Writers in Bath: An Inspirational City
Ask anyone about which famous authors are associated with Bath and they’re bound to mention Jane Austen, particularly as she lives in the city and based two of her novels here. It is a shame that she reportedly hated her time here. Charles Dickens is also sometimes linked to Bath but although he was a frequent visitor, he never lived here.
But there are many other writers who came to Bath and loved it. Fanny Burney was a prolific writer and novelist of the late 18th and early 19th century. She said: ‘Bath is… the only place for us since here, all the year round there is always the town at command and always the country for prospect, exercise and delight.’ Fanny Burney is buried at St Swithin’s Church, Walcot, the same church where Jane Austen’s parents were married.
The teenage Mary Wollstonecraft settled in lodgings at 5 Abbey Church Yard, in a building later demolished for the Victorian expansion of the Roman Baths site as a tourist attraction. It was following her attendance at a lecture in Bath about the powerful properties of electricity and a series of nightmares she suffered about thunder and lightning that she was inspired to write Frankenstein, which she started writing in Bath.
The dashing Irish writer and playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan came to Bath where, in 1772, he arranged for the young singer Elizabeth Linley to escape from her father’s house at 11 Royal Crescent. They met in London and fled to France, Sheridan declaring his love for her on the journey. They married in France but on their return to Bath Sheridan had a battle on his hands to persuade Eliza’s father to let them marry, which they did in London. You can see the plaque to their elopement on the side of the house in the Royal Crescent.
Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones, lived in Twerton at a house since demolished and was friendly with Ralph Allen. Fielding’s character Squire Allworthy was modelled on his friend. Another 18th century author, Tobias Smollett, a Scot by birth, also lived in the city. His book, The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker, features a visit to Bath as part of its comedy plot.
Bath has a good share of women writers making their home here. Ann Radcliffe, author of the very popular novel of 1794, The Mysteries of Udolpho, was married at St Michael’s Without Church in Broad Street and later Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty, lived in Englishcombe Lane, where it is said she was inspired by the view to create the character of the horse in her much loved children’s book.
In the 20th century Angela Carter, author of novels including Nights At The Circus, had an apartment at 5 Hay Hill, just off the Paragon, where she lived and wrote in the mid 1970s. Bath Children’s Literature Festival favourite Jacqueline Wilson was also born in Bath, which she talks about when she meets her fans.
And the city is still home to many successful writers!
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