of attention and assistance, and on Charles’s leaving them together, was listening to Mrs. Musgrove’s history of Louisa, and to Henrietta’s of herself, giving opinions on business, and recommendations to shops; with intervals of every help which Mary required, from altering her ribbon to settling her accounts, from finding her keys, and assorting her trinkets, to trying to convince her that she was not ill-used by anybody; which Mary, well amused as she generally was, in her station at a window overlooking the entrance to the Pump Room, could not but have her moments of imagining.
Jane Austen, Persuasion

Upstairs at the Roman Baths Kitchen
We have not been to any public place lately, nor performed anything out of the common daily routine of No. 13, Queen Square, Bath. But to-day we were to have dashed away at a very extraordinary rate, by dining out, had it not so happened that we did not go.
Jane Austen, Bath, 1799
Minerva Art Supplies in Bath – Trim Street

Her taste for drawing was not superior; though whenever she could obtain the outside of a letter from her mother or seize upon any other odd piece of paper, she did what she could in that way, by drawing houses and trees, hens and chickens, all very much like one another.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey.
Paxton and Whitfield – lovely Cheese shop in Bath
My mother does not seem at all the worse for her journey, nor are any of us, I hope, though Edward seemed rather fagged last night, and not very brisk this morning; but I trust the bustle of sending for tea, coffee, and sugar, &c., and going out to taste a cheese himself, will do him good.
Jane Austen, writing from Bath, 1799
Hanging Basket with a view towards the Pump Rooms, Bath

Such was the information of the first five minutes; the second unfolded thus much in detail — that they had driven directly to the York Hotel, ate some soup, and bespoke an early dinner, walked down to the pump–room, tasted the water, and laid out some shillings in purses and spars; thence adjoined to eat ice at a pastry–cook’s, and hurrying back to the hotel, swallowed their dinner in haste, to prevent being in the dark; and then had a delightful drive back, only the moon was not up, and it rained a little, and Mr. Morland’s horse was so tired he could hardly get it along.

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey


I’ve had a wonderful review for Searching for Captain Wentworth from Meredith Esparza at Austenesque Reviews 

Was Jane Austen’s Persuasion Inspired by Real-Life Events?

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
What if Jane Austen’s Persuasion was more autobiographical than fiction? What if Miss Austen’s poignant and powerful novel of lost love and second chances was in some part taken from her own life’s experience? Except that in her novel…she wrote the happy ending she knew she would never have…
Finding magical white gloves that transports her to Regency Bath in the year 1802, discovering her ancestors used to live next door to the Austen family in Sydney Place, meeting Jane Austen in the flesh, falling in love with one of her brothers – it seems like modern-day heroine, Sophie Elliot, has just hit the Janeite Jackpot! And after recently discovering that her boyfriend is cheating on her with her friend and finding no success in securing a job for herself, poor Sophie deserves such good fortune! Although she travels to Bath for inspiration and consolation, what Sophie finds is adventure, romance, and some strange time travel phenomenon!
Emotional, expressive, and enthralling – Searching for Captain Wentworth is quite unlike anything I’ve read before! With multiple romances, dual realities, and many hidden parallels and nods to Jane Austen’s Persuasion, this novel had me entranced. It was unpredictable; I found myself torn and undecided about the two men in Sophie’s life. In addition, like Sophie, I became embroiled in the past and the mysteries uncovered there; feeling all her eagerness and excitement at discovering what Jane Austen was doing and experiencing during those “silent Bath years.” Not wanting to give away all the delicious surprises and revelations to be divulged in this novel, I’ll just make a quick mention that I found the resolution to be profoundly satisfying, inspiring me to feel something akin to what Meg Ryan felt at the end of You’ve Got Mail – “I wanted it to be you, I wanted it to be you so badly…”
Ending scene of You’ve Got Mail.  One of my favorites!
One aspect of Jane Odiwe’s writing that brilliantly shines through in this novel is her keen artistic eye. As some as you may know, Ms. Odiwe is not just a talented author, but a gifted artist as well!* In Searching for Captain Wentworth, Ms. Odiwe’s descriptive and vivid narrative filled my head with distinct and tangible sights, sounds, and scenes. Whether she is writing about rain in modern-day Bath, illustrating the blossoming verdure of Sydney Gardens, or describing the physical attributes of the handsome Charles Austen, Ms. Odiwe utilizes such eloquent and sensatory language that readers will feel they are inside the story, experiencing and observing it all firsthand.

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When I’m in Bath I love spotting the locations of my favourite scenes in adaptations like Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Here is a photo of Abbey Green which, as you might expect, is close to Bath Abbey. It’s a lovely area with tempting shops and teashops.

Abbey Green, Bath

This area was used for a pivotal scene in the BBC 1995 adaptation of Persuasion when Anne Elliot learns from Admiral Croft that Frederick Wentworth is no longer interested in Louisa Musgrove.

Bijoux Beads, Bath

 

This is a lovely example of a Regency shop in Bath – it’s one of my favourites. They sell beads and accessories to make jewellery, but there are lovely examples to buy if you don’t want to make your own. At this time of the year the shop is also full of gifts and decorations for Christmas – it’s wonderful to have a browse around! In the 1995 film, this shop was transformed into a print shop.

In Georgian times, prints of political cartoons were pasted up in the windows of print shops and would have drawn crowds who were eager to see the latest gossip depicted. Landscapes and interior scenes were popular too. In Persuasion, Admiral Croft is amused by the depiction of a boat in a print shop window.

 Anne was too much engaged with Lady Russell to be often walking herself; but it so happened that one morning, about a week or ten days after the Crofts’ arrival, it suited her best to leave her friend, or her friend’s carriage, in the lower part of the town, and return alone to Camden Place; and in walking up Milsom Street she had the good fortune to meet with the Admiral. He was standing by himself, at a printshop window, with his hands behind him, in earnest contemplation of some print, and she not only might have passed him unseen, but was obliged to touch as well as address him before she could catch his notice. When he did perceive and acknowledge her, however, it was done with all his usual frankness and good humour. “Ha! is it you? Thank you, thank you. This is treating me like a friend. Here I am, you see, staring at a picture. I can never get by this shop without stopping. But what a thing here is, by way of a boat. Do look at it. Did you ever see the like? What queer fellows your fine painters must be, to think that any body would venture their lives in such a shapeless old cockleshell as that. And yet here are two gentlemen stuck up in it mightily at their ease, and looking about them at the rocks and mountains, as if they were not to be upset the next moment, which they certainly must be. I wonder where that boat was built!” (laughing heartily); “I would not venture over a horsepond in it. Well,” (turning away), “now, where are you bound? Can I go any where for you, or with you? Can I be of any use?”
   “None, I thank you, unless you will give me the pleasure of your company the little way our road lies together. I am going home.”
   “That I will, with all my heart, and farther too. Yes, yes, we will have a snug walk together, and I have something to tell you as we go along. There, take my arm — that’s right; I do not feel comfortable if I have not a woman there. Lord! what a boat it is!” taking a last look at the picture, as they began to be in motion.

The Bath Sweet Shop

This was always a favourite place to stop with my children when they were small. You can see the name, Abbey Green, chiselled into the stone. Here are Anne and the Admiral continuing their walk in the film below.

I love this scene from Jane Austen’s Persuasion – you can just imagine how difficult it must have been for her to conceal her feelings!



When they were got a little farther, Anne ventured to press again for what he had to communicate. She had hoped when clear of Milsom Street to have her curiosity gratified; but she was still obliged to wait, for the Admiral had made up his mind not to begin till they had gained the greater space and quiet of Belmont; and as she was not really Mrs. Croft, she must let him have his own way. As soon as they were fairly ascending Belmont, he began —
   “Well, now you shall hear something that will surprise you. But first of all, you must tell me the name of the young lady I am going to talk about. That young lady, you know, that we have all been so concerned for. The Miss Musgrove that all this has been happening to. Her Christian name: I always forget her Christian name.”
   Anne had been ashamed to appear to comprehend so soon as she really did; but now she could safely suggest the name of “Louisa.”
   “Ay, ay, Miss Louisa Musgrove, that is the name. I wish young ladies had not such a number of fine Christian names. I should never be out if they were all Sophys, or something of that sort. Well, this Miss Louisa, we all thought, you know, was to marry Frederick. He was courting her week after week. The only wonder was, what they could be waiting for, till the business at Lyme came; then, indeed, it was clear enough that they must wait till her brain was set to right. But even then there was something odd in their way of going on. Instead of staying at Lyme, he went off to Plymouth, and then he went off to see Edward. When we came back from Minehead he was gone down to Edward’s, and there he has been ever since. We have seen nothing of him since November. Even Sophy could not understand it. But now, the matter has taken the strangest turn of all; for this young lady, this same Miss Musgrove, instead of being to marry Frederick, is to marry James Benwick. You know James Benwick?”
   “A little. I am a little acquainted with Captain Benwick.”
   “Well, she is to marry him. Nay, most likely they are married already, for I do not know what they should wait for.”
   “I thought Captain Benwick a very pleasing young man,” said Anne, “and I understand that he bears an excellent character.”
   “Oh! yes, yes, there is not a word to be said against James Benwick. He is only a commander, it is true, made last summer, and these are bad times for getting on, but he has not another fault that I know of. An excellent, good-hearted fellow, I assure you; a very active, zealous officer, too, which is more than you would think for, perhaps, for that soft sort of manner does not do him justice.”
   “Indeed, you are mistaken there, sir; I should never augur want of spirit from Captain Benwick’s manners. I thought them particularly pleasing, and I will answer for it, they would generally please.”
   “Well, well, ladies are the best judges; but James Benwick is rather too piano for me; and though very likely it is all our partiality, Sophy and I cannot help thinking Frederick’s manners better than his. There is something about Frederick more to our taste.”
   Anne was caught. She had only meant to oppose the too-common idea of spirit and gentleness being incompatible with each other, not at all to represent Captain Benwick’s manners as the very best that could possibly be; and, after a little hesitation, she was beginning to say, “I was not entering into any comparison of the two friends”; but the Admiral interrupted her with —
   “And the thing is certainly true. It is not a mere bit of gossip. We have it from Frederick himself. His sister had a letter from him yesterday, in which he tells us of it, and he had just had it in a letter from Harville, written upon the spot, from Uppercross. I fancy they are all at Uppercross.”
   This was an opportunity whichAnne could not resist; she said, therefore, “I hope, Admiral, I hope there is nothing in the style of Captain Wentworth’s letter to make you and Mrs. Croft particularly uneasy. It did certainly seem, last autumn, as if there were an attachment between him and Louisa Musgrove; but I hope it may be understood to have worn out on each side equally, and without violence. I hope his letter does not breathe the spirit of an ill-used man.”
   “Not at all, not at all: there is not an oath or a murmur from beginning to end.”
   Anne looked down to hide her smile.
   “No, no; Frederick is not a man to whine and complain; he has too much spirit for that. If the girl likes another man better, it is very fit she should have him.”
   “Certainly. But what I mean is, that I hope there is nothing in Captain Wentworth’s manner of writing to make you suppose he thinks himself ill-used by his friend, which might appear, you know, without its being absolutely said. I should be very sorry that such a friendship as has subsisted between him and Captain Benwick should be destroyed, or even wounded by a circumstance of this sort.”
   “Yes, yes, I understand you. But there is nothing at all of that nature in the letter. He does not give the least fling at Benwick; does not so much as say, ‘I wonder at it. I have a reason of my own for wondering at it.’ No, you would not guess, from his way of writing, that he had ever thought of this Miss (what’s her name?) for himself. He very handsomely hopes they will be happy together; and there is nothing very unforgiving in that, I think.”
   Anne did not receive the perfect conviction which the Admiral meant to convey, but it would have been useless to press the enquiry farther. She therefore satisfied herself with commonplace remarks or quiet attention, and the Admiral had it all his own way.
   “Poor Frederick!” said he, at last. “Now he must begin all over again with somebody else. I think we must get him to Bath. Sophy must write, and beg him to come to Bath. Here are pretty girls enough, I am sure. It would be of no use to go to Uppercross again, for that other Miss Musgrove, I find, is bespoke by her cousin, the young parson. Do not you think, Miss Elliot, we had better try to get him to Bath?”

Finally, here’s the scene from a 1971 version – enjoy!

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Searching For Captain Wentworth Jane Odiwe

I’ve had such fun with this – I hope you enjoy it!

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My latest book, Searching for Captain Wentworth is published on September 7th – though it is possible to order it now through Amazon and the usual channels. I wanted to write something a little different from my usual Jane Austen sequel and have always wanted to try my hand at a contemporary romance. I decided to combine the two in a time travel book, another favourite genre, and I enjoyed writing it enormously!
 At the beginning of the book, my heroine Sophie has a broken heart and is feeling very fed up with the world. At the invitation of an aunt, she takes herself off to Bath for a holiday and finds herself living next door to the house Jane Austen lived in 200 years ago. It’s not long before strange things start happening and when Sophie finds an ancient glove dropped by her mysterious neighbour, Josh, she is whisked back into the past where she meets Jane Austen and her brother Charles, a handsome lieutenant on the frigate, Endymion. Sophie is soon enjoying the delights of balls and parties with her friends, living the life of her ancestor and namesake, Sophia Elliot. Whilst her friendships with the Austens could not be better or more exciting, Sophie has to contend with her family who are a nightmare! Her father is a snob and her sisters are far from the affectionate siblings she always dreamed of having.

Bath Street, Bath

 In the present, Sophie’s friendship with Josh gets off to a shaky start. She cannot help being attracted to a man who loves Jane Austen’s Persuasion as much as she does – though she’s determined not to fall for any man again. Besides, it seems Josh is already taken … Torn between her life in the modern world and that of the past, Sophie’s story travels two hundred years and back again as she tries to find her own Captain Wentworth. And as she comes to believe that may depend upon risking everything but also changing the course of history, she learns that she isn’t the only one caught in a heartbreaking dilemma. Her friend, Jane Austen has her own quest for happiness, her own secrets and heartache. I’ve blended fact and fiction together, drawing on Jane Austen’s life, novels and letters in an attempt to create a believable world of new possibilities behind the inspiration for Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Persuasion.

Sydney Gardens is opposite Jane Austen’s house in Bath. It features in several pivotal scenes in my book. The gardens have changed since Jane Austen’s day – known as pleasure gardens then, they featured such delights as bowling greens, a Labyrinth or maze, “small, delightful groves”, waterfalls, pavilions and Merlin’s Swing, which stood at the heart of the Labyrinth – a revolving swing wheel from where the ‘lost’ could be watched in the maze below. There were alcoves to enjoy tea, castle ruins, a millhouse and wheel, a hermit’s cot and a Grotto with an underground passage leading to the centre of the Labyrinth. The New Bath Guide in 1801 describes some of the walks – “serpentine walks, which at every turn meet with sweet shady bowers furnished with handsome seats, some canopied by Nature, others by Art.” A Ride provided “a healthy and fashionable airing for Gentlemen and Ladies on horseback free from the inconvenience of dirt in winter and dust in summer and not in commoded by carriages of any kind.”

Sydney Gardens

The wonderful description of a pleasure garden below was written by Tobias Smollett in his book, The Adventures of Humphry Clinker.

Imagine to yourself, my dear Letty, a spacious garden laid out in delightful walks, bounded with high hedges and trees, and paved with gravel; part exhibiting a wonderful assemblage of the most picturesque and striking objects, pavilions, lodges, goves, grottoes, lawns, temples and cascades; porticoes, colonnades, and rotundoes; adorned with pillars, statues, and paintings; the whole illuminated with an infinite number of lamps, disposed in different figures of sun, stars, and constellations: the place crowded with the gayest company, ranging through blissful shades, or supping in different lodges on cold collations, enlivened with mirth, freedom and good humour, and animated with an excellent band of music.

 Pleasure gardens developed naturally from the custom of promenading, and in Bath the concept was taken a step further with Sydney Gardens when the traditional promenading area was combined with a scheme of houses so that the owners could look upon green spaces as if they owned the land. Thomas Baldwin, the architect to the Pulteney family who owned the estate drew up the first plans, but only one of his terrace’s was completed before financial problems hit in 1793. Great Pulteney Street was completed, as were the houses in Sydney Place where Jane Austen came to live in 1801. Bath stopped at this point, the countryside stretched beyond, and a ten minute walk took you into town, much as it does today. You can see why the Austens would have chosen this end of the city. They were country people at heart, and Jane wrote of walking in the gardens and visiting the Labyrinth, every day.
Constance Hill wrote about the interior of number 4, Sydney Place a hundred years after Jane had left.
We sat in the pretty drawing-room with its three tall windows overlooking the Gardens. The morning sun was streaming in at these windows and falling upon the quaint empire furniture which pleasantly suggests the Austen’s sojourn there. The house is roomy and commodious. Beneath the drawing-room, which is on the first floor, are the dining-room and arched hall from which a passage leads to a garden at the back of the house. The large old-fashioned kitchen, with its shining copper pans and its dresser laden with fine old china, looked as if it had remained untouched since the Austens’ day.


A silver token was issued to each shareholder as a free pass into the pleasure garden – the coin featured what we know as the Holburne Museum today. Back then the museum was a hotel and tavern at various different stages, and sitting (as it still does) at the end of Great Pulteney Street made a fabulous focal point at the end of this classically inspired vista. The museum has recently undergone extensive re-modelling, and the new exhibitions inside are wonderful. There is a lovely cafe at the back where you can enjoy some refreshment, inside and out, and you can get a sense of what it must have been like to attend ‘public breakfasts’ in Jane Austen’s day.

Sydney Gardens opened in May 1795 with the Tavern building known as Sydney House nearest to the city, containing dining rooms and meeting rooms. There were two wings on both sides of dining cubicles, a movable orchestra, and a space for fireworks. There was a main, wide walk, and narrower pathways leading off into shrubberies and winding walks. 
The gala Jane Austen attended on 4th June 1799 was spoilt by rain, so she went to the repeat performance two weeks later. She enjoyed the fireworks and illuminations, but not the music which she avoided by not arriving until nine o’clock!

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