Bath has been the setting of many a great novel throughout the years, as well as plenty of TV programmes and films.
As such an iconic city, which has survived almost as if caught in a time capsule in many ways, it’s special in that you can read the novels which have been set in Bath and, although many may have been written over a hundred years ago, you can still recognize the streets and buildings the books reference. So why not visit Bath on the page and then in person?
Here are just a few of the books you could read which are set in Bath:
Northanger Abbey/Persuasion – Jane Austen
(Published in 1818. Set in 1800(approx.) and 1814 respectively.)
Northanger Abbey sees the young and naïve heroine discovering the delights of Bath social life and the dangers of believing too strongly in Gothic thriller novels; while Persuasion is about love, loss and hope, as Anne Elliot is thrown together once more with the man she loved but was made to leave in her youth.
Both novels draw heavily on the popular locations of Regency Bath such as the Royal Crescent, the Pump Rooms, the Assembly Rooms and the shopping hub of Milsom Street. When it comes to novels which are set in Bath, these are probably the most well-known, but it has to be said, with good reason. Both are funny, witty, and a wonderful window through to what life was like in Bath in Austen’s time, and through to our own human nature.
The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens
(Published in serial format 1836-1837. Set around 1827.)
The Pickwick Papers is a sequence of loosely related adventures. The novel's main character, Samuel Pickwick, is a kind and wealthy old gentleman, and the founder and president of the Pickwick Club. To extend his researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life, he suggests that he and three other "Pickwickians" should make journeys to places remote from London and report on their findings to the other members of the club.
Although not entirely set in Bath, the novel heavily satirizes the social scene in Bath at the time Dickens was writing and mentions several iconic locations (the Assembly Rooms for example). Dickens spent a lot of time in Bath while he was working as a journalist before he became a novelist, and he got the name for The Pickwick Papers from the sides of coaches belonging to Eleazer Pickwick (1749-1837), the owner of a well-known Bath coaching business.
In his early days, Dickens used to stay in The Saracen’s Head pub, which still exists to this day as the oldest pub in Bath.
Go Swift and Far – Douglas Westcott
(Published in 2013. Set in 1942 and the three decades after)
“Born in the wartime German raids on Bath in the Spring of 1942, an orphan boy, alone and destitute, is determined to survive... Go Swift and Far is a sweeping coming of age saga that exposes the deceit and hypocrisy lurking behind the genteel facades of the famous City of Bath.”
Written by a local businessman who has lived in Bath for over thirty years and seen its development first hand. This book is the first in a projected trilogy tracing Bath from World War II to the present day, with real events from the City’s history drawn from The Bath Chronicle archives.