Five minutes with Jane Austen aficionado, Diana White

Jane Austen Bath


Our new Jane Austen’s Bath programme features a specialist talk from local historian Diana White, author of ‘Jane Austen: The Life and Times of the Woman behind the Books’. We asked her to talk to us about some of the themes she will explore.

ECT: How did Jane’s view of her world affect her writing?

DW: Jane Austen was an early feminist and, right from the start, her writing expressed her views about the status of women as third class citizens. Very pertinent to the fact that she began to write more seriously was her decision to turn down a proposal of marriage from Harris Bigg Wither, despite the security that would have brought. It wasn’t easy being a single woman at that time, but she didn't love him and didn't want to risk not being able to write as his wife.

ECT: When did your interest in Jane Austen begin?

DW: When I first came to Bath 30 years ago. I joined a Jane Austen group and took up Regency dancing, which I went on teach myself for many years. (I only gave up when my knees gave out!) 

ECT: You’ve also been a Mayor's Guide for Bath for many years – do you think Jane would still recognise the city today?

DW: Yes, I think so. Despite the many changes, it is still possible to follow in her footsteps, and those of characters from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, the two novels she based here.

The Circus Bath

Image courtesy Visit Bath


ECT:  So, what are your top three sites for conjuring the spirit of Jane Austen?

DW:  Milsom Street, the fashionable shopping street prominent in both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, The Pump Rooms and, of course the Assembly Rooms. Jane’s uncle was a wealthy man and was a subscriber to the Tontine (an investment plan for raising capital, devised in the 17th century) that funded the building of the Upper Rooms, Regency Bath’s most elegant meeting place. Jane and her characters often gathered here for evening balls, concerts and other social functions.

Assembly Rooms

Image courtesy Jane Austen Festival


Find out more about our Discover Jane Austen’s Bath with Diana White programme here