The Mysterious Disappearance in Lyme Regis of Miss Austen’s Head

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

Call Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. A literary mystery is a foot in Lyme Regis. Jane Austen’s head is missing! 

Adrianne Maslen reports in the Bridport News that a stone bust representing the famous author which was the centerpiece of the Jane Austen Garden on Lyme’s seafront has vanished. The garden which is opposite Jane’s Café on the Marine parade is currently being redesigned by the coast development works. The bust was removed in 2006 for safe keeping but now can not be located. 

Merry Bolton, chairman of the environment group, said: “We can’t find Jane Austen’s head anywhere. We can’t find it in the store where all the things from the Jane Austen Garden were kept when all the works were going on.” 

Jane Austen and her family visited Lyme Regis on holiday in 1803 and 1804. Later she would include a famous tragic scene in her novel Persuasion when her characters walk the Cobb (a man made breakwater for the port) and Louisa Musgrove carelessly jumps from the wall and hits her head. Many readers associate Jane Austen with Lyme Regis and it is a favorite pilgrimage spot for her fans. The garden was dedicated to the authoress and is its only monument to her in the city. 

Local resident Diana Shervington who is a long-standing member of the Jane Austen Society and a distant relative of Jane Austen through her brother Edward has been working closely with the Lyme Regis Environmental Group to redesign the garden. She is appealing to anyone in the town who might know the whereabouts of the famous local bust to get in touch.  

“The bust used to stand up there grandly at the back very visibly. When the garden was dedicated the bust was very much in evidence, therefore we want it back – I hope the mystery can be cleared up.” 

It is distressing to think that Miss Austen’s head has been ‘pinched’ or mislaid. One would think that the parties involved would not be mentioning its disappearance publicly unless all other avenues had been exhausted to locate it. From what we know of Jane Austen’s temperament through her personal correspondence she was not known to loose her head over anything. However, it appears that Lyme Regis has lost theirs if no one was cataloguing the artifacts when the garden was disassembled. I wish them the best of luck in relocating it. Since Jane Austen shied away from publicity in her lifetime she would find the busts disappearance quite ironic. Amusingly, this borders on burlesque comedy and worthy of a plot in an Austen inspired mystery novel!

Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2010, Updated 11 March 2022. 


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