If you follow me on Facebook you may already have seen some of my photos of Dorset on England’s south coast, where I spent Christmas. On Christmas Day we visited Lyme Regis, a small town in Dorset, by the seaside. I was most excited about this, as I’ve never been to Lyme before, and anyone who’s read Jane Austen’s Persuasion will know it as the setting for her novel. It’s also the setting for John Fowles The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which features this famous scene between Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons on Lyme’s Cobb.
The Cobb is a man made wall that protects the harbour. As quite often happens with these things, both the Cobb and the harbour were a lot smaller than I imagined. The whole town is really quaint in a way that we northern England dwellers rarely find. Fortunately the sun shone the afternoon we were there, but the sea was fairly wild and there were dark clouds scudding across the sky.
I walked right to the end of the Cobb, dodging the waves crashing beside me, and find it hard to believe that in these days of paranoid health and safety this sort of thing is still allowed :) It was brilliant. I find it harder to believe that Jane Austen allowed her characters to walk along there in their totally unsuitable long dresses! Here’s the famous passage from Persuasion:
There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps,
and all were contented to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth. In all their walks, he had had to jump her from the stiles; the sensation was delightful to her. The hardness of the pavement for her feet, made him less willing upon the present occasion; he did it, however. She was safely down, and instantly, to show her enjoyment, ran up the steps to be jumped down again. He advised her against it, thought the jar too great; but no, he reasoned and talked in vain, she smiled and said, “I am determined I will:” he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless!
I’m so glad I visited Lyme and will never read this passage in the same way again. I can totally picture the scene, with the wild sea and skies and the rough stones of the Cobb. It was a magical visit, and like Jane Austen I fell in love with Dorset altogether.
‘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.‘ Jane Austen, Persuasion
I hope you enjoyed my photos of Lyme :) Do you love Persuasion as much as I do? And if so, do my photos of the Cobb show it how you imagined? Any comments at all, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you!