Another highlight was being told an ever so charming way of describing hookers. Forget women of easy virtue. No, my guide on the hop off hop on bus quaintly described the hookers of Bath as 'ladies of negotiable affection'. Makes them sound like city traders, or corporate wives, doesn't it? Austen would have approved.
Sunday, 8 May 2011
WIVES OF BATH
I visited Bath for the weekend. It's similar to Richmond in that I'm not sure who the tourists are and who the residents are, but am sure there were more tourists there than there were residents. It was a whistle stop tour but I managed to visit the Jane Austen museum which is worth seeing for listening to the guide alone. I studied Austen at school and although found her heroines irritatingly meek, with a few exceptions, understand that women in those days were entirely dependent on getting married in order to secure any standard in life. I learnt that although in Georgian times everything looked rather wonderful, with pretty Laura Ashley/Cath Kitson styling draping hanging on everything from windows to women, and men all dressed like Darcey even if they looked nothing like him, the reality is that they all stunk to high heaven. Austen intensely disliked Bath and I think it very big of the city and the tourist board to promote albeit a very celebrated resident who felt such disdain for the place and above all the people who visited for the season. She disliked the snobbishness and effected social graces of the 'vulgar rich'. It was the place women in society met to network to marry men with money. Or to take their daughters to meet men with money. Austen herself was proposed to by a man six years her junior and said yes, only to cancel the engagement 12 hours later because she 'could not envisage marrying a man without affection.' Her two books Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were set here, neither of which were her greatest works, but she was a wonderful observer of life and people and conversation. I felt Austen was trapped in the wrong time and it's a pity she couldn't have met Virginia Woolf, another author who utterly detested where she lived (she famously said ''between Richmond and death I choose Death.)' But both of them were inspired by their intense dislike of the place and people that surrounded them because they provided unintentionally such wonderful material. If you live in a place that is always heaven on earth, you end up 'writing white' and life is not like that. I always remember that when I meet someone odious.