Bath Characters: or, Sketches from Life is a series of satirical dialogues mocking Bath and the people who stayed there. In the Proemium (preface), Peter Paul Pallet describes Bath as full of vanity, hypocrisy and vice. He suggests that ridiculing the people who stay in Bath will make them confront their foolishness – and, he hopes, reform their behaviour.
Bath was a fashionable place to stay in the 18th and early-19th centuries, when many people believed that drinking and bathing in spa water had significant health benefits. Much of the period’s satirical literature about Bath mocks visitors to the town, labelling them as hypochondriacs, or as people who seemingly come to deal with their health but in reality to boost their social standing, attend balls or find a marriage partner.
More about Bath Characters
Bath Characters consists of five dialogues. The extract shown here is part of the second dialogue, the main character of which is a clergyman called Dr Vegetable. Dr Vegetable has no real religious feeling and cares only for status. He has built a chapel as fashionable destination rather like a ballroom or theatre, and he intends to make people pay to attend. He promises that ‘no tradesman, liver-servants, or poor people’ will be allowed to worship there. He flatters the vanity of the snobbish, pleasure-seeking Lady Lofty, and assures her that there is no harm in the ‘cards and routes; plays and balls; and all the innocent amusements of the gay world’ that go on in Bath. The author says that Lady Lofty ‘represents a species, rather than an individual'’. This is a defence against accusations that he is satirising any noble woman in particular, but it also implies that Bath is full of such women.