"Don’t talk to me of the Duke of Monmouth; show me the exact spot where Louis[a] Musgrove fell."
To answer that question let's see what Jane Austen told us about Louisa's fall in Persuasion:
There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and all were contented to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth. In all their walks, he had had to jump her from the stiles; the sensation was delightful to her. The hardness of the pavement for her feet, made him less willing upon the present occasion; he did it, however. She was safely down, and instantly, to show her enjoyment, ran up the steps to be jumped down again. He advised her against it, thought the jar too great; but no, he reasoned and talked in vain, she smiled and said, “I am determined I will:” he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless! - Chapter 12
In the picture below we see the three movies with three versions of the different staircases.
Persuasion, the Fall – 1971, 1995 & 2007
When I read Persuasion for the first time I imagined a plain staircase and had no any idea of the shape of the Cobb. Finally, when I watched the 1995 and 2007 films I realized that the stairs were different, but certainly in the same place. The first, very rough, was made of steps embedded in the wall. The second wee finished in cement. I considered that the old staircase had been cemented at the time of filming in 2007, but then I realized that the steps were different and their positions were opposed.
Staircases - 1995 & 2007
Watching 1971's version, I saw the double staircase with woods in the background. I thought sincerely that they had filmed the scene in another place than the Cobb! I only believed that the locations were authentic when I discovered the Lyme Regis Pearl of Dorset's site and its webcam.
Staircases - 1971
Lyme Regis webcam screen shot
Now I changed the original question to: "From which of these three staircases did Louisa Musgrove fall?"
I believe I have found the answer in the book Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends**, written by Constance Hill and illustrated by Ellen G. Hill (circa 1900), where the author describes her visit to Lyme Regis:
The Cobb lies on the further side of the harbour. It is a massive, semi-circular stone pier upon which are two broad causeways, on different levels, forming the Upper and the Lower Cobb. It has undergone many a repair since Miss Austen walked upon it in 1804 but, nevertheless, a considerable part of the old masonry still exists, which is marked by rough-hewn stones placed vertically. Against some of this old masonry, and about half way along the Cobb, are to be seen the identical “steep flight of steps” where the memorable scene of the accident in “Persuasion” is laid. [...]
The steps in question are formed of rough blocks of stone which project like the teeth of a rakefrom the wall behind. We can ourselves bear witness to the “hardness of the pavement” below, which Captain Wentworth feared would cause “too great a jar” when he urged the young lady to desist from the fatal leap.
Staircases by Ellen G. Hill
* Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892), 1st Baron Tennyson, much better known as "Alfred, Lord Tennyson," English poet. Among his most admired works are Idylls of the King and The Lady of Shalot.
** Jane Austen – Her Home & Her Friends by Constance Hill, illustrated by Ellen G. Hill. Richard Clay & Sons, Ltd., London, 1901.
- Submitted by Raquel Sallaberry, Jane Austen em Português