As I mentioned in previous #ReadMorland posts, Bath was a very fashionable resort town in England at the time that Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey. However, by the time the novel was published, Bath had lessened in popularity, but plenty of people would still go there to take advantage of the hot springs and the mineral water, recommended by doctors everywhere for pretty much any malady. If a person was in perfect health but had some money and free time, they could go to Bath and promenade, shop, go to the theatre, the shops, their friends’ houses, etc etc etc. In Northanger Abbey, the only character we’ve met so far who is actually supposed to be in Bath for their health is Mr. Allen; everyone else is just hanging out. One of the reasons that Bath was so popular at this time was because many buildings had been built or remodeled earlier in the century by John Wood the Elder and John Wood the Younger (bets on what the Younger’s son was named???), and many new entertainments were moved in or set up.
Check out the map below for a quick summary of key places in Bath, and see my notes below for the specific Bath locales mentioned so far in the novel and what they are.
The Upper Rooms/The Lower Rooms: were part of the Assembly Rooms built by the John Woods. You could go here for dances or concerts. These weren’t rooms, but whole buildings.
The Pump-room: was part of the Lower Rooms. This is where you could go and drink mineral water like a hipster.
The Octagon Room: was part of the Lower Rooms and is actually an octagon in shape. You could also play cards here.
“Mr. King”: Mr. Tilney is introduced to Catherine and Mrs. Allen by the master of ceremonies, named as Mr. King by Tilney. James King was master of ceremonies in Bath from 1785-1805.
Tompion Clock: is a really nice, famous clock in Bath. There’s a nice blog post on it here.
“the theatre”: where Catherine sees the play is the Theatre Royal in Bath.
The Crescent: is The Royal Crescent, also designed by the John Woods. It’s a crescent-shaped row of fancy fancy houses. This is where you would go if you wanted to show off your new dress/husband/gig.
Milsom-Street: was a street for fashionable shopping and was full of fancy houses. I guess nowadays it is…also for shopping. But less fancy.
“the book”: is essentially a guest-book for everyone fancy who is staying in Bath. The master of ceremonies tracked who was in town, and where they were staying, and FOR SOME REASON this information was public which is terrifying to me.
Edgar’s Buildings: were located on Milsom-street. So. More fanciness!
Pulteney-street: is a residential street, and a fashionable one at this time. In the novel, the Allens live here while in town. In real life, Jane Austen lived here for a time.
Thorpe threatens taking Catherine to many places, some absurdly far, such as Bristol (another fancy hot springs resort town), and some much closer, such as Claverton Down and Lansdowne Hill, both suburb-areas of Bath. Clifton and Kingsweston are villages a few miles from Bath.
Wick Rocks: Thorpe claims to have heard Tilney say he was going to drive all the way to Wick Rocks. This is part of the River Boyd.
Blaise Castle: is mentioned several times as a possible destination by Thorpe. Turns out it is not a castle at all but a folly. This pleases me greatly. I can only imagine what Catherine would have said if they had actually gone there and Thorpe had tried to pass it off as a real castle ruin.