Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Pump Rooms’

I’m in Bath today, and whenever I’m here, my thoughts turn to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. My painting of the Pump Room was inspired by Jane Austen’s letters – as a young girl Jane came to Bath and stayed with her aunt and uncle Leigh-Perrot – I feel sure her first reactions to Bath were probably like Catherine Morland’s: Catherine was all eager delight — her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs… Later on when her father retired, she came to live in Bath and from this time many writers have concluded that she was unhappy here because her letters talk of leaving the city with “what happy feelings of Escape”. I am not sure that I entirely agree with this point of view, (it was not in her nature to be so melancholy) although undoubtedly the death of her father and their resulting straitened circumstances would have had their impact. I’m sure she was glad to leave, but that doesn’t necessarily mean her time spent here was completely awful. After all, both heroines from her novels set in Bath find their happy endings here – Catherine and Henry Tilney, and Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth fall in love in Bath and I cannot think they would have done so if Jane had disliked Bath so much.
Anyway, here is an extract from Northanger Abbey for your delight. Just one more note – it always amuses me that the flighty Isabella is unimpressed with the book, Sir Charles Grandison. This novel by Samuel Richardson was one of Jane Austen’s favourites – her family all loved and enjoyed it, quoting passages and lines from it, as we might from Pride and Prejudice or any of Jane’s other novels.
The following conversation, which took place between the two friends in the pump–room one morning, after an acquaintance of eight or nine days, is given as a specimen of their very warm attachment, and of the delicacy, discretion, originality of thought, and literary taste which marked the reasonableness of that attachment.

They met by appointment; and as Isabella had arrived nearly five minutes before her friend, her first address naturally was, “My dearest creature, what can have made you so late? I have been waiting for you at least this age!”

“Have you, indeed! I am very sorry for it; but really I thought I was in very good time. It is but just one. I hope you have not been here long?”

“Oh! These ten ages at least. I am sure I have been here this half hour. But now, let us go and sit down at the other end of the room, and enjoy ourselves. I have an hundred things to say to you. In the first place, I was so afraid it would rain this morning, just as I wanted to set off; it looked very showery, and that would have thrown me into agonies! Do you know, I saw the prettiest hat you can imagine, in a shop window in Milsom Street just now — very like yours, only with coquelicot ribbons instead of green; I quite longed for it. But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning? Have you gone on with Udolpho?”

“Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”

“Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?”

“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me — I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them. I wish you knew Miss Andrews, you would be delighted with her. She is netting herself the sweetest cloak you can conceive. I think her as beautiful as an angel, and I am so vexed with the men for not admiring her! I scold them all amazingly about it.”

“Scold them! Do you scold them for not admiring her?”

“Yes, that I do. There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong. I told Captain Hunt at one of our assemblies this winter that if he was to tease me all night, I would not dance with him, unless he would allow Miss Andrews to be as beautiful as an angel. The men think us incapable of real friendship, you know, and I am determined to show them the difference. Now, if I were to hear anybody speak slightingly of you, I should fire up in a moment: but that is not at all likely, for you are just the kind of girl to be a great favourite with the men.”

“Oh, dear!” cried Catherine, colouring. “How can you say so?”

“I know you very well; you have so much animation, which is exactly what Miss Andrews wants, for I must confess there is something amazingly insipid about her. Oh! I must tell you, that just after we parted yesterday, I saw a young man looking at you so earnestly — I am sure he is in love with you.” Catherine coloured, and disclaimed again. Isabella laughed. “It is very true, upon my honour, but I see how it is; you are indifferent to everybody’s admiration, except that of one gentleman, who shall be nameless. Nay, I cannot blame you” — speaking more seriously — “your feelings are easily understood. Where the heart is really attached, I know very well how little one can be pleased with the attention of anybody else. Everything is so insipid, so uninteresting, that does not relate to the beloved object! I can perfectly comprehend your feelings.”

“But you should not persuade me that I think so very much about Mr. Tilney, for perhaps I may never see him again.”

“Not see him again! My dearest creature, do not talk of it. I am sure you would be miserable if you thought so!”

“No, indeed, I should not. I do not pretend to say that I was not very much pleased with him; but while I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable. Oh! The dreadful black veil! My dear Isabella, I am sure there must be Laurentina’s skeleton behind it.”

“It is so odd to me, that you should never have read Udolpho before; but I suppose Mrs. Morland objects to novels.”

“No, she does not. She very often reads Sir Charles Grandison herself; but new books do not fall in our way.”

“Sir Charles Grandison! That is an amazing horrid book, is it not? I remember Miss Andrews could not get through the first volume.”

“It is not like Udolpho at all; but yet I think it is very entertaining.”

“Do you indeed! You surprise me; I thought it had not been readable. But, my dearest Catherine, have you settled what to wear on your head tonight? I am determined at all events to be dressed exactly like you. The men take notice of that sometimes, you know.”

“But it does not signify if they do,” said Catherine, very innocently.

“Signify! Oh, heavens! I make it a rule never to mind what they say. They are very often amazingly impertinent if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance.”

“Are they? Well, I never observed that. They always behave very well to me.”

“Oh! They give themselves such airs. They are the most conceited creatures in the world, and think themselves of so much importance! By the by, though I have thought of it a hundred times, I have always forgot to ask you what is your favourite complexion in a man. Do you like them best dark or fair?”

“I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both, I think. Brown — not fair, and — and not very dark.”

“Very well, Catherine. That is exactly he. I have not forgot your description of Mr. Tilney — ‘a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.’ Well, my taste is different. I prefer light eyes, and as to complexion — do you know — I like a sallow better than any other. You must not betray me, if you should ever meet with one of your acquaintance answering that description.”

“Betray you! What do you mean?”

“Nay, do not distress me. I believe I have said too much. Let us drop the subject.”

Catherine, in some amazement, complied, and after remaining a few moments silent, was on the point of reverting to what interested her at that time rather more than anything else in the world, Laurentina’s skeleton, when her friend prevented her, by saying, “For heaven’s sake! Let us move away from this end of the room. Do you know, there are two odious young men who have been staring at me this half hour. They really put me quite out of countenance. Let us go and look at the arrivals. They will hardly follow us there.”

Away they walked to the book; and while Isabella examined the names, it was Catherine’s employment to watch the proceedings of these alarming young men.

“They are not coming this way, are they? I hope they are not so impertinent as to follow us. Pray let me know if they are coming. I am determined I will not look up.”

In a few moments Catherine, with unaffected pleasure, assured her that she need not be longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the pump–room.

“And which way are they gone?” said Isabella, turning hastily round. “One was a very good–looking young man.”

“They went towards the church–yard.”

“Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now, what say you to going to Edgar’s Buildings with me, and looking at my new hat? You said you should like to see it.”

Catherine readily agreed. “Only,” she added, “perhaps we may overtake the two young men.”

“Oh! Never mind that. If we make haste, we shall pass by them presently, and I am dying to show you my hat.”

“But if we only wait a few minutes, there will be no danger of our seeing them at all.”

“I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them.”

Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning; and therefore, to show the independence of Miss Thorpe, and her resolution of humbling the sex, they set off immediately as fast as they could walk, in pursuit of the two young men.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »


If you carry on down Milsom Street, Old Bond Street and Union Street you will eventually come to Stall Street and the King’s and Queen’s Baths. If you pass under the colonnade you come to the entrance to the Pump Rooms. Inside you can see the Rooms much as they were when first built in 1795. Water is pumped up to a fountain where the pumper serves glasses for its health giving properties! I have sampled the waters – I don’t want to put anyone off – if you like drinking slightly warm, sulphurous smelling water you’ll enjoy them very them. Musicians play as you take the waters or have a more substantial cup of tea or lunch as they did in Jane Austen’s day. Several glasses of water were taken in those days and it was customary to drink them before breakfast. The doors opened at 6 am in summer and by 8 am the room was full.
Here is an extract from Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey.

With more than usual eagerness did Catherine hasten to the pump–room the next day, secure within herself of seeing Mr. Tilney there before the morning were over, and ready to meet him with a smile; but no smile was demanded — Mr. Tilney did not appear. Every creature in Bath, except himself, was to be seen in the room at different periods of the fashionable hours; crowds of people were every moment passing in and out, up the steps and down; people whom nobody cared about, and nobody wanted to see; and he only was absent. “What a delightful place Bath is,” said Mrs. Allen as they sat down near the great clock, after parading the room till they were tired; “and how pleasant it would be if we had any acquaintance here.”

This sentiment had been uttered so often in vain that Mrs. Allen had no particular reason to hope it would be followed with more advantage now; but we are told to “despair of nothing we would attain,” as “unwearied diligence our point would gain”; and the unwearied diligence with which she had every day wished for the same thing was at length to have its just reward, for hardly had she been seated ten minutes before a lady of about her own age, who was sitting by her, and had been looking at her attentively for several minutes, addressed her with great complaisance in these words: “I think, madam, I cannot be mistaken; it is a long time since I had the pleasure of seeing you, but is not your name Allen?”
This question answered, as it readily was, the stranger pronounced hers to be Thorpe; and Mrs. Allen immediately recognized the features of a former schoolfellow and intimate, whom she had seen only once since their respective marriages, and that many years ago.
Their joy on this meeting was very great, as well it might, since they had been contented to know nothing of each other for the last fifteen years. Compliments on good looks now passed; and, after observing how time had slipped away since they were last together, how little they had thought of meeting in Bath, and what a pleasure it was to see an old friend, they proceeded to make inquiries and give intelligence as to their families, sisters, and cousins, talking both together, far more ready to give than to receive information, and each hearing very little of what the other said.

Mrs. Thorpe, however, had one great advantage as a talker, over Mrs. Allen, in a family of children; and when she expatiated on the talents of her sons, and the beauty of her daughters, when she related their different situations and views — that John was at Oxford, Edward at Merchant Taylors’, and William at sea — and all of them more beloved and respected in their different station than any other three beings ever were, Mrs. Allen had no similar information to give, no similar triumphs to press on the unwilling and unbelieving ear of her friend, and was forced to sit and appear to listen to all these maternal effusions, consoling herself, however, with the discovery, which her keen eye soon made, that the lace on Mrs. Thorpe’s pelisse was not half so handsome as that on her own.

Read Full Post »