Stepping into Jane Austen's world with lesser known Lyme Regis: Part 1
Jane Austen was only 41 when she died, but during her short life she produced some wonderful romantic fiction, loved the world over.
Born in 1775, she went to boarding school in Oxford and Abbey School in Reading (still a girls school today). From the age of 11 she was home schooled. Her father had an extensive library at home and Jane would spend long hours fostering her love of reading. In her early 20s she began drafting her first novels. When her father retired, the family moved to Bath, but Jane didn’t take to the place and was unhappy there. She wrote little. She did, however, enjoy visits to the seaside, including Lyme Regis.
‘A very strange stranger it must be
who does not see charms
in the immediate environs of Lyme
to make him wish to know it better.’
(Persuasion, Jane Austen)
[The following text extracts and photos are taken from one of our books,
Lesser Known Lyme Regis by Joanna Smith.]
Jane and her family first came to Lyme in autumn 1803 and returned in the summer of 1804, staying for 3 months each time, when it was very much the fashion for those recovering from the Bath season to visit the recently established resort of Lyme. In a letter to her sister Cassandra, Jane describes how she spent her days dancing, rambling and sea-bathing.
Although Jane was rather dismissive of the town, it is clear she loved its surroundings. In Persuasion she writes: ‘As there is nothing to admire in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which in the season is animated with bathing machines and company, the Cobb itself, its wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the west of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will see’.
Many locations in Austen’s novels are imaginary, but in Persuasion she describes recognisable places in Lyme: the Walk (today’s Marine Parade), cottages, inns and coastal scenery. In one of the best-known scenes in Persuasion, the foolish Louisa Musgrove throws herself from a set of stone steps on the Cobb into the arms of an unprepared Captain Wentworth.
Lyme Regis Museum has a Literary Gallery dedicated to John Fowles, Jane Austen and other writers and artists associated with the town.
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Stepping into Jane Austen's world with lesser known Lyme Regis: Part 2 visit Chawton
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