Anna Ashwell at the Pump Room in Bath
by Elisabeth Allen
Ahh … the Pump Room! This is where, in the world of books and films, Anne Elliot and Lady Russel discuss the merits of Mr Elliot (“Persuasion“); where Catherine Moreland meets Isabelle Thorpe and looks in vain for Henry Tilney (“Northanger Abbey“); where Henry and Marianne Thornton try to set William Wilberforce and Barbara Spooner up …
I must admit that I enjoy that scene from “Amazing Grace“. It makes me laugh every time I watch the film. There’s Marianne Thornton talking about nothing, but concluding, “Well, bless my soul, here we are talking about the abolition and who should come in but my husband and Mr Wilberforce.” And then there’s Henry Thornton recommending marriage and adding, “Ah, there’s Marianne, but who is that attractive young woman with her?” It is, however, Barbara Spooner’s comment that makes me laugh most: “Marianne, you are outrageous!” I may have sometimes felt like saying that myself to match-making family and friends … : )
Today I’ve been editing the chapter of “The Abolitionist” in which Anna visits the Pump Room. I’m doing a LOT of editing at the moment. I’ve paused for a moment to share these pictures and behind-the-scenes peeks – starting with some pictures I took inside the gorgeous 1789 – 1799 building itself …
It’s at the Pump Room that, in “The Abolitionist”, Anna Ashwell meets William Dancey and her cousins John and Diana Gregory again. She also meets Sarah and Sammy – both black, with different trials and with different destinies – and confronts the reality of slavery in her world for the first time.
Anna and Captain Dancey – William – also discuss the drinking of the water …
Lady Hawkridge handed Anna a glass of cloudy, warm water. She sniffed suspiciously and jerked the glass away from her nose so quickly that a few drops of water fell from the glass onto her gloves. The water smelled terrible and the possibility of putting the glass to her lips and drinking – of actually consuming! – the water was out of the question. Anna glanced at her grandmother and, quietly, put the full glass down. Someone put an empty glass down beside the full one.
“You are very wise, Miss Ashwell,” William said. He nodded at their glasses as they sat side by side. One was empty, but one was full. He grinned. “It does taste very disagreeable!”
“And yet you drink it anyway?” Anna glanced at William in wonder. She turned away from the glasses and tried to look as if she knew nothing about the full glass. “You are braver than I!”
“Not at all!” William grimaced and limped away from the Pump. “Those of us who require the benefit of the Waters are obliged to drink a glass of water in spite of the taste.” He shuddered. “The taste is nasty – quite unutterably nasty.”
Sympathetically Anna asked, “Oh … do you require the Waters?” She glanced at her friend and whispered, “Your leg?”
“My leg,” William said. He sighed. “It troubles me still and I am in Bath to try the power of the Waters.” He grinned. “It would, therefore, be very simple of me not to drink the water – however terrible!”
Speaking of things I may have wanted to say … this was inspired directly by my personal opinion about the water served in the Pump Room. It is exceptionally nasty. But, of course, it is also part of the Bath experience in 1807 AND 2011!