Satire of Bath society


The New Bath Guide: Or Memoirs of the B-R-D Family is a satirical guide to the city of Bath. It consists of 15 fictional letters, all in rhyming verse. The letters narrate the exploits of the fictional B-R-D (Blunderhead) family on their visit to Bath. The work is both bawdy and erudite, containing jokes about sex and bodily functions, but also referencing Greek myths and canonical English literature. Its author is the poet and translator Christopher Anstey, but it was published anonymously. The title is a reference to The New Bath Guide, a popular guidebook first published in 1762. 

How does Anstey’s New Bath Guide portray Bath? 

The book satirises Bath’s reputation as a health resort and as a fashionable place to spend the season. It suggests that Bath is full of people worried about their health. These people are manipulated by doctors, who pander to their patients by recommending the waters in Bath, even though they themselves would never take them (p. 40). The New Bath Guide also suggests that many people come to Bath primarily for social reasons: to mix with friends and meet new people, to improve one’s social standing, attend balls and parties, gamble or look for a husband or wife. 

The success of Anstey’s New Bath Guide 

The satirical New Bath Guide became even more popular than the original work of the same name. Within a year it had gone through five editions. The writers Thomas Gray and Horace Walpole praised it, as did magazines such as the Critical Review, the Monthly Review and the Gentleman’s Magazine. At the time the book was published, Bath was at its most fashionable, and Anstey capitalises on this by referring to celebrities of the day.

Full title:
The New Bath Guide: Or, Memoirs of the B-R-D Family
1766, London
Christopher Anstey
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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