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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Inspector Morse in Lyme Regis

Chief Inspector Morse doesn't like holidays, and he takes them as rarely as possible. Nevertheless, the opening scenes of the 1992 novel The Way through the Woods see him taking a short break in Dorset... starting with three nights in Lyme Regis! Morse is attracted to the town because, as he tells Chief Superintendent Strange, "it's where some of the scenes in Persuasion are set" ( a fact which impresses the normally philistine Strange so much he later passes it on to the Chief Constable!)

While in Lyme, Morse stays at the Bay Hotel -- a perfectly real hotel on Marine Parade (pictured left). It has to be admitted that the Chief Inspector doesn't enjoy his holiday very much -- but then he wouldn't! To compensate for Morse's indifference to the natural landscape, author Colin Dexter provides some very nice descriptions of the town. And Morse does, while suffering his way through his three-day stay, come across a couple of clues that draw him into the central mystery of the novel.

The second half of Inspector Morse's Dorset holiday is spent in Dorchester, where he devotes a whole afternoon to a visit to the Dorset County Museum. Whether he visited our own museum while he was in Lyme is not recorded... but one would like to think he did!

Given that the real murder mystery doesn't get going until Morse is back in Oxford, you might wonder why Lyme Regis features in The Way through the Woods at all. The answer is simple -- Lyme is Colin Dexter's "favourite place on Earth", as he explains in a Daily Telegraph article with the unequivocal title Colin Dexter's heaven on earth!

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