Bath and its people are friendly, but the city wasn’t always so welcoming. There are many accounts of the work-shy, the criminals, and the “impudent plebeians” that once lived here. Bath City Language Coaching reads some of these less than complimentary comments.
Tobias Smollett wrote in 1771 that “men of low birth and no breeding” would flock to Bath for the waters at the Roman Baths or to dance badly at balls in the Assembly Rooms with their social superiors. He thought that the lower and middle classes had “neither understanding nor judgement” and enjoyed nothing more than “insulting their betters.”
William Stukeley, in 1724, said that the inhabitants of Bath had “a very great narrowness of spirit”.
In 1869, Charles Dickens remarked that Bath looked like “a cemetery which the dead have succeeded in rising and taking…They wander about…trying to ‘look alive'”. To be fair to Old Charlie, if he could see George Street on a Friday or Saturday night, he would see people behaving in the same manner.
There is definitely a difference between the people of Bath, depending on where they live. Income and living standards do vary in Bath. Away from the tourist spots, there is a lot of poverty. Even in the city centre, as in every city in the world, you will see homeless people, people queueing outside chain junk-food takeaways, and the unemployed. But most visitors to Bath don’t notice this when they are taking selfies next to the Royal Crescent.
Jane Austen was not a fan of Bath. Read Northanger Abbey or Persuasion, and you will see her real opinions about the city and its people. She put her words into her characters’ mouths, but by having them saying, “I get so immoderately sick of Bath“, and calling the men “scarecrows” and the women “ugly” or at best “plain”, we can guess her real feeliings.
Things have generally changed for the better, though. The people are usually friendly, the pubs, cafes and restaurants are welcoming, and although the traffic system is a disaster, it is easy to get around. So, take the comments above with a pinch of salt and come to see us. And even better, read some comments from my past and present students and book an English language course with Bath City Language Coaching.