While local academic Professor Tim Mowl has been arguing for a statue to be erected in Bath to honour architect John Wood – it seems the figure of Jane Austen could be first to occupy a new plinth.
The Jane Austen Centre has announced they intend to erect a bronze statue of the famous author in the city this year.
The statue will be based on the waxwork unveiled at the Centre – in Gay Street – to global media interest in July 2014.
This earlier figure was created through work undertaken by forensic artist Melissa Dring and is said to be the closet-ever likeness to the author.
The sculptor of the bronze statue is world-renowned Mark Richards, whose previous work not only includes the Austen waxwork but also Winston Churchill, Prince Philip and The Queen.
Paul Crossey, Jane Austen Centre Managing Director, said: ‘We feel it is fitting that Jane Austen should be honoured in this way within the city that played such a major role in her life.’
The exact location of the bronze statue is currently under discussion.
‘We are liaising with B&NES at present,’ Mr Crossey added, ‘and several possible sites in the north of the city, relevant to Austen’s life and writing, have been identified.
‘Not only will it be good to honour Austen the author, it will also be good to go a little way to redress the fact that less than 3% of all statues in the UK are of historical, non-royal women.
‘The connection between Jane Austen and Bath is a strong one both in her life and her writing.
‘Her parents were married in the city, at St Swithin’s Church, in Walcot, in 1764 and on George Austen’s retirement from his rectory in Hampshire, they moved permanently to Bath.
Jane Austen lived with her parents at various addresses within the city between 1801 and 1806.
‘Two of her books – ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’ – are set in the city and Bath is mentioned in her other completed novels, including ‘Pride & Prejudice’, ‘Sense & Sensibility’ and ‘Emma’.
‘There is a myth that Jane disliked Bath, but this is simply not true. Her time here was very influential and although she left the city, the city seemingly never left her.
‘A decade after she left, for example, she wrote a love letter to the city in the form of ‘Persuasion’, one of the most romantic novels in the whole of English Literature.’
Meanwhile, Professor Mowl is looking for backing for a statue of John Wood the Elder to go in The Circus – one of the city’s iconic Georgian public spaces he designed.
How fitting, given that Bath was one of Austen’s least favourite places. “For six weeks, I allow, Bath is pleasant enough; but beyond that, it is the most tiresome place in the world.” – Northanger Abbey.
Sally Helvey writes:
If you were to take the expression on Jane’s waxwork as a slightly pensive one, and they do make a bronze of this likeness, then a statue would be best positioned next to the lawn where the new labyrinth/maze is going (even though it’s a very different place to where it was originally).
This could accompany the statue:
In her letter to Cassandra on 21st January 1801, just before moving to Bath, Jane writes: “It would be very pleasant to be near Sidney Gardens – we might go into the Labrinth every day…”
Sally Helvey – BATHwithSally/City-Secrets
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