LYME REGIS Philpot Museum’s Trustees have issued an unusual invitation: to subscribe to the first publication of The Lymiad, or Letters from Lyme to A Friend at Bath, written during the Autumn of 1818.
There’s a most interesting story behind it.
In 1978 the artist Laurence Whistler gave this bound manuscript of a poem, some 80 pages long, to the Lyme Regis Philpot Museum, where it is on display. The author John Fowles had at this point just started his ten-year stewardship at the Philpot as Honorary Curator. From the outset he regarded The Lymiad as one of the museum’s most precious possessions – for its verve, wit, and satirical humour; its vivid evocation of the manners and pastimes of a small Regency resort; and above all for its acute observations of the town, its people, and their preoccupations.
Sadly, John Fowles died in 2005, so he never saw his dream of The Lymiad’s publication brought to fruition. Now the Museum’s Trustees have re-visited the project, in consultation with Mrs Sarah Fowles, his widow, and plan to launch a new edition of the manuscript; not a facsimile of the original, but designed as it might have appeared had it been published in 1819 – some 200 pages, soft-back, but with stitched pages and card covers marbled in the Regency manner.
The edition will contain:
- An essay by John Fowles on “Lyme in the early 1800s’, published in 2003 from his original introduction
- A general introduction and textual note by John Constable
- A transcription of the text
- Editorial notes by John Fowles, John Constable and Jo Draper, the former curatorial consultant at the Museum.
- Illustrations from the Museum’s rich collection
The cost of the entire project is estimated at £4000. Some funds have already been raised, and it is hoped to raise the balance by 100 individual subscriptions of £20, the names of all those subscribing to be recorded in the publication.
For further information on this fascinating project contact Mary Godwin, the Museum’s Curator, on 01297-443370, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
*In 1997 the manuscript caught the attention of Dr John Constable, then Professor of English Literature at Kyoto University. Over the next few years he checked and studied the transcript and wrote the introduction.
In his words: “The Lymiad emerges as a highly political and a thoroughly Whig poem, with some leanings towards the left of that party though stopping short of Radicalism itself.”
In view of Lyme’s political history, some may be surprised that “it stopped short of Radicalism itself”!