Notebook

For much of the time that it was a resort serving the Georgian power elite, Bath was a building site where finely dressed visitors in brocaded coats, hoop petticoats and sack-back dresses shared the narrow streets with sweaty labourers in leather aprons… Wealthy visitors in the best rooms in the newest lodging houses might still be awakened at five in the morning by roofers “covering in” a still-newer house across the courtyard… It flies in the face of our stereotype of the European eighteenth century to know that, far from being repelled by this aspect of their stay in Bath, members of the company in progress were fascinated by the city-in-progress, down to the raw materials of brick, mortar and quarried stone. To our eyes and to our minds, Georgian classicism…evokes the static politics, latitudinarian religion and confident complacency that we still associate with the period. We forget that this architecture, as it rose and displaced its Elizabethan and Jacobean antecedents, was to Bath’s visitors the architecture of a brilliant and exciting future.

John Eglin, “The Imaginary Autocrat: Beau Nash and the Invention of Georgian Bath”.

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