In Bath, height is everything. The further up the hill you are the more important you are. In country society, land is everything.

Except that conception, even as its presented in Persuasion, is turned on its head. Sir Walter cannot afford his own home. He’s so taken up with his own worth, that he completely degrades it by spending too much money on fripperies and status symbols. Also, continued living at home would practically guarantee Elizabeth’s spinsterhood, and therefore the end of Walter’s direct line.

Bath means more contact with others of equal or higher standing, and this continual rubbing of elbows means that people like Sir Walter and Elizabeth can grow even more delusional and obsessed with status. At least at home, their delusions stayed at about the same level, because of the stasis of status. In Bath, the chance to interact with people coming in from London for the season means a constant evaluation of status against others.

Bath was meant to stop the decline of the family, but it actually seemed to increase it. Because of the larger, and more changing population of the city, the rise and decline of fortunes seems much more likely. For instance, when the hill has been built up as much as possible, a new group of wealthy can build their own house and create an area more prestigious than the highest house on the hill. In country society, the families held their lands and places within society with a much more firm grasp. Change mostly happened with the advent of marriage.

Society in Bath, where the creation of Laura place can circumvent the hierarchy, marriages between navy officers and landed gentry is more likely and more approved of. It’s within the city societies such as Bath, that the old class structure loses its potency.

Advertisements