History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

08 February 2007

Visit Bath with Celia May Hart

It’s tough coming up with a topic to talk about. Mostly, I just read and read and read and it gets taken in by osmosis. So I can surely tell you where to look things up, but off the top of my head? Nah.

However, I thought I might talk a little bit about Bath, England, although my current book isn’t set there. You don’t want to hear how I fudged the whole travel thing from Durham to Dover in MADE FOR SIN. Trust me.

A lot of us don’t have the chance to visit the places which we write about. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Bath three times (so far). I love the city!

Bath was host to the Sydney Gardens (walk over the Pulteney Bridge and keep walking west until you hit the gate). This was much like Vauxhall in that it was an adult pleasure gardens. It had bowling greens, walks, waterfalls, tea pavilions, a grotto, a faux castle ruin, a “ride” for horseback riding, illuminations and a labyrinth (with a Merlin’s chair in the center). This was created in the late 1700s, during the peak of Bath’s popularity with the ton.

Wait, you’re asking. What’s a Merlin’s Chair? There is some debate about it. I’ve seen a picture that makes it look like an oversized swing (big enough for two people at a time), almost like a primitive ferris wheel. I’ve read a reference that the half-paralyzed Lady Duncannon was able to propel her Merlin Chair across the room, which doesn’t make it sound like a swing at all. There’s a reference to an exhibition catalogue by Anne French called “John Joseph Merlin, the Ingenious Mechanick” (London, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, 1985), which supplies the clarification that the Merlin Chair was actually an invention in addition to the “health-giving” swings of Sydney Gardens.

So there you have it. Everybody is right.

At any rate, the Gardens were a favorite haunt of Jane Austen’s and they are still there, although it requires a heavy dose of imagination to see how it might have been, with the railroad cut through, the ruins and labyrinth gone, the addition of tennis courts, among other things. But there a plenty of prints that paint a delightful scene of evenings there.

Oh, and one more Bath tip before I go: don’t forget to include the sensation of incredibly steep hills in any work set their. Because if you’re not going uphill in Bath, you’re going downhill. (With the exception of the area close by the Abbey. There are always exceptions.)

If you haven’t been, maybe one day you too will make it to the City of Bath.


Blogger Celia May Hart said...

Kalen, love the addition of the pics! Thank you!

And I spotted a typo in the last paragraph: "their" instead of "there". Now why didn't I see that before?

9:02 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Typoes are spontaniosuly produced by hitting the "publish" button. LOL!

I loved Bath when I was there, and I must tell you all that the hills were MUCH steeper than I'd imagined them.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

My husband Michael accompanied me to Bath and yawned through the costume museum -- perking up, however, when I announced that we'd now see the Pump Room.

OK, whatever, I thought. But when we got there he looked crestfallen. "THIS is the Pump Room?" he asked. "I thought it would be where the Roman slaves pumped all the water in."

Poor dear. Sometimes marriage (and research partnership) has its disappointments, even in the world of romance writing.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Celia May Hart said...

Pam -- ROTFL!!! Was he expecting a sex toy museum or something?

Kalen -- the hills are so steep -- my calves were killing me the first couple of days.

4:40 PM  
Blogger KimW said...

Wow...that's beautiful! I'd love to visit some day.

LOL, Pam!!

5:34 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Well, he's always been sort of a sucker for Roman galley slave scenes in big sandal epics.

But actually he found Bath quite lovely, as I did.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

I am reading the book "A Summer to Remember" by Mary Balogh, and she describes Vauxhall just as you have. I had no idea there was such a thing as a "adult pleasure" garden---for the ton. ;-)


7:15 PM  

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