Bath, Somerset in Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Royal Crescent in Bath, England. PHOTO CREDIT: Arpingstone. This photo is in the public domain.

“She persisted in a very determined, though very silent, disinclination for Bath; caught the first dim view of the extensive buildings, smoking in rain, without any wish of seeing them better; felt their progress through the streets to be, however disagreeable, yet too rapid; for who would be glad to see her when she arrived? Ann looked back, with fond regret, to the bustles of Uppercross and the seclusion of Kellynch.”1

Though it does not appear until half way through Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Bath serves as the setting in which Anne Elliot, the quiet and giving heroine, comes to a culmination of inward emotional turmoil and acceptance. Having been uprooted from her childhood home by her overspending and haughty family, and forced to spend months with her childlike younger sister in Uppercross where she encounters a spurned and still wounded former lover, Anne arrives in Bath detesting its wealthy culture and juvenile rules of class. She is scorned by her family for wanting to visit her sick school friend in the poorer side of town rather than be at the mercy of a distant royal relation; she is scolded by her mother-figure for not wanting to marry a rich and charming family friend. Anne spends her days wishing to be anywhere but the rainy and uninteresting ballrooms of her new home, until her rejected lover arrives whom she still silently loves and whom still silently loves her. In him, Anne ultimately finds her freedom from the confines of Bath and the confines of her own heart.

Bath, a city in Somerset, England, was incredibly popular in Jane Austen’s time for its healing spas and plethora of entertainments for the wealthy and high class. In Persuasion, Austen utilizes the city’s wet and cloudy climate as a reverberation of her heroine’s emotions and attitudes toward the one-dimensional personalities of its people and amusements. While Bath was considered the center of fashion for many, including Anne’s family, Austen’s own negative experience living there colors the city as conceited and self-important, a considerable contrast to the beauty and peacefulness of the country.

Read more about Bath on Wikipedia. Find book at a local library or on Amazon.

1Austen, Jane. Persuasion. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2004. Print. Barnes & Noble Classics Ser.

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