Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Crome. English country house that is the seat of the Wimbush family. Formerly a monastery, it was rebuilt in the Elizabethan era by Sir Ferdinando Lapith in accordance with his eccentric theories of sanitation, which involved obtaining a maximum separation of distance between bathrooms (privies)—those at Crome being initially situated at the tops of its three towers—and the sewers into which they empty their wastes. Further rebuilding in the eighteenth century resulted in more practical plumbing facilities, although Sir Ferdinando was by no means the last eccentric to inflict his originality on Crome’s architecture. The estate is still capable of further change—as illustrated by the yearly fair to which it plays host, which brings about a periodic transformation and enlivenment. However, there is a sense in which it is inescapably wedded to a lost past.

A turfed terrace in front of the house has a summerhouse at either end. The beautiful garden that slopes rather dangerously away from the terrace, encompassing a swimming pool, seems strangely monochromatic when viewed from the house, but the high-hedged flower garden conceals a blaze of color. Crome’s interior is a patchwork of obsolete styles: Its long gallery is decorated with Italian primitive paintings and Chinese sculptures; its paneled drawing room is equipped with capacious chintz-upholstered armchairs; its modernized morning room features lemon yellow walls and rococo tables; its dining room is decked out with...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Baker, Robert S. The Dark Historic Page: Social Satire and Historicism in the Novels of Aldous Huxley, 1921-1939. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. Invaluable work, especially the chapter entitled “Crome Yellow and the Problem of History.”

Bedford, Sybille. Aldous Huxley: A Biography. 1st ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974. First-rate, extensive biography.

Birnbaum, Milton. Aldous Huxley’s Quest for Values. 1st ed. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1971. Deals with Huxley’s novels by theme rather than by chronology, but the index references to Crome Yellow are worth looking up. Birnbaum, a college student in the 1920’s, writes in his preface, “In debunking the traditional sources of value he was, in a sense, acting as our surrogate.”

Bowering, Peter. Aldous Huxley: A Study of the Major Novels. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969. Notes the counterpull, beneath the benign skepticism of its surface, of an underlying gravity in Crome Yellow.

Firchow, Peter. Aldous Huxley: Satirist and Novelist. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972. Sound insights into Huxley’s procedure in Crome Yellow.

Murray, Nicholas. Aldous Huxley: A Biography. New York: St. Martin’s, 2003. Murray’s 500-plus page biography and intellectual history is a wide-ranging survey of Huxley’s writing and his social, personal, and political life. The book stretches from Huxley’s early satirical writing to his peace activism, from his close relations and friendships with Hollywood filmmakers and other intellectuals, to his fascination with spirituality and mysticism. Illustrations, bibliography, and index.

Watt, Donald, ed. Aldous Huxley: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975. Fascinating compendium of reviews, articles, and letters, arranged chronologically. F. Scott Fitzgerald, at that time the author of one published novel, said in his review of Crome Yellow, “Huxley . . . is said to know more about French, German, Latin, and medieval Italian literature than any man alive. I refuse to make the fatuous remark that he should know less about books and more about people.” Watt’s introduction provides further insights into Crome Yellow.