|A few more pictures etc
Written by JulieW
(10/20/2008 6:41 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, …two walls, perhaps thirty feet asunder…, penned by Rae
and quotes (Goodness Rae you were up early this morning. I'd planned to do this post early today but you beat me to it)
Here is a couple of pictures of Camden-place as JA knew it ( interestingly showing some cars that are almost as old as Persuasion itself)
You can clearly see that the pedimented centrepiece of the crescent is not central to the crescent ,and accordingly gives an unbalanced appearance to the remaining crescent . This was due to the subsidence which caused the last part of the crescent to fall to pieces.
If you have not been able to visit Bath you may be surprised to find that parts of it-the Upper Town especally -are very hilly and steep. The builders and architects who first surveyed and levelled the land for building found it was therefore
...expensive, troublesome and even dangerous. Camden Crescent begun in 1788 was built in a breathtaking position on an eye-catching bluff above teh river valley but the ground proved to be treacherous. ...
John Wood (the original developer of Bath-JW) hoped originally to build on the low level plain between the Abbey Area and the River Avon and if his proposals had been accepted Bath might have expanded in that direction. Instead Wood built Queens Square on Robert Gay's estate on the other side of the city and the success of this scheme encouraged further developments in this northerly direction
The Building of Bathby Michael Briggs , page14
This is what Maggie Lane has to say about JA's preciseness in housing the Elliots in their shaky eyrie where they can be "masters of all they survey" ( or rather of a mere few hundred square feet):
The importance of a good address is given more weight in Persuasion than in Northanger Abbey, where the only comment on the subject is Mrs Allen's on General Tilney, right at the end of the book: 'His lodgings were taken the very day after he left them, Catherine. But no wonder; Milsom-street, you know'. Evidently Henry had done his job well; it will be remembered that when Catherine first met him, he was in Bath 'to engage lodgings', as she afterwards learned from Eleanor. But even the General cannot match Sir Walter Elliot for snobbery, and Persuasion is suffused by value judgments of this kind.
We have already heard Sir Walter's estimation of Westgate Buildings, Laura Place and Gay Street. He was ready to admit Colonel Wallis as an acquaintance, because his wife is said to be very pretty and because he is 'living in very good style in Marlborough Buildings'. At right-angles to and overlooking the Royal Crescent, and with open views to the west from the rear where the old Town Commons could not be built on, Marlborough Buildings was indeed a very good situation.
But Sir Walter thought he had an even better himself. '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 their satisfaction.' The building (later known as Camden Crescent) was named after Charles Pratt, Marquis of Camden, politician and Recorder of Bath, whose crest, an elephant's head, adorns the keystones above each door. The central pediment, which because the crescent was never finished ended up disconcertingly off-centre, carries his coat of arms and perhaps marks the very house of the Elliots, since we are told that 'Their house was undoubtedly the best in Camden-place. Everybody was wanting to visit them.' In this house Anne marvelled to see Elizabeth, who had once been mistress of Kellynch Hall, throw open the double doors between the two principal apartments, and glory in walls 'perhaps thirty feet assunder'.
The location chosen for the Elliots by Jane Austen suits them to perfection, reflecting as it does not only their hauteur and pretentiousness, but the shaky ground on which these were built.
A Charming Place : Bath in the Life and Novels of Jane Austen(1988)pages 38-40 by Maggie Lane
I'd like to quote a little more about the Crescent(as it is now known) from Walter Ison's book because I think you will find it very interesting:
Camden Crescent forms only part of a large unfinished project begun round about 1788 on the south-east slope of Beacon Hill. On this site, with its magnificent and airy prospect, the promoters intended to build a great crescent with wings, forming Upper Camden Place, having before it a large garden sloping towards a terrace of houses,and Lower Camden Place, forming a tangent to the crescent. The site was cleared and levelled at considerable expense and rapid progress had been made with the building of the upper crescent, when a series of alarming landslips brought the work to a standstill. That part of the building which was sited on solid rock was completed, but no further progress was made with the remaining houses, which were eventually demolished. For some years the north-east pavilion of the crescent remained as an isolated and picturesque ruin perched on a crag of rock, and can be seen as such in the drawings of Nattes and others.
Two prominent Bath physicians Caleb Hillier Parry and John Symonds ,were actively concerned in this building project ,and they leased many of the plots to John Morgan,carpenter and Mark ffowles, plasterer, whose names figure on some of the original leases. There can be little doubt that John Eveleigh was employed to give the designs for the plans and elevations for in his ledger for 1788 there is an entry against Morgan in respect of the plans and elevations drawn on two agreements for house in Camden Place. Apart from this important evidence the elevation has certain touches personal to Eveleigh's work and to that original and unconventional architect should be accorded a design which has been variously ascribed to Chambers, his pupil Wiley Reverly and the younger Wood and by reason of these attributions over praised at the expense of Eveleigh's other and more original designs.
Upper Camden Place, now Camden Crescent, was originally planned to consist of thirty-two houses, of which twenty-two were to form the crescent proper, with its great Corinthian order, the remainder composing the flanking wings, their simply treated elevations being stepped down to overcome the sharp falls in the ground level. Because of the landslip only eighteen houses of the crescent, together with the whole of the left wing, were completed, so that the pedimented centre has only four houses on its right, but even in this truncated state Camden Crescent forms a beautiful and impressive landmark in any prospect of Bath from the east.
Walter IsonThe Georgian Buildings of Bath from 1700 to 1830 (revised edition 1980)pages 162-3
I've said it before, but I really its worth reiterating that JA knew her locations so well that she was able to position her characters, particularly with reference to London and to Bath with pin point accuracy, and her placing of them was not only an indication of their wealth and status,but sometimes as in the Elliot's case, an indication of character too.