Sidmouth 29 June 1801
My dearest Cassandra
We arrived at our summer abode today after an uneventful journey from dusty Bath to the village of Newton St Cyres, a few miles north of Exeter, where we lodged the night. The fine river valley holds promise of many delightful river walks which together with the local mansion would make a fine setting for scenes in “Elinor and Marianne”*.
Next morning we descended the valley to Sidmouth and passed through the streets of the old fishing village which contain little more than humble cottages. Our spirits rose at the sight of the sea, sparkling in sunshine and freshness. Having settled in our lodgings we discovered, on walking out and as we had informed by Mrs Cage, that the new improvements of Bath had arrived: Sidmouth is already a rising bathing place, growing the fashion. A grand terrace, not yet completed, has been erected on an eminence near the sea front, while, proudly elevated on the western hillside and commanding a grand prospect, a new residence called “Sea View” has been built. Our landlady, Mrs Parker, later informed us that this belonged to a wealthy gentleman, Mr Lousada, who is intent on further projects to attract gentlemen and ladies drawn to the benefits of healthy sea air and bathing. Mrs Parker anticipates the probability of its becoming a most profitable speculation. You will say that every age has its “improvements”*, though not always such as you, Fanny or I will approve. We saw, also, evidence of the recent absurd fashion for cottages ornées, those rural retreats for the excessively wealthy, at Blossom House and Clifton Cottage near the sea – a fashion that will no doubt soon spread up the nearby woodland valleys whose knolls will offer more grand prospects. Perhaps, after I have done further work on “First Impressions”* and “Elinor and Marianne”, all this may serve as a subject for another novel*.
Tomorrow we hope to descend to the beach and the bathing machines to enjoy some sea bathing. Mother is well as is father. Best love to everybody.
Yours very affectionately, J Austen
(editor's fottnotes: “Elinor and Marianne” - later called “Sense and Sensibility”
“Every age has its improvements” - see “Mansfield Park”
“First Impressions” - later called “Pride and Prejudice”
“another novel” - “Sanditon”)
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