My recent disappearing act was one symptom of a (much-needed, but everyone says that) vacation, and now I’m back with a vengeance as well as some sunburn.
But all is not lost, blog-wise, since I managed to fit in a tidy handful of readerly, nerd-tastic, bookish fun-tivities on my holiday. I spent last week in Cornwall, where Daphne du Maurier lived and wrote, then ventured to London for the wedding of two close friends. (Check out this list of some of my favorite London-based novels if you are so inclined.) And yes, I’m aware of the irony of spending July 4th in England.
Early on Monday, bleary-eyed and droopy-tailed, I took the train to Bath in Somerset. A trendy spa town in the 18th and 19th centuries, Bath is a touristy spa town in 2015. Sightseeing itineraries revolve around the Roman baths (built in 60 AD), the medieval abbey, and the stunning Georgian architecture featuring local limestone (highlights include the Royal Crescent and the Pump Room).
Another significant draw for tourists is Jane Austen, who lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806 and wrote about the city in both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Her favorite place of residence in Bath was just off Great Pulteney Street, opposite Sydney Gardens.
On Gay Street, a few doors down from another Austen address, the Jane Austen Centre houses permanent exhibitions on her family, her life in Bath, and the social customs of the era. I tried to write my name with the quill and ink provided in the writer’s desk area, but it turned out splotchy and took an hour to dry.
Things I learned about Jane Austen at the Centre:
- Her parents were married in Bath.
- Two of her biological brothers were adopted outside the family.
- This came in handy later because one of them grew up rich and gave them a house.
- Jane and her sister Cassandra were the only girls, and neither ever married.
- She wrote very little while in Bath; her years in the countryside were much more productive.
- £400 a year was enough income for two servants, one groom, and one horse.
I haven’t even gotten to the best part of literary Bath yet. I think it merits its own post, though, so I’m going to save it for next time and leave you in Kafka-esque suspense. Suffice it to say that local bookshop Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights hosts a Reading Spa for book addicts that had me rushing to secure train tickets to Bath four months in advance even though I’ve visited twice before.
Oh, and I almost forgot: When all of us found our seats at the wedding reception, we discovered that the bride and groom had hand-selected a book for each of us to take home as a wedding favor. Mine was Life: Great Short Stories by Women, a collection chosen by Victoria Hislop. My husband’s was A Song of Stone by Iain Banks.
Friends like that—thoughtful and book-obsessed—are, I think, a compliment to me.