Although the Assembly Rooms built in 1771, and still to be found in all their glory at Bennett Street, are the ones most people think of when they think of Bath’s Assembly Rooms, they weren’t actually Bath’s first Assembly Rooms. Bath’s first assembly rooms were known as Harrison’s Rooms and were built for an entrepreneur in 1708 at the urging of Beau Nash – one of the first Masters of Ceremonies at Bath. Harrison’s Rooms became less popular as the ‘Upper Assembly Rooms’ (as they were then known) at Bennett Street grew in popularity, but Harrison’s Rooms were nevertheless still quite the landmark when Jane Austen came to Bath.
We mention all this because a hand-painted fan showing a long-lost view of Harrison’s Rooms as Jane would have known them has been acquired by Bath’s Holburne Museum, where it will go on display for the first time.
The rare fan, which had been in a private collection, shows elegantly dressed people strolling in Harrison’s Walk, a tree-lined riverside walk kept exclusive by paid subscription. The building in the background is Harrison’s Rooms.
The fan was painted around 1750 by Thomas Loggon, a renowned fan painter with dwarfism who ran a teahouse and china shop under the sign of The Little Fanmaker. As well as the fashionable group chatting with Nash, Loggon included himself in the scene (the slight figure towards the right).
Harrison’s Rooms burned down in 1820, and the view shown on the fan is now completely different to the view as Jane knew it (the area where Harrison’s Rooms once stood is beside the Parade Gardens). So if you’re coming to Bath it might be a nice thing to go and see after visiting the Jane Austen Centre.
The Washington Post published an article last month close to Jane Austen’s birthday (16th December) in order to highlight her achievements but, instead of focusing on her talents as an author, the paper decided to lead with the title, ‘Jane Austen was the master of the marriage plot. But she remained single‘.
Understandably, quite a few fans of Austen took umbrage at the sexist angle of the title and article. In response they took to Twitter and, as we at the Jane Austen News had such a good time reading the witty responses to the Post’s article title, we thought you might too:
Painter and illustrator Nathalie Novi and author Fabrice Colin are both big Jane Austen fans, so the pair decided to combine their passion for Austen by creating a book entitled The Imaginary Museum of Jane Austen.
The book opens as one enters a museum. The crowd of visitors gather rapt with excitement in the hall, whispering with delight at the idea of passing the first door and entering the world of Austen. Throughout the journey, visitors are guided by Elizabeth, the heroine of the novel Pride and Prejudice, which would be, “of all the characters of Jane Austen, the one who most resembles her,” says author Fabrice Colin. The museum detailed in the book contains six rooms, each designed to highlight one of the six novels from Jane, and each evoking the main purpose of the work and depictions of the characters portrayed.
The book is currently only available in French (Le musee imaginaire de Jane Austen), but Nathalie hopes they might find an English publisher soon (any takers?).
At the Jane Austen News we’ve thoroughly enjoyed browsing through some of the gorgeous illustrations, so we thought we’d share a few with you too:
At the end of each year the Times newspaper publishes an article honouring some of the notable people who have passed away during the year, including leading figures in film, music, politics, science, art, entertainment, business, sport, food and literature. However this year their obituary writers also published a long-overdue obituary.
Two centuries after Jane Austen’s death on July 18, 1817, the Times finally gave Jane Austen the lengthy tribute which she deserved – an obituary of 2,755 words!
When Jane Austen died 200 years ago her death was little remarked upon, this primarily because very few people knew that she was the author behind the wonderful novels Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion not being published until after her death); this because her books had been published anonymously. (Though they did also note that the golden age of Times obituaries was also yet to begin — it finally got going in the format that we would recognise today with a 30,674 word piece on the death of the Duke of Wellington in 1852 after the editor decreed, “Wellington’s death will be the only topic”.)
If you’d like to read the full obituary you can find it here (N.B. to read the article you’ll need to create a free account).
The national tourism agency VisitBritain said that 2017 was a record year for inbound tourism to the UK – with 39.9m visits. The Jane Austen Centre certainly enjoyed welcoming a great many visitors through its doors. But although 2017 was a great year for visiting the UK, VisitBritain is predicting that the number of visitors coming to Britain will reach 41.7m in 2018 – a 4.4% rise on 2017.
With both the euro and the dollar being strong against sterling, it’s a great year to take advantage of a holiday to England (and to Bath) where visitors from abroad will be able to get great deals on everything from hotel stays to restaurant visits.
Fingers crossed that VisitBritain are right, then. The team at the Jane Austen Centre hope to welcome you soon!
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