Items that Weren’t on Display in the Jane Austen Centre in Bath
Maybe my expectations were a little too high
In 2008 I took a pilgrimage to The Land of Crisps and Biscuits, because I’d never crossed an ocean and because my decision making had been unduly influenced by the ridiculous output of British authors.
I’ll admit, I half expected to find Peter Pan perched on the second hand of Big Ben when I arrived in London. My heart continued breaking in incremental segments upon finding that Sherlock Holmes wasn’t sniffing around Baker Street and The Globe Theater was entirely devoid of the physical presence of William Shakespeare. (Apparently he died in 1616? Inexcusable.)
But surely Bath would be different. London is a big, crazy city and can cast a Paris syndrome-like effect when visited by raging book nerds.
I had high hopes for Bath.
Bath is quiet. Stately. Somewhat removed from the sensible sneakers and fanny packs littering the London underground. Lots of tourists are just looking for the Top Ten European Hits and that precludes graceful, little Bath.
Bath wouldn’t let me down.
The place I was most excited to visit was the Jane Austen Centre.
As a fan of the books written by Jane Austen and the 83 bajillion adaptations of those books, I was ready to fully immerse myself in the world of the Regency Period.
I was going to wear an empire waist gown, drink a ridiculous amount of gin, stumble into an arranged marriage with a handsome stranger, and maybe die of syphilis.
All the classics.
When we approached the little apartment, my heart was beating quickly. I knew the whole experience was going to be transformative AF.
They were certain to have all the amazing curios I could hope for. But, while there were a lot of very interesting trinkets for me to stare at, the Centre lacked the following items:
The Blood-Soaked Knife Used in Jane Austen’s Murder
People aren’t sure what caused Jane Austen to die at the young age of 41. Scholars argue over whether it was tuberculosis, cancer, or perhaps Addison’s disease that ended her writing career and life.
However, true fans know she was murdered by a jealous contemporary, Maria Edgeworth, who suspected there was only room in English literature for one female author at a time. The blood-soaked knife used to commit the murder should be on display at the Jane Austen Centre, but, sadly, it is not.
The Drawers of Thomas Langlois Lefroy
I mean, come on. Surely Jane had a pair of these tucked away somewhere, even if she had to acquire them through a sneaky, midnight raid on the good gentleman’s underwear drawer. Jane was the sort of strong-minded woman who wouldn’t balk at an adventure.
And Thomas Langlois Lefroy had to be a babe to catch the eye of our favorite lady author.
So show us those drawers!
(A fun fact I learned while researching this article: Many Regency men didn’t even wear drawers! Going commando was a popular and socially acceptable fashion choice for dudes. I’m sure Thomas wore drawers, however. Otherwise this bit wouldn’t work.)
The Severed Head that was the Inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
You might be surprised to read this, but Jane Austen was intimately involved in piecing together several elements for Mary Shelley’s esteemed novel, Frankenstein. While you won’t find this in any of your fancy history books, Jane acted as an occasional mentor for the younger writer and the two of them got up to some dark shit.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that Shelley published Frankenstein exactly one year after Jane died? No, my friend. Shelley knew Jane would be appalled if their experiments became public knowledge, so she waited to publish until Jane shrugged off her mortal coil.
I really wanted to see that severed head.
It often happens with travel that one gets their expectations up too high. I thought all the mysteries of the universe would be laid out before me, in addition to bloody knives and dirty drawers. Unfortunately none of that happened on my trip to Bath.
However it was a very nice city and I did have some delicious tea at the Jane Austen Centre.
So, I guess I’d still recommend taking a visit if you have the time.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, then consider following me on twitter. Where I only ever tweet things that are true.