Nightmare Abbey. Dilapidated mansion in England’s Lincolnshire County; a former monastery whose state of sad disrepair reflects the plight of its residents, the deeply dysfunctional Glowry family. The house is not far from the sea, being separated therefrom by a tract of low-lying fenland dotted with windmills.
There is nothing unrealistic about an early nineteenth century English family living in what once had been an abbey; many English religious houses became secular residences following King Henry VIII’s dissolution of England’s Roman Catholic monasteries in the sixteenth century. The abbey’s address reveals something about the Glowry family’s problematic social status—they are products of social upheavals that were still considered recent by the English landed aristocracy—but its real significance is that Nightmare Abbey is symbolic of a nation and a world whose secularization has left it uncomfortable and desolate. The road that connects the abbey to the nearest town, Claydyke, is a narrow causeway raised above the fen, from which carriages are all too easily dislodged.
The abbey itself is square in shape, its four walls facing the four points of the compass. It has a tower at each corner, and is surrounded on every side but the south by a moat. The northwestern tower is the domain of Christopher Glowry, the abbey’s owner. The southeastern tower, which is home to Christopher’s son, Scythrop, opens up onto a terrace which is called the garden, but nothing grows there except weeds. The abbey’s southwestern tower is in...
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