Thursday, 2 August 2007

Entry #7 Individual Trip to The Jane Austen Centre

Since I’m doing my long research paper on Jane Austen a trip to Bath was a must. After viewing the Roman spas and walking around town we ended up on Gay Street at the Jane Austen Centre – a few houses away from where Jane lived for a few years. We entered the narrow building and walked into the most fabulous collection of Jane Austen wares that I’ve ever seen. There were books, tapes, postcards, handkerchiefs, quill pens, and more. Dragging myself away from a Mr. Darcy picture, and with the promise that we would have time to come back and look, we bought our tickets and were ushered to the waiting room with several other women to wait for a presentation. There are guides who give speeches twice an hour about the life and works of Jane Austen. This was the best part of the visit for me because they focused on the history of her family, which is what I’m doing my paper on! There were so many things I had never heard before, and it’s amazing how every one of her books contains the names and real life situations of her family. You could spend years dissecting her books on this basis.

After the speech we were lead to a small display area downstairs that was arranged to look like the kind of home Jane would have lived in. As the ITV recently filmed “Persuasion,” there was a 15 minute video about how the costumes were made and ITV lent several of the dresses to the center to be put on display. Throughout there were bits and pieces of her writings along with visual costumes or furniture pieces to highlight the text. Although the display was small, what it did contain was pertinent and very enjoyable to see.

Once we had seen everything and I had bought a huge bagful of memorabilia, I approached one of the guides to ask for advice on which books to look into for my research project. She and another lady were more than helpful, giving me free magazines, listing the names of the best sources, and telling me some additional Austen history. They were so knowledgeable about everything Jane Austen, and now I’m kicking myself for not asking how they got into this field. It would be my dream job!

Besides the tour I went on, the centre offers a multitude of other services. They provide Jane Austen walks through the city that showcase places she lived and visited, they produce a 6 issue a year magazine – Regency World – with articles, news, and reviews, have regency tea rooms, and maintain an excellent website with links to all of these items. I would definitely recommend this place as a must-see to any other Jane Austen aficionados.