Persuasion | The Victoria Art Gallery

Persuasion

In Persuasion the 27 year old Anne Elliot comes to Bath, reluctantly, with her spendthrift father and shallow sister.  Here she encounters Naval Captain Frederick Wentworth, who had proposed marriage to Anne 7 years previously.  Family and friends had persuaded her to reject his proposal, on the basis that he was not her social equal.  In Bath, after misadventures and misunderstandings, Anne and Wentworth are happily reunited and at the end of the book are engaged.

Austen wrote Persuasion during 1815-16, long after leaving Bath.  This was the time when the Napoleonic Wars finally finished, after many years.  The book depicts a very different city from the exciting, racy Bath of Northanger Abbey; more staid, less fashionable, a retirement town.  Many military men, like Admiral Croft, have retired to Bath.  Some, like Captain Wentworth, have made a great deal of money due to their successes during the Napoleonic Wars.

In Persuasion we see the whole social spectrum of Bath.  Wealthy Lady Dalrymple lives ‘in style’ in Laura Place, attending only the best private parties; Captain Wentworth, like the Elliots, lodges at a good address and frequents concerts at the Assembly Rooms; Mrs Smith, the poor invalid, lives in near poverty close to the baths and is in Bath for medical reasons rather than a glamorous social life.

Persuasion was Austen’s last novel, published after her death.  Her brother Henry gave the book its title.  The book explores the theme of what happens to people when they are persuaded to act in ways that might go against their instincts.  Regency Bath, where people were under pressure to conform to fashionable society’s demands, was the ideal setting for Austen to examine this subject.

Image: Orange Grove, By Robert Woodroffe, 1828

Orange Grove

By Robert Woodroffe, 1828

Admiral Croft: “How do you like Bath Miss Elliot? It suits us very well.  We are always meeting with some old friend or other; the streets full of them every morning; sure to have plenty of chat”  Persuasion

Orange Grove was a favourite Bath location for strolling and bumping into friends and acquaintances for a chat.

Image: Milsom Street, By Robert Woodroffe, 1828

Milsom Street

By Robert Woodroffe, 1828

‘in walking up Milsom Street she {Anne Elliot} had the good fortune to meet with the Admiral.  He was standing by himself at a print shop window, with his hands behind him, in earnest contemplation of some print…’  Persuasion

Milsom Street was Bath’s most fashionable shopping street.  Jane Austen and her characters visited it and shopped there regularly.

Image: The King’s Bath, By John Nixon, 1800

The King’s Bath

By John Nixon, 1800

”And what pray brings the Crofts to Bath?” “They come on the Admiral’s account.  He is thought to be gouty” Persuasion

Bathing in and drinking Bath’s hot spa water was regarded as one of the best treatments for gout in Georgian England. Many patients were attracted to Bath for its reputation as a fashionable place of entertainment as well as the spa cure.

Image: Camden Place, Bath, By Jane Hartshorne, 1829

Camden Place, Bath

By Jane Hartshorne, 1829

Sir Walter had taken a very good house in Camden Place, a lofty dignified situation, such as becomes a man of consequence; and both he and Elizabeth were settled there, much to his satisfaction.  Anne entered it with a sinking heart’ Persuasion

The Elliots’ house is described as ‘the best’ in Camden Place.  It is probably the one with the impressive pediment.

Image: The Old Bridge, Bath, from the West, By Frederick Mackenzie, 1803

The Old Bridge, Bath, from the West

By Frederick Mackenzie, 1803

‘When Lady Russell was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and was driving through the long courses of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen,  muffin-men and milk-men… she made no complaint.’ Persuasion

The Old Bridge connected Southgate with the Wells Road.  It was close the where Churchill Bridge now stands.

Image: North Parade, Bath, By John Nixon, 1800

North Parade, Bath

By John Nixon, 1800

‘The elegant little clock on the mantelpiece had stuck eleven with its silver sounds and the watchman was beginning to be heard at a distance telling the same tale’  Persuasion

The Bath night watchmen, shown in this sketch by John Nixon, went on duty with the ringing of the curfew bell at 8pm.  They kept an eye out for troublemakers at night and made sure that the streets were lit. They called the hours through the night, so that people without clocks could keep track of the time.

Image: Queen Square, the North Terrace, By William Watts, 1819

Queen Square, the North Terrace

By William Watts, 1819

Louisa Musgrove: “I hope we shall be in Bath in the winter; but remember, papa, if we do go, we must be in a good situation: none of your Queen Squares for us!” Persuasion

Jane Austen had enjoyed staying in Queen Square in 1797, but characters in Persuasion are quite scathing about it. Built in the 1730s, this was one of the older parts of Bath.  In Austen’s era Pulteney Street and the higher slopes of Lansdown were where the newer, more desirable houses were situated.

Image: The King’s Bath, By John Nixon, 1800

The King’s Bath

By John Nixon, 1800

”And what pray brings the Crofts to Bath?”

“They come on the Admiral’s account. He is thought to be gouty”  Persuasion

Bathing in and drinking Bath’s hot spa water was regarded as one of the best treatments for gout in Georgian England. Many patients were attracted to Bath for its reputation as a fashionable place of entertainment as well as the spa cure.