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|Letter 29: We Plan Having a Steady Cook…
Written by JulieW
(9/16/2007 7:51 a.m.)
….and a young, giddy housemaid, with a sedate, middle-aged man, who is to undertake the double office of husband to the former and sweetheart to the latter. No children, of course, to be allowed on either side.
I think the bravado shown here by JA is quite heartrending.
Let's have a look at the Bath of that time to see just where the Austens thought they might be able live.
Here is a map of Bath circa 1803 taken from my copy of A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places with a description of the Lakes, A Sketch of a Tour In Wales and Itineraries, illustrated with Maps and Views by Richard Philips.
And this is the same map which has been annotated ( bless you, Myretta an Photoshop!) with the places JA was considering ( and those which Cassandra was desirous of avoiding).
There are three parts of Bath which we have thought of as likely to have houses in them -- Westgate Buildings, Charles Street, and some of the short streets leading from Laura Place or Pulteney Street.
Westgate Buildings, though quite in the lower part of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad, and has rather a good appearance. Charles Street, however, I think, is preferable. The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields would be a pleasant circumstance. Perhaps you may remember, or perhaps you may forget, that Charles Street leads from the Queen Square Chapel to the two Green Park Streets
Here is a close up of that area from the Map of Bath (1804) published by A Taylor and W Myer.
The houses in the streets near Laura Place I should expect to be above our price. Gay Street would be too high, except only the lower house on the left-hand side as you ascend. Towards that my mother has no disinclination; it used to be lower rented than any other house in the row, from some inferiority in the apartments. But above all others her wishes are at present fixed on the corner house in Chapel Row, which opens into Prince's Street. Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as of its being to be had. In the meantime she assures you that she will do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street, although you have not expressed the fearful presentiment of it which was rather expected.
We know that Mrs. Perrot will want to get us into Oxford Buildings, but we all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore hope to escape. Upon all these different situations you and Edward may confer together, and your opinion of each will be expected with eagerness.
This is obviously not a reference to "Oxford" Buildings ( which don’t exist in Bath as far as I am aware) but to Axford Buildings. Looking at the facsimile of this letter in Jo Modart's bookJane Austen's Manuscript Letteres in Facsimile. one can clearly see that JA wrote "Axford".
As you can see from the map below
the situation is quite confined.
Mrs Perrot and her husband lived in the Paragon, so obviously they wanted her sister and her family to settle near her in Bath for their or , more probably, herown convenience, if nothing else . However, that part of Bath ,while it has lovely views from the back of the buildings which lead down to the river Avon, has quite a confined aspect from the front of the houses . I think JA may have felt claustrophobic there. Also it was a very busy road, with the resulting noise form the carriages, and Mail coaches. Little peace to be had there.
And of course it is true that a woman may be settled too near her family….:-)
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