One step into the Bath city center and you can see why so many great literary icons were inspired by the city. The immediately identifiable Georgian architecture with golden Bath Stone truly makes you feel like you could be in a Dickens novel.
While Charles Dickens did write about Bath in The Pickwick Papers, two of Bath’s female writers are the celebrities in Bath’s literary history.
Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801-1806 in multiple different locations throughout the city. Two of her novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, are set in Bath, which cemented Bath as a mecca for Jane Austen fans. And the Jane Austen Centre is the temple.
The centre is located in a beautiful Georgian house, with guides in period clothing walking you through her life in Bath. After visiting Bath twice on long holidays, Jane moved with her parents and sister officially after Jane’s father, Reverend George Austen, retired. Her brothers had married and moved into their own homes by that time. In 1802, Jane accepted a marriage proposal, then promptly declined it upon waking in the morning, an outrageous notion that guaranteed a life as a spinster at the ripe old age of 27.
Jane’s father died in 1805 and Jane, her sister Cassandra, and her mother, also Cassandra, were in dire straights financially. They moved to a smaller, cheaper flat in Bath for a few months before leaving Bath to live in one of her brother’s country homes. That’s where Jane died in 1817 of unknown cause but the speculation is Addison’s disease or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Her final home in Bath was at 25 Gay Street, just a few doors down from the Jane Austen Centre. The majority of her time in Bath was spent at 4 Sydney Place, which is the only residence in Bath with a plaque informing us that Jane lived there.
Mary Shelley lived in Bath for a short five months, but she used that time to write Frankenstein, the first science fiction novel ever published. She lead a very tragic and tumultuous life, full of scandal and death.
Mary and Percy Shelley moved to Bath, and brought Mary’s stepsister, Claire, to hide her pregnancy with Lord Byron’s child. During this time, she attended lectures on experimental science, including reanimation with electricity. When she wasn’t attending lectures, she was writing Frankenstein. By the time they left Bath, much of the book was complete.
Today, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein in Bath, England, takes you through her life, and the inspiration for Frankenstein. Equally informational and macabre, it feels like the perfect setting for a museum based on the writer of Frankenstein.
When Percy died, he was cremated but his heart wouldn’t burn. Mary took the heart and it was found in her desk drawer upon her death.
At the end of the tour is a giant replica of Frankenstein, based on the way he is described in the novel. He looks completely different than the Frankenstein we know today. He’s much more human that the portrayals in the last two centuries.
The museum also has a haunted basement, similar to a haunted house. It was dark and spooky, with lots of hanging obstacles and blow horns sure to make you scream.
If you love literature, a visit to Bath is a must!
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