Friday, August 3rd
Lyme Regis (Part 2)
We returned to Lyme Regis in the morning to finish our little seaside tour. Walking from our car park down a rather stony beach, we reached the Cobb. The Cobb is a man-made rock wall that projects out into the water and forms a little harbor. It is quite high on the outside, but it has a lower section running along the inside. It plays quite an important role in “Persuasion,” so it was on our must-see list.
At one point in the book, the characters descend a set of precarious stairs from the upper level down to the lower level. These stairs, which we found to be nothing more than uneven rocks projecting from the side of the wall, are aptly name “Granny’s Teeth.” As one of the more adventurous girls shows off to impress a sea captain, she jumps from the stairs and falls – resulting in a coma that lasts some time. So here is the before:
We walked about the town for a while, passing many little beach huts. I managed to get a bad sunburn, which was something I was not expecting in England! We carefully searched out the local bookshops and charity shops (Cancer Research, Oxfam, etc.) and had a few good finds before moving on.
Montacute House (Cleveland from "Sense and Sensibility)
Our next destination was Montacute House, which stars as the Palmer’s home, Cleveland, in the 1995 version of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.” Once again, Tiffany and I were dressed up in our Regency dresses for a full Jane Austen day.
The house was just lovely – as were all of the National Trust properties. We walked into the front hall and immediately recognized the room where Elinor, Colonel Brandon, and the Palmers wait for news about Marianne (I hope you have seen the Jane Austen film adaptations, or none of this will make sense!).
The house was built of stone the color of sun-ripened wheat. Tiffany and I climbed a flight of broad, shallow stairs with the sunlight spilling in through a leaded-glass window. There is something magical about these time-capsules of English history.
"Through this wide op'ning gate,"
"None come too early, none return too late."
We paced the entire length of the upper gallery, which is one of the longest in England. it was lined with portraits of famous people, including the Reformed theologian John Owen. Some of the portraits were remarkably stiff – but one portrait of a woman stood out in particular. Her clothing was painted in the same rigid style as the other paintings, but her face was so remarkably life-like that it stood out from the painting.
After viewing the rest of the house, we strolled outside and had a look around the grounds.
Here is one of the little outbuildings that you may have seen in “Sense and Sensibility:”
...and the Orangery where Colonel Brandon looks for Marianne:
On reaching Bath, we checked into our B&B (a lovely Victorian villa with a family room on the top floor) and started the fifteen-minute walk into the city of Bath.
As we walked on streets whose names have become familiar to me in the pages of Jane Austen -- Milsom Street, Gay Street, Laura Place -- I could scarcely believe how lovely the old city is. The entire city is built from stones of the same warm, wheat-colored shade as those of Montacute House. There is not much variety in the architecture (I think the city must have built during the craze for the Neoclassic), but the symmetry and uniformity is both beautiful and calming.
The Jane Austen Centre was open late that evening, so we turned our steps toward Gay Street. Lo and behold, there was a footman at the door, who led us down the street to No. 25, one of homes Jane Austen stayed in while in Bath – it now fulfills the rather prosaic function of a dentist’s office! Here is Martin in all of his Regency splendor (although his personality would have fit in better with Dickens than with Austen!):
The Centre was very nice, and we learned quite a bit about Jane’s life in Bath. The gift shop was also quite nice, and had a few shelves of antique and rare Jane Austen novels. But the prices! Ah, well, my dream of finding a reasonable copy of Jane Austen in England was never fulfilled…
But Dad did have an opportunity to point Jane Austen in the right direction!
We viewed the exterior of lovely Bath Abbey before retracing our steps to our B&B: