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Monday, 18 April 2011

Ivy Compton-Burnett in wartime Lyme Regis

The novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884 –1969) lived for most of her adult life in a flat in Kensington with her friend Margaret Jourdain, an expert on antique furniture. However, during the Second World War Ivy and Margaret found life in London uncomfortable because of the constant bombing, so they came to Lyme Regis for some peace and quiet! They stayed initially at the Royal Lion hotel, and then in a series of cheaper hotels and rooms.

While living in Lyme, Ivy wrote the novel Elders and Betters and started on Manservant and Maidservant, which was finished in 1947 after they returned to London. Ivy and Margaret also produced A Conversation in Lyme Regis, which takes the form of a dialogue with Margaret asking Ivy questions about her novels:

Margaret: I should like to ask you one or two questions; partly my own and partly what several friends have asked. There is time enough and to spare in Lyme Regis, which is a town well-known to novelists. Jane Austen was here, and [Mary Russell] Mitford.

Ivy: And now we are here, though our presence does not seem to be equally felt. No notice marks our lodging. And we also differ from Jane Austen and Miss Mitford in being birds of passage, fleeing from bombs...

Eventually the war ended, and Ivy and Margaret returned to their flat in London. The photograph below shows Broad Street in Lyme Regis on VE Day (8 May 1945): the last day of the war in Europe.

To find out more about Ivy Compton-Burnett and other writers associated with Lyme Regis, see the Writers and Artists page of the main website... or better still, visit the museum!

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