And, no I’m not kidding. I don’t know about you, but I made it through my mega awkward teenage years by living and breathing Jane’s novels. Through even the worst times in my life, I could always find friendship and solace in Jane’s company. That love for her work has followed me well into adulthood, and I don’t find it overly ambitious to say I could qualify as her #1 fan. When people chalk up her masterpieces to "just love stories", I can feel steam pouring out of my ears. Don’t they get it? She’s an author whose work is essentially a satire, critique, or analysis of the country gentry of her day, with characters so rich that they span time. Are there love stories within? Of course! But, is this the only basis of her work? Absolutely not. Which of us does not know a hypochondriac like Mr. Woodhouse or a proud man like Mr. Darcy? How about the beautiful young girl we all have known who believes she’s got the world figured out? And, Persuasion itself is a deep dive into a woman’s life, a woman who has allowed herself to be persuaded into decisions by those who felt they knew what was best for her, and the reader rejoices when Anne finally throws others’ opinions to the wayside and decides to feel and act on her own accord. Jane’s words challenge the reader, forcing us into self-examination. Are we too proud, too easily persuaded, too blinded by immaturity or selfishness? All of these traits exist in her characters and inspire us to be better people because of it. Can you really not feel your own faults exploited in her work? How about your own pain or joy? But, yeah sure, they’re just love stories. Hmmm… Rant over.
My husband and I found ourselves on a UK adventure last Christmas, and I could barely hold myself together I was so excited to visit Bath (read our tips on Bath here). Zipping across the English countryside on the train, I wondered what the town would really be like these days after reading about it countless times in Jane’s work. Let me tell you the exact word that now comes to mind: Adorable. And although there are cars motoring the streets, we found it easy to imagine that we had, in fact, stepped back in time. With that sentiment burying itself deep into our hearts, we arrived at the doorstep of Jane’s apartment, our fascinating abode for the next two nights. Looking at 4 Sydney Place, I realized that here was the moment for which I had been waiting… for a long time, y’all. A simple sign greets you with “Here Lived Jane Austen 1801-1805,” and we are promptly greeted by the warm and inviting Barbara into the home. As soon as I tell Barbara what a huge fan of Jane’s I am, she gives us the grand tour, taking us through each room (no one else had yet checked in) and providing us with all of her 4 Sydney Place knowledge. Walking into the bedroom that would have been Jane’s was surreal for me, and even though we know that Bath was more of a dry period in her writing, I wondered what ideas and what writing occurred in that very room! After marveling through the house, we settled our luggage into our room before heading off for lunch and exploring.
Our room, Emma’s Garden Apartment, was downstairs, and we had full use of the outdoor area from our back door. The room also included a kitchen with tea and coffee, and we made full use of these items while we were there. Trent and I walked down to the store to buy snacks and items for breakfast, and it was so nice to have the kitchen for that. The apartment was comprised of two back rooms where you find the kitchen and bathroom, and then two larger rooms up front. One is now the bedroom, and the front room is a lovely sitting room with a view of The Holburne Museum. On a fangirl note: Emma’s Garden Apartment would have originally been the sitting room for the family and where they would have received their guests, and I wondered which scenes in her novels could have been inspired by her visitors here. On our last night there, I sat on the couch and wrote on my novel, and the feeling of creating in the home where Jane also created felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Inspiration certainly flowed through me. And after all, what’s better than sipping tea and writing in Bath?
If you’re planning a stay in Bath, I can’t say enough about this boutique hotel. If you’re a fan of Jane’s, it’s a must, and if you’re a fan of history and looking for a beautiful place to stay, it’s a must. On a more practical note, the area was spacious, clean, and comfortable. The staff was pleasant and helpful during our entire stay, and when we make it back to Bath, we’ll absolutely be staying here again. The charm, the cozy rooms, the friendly staff, and the proximity to everything was just perfect for us. And, I think somewhere up there, a very amused Jane was smiling down on her craziest fan.