Cross lines over poet's honeymoon

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The Independent Online
Percy Bysshe Shelley spent a honeymoon in Lynmouth, on Devon's north coast, and this summer, with the bicentenary of his birth on 4 August, the resort has been cashing in on the fact, with speeches, plays and seminars.

But the bicentenary has also revived the town's oldest argument: where did the poet and his 16-year-old bride Harriet stay?

Nigel Prideaux, owner of Shelley's Cottage Hotel, a pounds 20-a-night B & B in the centre of Lynmouth, says he has documents that prove that it was under his roof, and not in the nearby Shelley's Cottage owned by the Rising Sun Hotel. He says he will write to the Rising Sun owners asking them to stop using the claim in their advertising. If they refuse, Mr Prideaux says, 'We might have to take them to court.'

Mr Prideaux and his wife Kay took over the hotel in 1985. Then, he says, 'there was business enough for everyone'. But 'times are harder now and you can't have two places in the same town claiming the same thing.'

He has framed and mounted in his hotel his 'proof': a report in the North Devon Herald of 23 October 1901, which records the 100th birthday of a Miss Agnes Groves, adding: 'At 10 years of age she lived at Woodbine Villa (present-day Shelley's Cottage Hotel) . . . and remembers the poet Shelley staying there.'

This cuts little ice with Hugo Jeune, who since 1983 has owned the Rising Sun Hotel and Shelley's Cottage, a one-bedroom thatched cottage which he rents out as a 'honeymoon suite' for pounds 425 per week, full board.

'I have paintings from the 1920s which show it was called Shelley's Cottage back then. An ode written by Shelley was also found in the cottage, which seems pretty good to me. We will not change our brochure.'

However, Ken Prichard Jones, of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association, says Shelley stayed in neither house. He cites Edward Dowden's Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, which states: 'The house occupied by Shelley (in Lynmouth) has been pulled down and another built on the site.'