You’ve probably noticed the theme: ice cream, air conditioning, bathing. We are definitely in summer mode on NineteenTeen! And what could be better for summer than your very own faux-nineteenth century fan? Remember, every post in August is a chance to win. Just put in a comment, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for that day. Marissa will draw for Tuesdays, and I get to draw for Fridays.
Each year, thousands of Americans pack up and head for the beach for a summer vacation. That isn’t anything new. Beginning in the eighteenth century and continuing into the nineteenth, many English families took an annual trip to the seashore too. At first it was only the wealthy who went, but as the century wore on, even the middle class families picked up stakes in July or August and hurried off to folic on the shore.
But going to the seashore didn’t necessarily mean swimming. We’ve talked about how bathing in seawater was an activity more meant to improve your health than to cool off or show off your swimming suit. Some people actually enjoyed looking out at the grandeur of the sea. But most of them flocked to the seashore to continue that grand pastime of seeing other people and being seen by other people.
A favorite haunt of Jane Austen's was Lyme Regis on the western coast of England. She wrote in Persuasion, “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 knew what she was talking about. She visited Lyme Regis many times with her family in the early part of the century.
One of the most picturesque features of Lyme Regis is The Cobb, a huge, curving breakwater supposedly built in the 13th century from massive oak beams and boulders. It was possible to walk on part of it, but it was the daring young lady who tried. Part way along The Cobb is a steep staircase called Granny’s Teeth. One of Jane’s characters capered down those steps and fell to her death.
Lyme Regis featured a grand hall where Assembly Balls were held; a lovely seaside promenade called The Walk where you could, well, walk and show off your outfits; and shops, tea rooms, and bookstores where you could enjoy a good gossip. As a dear friend likes to say, “Wherever you go, there you are!”
So, what do you think? Are you a girl after Jane’s heart who would dare walk The Cobb and gaze at the wild sea? Or would you be found promenading to your heart’s content and gazing at the other people doing the same on a sunny day along the shore?