Thursday, July 21, 2016

Visiting the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England

As a longtime Jane Austen fan, absorbing the atmosphere of Bath, England, and it's unique Georgian architecture, I could feel the history surrounding me. Up until a few months ago I didn't know I would have the opportunity to visit this lovely little city. Walking five minutes in any direction will bring you to a site of historic significance. I didn't want to leave Bath without first having a chance to visit the Jane Austen Centre. 

This museum is located on Gay Street, on the same street, but not the same house in which Jane once lived for a time with her mother and sister after her father died. The buildings are very similar. 

A live "Mr. Bennet" happily greets visitors at the doorway, in Regency costume while a statue of Lizzie Bennet stands to the right as though waiting for someone on the street. Inside is the gift shop where you can buy tickets and wait for the tour while perusing a delightful array of Jane Austen souvenirs.

As the tour begins a guide shares the story of Austen's upbringing. It was fun learning a few things I didn't know about Jane and her family. She was quite close to her sister, Cassandra, who also never married, though she was secretly engaged for a time.

During the 1790s, Jane's family visited Bath on a few occasions. The tour guide noted that these were lighter and more carefree days, when she wrote Northanger Abbey. After her father retired from the pastorate they moved to Bath in 1801. This was not necessarily a happy time for Jane as in 1805 Mr. Austen passed away. It was after this they moved to Gay Street. These were less productive times of writing for Jane. Later she wrote her novel, Persuasion, with a darker view of Bath.

After a short introduction I was escorted down the hall where a gallery of pictures supposed to be Jane, a group of watercolors, prints, and sketches.
One of the sketches with Jane wearing a bonnet and looking away is a sketch done by her sister, Cassandra, as well as well-known pencil sketch also by Cassandra.

The Centre includes a short film narrated by Adrian Lukis, the actor who played the dastardly Mr. Wickham in the beloved 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Actual period clothing is displayed as well as a table set for tea and various displays describing events in Jane's life and daily living during the Regency period in general. 

Did you know Jane did possibly experienced young love and at a different time was actually engaged for less than a day? The first, a nephew of neighbors in Steventon where she grew up, Tom Lefroy, visited several times. He and Jane enjoyed one another's company, but his parents had him intended for a wealthier match.

During her time in Bath, when she was late in her 20s, a younger brother of one of her friend's, Harris Bigg-Wither, offered a proposal of marriage, a surprise to Jane. At first, considering his inheritance and an opportunity to provide for her mother and sister, Jane accepted the proposal, but upon reflection overnight realized she didn't have the affection for Mr. Bigg-Wither which she believed would be important for a successful marriage. She declined the next day, to the embarrassment of both families. Yet Jane Austen's principles are evident again and again in her novels. The heroine holds out for marriage to a man she truly loves above other considerations.

Miss Austen's years post-Bath were spent in Chawton in a cottage her brother, Edward, provided for her, her mother, and her sister. Part of a large and close family, Cassandra and Jane helped their brother Edward with his family as well. Her brother, Henry, whom she was closest to, later advocated for her in having her works published. She ocntinued writing until her death at age 41 in 1817.

At the end of the museum you will find a full-size wax image, created by a forensic artist and said to be the most accurate depiction of Jane Austen. Visitors can also dress up in period clothing to have their picture taken. I opted to have my photo taken alongside "Jane" without a costume, but still it felt special.

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath is a testament to the fulfilling life that she lived though cut short by an unknown disease. She lives on in her books, in the imaginations of those who greatly admire her writing, and every young woman searching for her own Mr. Darcy! 

About Kathleen: Kathleen Rouser has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She desires to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She is a long time member in good standing of ACFW and a former board member of its Great Lakes Chapter. Kathleen has been published in anthologies, including the Amazon bestseller, Christmas Treasures, as well as in both print and online magazines. Her debut full-length novel, Rumors and Promises, was recently published by Heritage Beacon Fiction in April, 2016.

Previously a home-school mom of three, she has more recently been a college student and a mild-mannered dental assistant. Along with her sassy tail-less cat, she lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of 34 years, who not only listens to her stories, but also cooks for her.

You can connect with me here: 

Twitter: @KathleenRouser

Ten days to enter the Goodreads giveaway for
a chance to win one of two copies of Rumors and

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Rumors and Promises by Kathleen Rouser

Rumors and Promises

by Kathleen Rouser

Giveaway ends July 31, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience...quite interesting.

    1. You're welcome, chappydebbie. It was an interesting place to visit,
      especially if you're interested in the Georgian and Regency period
      in England.

  2. Enjoyed our 'visit with Jane!'

    1. So glad to hear that, Melody. Thank you for sharing your comment. :)

  3. Kathleen, Thank you for sharing your experience. This post was very interesting and brought history to us. I'm forward to your next book. I loved Rumors and Promises.

    1. Thank you so much Marilyn for stopping by. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post and my book.
      The good news is the next book will come out in October of 2017!

  4. Oh my, Kathleen, I loved this post. To think you actually visited here. I think I'm a little bit jealous. :) Thanks for sharing your experience with us through word and picture.

    1. Martha, thank you so much. My niece lives there, so I was blessed
      to be able to visit her on the way to a mission trip. It was a special
      experience that I am happy to share.

  5. I wish I'd made it to the Jane Austen Center when I was in Bath, but there was no time since I was with of a tour group.

    1. There are so many great things to see there, Janet. The Jane
      Austen Centre was at the top of my list and I was on my own,
      so I made it a priority. I only wish I'd been able to have tea
      in the Regency Tea Room upstairs, but I ran out of time for that.

  6. What fun, Kathleen! Thanks for posting the pictures. I was surprised by your saying that Jane died of an unknown disease, though. I've always read that it was Addison's Disease that took her. Did the Centre suggest they really don't know?

    1. Hi Linore! I think that was the one they mentioned was likely,
      but just that no one was completely sure. I couldn't remember,
      so I referred to it as unknown, since I didn't think it was
      conclusive. Thank you for coming by and sharing that information.
      I thought about asking you to read my article before it was
      posted, but ran out of time. I figured if anyone knew all the
      facts about Jane, you would. :)