Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jane Austen's Persuasion and the Old White Hart Inn

I love all the research involved for a new book especially when a new piece of a jigsaw fits into place. I've read Jane Austen's Persuasion many times, but it was only recently that I read this passage and puzzled over it.

Anne...hastened forward to the White Hart, to see again the friends and companions of the last autumn, with an eagerness of goodwill which many associations contributed to form. They found Mrs. Musgrove and her daughter within, and by themselves, and Anne had the kindest welcome from each. Henrietta was exactly in that state of recently improved views, of fresh-formed happiness, which made her full of regard and interest for everybody she had ever liked before at all; and Mrs. Musgrove's real affection had been won by her usefulness when they were in distress. It was a heartiness, and a warmth, and a sincerity which Anne delighted in the more, from the sad want of such blessings at home. She was intreated to give them as much of her time as possible, invited for every day and all day long, or rather claimed as a part of the family; and, in return, she naturally fell into all her wonted ways of attention and assistance, and on Charles's leaving them together, was listening to Mrs. Musgrove's history of Louisa, and to Henrietta's of herself, giving opinions on business, and recommendations to shops; with intervals of every help which Mary required, from altering her ribbon to settling her accounts, from finding her keys, and assorting her trinkets, to trying to convince her that she was not ill-used by anybody; which Mary, well amused as she generally was, in her station at a window overlooking the entrance to the Pump Room, could not but have her moments of imagining.

The part that puzzled me was about the White Hart and the fact that Mary could stand at the window and see the entrance to the Pump Room. The only White Hart I know in Bath is in Widcombe, but nowhere near the Pump Room, certainly not at a distance to be able to see it or the entrance. After a little further investigation I discovered that there had been a White Hart Coaching Inn situated opposite the Pump Room in Stall Street. It was a major coaching inn, a stopping place for new arrivals to the spa town as well as a hotel.

Charles Dickens also makes mention of it in Pickwick Papers.

And at seven o'clock p.m. Mr. Pickwick and his friends, and Mr. Dowler and his wife, respectively retired to their private sitting-rooms at the White Hart Hotel, opposite the Great Pump Room, Bath, the waiters, from their costume, might be mistaken for Westminster boys, only they destroy the illusion by behaving themselves much better.

Not only was this building eventually demolished but the Grand Pump Room Hotel which replaced it was also pulled down in1958/9 to be replaced by shops. I found this really interesting site with lots of images of Bath from the past Click here to see Bath in Time.

Another wonderful site is Bath360 If you click the link you can see what the Pump Rooms look like today - the White Hart and Grand Hotel are shops today, which can be glimpsed through the colonnade.

I can just imagine in its heyday how exciting it must have been for new visitors to Bath to arrive outside the imposing inn with views of the Pump Room and Abbey on the opposite side - I would love a trip back through time just to witness it in all its splendour!

Jane Odiwe


Jane Holland said...

There's a lovely ye olde White Hart Hotel near the cathedral in Exeter, where I once spent an idyllic weekend with my later first husband. (In the Inn, that is, not the cathedral.) That was also a coaching inn, as I recall.

Such a pity the old Pump Rooms were pulled down. The ones in Leamington Spa are still there, though now a tearoom and museum.

Jan Jones said...

Very interesting, Jane. Really shows the value of thorough research.

Historical Romance Author said...

Jane, it was just the Victorian Grand Pump Room Hotel that was pulled down which was built to replace the White Hart. Still, a shame that it was pulled down. Sorry if I gave the wrong impression, but the lovely Pump Rooms are still there - a wonderful place for afternoon tea!

Historical Romance Author said...

Jan, I can't believe I've overlooked that bit in the book before - I've read it so many times!


Jane Holland said...

Sorry - that's what comes of reading blog posts while half asleep!

Having been to Bath myself a couple of times, I did wonder ... !

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Fascinating - and well done you for spotting the problem and for the detective work which unravelled it.

I've read 'Persuasiion' I don't know how many times - and managed to miss it!

miss decadent said...

I love bath and go whenever I get the chance. it pieces of information like this that make the city more charming. I thought i would share this image with you, a small early print i have of the cresent

Alison Judith Bailey said...

Jane Austen's Inn is the same "White Hart" which figures strongly n Charles Dicken's "Pickwick Papers" set in the 1820s. I believe the name "Pickwick" comes from the name of the properietor of the White Hart.