Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A stroll along the Gravel Walk and the Circus in Bath

We've been enjoying some fantastic weather in Bath lately, though I would not be telling the truth if I didn't mention the occasional shower, and some downpours too! Even Captain Wentworth remarks on the frequency of rain in Persuasion: I love the scene when they meet unexpectedly in Molland's and endure a very flustered conversation, both of them not quite reading the other's thoughts or feelings.
After a moment's pause, he said: "Though I came only yesterday, I have equipped myself properly for Bath already, you see" (pointing to a new umbrella); "I wish you would make use of it, if you are determined to walk; though I think it would be more prudent to let me get you a chair."
But, we will not dwell on the rain, but on Bath's beautiful environs and the sunshine over the Bank holiday weekend. It's an easy place to find a wealth of pictures in the classical architecture, and yesterday my husband and I strolled along the Gravel Walk where Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth find themselves, having ironed out all the misunderstandings, after that magical letter in Chapter Twenty Three.

All along the Gravel Walk you can see the backs of the houses on Gay Street, The Circus and Brock Street. The trees provide a lot of shade on a hot day, and dapple the path with spots of light.

I love the contrasts of light and shade, and looking at the different styles of architecture at the back of the houses. From the front, they all look very uniform.

In the summer months there is a Georgian Garden along the Gravel Walk open to the public, and set out in the style of the period with carefully selected plants.

Trellis and a garden bench in the Georgian Garden.

Once out at the top of the Gravel Walk it's one way to the Royal Crescent, which is covered in scaffolding at the moment or along Brock Street, which has many lovely architectural features, and interesting doorways. Here's a wonderful example of a Gothic window.

I'm always fascinated by the fabulous array of door knockers in Bath. Isn't this one a gorgeous example?

This is a pretty example of the type of doorway to be found along Brock Street.

It's a short walk from Brock Street to the Circus designed by John Wood and his son, and completed in 1768.

A detail of the frieze

Finally, here's the moment from Jane Austen's Persuasion when Anne and Frederick find themselves at the Gravel Walk, together at last.

There could be only a most proper alacrity, a most obliging compliance for public view; and smiles reined in and spirits dancing in private rapture. In half a minute Charles was at the bottom of Union Street again, and the other two proceeding together: and soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk, where the power of conversation would make the present hour a blessing indeed, and prepare for it all the immortality which the happiest recollections of their own future lives could bestow. There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their reunion, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting. And there, as they slowly paced the gradual ascent, heedless of every group around them, seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling house-keepers, flirting girls, nor nurserymaids and children, they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgments, and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment, which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest. All the little variations of the last week were gone through; and of yesterday and to-day there could scarcely be an end.

Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot on the Gravel Work ©Jane Odiwe

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Jane Austen, Pockets and Ridicules

Because Regency dresses were on the whole elongated and close fitting, the reticule, ridicule or pocket came into its own.

From the Times 1799: Every fashionable fair carries her purse in her work-bag... the new custom of carrying a bag with her handkerchief, smelling-bottle, purse etc..
Jane Austen used pockets and ridicules for secret correspondences, often used to give the observer a shock or embroil the perpetrator in a veil of mystery. Here are some examples from Emma, Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility.

Emma: She soon believed herself to penetrate Mrs. Elton's thoughts, and understand why she was, like herself, in happy spirits; it was being in Miss Fairfax's confidence, and fancying herself acquainted with what was still a secret to other people. Emma saw symptoms of it immediately in the expression of her face; and while paying her own compliments to Mrs. Bates, and appearing to attend to the good old lady's replies, she saw her with a sort of anxious parade of mystery fold up a letter which she had apparently been reading aloud to Miss Fairfax, and return it into the purple and gold ridicule by her side...

Northanger Abbey: Catherine had not read three lines before her sudden change of countenance, and short exclamations of sorrowing wonder, declared her to be receiving unpleasant news; and Henry, earnestly watching her through the whole letter, saw plainly that it ended no better than it began. He was prevented, however, from even looking his surprise by his father’s entrance. They went to breakfast directly; but Catherine could hardly eat anything. Tears filled her eyes, and even ran down her cheeks as she sat. The letter was one moment in her hand, then in her lap, and then in her pocket; and she looked as if she knew not what she did.

Sense and Sensibility: "I begged him to exert himself for fear you should suspect what was the matter; but it made him so melancholy, not being able to stay more than a fortnight with us, and seeing me so much affected. - Poor fellow! - I am afraid it is just the same with him now; for he writes in wretched spirits. I heard from him just before I left Exeter;" taking a letter from her pocket and carelessly shewing the direction to Elinor. "You know his hand, I dare say, a charming one it is; but that is not written so well as usual. - He was tired, I dare say, for he had just filled the sheet to me as full as possible."

Elinor saw that it was his hand, and she could doubt no longer. The picture, she had allowed herself to believe, might have been accidentally obtained; it might not have been Edward's gift; but a correspondence between them by letter, could subsist only under a positive engagement, could be authorised by nothing else; for a few moments, she was almost overcome - her heart sunk within her, and she could hardly stand; but exertion was indispensably necessary, and she struggled so resolutely against the oppression of her feelings, that her success was speedy, and for the time complete.