Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Newgate Prison

*Newgate Prison. Notorious London prison in which the narrative begins after Captain William Booth is arrested for beating a watchman when he is, in fact, saving a stranger from ruffians. The prison then becomes the place in which the seeds of both his ruin and final deliverance are sown; there William commits adultery but also makes the acquaintance of the man whose testimony in court at the end of the novel saves Booth’s wife from being defrauded of her fortune. Fielding’s detailed characterization of the prison exposes the inhuman treatment the poor receive there, while the rich appear to thrive. Newgate is a microcosm of London’s corruption.

*Verge of the court

*Verge of the court. Area immediately surrounding London’s Whitehall and St. James Palaces, within which criminals are safe from arrest because civil law officers have no authority within its precincts. Debtors, such as William Booth, often lived years within the verge, ranging outside its boundaries on Sundays, when civil officers could not make arrests or serve processes of law on debtors. The first time William is held on bail occurs when he is lured to Mrs. Chenevix’s fashionable toy shop located just outside the verge of the court, by a tale that Amelia is ill. The verge is a place of relative safety within London precisely because the Booths are insulated from the city’s most vicious entertainments.

Sponging house

Sponging house. House of a bailiff, an officer of justice, used as a place of preliminary confinement for debtors. Booth is twice imprisoned for debt at the same sponging house; both times he is delivered by Dr. Harrison. The sponging house serves an important symbolic role in the narrative, for it is here that William embraces religion after reading a book of sermons. It is also where Dr. Harrison realizes that Mr. Murphy has...

(The entire section is 784 words.)