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Bath in the time of Ralph Allen : a cultural survey. Rogers, Barbara Marion

Abstract

The following survey of the changing aspects of life in Bath during the first fifty years of the eighteenth century makes no claim to be an exhaustive study of the subject, but endeavours to show how the personality of one of her citizens did much to influence the development of the city. Bath, seen as a complete picture in miniature of English society of the time, possessed in Ralph Allen a man eager to forward her interests; a man who combined with his vast personal fortune a character and personality which earned him the respect and veneration of many of the most outstanding figures of the age. At his death a unique phase in Bath's history was brought to an end. In preparing this survey I have consulted the works of various contemporary commentators as well as the writings of a number of modern social historians who have examined in detail the civic, social, and architectural growth of the city during the period under review. Most valuable among these have been Barbeau's Life and Letters at Bath in the XVIIIth Century, R.A.L. Smith's Bath, Bryan Little's Bath Portrait and Willard Connely's Beau Nash: Monarch of Bath and Tunbridge Wells. Unfortunately I was unable to use Professor Benjamin Boyce's The Benevolent Man; A Life of Ralph Allen of Bath, which was not published until late in 1967, after the final draft of this thesis had been completed. In addition to the above, I have also consulted the works of those principal eighteenth century authors who were directly influenced by the cultural life of Bath, and who have given us immediate and vivid impressions derived from the daily life of this extraordinary city. Defoe, Steele, Pope, Fielding, Goldsmith, and Smollett all knew Bath well, and all have incorporated in their works the essence of Bath life. Moreover, Pope and Fielding were much indebted to Allen personally; Pope carried on a constant correspondence with him, and Fielding used him as the prototype for Squire Allworthy in Tom Jones. As for Goldsmith, he centred his interest on Beau Nash and left for us the first full length biographical study of this dynamic contemporary of Allen. In summary, I have attempted to show, through contemporary and later documents, that Ralph Allen, by his manifold activities, contributed greatly to the cultural development of Bath, and that Bath itself was a brilliant mirror, reflecting the ever-changing cultural and social life of England itself.

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