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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 defrauded Amelia. As a place where extraordinary good fortune follows repentance, the sponging house resembles purgatory to William Booth.


*Wiltshire. County in southwestern England from which several major characters come. Amelia and William become farmers in this county after their marriage but become bankrupt within four years, after William purchases a coach and horses. The other farmers think the Booths are acting too much above their station and force William to buy at the highest prices and sell at the lowest to lessen their pride. After Amelia regains her fortune, the Booths live in Wiltshire for ten happy years.


*Gibraltar. Peninsula on the south-central coast of Spain dominated by a massive rock formation, around which Great Britain owns a colony and military base. William Booth serves in the British army as a lieutenant and is twice wounded during a Spanish siege of Gibraltar in early 1727. Afterward, the Booths go to Montpellier, a popular medical resort in the south of France, and then to Paris to allow Amelia to recover from the nervous illness she contracts while nursing William’s wounds. Although William’s service is alluded to throughout the novel as heroic, the swiftness with which he is wounded makes his service appear a little ridiculous.


*London. Capital and greatest city of Great Britain and place where country folk go to repair their fortunes. Miss Matthews follows her lover there, and Mrs. Bennet/Atkinson goes there to find her first husband a better living as a clergyman and to flee her aunt’s slanders. Typically, however, country people who go to London end up in worse condition than they are in when they arrive because they incur more debts or are debauched by rich lords. Fielding characterizes London’s theaters, opera houses, and pleasure gardens as places where affairs are carried on because a woman’s virtue is not security enough against strange men’s attentions.

*City of London

*City of London. District about one mile square within London enclosed by ancient stone walls, within which the Booths escape their creditors. The verge of the court...

(The entire section is 1,047 words.)