Jane Austen and romance in Lyme?
There is a story handed down by members of Jane Austen's family that the author fell in love with a young man during one of her West Country holidays about the year1802. Her niece Caroline wrote of it in her old age having had it passed to her by Jane's sister Cassandra, although Caroline thought that perhaps the romance had happened in Devonshire, not Lyme. No names were recorded but the story goes that he returned Jane's affection and that he promised to meet her again. Sadly, it was not to be; the sisters heard later of his untimely death. I've often wondered if this young man inspired Persuasion and because Jane wrote so lovingly of Lyme, whether in fact her romance did take place in Lyme.
The Austens stayed in Lyme in 1803 and again in 1804, this time with Jane's brother Henry and his wife Eliza. The photograph below shows Pyne House on the left, where it is believed that Jane Austen stayed. The little house is on the main road down to the sea, on Broad Street, a short walk away from the promenade and the Cobb. The Austens were in Lyme for a September holiday and there is evidence to suggest that they stayed as late as November. Again, in Persuasion, Anne Elliot and the party from Uppercross visit Lyme in November and the description of Lyme - " 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;" - suggests that Jane was writing from first-hand knowledge.