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Monday, September 30, 2013

Mr. Woodhouse and Sir Walter Elliot: Urban Poop Mavens



Apropos Mr. Woodhouse’s warnings to Frank Churchill about stepping in poop on the way to the Bates residence:

"You are acquainted with Miss Jane Fairfax, sir, are you?" said Mr. Woodhouse, always the last to make his way in conversation; "then give me leave to assure you that you will find her a very agreeable young
lady. She is staying here on a visit to her grandmamma and aunt, very worthy people; I have known them all my life. They will be extremely glad to see you, I am sure, and one of my servants shall go with you to
shew you the way."

It was only now, upon rereading the post I wrote a few hours ago on this topic…


….that I realized that Jane Austen actually revisited Mr.Woodhouse’s concern about where Frank might step, when, writing Persuasion the following year, she had Sir Walter Eliot sound off about Anne at Westgate Buildings….

"WESTGATE BUILDINGS!" said he, "and who is Miss Anne Elliot to be visiting in Westgate Buildings? A Mrs Smith. A widow Mrs Smith; and who was her husband? One of five thousand Mr Smiths whose names are to be met with everywhere. And what is her attraction? That she is old and sickly. Upon my word, Miss Anne Elliot, you have the most extraordinary taste! Everything that REVOLTS other people, LOW company, paltry rooms, FOUL AIR, DISGUSTING associations are inviting to you….”

….as I posted last Thursday in the second of my posts about Jane Austen’s “dirt” as “poop” motifs:



What Sir Walter Elliot and Mr. Woodhouse have in common in their respective warnings is that they are not just issuing them randomly, without regard to where Anne and Frank walk. That would be paranoia or snobbery, and totally irrational. But no, it turns out that these two supposed fools are remarkably congruent in the specificity of their advice. In Persuasion it is because Anne is going to visit her poor friend Mrs. Smith in the low rent district of Bath, and in Emma it is because Frank is going to visit the home of the impoverished Miss Bates in the low rent district of Highbury. And we know that it was in those parts of town which received minimal to no municipal services like street cleaning that the problem of accumulated horse poop was going to be at its absolute worst.

When my four recent posts about Austen scatology are viewed as a collectivity, then, I cannot see any reasonable basis for refuting my inference (again, based on Diana Birchall’s brilliant insight upfront about Lizzy’s muddy petticoats, without which I would not have seen any of this other stuff) that Jane Austen very consciously, from at least 1804 until 1816, repeatedly deployed the motif of “dirt” as “poop” in her fiction, not only for laughs, but, beneath the laughter, for serious social criticism—the degrading, disgusting, and potentially dangerous unsanitary conditions that the urban poor had to endure.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

“…unless you keep on the footpath”: Mr. Woodhouse, Chief of Municipal Hygiene, & Highbury’s Dirty Lane



In my post last week about the subliminal scatological aroma of Lizzy Bennet’s muddy petticoats when she walks to Netherfield…


…I also mentioned the famous passage at the beginning of Emma re Mr. Knightley’s shoes, which I claimed was JA revisiting that same scatological theme she had used re Lizzy 3 years earlier:  

“And finally, remember that Jane Austen is the author who created Mr. Woodhouse, the man who was obsessed with "bad air" at "south end" (classic ribald humor!) and also wrote the following exchange about another rustic walk and the dangers of dirty feet:
"But you must have found it very damp and DIRTY. I wish you may not catch cold."
"DIRTY, sir! Look at my shoes. Not a speck on them."
 "Well! that is quite surprising, for we have had a vast deal of rain here. It rained dreadfully hard for half an hour while we were at breakfast. I wanted them to put off the wedding."
I find it drolly funny to wonder whether Mr. Woodhouse is slyly hinting that Knightley might have gotten poop on his shoes. And I believe JA was perfectly capable of some subtle country humor about the "process of elimination" in man and beast. I'd say the question is up in the air, pending more evidence tending one direction or another.”  END QUOTE

 Skip ahead to the JASNA AGM just completed in Minneapolis (as to which I will be blogging gradually the rest of this week, there were so many cool highlights to mention). On Friday, Juliet McMasters gave her usual AGM master class in her uniquely witty, poetic and insightful way. This year, her presentation was about the parallels she sees between JA’s Juvenilia (as to which no one in the world is a greater expert than Juliet) and Pride & Prejudice.

As I listened, I knew immediately that serendipity had led Diana to post her insight about Lizzy’s “muddy” petticoat just days before (her dear friend) Juliet’s presentation. Why? Because the question was therefore already fresh in my mind, one that Juliet would be uniquely qualified to answer. I.e., if there really is all this veiled “dirty” scatology in JA’s novels, all published after she was 34, when most Janeites (but not including me!) believe that JA had long since left behind the wild impropriety of her Juvenilia, then wouldn’t there be poop jokes all over the place in the Juvenilia?

Thinking just that, last week, I had searched “dirt” and “dirty” in JA’s juvenilia and had found nothing. That had particularly puzzled me, as there is otherwise lots of dirty (in a metaphorical sense) material in JA’s juvenilia, such as the rather frank ribaldry of JA’s History of England:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2013/02/jane-austens-carpet-sharade-on-james.html

That’s the question I asked Juliet during the Q&A after her session, and my question received a mixture of jolly and worried laughter from the other attendees. Juliet also chuckled, but then paused and really thought about it, but could not from memory retrieve any such example from the Juvenilia. So for now, that remains an open question, and my best guess at this moment is that JA did not start using “dirt” as code for “poop” till she wrote The Watsons round about 1804, when she was almost 30, and that , before then, she had another code word, which I will endeavor to discover!  

Anyway, today, as I got back in my normal routine, I went back and looked a bit more closely at this theme of “dirt” as “poop” in Emma, and immediately found a smoking gun (or should I better say, a puddle concealing a pile of reeking poop?) in the following passage in Chapter 23:

[Emma to Frank]  "If you were never particularly struck by [Jane’s] manners before," said she, "I think you will to-day. You will see her to advantage; see her and hear her -- no, I am afraid you will not hear her at all, for she has an aunt who never holds her tongue."
"You are acquainted with Miss Jane Fairfax, sir, are you?" said Mr. Woodhouse, always the last to make his way in conversation; "then give me leave to assure you that you will find her a very agreeable young lady. She is staying here on a visit to her grandmamma and aunt, very worthy people; I have known them all my life. They will be extremely glad to see you, I am sure, and one of my servants shall go with you to shew you the way."
"My dear sir, upon no account in the world; my father can direct me."
"But your father is not going so far; he is only going to the Crown, quite on the other side of the street, and there are a great many houses; you might be very much at a loss, and it is a very DIRTY walk, unless you keep on the foot-path; but my coachman can tell you where you had best cross the street."
Mr. Frank Churchill still declined it, looking as serious as he could, and his father gave his hearty support by calling out, "My good friend, this is quite unnecessary; Frank knows a puddle of water when he sees it, and as to Mrs. Bates's, he may get there from the Crown in a hop, step and jump."
They were permitted to go alone; and with a cordial nod from one, and a graceful bow from the other, the two gentlemen took leave. Emma remained very well pleased with this beginning of the acquaintance, and could now engage to think of them all at Randalls any hour of the day, with full confidence in their comfort.”   END QUOTE

Do you see the language that makes it crystal clear that it’s poop everyone’s discreetly talking about, and not merely dirt? It’s in my Subject Line---“unless you keep on the foot-path”.  Now, why would it be that a footpath on the street in Highbury would avoid being dirty after rain (remember, there are puddles out there), when the rest of the street was “very dirty”? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the one thing missing from footpaths that would be found in abundance on the street where the horses strode was horse poop!

In fact, Nancy, when arguing against Lizzy having gotten poop on her petticoat, claimed that Lizzy would not have gotten poop on her petticoat en route to Netherfield, because she would have kept to the footpath and open meadow, and would have avoided the riding path. In other words, Nancy was sounding suspiciously like Mr. Woodhouse and thereby was inadvertently supporting my claim about the “dirty walk” in Highbury! It’s like Literary Whack-A-Mole when you try to rebut arguments about Jane Austen’s ribaldry---knock down one claim with an argument, and then another argument pops right up that is supported by the first argument!

And the joke doesn’t end there with Mr. Woodhouse’s warning. We then have the additional humor of Frank and Mr. Weston having to exert themselves to put an end to Mr. Woodhouse’s attempts to teach Frank how not to walk in poop!

So when it says that Frank “still declined [the advice], looking as serious as he could”, it’s not just the G-rated humor of Frank being a grownup who doesn’t need advice on how to walk around Highbury, it’s the PG-13 or even R-rated humor of Frank being a normal person who can navigate around the excrement in his path! Of course it would have been ten times harder for Frank to keep a straight face in the face of that sort of advice!

So, now put the above passage from Ch. 23 alongside the earlier quoted passage from Ch. 1 (re Knightley’s shoes walking to Hartfield) and we see that Mr. Woodhouse really was concerned about Mr. Knightley’s getting specks of very bad stuff on his boots after all.  These two passages are bookends to each other.

And we also see that Mr. Woodhouse is just as obsessive in his veiledly-expressed concerns about getting poop on one’s feet, as he is in his explicit warnings about dietary concerns—he’d have made a fantastic chief of a Municipal Hygiene Department, don’t you think? He’d be watching everything that went into everyone’s mouths, and everything that got on their feet, that might lead them down the path to disease and ill health!

And the most significant part, where Jane Austen’s genius takes all of this humor to yet another level, is that beneath the humor there is deadly seriousness. There were genuine health benefits from such proactive attention to such things as stepping in poop, because in an era when infectious disease was not understood, and there was no penicillin around to deal with it when it arose, it was (dare we use this word about Mr. Woodhouse?) common sense to make sure you at least didn’t track poop into everyone’s houses! So perhaps Mr. Woodhouse really had his poop together (so to speak) after all?

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter 

P.S.: And now I also see why Harriet and Mr. Elton REALLY follow Emma up onto the narrow footpath in Chapter 10-it's to get off the main road, where all the horse poop is! Emma (typically) invents another explanation ("Harriet's habits of dependence and imitation"):


Anxious to separate herself from them as far as she could, she soon afterwards took possession of a narrow footpath, a little raised on one side of the lane, leaving them together in the main road. But she had not been there two minutes when she found that Harriet's habits of dependence and imitation were bringing her up too, and that, in short, they would both be soon after her. This would not do; she immediately stopped, under pretence of having some alteration to make in the lacing of her half-boot, and stooping down in complete occupation of the footpath, begged them to have the goodness to walk on, and she would follow in half a minute. They did as they were desired; and by the time she judged it reasonable to have done with her boot, she had the comfort of further delay in her power, being overtaken by a child from the cottage, setting out, according to orders, with her pitcher, to fetch broth from Hartfield. To walk by the side of this child, and talk to and question her, was the most natural thing in the world, or would have been the most natural, had she been acting just then without design; and by this means the others were still able to keep ahead, without any obligation of waiting for her. She gained on them, however, involuntarily; the child's pace was quick, and theirs rather slow; and she was the more concerned at it, from their being evidently in a conversation which interested them. Mr. Elton was speaking with animation, Harriet listening with a very pleased attention; and Emma having sent the child on, was beginning to think how she might draw back a little more, when they both looked around, and she was obliged to join them.

Jane Austen and Her Complicated Donation to the Society for Christian Knowledge

In Austen L this morning, Anielka Briggs wrote:
"It has often been said that Jane Austen never saw her name in print in her lifetime other than as Miss J Austen, Steventon" as a subscriber to the first edition of Fanny Burney's "Camilla" in 1796. Well I'm not a little proud to say that I have discovered another couple of instances of Jane Austen's name in print. Here is our very own Miss Jane Austen giving 10 shillings and sixpence  to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and, as was the custom, getting her name printed into the bargain in the Hampshire Chronicle on Monday 6th September, 1813."


I replied as follows:


You may have just found it, Anielka, but by some very strange coincidence (a classic Anielka Coincidence, in fact) so did Jocelyn Harris, but she did this about 2 years before you, and she published her findings in a journal which you will find difficult to dismiss as a backdating.  The latest print Persuasions (of course one of the two JASNA journals) is where you will find it:

" Jane Austen and the society for promoting Christian knowledge"  by Jocelyn Harris in
Persuasions Vol. 34 (2012) at p. 134 et seq.


Anielka also wrote: "Of course this is particularly interesting as there has been some debate in the past at various Austen Appreciation boards about Jane Austen's own view of Christianity ranging from the idea that she was in fact some sort of latter-day deist to the idea that she scorned Christianity and the work of the Christian Church and had somehow encoded within her books a scathing commentary on the wickedness of the Anglican ideals of the family to which she belonged and her entire rejection of the Christian faith. Sadly for those who like to harbour such radical notions, here is Jane Austen either being forced to be a massive hypocrite by all her friends and family and shamed into donating for a cause she eschewed, or, much more likely, in my humble opinion, doing exactly what we might predict the daughter of a Church of England clergyman might do and putting her money where her mouth was. "


Of course, Anielka was referring to moi, so I also responded as follows.

Jocelyn Harris (with whom, I am proud to say,  I share many similar viewpoints on Jane Austen's moral and political stance---in fact, I just had the pleasure of chatting with her at this lately completed JASNA AGM on that very topic) actually addressed that very question in her article:

"From 1698 onwards, the SPCK communicated the basic principles of the Christian faith both at home and abroad. In the eighteenth century, it was by far the largest producer of Christian literature, for Thomas Bray, its founder, believed passionately in the power of the printed word. Pamphlets exhorted specific groups such as farmers, prisoners, soldiers, seamen, servants, and slave-owners to improve their way of life; the group published as well more general works on subjects such as Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, the Prayer Book, and private devotion. So which of these many activities might Austen have especially admired? The SPCK's provision of equal education in literacy, numeracy, and Biblical knowledge for girls as well as boys would surely have appealed to her, along with its encouragement of such skills as needlework and woodwork. She might also have known that as well as providing advice and encouragement to local groups to help them set up, finance, and run many hundreds of schools, the SPCK was the catalyst for the spectacular growth of the charity school movement. In 1811, two years before the Basingstoke meeting, the National Society was established to take over SPCK's responsibilities in this area ("Our History"). The Society's religious and charitable activities provide reason enough for Austen to contribute so generously."

I have never suggested that JA was not a Christian, I have repeatedly suggested that she was a true Christian, one who actually cared most about what Jesus said in the Gospels about loving the poor, the outcasts, & the oppressed, rather than buying into the Church overlay on Jesus. That overlay somehow twisted his words so as to defend the power of men over women, and the power of the rich over the poor.

And we are seeing a great example of this in the Catholic Church today--all good people around the world are rejoicing in the recent statements by the new Pope Francis, who is alarming a lot of conservative Catholics because he's starting to sound like Jesus. That's the sort of Christian I believe Jane Austen was. She'd have supported Pope Francis, and she'd have satirized the previous Popes, whom she'd have found anything but 'infallible'.

So I agree with Jocelyn Harris that there was enough of true Christianity in the works of SPCK to have given JA reason to donate to them. But...I also think Anielka's sarcastic comment has a large grain of truth in it as well--the timing of JA's donation is very significant, because it is in Sept. 1813, and that is precisely when JA has just begun writing Mansfield Park, which is one of the greatest fictional condemnations ever written depicting sanctimonious hypocrisy and evil cloaked in a veneer of respectability and piety (all wrapped up in Sir Thomas Bertram).

So I think that, given that so many of the (mostly male) members of the Austen circle are making donations to the SPCK (as the Harris article details), it probably would have been pretty awkward for JA, who had just made a few pounds from her novels by this point, to say, "Leave me out of this"--she could look to the egalitarian charitable things the organization did, and hold her nose as to the rest, and just write off this substantial expenditure as a cost of doing business, and that business was the writing of novels, for which she needed the peace of Chawton Cottage.

So I say it's no accident that in Mansfield Park  JA gives Mary Crawford the license to gore the sacred cows of the English patriarchy and church establishment--that was her way of justifying her "silence" in real life interactions with family and friends who would not approve of her true feelings.

I think JA, for reasons which seem pretty compelling to me, chose to be "silent" about the wrongs of that establishment in her letters and in her charitable behavior, and to leave her condemnations of the patriarchy to the shadows of her novels--but as Mansfield Park illustrates, there was a LOT of pent up condemnation that poured out of her then, as she loaded that novel up from one end to the other with massive hypocrisies and abuses by Sir Thomas.

And that condemnation is exactly in accord with the Jesus described in the Gospels (of course the heart of the Christian Bible) which the SPCK distributed far and wide, particularly this part, John 2: 13-15:

And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.

Sir Thomas Bertram, the Father at Mansfield Park, literally made his house a house of merchandise, in every possible way:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2010/09/sir-thomas-bertram-priceless-man-of.html


Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jane Austen’s Comedy of Manures re the Odors of Westgate Buildings in Bath’s Lower Town: “It was ALMOST enough to spread purification and perfume all the way.”




Diana Birchall’s post (postulating putrid perils of pervasive pastoral poop, prompted by Elizabeth as pedestrian per P&P, & by JA as pedestrian per Letter 120) prompted me to post a perfectly panoramic pontification posthaste….


…in which I presented numerous textual examples drawn from all of JA’s novels, warranting adding  another important term in my ever-growing glossary for the Jane Austen Code:    “dirt” = “poop”.

Since then, I’ve stayed hot on the scent of still more aspects of this redolent & significant discovery, and today I’ll make that strong case stronger, and in the process also shed significant new light on how this seeming comedy of manures actually informs serious thematic aspects of both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, and also JA’s real life!

CATHERINE’S “DIRTY” RIDE WITH JOHN THORPE IN CHAPTER 11 OF NA:

I reached this latest textual zone of interest by going right back to the numerous examples I listed in my last post which were concentrated in the Bath episode of Northanger Abbey, and even more specifically in Chapter 11. They told one tale--the misadventures and misprisions that Catherine Morland endures at the hands of John Thorpe, once she makes the mistake of getting into his gig with him, until she makes her safe escape from his clutches.

I will now briefly repeat those five passages in Ch. 11, omitting the comments I added for each of them in my previous post, but instead just asking you to absorb the entirety, to get the rhythm of this textual drumbeat on the same motif—“dirt” as “s-t”:

"No walk for me today," sighed Catherine; "but perhaps it may come to nothing, or it may hold up before twelve."
"Perhaps it may, but then, my dear, it will be so DIRTY."
"Oh! That will not signify; I never mind DIRT."
"No," replied her friend very placidly, "I know you never mind DIRT."
After a short pause…”

“…whether Catherine might still expect her friends, whether there had not been too much rain for Miss Tilney to venture, must yet be a question. It was too DIRTY for Mrs. Allen to accompany her husband to the pump-room…”

"Well, I saw him at that moment turn up the Lansdown Road, driving a smart-looking girl."
"Did you indeed?"
"Did upon my soul; knew him again directly, and he seemed to have got some very pretty cattle too."
"It is very odd! But I suppose they thought it would be too DIRTY for a walk."
"And well they might, for I never saw so much DIRT in my life. Walk! You could no more walk than you could fly! It has not been so DIRTY the whole winter; it is ANKLE-DEEP everywhere."
Isabella corroborated it: "My dearest Catherine, you cannot form an idea of the DIRT; come, you must go; you cannot refuse going now."

“It was now but an hour later than the time fixed on for the beginning of their walk; and, in spite of what she had heard of the prodigious accumulation of DIRT in the course of that hour, she could not from her own observation help thinking that they might have gone with very little inconvenience.”

“…Why were not they more punctual? It was DIRTY, indeed, but what did that signify? I am sure John and I should not have minded it. I never mind going through anything, where a friend is concerned…”

I just now fully appreciated the humor of “the prodigious accumulation of dirt”---if you think about it, dirt churned up from heavily trafficked streets would not accumulate prodigiously during an hour, it would be  an endless but gradual process. But the prodigious accumulation of horse manure on heavily trafficked streets, I can readily imagine all that crap accumulating prodigiously!

But that’s just icing on the cake of yesterday’s point. What I realized today was that Jane Austen did not arbitrarily decide to cluster these veiled scatological references to “dirt” in Chapter 11, when, you might think, she could just as easily have clustered them in another chapter, or even scattered them throughout the entire novel. No, she didn’t follow those other strategies, because there was something very specific about where in Bath the action was taking place during Chapter 11, which JA was subtly winking at, repeatedly---five times, in reminding her readers who knew what was what at Bath of something everybody knew!

THE HISTORICAL FACTS OF THE BAD SMELLS OF THE LOWER TOWN OF BATH

Without further prologue, then: as my Subject Line suggests, these five passages are all veiled innuendoes pointing at the Lower Town of Bath during Jane Austen’s stays there as a very sad place for many reasons, but most dramatically and unavoidably of all, because that sector of Bath was literally blanketed by the overpowering stench of horse dung. Think I am exaggerating? Take a look at the following description, taken from a book I found today, Jane Austen in Bath: Walking Tours of the Writer's City (2006), written by a local Bath scholar, Katharine Reeve:

P. 78: “Prettier musings of high-wrought love and eternal constancy, could never have passed along the streets of Bath, than Anne was sporting with from Camden Place to Westgate Buildings. It was almost enough to spread purification and perfume all the way.” It was common knowledge that Bath had two very different faces. With damp hovels hugging the banks of the noxious River Avon, the Lower Town was a far cry from the wealth and cleanliness of the Upper Town. The Lower Town was a world of plague, beggars, and petty crime. The gutters were full of dead animals and EXCREMENT, and those from the Upper Town who ventured there complained about THE VILE SMELLS. Most visitors travelling between the Baths and Pump Room skirted the lower side of town.
Anyone taking a wrong turn could end up at Westgate Buildings. Back in 1798-1799, when writing NA, Jane would have had little, if any, knowledge of the Lower Town. But by the time she wrote Persuasion, she had a resident’s understanding of the city and could give a fuller picture of Bath. Ignoring social convention and her father’s wishes, Anne Elliot visits an old Bath schoolfriend who has fallen on hard times and is reduced to living in Westgate Buildings, a place so foul that only Anne in her enraptured state could walk through and remain oblivious to the squalor. Nearby Corn Street, known as Little ‘Ell by the locals, was reckoned to be the worst street; its crowded slums offered shared rooms with flea-ridden beds at threepence a night for the thousands of poorly paid craftsmen who made the trinkets for the luxury shops, along with the tradesmen, servants, and coachmen who flocked to Bath. Beer and gin flowed freely in the area’s many taverns. Avon Street, where prostitutes plied their trade, was the centre of the slum…”
76: The Austens moved to a spacious grand-looking house in Green Park Buildings built by John Palmer in the 1790s…positioned around…Kingsmead Fields…near the banks of the River Avon. Jane was pleased that they had managed to retain a rural aspect, which compensated for the rather less glamorous route to the Pump Room through the lower town, near the slums of Avon Street. The area offered the hard-up gentry a peaceful, respectable existence at a moderate cost…similar sized houses on the more central Gay Street cost around L150, but for that you could avoid the smell of sewage from the river in the summer. “

From the above we see that Reeve claimed that Jane Austen did allude in Persuasion to the horrid perpetual stench in the Lower Town of Bath, and she was spot on in using  as her chapter epigraph the famous narration about Anne Elliot’s buoyant mood as she leaves Mrs. Smith’s residence about “purification and perfume”. 

Reeves showed that she understood that Jane Austen was not merely (as has been suggested by other scholars) making an allusion to the potently aphrodisiac perfume of the Greek goddess Demeter. Jane Austen did that, of course, but JA also took the allusion to a more sophisticated level, by measuring the potency of that mythologically renowned perfume up against the odors of Westgate Buildings, and finding the goddess’s potions wanting, when it came to neutralization of very bad smells. Anne is feeling hopeful, magical, and powerful, but even all of those goddess-like vibes are not sufficient to perfume over and purify the stench of Westgate Gardens.

However, Reeve, not realizing that Northanger Abbey was surely revised more than once after Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801-5, and also being unaware of "dirt" as code for "poop", failed to pick up on the numerous hints at the bad smells of Bath's Lower Town in Northanger Abbey.

So what I am saying is that Reeve’s catches are significant, but when you combine Reeve’s historical data with Jane Austen’s myriad textual hints about the Lower Town in both NA and Persuasion, which I am bringing forward in this post, then it becomes crystal clear that imagery and wordplay is all of a (marvelous) seamless, majestically simple and yet profound piece!

THE “DIRTY” LOWER TOWN OF BATH IN NA & PERSUASION:

I plan to followup with a final post on this general topic of Jane Austen’s “comedy of manures”, but for now just leave you with a number of additional textual quotations, which I believe you will be able to supply your own commentary for, based on what you’ve read in the first part of this post:

First, note these repeated references to “country air”:

NA, Chapter11: “…You are to thank your brother and me for the scheme; it darted into our heads at breakfast-time, I verily believe at the same instant; and we should have been off two hours ago if it had not been for this detestable rain. But it does not signify, the nights are moonlight, and we shall do delightfully. Oh! I am in such ecstasies at the thoughts of a little COUNTRY AIR and quiet! So much better than going to the LOWER ROOMS.
…They all spent the evening together at Thorpe's. Catherine was disturbed and out of spirits; but Isabella seemed to find a pool of commerce, in the fate of which she shared, by private partnership with Morland, a very good equivalent for the quiet and COUNTRY AIR of an inn at Clifton. Her satisfaction, too, in not being at the LOWER ROOMS was spoken more than once. "How I pity the poor creatures that are going there! How glad I am that I am not amongst them!...”

And now, maybe Sir Walter is not just being a snob, he just is using the nose that God gave him!:

Persuasion
Chapter 17: She only consulted Lady Russell, who entered thoroughly into her sentiments, and was most happy to convey her AS NEAR to Mrs Smith's lodgings in WESTGATE BUILDINGS, AS ANNE CHOSE TO BE TAKEN….Anne had called several times on her friend, before the existence of such a person was known in Camden Place. At last, it became necessary to speak of her. Sir Walter, Elizabeth and Mrs Clay, returned one morning from Laura Place, with a sudden invitation from Lady Dalrymple for the same evening, and Anne was already engaged, to spend that evening in Westgate Buildings…. "WESTGATE BUILDINGS!" said he, "and who is Miss Anne Elliot to be visiting in Westgate Buildings? A Mrs Smith. A widow Mrs Smith; and who was her husband? One of five thousand Mr Smiths whose names are to be met with everywhere. And what is her attraction? That she is old and sickly. Upon my word, Miss Anne Elliot, you have the most extraordinary taste! Everything that REVOLTS other people, LOW company, paltry rooms, FOUL AIR, DISGUSTING associations are inviting to you. But surely you may put off this old lady till to-morrow: she is not so near her end, I presume, but that she may hope to see another day. What is her age? Forty?"… "WESTGATE BUILDINGS must have been rather surprised by the appearance of a carriage drawn up near its pavement," observed Sir Walter. "Sir Henry Russell's widow, indeed, has no honours to distinguish her arms, but still it is a handsome equipage, and no doubt is well known to convey a Miss Elliot. A widow Mrs Smith lodging in WESTGATE BUILDINGS!

Chapter 18: Anne was too much engaged with Lady Russell to be often walking herself; but it so happened that one morning, about a week or ten days after the Croft's arrival, it suited her best to leave her friend, or her friend's carriage, in the LOWER PART OF TOWN, and return alone to Camden Place, and in walking up Milsom Street she had the good fortune to meet with the Admiral. 

THE “DIRTY” PART OF BATH IN JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS:

Read these with new eyes, realizing that the unspoken subtext of it all is the bad smell in the Lower Town of Bath, with Westgate Buildings the epicenter of those obnoxious odors:

Letter 29 1/3/01: There are three parts of Bath which we have thought of as likely to have houses in them -- Westgate Buildings, Charles Street, and some of the short streets leading from Laura Place or Pulteney Street. Westgate Buildings, though quite in the lower part of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad, and has rather a good appearance. Charles Street, however, I think, is preferable. The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields would be a pleasant circumstance. Perhaps you may remember, or perhaps you may forget, that Charles Street leads from the Queen Square Chapel to the two Green Park Streets.
The houses in the streets near Laura Place I should expect to be above our price. Gay Street would be too high, except only the lower house on the left-hand side as you ascend. Towards that my mother has no disinclination; it used to be lower rented than any other house in the row, from some inferiority in the apartments. But above all others her wishes are at present fixed on the corner house in Chapel Row, which opens into Prince's Street. Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as of its being to be had. In the meantime she assures you that she will do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street, although you have not expressed the fearful presentiment of it which was rather expected.
We know that Mrs. Perrot will want to get us into Oxford Buildings, but we all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore hope to escape. Upon all these different situations you and Edward may confer together, and your opinion of each wil be expected with eagerness.

Letter 31, 1/16/01: Miss Lyford was very pleasant, & gave my mother such an account of the houses in Westgate Buildings, where Mrs. Lyford lodged four years ago, as made her think of a situation there with great pleasure; but your opposition will be without difficulty, decisive, & my father in particular who was very well inclined towards the Row before, has now ceased to think of it entirely. At present the Environs of Laura-place seem to be his choice. His views on the subject are much advanced since I came home; he grows quite ambitious, & actually requires now a comfortable & a creditable looking house.

I love the irony in that last sentence- Revd. Austen has shockingly decided that the family should live in a comfortable house, and an integral part of comfort would be a home where it didn’t stink to high heaven all the time!
Cheers, ARNIE
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