Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. The major metropolitan area and capital city of Great Britain, London is also the fall and winter meeting place for the nobility and aristocracy of England’s countryside—people whose wealth derives from rents and not from work. The London of Maria Edgeworth’s novel is the London of the fashionable world and the primary setting through which she criticizes that world as mercenary, dishonest, dissipated. It is the London of spectacle, of theaters, operas, masquerades, balls, of “bustle” and “glare.” Throughout her descriptions of the city, Edgeworth emphasizes the glittering appearances which, like Lady Delacour’s mask as “the comic muse,” disguise the sordid reality of disease, disaffection, and dissipation.

Delacour House

Delacour House. Mansion in London’s Berkeley Square district that is the home of Lord and Lady Delacour. Here the beauty, wit, and wealth of London gather. However, these revels are merely a “spell,” a “thin veil” covering domestic misery. The house conceals a secret, in the form of Lady Delacour’s mysterious boudoir, a bedroom locked to all but her and her maid. The boudoir is not the haunt of vice but of disease; even as her wound eats at Lady Delacour’s bosom, the secrecy cloaking it—of which her boudoir is the emblem—devours her marriage. Notably, it is Belinda’s forcing Lady Delacour to open the locked door to her husband, to remove the...

(The entire section is 554 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Butler, Marilyn. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1975. The chapter on Edgeworth is a good introduction to Belinda’s treatment of women’s lives.

Butler, Marilyn. Maria Edgeworth: A Literary Biography. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1972. The best biography of Edgeworth. Has an extensive and thoughtful treatment of Edgeworth’s relationship with her father, which was very influential on her writing. Discusses Belinda’s place in Edgeworth’s canon.

Johnson, Claudia L. Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. Places Belinda in the context of the politics of the 1790’s and other novels of the period.

Kowaleski-Wallace, Elizabeth. Their Fathers’ Daughters: Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth, and Patriarchal Complicity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Investigates issues raised by Edgeworth’s representation of women’s rationality and irrationality and argues that her treatment of Lady Delacour and motherhood is the core of the novel.

Mellor, Anne K. Romanticism and Gender. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall: 1993. Reads Belinda as a presentation of “the new feminine Romantic ideology” of “balanced feminism.” Extensive bibliography emphasizing women writers of the period, including Edgeworth.