Literary Locales: Brighton
This is a part of our “Literary Locales” series here at LT. Check out the first post in the series for more information.
“In Lydia’s imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every
possibility of earthly happiness.”
What: Brighton, UK
Where: See above
Literary Connection: Regency hot-spot featured prominently in Pride and Prejudice
Recommended Reading: The aforementioned Austen, anything by Brighton-native Graham Greene, or a biography of the Prince Regent (also anything from this handy website on “Literary Brighton”)
Transgression: Possibility of running off with officers and disgracing your family is high.
Thanks in no small part to Jane Austen, I’ve had a bit of a hankering to see Brighton ever since I came to London last fall. This week, I finally made it down there and, while I did not see “the glories of all the camp,” I did at least get to see “that gay bathing place,” the English Channel, and check out the bizarre Pavilion, the kitschy arches and pier, and have some excellent eats. (Most notably, Scoop and Crumb, a bakery/ice cream parlour, was completely excellent.)
Today, Brighton hardly evokes any glories or bedazzlement, but it does make for an enjoyable day out. If you’re particularly interested in the area’s Regency history, Brighton is happy to flaunt this part of their past at the Royal Pavilion, where you can tour the Prince Regent’s fish-out-of-water former home and then purchase loads of Austen-themed paraphernalia in the gift shop.
For those not so interested in the Regency, the nearby Brighton Museum is like a miniature version of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: it has a small room of just about everything from contemporary design to costume to ancient Egypt to British painting. It is also housed in a beautiful old building that features the famous Brighton Dome, so even if museums aren’t your cup of tea, you can enjoy the Museum’s architectural heritage.
Another high-point was the wonderfully run-down beach area with the “Museum of Penny Slot Machines.” This amusing little place had a number of old-timey penny games (now costing 20p instead of 1p, unfortunately) that you can use and enjoy, including the Spiritualist Room, a miniature sitting room where you put in 20p and the tables and chairs shake and levitate while ghosts and skeletons appear. Rather unfortunately, the fortune-telling animatronic gypsy-in-a-box was out of order, but I may just be compelled to go back and get my fortune from her another day!
And if you dislike the Regency AND kitsch, there is always a formidable amount of shopping options available to you and some nice views of the Channel to be had from anywhere on the rocky beach. It being miserably windy on the day we went, the beach was almost entirely deserted aside from a few stalwart swimming souls, so I am happy to report that there was thus no occasion for running off with anyone and I made it to Brighton and back without utterly disgracing my family. Score!