Fans of Jane Austen are joined by hundreds in full Regency costume trying to break world record





The woman is dressed in a powder-blue satin bonnet and dress, waiting beneath the entrance to the Roman baths. Top-hatted gentlemen swirl around her, accompanied by ladies in full-skirted dresses. She is clutching a parasol in her gloved left hand. In her right hand is a bright red mobile phone. "No, not up the steps, near the fountain .... THE FOUNTAIN!", she shouts into the mouthpiece, tossing her ringlets.

The fractious maiden has reason to be jittery. She was one of hundreds who gathered in Bath at 11am yesterday to break a world record. The Guinness world record in question – the largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costume – is not one that has been contested by many. In fact, there has been only one previous record, 200 people, set by "Someone in America" (naturally). But that did not calm the nerves of those waiting, who were keen that the promenade to the counting hall would be the pièce de résistance of the city's annual Jane Austen festival.

The festival, which is now in its ninth year, is one of Bath's more successful attempts to cash in on one of its its most famous former residents. Jane Austen Plc has become a boom industry for Bath, with package holidays dedicated to the author, Regency tea rooms, and shops selling "I love Mr Darcy" bags and period clothing. People come from as far as Japan, America and Australia to join the week-long festival, which includes lectures, plays and even a costume ball.


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