First, apologies for the delay in our fascinating Bath series. We were without the internet for four days. We shall now commence with Bath, part III and Bath, part IV before returning to our regular broadcast and more current affairs.
I discovered Jane Austen my freshman year in college. It was finals week of the fall term and I was wandering in the bowels of the library looking for a reason not to study. I found an excellent one when I pulled out an old hardcover edition of Sense and Sensibility. I returned to the dorm, crashed on the bed with the book and did nothing for hours but turn pages. The next thing I remember was running across campus to get back to the library before it closed–there were more Austens on the shelf. I read Jane’s six major novels that finals week and was the most unstressed freshman on campus. Nay, I was laughing out loud. (Until I saw my grades. Just kidding.)
Bath is sort of the Austenite Mecca. The city figures in many of her novels (most notably Northanger Abbey and Persuasion) and Jane herself resided there for many years. We did pay a brief visit to the Jane Austen Centre but the real sight I wanted to see was the famous Pump Room, where society gathered in Jane’s day “to take the waters.”
Finished in 1799, the Grand Pump Room stands right over the ancient Roman Baths, which were long-forgotten and not yet rediscovered in Austen’s day. The mineral spring, however, was known and the waters were drunk by many invalids in hope of a cure thereby. Neither Alex nor I qualify as invalids, precisely, but we thought it was worth a try.
An attendant standing in this lovely window hands out six-ounce glasses of the waters fro a fishy fountain for the thirsty public. Fifty pence per glass is requested (nothing in this world is free, people), unless one has already paid admission to the Roman Baths museum below.
The water tasted chalky. I have no trouble believing the claim that fifteen valuable minerals are in it. I think Alex said something in a low voice about “laundry water” but can’t be certain. He did loyally drink every drop (while making nasty faces). I think Jane would be proud of us.
The Pump Room today is a tea room, available for lunch and tea only. Yes, of course we did. (We needed something to change the taste.) We had a cream tea with scones and enjoyed the atmosphere and the music from the pianist. (Until he broke into the music from Aladdin which showed, I think, a deplorable lack of a sense of place.)
Before we left Bath, Alex bought me a hardcover edition of Persuasion at the Jane Austen Centre. (Which showed, I think, an utterly perfect sense of place.)