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Writing In Tough Times: Jane Austen in Bath and Southhampton

Jane Austen Writers' Club

Exclusive content by Rebecca Smith, author of The Jane Austen Writers’ Club

Rebecca Smith

One of the hardest things about writing is just keeping going.

Lots of people can write well, but to finish a novel, receive rejections, keep on editing and revising and then do it all over again takes real stamina. Most published authors’ first novels aren’t their first novels at all. Lots of creative young people want to write but give up in their twenties or thirties when early success eludes them and life takes over. Jane Austen could easily have given up, and at first glance it could seem that for a while she did. It’s easy to think that Jane Austen didn’t write much during her years in Bath and Southampton.

We know from Jane’s letters and family recollections that she was at first horrified about the move to Bath but then became resigned and even looked forward to being in the city and spending summers at the seaside:

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The Month of November in Regency Bath

November in Regency Bath

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”.

Samuel Taylor ColeridgeJane 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. Continue reading The Month of November in Regency Bath