The month is November, and we’re back in the 1800s exploring Regency Bath.
The autumn has been mild, tentative and lingering, and then, suddenly, to borrow Coleridge’s phrase, “at one stride comes the dark”.
Jane Austen was unlikely to have read “The Ancient Mariner” or even to have heard of its slightly disreputable author, though Coleridge made several visits to Bath around the time of Jane’s connection with the city. Posterity might consign these two great writers to the same library shelf because they coincide in history, but in life a huge gulf divided them. Barriers of gender, class and political affinity – not to mention the stifling social conventions – would have sent Miss Austen walking hurriedly past “STC”, if she had ever encountered his scruffy, lurching figure. What a pity – the debate they never had, between imagination and self-discipline, could have lasted well into the new nineteenth century. They would have had much to debate on the subject of fear and its control.