With Hurricane Harvey having recently battered Texas and Irma about to hit Florida, Mr. Darcy, who appears in Jane Eyre Gets Real, reflects on storms that he has known. We think of Jane Austen’s arguably most popular creation living a serene life on his estate, Pemberley. For the most part that is true but, like some of Austen’s other characters and like the author herself, Mr. Darcy sometimes visited Lyme Regis. It is a seaside place near Bath, known for wild storms. Darcy was there in 1824 when the Great Gale hit Weymouth then went on to top The Cobb, a sea wall in Lyme, destroying its length by 90 meters–this, after wrecking havoc on the villages of Fleet and Chiswell. Since Jane Austen died in 1817, she was fortunately spared all knowledge of this storm.
That doesn’t mean Jane wasn’t influenced by Lyme. In Persuasion, Austen’s poignant novel of middle-aged love, Louisa Musgrove has an accident on the Cobb. This brings to the fore Captain Wentworth’s still-vivid regard for his erstwhile lover, Anne Elliot as he looks to her to take charge. Lyme Regis is also famous for its place in John Fowles’s spectacular novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Rejected by a dashing officer, penniless and forced to take menial employment, Sarah Woodruff dramatically stalks Lyme Regis, her hood billowing in the wind, her skin stung by salt as her eyes blaze with misery. Mr. Darcy is frightened by women like Sarah, whose spirit is so like a hurricane. He prefers to tame storms, or ignore them, not indulge them. “No drama.” Of course, as one of the most eligible men in literature, he has a choice. Most people, when it comes to love or storms, have none.
The prayers of all the characters in Jane Eyre Gets Real are with the victims of Harvey and Irma.