Archive for the ‘The Cobb’ Category

Jane Austen’s House in Bath

I’m getting very excited because Searching for Captain Wentworth, my new book is going to be ready in time for September. The cover is almost finished, and I hope it will be up on Amazon soon. Persuasion is my favourite of Jane Austen’s novels for so many reasons – one of which being that you can visit the places where she set her fantastic book. Bath and Lyme are wonderful places to go, and you can still walk along streets that Jane mentioned like Bond Street, Milsom Street, Great Pulteney Street, Rivers Street, Gay Street and the Gravel Walk, or visit well-known landmarks such as the Assembly Rooms, and the Pump Rooms in Bath. In Lyme, you can still walk along the Cobb, though I wouldn’t recommend jumping down any steps – the set known as ‘Granny’s Teeth are particularly treacherous! Jane doesn’t name the ‘principal street almost hurrying into the water’, but you can still walk down Broad Street and visit all the lovely shops which take you down to the sea. Charmouth and Uplyme are also mentioned and not far from Lyme Regis itself, as is Pinny or Pinhay.

Sydney Gardens

I decided I wanted to write something a little different this time, and the idea of a time travel book really appealed. If you’ve ever been to Bath you’ll know what an atmospheric city it is, especially when it’s rainy and misty in winter or at night when the street lamps still give the impression of old gas lighting. I’ve had several inexplicable experiences in Bath, which some might say are the result of an overactive imagination and several haunting dreams which provided a lot of the inspiration for this book. Whether it has anything to do with the fact that I can see Jane Austen’s garden from my window, and catch a glimpse of Sydney Gardens and the Holburne Museum, I cannot say, but to me my dreams were so real that I felt I’d gone back in time.


Here’s a little blurb about the book.

  When aspiring writer, Sophie Elliot, receives the keys to the family townhouse in Bath, it’s an invitation she can’t turn down, especially when she learns that she will be living next door to the house her favourite author, Jane Austen, lived in. But, the neglected house is harbouring more than the antiquated furniture and nesting mice, though initially Sophie tries to dismiss the haunting visions of a young girl. On discovering that an ancient glove belonging to her mysterious neighbour, Josh Strafford, will transport her back in time to Regency Bath, she questions her sanity, but Sophie is soon caught up in two dimensions, each reality as certain as the other. Torn between her life in the modern world, and that of her ancestor who befriends Jane Austen and her fascinating brother Charles, Sophie’s story travels two hundred years across time, and back again, to unite this modern heroine with her own Captain Wentworth. Blending fact and fiction together the tale of Jane Austen’s own quest for happiness weaves alongside, creating a believable world of new possibilities for the inspiration behind the beloved novel, Persuasion.

Granny’s Steps on the Cobb

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There are several sets of steps along the Cobb but these known as Granny’s Teeth are some of the oldest. I have to say they are very scary to negotiate when coming down off the top particularly when there is a high wind blowing. Anyway, I made it as you can see!
Below is the extract from Persuasion where Louisa Musgrove is flirting with Captain Wentworth. She wants to be ‘jumped’ down the steps – an opportunity to hold his hand and feel his hands about her waist most likely. It all ends in tears as you will see.

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 to the lower, 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 shew 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! There was no wound, no blood, no visible bruise; but her eyes were closed, she breathed not, her face was like death. The horror of that moment to all who stood around!

Captain Wentworth, who had caught her up, knelt with her in his arms, looking on her with a face as pallid as her own, in an agony of silence. “She is dead! she is dead!” screamed Mary, catching hold of her husband, and contributing with his own horror to make him immoveable; and in another moment, Henrietta, sinking under the conviction, lost her senses too, and would have fallen on the steps, but for Captain Benwick and Anne, who caught and supported her between them.

“Is there no one to help me?” were the first words which burst from Captain Wentworth, in a tone of despair, and as if all his own strength were gone.

“Go to him, go to him,” cried Anne, “for heaven’s sake go to him. I can support her myself. Leave me, and go to him. Rub her hands, rub her temples; here are salts: take them, take them.”

Captain Benwick obeyed, and Charles at the same moment disengaging himself from his wife, they were both with him; and Louisa was raised up and supported more firmly between them, and everything was done that Anne had prompted, but in vain; while Captain Wentworth, staggering against the wall for his support, exclaimed in the bitterest agony —

“Oh God! her father and mother!”

“A surgeon!” said Anne.

He caught the word: it seemed to rouse him at once; and saying only – “True, true, a surgeon this instant,” was darting away, when Anne eagerly suggested –

“Captain Benwick, would not it be better for Captain Benwick? He knows where a surgeon is to be found.”

Every one capable of thinking felt the advantage of the idea, and in a moment (it was all done in rapid moments) Captain Benwick had resigned the poor corpse-like figure entirely to the brother’s care, and was off for the town with the utmost rapidity.

As to the wretched party left behind, it could scarcely be said which of the three, who were completely rational, was suffering most: Captain Wentworth, Anne, or Charles, who, really a very affectionate brother, hung over Louisa with sobs of grief, and could only turn his eyes from one sister to see the other in a state as insensible, or to witness the hysterical agitations of his wife, calling on him for help which he could not give.

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It really was a flying visit, but I’ve just spent a lovely weekend down in Lyme. I’ve taken lots of photos which I shall soon be posting, but here are a few which I’m sure you’ll find very amusing – I said I might be blown off the Cobb – it was very windy, and when you are on the top you really feel as if you might be blown off at any moment – it’s quite scary! The weather forecast for the weekend was pretty dreadful, but we were very pleasantly surprised. There was some rain on Saturday, but it was beautiful on Sunday and the sun shone all day.
Here you can see that although windy, at least it wasn’t raining! The wind was fierce – but I couldn’t stop laughing – the British describe weather like this as ‘bracing’! My husband nearly lost his hat but I managed to rescue it in time.
You might recognise the buildings on the Cobb as the ones they used for the Harville’s cottage in the 1995 version of Persuasion. Harville’s house was probably located nearer to the area in front of the Cobb – I’ve more photos coming to show you where it is thought Jane intended their location.
From Persuasion by Jane Austen:

After securing accommodations, and ordering a dinner at one of the inns, the next thing to be done was unquestionably to walk directly down to the sea. They were come too late in the year for any amusement or variety which Lyme as a public place, might offer. The rooms were shut up, the lodgers almost all gone, scarcely any family but of the residents left; and 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 old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and 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. The scenes in its neighbourhood, Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation; the woody varieties of the cheerful village of Up Lyme; and, above all, Pinny, with its green chasms between romantic rocks, where the scattered forest-trees and orchards of luxuriant growth declare that many a generation must have passed away since the first partial falling of the cliff prepared the ground for such a state, where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is exhibited, as may more than equal any of the resembling scenes of the far-famed Isle of Wight: these places must be visited, and visited again to make the worth of Lyme understood.

Jane Austen clearly loved Lyme – she rarely used romantic descriptions of this sort in her writing – a little touch of Marianne in her personality, I think!

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I’m off on my travels today for the purposes of recreation, research and inspiration! If I don’t get blown off the Cobb in the wild weather, I’ll bring back some photos for your delight! If you haven’t guessed where I’m going, here’s a further hint.

The conclusion of her visit, however, was diversified in a way which she had not at all imagined. Captain Wentworth, after being unseen and unheard of at Uppercross for two whole days, appeared again among them to justify himself by a relation of what had kept him away.

A letter from his friend, Captain Harville, having found him out at last, had brought intelligence of Captain Harville’s being settled with his family at Lyme for the winter; of their being, therefore, quite unknowingly, within twenty miles of each other. Captain Harville had never been in good health since a severe wound which he received two years before, and Captain Wentworth’s anxiety to see him had determined him to go immediately to Lyme. He had been there for four-and-twenty hours. His acquittal was complete, his friendship warmly honoured, a lively interest excited for his friend, and his description of the fine country about Lyme so feelingly attended to by the party, that an earnest desire to see Lyme themselves, and a project for going thither was the consequence.

The young people were all wild to see Lyme. Captain Wentworth talked of going there again himself; it was only seventeen miles from Uppercross; though November, the weather was by no means bad; and, in short, Louisa, who was the most eager of the eager, having formed the resolution to go, and besides the pleasure of doing as she liked, being now armed with the idea of merit in maintaining her own way, bore down all the wishes of her father and mother for putting it off till summer; and to Lyme they were to go – Charles, Mary, Anne, Henrietta, Louisa, and Captain Wentworth.

The first heedless scheme had been to go in the morning and return at night, but to this Mr. Musgrove, for the sake of his horses, would not consent; and when it came to be rationally considered, a day in the middle of November would not leave much time for seeing a new place, after deducting seven hours, as the nature of the country required, for going and returning. They were, consequently, to stay the night there, and not to be expected back till the next day’s dinner. This was felt to be a considerable amendment; and though they all met at the Great House at rather an early breakfast hour, and set off very punctually, it was so much past noon before the two carriages – Mr. Musgrove’s coach containing the four ladies, and Charles’s curricle, in which he drove Captain Wentworth – were descending the long hill into Lyme, and entering upon the still steeper street of the town itself, that it was very evident they would not have more than time for looking about them, before the light and warmth of the day were gone.

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