Bahnreads Overseas: Literary Sights

I recently traveled from the West Coast overseas to London, Dublin, and Italy. I already blogged about my favorite bookshops I found while traveling. I also visited and/or discovered a few literature-related spots, some of them by accident because I am not as good at planning as I like to pretend. Read on for my favorite literary sites that we visited.

The Jane Austen Centre (Bath, England)

Is it touristy? Yes. Is it gimmicky? Yes. Is it a ton of fun? ALSO YES.

What first struck me at the Jane Austen Centre was the sincere enthusiasm of everyone who worked there. The young woman calling herself Louisa Musgrove gave a practiced monologue on Jane Austen’s family, but she made it interesting enough and got some laughs, and she handed us off to Lady Catherine De Burg who told us about the different portraits of Jane Austen and the arguments over their authenticity. Everyone else we interacted with, whether it was the costumed gentlemen at the door or the cashier in the gift shop seemed knowledgeable and honestly glad to be there.

The Centre itself was full of both contemporary Austen artifacts and reproduced versions. Besides the information displays and museum exhibits, there were some interactive areas where you could try on costumes, practice writing with a quill, and play contemporary tabletop games.

Check out my photos below for some examples of the displays and costumes.

 

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The Book of Kells and Long Library Exhibit (Trinity College, Dublin)

On our first full day in Dublin, we took a tram (because Trams Are Best) to the Trinity College campus. First of all, gorgeous campus, what is this, ridiculous, so beautiful. Second of all, they have the Book of Kells at their library so we visited that. Unfortunately, they don’t let you take pictures of the old books in the exhibit. But trust me when I tell you, WOW ILLUMINATED BOOKS, THEY ARE GORGEOUS AND BEST. The level of detail and the bright colors and gold were incredible. The pages we saw were the genealogy of Jesus and a section from the Gospel of John. You can see some official photos here.

We were able to see the Long Room in the same library building. It’s the perfect library aesthetic with a longgggggg room (imagine that) with fabulous-looking arches, as well as a bust or fifty of famous writers. You can check out my photos below.

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Via Dante Alighieri (Florence, Italy)

dante

There are quite a few Dante-related sites in Florence, Italy, which you can read about here on Walkabout. Our time was very limited there, although we did, of course, see the Duomo. I spotted this street named after Dante and snapped a photo. It’s really fun going to cities where these famous writers lived and worked, and imagine them as they were.

 

Jonathan Swift’s tomb (St. Patrick’s Cathedral)

While in Dublin we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I had no idea that Jonathan Swift’s tomb was there! I really need to brush up on my author history because Jonathan Swift was Dean there for 32 years. If you visit the Cathedral, which is beautiful in its own right, you can see artifacts such as Swift’s pulpit. Swift wrote his own epitaph, because of course he did. The epitaph marks Swift’s grave and is in Latin, but the translation is:

Here lies the body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity and Dean of this Cathedral,
Where savage indignation can no longer lacerate his heart;
Go traveller and imitate if you can, this dedicated and earnest champion of liberty
He died on the 19th October 1745, aged 78 years

Check out my photos below.

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Overall I had an amazing time exploring, especially when we found places and sites we didn’t always know were there.

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Northanger Abbey: Bath!

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.

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Source

In Bath:

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.

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Theatre Royal

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.

Nearby Bath:

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.

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Blaise Castle