A Truly English England
When I was in London last week, before coming to Bath, an English friend remarked to my fiancé and I, “ You Americans are such suckers for anything old.” I laughed a bit, but am not ashamed to admit that statement is entirely true for me. I have been an anglophile my whole life, have always felt drawn to anything British, and have steeped myself in British literature. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that aside from the 1/8th of my blood which is Italian, the rest of me is entirely Anglo-Saxon—a mix and mash of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish heritage.
My ancestors go back generations, and have lived in many different parts of this country. There is an inbred depth of legacy here for me, mirrored by the depth of history that comes along with that. I love the states, I am very proud to be American, but before America there was England, and Scotland, Ireland and Wales. As we all know, history is incredibly important in informing us about the current state and condition of a place. Therefore just as our great country, America, is informed by the history of the UK, (whether or not we want to admit it), I as well am personally informed about myself and my heritage by exploring the history of this place.
This is not my first long stay in the UK, in fact I spent my freshman year at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland. It was all at once a rich, complicated, and wonderful experience. Because of that time, my trip to Bath so far has not been surprising in the way that it may have been for other people. That being said, the Scottish part of me is nudging me to make note that Scotland is different than England. Still very romantic, but in a darker way-- not quite as light-hearted as England. Beautiful in it’s starkness, and jubilant in it’s summer green.
Bath has delighted me in that it is so very English. It is surrounded by rolling green hills, full of delightful local pubs, the people are kind, they drink tea, and it is characterized by the layers of history to be found here. The Abbey has been a house of worship for over a thousand years, since before the Norman invasion of England. The countryside around the city, especially the Cotswalds, (Bath is the southern tip of the Cotswalds), is obviously the type of countryside which Tolkien was inspired by when he created the Shire. The town has been heavily influenced by the Romans, Georgians, Victorians, and modern day Brits. You could spend weeks here just exploring Bath through the centuries.
It has been my experience this country that you must get out of London in order to truly experience England. This is not true for every city and country, in fact Edinburgh is decidedly Scottish. London is wonderful and fascinating, but it is not purely English anymore in the way that Yorkshire, Harrogate, Somerset, and Bath are. Bath is all at once the England of my imagination, the England of story, and the real England. A bit corny, I know, but you will have to excuse me…I’m such a sucker for anything old.
This post is actually the first of 6 journal entries for my fantasy class. I may share a few more if I feel like it, but I just thought this might be helpful in understanding a bit more about my affinity for England and my excitement about this trip.