Bath proud to adopt Jane Austen as its own
Jane Austen may have been born in Hampshire in 1775, but Bath has certainly adopted the author as one of its own.
Austen lived in the city from December 1800 for about six years, when her father moved the entire family there from Steventon, in Oxfordshire.
Austen had several Bath addresses, including No 1 The Paragon, No 4 Sydney House and 25 Gay Street, while the city also provided two of her novels with a backdrop and plenty of inspiration – Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
In Northanger Abbey she wrote: “They arrived in Bath. Catherine was all eager delight – her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs, and afterwards drove through those streets which conducted them to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already.”
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Austen was not a prolific writer while living in the city. During her six years as a resident, she made some revisions to Susan, and she began but then abandoned a novel called The Watsons.
However, her strong link with Bath remained and in 1999, the Jane Austen Centre opened on Gay Street, by the corner of Queen Square.
The first Jane Austen Festival in Bath was held in September 2000 over a weekend, with events taking place at the Jane Austen Centre in Gay Street.
In 2000, a promenade, with 30 people, set out from the centre. Today, 13 years on, hundreds of people take part in the promenade in what has become an annual festival – all of whom are in Regency costume.
The centre of Bath has some miraculously preserved terraced streets which make the city a World Heritage Site.
It is a perfectly preserved living relic from a bygone age, when Bath was the centre of fashionable life for the great and good of all England.
For this reason, in 2006, an ITV version of Austen’s Persuasion was filmed in 14 different locations in the city and stared Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot and Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth.
This year’s Jane Austen Festival runs from September 13 to 21. Included in the nine days of events will be the Regency Costumed Masked Ball at the Pump Rooms. To find out more go to visitbath.co.uk/whats-on/the-jane-austen-festival