It’s Thursday, and while I don’t do #TBT very often, this one has a story behind it.
For the past few months, I have been entering The Seduction of the Duke in contests. One of the perks of this is the feedback I get from the judges. They point out any issues that I may have missed or where clarification is needed. A few weeks ago, I got the results of one of those contest. While I scored high (96/100), I didn’t final. Talk about tough competition!
One of the comments I received puzzled me a bit. One of the judges indicated that they had never heard of a travelling desk being used in Regency times. I was a little confused since I’ve come across several references to it, both in fiction and in research. In fact, I remember taking a picture of a travelling desk I saw at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. I must admit, I felt a bit justified when I found this lovely piece in my photo roll.
You can see the partitioned cubbies where the ink pots and quills would stay, the hinges where it folds closed like a suitcase, and the latch at the front so it could stay closed securely. I contacted the Centre about the desk in question, looking for more information on it. My thanks to Lauren Thompson for answering my questions about this lovely piece.
The traveling desk piece in our exhibition is a replica of Jane’s – although we would love the opportunity to temporarily have the real one on display we simply do not have the funding. The majority of Jane’s memorabilia is on display at Chawton Cottage, her house in Hampshire, where as well as her writing desk they also have things like her jewellery and old toys, etc
So today’s throwback is all about the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England. I ended up going to Bath twice on my trip. The first time was with a tour company that did not afford me the amount of time I needed to explore the city. So I booked a train later in my trip and spent the day there.
The Jane Austen Centre was always high on my list of places to see while in England. It has a fine representation of items from the Georgian period such as clothing and furnishings, like the travel desk above. It also has what is quite possibly the closest artistic representation of Jane Austen herself.
The house itself is very similar to the one Jane Austen lived in while residing in Bath. The staff is wonderful and friendly, and garbed in Georgian era clothing as they take you on a tour of the Centre. It was one of the few places I visited where pictures were allowed and you could touch things. As you know, I am a big fan of hands-on learning. Anytime I can get my hands on something to experience it first hand, I will. Some visitors were trying on dresses and pelisses. I opted for a bonnet and a picture with my new friend Jane. 🙂
Learning to write with a quill was another fun experience. It is not easy to achieve the perfect balance of pressure to write clearly and not break the tip! The sharpened quill dipped in ink scratched along the paper, and if you caught the corner just right it would tug and you’d end up with an ink splotch in the middle of your letter. My little note (to the right) is after several attempts ended in such a disaster. Needless to say, my fingers ended up with a goodly amount of ink on them as well. Once written, all the note needed was quick blot and it was ready to go.
It Centre itself is, quite literally, a hidden gem nestled in the middle of a row of townhouses across from Queen’s Square. It is so well hidden, in fact, I almost missed it completely! I walked up and down the street three times and was was ready to call it quits, forgoing my visit, when I looked up and saw it was directly across the street. I blame it on the weather that day. Not only was I hit with a
cold traveler’s curse, it was a chilly, windy, and rainy day. Head bowed against the weather, I had the hood pulled low over my eyes and the scarf covering most of my face.
Despite the weather, I had a wonderful time in Bath. The city itself is beautiful with most of the buildings constructed of the lush blond limestone. After chatting with the locals at the museums, I found out the city looks much as it did when founded in the 18th century. Oh, sure the building have been modernized on the inside, but the carved stone fronts and Georgian columns remain as original. It is definitely on my list of places to return to, hopefully when the weather is better and I can enjoy the wide promenades and spectacular views.